What you'll find here
will be stories, bits and pieces of novel projects, dirty
limericks and whatever other bits of scribbling there seems
to be interest in. For the first offering (and apologies if
you've seen it before), here's a story that was originally
published in Stillwaters Journal. Enjoy!
Mary had come to the
bar with me that Thursday night, so it seemed constitutionally
unfair that she was spending the evening talking to some guy
she'd met there. Now, before the werewolves of my conscience
start howling, I should freely admit that she and I were not
what they call "an item," nor had we ever been. Rather, we
had one of those friendships that, due to equal parts poor
timing and lack of metaphorical balls, never developed into
anything more. That was fine with both of us, really, and
if either of us doubted it the other was happy to repeat it
With the sort of dull
maturity that comes from exhaustion, we both steadfastly agreed
that we didn't want to risk our friendship for the possibility
of a romantic relationship that, in all probability, would
not work out. (Sheer bullshit, of course. We would have jumped
each other in a minute if we thought the other would have
let us get away with it, but we'd both hesitated and lost
long ago.) Still, with that in mind, it's at least a little
bit understandable that watching her spend the evening flirting
with some freak of a total stranger pissed me off like you
I couldn't even say
how he'd ended up in our booth. I'd gone off to get another
round of beers and when I came back, there he was. Couldn't
tell if he'd shown up after the first or fifth round, though,
and it's not as if it mattered. After grabbing my beer, he'd
introduced himself as Damon and then ignored me entirely to
focus on my friend.
He was good-looking,
more or less, in a pretty sort of way. His face was soft,
like a baby's - no chiseled cheekbones or arrogant chin on
this guy. Instead, he looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy would
look like if he bought all the clothes they advertised in
Maxim. His hair was in blonde curls at that intermediate
length that certain women seem to find irresistible; long
enough to play with, too short to earn one the label of "freak."
The lighting wasn't good enough for me to make out the color
of his eyes, but somehow I suspected they'd be blue. His sort
always has blue eyes. Great, I said to myself, I've
been cut out by a post-pubescent cherub. They must kick
'em out of medieval paintings when their voices change. Sort
of like spiritual Backstreet Boys, not that anyone remembers
who the hell they are any more anyway.
I didn't even laugh
at my own joke, and it would have been stupid to repeat it
aloud, so instead I stared at the broken fragments of humor.
Sitting there watching them giggle at each other just made
me see red, therefore, to prevent immediate violence I went
off in search of another beer that Damon wouldn't be able
to grab and a crowbar to pry the two of them apart. I found
the beer at the bar, remembered I'd left the crowbar in the
trunk with the snow shovel, and returned to the table in a
thoroughly pissy mood. Mary, to her credit, had tried to include
me in the conversation a few times, but things just hadn't
clicked. So Mary and Damon chatted, and I sat there and sulked.
It only took me four
beers from this point to allow me to deduct that, unbelievably,
I was not in fact having a good time. Furthermore, I had to
admit that my presence hadn't even cramped the asshole's style.
My ego was down and kicked, so I excused myself and wandered
off into the milling crowd. Mary noticed, but Damon didn't.
Or maybe he did, and I was just too deeply wedged into my
dark little cavern of self-pity to notice. I did notice, though,
that the booth where Damon was sitting was colder than everyone
else in the bar. Then again, at the time I just thought that
was a direct result of Mary's attitude toward me.
The bar itself was called
"Deirdre's Rose," and it was one of those faux-Irish places
that spring up in Boston like fungus in an undergrad's fridge.
What this meant to in practical terms is that the place had
Celtic knotwork on the signs over the door and Guinness on
tap, and on Tuesday nights when no one was likely to come
in they had ethnomusicology grad students playing the sort
of ear-splitting traditional music you usually only hear on
public radio. Fortunately, the rest of the week they conceded
that rock was where the money was, and if you avoided the
occasional "Open Mike" fiasco, you'd generally get your money's
worth of music. There was a small stage off to the right of
the bar, and an uneven dance floor maybe eight feet on a side
in front of it. On Saturday nights they would have as many
as four bands for one cover, and enough of them didn't suck
that it was generally a good time. I'd caught Morphine here
back in October of '92, before they made it big, and kept
on coming back in hopes of being able to say "I saw them when..."
for another bunch of up-and-comers.
