The drive home from Lone Pine is a long one for Shana. She’s been making the drive through the remote country roads five days a week for the past two months. At only 17 years old, she hasn’t had much driving experience, but her daily commute has been helping with the learning curve.
A friend of her mother’s had gotten Shana the job at the Lone Pine Gas Station for the summer until college began in the Fall. It’s a boring job; the most exciting thing to happen since she started was when an older truck driver slipped inside the store and hurt his back.
The pay isn’t great either. It barely covers gas and insurance for the new car her mom bought her after graduating high school. The drive to and from work takes nearly 45 minutes through the heavily wooded backroads—one of the major downsides of living in a rural area—but things aren’t so bad. The job is low responsibility and the commute is peaceful. And while a young woman like Shana might not yet appreciate such an easy job, the experience would ultimately prove beneficial to her future. Or at least that’s what her mom always says.
Saturday nights are the busiest time for the small gas station (if you can call 20 customers in five hours, busy) and this night is no exception. The majority of Saturday sales involve alcohol, which Shana isn’t allowed to do because she’s not 18 yet. So the assistant manager, Bradley, has to run the register while she stocks shelves and pretends to be busy.
“How many Slim Jims can one guy eat?” Shana asked Bradley as soon as the customer left.
“30 bucks worth, apparently.” Bradley looked out the window and watched as the man pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the interstate. “I think the average trucker’s diet consists solely of beef jerky, Mountain Dew, and snuff.”
“And lot lizards. You can’t forget about the lot lizards.”
Bradley looked away and suppressed a laugh. Once he had himself under control he looked back at Shana. “Now what the hell do you know about lot lizards?”
“I know they ‘wash’ themselves off with puddle water in between tricks.”
This time he couldn’t hold back and busted out laughing. “You’re way too young to know about that.” He collected himself and took on a more fatherly tone even though he was only two years older than her. “You really shouldn’t talk about stuff like that. It’s… it’s…” he paused for a moment to think of the right phrase. “It’s unbecoming of a young lady to… uh… speak in such a… uh… crass manner.” He grinned from ear-to-ear.
“Oh, shut it,” Shana said, now laughing too.
She finished restocking the beef jerky aisle and walked over to the counter where Bradley sat on a broken computer chair, playing a mindless puzzle game on his phone.
“So,” she started, broaching a more personal subject, “any plans after work tonight?”
Bradley raised an eyebrow but didn’t look up from his phone. “Not really. Probably just gonna game with the guys.”
An awkward silence descended upon the two. Though, Shana wasn’t sure if Bradley felt it. He was generally oblivious to the world around him.
“I think I’m gonna go see that new Bone Blood movie tonight,” she said while shuffling her feet and looking at the ground. “They got a late showing and I should be able to make it in time if we can get out of here a bit early.”
“Are you asking me if you can leave early?” he said flatly without looking up from his game.
“Well.” Shana bit her lip and managed the courage to look up at Bradley. “Actually, I was kinda hoping you might want to go see it with me.”
As soon as the words left her mouth she felt a great weight lift from her. Even if he said ‘no’ she could now look at herself in the mirror and know that she’d at least made a move.
Bradley looked up from his phone. There was the slightest hint of a smirk on his face but otherwise, he appeared to be completely unfazed.
“Now, I do love me some Bone Blood. But I’m not so sure it’d be cool to go out with an underage girl.”
“I turn 18 in like two weeks,” Shana blurted out.
Well…” Bradley seemed to mull this over for a second before continuing, “I don’t know. School starts back up soon and I’m not trying to get blasted on the internet for being a creep or anything.”
“Who’s going to blast you on the internet?”
Bradley straightened up but because of the broken chair, he went right back to slouching again. “I mean if you like, try to get weird and fondle my goods or something. I might not be able to refuse. I’m only human after all.”
“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Shana said with a chuckle. “Nobody is going to ‘fondle’ anything. I just want to go to the movies and you’re literally the only guy close to my age around here.”
