The Redhead by Giovanni DiPietrantonio


I thought I’d never see her again. We were practically girlfriend/boyfriend this time last year. That’s not a point of pride, but it’s a bit of brass. There’s a good chance—maybe she’ll fuck me. Here’s hoping she hasn’t caught any more social diseases. She didn’t bother calling to let me know she had chlamydia when we fucked on her manager’s couch.


Duffel bag rounding my shoulder, I let the storm door smack my hip and knocked twice. The redhead immediately answered, crooked teeth twinkling like a bouquet of baby shoes between apple cheeks wreathed in big hair the color of kiddie cocktails. She opened her arms.


“Are you a hug person? Can I hug you?”


“Yeah, I’m a hug person . . .”


I took care not to bury my nose in the crook of her neck. She smelled drunk.


“You look different.”


“Do I? How so?”


“I don’t know. You just don’t look the same.” She giggled. “Want a beer?”


“Absolutely! Thank you—”


I wanted to watch her ass switch, but hough, goddamn, there sat another man on the couch, slouching toward a hookah as tall as a kindergartner. I said hello to my shoes and watched him hatch some ashen pucks of charcoal with a pair of tongs. Hands behind my back, I popped my eyes and pretended to wonder at his fledgling fireballs, but he wouldn’t acknowledge me. He seemed upset.


The redhead handed me a tallboy and introduced Gentrey. They both worked at a head shop on State Street, she said. He’s thinking about getting dreadlocks. She stretched out on the chaise lounge and waited. Gentrey didn’t add anything. I didn’t like him, but I wanted him to like me, so I broke a bud in my steamroller and offered him first green. Gentrey said he couldn’t smoke. He had to pass a drug test.


We sipped our beers in silence. I took too big a hit and grew paranoid as the smoke sifted my blood. I thought they could hear my palpitant heart crack the underside of my skin. Facing the blank television, smiling like a guilty dog with a mouthful of shit, I mouthed thanks with a slight bow each time Gentrey handed me the hose. Goddamn. Had I known she wasn’t alone, I would’ve waited until morning to make the trip.


I attempted to steal a glance at the redhead, but she caught me.


“Me and Vic broke up,” she slurred. “Well, we weren’t actually together, we already broke up before, but now we broke up again, so.”


I nodded.


“Huh—”


I think she’s trying to tell me something—I knew she wanted to fuck me! She must’ve missed me. I don’t know, maybe we’ve both changed our minds. It’s meant to be, we’re falling in love! That’s the ticket, alright. Looks like I’ll have to seize Gentrey by the seat of his pants and punt him through the picture window—


“I’m bored,” the redhead cried. “Wanna play Smash?”


Gentrey brightened for the first time. I bared my teeth and nodded. I’ve never been so much as punched in the arm, but I’ve taken countless beatings in the name of good fun. Whether it’s tic-tac-toe or chess, I always choke. And Gentrey seemed giddy to tear my jugular. It’s okay. I thought maybe he would come around if I took a dive. I assured both of them I couldn’t play worth a shit.


Mashing every button, I managed to knock Gentrey into the void without a fight. He blew through the ceiling and shrank into the sky. I spared the redhead, though she committed suicide before Gentrey respawned. I had no problem killing him twice. Forcing down a grin, I mimed surprise and cracked a bad joke. The redhead threw back her head and laughed like a drain.


“You’re a little hustler, aren’t you?”


I made a funny face and shrugged. Gentrey brooded, brows drawn so low his eyes turned black.


What a desperate little man. Fuck you and your dreads, you fucking fuck. Go to hell on a sled, suck my cock through a straw! Should’ve stayed home, bitch, nothing good happens after midnight. Yes! I’ve smashed your every piddling dream under my maniac thumbs. I deserve the redhead, not you. She’s mine! She’s mine and I want her all to myself. I’ll make things right, you know. I’ll win the game and put a shine in her eye, you’ll see—


But Gentrey bounced back and put on a clinic, sweeping three rounds no contest. You’d have thought he won the loincloth of Christ. I tried to act the good loser as his head ballooned and bobbled like a big top, cackling clowns behind every ugly tooth. Shivering, I slugged the bitter bottom of my beer and slurped my steamroller. I didn’t dare look further than the tip of my nose until Gentrey paraded into the night with my pride in his pocket.