The band currently up,
as I wove between tables and towards the speaker stack, was
called Crisis of Faith, and they played a solid four-bar sort
of thing, a little Talking Heads in the rhythm but not enough
that you'd notice if you weren't listening for it. I'd been
vaguely aware of them for a while, largely because a friend
of mine had dated their drummer, and she'd dragged me out
to see them a half-dozen times before things went tits-up
for the two of them. I kept on seeing their gigs afterwards;
There was a lot of beer-fueled
bouncing happening on the dance floor, but it hadn't devolved
into a mosh pit yet, and it didn't look likely to. White boy
shuffle was about as enthusiastic as it generally got for
those guys. That, incidentally, explained why A)my friend
had called it off with the drummer and B)I could still catch
them at Deirdre's Rose on a Saturday night. Occasionally people
would stumble out of the crowd and rush to either the bar
or the bathroom, but I just parked myself on the edge of the
dance floor and waited for an opening I could actually wedge
myself into. It wasn't a great strategy, but it was mine,
God damnit, and tonight, that counted for something.
I was still waiting
another Pete's Wicked later when something wonderful walked
past me and sat down at the closest table. She was about five-four,
with pale, pale skin and that long, straight Wednesday Addams
black hair. Her face was round and delicate, without a trace
of makeup, and her body...well, look. I'm not the sort who
normally drools over anything with breasts. I'm not the sort
that howls over anyone remotely woman-shaped. I didn't even
buy that many dirty magazines when I was in high school. But
seeing this woman...
I wanted to howl, and
knew that I was drooling, though I put the latter down to
too much alcohol. She wasn't a pinup, and she wasn't dressing
to advertise that she spent more time on the treadmill than
God intended anyone who wasn't born a gerbil to spend. No,
she was round and full in all the right places, and dressed
for what I could politely call emphasis. Black dress,
low-cut and tight across the breasts but high on the thigh.
Lots of silver jewelry dangling right in her cleavage, so
that you had an excuse to stare. No eyebrow ring that I noticed
during the brief moment when I tried to maintain eye contact,
but she did have a silver stud through her nose. There was
a biker jacket on the chair eased herself onto, and when she
reached for her drink I saw that she had a tattoo of a crescent
moon on the inside of her left wrist. I was spellbound.
Look, I admit it. In
everything except my politics, I'm a conservative. I root
for the Dallas Cowboys, I agonize about which color of Dockers
to buy, and I can show you my ticket stubs from multiple McCartney
solo tours. My taste in women is no different; my usual type
could be identified by the Laura Ashley dresses in her closet,
the Toni Morrison on her bookshelf, and the inescapable suburban
blandness of her parents. There were no skeletons in my closet
when it came to sex; hell, there was barely a closet. My tastes
and experience were both bland, and I liked them that way.
At least, I did until
this woman came along. She didn't hit any of my buttons, except
for the big one labeled "I Want Her Now." That one was getting
pummeled like it was connected to a slow elevator. I wanted
to walk up to her, dazzle her with my stunning wit, and sweep
out of the place elegantly with her clinging to my arm. I
wanted her to simply catch a whiff of my Drakkar and melt
in front of my Reeboks. I wanted her to get up, grab my by
the lapels, and haul me off into the Ladies' Room to perform
unspeakable acts upon my person.
It's nice to want.
She caught me staring
at her over the shoulder of some guy radiating that caveman
"Woman MINE!" vibe, and I imploded. He was about my height,
but looked a bit thinner around the waist and a lot more muscular
around the bicep. Dressed in black, to no one's surprise,
and I counted three studs in the left ear. She quirked a mini-size
smile at me, very briefly and with a minimum of pity, and
then went on talking with her guy.
I waited until my dick
finished shriveling, and then found an empty seat at the bar.