He began to fidget and nearly fumbled his phone. Seeing this, Shana grew bolder.
“Come on. It’s just a movie.” She slapped the counter in a playful manner. “It’s not like I’d want to risk losing all of this for one lousy date with you.” She extended her arms and moved them around in an exaggerated way like the gas station was an amazing palace she was showing off.
“I guess,” Bradley ventured, “it wouldn’t hurt. But I’m serious.” He sat up as straight as the broken chair would allow. “No funny business.”
“You sound like my mom,” Shana mocked.
“No, I sound like someone with a damn brain,” he said, suddenly serious. “You remember the trouble Cooper Williski got himself into?”
Taken back by his tone of voice, Shana made sure she would be more cautious with how she responded going forward. “You mean ‘Wet Willy’ Williski?”
“Uhh, I don’t know him personally. He was like two grades ahead of me, I think.” She paused and counted silently in her head. “Yeah, I was a sophomore and he was a senior when I first heard about him.”
“Do you know why people called him Wet Willy?”
Shana smiled for a second but then noticed the serious look on Bradley’s face hadn’t changed.
“Do I want to know?”
Bradley stood up and leaned against the counter. The rhythmic chimes of his phone bleated in the background as the game’s demo mode played over and over on a loop.
“Cooper was in most of my classes all throughout school. We weren’t like, close friends or anything. But we did go to a lot of the same parties in high school. Anyway, long story short, he hooked up with a girl at one of those parties.
Bradley reached over and tapped the power button on his phone. The lock screen came up and the game’s music ceased.
“Cooper was an ugly guy. And I’m not just talking about his looks.” Bradley shook his head imperceptibly. “Dude would say the nastiest shit about the girls at school. I think he was just mad that none of them would give him the time of day. So he’d always lash out.”
“I know a few guys like that,” Shana said in a low voice.
“Yeah, well Cooper was one of the worst I’ve met. Now don’t get me wrong, he was pretty funny and wasn’t always an asshole. But when he’d start drinking…” Bradley’s words trailed off as he thought back. “Let’s just say his asshole tendencies came out in full force.
“But like I was saying, it was at a party that he got that nickname. I’m sure you heard about the party. It was at Tiffany Millson’s parent’s lakehouse.”
“That was the one where some girl drowned in the lake, right?”
“Yup. But it wasn’t just some girl.” Bradley lowered his voice to a near whisper. “It was the girl Cooper had hooked up with earlier that night.”
“No way!” Shana shouted. “So that’s why they call him Wet Willy?”
“What? No.” Bradley bobbed his hand in the air to tell Shana to keep her voice down. “He got the name because when he was having sex with the girl, he was secretly live streaming it online without her knowing it. And halfway through,” Bradley sighed loudly, “she got her period.”
Shana was speechless. Living out in the country, she’d never gone to many parties. The idea of something like that happening was a nightmare she’d never thought of before.
“So,” she finally managed to say, “he got the nickname because—”
“Exactly,” Bradley interjected. “The people watching his stream saw what had happened and started calling him Wet Willy because of the blood on his, well, you know. The same people had found the girl’s social media profiles and started cyberbullying her before the two even finished having sex.”
“Oh my God. That’s awful.”
“Right. But that’s not even the worst part.”
Shana gulped hard. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear the rest. But a part of her needed to know the conclusion of the story. No matter how terrible it might be.
“What’s the worst part,” she said in a shaky voice.
“A bunch of the guys at the party, Cooper’s friends, were watching the stream on their phones downstairs. They showed the stream to as many people at the party as they could.”
Covering her mouth with her hand, Shana knew where the story was headed next before Bradley told her. Nonetheless, she listened with bated breath.
Bradley sighed again as if he were reliving a memory he had wanted to forget. “When Cooper and the girl were done, I think they’d had sex in Tiffany’s parents’ room, they both walked out into the hallway where damn near half of the party was waiting for them.” Bradley looked down at the counter. “Me included,” he said in a hushed voice.
