J. Bradley is the author of Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009) and the author of the critically acclaimed flash fiction chapbook The Serial Rapist Sitting Behind You Is a Robot (Safety Third Enterprises, 2010). He is the Interview Editor of PANK Magazine and lives at iheartfailure.net.
My friend Ben doesn’t understand why I keep paying for aborting babies that aren’t mine.
“You could just ask her out on a date, dude” Ben says between sips of Milwaukee’s Best. “I mean with all the money you’ve spent, you could have flown her out to New York or something, stayed in a nice hotel, and had dinner.”
“I’m not ready, yet. I need to get to know her a little more first, see if she’s interested in going out with me.”
“Doesn’t she think it’s a little weird you keep showing up with different women at the clinic and that you’re always paying for the abortions?”
“Not when you explain you’re going as ‘moral support’ for a friend and you hand the money to them before you walk in with the women. Didn’t you know Craigslist isn’t just for getting your dick sucked by strangers?”
Becky sits behind the front desk, wearing scrubs covered with little Cleveland Browns logos. I walk in with this month’s woman, Amanda.
“Sean, we really need to stop running into each other like this,” Becky says between pops and snaps of her bubble gum.
“I know we do, Becky, I know we do. I didn’t know you were a Cleveland Browns fan.”
“I’m not. My ex-boyfriend is a huge fan and right now, I’m into ruining anything that he loves as often as possible. Are you Amanda?” Amanda nods. “Here’s some paperwork to fill out. Afterward, I’ll bring you back to see the doctor.”
After Becky takes Amanda to the back, I pull out the notebook and pen in my right pocket. I add “hates Cleveland Browns and ex-boyfriend” to the notes I’ve made of what I know:
“Y’know you could just volunteer for the clinic instead. It’s a lot cheaper than paying women to be their moral support,” Amanda says as I drive her home.
“That would be against what I believe in. It’s bad enough that I’m doing this.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Six months ago, I was behind the picket line, holding signs, evoking God and Satan to stop another baby from being murdered. Once I saw Becky walk into the clinic....”
“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re doing this because of a chick? Do your friends, your church know about this?”
“I told them that work was keeping me away from taking up a slot on the protest schedule. I keep tabs on it so I know when I can provide moral support without getting caught.”
“I’m a woman and I’m not into men willing to change themselves entirely for me. A little maybe, but not entirely. It’s gonna suck for you if this doesn’t work, isn’t it?”
“Sean, what are you doing here by yourself?”
“Becky, I finally worked up the nerve to ask you something.” I look down at the floor, heave the courage out of my stomach, into my cheeks. “Would you like to go out sometime? I mean it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just two people talking, hanging out somewhere. No expectations.” Becky stops chewing her gum. The people in the waiting room, her coworkers stare at us.
“Um, sure. Is tomorrow OK?” I nod my head. “Here’s my address. Pick me up tomorrow around seven.” She hands me her address written on the back of a Planned Parenthood benefit flyer. When I got into the car, I high ten the steering wheel before cranking up my Jars of Clay CD to eleven and turning the ignition.
Becky and I sit in a booth at Dairy Queen, licking our soft serve cones. I can’t stop staring into her hazel eyes. Becky’s light blue sundress, bobbed dark brown hair bring them out.
“What the fuck is that?” Becky says, pointing at the window. There’s a small group of people outside, holding picket signs. They chant “Baby savers don’t date baby killers.”
“I’ll go take care of these fucks.” I slide out of the booth and walk out the door. As I get closer, I see Ben holding a megaphone.
“Dude, what the fuck?”
“Sorry, man, but you can’t be going out with this girl. I didn’t think she was gonna say yes so I didn’t rat you out to the congregation but once I saw the flyer and her address, we had to finally step in and do something.”
“I’m not allowed to be happy, Ben? I really like this girl.”
“You know these people?” Becky’s voice taps me on the shoulder.
“Becky, I can explain.”
“Sean’s been using Craigslist to find women who need money for abortions and then going with them as ‘moral support’ so he could get close to you. Here.” Ben throws my notebook at Becky. Becky catches it, leafs through the notes and observations, then peers up at me.
“Sean, I’m not sure how I feel about all this. On one hand, all of this effort you put in to get close to meet me is strangely sweet. On the other hand, you willingly compromised your beliefs just to get close to me. Which Sean did you want me to fall for?” Becky drops the notebook and calls a cab. I sit on the hood of my car, watching Becky wait for the cab inside, wondering how everything went wrong.