By Matt Garabedian
This Story Was an Honorable Mention in Our Contest
They emerged into darkness, the lights of the Yerba Buena Tunnel in the rearview mirror. Philip drove silently, his jaw firmly set. Clara had not said a word since they had left the party. After dinner, Clara’s mood had become dark. Leaving the Golden Gate fog behind them, they drove to their small Berkeley apartment. The GPS announced heavy traffic ahead on the Bay Bridge, and Clara turned it off. Needing to break the silence, Philip said, “It’s like Picasso’s Blue Period.”
“What is?” she replied.
“The book. It’s Thompson before he went gonzo. Before he got pigeon-holed. You might not recognize him at first, but he’s in there.”
“Why are we still talking about this?”
“You know perfectly well.” His grip indented the faux-leather steering wheel cover as he braked heavily, surprised by the sudden glow of taillights.
“It doesn’t matter. Can you drop it?”
He reached for his collar, loosened his tie, and released the top button. “It matters to me.”
“Fine,” she said, looking at her phone. “You’re right. It’s just as good as his later works.”
“That’s not what this is about.”
“Then what is it about?” she asked, scrolling through the wasteland of selfies posted by the friends of her friends.
“You truly don’t know?”
“You always have to be right.”
“This again?” She looked at him, red light reflected in her eyes.
“I don’t always have to be right. But just because I disagree with you, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong,” she said, setting her jaw in firm punctuation.
“Of course. How foolish. Yes, you’re right.” He looked out the window, watching the traffic moving freely in the other direction.
He took a deep breath. “And you always have to have the last word.”
“Also, not true.”
“Of course not.”
“You’re being an ass.” The last syllable said with an exhausted apathy.
“Why can’t you admit that I’m right?”
“About anything!” He hit the steering wheel.
The traffic started to move again.
“Is this really what you think this is about?”
“Your need for the last word?”
“No,” she said.
“Your need to always be right?” he said with a hint of curiosity.
“You make it easy,” she replied.
“Lovely. You know, just because I disagree with you doesn’t make me wrong.”
“It’s not that, either.”
“What, then?” he asked.
“I saw you.”
His head snapped toward her. “What?”
“I saw her.” Her voice quivered. “On her knees.”
He had been sure to keep his distance from her. He hadn’t even said hello.
“When?” he asked sincerely.
“When? As in, which time out of I don’t know how many?” Clara turned to look out her window. “So, no,” she said, “I don’t give a damn about the tragic career of Hunter S. Thompson.”