It was the night of my birthday; I was spending it at a Super-8 on the Oregon coast.
In the passenger side of my parked jeep was my fiance Lana. We returned from a long day of drinking beer in the nooks and crannies of public beaches. To end our day we bought vape pens from a dispensary, blowing smoke as we listened to the rain hitting the Jeep’s hood. Lana was attempting to open a bottle of wine using a lighter’s flame, since we had no cork. We would’ve went on like that for another fifteen minutes if it weren't for an unexpected event.
“Hey, we should go up to our room soon,” I told Lana as I took my shoes off the dash.
“Why? I thought you wanted to get high. You usually smoke longer than this...” she said with most of her attention focused on googling ways to open a wine cork.
“Because this area is crawling with sketchy transients and local meth-heads. Look over there!” I pointed to a figure emerging from the parking lot shadows and soaked from the rain. The man walked as if he were a century old, though in his twenties. He walked with great difficulty from door to door, window to window, car to car, in a serious stalking manner. In his hand was an object obscured by the darkness of a busted fluorescent light. A knife? A gun? A head?”
“Wh-What the hell is he doing?” she asked as I locked the Jeep doors
“I don’t know, but good thing we are upstairs. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with someone stalking outside my window at night.”
I held her hand and we both focused our attention on the approaching stranger. "Hell, this is getting a bit too similar to a 'Lover's Lane' incident for me anyways."
The hunched over man moved further into the light. It became clear he wasn't an outright threat. His movements were no longer ancient looking. He was visibly more fucked up than James Brown interviewed on CNN. This sad stranger could barely function as a human being. Not from an injury, or disability, but blitzed out of his mind on something. On what could’ve been any wild mixture of alcohol, stimulants, and depressants. He was drooling from his mouth, looking as if a gust of an ocean breeze could blow him over. And in his hand wasn’t a knife, gun, or head... No, in his hand he held a makeshift flower bouquet, a trail of loose soil behind him.
The Man clutching flowers stopped in front of a room by our Jeep. Then he bent over a flowerbed in the doorway and took a deep sniff. He decided he liked what he was smelling and snatched up the flowers. They added to his handful.
Lana and I both burst out in giggles, snorts, and tears. We realized this man was following his basic instincts, inch by goddamn inch. He was more determined than Moses crossing the Nile. His heart somehow led him to stealing flowers from a Super-8. This sad stranger kept on picking flowers, ignoring the owner's frantic cries to stop. When his stolen bouquet was complete he staggered away while vomiting. Though, he did manage to keep his acidic stomach chunks from ruining the flowers.
Lana and I still couldn’t stop laughing. Whenever one of us got composed enough to stop, the other burst out laughing. It was worse than Arthur Fleck's laughing condition from Joker. We let our imagination race with ideas of a drunk and heart-broken flower pot thief. The lines in her face showed as she smiled, enjoying the moment and night. It was something we could tell people in the future. Even kids if we went that way. A wild and funny anecdote about the start of our relationship. I appreciated her and the experience we were sharing.
Deep down a voice inside of me soured the sweetness. The voice that spoke from traumatic experiences and a pessimistic outview. The voice that would rationalize its twisted worldview as being 'realist'.
This malevolent voice told me: "You have her now. But, beware, you are one bad day away from being flower pot guy..."
River Rivers, is a weird-fiction writer from Southern Oregon. He’s been published in a number of literary presses and anthologies. He is Modoc and Klamath Native American Indian, and spends his days working on a legal cannabis farm and dispensary. Follow him on Twitter at @Catch22Fiction.