Evan cursed as he scratched the cue ball. “You always suck at pool when you drink,” said Yoshi as Evan straightened.
“I have to work in the morning, I’m not drunk.”
“Yeah well your game isn’t that great when you’re sober.” Yoshi set the cue ball down and leaned over the pool table. “The short-haired blonde’s watching you, by the way.” Evan snuck a look towards the bar as the pool balls cracked together. A skinny girl with a blond pageboy watched him over her drink. Her dress was so tight it looked like it had been painted on.
“She’s probably a hooker or something,” said Evan, turning in time to see Yoshi sink his second striped ball in a row. Yoshi went around the table to line up his next shot as Evan took a drink of his beer.
“What happened to the optimist? Maybe she likes you foreign looking types.” Yoshi leaned over the table again.
“In that case why isn’t she looking at you?”
“I’m not foreign, I’m Asian, there’s a difference.” Yoshi pulled back on the stick and sank another ball. Evan shook his head. Yoshi walked over and took a swig of his soda. “Go talk to her Mister short, dark and handsome” he said.
“Yoshi, I don’t need to sleep with every pair of breasts out there.”
“What? Your Lutheran roots are showing again. Go talk to her.”
“I haven’t been to church in years, you know that. We’ve got that double date tomorrow with Shelly and her friend.”
“You don’t have to marry her Evan. And I thought Shelly was just a friend?”
“Left corner pocket by you,” interrupted Yoshi.” He quickly put down his drink and went to make his shot. Evan heard the click of high heels and turned to face the blonde.
“Hi,” she said with a toothy smile.
“Hi,” Evan smiled back and put down his drink.
“Losing at pool?” She asked as Yoshi sank the 8-ball.
“Yep,” said Evan, looking at the pool table. Yoshi waved and headed toward the restrooms. “I’m Evan,” he said, putting up his stick.
“Mandy.” She looked at him as she finished her drink. “You want another of those?”
“Sure,” she smiled at him again. Evan followed her to the bar and paid for her drink. The place wasn’t too busy since it was a Thursday, mostly regulars sitting at the bar and a handful of people playing pool. In the corner someone was setting up for karaoke.
“So, Mandy, what do you do?” Asked Evan as she leaned against the bar with her drink and watched him.
“Customer service. I get to deal with cranky people who can’t follow directions. You?”
“Sales. I deal with cranky people who don’t want to buy advertising space.”
“Sounds exciting.” She shifted closer to him.
Evan ordered another beer and watched the karaoke guy set out the books. Yoshi made his way toward the karaoke guy. “Only guy I know who’ll do that sober,” he muttered.
“What?” asked Mandy.
“My friend there, Yoshi. He has this strange affliction of singing ‘Margaritaville’. Only Jimmy Buffet song heknows too.”
“I see,” said Mandy, pulling him away from the bar and toward the back where the pool tables were.
“You want me to sing you, ‘Mandy’?” he asked.
She gave him a sour look. “I’ve heard that one before.”
“Ah, sorry,” Evan took another sip.
“You’ve got a little bit of an accent, where are you from? Europe?” Mandy leaned closer to him. He could smell the alcohol on her.
“Minnesota.” Evan tried to hide his smile behind his glass.
“Really?” she looked disbelieving.
“Yep, born and raised.”
“Oh.” Mandy looked disappointed.
Evan could hear the first painful notes of ‘Margaritaville’ start up. He stepped closer to the jukebox quietly playing some thrashing metal. It wasn’t loud enough; he could still hear the singing.
“Your friend really can’t sing,” she said.
“I know. I have no idea why he does it, other than maybe some sick desire to torture people. Sober, drunk, doesn’t matter, he has to sing this song.” Evan raised his voice to be heard.
“Is he going to murder anything else?”
“Probably not, he’s not drinking tonight.”
“Well, that’s cool then,” she looked around at the pool tables. “So, uh he’s your ride home then?”
“Yeah,” Evan had the feeling he knew where this was going.
“Do you want another ride?” She asked hopefully.
