Beer Run

Experiment in scene and dialogue.  A little unpolished, potentially part of something longer, likely to languish in development hell, hopefully somewhat entertaining.

“This is going to be the single greatest night of our lives.  You realize that, right?”

Zack grinned as he gunned the engine of his old Jeep down the residential street.  Mike nodded in the passenger seat.

“Man, I’ve wanted to go to a party at Stacy Gunderson’s house for, like, ever.  Someone told me she hires a DJ.”

“Dude, I’ve heard her jacuzzi is filled with Perrier.”

“Awesome.  There’s going to be so much good booze.”

“Oh damn.”  Zack swerved around a corner in the Jeep.  “I totally forgot to pick anything up to bring.”

“Who cares?  It’s not like there’s going to be some kind of liquor drought.”

“Yeah, but I can’t show up empty handed.  That’s a dick move.”

Mike shrugged.  “Fine, man, whatever.”

“We’re near the Safeway on Chestnut.  I’ll run in and grab a thirty rack, in and out.  We’ll be at Stacy’s in no time.”

The Jeep careened around another corner and burst out of the lines of homes onto the main road.  Zack accelerated down the three blocks to Chestnut Avenue and swung the car into the parking lot.  He killed the engine and turned to Mike. “You wanna come in with me?”

“Yeah, I guess.”  The two hopped out of the Jeep and started walking across the asphalt towards Safeway, a huge building coated in cream-colored stucco that sprung from the ground in front of them.  They were halfway across the lot when Mike stopped in his tracks.

“Dude, I don’t—I’m feeling weird.”

“‘Feeling weird’?  C’mon, Mike, don’t do this to me.  I don’t want to show up at Stacy’s alone.  What if I’m the first one there?”

“No, I’m cool.  I’m good now.  I feel—I don’t—that was just—”

“What, your stomach again?  I told you to stop going to Taco Bell.”

Mike clutched at his stomach.  “Didn’t go to Taco Bell.”

Zack tapped his foot.  “Did you eat something weird?”

“Nah, just that slice of pizza in your fridge.”

“What slice of pizza in the fridge?”  Zack spoke slowly.  “The mushroom pizza?”

“Uh, yeah, I think so.”

Zack leaned in close.  “Why did you eat the mushroom pizza?” he hissed.

“What do you mean ‘why’?  I was hungry.” said Mike.

Zack’s teeth were clenched.  “That wasn’t mushroom pizza, Mike.  It was mushroom pizza.  I was saving it for later.”

“Dude, what are you—” Mike’s eyes widened.  “Oh.  Mushroom.”


Mike paused and glanced down at the asphalt.  “Well that at least explains why this parking space is talking to me.”

Zack sighed and started walking towards the double doors.  “Let’s just get inside.”

“Okay,” Mike said, following.  “Did you know your ears have faces? They’re like little people…”

The doors slid open with an automatic hiss, a blast of cold supermarket air shooting into the Zack and Mike’s faces.  Mike bared his teeth and made slurping noises.  Zack shook his head and began trotting quickly past the vegetables, making a beeline to the liquor aisle.

The liquor aisle, Zack realized, was one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen.  He absent mindedly plucked a thirty pack of cheap beer from the front, staring mesmerized down the aisle lined ten feet high with bottles, each a different vibrant color, from the dark amber rums to the bright, sparkling vodkas to the old lady in the hideous pink sweater bending over the wine at the end of the—

“Oh shit.”  Zack spun around on the balls of his feet and tried to make himself unseen in the tequila section.  “Do not look at the—oh, I don’t know, what do you see at the end of the aisle?”

Mike licked his lips.  “A dragon.”

“Yeah, well, that ‘dragon’ is named Mrs. Hartkopf.  She was my third grade teacher and she loved me.”  Zack clenched his teeth.  “Do not look at her.  Let’s just go buy the booze.  Walk.  Move.”  The two started out of the aisle.

“Zachary? Is that you?”

Zack looked at Mike.  “Shit shit shit shit shit.”  He turned around slowly, trying to hide the case of beer behind himself, and smiled his most innocent smile.

“Mrs. Hartkopf!  I haven’t seen you since sixth grade graduation.  How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine dear, just fine.”  Her fingers clenched and unclenched around the neck of the two-dollar wine bottle she was holding.  “How are you?”  She noticed Mike hopping from one foot to the other.  “And who’s your friend?”

“I’ve been just great, Mrs. Hartkopf.  Doing a little, uh, Friday night grocery shopping.”  Zack laughed nervously.  “This is my friend Mike.  Mike, Mrs. Hartkopf; Mrs. Hartkopf, Mike.”

The old woman held out a spindly hand towards Mike.  “Nina Hartkopf.  It’s very nice to meet you, dear.”

