I am making my car do strong donuts in the parking lot of the Fredericksburg Target. There is a woman in there who will soon walk out, and I want the first thing she sees to be my donuts of love. I am a security guard here part time, but even in that part I have seen a lot, like a teenager try to walk out without paying for eleven coats, and he was wearing all the coats, and it was obvious what he was doing because there is no amount of cold that makes eleven coats make any sense, and you know, when I caught him, he said that these were all his coats from home, and I asked why he was shopping for more coats, and he said, you can never have enough coats, and I said, Yes, yes you can.
The woman I’m waiting for works in the sports section. Her name is Eliza, and one time I saw her pick up a dumbbell that must have been 15 pounds or more, and that impressed me because most of the weights meant for girls are pink and weigh almost nothing, as if these companies think girls just use weights as another part of their outfits, and not to exercise, really. They should meet Eliza: She has tattoos and her nose is pierced in the middle. I heard she is in her twenties, but it’s hard to tell, because her face looks so tired that she could be older. Plus the piercing, plus also a neck tattoo of a bird I think—I don’t know because I’ve only seen it from far away, between the kickballs, pretending to look at lawn darts. I think it might be a swan, but one that’s falling out of the sky, like it was shot. Do swans fly or are they the kind that only swims?
The exhaust is making it hard to breathe. I’m caught inside my own exhaust cloud which I’ve made from doing these donuts, which is driving around in a small circle real fast. It’s at night and I can see the big lights through the smoke like a circle of full moons, and also a seagull or a bat that I think might be chasing me as I spin around, or maybe I’m chasing it but it can’t think to go anywhere else, so it’s just going to keep getting chased forever.
I cruise out of the exhaust cloud and start up the donuts again. The bat or bird flies away. I want Eliza to see my car and not just a big wall of smoke when she gets out. The whole point is to be seen in the act of doing something incredible. I tackled the kid with the coats but Eliza wasn’t looking. She missed it because she was on the other side of the store. The Fredericksburg Target is smaller than the Petersburg Target, but still the other side of the store is like another planet. I have to stay by the front, because that’s where all the bad guys go. Facing the store, I’m at the right side, by the electronics, but the left side is the main entrance, by the cash registers, so pretty much the only people that come out and in my way are either broke or up to no good. Mostly it’s just bored teenagers. One group comes in almost every day and sits at this table in the Home Décor section. They act almost like it’s their actual living room and not just for show. I don’t say anything because I feel bad for them. How bad can their actual living rooms be that they like this one better?
This job’s not bad, especially for someone who didn’t graduate high school. Some people just don’t go through everything, straight through from beginning to end — some people go off to the side or around a curve. I don’t think I’m better or worse than anybody, as long as you don’t steal, because then I’ve got to grill you. Just a part of the job.
Eliza’s coming out now so I kick the gas even harder. I’ve got a Ford Taurus and they’re kind of clunky, the old ones, but the engines are strong. My wheels are freaking out and my engine is growling and it feels like everything is going to plan. She definitely sees me. She’s standing there and I catch a glimpse of her blur, then the picture freezes and drags my eyes along with it like when you move with the blade of a ceiling fan, and her eyes are open, and here nose ring is a little dot of white blue light, and I can’t tell what she feels about what she’s seeing but at least she’s seeing it, which is me.
She’s seeing me, that’s for sure.
I hit a puddle. A solid general rule: Sometimes when you’re doing donuts, you hit a puddle. My car does a snake dance and pops a space-divider. I bumper car a pole and shoot out leftwise. I brake soft and drift into the lane between lot rows. Stopped now. I have to swivel my neck pretty hard to glance back in her direction.
I’m embarrassed because I’m so close. The skid spit me out right at her. Did she freak a little bit? Maybe she was impressed by the whole dare devil vibe of the incident. It’s too dark to tell. I must have jostled one of the lot lamps hard enough to break the bulb. And she’s the only witness.
I’ve got to get a read on her, but I’m knotted up in my seatbelt. I manage to twist my body around and give my spine a good stretch in the process. I’m looking right at her, and she’s only ten or so feet away, but all I can see is a shadow with a red halo. She’s backlit by the target part of the Target sign. That stupid red eye. It never stays shut off with the rest of the sign. It flickers back on and stays glowing, I’ve noticed, usually until just before the sun kicks back in. The sleepy managers roll up thinking it’s been that way since they left. The nighttime’s for quiet and secret events, and secrets are for intimates only.
Me and this girl, who looks like she’s getting beamed back up somewhere, are right now living in something thick and strange and wonderful. It’ll thin out by tomorrow. I know it. But right now we’re caught up in it, and I don’t even care that I had to look like a jackass to make it happen.
An SUV pulls up, and when it drives off, she’s gone. I turn the key and my engine sputters. I will have to keep turning it for a while until something clicks back into place. I catch a small shadow in my periphery. There’s something with wings behind the target. Behind the eye, something must live there.
Steven M. Markow is a writer, comedian, and visual artist from New Jersey. His photography can be seen at madregularphotos.tumblr.com, and video work at vimeo.com/smarkow.