Under the Influence

Rita was lying to her brother. George never did those things to her - the
cigarette burns on her thighs, the greenish bruises on her back, the rapes.
George only put his hands on her once because she wouldn't stop slapping him
when he broke things off.

A few beers almost always gave her a bad case of verbal diarrhea.

When she got to the part about the forced sex, Stan jumped up, knocking his
chair into their waitress. Eyes bulging, he dragged her out of the pool hall,
throwing his fist into a wall on his way out. That's what a few beers did
to guys - it made them want to punch things and beat someone's head in. Rita
was powerless to stop him. Besides, maybe a bloody nose was what George
needed. Mr. I'm Too Good.

"Which way, Rita?" Stan growled.

"Turn right at Thirty-Fourth - the street after the light." Stan took the turn
too fast, throwing her against his shoulder.

She could almost see Stan's blood boiling underneath his freckles. It was
too late to tell the truth: that she lied because, well, she was pissed. She
loved George, and he wouldn't so much as touch her anymore, even when she
promised sex with no strings attached. If she told Stan, he might turn on
her. Who knew what he was capable of when he was drunk?

"Which house?" The muscles in Stan's jaw worked furiously.

"There. See his truck?"

Stan idled past the house, then circled into an empty driveway two doors
down. He stumbled out of the car and Rita slid into the driver's seat.

"Don't say anything stupid. I want to catch him off guard." He pulled a
baseball bat out of the trunk and waved her off.

Rita drove back to George's. It was late; all the windows were dark. She
tapped on George's window with her keys. When he peeked out, she began to

"What's wrong with you Rita? Are you okay?" He had come to the window
sleepy-eyed, but when he saw her sobbing, he ran out in his boxers, a pair
of basketball shorts draped across his arm. George cared. She really loved

"I need to tell you something." She motioned towards the sidewalk. George
was barefoot and winced when he stepped on a pine cone.

"Tell me. Whatever it is, I'll try and help."

Stan edged out from behind a Hibiscus bush, his T-shirt wrapped around his
face. He hit George fast - once on the knees and then on the head. Rita
started giggling and backed away. George scrambled and yelled for help until
Stan hit him one more time on the head. It made a dull sound, and George
went limp. Stan continued to hit him. He was entranced. Rita ran up and
kicked George too, her hands clapped over her mouth. She loved George, but
hitting him made her feel giddy. It amazed her what a few beers could do.

Janelle is currently a stay-at-home mother of two. Her short stories have
appeared online in publications such as Antimuse, Espresso Fiction, Verbsap,
and Splintered.

2007 Underground Voices