“When did the girl find out about the live stream?”
Bradley looked back up at her. “Um, I’m not sure. Everyone was yelling and laughing. The girl looked really confused, embarrassed. I mean, it was obvious she didn’t know about it right then and there.” He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger. “But she definitely knew something was up. A lot of people were yelling out ‘Wet Willy’ and ‘red wings’ and all kinds of vulgar shit.
“I left right after that. That shit really bothered me. Maybe,” Bradley’s voice cracked a little bit. “Maybe I could’ve done something. I don’t know.” He went quiet for a few moments; lost in the memory. “But anyway,” he continued. “The girl stayed at the party. I don’t know if she couldn’t get a ride home or what, but a few buddies of mine told me that after I’d left, she started drinking—a lot.”
“What was Cooper doing while she was drinking”
Bradley gritted his teeth. “The fucking asshole started another live stream while he smoked and drank in the basement with his idiot friends. I watched some of it and it pissed me off so bad.”
Shana noticed Bradley’s fists were balled up and his knuckles were turning white.
“Cooper didn’t give a shit about that girl or her reputation. He just made fun of her like everyone else did. And you know what else he did?” He looked Shana right in her glimmering emerald eyes. “He bragged about the stupid fucking nickname. He liked it. He actually liked it.”
This was a whole different side to Bradley that Shana had never seen before. Normally a laidback slacker, He never let anything bother him. She wasn’t sure what to say when faced with a serious Bradley.
“How did the girl drown?” she finally asked, changing the topic from Cooper.
Now it was a wave of sadness that seemed to wash over Bradley. “I’m not really sure,” he said as if all the fire in him had suddenly fizzled out. “The rumor is that she got blackout drunk, wandered off toward the lake, and decided to go for a swim. Of course, some people think it was suicide. Hell, I even heard that Cooper killed her so she couldn’t press charges on him for the live stream.”
“What did end up happening to Cooper?”
Bradley eased himself back down into the broken chair and picked up his phone again. He unlocked the screen and tapped away for a few seconds. Then he laid the phone on the counter face-up and slid it over to Shana.
BODY OF DONOVAN COUNTY MAN FOUND IN LONE PINE LAKE
Shana skimmed through the article but there weren’t many details. All she was able to gather was that Cooper Williski had drowned in the lake some months after the incident at the party had taken place. His blood-alcohol level was over twice the legal limit. The only picture in the article was a night shot of the lake with the full moon reflecting off the surface of the calm water.
“Well, that’s fucking crazy,” she blurted.
“Got off too easy if you ask me,” Bradley said, sliding his phone back.
“Was anyone else involved? Like, was it another lake party or something?”
Bradley started playing his game again. The chirpy music cut through the heavy atmosphere the conversation had created.
“No. Apparently the asshole was doing some night fishing by himself. His parents have a cabin out there and I guess he was drinking the weekend away.” Bradley was now fully engrossed in the game and didn’t notice that a customer had come in. “Who knows. Maybe the dick head felt guilty about what he had done. Or maybe he was depressed because he lost his college scholarship when word got out about the live stream. He never got charged with anything, but he still fucked up his life pretty good.”
“Ya shouldn’t be talkin’ like that when a customer is in ya establishment.”
Bradley looked up to see an old man with crooked shoulders and a bent neck standing at the counter. The man’s brown teeth peeked through the curtain of white whiskers hanging well over his top lip.
“Sorry, sir. You’re right.” Bradley stood up and put his phone in his pocket. The muffled music of the game flowed through his blue jeans. “What can I do you for you?”
The old man pulled out a wad of cash from his inside coat pocket. His hand shook from the effort and the smell of mothballs wafted up from the money.
“I need 20 on six, please.”
After the transaction, the old man left and Bradley went back to playing his game. Shana, unable to get the eerie image of the lake out of her mind, went back to mindlessly stocking shelves.