Good thing she didn’t invite that piece of shit to the show. Propped against the bathroom door, I watched the redhead stack her hair and plump her lips and pencil wings aside her big blue eyes in the speckled vanity. I had tried to watch her change into that little black dress, too. She made me turn around. I’m not angry—that’s her right. She wasn’t trying to look good for me, but I couldn’t help smiling.


She mapped the way to a party house she called the Owl Sanctuary. We ducked through the cellar door and huddled opposite a keg, the very first keg I’d seen in person. I pulled out my money to pay our cover, but the redhead gently cupped my hands. She knew the host, so. She passed me a red cup and pumped hers to the brink, spilling some on the concrete.


“You should socialize,” she said.


She smilingly plonked down on a ratty couch and shook hands with a hooded figure picking seeds out of the swampiest schwag I’d seen since high school. He wasn’t much for conversation, so she vanished in a blink. I helped her former friend smoke his blunt and broke toward the make-do bar in the far corner for something a bit stronger.


Whiskey turns my stomach, but I ordered a jack and coke. I don’t think the bartender liked me. She told me to speak up, actually snarled, as though I’d been talking shit under my breath. This time, I had to pay and made sure to tip. Back against the wall with a view of the stairs, I tucked into my drinks, trying not to make eye contact with anyone as the party filled out. The redhead seemed to have ditched me.


Maybe she’s sick of me, having idled away a long afternoon in my company. She said she wanted to show me the sights on State Street, not that there’s anything unseen. We absently picked through little shops of chattering teeth and souvenir shot glasses. But I didn’t mind. It’s not often a beautiful woman takes my side. There’s never a dull moment.


The sun blistered blood orange on its way down. I couldn’t keep both eyes open. Sweating bullets, struggling to see through a swelling tear, I tried to keep pace with the redhead, but kept falling further behind to make way for couples, real couples, I imagine. She let me catch up and lowered her voice into my good ear.


“I had a threesome,” she said.


Christ, that’s her second. She only just moved here and they’re passing her pussy every which way. There she goes spinning like a roast between the dirty cocks of these goddamn punk ass dumb fucks. She doesn’t even have a mattress! I can’t imagine she’s ever seen a bed frame. No, no, stop. C’mon, man . . .


“Two guys, or—”


“No, this girl and her boyfriend. He wanted to fuck both of us, but she started crying because he couldn’t get it up for her, so he left to go play video games—”


“Huh. I’ve never had a threesome, don’t know if I’m into that—”


She paused, but she didn’t seem to have heard me.


“I have feelings for my manager,” she continued. “He’s really cool. I want you to meet him. My work is right over there—”


I followed her finger. There stood Gentrey under a pavement tree, suckling a hookah taller than me. He said hello and let slip a knowing smile. But I don’t know, maybe he was being nice. Maybe I’m the asshole. I turned my back and held the door for the redhead.


She called his name. A gangly, bespectacled stoner with long hair under a backwards cap emerged from the back office. She seemed so happy to see him. The dark horse greeted her and introduced me:


“So, you’re the guy who lost at Smash?”


Goddamn, it’s always more than a game. I never played their reindeer games growing up and now look. My very life is a game and I’m choking on the pieces. Her manager probably thinks he’s my better because his subordinate beat me. And the redhead probably thinks her manger is better than me because he’s her manager.


To think she’s falling in love with such an absolute piece of shit! I’m sure she’ll sober up soon, unless he’s the utmost eligible bachelor anywhere around. No, that’s bullshit. She’s wrong, I’m right. He’s a piece of shit, an absolute piece of shit, that’s why she’s stupid and I’m smart. What a stupid, stupid dumb ass idiot. She has such bad taste.


Her manager excused himself to help a customer wearing a tiny pair of jean shorts bunched so far up her big ass my throat about closed, so the redhead and I perused the pipes. She pointed out her favorite, which was shaped like a strawberry sprinkle donut. Good, great, very cool, fascinating. No, yeah, you know, yeah, agreed, I do agree, very nice pipe, but son of a fucking goddamn bitch.


The redhead suggested tacos for dinner. I drove to the grocery store and she gathered the ingredients. She didn’t have any money, so I paid. She didn’t have a DVD player, either, so I bought her a DVD player and Beetlejuice on DVD. I didn’t give a shit. She seemed dissatisfied, or else ungrateful, but whatever, that’s fine, I would’ve paid her rent for another kiss.


Watching the redhead cook ground beef upon the setting sun, wagging her ass to the tinkle of Spanish guitar, I could’ve sworn we were dating. She set off the smoke detector, I waved the smoke away. We ate across from each other, nothing much to say. I was happy without the faintest whiff of weed, but playing make-believe all the same—


The band struck up loud and fast, zapping my thoughts to snow. I quickly beat through the crowd and tripped up the stairs, which seemed to have crumbled under so many feet. Waiting in line only to force a dribble of piss through my semisolid shaft and miss, idiot, stupid idiot, I picked my nose and wiped the rim and flushed a white rose of toilet paper.


I found the redhead pacing the fringes of a lone porch light out back. She was arguing with her father on the phone. I drank my drink and kicked rocks, trying not to eavesdrop or ogle. Every star hung in the sky, the moon a thin smile to my left. I tried to trace a constellation, but without my glasses, the stars smeared together like squashed pixies.


My head ached by the time she hung up. The redhead stared blankly at me, mouth agape.


“Dada says I can’t appreciate Vic’s feelings for me because I’ve never experienced love before.”


I didn’t know what to say. No, I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say that. I wasn’t in the mood to speak my mind and she wasn’t about to hear me out. She doesn’t listen. She says she doesn’t like being told what to do. She’ll do the opposite. Good thing I’m such a pushover. I just shrugged and said sorry. She hung her head.


I followed her back into the basement and bought us some drinks. The redhead easily out-drank me. I didn’t think she could drink so much. She could hardly walk after several and some. I had to help her upstairs to puke. Stand guard outside the door as more drunks queued, sluggish and slimy, squeamish and squiggly, squirrely, everyone ugly. The redhead almost fell on her face coming out.


I wanted to leave, but she collapsed in a heap of garbage on the way back downstairs. I crouched, knees cracking, and offered her my hand.


“C’mon, let’s go.”


She raised her red cup.


“I want another beer.”


“You really shouldn’t—”


Her gentle face sharpened, lips thin as a blade, whites of her eyes bulging top to bottom, black tears of slimy liner wadding her lashes and oozing out the corners. I recoiled with a wince as she leaned toward me.


“Get me one more beer.”


I pleaded, but she rolled her eyes and settled into the garbage. I helplessly squirmed under her glare until a pretty blonde crouched beside me. We furrowed our brows and studied the redhead. I nodded.


“She’s really drunk—”


“Yeah—is she your girlfriend?”


“No—”


The blonde played along a minute more and continued up the stairs. The redhead raised a finger.


“One more beer.”


I bumbled into the basement and pumped half a cup of flat foam. The redhead looked me in the eye as she gulped the gunk down. Goddamn, such a fucking cunt, but she finally accepted my hand, thank god. I hoisted her up with a grunt and wrapped an arm around her waist, blindly steering us toward my car.


It’s a wonder we weren’t pulled over! No, it’s a wonder I didn’t wrap my car around a telephone pole. No, no, it’s a wonder I didn’t drive, as mom would say, like a bat out of hell to the end of a short pier and park my car at the bottom of the lake, whichever lake is deepest. But that’s just talk, I’m all too predictable. I pushed my car like a baby carriage, scared shitless of getting pulled over.


The redhead stripped down to her underwear and curled under her favorite blankie on the couch. She complained of cotton mouth, so I poured her some tap water in a pink Disney princess cup.


“Thank you, you’re a saint,” she squeaked, meekly raising the cup to her lips with both hands.


“No problem.”


I turned out the lights and lay down.


“Night-night” she yawned. “I hope you have sweet dreams of rainbows and sprinkles and fuzzy socks!”


“Thanks. You, too. G’night—”


I pinched my eyes closed. The chaise longue seemed to spin as amoebic auroras strobed inside my sockets. My guts bubbled and groaned in the heat of my ticklish bladder, but I didn’t want to get back up. Tucking my cock between my thighs, I shut my eyes harder. My pillow rang, my left foot throbbed, mosquitoes swarmed my face—


I opened my eyes. The redhead peered down at me. She looked fifty feet tall, skin glowing in the dark.


“Mind if I join you?”


A loose bra strap trickled into the pit of her elbow. She wasn’t wearing panties. I swallowed hard, thyroid tearing through my neck like a burning elevator. I peeled my swollen tongue from the back of my teeth and coughed.


“Sure.”


