Sucker Play

It gets harder for a man to believe in love the older he gets...

But them pretty young things sure make you keep trying...

Sucker Play by R. Daniel Lester

After chatting online for months, Becka and I, we decided to meet for coffee. At a Starbucks. There was another Starbucks across the street. Go figure. She was late. I waited. I fidgeted. I checked my watch. I got that sinking feeling. I knew she was too young and beautiful for a washed-up ex-soldier like me. My gut churned. The coffee was acid. I hated myself. I hated the picture I uploaded to the dating website. I hated my reflection in the window. Over-the-hill and trying too hard to climb up the slope. Then she texted, “LOL 2 Starbucks! stay where u r…” Turned out she was at the other Starbucks and thought I was late. Thought she wasn’t good enough. Too young. Not mature enough. But when I saw her in person for the first time I knew she was enough of everything, especially curves.

We ordered more coffee. She had a soy latte with extra foam. Got some foam on the tip of her nose by accident. Cute as hell. We shared stories. Histories and her stories. We closed down the Starbucks. Asked to leave, they had to put the chairs up and mop the floor.

I pinched myself the whole evening. As my lips talked and my ears listened, my brain threw harsh jabs. Said a stunning thirty-one-year-old born in 1981 only wanted a sixty-two-year-old born in 1950 to pity, to mock, to bleed dry. I decided to let her do as she pleased. Problem was, I didn’t realize then she had a plan all her own.

I walked her to her car. She went on tippy-toes and kissed me on the cheek. Said she was out of town on business for the next few weeks but we could get together on the 18th. If I wanted to. Dinner. Her place. I said I’d love to but it didn’t have to be that night if it felt rushed. I thought she’d take the bait I conveniently let dangle in the water. I gave her an out, a reprieve. Instead, she smiled shyly and told me it wouldn’t feel rushed at all.

I showed up at Becka’s place five minutes early. Prom night jitters. She grinned, hugged and invited me inside, showing me around her tidy, nicely decorated one-bedroom condo. Then she grilled ribeye steaks medium rare on the BBQ and added baked potatoes, arugula-and-roasted-beet-salad and homemade chocolate pecan pie for dessert.

The night was warm. We ate outside on the patio. Her cat curled around my legs in persistent figure eights, signaling, if not acceptance then at least tolerance. Becka served espresso with dessert and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that caffeine after four p.m. kept me up all night. Old man problems. She switched to scotch after the coffee but I said no because I had to drive. She asked did I really? And I shook my head. Crickets chirped. Darkness ate at the edges of the candlelight. A moth committed suicide. Then she grabbed my hand and led me upstairs.

In her bedroom, we got naked. I said I was a little rusty. She put her hands on me and said I seemed pretty tuned to her. Then she said she liked old dogs because you could teach them new tricks but they still remembered some of the old ones. She was too pretty for words. I had none to give, anyway. The ones I did have were gibberish and grunted into her neck and the sheets and those sounds joined our sweat there, dissipating together.

After, thanks to the espresso, I couldn’t sleep. I waited until Becka was breathing deep and regular and crept out of her bed. I went downstairs in my underwear to have a glass of water and try to dislodge the horseshoe stuck up my ass, just to see how big it was and how long I could expect such a lucky streak to continue. Turned out to be a small horseshoe. The guy that crept up behind me was two steps away before I heard him. Had to give him credit for getting even that close. I’d once been a big man trained to be a ghost too. And the air, no matter how delicately sliced, still ripples. I darted to my left but he was fast, faster than me, and his knife carved a chunk out of my right shoulder.

I’d barely turned around when he was on me, taking me to the floor for the kill. He was wearing desert camouflage from head-to-toe. I stared at his eyes as he held the knife above my ribcage. I knew the look. From ’Nam. That private who collected an ear for every kill. That hospital medic who hung himself with his belt and left no note. And this one with the knife who was so fresh from the beaches of Iraq or Afghanistan, I could practically see the grains of sand on his skin. Different war. Same crazy.

Then his eyes changed. It was surprise. He didn’t see me grab the chef’s knife from the block on the counter. But he felt it in his stomach, as his weight forced the blade further into his body.

“I told that bitch I’d be back,” he said, blood in his spit. “For her and her new fuck buddy. First thing, soon as I got shipped home.”

He was dead when Becka came down the stairs in her robe, barefoot. And I was half gone. The body was too heavy to move and his knife, from the weight, was slowly piercing my chest. Next stop, heart.

And I understood.

She hunted for the biggest, baddest hombre she could find online and made sure he slept over the night her nutcase ex-husband promised to return. I’d been suckered. The hook of her sunk deep in the meat of my cheek and she pulled me along until I was plucked out of the water and gutted.

Becka knelt down beside me, waiting.

R. Daniel Lester writes, reads, lives and works in Vancouver, BC, Canada, aka Terminal City, the Big Smoke. He has been writing for 12 years and has the battle scars and rejection letters to prove it. Most recently, his writing has appeared online in Geist magazine and Shotgun Honey. You can find more of his work here: