Someone to Save
A Short Story by Jim McCollum
Written using the suggestion "Wind"
Originally featured on 10-25-2007
As part of our series "A Funny Thing Happened To Me on the Way to the Fall"

Margret’s thin, skillful hand moved up the stems, straightening flowers in a delicate blue vase. She smiled to herself when she had achieved some measure of perfection. She hummed a bit of a Puccini aria to herself as she moved through the living room, arranging the music on the piano, and tidying the already spotless room. The doorbell rang and Margret walked to open it, her hands smoothing her skirt.

“You must be Mickey?” She said, opening the door widely. “I’m Margret. I’m Sam’s mother.”

“I’m pleased to meet you ma’am. Is Sam ready?”

“No, I’m afraid she’s not. Why don’t you come in and wait? Would you care for something to drink? I have water, Coca-Cola, orange juice.”

Mickey entered the house, following Margret through the crystal-glass entranceway. He sat where she gestured, on a long, white, minimalist couch in the living room. He accepted his glass of water from Margret. It tasted faintly sweet to him, easing the stickiness in his throat from walking to the house in the hot July sun.

Mickey felt a light sweat on his skin from the long walk, and it caused his clothes to cling to his thick shoulders. He was not tall, just barely taller than Margret, and was built thick from carrying buckets of stone.

“Sam has told me absolutely nothing about you, Mickey!”

“Well, there isn’t much to tell,” said Mickey, “My dad works for Clearwater Construction, and I work there too in the summers, as a laborer, but I’m going to start apprenticing to be a mason when I graduate.”

“I see,” said Margret.

“You have an interesting accent, Mrs. Peters.”

“Oh,” said Margret, laughing a bit, “it may be interesting to you, but I assure you, back in London, it’s quite common.”

“Mother! I hope she’s not boring you too much,” Sam said, entering the room. “No,” said Mickey, quickly standing up. He noticed Sam had a slight flush in her cheeks, either from getting ready quickly or from embarrassment about her mother, Mickey thought. She wore her blond hair tied back, and wore soft-textured skirt and a plain top.

“I simply wanted to ask him a few questions, darling, since you refused to tell me about him.”

“I’m sorry,” Sam said to Mickey, and she began to lead him out of the room, “We’re going Mother.”

 

Sam brought Mickey through the darkened house, bumping into the walls as they entered. They felt warm and dizzy from the rum Mickey had slipped into their Cokes during the movie. Sam led Mickey downstairs, to the den, and started to pour another drink for each of them, two large glasses of vodka and orange juice.

“Won’t your parents know?” asked Mickey.

“Maybe,” Sam said, “I don’t care.”

They sat on the couch by a large pool table. Mickey felt himself sink into the dark leather, it felt so soft and enveloping, like floating in the swimming hole he and his brothers used to go to. Sam took his hand and guided it to her breast. Mickey tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away.

“Slow down,” she said.

A voice crackled from an intercom on the wall, “Sam, is that you?”

“Yes, Mother,” Sam said, pushing a button on the speaker.

“It’s late,” Margret said, “go to bed, honey.”

“Ok,” Sam said, “I will.”

Sam kissed Mickey and held his hand. She put his hand on her leg, and moved it slowly up her thigh, to the spot between her legs.

“Wait,” Sam said, turning out the lights, “I don’t like the light.”

She lifted her shirt off her body and looked at Mickey in the darkness. She looked at him, his hazy shape visible in the light from the sliver of moon. Her eyes focused. She took a step forward and her skirt slipped off, her hands undoing the buttons in the back. She stood in front of him, naked; her arms rested at her sides, palms up; expectant.

 

Mickey called Sam later, to hear her voice, and to see if she would like to go swimming in the river.

“No,” Sam said, the sound of a television in the background.

“That’s ok,” said Mickey, “maybe another time.”

“I don’t think so,” Sam said.

“What do you mean?”

“I just don’t think we should hang out anymore.”

Mickey sat down. He held the receiver loosely, letting it lean against his head, “I don’t understand, I thought we had a good time.”