"Another Pete's," I told the bartender, and put my head down
so I could study the spillage patterns on the counter more
intently. To my left, I heard a chair scraping, and then a
woman's voice. "You're lucky. He didn't bring anything particularly
lethal with him tonight."
My head jerked up like
it belonged on a Muppet. She was sitting there, smiling
She nodded. "Potentially,
yes. Trev is ver-ry protective of my reputation." She fished
in her purse for a cigarette, lit it, and puffed smoke past
me. "If he thought you were here to hit on me, he'd drag your
sorry ass outside and kick it. Hard." She blew more smoke
at me and smiled, brilliantly. "You're not here to hit on
me, are you."
"Absolutely not," was
all I could say. "I'm here to flirt with you."
She was amazing; her
face was absolutely deadpan. Not even a blink, she just said,
"And that, I'm sure, will make all the difference to him."
Then she laughed, and I just sat there and gaped. I felt like
tossing a bone up to the ceiling and seeing if it turned into
a spaceship. She kept smiling, and all I could say was, "My
God, you're beautiful," which made her smile even more, and
then we actually started to talk.
Her name was Danitra,
or something like that and she was a part-time student at
Mass College of Art. The rest of the time she worked as an
artist's model and a dancer, and I knew better to push that
particular line of inquiry. She was amazingly easy to talk
to, though, and had a soft, low voice that had trouble cutting
through the crowd noise and the music. This meant I had to
lean in close an awful lot to hear what she was saying, but
Danitra didn't seem to mind much.
For my part I didn't
mind at all.
After about an hour
the ill-reputed Trev came back, shaking and sweating like
he'd been doing something in the john. He didn't sit down.
Instead, he just stood behind Danitra's chair and stared,
hard. He didn't blink, either, and his expression clearly
showed that he would prefer it if I left, so that he didn't
have to waste the effort of ripping my lips off. I
shot a glance at Danitra, but she was turned around and looking
up at Trev.
"Who are you talking
to, Danny?" he said, breathing hard. I met his eyes for a
second and his pupils were dilated all the way out. Pure black,
"I am talking to my
friend," and she paused here for a minute as I panicked, because
in all that time, I hadn't actually told her my name, "and
we were talking about how much the band sucks. Got any other
"Your friend got a name?"
His voice was flat and dead, and so was his stare. A tiny
part of my brain noted that his left hand was clenching and
unclenching in time with the music, and that Crisis of Faith
was playing a really fast song.
"Michael," I said quickly.
"Like she said, we were just talking." I could tell instantly
that it was the exact wrong thing to say. I could feel Danitra
staring at me with an unspoken "You asshole, you just fucked
it up," and I could see Trev's eyes narrowing.
"Talking," he said.
I took a deep breath, and nodded.
"Talking. About stuff,"
I added lamely, and watched Trev's smile get thinner.
"Really. That's nice.
You must be out of stuff to talk about now, though. Right?"
He stepped closer, put his arm around Danitra possessively.
The way his hand splayed itself over her breast reminded me
of a starfish going after a scallop. I shuddered.
"Actually, it is getting
kind of late for me," I muttered, and slid out of my chair.
Danitra tried to meet my eyes, but I looked away. "Nice talking
with you, Danitra. See you around."
"Yeah," I heard her
say, distantly, and then the bar sound swallowed her up. I
walked away slowly then, praying that when it came his turn
to get up, Trev the asshole would slip in the slimy trail
of testosterone I was leaving behind and break his neck. Trev
didn't notice any of it. He just smiled a shark's smile (lots
of teeth, lots of raw meat stuck between the teeth) and sat
down next to Danitra. When I looked back, I swear she didn't
even look upset. She just started whispering something in
his ear, something that made him giggle.
Probably laughing at
me. Not, I knew, that I didn't deserve it.
To avoid watching any
more, I headed over to the other end of the bar, and put my
ass down on an empty stool. The backup bartender, a skinny
Irish import with a funky frog tattoo on his shoulder and
hair that had been dyed red, wanted to take my keys before
he'd give me another beer, but I eventually convinced him
that I was sober.
he said, and slid the beer across the counter.
