Volume 2 Number 1 • Spring 2010

Ryan Dilbert

You Shot Me

Veronica was driftwood in a sea of morphine. She remembered talking to the police in thin slices. Her dreams were of being homecoming queen, of flying cars and of ravenous animals eating at her right side. The cops kept walking into those dreams to ask questions.

Are you in a gang? Where were you going on the bus? Do you know who shot you? How old are you? Were you on drugs? Do you take drugs? Do you sell drugs? Do you have a boyfriend in a gang? Does he sell drugs?

“I’m sixteen,” she managed to say.

A faded purple chair remained empty in the corner of the hospital room. The policemen stood on either side of Veronica, writing notes. A pair of crutches leaned against the plastic glove dispenser.

Her eyes lifted and fell in big, dramatic swoops. The two cops looked the same to her; tall, blurry, pudgy in the middle. Their guns jutted from their hips, looking like the over-sized kind you use in shoot-em-up arcade games.

She tried to say more. She tried to tell the cops that she was on her way to work at Subway. She hated it, but was afraid she'd get fired when she didn't show tonight. Her boss may not believe she was shot. She'd lied before. Veronica wanted to tell the two officers that it was that bitch, Drea that shot her because she was jealous. Daniel used to be Drea's man, but he must have thought Veronica was cuter, because now he was with her and so what? Daniel wasn't worth shooting anybody over; he was just a dumb football player with nice pecs.

The words came out a garbled mess. Veronica's motor mouth puttered when it normally whirled. Individual syllables broke off words and floated away. She fell asleep and was again homecoming queen. Standing at the 50 yard line, wearing a tiara and a long, lacy white dress, she smiled ecstatically at the crowd. Her mom screamed and pointed with a quivering finger. Veronica’s dress was filling up with blood.

Her phone rang. It rattled against a half-empty pitcher of water. The ringtone was, “Shorty what you drank, I got money in the bank. Shorty what you drank, I got money in the bank.” It scratched at her sleep until her eyes opened. She clumsily picked it up. It was Eric, her supervisor.

“What’s up, Veronica? Where are you? I've been trying to call you for hours. You can’t keep getting away with this because you all sexy and everything, you know?”

She mumbled the words hospital, bullet, massive bleeding.

“Oh, I’m sorry, girl. You okay?”

She gave him an affirmative grunt. He told her to come in whenever she was healed up. The sandwiches could wait, he said.

Veronica watched some TV and ate some Jell-O and hospital-quality Salisbury steak. It tasted like salt melted in leather gravy. She was hungry enough to gobble it up anyway.

The drugs had started to wind down and in their place her side was awaking with a hangover. When the pain struck her, she reached out blindly as if to hold someone, to be embraced and comforted through this. But there was no one there. If you didn't count the doctors and the police, she had been alone since she was standing at the bus stop and a bullet rammed into her. She kept expecting the door to open and for her mom's face to slide in.

An episode of The Simpsons she had seen a few hundred times came on. She watched it in between closed-eyed bouts with the pain. The doctor had told her she was lucky. Her ribs had protected her organs. She would hurt for awhile and have a nasty scar, but she’d survive.

Bart Simpson said from the TV, “Who can sleep with those five evil hens cackling and plotting against me?”

The door opened halfway. Drea poked her head in warily. She was carrying an overflowing bouquet of flowers. Bits of baby’s breath and pollen fell out on the floor.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Veronica screamed.

“To see if you were okay and all.”

She walked in the room gingerly as if that made a difference.

“You shot me, you cunt.”

Drea set down the flowers at the foot of the bed, her eyes pointed down. Why is Drea the first one to come see me? thought Veronica. Her mom was working the nightshift again and might not be able to get off. She understood that. But what about her sisters? Where the hell were they? And Daniel, who was supposed to be her boyfriend and boyfriends are supposed to come comfort you if you get shot in the ribcage. Especially if it was his fault for choosing girls who are likely to pull triggers when they go on their period. Instead Drea came in that black and white Adidas track suit she wore every single day. She was pissed at her, but it was nice to have someone there who didn’t have to check her chart to say her name.

Drea asked if she could sit.

“Whatever,” Veronica said spitefully.

“The Simpsons, cool. They are so funny. I like this one; they make the Flaming Moe right?” Drea said all this while looking up at the TV mounted high on the wall.

“Why the fuck did you shoot me, Drea?”

She apologized in a whimper. She shook her head and said she didn’t know what possessed her. Veronica rolled her eyes.

“I was just mad, Veronica. Daniel left me to be with you. I went crazy.”

“No shit you went crazy. You could have just took a swing at me or called me a slut or something, damn!”

A cart was being wheeled along in the hallway. It squeaked in the rhythm of a slow, dying heartbeat. Veronica watched Drea wriggle uncomfortably around the room, watched her fidget with the pastel-colored curtains and chew on her thumbnails like a beaver.

Veronica went on, “It isn’t even my fault he left you. You should have shot that loser instead. He hasn’t even come to see me, you know? I left three messages on his phone.”


A nurse stepped in, looking drained. She was short, with bushy red hair and eyes that looked like two hyphens. She took away the empty tray and asked how her patient was doing. When Veronica told her the meds were wearing off, she said she’d come back and “fix her right up.”