“Mickey,” Sam switched the television off, “this might be hard for you to understand. I use sex as a test.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I use sex to test guys, and you failed. It’s a problem I have, I get into situations I’m not comfortable with, and I have a hard time saying ‘No.' I mean, you were so nice at the theater, and, well, I don’t know, I felt like I should sleep with you. Don’t worry about it, it’s my mistake.”

“You didn’t have to,” Mickey said, “I mean, if you didn’t want to. I just thought that was what you wanted.”

“I’m sorry, but you failed the test. I mean, I could get any guy I wanted to sleep with me. All guys want the same thing, I know that. I can see it. When I walk into a room, I can see it in their eyes; just like I could see it in yours.”

“So you come on to test a guy, but you know he’s going to fail?”

“Sorry, men are pigs,” Sam sighed. “I guess I want a guy to like me for more than just sex.”

“How can I if you don’t give me the chance?”

A long silence came from the phone. Mickey let his body relax, laying down on his floor.

“I don’t know,” Sam said, “I don’t know. I guess we could go out again, but only if you wanted.” She laughed a little bit, but the laugh choked in her throat.

“Ok,” Mickey looked up at his ceiling, “so you want to go swimming? It’s so hot out.”

“Yeah,” Sam said, breathing into the phone, “sure.”

 

Mickey came home from the river as the sun burned orange, the heat from the day escaped from the pavement, making Mickey’s battered tennies stick to the sidewalk. He quietly pushed open the front door and stepped into the living room, shutting it noiselessly behind him. He didn’t dare turn off the television because changing it might wake up his baby sister who slept in a crib placed haphazardly in the middle of the room. If his baby sister woke up, he’d cry and wake Mickey’s mom, who slept on the couch in the room, television remote still in hand. His mom still wore her uniform from work, her work shoes, and her name-tag. Mickey carefully removed the clicker from his mom’s hand and popped out the batteries. He took them, cradled in one hand, to his room and slipped them into his duct-tapped Discman. He lay down on his bed and felt the heavy beats in his head, closing his eyes and mouthing the lyrics until he drifted to sleep.

 

Margret fastened an elegant pearl earring as she opened the door for Mickey.

“Mickey, hello, you must excuse me; I’m still getting ready. Mr. Peters and I are going out as well tonight.”

Mickey followed Margret through the entranceway into the kitchen.

“Are you finding yourself able to keep up with Sam?”

Margret’s husband, Bob, stood at one of the counters, pouring himself a drink.

“I guess,” Mickey said, “She’s a bit wild.”

“Well, we’re aware of that,” Margret looked at Bob.

“We’ve got the therapy bills to prove it,” said Bob.

“Robert,” said Margret.

“Bob Peters,” Bob said, extending his hand out to Mickey.

“Mr. Peters,” Mickey shook his hand firmly.

“Do you drink as much as Sam?” Bob asked.

Mickey looked at Margret, who avoided his gaze, looking out the window. “I suppose. I pace myself, though.”

“Well, I wish Sam would pace herself,” said Bob. He turned to his wife, “Are you ready to go?”

“Don’t let her drink too much,” Margret said to Mickey, biting her lip.

“Well, he can try to stop her,” said Bob, leaving the room.

 

Mickey and Sam walked through the aisles of the supermarket looking for someone to buy them a case of beer. The best people were college students or other younger adults. Sometimes, Mickey would find a guy from his crew to buy him alcohol, but he doubted he’d find one out here in Sam’s neighborhood.

“Mickey?”

Mickey stopped.

“Mickey, I think someone is following us.”

“You’re probably still jumpy from the movie; you think you see one of those crazed mountain men coming after us?”

“Shut-up,” she moved closer, “I’m serious. He’s followed me before.”

Mickey’s smiled dropped, “Where is he?”

“He was in the back of the store just now; he went through those double doors to the butcher’s area.”

Mickey started towards the black rubber door.

“He’s wearing a dirty blue jacket that says ‘Jake’ on it.”

