Her texts had a way of spiraling downwards as they got closer together. He sometimes ignored the first of them just to see how the pattern would progress; how the content would degrade.
“I’m just going to stay in and do some homework tonight. #imagentlemanANDascholar”
“Fuck it. I’m gonna get some pizza.”
“Great. Now I feel fat. :-/”
“I’m at the dog friendly bar.”
“It’s very coupley here.”
“That cute bartender is here.”
There was a lull in the text messages at this point, then they came again, around 11pm in rapidfire succession.
“Can I sleep with oyu tonite?” He decided to ignore this text, seeing as how she was obviously drunk again and there was only half a chance she meant it. But she went on.
“Josh is bad.”
“Cn you come get mee? pleas”
“Where are you?” He wrote back. She sent an address and he filled in the blanks of her spelling mistakes. He waited outside for a moment, unsure of what to do. “I’m here.” He wrote.
She erupted from the apartment in her infamous red dress, with her little dog on the end of his leash. She almost immediately dropped her phone, and it bounced off of the concrete steps and under a parked car. The bartender, he guessed, came out after her and, notably, didn’t help her retrieve the cell phone. He got out of his car to help her himself, knowing that she had a tendency to scrape her knees in situations like this.
The bartender eyed him. “Yeah, good luck with her.” He grumbled, and went back into the apartment.
Frozen with fear, he held his breath until the bartender disappeared. He breathed a sigh of relief once the bartender was safely out of sight, retrieved the phone and helped her into his car.
Back at his apartment, he watched her settle in the little dog. She took off his little yellow raincoat, toweled off his feet and ears, and gave him a treat before plopping down on the couch next to him. He found that he was touched. Who knew this tough barmaid could be so gentle with a little dog? This woman who proudly reinforced her terrible reputation whenever she got half the chance, smiling devilishly and calling herself “the most hated woman in town.” He had listened to all of her stories with relish, between her shots of whiskey. He preferred sprite, himself.
But seeing her like that with the little dog made his voice grow softer than he’d ever allow it to become with her before. “I think you’d make a great mother,” He murmured. She looked at him, taken aback. Her voice grew soft too, and she looked him in the eye when she asked if he meant that. Her speech was still a little slurred, but she seemed to sober up. “Yeah,” He said, simply. She smiled into her lap and looked away. “Thank you,” She said. “But I told you, didn’t I? I can’t have children.”
“You told me,” he said. “I think if you really wanted to, you could.” She looked surprised, and then she sat closer to him. I won’t sleep with her, he thought. But then, she turned and kissed him so sweetly, so unlike that tough barmaid of lore.
At first, he thought it was just the kiss. The roaring in his ears, the tearing sound of the ceiling, the blaring light. “Is this love?” he thought.
Then he felt warm all over. In fact, he felt soaked. “Yeah, this must be love.” It was the realization that they weren’t kissing anymore that made him finally open his eyes.
That warm feeling had in fact soaked him. He was soaked in her blood. She was splayed against the couch, eyes wide and staring. There was a terrible gash in her forehead, so deep that he could see where her skull had cracked. She was now more injury than girl, something he had always feared would happen to her someday.
The ceiling had slashed open. That wasn’t love. Or anyways, if it was love, it wasn’t just that. There was a large asteroid in her lap. Wasn’t that where her little dog had been sitting? Yes, he had settled into her lap, right before the kiss. The rock that replaced him appeared to be smoldering. A piece of the moon, he remembered thinking.
The next thought seemed to come from left field as well, but it was this thought that would ultimately make him rich. A pet rock, he thought.
Over the years, he kept thinking about the pet rock. How many lonely people, how many infertile people, just needed something to lavish affection on. How many tough people went home and just wanted to be sweet to something at the end of the day? How many of them couldn’t handle the actual responsibility of a dog?
The thought was recurring. A pet rock, a pet rock! He began collecting rocks and bringing them home. He farmed 10s of them, then 20s, humanizing them with little glasses and hairpieces. And then he patented the idea.
As it turned out, a lot of people needed something to lavish affection on at the end of the day.