The Penitent

by Michael M. Pacheco

In his younger and impressionable years, Tyson received some girl advice from his Uncle Sam that he’d always wondered about but never gave much thought, ultimately. The old man had said, “Lots of love is good; lots of sex is better.” For years he’d acted upon that advice as if it were wisdom handed down from master to apprentice.

Evening shadows settled over the city. This was when the pretty ones came out. Tyson paused for a moment on the stoop and gazed at the unusually orange sky. He felt the booming bass of the nightclub only a few blocks away, a mating call for the young crowd. Like moths to the fire, his feet carried him there in five minutes.

A petite brunette and a group of three pimple-faced boys and two other girls stood on the sidewalk near the front door. The brown-haired girl was around his age, early twenties, maybe younger. She gave him a toothy smile. He nodded back. She must have thought he was a decent person, perhaps because he was wearing a blazer over a white shirt and loose tie. Most boys her age sported jeans and black T-shirts.

Her companions argued about something he couldn’t hear, but the disagreement was inciting enough to make one of the other girls stomp her foot and jab her finger toward the ground. Then, all of them except the brunette, marched inside the nightclub. It was starting to look like an opportunity.

Tyson edged closer, then smiled at the petite beauty as they both stood outside. The live grunge music blared out onto the street. He took a drag off his menthol cigarette and blew little rings into the air, then glanced at her breasts.

“How come you didn’t go in with your friends? Don’t have to be twenty-one, you know.”

She clasped her hands in front of her and as she brought her elbows inward, they pushed her prominent breasts even farther out. Her white blouse was unbuttoned at the top, revealing her deep cleavage. She twisted in her shyness left and right, then smiled again. “I know, but I’m not really into that kind of music. Hurts my ears.”

“Really? So you gonna wait out here all night?”

She shrugged. “I dunno, prolly not. If they don’t come out soon, I’ll just go somewhere else.”

The fancy ringlets in her hair made him wonder whether she’d spent a lot of time primping for this evening. She gazed down at her designer saddle shoes. Her plaid dress barely covered her knees and the white bobby socks gave her the appearance of a fifteen-year-old lassie from Scotland, not the ratty look of her grunge friends.

“I’m with you on that loudness bit, but I like some of the stuff they play here. It’s kinda the style I used to play.”

He noticed a twinkle in her eyes.

“You used to play? Why did you stop?”

“Well, I didn’t stop playing music. I just stopped performing.”

That was his hook. Youngsters, like her, always fell for it. Truth was, he did play some chords on the guitar and keyboards, but it was all by ear. He turned and glanced down the street. “My place is a few blocks down there. Wanna come over? I’ll play a few tunes for you.”

She stared at the doorway to the club, then back at him.

“My name’s Tyson,” he said.

She grinned. “Sure, let’s go. I’m Olympia.”

Once they got to his apartment, it was easy getting Olympia to drink the cold beer as his humble abode was not air-conditioned. She sat on his beat-up couch, and he took a seat on one of two kitchen chairs.

He pulled his acoustic guitar out of its case and played a few riffs.

“Wow. Sounds like you do know how to play.”

Instead of responding to her, he simply strummed and started singing a slow ballad. She never knew what hit her when the roofie kicked in. She was on her second beer when her eyelids fluttered and she set the can down.

“Do you mind if I just sit here for a minute? I’m feeling dizzy.”

“No, of course not,” he said, feigning genuine concern as he set the guitar back in its leather case.

She leaned back. Her legs spread slightly and then her body went limp. She smelled like gardenias.

His first instinct was to lift her dress and pull her panties down. That was his modus operandi, but he knew the drug would keep her unconscious for at least a couple of hours, so he paused for a moment. He stared at her full breasts. Her firm, tanned legs suggested maybe she was a cheerleader.

He whispered into her ear, “I love you,” but couldn’t tell what it was he really felt or whether he felt anything at all. Over the years he’d had a multitude of sexual partners, and by now he thought he knew everything. He hadn’t touched the brunette yet, when she began moaning.

“Please don’t do that. You know it’s a sin. No, please don’t.”

Even though she was unconscious, there was something honest about her words.

When he thought about his come-ons, his words felt empty, though he told himself they came from the heart. He sank back into the poofy armchair and tried to imagine how he would enjoy knowing this little, sexy brunette in a carnal sense. And yet he worried over the pleasure he took in viewing her private area, but then thought maybe it was an answer to his prayers, like Uncle Sam said, as one of so many of God’s favors and blessings that fell upon him.

Then she began wriggling and squirming like many of his other quickies, and yet, he hadn’t laid a finger on her. For a moment, he thought she might be experiencing an epileptic seizure. He watched her for a few minutes.

When she calmed down, he undid a few of the buttons on her blouse. He’d judged correctly. Her breasts were beautiful mounds of smooth, tanned skin.

It was time to do the deed. He hesitated before edging closer to her and reclining his body to match her position on the couch. He felt the heat of her body against his. It was then, with her eyes fully closed, that she began speaking, or at least he thought that’s what she was doing. The gurgling sounds coming from her throat sounded like she was drowning, shattering any possibility of want. What was happening?

He leaned away from her. This was not seduction. What he was doing, suddenly and for the first time, felt wrong and he could not convince himself otherwise.

He sat up and stared at Olympia. An unexpected feeling of emptiness filled him as he sipped his beer. For a brief moment, he wondered whether such one-sided trysts would define the nature of the rest of his life. He glanced through the window at the moon, a thin fingernail in a black sea. He’d never been more confused. The matter of his uncertainty, the gamesmanship he’d only just anticipated, melded into a marriage of silence and guilt. Maybe Uncle Sam had been just flat-out wrong.


BIO: Born in the Chihuahuan desert of northern Mexico, Michael M. Pacheco’s parents promptly packed him up like precious cargo along with his siblings and moved to El Norte. He remained and established roots in the Pacific Northwest, receiving his BA from Gonzaga University and his JD from Willamette University. He now earns a living working as a legal assistant in a Salem law firm and as an author of fiction. Michael’s collection of short stories, Of Angels Demons and Chopped Chorizo, became available in January 2014. He has also been published in over thirty literary journals. Michael is currently polishing his fourth novel for publication. He has been published in seven different legal periodicals.