"No," I told
him. "I'm not worth the effort."
That beer down and half
its brother later, she flowed onto the stool next to mine.
I felt it rather than saw it; her presence was that electric.
My eyes were on my beer, though, for fear that if I turned
to her, she'd vanish. Trusting my feelings, after, hadn't
been working so well for me of late.
"Hey," she said.
I looked up and tried
to raise a single eyebrow. It failed. "What happened to Trev?
Gone home to fetch the belt sander to use on my balls?" It
came out whinier than I intended, and I winced at the sound.
She shook her head.
"No, off trying to impress that skinny bitch you walked in
here with." She grabbed my beer and drank a sizable percentage
of it. "And your beer tastes like water."
I opened my mouth to
defend Mary and/or Pete's, thought about what either of them
had done to deserve my support, and closed it. "Really?" I
finally choked out.
She put the beer down.
"Really. Look for yourself." I looked. Damon was giving Trev
a royal blow-off. Mary didn't even look like she'd noticed
the newcomer was there; apparently the first intruder had
squatter's rights on her attentions. I turned back and Danitra
was smiling at me, one side higher than the other, her head
cocked off to the left. "See? I told you."
It didn't make sense.
This was all too fucking weird, too thoroughly against the
natural social order of things. Goths didn't blow each other
off to sit with geeks, no mater what. It was Hatfields and
McCoys, Montagues and Capulets, Greasers and Socs. "I don't
understand," I could hear my beer-soaked hindbrain say. "What
did you tell him to make him leave you alone and bother Mary?"
"Mary?" She sniffed,
looked me a question, then took my beer out from in front
of me. "Boring name. Probably a boring person, too." I found
myself nodding. "Thought so," she said, and drank the rest
of my Pete's, making a face of revulsion that managed to look
pretty damn cute. Then, noticing I was still looking at her,
she put the empty pint glass down and steepled her hands to
rest her chin upon. "If you must know, what I told him was
that I was just playing with you, and that he should take
it as a compliment that another man, even an obvious loser,
was willing to risk death and dismemberment in order to hit
on his quote-unquote chick. He understood most of the big
words, pretended he knew the rest,and went off thinking that
he could really make you feel like your dick shrunk in the
dryer by taking your girlfriend home and screwing her brains
"She's not my girlfriend,"
I protested soggily.
"No shit," she said
witheringly. "After all, you're sitting here."
I shut up, gazing longingly
at the row of taps on the other side of the bar. There was
a long minute's silence and then she sighed. I got up to go.
She whirled around on the stool with a surprised look on her
face. "Where the hell are you going?"
"Home. Going to collect
my not-girlfriend 'cause I'm in no shape to drive, and then
home. With any luck Dermott, or whoever she's sitting with,
won't come with."
"Any particular reason?"
"Beer there is cheaper.
Also, I'm less likely to be used to stroke a passing psychotic's
ego. Have fun with Trev. 'night." I flowed off the barstool
and started to stagger off. I took two steps and stopped.
Not because I couldn't walk any further, mind you. It was
because she'd snagged my collar with her hand, then pulled
me back to where she sat.
"You know, for a geek,
you're a fucking moron. Do you think I actually meant what
I said to Trev about you?" I spun, slowly so I wouldn't lose
control of my stomach, to face her. Her eye's were wide, wide
open. Too wide, I thought, though I didn't know why or what
"I don't know," I finally
said, enunciating each word with the exaggerated clarity of
the drunk. "It makes a certain sort of sense, hmmm?"
"Would I have told you
if I'd meant it?" Danitra let go of my collar, probably because
her wrist was twisted at too an odd angle to hold it. I shook
my head and shrugged. "I don't know. I'd like to think you
wouldn't have, if that's the right thing to say. I don't know
what the hell's going on, to be honest. Do you?" I almost
pleaded the last.
She shook her head.
"No. So come back over here, and have some fucking coffee,
and maybe we can figure it out between the two of us." Her
hands were up, in that schoolyard gesture that means "I didn't
do anything." "If you want to go, fine. Blow. I won't grab
you again. Promise." I wobbled there. Twice. Then I got back
on the barstool and ordered coffee, black as the devil, hot
as hell and cliched as both put together.