Mickey pushed the doors open to the back. No one seemed to be there, it was well past working hours. The cold air touched his skin, raising goose bumps. All along the walls, meat had been packed in shrink wrapped plastic. Mickey looked around the corners, his hands curled into fists, but he didn’t find anyone.

Sam had stayed where Mickey left her. She had moved into a nook in a beer display, hiding herself from view as much as possible.

“Well,” Mickey said, breathing heavily from running back, “I didn’t see anyone like you said.”

Sam moved into Mickey and hugged him.

“Thank you,” she said.

They didn’t speak as they left the store. They walked across the parking lot, which had emptied of customers long before they arrived. They got into Mickey’s pick-up.

“Jake’s the man who raped me,” Sam said. “At least, I think that’s his name, it’s what was on his jacket.”

“You saw him in the supermarket?” Mickey asked, opening the door to the truck.

“I see him everywhere.”

Mickey stopped, and looked at Sam. The corners of Sam’s eyes glistened, holding tears.

 

“We never see you around here anymore,” said Jamal, “You’ve been with your girl so much, maybe you’ve been whipped already.”

“Shut-up,” Mickey said, taking a sip from his beer.

He and Jamal sat on swings in the park by their houses. Mickey had been in a fight with his mom earlier that evening, and Jamal had insisted he needed to get drunk.

“It’s just good,” said Mickey, “I don’t have to talk when I’m with her. I can just…I don’t know, get away from my problems.”

“What do you think we’re doing here?” Jamal took his beer and clinked it to the top of Mickey’s bottle.

They drank bottle after bottle. They began to laugh and wrestle in the grass.

“Hey,” Jamal said, stumbling, “I know where this slut lives.”

Mickey laughed.

“No, man, I’m telling the truth. I know where this girl lives who will,” he stumbled again. “Come on.”

“I don’t know man, I’m fucked up, and I should go home. I’m tired.”

“I’m tired too,” said Jamal, “tired of you being a fucking pussy.”

They rode together in Jamal’s car, traveling over the bridge and on the freeway. The houses began to get bigger. Mickey began to get uneasy. Jamal stopped in front of a large white colonial; Sam’s house.

“There’s this girl who lives here, she sucked both Michael and Jerrod’s dicks at once,” Jamal said, getting out of the car.

Mickey got out of the car and punched Jamal in the face.

“What the fuck?” Jamal put his hand up to his nose to catch the blood.

“My girlfriend lives here,” Mickey said, falling back on the car.

“Oh,” said Jamal, sitting down in the gravel.

They both stayed there, Mickey leaning against the car, and Jamal sitting. They both stayed there for some time before either one moved.

 

Mickey and Sam were at a house party up in the hills overlooking the city. The party had begun to die down, and people had started to leave the house. Mickey stood outside of the party waiting for Sam, like he had on many occasions before. Sam eventually came out of the house.

“Do you want to go to another party?” Sam asked, leaning on Mickey.

“No,” said Mickey, pulling his arm away from Sam, “I want to go.”

“There are these guys inside,” Sam said, “They’ve got a hot-tub.”

“I just don’t want to go.”

“They also have some cocaine.”

“I just don’t want to go, Sam.”

“I’m going without you then. I don’t want to go to sleep yet.”

Mickey stopped; he reached out and took Sam’s hand. “Sam,” he said, “you should come home with me.”

Sam pulled her hand away. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m going.”

 

Mickey lay in his bed. He heard the sound of a police siren in the distance, and the dogs from the neighborhood howled with it, dogs and the sounds of the city blended together in Mickey’s head. He lay on top of his mattress, in his room, amid the school papers, busted toys, and old clothes. He tried to hold himself from sleep, but he couldn’t do it. He felt a nervous twitch in his muscles, but his head felt like he was falling. He heard the cries of his baby sister in the other room, and forced his legs to the floor. Half-tripping over the debris in his room, he went to the living room. His mom hadn’t woken up yet. He picked up his baby brother and put the infant against his shoulder.

“Go to sleep,” he said, patting his sister’s back, “go to sleep. There’s going to be someone looking out for you, always.”

Read More By Jim McCollum

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Portland Fiction Project

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