“Glad to see your sister come by. Who’s older?” she said with her hands playfully on her hips.

“We're not sisters,” Veronica told her.

“Oh sorry. Sometimes friends can be like sisters, it's hard to tell.” “Nah, we're not even friends, this is the crazy bi-”

Drea threw her hand over Veronica's mouth. She grinned with every tooth showing.

“She's just being funny. She likes to mess around. Ha, ha.”

The nurse smiled uneasily and left. The door closed slowly. Drea shot up and paced around the room with her arms crossed. She sighed hard enough to scrap paint off the walls.

“I'm going to be in so much trouble,” Drea said.

“No shit.”

Veronica squirmed in bed. The hospital gown felt strange on her like she was wearing a napkin. Her side began to hurt worse. She called Daniel. He didn't answer and she left an exasperated message. Why wasn’t he answering his phone? He wasn’t working tonight. Drea walked in a sluggish semi-circle around the hospital bed. Her breathing was loud and obnoxious.

“Look Drea, don’t you think it’s weird that you’re just hanging out in here? I mean, you’re going to jail for this shit. Just 'cause you’re sorry don’t mean nothing.”

Veronica rubbed her side like it was a child she was trying to console. “I know,” Drea said sobbing, “I know I fucked up. I was just so mad. I mean everything was all good and then he up and left. I can’t help it if I...”

“If you point a gun at me and pull the trigger?”

Drea tried to explain through bursts of nervous stuttering. She pointed timidly between her legs.

“You have a dick!” Veronica screamed joyfully. She leaned back and howled, even though every chuckle cost her a burst of pain running up her side. “That is too funny, Drea. I never knew you were a hermaphrodite. Damn!”

Drea clenched up her fists, holding them over her reddening face like a boxer. Veronica joked about Daniel discovering her hidden penis during a hot and heavy make-out session. She threw out possible profanities he would scream as he reeled back. She fell back laughing, pointing at Drea with both hands. Her laughter seemed to synch up with the canned version playing on the TV. Though the fit of giggling Drea shouted, “I don’t have a vagina, okay!”

Veronica went still.

Drea explained her genetic deformity. She didn't have anything “down there.”

“Nothing? How do you pee?”

Drea’s lips pouted out, she seemed to deflate.

“There’s a little hole, just big enough to pee out of.”

“That’s freaky.”

Drea blushed a deep burgundy. Tears started to swell in her eyes. She turned so that her back showed to Veronica and her face peered out of the window at the alley outside. The city went on buzzing by. A homeless man pushed along a cart full of cans. Drea spotted graffiti that Daniel did, a lime-green, puffy version of the word, pobre.

She started in a low, morose tone, “I tried to avoid it for the longest time. But I had to tell him eventually. He saw it and didn’t hesitate. He started walking out the door. I asked him why and he said ‘what’s the point?’ What’s the point? Me, I’m the point, damn it. You’re with me, I told him. I told him I’d give him blowjobs everyday, stick it in my ass, I don’t care. But it didn’t matter. One minute he’s all into me and then I hear he's taking you to the dance.”

“He said that?”

Drea sniffled. “What?”

“What’s the point? He actually said ‘what’s the point?’”

Drea nodded. Veronica sat up in bed. She was staring hard at nothing with the kind of look you get when contemplating violence.

She said, “I’m more than just a hole. He’s just with me because I have a pussy and you don’t. Damn. Fuck him. He not getting anything from me.”

Drea turned around. She started biting her pink acrylic nails. Veronica looked like she was ready to leap out of the bed and attack.

“But you shot me, Drea. I don’t get it.”

“Pussy envy, I guess.”

They both cackled to the point of wheezing. Drea hugged Veronica gently; careful to avoid the flesh wound she had given her. Veronica caught some of Drea’s big, fluffy hair in her mouth. She couldn’t help but think of the time when they went to Glamour Shots in sixth grade. Drea’s hair took up half the photos. That was the year she learned how to use mousse to tame it.

“You’re paying for the hospital bills, you know that right?” Veronica said.

Drea wiped away some tears that had snuck out of her eyes and down her brown cheeks. She nodded like a naughty kid that's been caught.

“I can’t believe you offered him unlimited butt sex and BJs and he didn’t take it.”

They laughed again. They talked liked they did when they were friends, two machine-gun mouths spraying in turn. They watched another Simpsons episode. Veronica said she was still hungry and Drea offered to go pick up something from Church's.

The door opened and Veronica felt a rush of relief. She was in need of some more pain medicine. Drea was distracting her a little but the injured part of her body continually tapped her on the shoulder to remind her it was there.

But the little nurse didn’t walk in. It was Daniel. He was wearing his letter jacket and jeans. His hair was greased back flat. His cocky strut was cut short when he saw that Drea was there. The only sound in the room was Daniel chewing gum as slow as a grandfather clock. The mouth on his baby face slid slightly open, waiting for the right words to fall out.

In unison the two girls lifted their middle fingers and flashed them at him. Their slender fingers stood rigid for several seconds. They looked like lighthouses with white, acrylic beacons.

Ryan Dilbert cannot afford to go to a pro wrestling academy. He teaches for Writers in the Schools in Houston. His work can be seen in Titular, Paperwall, FRiGG, decomp, and is forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly and Wigleaf.

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