We talked, hesitantly
at first, and she smiled a lot. I suspected that her parents
had paid a lot of money to a dentist somewhere for that smile,
but that's the sort of asshole I am, always wondering about
that sort of thing. It's not like it really mattered. Crisis
of Faith finished their set and another band came on, and
another (this one really shitty, so they could clear the joint
out - it was standard practice), and before I knew it the
place was closing down and the lights were coming up. Most
of the patrons had emptied out sometime earlier, and I could
see clear across the room to where Mary and Damon were sitting.
There was no sign of Trev, and I found myself hoping he'd
died of a lacerated ego.
I turned back to Danitra,
and the only words I could find were, "Thank you for a lovely
evening. I hope we meet again at some point." Pure nerd, but
at that moment I knew that's what I was. A pure nerd. A straight.
A normal. My ship had just passed in the night, and I had
stood there saying, "Gee, what a pretty iceberg."
She didn't laugh. Didn't
leave, either. Just reached over to me and put one of her
hands on mine. It was somewhat chill, but I didn't pay much
attention. "The evening doesn't have to be over, you know."
She brushed away a strand of hair that had fallen across her
eye. "My place is five minutes from here, and Trev doesn't
have a key. We could go back there and," pause, "keep talking,
if you'd like." She smiled again, in invitation.
I nearly lost it, then
and there. I'd gone into the crowd looking for someone to
spend the night with, and here was my wish, with all the bells,
whistles, and nose-rings. I'd wanted to find someone who'd
want me in precisely the way that Mary hadn't this evening,
and I flattered myself that Danitra did. Danitra, who was
every forbidden bad-girl fantasy I'd had since age 12, rolled
up into one. Danitra, who was all the wild things I'd never
had but really wanted to have once, just to know what I would
be missing the rest of my life. Danitra, who was witty and
intelligent and could concisely tell me I was full of shit
when I started talking about modern poetry. Danitra, who had
a great smile.
Danitra apparently could
read my mind, because she sat back, then, but kept smiling
and looking at me. "Up to you," she said, softly.
I swallowed hard and
was about to say yes when the bouncer tapped me on the shoulder
and faux-brogued, "Closing time, pal." Danitra just shot the
guy a look, then, strong enough to make him raise his hands
in apology as he backed off, but the damage was done. While
Danitra was looking at him, though, I caught a glimpse of
Damon and Mary sitting there and immediately felt, well, ashamed
of myself. Mary was a guest, an old friend whom I hadn't seen
in months, and I'd been about to abandon her in hopes of getting
laid by someone else. Flipping her my keys and saying, "You
know how to get back, see you in the morning, and don't drink
the milk with the blue lid 'cause it's four months old," would
have been inexcusable.
Idiotic, I know, but
that's the way I think. I can't help it. After all, I'm an
Danitra followed my
glance, and I think she understood then. I stood up, looking
around for where I'd stashed my personal cross, and she let
go of my hand. "I really am sorry," I murmured, and I hoped
Danitra could see that I was. "She's staying at my place,
and I can't, well, you know..." I just trailed off and stood
there, feeling like a moron. "You could come back to my place,
if you'd like. It's a ways, but I've got plenty of crash space.
Extra beds, if..."
She cut me off. "You
really are sweet, you know that? But I'd rather not go back
to your place if your friend is going to be staying there.
It would probably embarrass her. Or you."
"Not you?" I said, and
felt like a fool.
"I don't embarrass easily."
She bit her lip and reached for her jacket. "I'm really sorry
things didn't work out," was all I could hear of what she'd
said. "Could I get your number, maybe? I could call you after
Mary, that's my friend, leaves town?"
The question just sort
of hung there and died.
We both knew that the
evening's magic had been just that; the magic of one evening.
There was an awkward minute of silence, eyes pointed at the
floor, and then she took that first step back and away.
So much for fantasy.
She gave me a kiss on
the cheek, then, and walked off. I saw through the window
that Trev was waiting for her outside. He took her hand possessively,
abruptly, and they vanished into the post-midnight gloom.
