The Bride


Rick aimed his rifle from the back window of the Honda and set his sight on the groom standing in his tux. The guy was lean, with spiky black hair, and he stood with his new bride under a dogwood. Rick pulled the trigger.

Steven sat in the driver’s seat, at the ready. As soon as he saw the groom collapse into the arms of the bride, he pressed his foot hard on the gas pedal, tearing down the empty Mississippi lane and heading north toward Memphis.

During the two-hour drive, they were quiet. They smoked. Steven played Iggy Pop on the CD player. They’d met in their youth, both of them being in a punk band called Criminal Flowers. When the band went nowhere, Steven and Rick had started selling drugs, stealing cars for chop shops, being bad guys for hire. They’d both gotten out of prison recently, Steven for stealing a BMW in Dallas, Rick for selling tranquilizers at a club in Nashville.

Back in Memphis, they decided they needed to have some fun. On Summer Avenue, nestled between a boarded-up Holiday Inn and a brightly lit Exxon, stood Admiral Bowling Lanes. As they tied on their bowling shoes, Rick said, “She was fucking him before she moved out. That’s what made me do it, man. If she’d fucked him five seconds after moving out from our place, today would’ve been totally different.”

“Rick, you’re paying me good money for helping you out. You don’t need to explain shit, okay?”

Rick nodded, picking up a ball and moving toward the lane. Steven looked around, sipped beer from a plastic cup. It was a dim place with an ugly beige carpet. It was almost empty, except for the hairy kid in glasses who worked concessions and the two old guys down at a lane at the far end of the room.

Rick turned. He’d struck down every pin. He said, “You see that shit? This has gotta be my lucky day.”

Then he didn’t say anything else due to half of his head exploding, spraying the wall with blood and bone and brain. Steven crouched down behind the chair he’d been sitting in, tugged his pistol from the holster under his shirt, and fired at two men in black shirts and jeans. They were charging at him, rifles in hand.

His bullets flew past the head of the one he’d been aiming for, hitting the ceiling instead. Steven heard a gunshot behind his back and instantly felt the bullet pierce into his hip. Pain flashed through his body and his muscles turned into mush. He was on the ground blinking like mad, a scream lodged in the back of his throat.

The bride approached. She wore a gown with dried blood painted down the front. Mascara was smeared across her cheeks from the tears she must have cried a few hours ago. She stood above him, pointing the gun at his head. She said, “You have no idea who my family is, do you?”

Steven managed to shake his head through the pain.

“If you did, you never would’ve helped that dead piece of shit over there.” She pointed her chin toward Rick’s body.

“I just drove,” Steven told her, his voice low, hoarse. “He paid me.”

“I should kill you. My daddy would’ve. And my mama. But today was going to be my wedding day. And in the spirit of that day, I’m going let you live.”

Steven stared at her. The pain kept him from speaking. His face was like a single dead muscle.

“You didn’t see any of this,” she said. “When the police ask their million fucking questions, you make shit up.”

Steven nodded. He thought he might black out any second.

“All right,” said the bride. “I’m done here then.”

She lowered the gun and turned to leave with the two men dressed in black. Steven kept his eyes on her. Her dress was satiny, with lacy sleeves. She would have been a radiant bride, he thought.

But the blood on her gown, mascara on her cheeks, rage in her eyes…

Now she looked like she could kill the devil himself.

~ fin ~

James Pate grew up in Memphis, and currently lives in West Virginia. His stories have appeared in storySouth, Black Warrior Review, Plots with Guns, Blue Mesa Review, and Pembroke Magazine, among other places. His book of micro-fiction, The Fassbinder Diaries (Civil Coping Mechanisms), was published in 2013. You can find him at Twitter @James__Pate.