#441: Suicide, "Suicide" (1977)

for Frankie Teardrop

Angie Angel and me was selling broke down trivia machines back then, not such a bad deal if you can get it. Ain’t so hard neither, just get a fellah to sit down there a spell and he’ll sure enough be hooked. Trivia machine ain’t just got trivia you know, but all kinds of games for folks of any sort of persuasion. Say he’s a real sharp kinda guy, a real brainiac type, well then maybe he’ll like the trivia for a while, but when he get tired of playing that they got all sorts of other words games and such, mixing up words and that sort of thing them guys like. Then there’s them other kinda folks ain’t so keen on words and such, so you got some games that can be real entertaining, real fun diverting type games. Like they got one with this crazy old polar bear playing ball with a fish! Hard to believe, I know, but I tell you I play that one sometimes myself and I get a real kick out of it. If you get tired of it, they got some pirates or something and you run a hamburger store and make sure all the folks is happy and got their burgers on time. That’s pretty nice too.

We got the work just kinda by falling down into it. Angie Angel’s daddy ran a side business in jukeboxes and sundry, he picked up a load of broke down old trivia machines from a fellah in some bulk arrangement and there I was back there tinkering around in the warehouse and it just turns out that I got a knack for making them suckers work again. God’s will, I says and Angie Angel’s daddy agreed. Problem is, once a spot got one trivia machine, they ain’t got much use for another, so we was moving around a lot always on the look out for new buyers and whatnot, Angie Angel and me, traveling the countryside pawning them off. I was feeling pretty good about it, both the machines and being with her out there on the road. Angie Angel did too, I just know it.

I got me a right fine automobile—’72 Ford LTD convertible, darn near mint. I saved up since I was 11 years old, chucking my soda pop money in a jar with her picture pasted on the side. Cherie’s her name and, besides my Angie Angel, ain’t nothing in the world as special to me. Not a finer sight than Cherie hauling a trailer filled up with trivia machines and us and the highway, the hot wind blowing up on our faces. We didn’t have no car radio though, so Angie Angel would make do by singing those songs of hers, which I like better than even Travis Tritt. There she’d be next to me, hair flying up all over the place, and singing out like one of them mermaids on a rock in the middle of the ocean and that’s what it felt like too, alone with each other and her song in the wind. Angie Angel could carry a tune real good; I often thought that if we’d ever get into the karaoke machine business she could give a real dynamite example to them buyers about what it was they was buying, you know? She was about the prettiest thing too, my mermaid singing all the while. I bought me some fine new shades from the rack in the Sunoco cause with the sun and her song it was like our future was so bright.

Yes sir, that girl was something else. All the boys back in school were always pawing all over her, tripping over themselves asking her to dance and such. You could tell that look in those boys’ faces like I had something holding over them, on top of them, you know, like Angie Angel was my girl and alright, maybe they get a dance or something one day, but I was the one that get to pick her up for school in the mornings she wanted to go and take her home in the evenings she didn’t have no cheerleading or extracurricular activities or meeting with Mr. Saunders, who she was often fixing to see. I guess that biology was a real bear. Sometimes even if she did have cheerleading at least, I’d just sit there on the bleachers by the field waiting for her to be done with her practicing so I could take her home then. I’d see her down there on the field and sometimes her friends would be pointing up at me and laughing and such and then I’d see Angie Angel setting ‘em right, saying about how I was her boyfriend and they best not be pointing or messing around none. Even that Joe Rogers on the ballfield too, except not with the cheerleaders but with the football team ‘cause he was our quarterback. Yeah, sometimes Joe Rogers would talk to Angie Angel and I’d watch them up from the bleachers and I’d see Joe Rogers leaning in close and Angie Angel laughing, you know, probably about what kinda dumb stuff that Joe Rogers talking.

Standing on her momma’s porch clutching a grip of white flowers and her momma answer the door and her momma saying honey don’t you know Angie Angel ain’t here she gone off the city with her cousin ‘till the weekend and I’m sorry honey let me get some water for those pretty flowers and do you want a nice cool glass of sweet tea and thank you ma’am but I oughta be heading off and Angie Angel not saying a word about it when it is I see her next neither, the white flowers I know her momma keep in a vase waiting for her to get back from the city which she did after a month of time when them poor flowers already dead.

I guess when I think back on it was when Cherie broke down and I was fiddling with her engine that things went amiss. Angie Angel was in the ladies and disappeared for longer than I thought requisite and I start getting a little itchy about it, you know, even her not coming back after I found the troubles and fixed it up easy which must have took a half hour at least and still she wasn’t back yet. I went poking around the racks of potato chips and seeds and whatnot looking for her but she wasn’t there neither so I ask the fellah behind the counter if he seen Angie Angel and he give me a funny look and say no he ain’t and I say thank you sir and he say ain’t nothing son and kind of laughs like a horse and I just keep on poking around. I was getting might frantic by this time as you can well imagine so when I got back to the car darn near give up on her and Angie Angel is sitting shotgun humming a tune like nothing at all and I ask her where you been and she don’t say nothing but give me that sweet grin like she did way back when, like she used to when she was just a girl, like she always done, you know, and what am I to do but get in the car and keep on driving what with a trailer full of merchandise. Trivia machine don’t sell itself.

I get back to the car and Angie Angel sitting there looking just about sweet as ever, so what am I supposed to do, throw some kinda fit or something? I just flip down my shades and drive off into the sun, Angie Angel not saying much of anything but crunching on some sugar candy. We was driving and I put my hand out the window and felt the hot air against it, Angie Angel humming all along. Short time thereafter I felt the blade pushing up on the back of my neck. I could tell in the rearview he was a big mother-effer, and I ain’t a big guy no but I been in a couple few scrapes in my day and I ain’t afraid, but he had that blade and me driving, what am I gonna do? He tells me real rude to pull over so I does. When I look over at Angie Angel he tells me all cussing to look straight on again but I don’t listen right away and there she is sitting there with a sugar candy in her teeth, won’t even look back at me. I try to tell her something then but the guy presses the blade into my neck nicking me some and tells me to get the eff out the car so I does. I take off my shades and squint into the dust Cherie kicks up as Angie Angel and the fellah drive off in my vehicle and my trailer full up of machines, half of which I ain’t even got around to fixing yet. I stood there for a while looking on down after them, then I put up my thumb and got a ride back into town whereabouts I bought me a bus ticket home.

—Erik Wennermark