“I’m sorry Mandy,” Evan backed away from her, “Not tonight.”
“You sure?” Mandy stepped closer to him.
“Yeah, you’re a little drunk Mandy, why don’t you catch a cab home?”
Mandy gave him a look and stalked back towards the bar. Evan watched her go and finished his drink. Yoshi walked up after he finished his song.
“So, Captain A-rab, how’d it go?”
“I hate when you call me that.”
“I know. I see she’s back at the bar. Another game of pool?”
“Naw, let’s just get out of here. Lemme take a piss.”
Evan turned and walked to the bathroom. He relieved himself and washed his hands, looking in the mirror. ‘Captain A-rab.’ Evan ran his fingers through his mop of brown hair and thought about how he needed a haircut soon. The curl was starting to show. He definitely looked Arabic; there was no mistaking that, just as much as Yoshi looked Japanese. But as much as he looked it he just wasn’t really. Evan was just a kid from Minnesota adopted by a couple of schoolteachers. At least Yoshi’s mom was Japanese and he was born there. Evan splashed cold water on his face. Tomorrow they had the double date with Shelly and Julie. It was about time he’d asked Shelly out.
Yoshi was waiting with keys in hand when Evan emerged. Evan followed him to a grey SUV parked under a light. The noise from the karaoke followed them until Yoshi started the engine and rock music filled the cab. Yoshi turned it down. “So where to next? The night is still young.”
“Eh,” said Evan, “let’s just call it a night. I got work in the morning and you have your expo.”
“What are you a monk? What happened to the party animal?”
“Yosh, college was two years ago. I gotta work and so do you.”
“I get to walk around an electronics expo and look interested in products I personally can’t afford while the big wigs make the deals. They only brought me along cause I’m the technical guy. And ‘cause I asked, and I only asked ‘cause it was a free trip to St. Louis. ”
“I don’t know why. St. Louis in August isn’t much better than Minneapolis in August.”
Yoshi punched Evan in the arm. “Fine, I’ll drop you at home, then I’m going back to the hotel and seeing who’s in the bar.”
“Geez, Evan you need to learn to relax. Is Shelly really that big a deal?”
“I’m looking forward to it, okay?” Evan slouched in his seat.
“Then why didn’t you ask her earlier? I turn here, right?”
“Yeah.” Evan glanced out the window, “I dunno, it just seemed easier this way.”
“Well don’t worry Evan, I got your back. It’s the Irish in me.”
Evan smiled. “You’re only half-Irish. Better slow down or you’ll miss the turn.”
“That’s plenty, trust me.” Yoshi slowed down and turned into the apartment complex, fast but under control.
Evan guided him to the visitor’s spot in front of the building. “See you tomorrow evening, Yoshi. Don’t do anything crazy.”
“Who, me?” Yoshi smiled at Evan as he climbed out.
Evan waved as Yoshi drove off, then turned and climbed the steps, thinking of his best friend. They didn’t see each other much since Evan had graduated and moved to St. Louis, so honestly it was good to have him for a visit. He unlocked his apartment door and flipped on the lights, remembering drunken college nights and Yoshi always being there to make sure he got home in one piece. When Yoshi had dropped out to take care of his dying mom, Evan used to drive the hour to visit as often as he could to help his friend or give him a break. Going out for a beer meant something different then.
He dropped his keys next to the mail he’d picked up before they went out. The sensible one-bedroom apartment practically screamed bachelor with its big screen TV, game console, battered couch and crates being used as end tables. Evan went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. He eyed the beer, but took a bottle of water instead. He flopped onto the couch and grabbed his laptop from the coffee table, figuring to check his email. He reached blindly for the remote and turned on the TV. He glanced at it and his eyes fell on the porcelain angel that stood on a shelf next to it. It definitely didn’t fit the rest of his décor, but it was a gift from his mom, the last time he’d seen her alive. They’d died two years ago now, just after he’d moved here. Dad had fallen asleep at the wheel driving them back from a teacher’s conference.