Mike leaned in close to Zack’s ear and whispered, “Dude, your third grade teacher has tentacles for hands.  Tentacles.”

Zack laughed to fill the silence.  “Mike says it’s very nice to meet you.  Very nice.  He, uh, doesn’t talk to strangers.  Good parents.”

“Stranger danger,” Mike intoned solemnly and nodded.

“Oh well isn’t that just sweet,” said Mrs. Hartkopf.  “I wish more little boys were as smart as you two.  You know, Zach, I’m still at Middleton.  You could come visit.  I still have that drawing of a turkey you gave me hanging in my room.  Room 18, you remember?  Third on the left in the building next to the library.  Red carpet, blue walls…”

Zack smiled and nodded before noticing out of the corner of his eye that Mike had wandered to the end of the aisle and was drawing a baguette out of the bread barrel in a manner suspiciously similar to a knight unsheathing his sword.

“Mrs. Hartkopf, I’ll have to come visit you.  If you’d just excuse us, we’re kind of in a rush.  Have to get home and, uh, play our weekly game of Scrabble.  It’s the thinking man’s board game, you know.  Bye now.”

Zack turned around quickly, swinging the beer to the other side of his body in an attempt to conceal it and hurrying down the aisle.  He could hear Mrs. Hartkopf mumbling some goodbye, but he wasn’t listening anymore.  The thinking man’s board game? What was I thinking? He snatched the baguette out of Mike’s hand and turned the corner, disappearing out of the old woman’s sight.

“Hey, you could hurt yourself with that!”

“Shut up, Mike.”

Zack put his hand on Mike’s back between his shoulder blades and pushed him across the linoleum, trying to guide him to a checkout aisle.  Zack scanned the numbers that hovered above each aisle, each one a dull shadow.  Finally he saw the lit up number two at the end, across the store.  One register open.  He pushed harder.  Food products flashed by as they walked: breads, cake frosting, chips, pasta, pancake batter, and then, in the Mexican food aisle next to the refried beans, Vivian Moore.

She was bent over the tortillas, looking genuinely concerned.  Zack couldn’t help but slow down.  Vivian Moore was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and the way she was crouched between the corn and flour tortillas, her long blonde hair draping over one shoulder, tongue sticking slightly out of the corner of her mouth as she scrutinized the red, white, and green packaging around her just made her even more attractive.  Zack kept thinking about those big, blue eyes watching him as he ate a quesadilla off of her—

“Zack?  Zack Morgan?”  She was looking up at him, clutching a bag of flour tortillas to her chest.  “I haven’t seen you since high school.  How’ve you been?”

Zack tried to talk, but no phrases came.  “I—well—uh—you—and—good—but—time—high—bluhhhh.”

Vivian tried to smile.  “Um… and who’s your friend?  Did he go to Woodsdale with us?”

Zack’s eyes widened in panic. “No—he—not—I—you—but—don’t—”

“Hullo, ma’am.”  Mike was speaking in an impeccable British accent.  “My name is Reginald Q. Beauregard and it is a distinct honor to meet you.”

“Oh, you’re Australian!”  Vivian almost squealed.  “Your accent is so hot.”

Zack just stared, open-mouthed.

“Yes, well, m’dear, it’s quite common where I come from, you see.  I would think you’d know that,” Mike continued in perfect London enunciation.  “But then again I suppose it can be hard to get out that often, things being as they are.  Well, it’s been simply capital meeting you, but my chap and I must really be on our way.”

Worry flashed over Vivian’s face.  She noticed the beer dangling in Zack’s limp fingers.  “Whu—where are you going tonight?”  She twirled her hair around a finger.  Zack had to hold in a moan.

“Why, the abode of one Stacy Gunderson!” said Mike.  “And I assure you, if you were to come you would be most welcome.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there!  And I’ll be sure to come find you.  See you soon, Reggie.”  Vivian giggled, then looked at Zack.  “Oh.  Bye, Morgan.”  And with that she turned and disappeared into the salsas.

Zack started walking towards the checkout lane, dumbfounded.  He stared at Mike.

“Wow,” said Mike, back to his standard American accent.  “Do you realize we just met the queen of England?  The queen!”

Zack kept walking.  He dropped the beer down on the checkout counter.

“I.D.?”  The cashier was an old woman who looked the opposite of enthused to be selling beer to two college-age men.

“Yeah, sure.”  Zack fumbled with his wallet for a second before he wrestled his I.D. out of the plastic sleeve.  “Here you go.”

The woman looked at his I.D., and then over to Mike, who was using two packs of Skittles like nunchucks.  “He’s twenty-one, too?”

“Yeah.  Really.”

“Well, you boys have, uh, a good night.”

“Will do.”  Zack grabbed Mike by the wrist and marched him out the sliding doors, into the dark.