ALL THE LOVE HE GETS
by Matthew Sanborn Smith
It wasn't until he was absolutely fucked up on kerosene that Pete got the idea to seek out Karen. He'd spent the morning in his closet, breathing deeply with an open jar. He'd been going for suicide but the shit had broken his concentration and now he stumbled down the long halls of condo city, not really feeling when he came down CRACK on one knee or hit his mouth on a faux-marble windowsill.
Joey got him to Karen's place in his old Charger that was more Bondo than body. She and her family were doing their Memorial Day thing in the back yard. Pete fell out of the car, closed the door slowly and poked his head back through the window at Joey.
"I'm gonna stick this," Pete said. He found the paperclip in his pocket and jammed one end right through his nose.
"Good God!" Joey yelled. "Jesus, man, when the cops pick you up, don't even tell them you saw me today."
Joey tore off and Pete faced Karen's house. He came out with everything, just as he'd planned.
"Karen! I love you!" he shrieked, and then he pissed his pants. And that was everything. That was all he had. He waited because he didn't have anywhere else to go. He had been planning to kill himself earlier. It's not like he made any appointments for this afternoon or anything.
Pete didn't really register Karen's four brothers coming out to greet him. The oldest one punched him into the ground and they were pissed at him when he couldn't get up. They generally felt bad about kicking people, but they didn't feel like bending over this time. They were scrawny, but what they lacked in size, they made up for with enthusiasm. Eventually they got tired and went back to their barbecue. There had been screaming somewhere during the whole process.
Pete lay filthy and bloody and half in the road, broken teeth, swollen eye and coughing up blood. He stared at the sky for a long, long time. Karen came dreamlike into his line of sight. She knelt above him, her tears burning beautifully his opened flesh.
"You have to stop now, Peter," she said. "Go away and don't come back or else they'll kill you next time." She started to get up.
"Hold it," Pete said. "You came out here, even though you hate me. That's all the love I get, this time around, and it's good enough. Just stay a second. I wanna enjoy it."