It was just as well, I told myself. as I'd No doubt he'd been
marking time in the alley with a machete.
I waited a minute for
the sake of dignity, then walked over to Mary and Damon. It
was time to take her home. Alone.
They were already standing
when I got there, Damon helping Mary into her coat. "Time
to go," I said to Mary, ignoring her companion. Damon smiled,
then, and I felt a wave of pure rage boil up from my gut.
"Mary and I are going to continue our discussion at my place.
I hope this does not offend."
I hated him then. I
hated his too-soft looks and his too-pretty face and his too-fucking-pretentious
"I don't think so,"
I said. "She's my guest, and she's coming home with me." He
smiled back at me, the sort of smile you get from someone
who thinks he's talking to a small child or an idiot.
"I'm willing to challenge
that statement," he said lightly, but there was something
in his eyes that bothered me. They were cold and hard, and
that didn't surprise me. But they also, somehow, seemed to
be exactly the wrong shade of blue. "I'll call you in the
morning, Michael," Mary chimed in, shaking me from an analysis
of the sleazeweasel's eye pigmentation. "Really, he's got
an extra bed at his place. We're just going to talk."
I bit my tongue to keep
the first thing that came to mind from popping out. I'd given
up my once-in-a-lifetime night because I didn't want to leave
her alone at my place and because a woman who'd wanted me
wouldn't come to my place because she was there, and now she
was going off to "talk." Yeah. Right.
I couldn't see for a
minute. The world was one big red blur, too bright and too
loud. I wanted to scream. I wanted to howl. I wanted to take
a beer bottle and pulp Damon's pretty, pretty face. That's
the shade of red the world was for that instant; Damon's face
Several years later,
when I could speak again, I smiled a Teflon smile and looked
up at the happy couple. "No offense, Damon, but are you sure
that's a good idea, Mary? I mean, weren't you the one e-mailing
me all of those charming statistics about violence against
women? I mean, if he wants to come back to my place so you
can talk there, that would be fine. I can make tea for all
of us." I took her hand and started leading her out of the
bar. Damon followed closely, smirking.
Once we got outside,
Mary pulled her hand away, and then slapped me on the bicep
for good measure. "This is different, Michael. You're not
my boyfriend and you're not my big brother. For God's sake,
we've been discussing Richard Diebenkorn for the past three
hours while you were trying to get into that bimbo's skirt."
I stopped, abruptly,
and Damon bumped into my back. He didn't apologize. He felt
a lot sharper than such a soft, pretty boy had any right to,
and my back actually stung where he'd hit it. "She is not,"
I said slowly, "A bimbo. She has a name; it is Danitra. Don't
talk about her like that unless...Unless you know what you're
talking about." A lame ending, and I knew it. Outside sounds
swallowed my words, car horns and distant shouts and somewhere,
a bottle breaking. In the distance, I thought I could hear
Danitra's voice, raised in argument, but I couldn't be sure.
Didn't want to be sure, to be honest. "And if your playmate
could find three hours' worth of things to say about Diebenkorn,
then he's gotta be full of shit."
Rather than let that
sit there where it might actually be heard, I turned imperiously
and stomped off toward the car. Mary, thankfully, went with
me. Damon just followed us at an uncomfortable distance, not
saying anything. I swear, I could feel him grinning.
I could feel Mary winding up to say something, too, getting
closer to blowing with every step.
I got thirty full seconds
of the silent treatment, and then she cut loose. "If you don't
want me jumping to conclusions about Danielle, or whatever
the hell her name was, would you stop accusing Damon of being
a potential rapist." I think I must have looked like I was
about to have a coronary, because Mary immediately got conciliatory.
She stopped, turned me around, and made me look down into
her eyes. A mistake, that; my neck already hurt. "Look, Mike,
I'm sorry, and I shouldn't have said that,"
"No shit you shouldn't
have," I mumbled.
Mary ignored me. "But
you're acting like a jealous boyfriend. I'm a big girl. I
can take care of myself."
