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There's always room for dessert

A short story by Zac McLaughlin

Tarra called Jack early in the day. To ask for money for a car. And a favour. And if she could stay for dinner.


Jack said yes.

He went out of his way to cook something nice.

“Hello!” Tarra said when Jack answered the door. She hugged him. She kissed him on the cheek. She tapped him on the shoulder.

It confirmed they were more than friends. Forget about paying me back, Jack thought. He felt like the richest man on Earth.


“How old are you?” Tarra said eating with him.

 “Twenty-one,” Jack said.

 “We’re the same age.”

They continued to talk at the table after they finished eating.


Tarra sat on Jack’s bed. She leaned on an elbow. She crossed a leg over the other. She angled the thigh on top so the bedroom light could reflect off it. But she was vain. And Jack was vain. Sometimes. Both could sometimes be vain.

Tarra watched Jack get the money from the top drawer of a bedside table. “Is that where you keep all your money?” Tarra said.

“Yes and no,” Jack said.


Jack tossed it onto the bed. Tarra picked up the single-folded and elastic-banded bundle. A one-hundred dollar note was the outermost note. Tarra’s eyes widened. She riffled the ends with a thumb.

 "It’s ten dollars short of a thousand,” Jack said. “Is that alright?”




“Is that enough?” Jack said.

 “Is this enough?” Tarra said. “It’s more than enough! I’ve never held so much money at once.”

 “You know what? Keep it all.”



 Tarra sat up. She put it to her chest.

  “I’m kidding,” Jack said.

  “Are you?” Tarra said.


“Yes! You must have a lot of money. What do you do for work, again?”

“We’re going to be late.”


In Jack’s car.

It was dark and mildly cold.

“High heels or flats?” Tarra said.

“What?” Jack said.

“High heels or flats? Just answer the question.”

“How would I know? Books.”

“Come on.”

“What’s the question?”

“High heels or flats?”


“You seem easy to please.”

“I am. Is this the right way?”

“That’s a first.”

“First time for everything.”

“So true. So true.”


Jack parked the car on the street. He and Tarra began to walk to the house.

“Is it a man or a woman?” Jack said.

“A man,” Tarra said.

“Have you been here or have you called up?”

“I’ve called up.”

“What did he sound like?”



“Don’t worry.”


“I’m here.”

“Ah. The secret weapon. The antidote.”

“You’d be surprised. There’s the car!”


It was on the front lawn. It’d been shielded by the tall hedge-fence.

“How did you find it?” Jack said.

“I saw it in the newspaper,” Tarra said.

“Please tell me there was a photograph of it.”

“There was.”

“Have you been here to look at it?”


“Want to try to look inside?”

“I’m not too fussed.” Tarra wasn’t going to stop walking.

“How come you seem so set on buying it?”

“I need something to get me from A to B. And the description in the paper said it’d do the job.”

“Suit yourself.”



The entrance light was on.

“Do you think anybody’s home?” Tarra said. She rang the doorbell. “I don’t think anybody’s home.” 

“I think I hear something,” Jack said.

“Liar.” Tarra was smiling. She nudged Jack.

“No, no, no. I think I do.”

“I can’t hear anything. You’re lying.”

Jack put his ear against the door. “Someone’s definitely in there. They’re moving.”

“Something’s moving.”

“It’s moving.”

They waited. The entrance light was turned off. They looked towards each other. Tarra moved closer to Jack. The door unlocked. A burly figure appeared.

“The entrance light must be broken,” the man said.

“No,” Jack said. “You’ve turned it off.”



“That means it’s been on all day and all night,” the man said kicking cardboard boxes out of the way of the light switch. “Move!” the man said to the boxes.

The light came back on. The man came out. “Aaah,” the man said. “You must be the one who’s after the car.”

“That’s me,” Tarra said.

“Let me get a torch. I need to explain something to you.”

Tarra and Jack stayed on the front step.

“Wouldn’t you need to sign papers or something like that?” Jack said. “You don’t have any papers. Road worthy stuff?”

“It’s okay,” Tarra said. “Don’t stress. Don’t stress.” She was all smiles. 

“Come with me,” the man said.


The man couldn’t walk properly. Like what happens when you sit all day.

Tarra and Jack were a few paces behind the man when they all were moving towards the car. The man turned on the torch when they got to it. The keys jangled.

“How old’s the car?” Tarra said.             

“I bought it a few years ago,” the man said, not looking at her. “It’s about half a decade’s worth of age. I didn’t buy it brand new. You still want to buy it?”

“I don’t think anything’ll make me change my mind.”

“I’ve got a few things inside for you to sign.”

“That’s fine with me.” Tarra looked at Jack. Jack saw her.

The man opened the bonnet. He shone in the torch. “Look here for a minute.”

Jack was standing away from them. He looked at the front yard. Black. Black. A dog barked.

“I can’t see it,” Jack heard Tarra say.

“Look!” the man said.

Jack thought he saw the man pull Tarra closer by one of her belt loops.

“I think I see it,” Tarra said.

“Be mindful it doesn’t come loose,” the man said. “You might be able to find some way of making it stay screwed in. I don’t know. Take it to a mechanic.”

“Will do.”