Evan took his eyes off the angel and tried to focus on the sports scores. Yoshi had been there for him then too. He sighed and closed the laptop. Dad and Mom would have liked Shelly, he hoped. He thought of the way Shelly had smiled when he’d asked her about the double date as he stood and yawned and made his way to bed. Tomorrow should be a good day.
A loud knock startled Evan awake. He rolled over and looked at the clock. 5:17 AM. Wiping his eyes, he climbed out of bed, stumbled through the dark apartment, and brushed the curtain aside. Yoshi stood on the doorstep, fully dressed in boots, jeans and a light flannel thrown over a t-shirt. He reached to knock again and Evan dropped the curtain, unlocked the door and pulled it open. “What the hell? It’s five in the morning.”
“Turn on the TV.” Yoshi was already past Evan and grabbing the remote from the couch. Evan wearily closed the door. He stepped into the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot, then turned back to the TV as Yoshi found the news channel. On it some Middle-Eastern man was waving his arms around and ranting. The calm voice-over translation said something about the destruction of America.
“Looks like the usual stuff. It’s always about how we’re evil and gonna pay.”
“It’s different this time. My brother woke me up at the hotel this morning. They scrambled the ships. We need to leave. Now.”
“Scrambled the ships? Leave? Yoshi how much drinking did you do last night?” Evan looked at the coffee pot and willed it to brew faster.
“I didn’t drink. I went back to my room, watched half a movie and fell asleep. Ryan just woke me up. All the ships got told to leave Norfolk in the middle of the night.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.” Evan reached in the cabinet for a couple of coffee cups.
“Evan, listen to me.” Yoshi came around the bar. He grabbed Evan’s shoulder and spun him around. “We need to get out of this city.”
“Okay, geeze,” Evan pushed Yoshi’s hand off of him. “I can use a sick day I guess. Won’t your bosses miss you?”
“No. Do you still have the gun you bought?”
“Yeah,” Evan sighed. He walked into the bedroom and dug through the closet until he found the gun case under some laundry. He’d only bought the thing because Yoshi had insisted. Dropping it on the bed, he pulled on jeans and a t-shirt and grabbed his sneakers. By the time he walked back into the living room Yoshi was digging through the pantry and working on a cup of coffee. He took the gun case from Evan and opened it.
“Haven’t even shot it since the last time I was here,” it was a statement, not a question.
Evan shrugged and put on his shoes. “How do you want me to pack?”
“Like you aren’t coming back.”
Evan took his own cup of coffee and took a big swig. Yoshi wasn’t playing around. “What about our dates tonight?” He asked.
“Look, if I’m wrong I’ll pick up the tab for both of us. Come on, go pack.”
Evan took his coffee and went back into the bedroom. He could hear the ranting on the television and some talking head trying to explain something. It was far too early for this. He put the coffee on the end table and dressed. He pulled his big suitcase down from the closet and started throwing clothes in it. Looking at the floor he realized he needed to do laundry. Oh well, that could be done when they got back. The suitcase wasn’t quite full when he zipped it shut. Rolling it into the living room Evan saw that Yoshi had one of his end table crates full of canned goods. “Boy, you really aren’t kidding, are you, Yosh?”
Yoshi shook his head. “You may have called me paranoid before, but have I ever said ‘go’?”
“Nope,” Evan sighed, “that’s exactly why I’m willing to tag along. You may be paranoid sometimes, but you’re not crazy.”
“Not trusting the government is healthy paranoia, I think. Anyway, you’ll thank me for this sooner or later.” Yoshi threw Evan the keys. They missed, bounced off his leg and onto the floor.
“Hey, if nothing else I get a day off.” Evan bent to pick them up. “Don’t forget the can opener; it’s next to the stove.” Evan heard Yoshi pull open the drawer as he pulled the suitcase out the front door. He dragged the suitcase downstairs as quietly as possible. Evan looked at the grey SUV. Yoshi never did drive anything small, even when it was a rental. He looked across the lot at his own little Honda. Well if the world was going to end it would probably be better to be in a beast like the SUV. If nothing else, it probably ran better anyway. He went around the back, opened it and shoved the suitcase in. Yoshi’s usual backpack was already in there. There was a cough as he slammed the back shut.