She shrank into my arms a little spoon. I nuzzled her thick hair and slowly ground my cock against her tailbone, arm growing numb, heart slowing down. I almost fell asleep, but she broke the spell.


“I want sex,” she rasped. “Just sex.”


I sucked my drool out of her hair and cooed.


“Oh, me too!”


No, I didn’t want to fuck, not that second, I wanted to sleep, wake early, go back to sleep, sleep late, watch her sleep, but I blindly mounted the redhead as she guided my cock toward her cunt. We jerked and sputtered in silence, completely out of whack. She wasn’t wet enough and I wasn’t hard enough.


“Doggystyle,” she muttered.


I stood and flipped her over. My half a cock finally fit, but she wasn’t very tight. I kept slipping out, but I couldn’t have been too small. The redhead shrieked with each ham-handed pulse of spongy flesh. Embarrassed for her roommates, I pressed a palm over her mouth. She caught the rebound and screamed hot life through my fingers. I couldn’t feel much of anything, least of all love. We didn’t even kiss.


The redhead suddenly leapt across the room and flicked the lights.


“No, no . . . I can’t do this! I can’t, I don’t want to make babies!”


Her face hardened again. Knock-kneed, I sank toward the floor, hands balled in prayer.


“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to—”


She took a long cold look at me. An enormous booger glistened in her nose.


“Let’s just forget this ever happened, okay?”


She turned out the lights and lay on the couch with her back turned. I couldn’t possibly sleep. I listened to her murmur and snore until the pink sun strained through the blinds, quietly dressed and smoked the last of my weed in the car. It was already nice out, the beginning of a beautiful day, but for my headache.


My phone juddered.


“Where are you?”


“I’m in my car.”


“Did you sleep there? Are you alright?”


“I’m fine. I’ll be back in a minute.”


“Okie doke. I’m gonna take a shower.”


I shuffled inside. Water hissed through the walls like flurrying mermaids. I took a good look around, knowing I might never sleep here again. But a knock at the door interrupted me. Some big fat black kid.


“My mama says you have a lighter. Can I borrow it? I’ll bring it right back.”


“Sure.”


I waited by the window, but he never came. I walked outside, careful not to let the door slam, trying hard not to think racisms. It’s just some kid, a boy genius, a prodigious pickpocket who turned my own hand against me. It’s for the best. I’d have set myself on fire in time. I don’t have any more weed, anyway. It’s okay. I went back inside and noticed a mound of shit in the litter box behind the couch.


The redhead descended the stairs, drying her hair with a beach towel. I would’ve liked to tell her she looks good with wet hair, but I don’t think she would’ve liked that. I instead forced a smile, hands behind my back. She didn’t smile for me.


“Ready?”


“Yep.”


She eyed the white wart on my pinky.


“Did you have your wart covered yesterday?”


“I don’t know, I’m not sure . . . I think so.”


“Oh!”


You goddamn bitch! I swear I contracted this wart the night I finger-fucked you under the Mitchell Domes. You know what I think? I think the venereal bacteria inside your disgusting pussy contaminated my pinky. I think that’s a genital wart! And I think it’s entirely your fault. But I didn’t say anything. I mummified my pinky in gorilla tape and held the door.


We went to the zoo. I made gravid eyes and puppy faces at the redhead with every animal we saw, but she didn’t seem to notice. She wouldn’t look at me. She kept her distance, staring through her double in the glass, darkly, arms crossed, lips pursed. Crazy children fluttered about our feet like fallen cupids, much too concussed to aim an arrow through a beating heart.


I don’t think she ever loved me. Because I never loved her, wouldn’t have picked her a dandelion. I couldn’t imagine loving someone else the way I continue to love my ex. She ruined everything. Sometimes, I’m sure I hate the both of them, especially the redhead. That’s why she’s perfect for me. It’s beyond reason.


I moved to buy her a wax figure from a penny machine, a forget-me-not, but I didn’t have any change, couldn’t make any change, and quickly abandoned the thought. We didn’t have fun, so what’s the point. She’s in a hurry, she has to get going. She says Vic wants to talk. He pays her phone bill, after all. You’re a chauffeur, understand, that’s your place. The mansion of happiness eludes us.


I dropped the redhead outside the capitol building. She said goodbye without so much as a handshake and shut the door without looking back. What a horrible bitch, the light of my life. I couldn’t see anything else.

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