I gripped her shoulders.
She didn't move to make me take my hands away. Over her shoulder
I could see Damon, sniggering silently. I did my best to ignored
him, and tried to concentrate on her. "Look, I know you can
handle yourself, and I know I'm not your boyfriend. It's just…well,
I've got a feeling you shouldn't do this, OK? Get his number.
You can call him tomorrow." And as I said it, I knew it was
true. Something about Damon just gnawed at me.
Quietly and without
any trace of artifice, she said, "Thank you," and started
walking again. I spat on the sidewalk and followed, doing
my best to avoid looking at Damon. We turned off Church Street,
onto Brattle. A few stragglers from the evening's Rocky
Horror Picture Show extravaganza shambled off down the
block, butchering the lyrics to "Sweet Transvestite" as they
"I just think it's
a piss-poor idea to disappear to where I can't find you with
a guy you don't know in a strange city at three in the morning
just to talk about crappy Modern Impressionism."
"It's only two."
"Two forty-five, and
you know I'm right. Besides, we're supposed to drive down
to the Cape tomorrow."
"We can do that when
I get back, which will be well before noon. Isn't that your
car?" We'd nearly walked past it, as a matter of fact, and
I felt, well, like my dick had shrunk in the dryer. So I said
nothing, just growled, and opened my door. I'd had too many
beers that night for my budget's well-being, but nothing for
a couple of hours, and I certainly felt sober enough to drive,
so I slid myself behind the wheel. Danitra had been doing
all of the drinking during our second discussion anyway, these
hideous red concoctions she claimed were called "Vladimirs."
They tasted like cough syrup, I remembered, and I found myself
wondering how much alcohol it took to make someone find me
attractive. Then I wondered how much it had taken Danitra
to find me attractive, and how long it might last, and...thinking
about her got me angry again, so I hit the power locks to
open Mary's door and slammed mine shut.
"It's idiotic and you
know it. Get Damien's phone number,"
"Whatever. Have another
beer and I'll bet his head spins around, too. Get his phone
number, give him a buzz when we get back from the Cape, and
if he still wants to, ahem, talk pointillism with you then,
he can join us for dinner and Seurat." Snide, yes. Talking
about him as if he weren't there when he was smirking over
my rear bumper, yes, I admit it was snide. Deeply satisfying,
too, if you must know, but then I think you'd probably figured
that out on your own.
Somehow, though, it
also got the point across. Mary deflated, visibly, and sighed,
"One minute." She walked back around the car to where Damon
stood wordlessly, hopefully to say goodnight and, if I were
unlucky, to get his phone number. Words were exchanged, none
of which I caught or wished to. It was quiet and low and it
sounded like an apology, and Damon said something back that
was sharp and angry. "I didn't think you were going to be
such an asshole about it," Mary said, and I felt that little
glow of schadenfreude.
You go, girl,
I thought, somewhat gleefully. I'm glad I talked you out
of that. To hide my glee, I stared at the steering wheel.
No sense having her see me be so happy about things, after
all. I could hear Mary's hand on the door handle, and I started
the engine in case we needed to get away from Damon quickly.
I expected hear the door open, hear Mary get in, hear her
talk about what a prick Damon had turned out to be. I expected
to hear it all the way home, and probably until the sun came
up if she felt like talking about it. In my mind, I was already
preparing retorts, sympathetic noises, and agreements. Maybe
even a sly hint that there were better men around after all,
though that made me think of Danitra, and, well, anyway. But
that's what I was expecting.
Instead, I heard a ripping
sound, a horrible, wet ripping sound. I thought there was
something wrong with the relic mix tape in my relic tape deck
and popped it out, but the sound continued and the passenger-side
mirror was suddenly all red red red. Damon was ripping, splitting
bloodily as huge soft wings exploded from his back. They weren't
feathered, no, they were slick and moist with blood that gleamed
under the street lamps, and they were at least twelve feet
across. A bat might have owned them, but Nature would refuse
to admit to owning that bat. They slapped wetly against the
trunk of my car, even as he reached forward for Mary.