“Oh, hi Lou,” Evan greeted his neighbor.
Lou squinted in the dim morning light. “Oh, it’s you, Evan. You’re up early.”
“Yeah,” Evan looked back at the SUV rather than meeting Lou’s eyes, “My college friend is in from out of town. Took the day off work.”
“Kids.” Lou climbed into his car, “When I was your age calling in sick was for being sick.”
“I don’t think they’ll miss me,” answered Evan as Lou waved and backed out. Yoshi came downstairs with the crate. Evan opened the back again for him. A blanket lay across the top.
“Unless there is anything else you want to grab we really need to hit the road,” said Yoshi, handing Evan his cell phone.
Evan thought about the porcelain angel. But no, they’d be back by this evening as soon as everything blew over, right? “Naw,” he said, “I’m good. Did you lock the door?”
Yoshi gave him a look. “Yes,” he said. “But I told you, we’re not coming back.”
“So what if you’re wrong and this is nothing?”
“Evan?” said Yoshi with exasperation.
“Just shut up. Or call your job and then shut up. Either way.”
Evan called work and left as a message as they pulled out of the parking lot. Yoshi pulled up to an ATM and pulled out as much cash as he could. He told Evan to do the same. Evan went along with it; he could always put it back later.
They drove through fast food and hit the highway, heading west. Evan sipped his coffee as they left the city behind, staring out the windshield as the sun came up behind them. He glanced at Yoshi and recognized that determined look. Ryan had a similar look when Evan had made the mistake of playing a board game with the two brothers. Yoshi’s brother was a good man, definitely Irish with red hair, green eyes, and an easy smile. He was six years older than Yoshi and lived in Virginia with his wife and two kids. He had some important job on a Navy ship. Evan never did understand military rank. Yoshi, of course, had grown up with it, being a Marine brat. His two older brothers had followed their dad into the military. Pat, his older brother, had joined the Marines right out of high school and gotten killed in the first Gulf War. Their dad had died less than a year later. Yoshi didn’t like talking about his dad, but Evan knew the guy had divorced Yoshi’s mom almost the minute Ryan had graduated high school. Sakura was Ryan and Pat’s stepmom; their mother had died in a car accident when they were kids.
Yoshi rummaged in the bag for his hash browns, breaking Evan’s reverie. He grabbed the bag so Yoshi could pull his food out and Yoshi gave him a tiny smile before looking back at the road. Evan settled back in his seat and put the coffee down. Whatever happened next, he knew Yoshi was a lot more prepared then he was. All Evan had ever planned for was getting a decent job and maybe a mortgage and kids one day. Yoshi turned the radio up as Evan watched the early morning traffic until he nodded off.
Evan woke up as they pulled into a rest area. “What are we doing?” he yawned and stretched.
“Stopping for a few minutes, I need to piss.”
Evan looked out the window and tried to figure to where they were. “So when do we say ‘false alarm’ and turn around?”
“Not yet,” said Yoshi as he parked near the restrooms. Evan pulled out his cell phone and saw that he didn’t have much of a signal.
“We can go back to my apartment, hang out, have a beer and do whatever till tonight.”
“I wonder if they have coffee here,” said Yoshi, staring out the windshield.
“Yoshi, don’t ignore me. I’m not stupid and you can admit you’re wrong, it’s okay.”
“Tell you what, Evan,” Yoshi looked at him, “we’ll drive for one more hour. If nothing happens by then, we’ll turn around, okay?”
“Fine,” Evan sighed as Yoshi climbed out and slammed the door. Evan watched Yoshi walk toward the restrooms. He realized he should probably go too, but just didn’t feel like getting out. He turned the radio up and wondered what the last thing he’d hear would be if the world really did end.
As it turned out, the end of the world was marked by a used car lot commercial.