“Good.” The man shut the bonnet. “Come inside and we’ll do those papers. And pay.”


“You’ve got a time capsule here,” Jack said to the man.

Jack was standing away from them. The man must live on his own, he thought. This couldn’t’ve been built for more than one person. He didn’t see how much money Tarra handed over.

“Here’re the papers,” the man said. “You need to sign here. Come closer to the table,” the man said putting his hand on Tarra’s behind.

Tarra stood still. The pen was inert in her hand.

“What’s wrong?” the man said.

Tarra brushed his hand off her arm. She signed the papers. The man tried to put his hand on her again.

Jack marched over to the man. He rammed the man. The man hit the wall. Cracked it. The man fell to the floor. The man was breathing more heavily. “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” Jack said to the man.

“You…” the man said. He puffed. “I’m going to call the police. I’m going to call the police!”

“Let’s go,” Tarra said quickly, worriedly. She took the keys from the table.

The man was struggling to get up.

“No!” Jack said trying to take the keys from Tarra.

“Yes!” Tarra said. She was smiling. She was hiding the keys behind her back.


Tarra ran out of the house.

Jack followed.


Jack closed the front door too hard. He could still hear the man moaning. Tarra was ahead of him.

“What are you doing?!” Jack said.

“Follow me,” Tarra said opening the door of her new car. Fully paid for. Fully signed for.


“It’s mine.” Tarra got into the car. She slammed the door closed. She started the car. She revved it. She drove it out of the front yard.

Jack followed.


Tarra took Jack behind a strip of shops. They parked their cars. They got out at the same time.

“What’s this?” Jack said.

“I don’t know,” Tarra said. “Hideout.”

“It’s dangerous. It’s silly.”

“Will you relax?”

“How can I relax? It’s so dangerous! I’m going home.”

“And what, leave me here? Alone? You can’t do that to a friend. A very good friend.”

“You’re right.”

“I know.”

“What should we do?”

“Follow me.”


They walked to the front. It was lit. Jack looked at his watch. 11pm! They walked. They talked about mundane things. Tarra had to tell him to calm down a few times.

They heard sirens coming from the direction their cars were heading.

“Get inside,” Tarra said. She dragged Jack into the nearest shop. A shop’s open at this hour? It was too quick. Jack watched two police cars zoom past. He turned around. He saw Tarra at the counter handing money over. He looked around.

“Ice-cream?” Jack said. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m hungry.”

“At a time like this! Oh my—”

“Shhhhh,” Tarra said putting a finger to Jack’s lips. “Don’t stress.”

Jack exhaled.

“Let’s sit down,” Tarra said. “Have a breather.”


There were two tables in the shop with two chairs at each. The one near the counter on the back wall had rubbish on it. The other was situated at the front window. They sat there.

“This looks like a fancy place,” Tarra said. “Have you ever been here before?”

“No,” Jack said. He looked around. “You’re right.”

“About what?”

“It does look fancy. Frenchy, even.”

“Have you ever been to France?”


“Do you want to go?”

“I guess so.”

“I’ll put the extra cash you’ve given me in my travel money. I think I have enough now to fund for us. Repayment for the money for the car.”

“Sounds swell.” Jack smiled. Tarra had been smiling for most of the night.



A waiter brought over a large bowl filled with ice-cream of many colours. He put it in the centre of their table.

“You two enjoy,” the waiter said sticking two spoons into it.

“Thank you,” Tarra said.

The waiter left.

“Thank you,” Tarra said.

“Thanks?” Jack said. “To me?”

“Yes. Thank you for a lovely night. Let’s eat.” Tarra removed her spoon.

Jack removed his spoon.

“This is delicious,” Tarra said.

“Let me taste it,” Jack said. He tasted it. “It is.”

Tarra stopped. Jack stopped. They looked at each other. Tarra started to giggle.

“What’s so funny?” Jack said. “Have I got something on my face?”


Tarra stopped. She started again. She put down her spoon. She put a napkin to her face. Jack started to laugh. They stopped when they saw the two police cars going back. Without sirens.

“Back to the station they go,” Tarra said.

“And what about us?” Jack said nervously in the direction of the police cars. He looked at Tarra. She was in the middle of cleaving a hard ball of ice-cream in half.


“I can’t seem to do anything right,” Tarra said struggling with the cutting.

“But I’m the one who gave you the money,” Jack said.

Tarra stopped. “I’m talking about the ice-cream.” She indicated it. With her hands, head and eyes.

“I’m not talking about the ice-cream.”

“Then what’re you talking about?”

Hesitance. “I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

“Is something wrong? Tell me.”


The waiter entered just as Jack was about to speak. “Do either of you own a ------- car with the number plate -------?” the waiter said.

 “That’s mine,” Tarra said.

 “Okay.” The waiter went into the back room. But he could still be seen. He got onto the telephone there.

 “What’s happening?” Tarra said to Jack.

 Jack made eye contact with the waiter. Who was still on the telephone.


“He’s not on the phone about anything to do with the car,” Tarra said.

“I can’t hear him,” Jack said.

“Neither can I.”

“I don’t feel too good. My head.” Jack put a hand to his head.

“Have you got an ice-cream headache?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’ve eaten it all.”

Jack looked in the bowl. It was empty.


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