I screamed Mary's name
but moved too slow. Open the door, undo the seat belt, fling
myself out of the car in Damon's direction - all of it took
too long. Before my first foot hit the ground he'd pulled
her to him, wrapped her up in those pretty-boy arms and wet,
stinking wings. I could see her mouth working, silently. No
screams. Not from Mary.
"Put her down,"
I said, and raised my fists. They seemed impossibly inadequate
for the task at hand.
He flapped his wings
once. "I don't think so," he said thoughtfully through
a mouth that no longer looked like it had been shaped to say
human words. "She did say she was going back to my place,
after all. I just never said where my place was. Right, Michael?"
I howled and charged.
Mary stomped on his foot for all she was worth, the classic
self-defense maneuver getting prime time play, but he ignored
her. Laughed, even. Those hideous wings flapped again, a bloody
butterfly spattering gore every which way.
The Rocky Horrorites
were sensible. They ran. I was less sensible. I threw myself
at Damon, or at least tried to.
I never got the chance.
One of his wings came up and caught me on the side of the
head. It slammed me face-first into the car door. The window
shattered, and I could feel the glass raining down into my
hair. I staggered upright just in time to catch another blow
to the back of the head, and this one laid me out flat. I
fell onto the sidewalk, onto the freshly broken glass, and
felt the blood running down my face. The shadow of his wings
Get up, I told
myself. Mary needs you! Get up!
My legs wouldn't work.
Get up! He's going
to kill you!
One arm flailed aimlessly,
fingers twitching. I could see the his shadow on the sidewalk
as he moved closer, Mary now held effortlessly off the ground
in one freshly clawed hand. She was screaming now, or trying
to. It wasn't working so well for her, I noticed groggily.
Not well at all.
The shadow fell over
me, fell past me. I looked up, and he was still smiling, if
you could call the thing his mouth was twisted into a smile.
He stood there and kept smiling,
even as the bits of flesh from his pretty, pretty disguise
sloughed off him. "Thank you for a lovely evening,"
he said. "I do hope we meet again at some point." Mary gave
one last despairing cry of my name, and then he took off into
the night sky, towards a too-fat, too-red moon that had no
business being as swollen or as high as it was.
Then all was silence,
and when I found the strength to look up again, the moon was
the same phase and color it had been when the night started.
But the window was still broken, and my face was still a bloody
mess, and Mary was still gone. I didn't even bother to call
her name. No point to it, really.
Eventually, I staggered
to my feet and fell into my car. Trusting my jeans to protect
me from the broken glass on the seat, I turned the key in
the ignition and sat there. The mix tape was still improbably
hanging out of the tape deck. I shoved it back in and even
more improbably heard Howard Jones. Things were going to get
better, the song insisted.
"They can't get
any goddamned worse," I told the night, and put the car
I probably should have
gone to the hospital then, to get my face tended to, or to
the police station to report Mary missing. Instead, I just
wanted to go home. I started the car and drove off, humming
along with the impossibly cheery crap pouring from the speakers
to keep from moaning when the cold breeze teased the gashes
on my face. Between the blood and the pain and the alcohol
and the tears that I'd started to cry for Mary, the road was
a blur, but I drove anyway. I was fine to drive. I'd told
the bartender so.
A red light stopped
me, barely spotted through the haze. I pulled up at the corner
like a good little citizen and threw my turn signal on, a
rarity in Cambridge at any hour of the night. A couple of
cars whizzed by, and I waited a couple of eternities to make
the right onto Harvard so I could head across the river and
go back to my crappy little apartment in Brighton. I very
much wanted to be in Brighton then, a place where the bars
had fewer demons and someone with the right number of limbs
would likely steal my car by morning.
As I sat there, I noticed
Danitra walking along the sidewalk, worrying at a stuck zipper
on her jacket. There was no sign of Trev. She looked up, then,
and saw me, sitting in the car by myself. We made eye contact.
She waved tentatively, perhaps because she couldn't see the
blood. Perhaps she could, and she waved anyway. I didn't know.
The light changed. I
drove off. Alone.
© Copyright 1999 Richard Dansky