Editorial note from Myna Chang: This story pulses with desolation and skewed hope, from the powerful narrative voice to the gritty details of the setting. I heard Johannah read this story at an open mic night a few months ago. I encouraged her to start submitting it then, but I admit I’m glad she didn’t—otherwise I wouldn’t have the honor of sharing it now. This is Johannah’s first published piece.
Being shot is a shitshow. It’s messy, inconvenient, and hurts like a motherfucker. And knowing I gave back more than I got doesn’t dull the pain. The worst part of getting shot is the nagging feeling that death has got your number. You know you won’t make it to the final puzzle in “Wheel of Fortune.” There is some part of you that knows you are gonna die in a godforsaken shithole motel in the middle of nowhere with more of you soaked into the sheets than left in your veins.
But at least I’m not alone.
Lorna reaches down and pulls the knotted T-shirt, bandaged tight around the wound on my upper thigh. Her hands are slick with my blood. She wipes them along the top of the stiff polyester blanket, leaving thick streaks of red, brown, and purple. It looks more Van Gogh than Pollack—the viscous fluid creating textured ridges of sick on the beige comforter.
“Oh, baby, you gotta sit still.” Lorna likes taking care of me.
She holds me tight while we watch “Wheel.” It’s a little piece of familiarity in an otherwise foreign motel room.
“Dumb bitch,” Lorna grumbles. “Vanna isn’t giving me shit tonight. So damn stingy with those letters.”
Her eyes are on the show and my eyes are on her.
In the eerie darkness of the room, Lorna’s face is lit by the glowing TV light like a goddamn angel. She winks at me with those chocolate eyes and, for a brief minute, everything feels right with the world. I shift my weight and tilt my head to kiss her and then reality punches into me with bright, hot pain.
“Hang on, Tiger,” she purrs, “the doc will be here soon.”
I want to believe her. But this isn’t my first rodeo.
When you get stranded in a shithole, backwater town with a gunshot wound, a small wad of cash and a few stolen credit cards—you need to get creative quick. You make do with what you got—like a rotary phone and tattered yellow pages. It was Lorna’s idea to call the emergency veterinarian, because it felt safer than trying to find a real doctor or hospital.
My girl is all kinds of genius. She called the night vet listed in the phonebook and told him her dog, Lucky, was shot real bad and she couldn’t lift him in the car to drive him to the clinic. And with that sing-song, little-girl voice of hers, she’d convinced a middle-aged farm doctor to drive out to an oasis motel off the frontage in the middle of the night. Genius. I get patched up and we score a new set of wheels.
That literally makes me lucky. Lucky I got shot on Lorna’s watch. She’s the kind of girlfriend that’ll give you the shirt off her back, even when it’s her favorite vintage Led Zeppelin tee with the fallen angel on it. And she crafts a tourniquet and she tries to play nurse.
Lorna also is the kind of girlfriend who pours Everclear into my wound every few minutes. Not even her sly smile and foxy eyes can stop the searing pain when the alcohol soaks through the fabric of the tourniquet… but damn if anyone’s gonna get gangrene under her watch.
While we wait for the vet, Lorna fills the room with her ridiculous stories. About how she doesn’t trust microwaves or horoscopes. Or how her brother caught a glimpse of a sasquatch once. And my favorite story—how she knew I was trouble when she first met me, but that didn’t stop her.
I want to laugh, I want to give her shit about making a terrible decision, I want to make her smile… but it hurts to breathe and I don’t have the energy to be funny. I start to lose focus and the room turns dark and cold.
“Baby,” Lorna coos, “everything is gonna be ok.” I focus on her doe eyes and soft tits…and decide I don’t want to die tonight.
Her lips shudder when she kisses my forehead and, for the first time, I can tell she is scared. My brave, sexy, tough Lorna. She doesn’t want me to die, either.
I know it’s my time to take care of her.
I point to the gun on the table. “Give it here. We gotta get ready for the doc.”
Lorna’s eyes flash with relief and maybe a little hope. Lorna likes a lot of things—but being in charge ain’t one of them. I lead her through my crazy-ass plan, and we take turns convincing each other it will work. All we need is a little luck.
I say a quick prayer that the vet can stitch me up quickly. Maybe he’ll be carrying some ketamine or gabapentin.
And maybe the vet will know better than to put up a fight and we can leave his sorry ass duct taped to the bloody mattress.
And maybe the gun doesn’t need to get fired again tonight.
And maybe, just maybe, we can get ourselves a couple of hundred miles out of town by sunrise—assuming I don’t bleed out first and the cops don’t find us before I can ditch doc’s car.
The clock radio flashes 2:35 am. It’s been over an hour since Lorna made the call, and we’re still waiting for a damn night-vet in a backwater town that clearly doesn’t give a shit about dogs.
Johannah Simon is a Corporate Learning Strategist, but don’t hold that against her. When not socializing Powerpoint decks on talent-centric synergies, Johannah writes quirky fiction and heartfelt creative nonfiction. She is also a TEDx and conference presenter, who speaks on the power of living a creative and authentic life. Find her @JohannahWrites.