Sample text for Endless honeymoon / Don Webb.

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1 Loki’s Daughter
The ending of things always surrounds us, only the brave and the wicked take courage from this. The rest of us merely deny it.
The clock read two minutes to five.
The Ice Palace was cool and dry, and little, seemingly an oasis for the tired traveler off the highway. There was a line of customers on the hot summer day, which should have been a gladdening thing to the owner, Mrs. MacPhearson. Indeed, if it would have been, had she been the sort of creature that takes any joy in those few small moments that fall into the bitterest of human lives. . . .
She was dealing with two children.
“A big cone and a medium cone,” the small black boy said.
“Well, yes, darling. Now let me see if you have money for your ice cream before I make it.”
The boy laid out the mass of pennies, nickels, quarters, and dimes while Mrs. MacPhearson managed a smile that didn’t fool the eleven-year-old lad. He did have just enough, and she almost hid her displeasure. She swept the money off the counter into her hand and just put it in a pocket of her apron. She filled up the two soft custard cones and gave them to the boy and his sister.
A man and woman stepped up to the counter.
“We’re closed,” said Mrs. MacPhearson.
The small radio alarm clock had begun to play KDJW, the Voice of the Hill Country, and DJ Don Walker was explaining what a hot day it was.
“You can’t be closed. We were in line,” said the man.
He was young and tall, almost handsome except for a slight overintensity in his steel gray eyes. He wore a T-shirt with the less-than-clever motto, THINKING: TRY IT TODAY. The woman with him was a raven-haired, alabaster-skinned beauty, the only strangeness to her proportion an overly high forehead. She was in a safari outfit from Banana Republic or some other high-priced outfitter of daring urban dwellers.
“I close every day at five. I can’t make exceptions. If I started to, I would be late every day. I would miss choir practice.”
“Could we just have something cold to drink, then. My wife and I are very parched. We spent the day in Celsius State Park. We are on our honeymoon.” He added the last like a magic phrase, an Open Sesame that would surely work on any old woman with a wedding ring.
“This ain’t much of a place to take someone on their honeymoon,” Mrs. MacPhearson opined. “Anyway, rules is rules. The convenience store in town has cool drinks, or you could take a sip from the hose outside.”
The man had had enough, “I’m not about to drink . . .” he began, but his wife intervened. “Come on, honey. She’s right. She probably wants to get home early because of the trouble.”
“What trouble?” both the man and Mrs. MacPhearson asked simultaneously (and instantly regretted speaking).
“I heard on the radio”—The woman pointed at the radio, which was now playing the country classic, “If My Nose Were Full of Nickels I’d Blow It All on You”—“that there’s a killer stalking fast food places in the Texas Hill Country. He preys on good folks, who have spent their lives building up a good business, because he’s lazy an’ shiftless. He sneaks into their business or home, and—bang—that’s all she wrote.”
“I haven’t heard of this,” said Mrs. MacPhearson.
“Well,” said the woman, “you probably don’t keep your radio on during business hours.”
“No, that would be frivolous.”
The woman continued, “You keep listening tonight. I bet you’ll hear it.”
“Thank you for telling me, ma’am,” said Mrs. MacPhearson, “You know, I could bend the rules this once and get you nice young people a drink.”
“I don’t think so,” said the woman. “I mean, I appreciate your kind offer, but now as I stand here I sort of get a chill about even being in a fast food place. I think we will head into town. Come along, James.”
The man left with her. They got into a small blue car, and soon Mrs. MacPhearson heard the car peel off in a great hurry.
Mrs. MacPhearson wondered if this was a little prank to scare old women or if there really was a danger. The more she thought about it, the more she thought that it was a prank. They were just mad they didn’t get their ice cream cone. Spoiled yuppies. Her husband never took her on a honeymoon. No, they had to start business right away. Their wedding night had been spent here in the Ice Palace, copulating on the tables. “For luck,” he had said. That was six months before he ran off with that girl with the short skirt who liked dipped cones. For the thousandth time, Mrs. MacPhearson dreamed of that girl choking to death on a cone, not considering how damn difficult it would be to choke on soft serve.
She toyed with the idea of calling the sheriff to tell him the whole incident. She wished she had been able to see the car’s license plates.
As Mr. and Mrs. Willis Spencer sped toward their motel room, they engaged in the only arguments they ever had—criticisms of performance.
Willis (mocking Virginia’s tone): “He kills the good people. Isn’t that a little thick?”
Virginia replied, “You weren’t any better. That was the blandest opening I ever heard. Aren’t you getting a little tired of the honeymoon line?”
“But it’s true, hon. I feel like we are on a honeymoon.”
“That’s the kind of thing that could give the FBI a pattern, you know. I think we need to do a few of these with only one of us appearing to the victim.”
“That wouldn’t be very fun,” he said.
She was taking her black wig off her short blond hair, a cut so short and butch she was always being mistaken for a dyke—a fact she had used many times to her advantage.
She said, “Let’s go over tomorrow night’s script really well, so it really works for us. I don’t think we can do another one until next month. For one thing, I’m not going to have the time. Kids will be coming in to rent as soon as August rolls around.”
“We’ll go over the script as soon as I go over you,” said Willis.
“Promise?” she said, and he knew she was the hottest woman in the world.
“Promise,” he said.
“I’ve got one worry. What if she goes to the town fireworks display?”
“She isn’t the type. We already ran her through the Program, but even if she does, we can just wait at her house until she gets back.”
“You know what I wish. I wish that black kid had been a penny short, so that she would have denied the cones to him. God, that would have really got me hot.”
“Denying a honeymooning couple a drink because it’s straight up closing time? Jesus, that ought to be enough for anybody,” he said.
“I like it better when we can see them act that way, rather than stage these little dramas for them.”
He was pulling up to the motel.
“Well, last month, she did make that old lady pay for a glass of water to take her heart medicine with. You might want to play that in your mind for a while.”
“Did you know the old lady was her cousin? I checked up on her.”
“You’re not shitting me? She made her flesh and blood buy a drink to take medicine with? Oh, god. I can’t wait to hear the gun go off.”
“Not a flesh-and-blood cousin. A cousin of her husband. The profile said that likely there was some deep marital trouble in their lives that made her turn out the way she did.”
They were walking to their room.
Willis said, “The poor people of this town. I wonder how much venom she has dripped on tourists coming out of the park. She is a little weed with deep roots.”
Virginia said, “It’s really not her fault. It was just a bad pattern that got deeply established.”
“You and I both had shit in our lives,” said Willis. “We overcame it.”
“With the help of technology.” said Virginia in a tone guiding their conversation toward liturgy.
“Thank god for that,” they both said as they crossed into the motel room’s dark interior.
They had left the AC blowing at its highest setting; the maid had turned it to LOW. They looked at each other for a moment while they considered if this was a worthwhile offense.
“Well, saving energy is a good thing,” said Willis.
“And it probably wasn’t her decision,” said Virginia.
“Well, I don’t know if that counts. I mean, there is the Nuremberg Principle.”
“Yeah, maybe,” she admitted. “But I don’t think that applies to people with English as a second language. We couldn’t explain it to them.”
“I can be pretty persuasive.”
“Yeah?” she said, all hot again. “Why don’t you persuade me of something, daddy?”
“Daddy has to get his belt to persuade you,” said Willis.
“No, I don’t want the belt. I want to do it with the gun in the bed with us.”
“It could go off,” he said.
“Well, something is going to.”

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Practical jokes -- Fiction.
Texas -- Fiction.