Elizabeth Gomez: And Percy Sledge Played

Kathy stands in the doorway of the Red Light Tavern. She hikes her stiffly pressed khakis over her hips and under her blue button up shirt. The sun beams behind her as she adjusts the large watch, a gift from her mother, on her left wrist. She wiggles her unmanicured toes in her Crocs flip-flops, quickly releasing a sigh of appreciation that Crocs started making flip-flops. She takes a step forward and Percy Sledge kicks in on the jukebox.

“Fucking back,” yelps Russ, the bartender. His beer belly protrudes over jeans that have been washed too many times. He decides to roll the keg rather than pick it up. The keg scratches against the worn wooden floor behind the bar as Russ contemplates how he’s going to get the keg under the bar, but over the step, without lifting it. He leans on the counter noticing a water stain on the bar. “Fuck it,” Russ leaves the keg and grabs a towel. He starts wiping the counter, noticing the dust in the light from the sun rays, and thinks, “Percy – they don’t make em like that anymore.”

Tracy nervously sits under the neon Budweiser sign. She twists the collar of her shirt as she stretches her neck. She decides that she needs lipstick and turns around to see the mirror behind her. She applies the color on her lips, turns back around, and examines the tube: Shock Em Pink. She smiles. She isn’t sure why that pleases her. She puts it back in her purse and notices the sounds of Percy Sledge over the speakers.

Stephen and Marcy huddle at the corner of the bar discussing their dissolving marriage, trying not to cry. Jeff scrolls through Facebook as he waits for his best friend, Tak, to show up. Anthony orders a High Life and a shot of vodka, missing his son who died when a window blew out of a building and smashed over him. Lisa tries to avoid the grease that jumps from the frying pan as Lacey, her sister, screams that she needs another bacon double cheeseburger and “make it juicy.” Percy Sledge soulfully purrs his love song.

A shadow appears in the doorway; familiar in shape but unrecognizable in the gloom. The dimming light sits on its shoulders to reveal a pale blue worn denim jacket with patches along the left arm. Russ tries to make out the face within the silhouette of its shoulder length hair. It raises its right arm slowly to reveal a long metal object. Russ is struck with fear as he recognizes a rifle; simultaneously, he notices how the dust glistens in slow motion in the sunlight over the figure’s head. The air in the room is suddenly stifling and hot when the first shot is fired. Percy Sledge’s voice is drowned out by screams, cries, and scrambling in the one room bar.

The black figure pulls the trigger again, a bullet pierces through the back of Stephen’s head. The killer vibrates, pushed back by the force of each shot from his gun: Marcy, Kathy, the sisters, Jeff, Anthony, and then Tracy as she screams hysterically pressing her back against the wall, hoping to be absorbed.

The gunman sits on the red metallic speckled vinyl banquette. His left arm limp next to him, his rifle resting across his lap. He eyes the room for any moving limbs, searches for the fading breaths. The room is almost silent as Percy Sledge softly begins to fade out. He feels his body release as he relaxes. He leans his mouth forward onto the rifle. The upbeat voice of Tom Jones belts out of the jukebox as the last shot booms. Meaty chunks of bloody matter splatter across the mirror and onto Tracy’s Shock Em Pink lips.

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