Red forgave me, but still strutted down the block as if clicking her heels to some rapper and the blue snow kept falling even though it was summer, falling and falling until there was no sky. Red read me the riot act, her hair falling over cities. Red wrote the book and sold it for a mint, a shower of shimmery green. I lathered my cheeks white and worked myself into the pink, then walked the black off my wingtips looking for a job or selling what could no longer be sold.
Downtown was boarded up, bats whistled around the spires, fuzzing the radar screens and stealth bombers shot the hell out of hell, monitors blazing. I gave it all up for red, and I was deep in the red, letting big clouds blow smoke in my face, and stogies light my wrist cherry red—singed skin. Planes took off into the violent red, and candles flared red, but soon waxed. The smell of verbena lingered as she sashayed away and the last rays of sun ripped apart the crowd, and puddles spewed onto the pavement.
She has a nightly habit of dropping coasters and half damp books of matches between the tables. As a solicitation of higher tips she bends over knees locked and picks them up, putting them back on the tray always casually giving me a sideways glance. This routine inevitably allows me to catch a glimpse of just the edge of lace on her red panties stretched tight against her silk bronze skin. Like a downtown dancer after one revolution around the pole she spins, leans over the bar with her new breasts still sore from surgery and slowly adds ice to a drink. I study her calves as she leans forward and watch the bar clock slowly tick away seconds of Saturday night lonely.
I stir my drink and fold dollar bills into origami butterflies.
Baron lumbered through the pines and bulldozed the bushes, heading for the peak. He knew there was nothing like exercise to get the old blood pumping after a long nap.
Three hours later, he came upon a campsite. The enticing smell of a snack wafted on the breeze.
As he waddled forward, the pair of hikers looked up. “Bear! Run!”
He pondered why they always screamed his name and tried to escape.
With a grunt, Baron plonked down to make a meal of the conservationists.
Life bottoms out, no dreams left, loneliness, misery; but say I lay down a buck, win the
lottery, beer, laughs, company …
“Playing the four ball cross-corner.”
Beers tilt, cue-sticks rap, bets lay down.
“Playing the five ball next to kiss in off the eight.”
. “Wanna call your shot deadhead.”
“He called his shot. He called four cross-corner, five to kiss.”
“Tell him call ‘em so’s I can hear him.”
I sink the six, nail the seven, all lined up, a gift from heaven.
“Beat it pal.” The giant I’m shooting, flanked by his biker friends, says to the shoeshine
guy who sets down his box.
“This is one of my regular shows, bro.”
“Not tonight, Roscoe. You’re bringing me bad luck.”
“Man, I got nothing to do with you!”
“And you don’t want to.”
I call the eight – side pocket off a ricochet.
“You drop that one chum and me and you gonna have a little fun.”
Geometry, artistry, maybe a little black magic thrown in is what it takes to make the eight ball
run. To collect you need a gun.
Talk about a loaded gun, there she is again, sashaying into the pool hall like God’s gift to
men. She’s small and flat-breasted, almost like a boy, thin, ratty hair. There’s something odd
about her eyes – not crossed, just goofed up.
“Look who’s here!” Fat Pete laughs and pops a beer. Coo coo to the rescue!”
The crazy girl showed up, last week, out of nowhere, baggy dress, battered shoes, moving like
a sleep-walker through the crowded poolroom. She’s come back every night since.
“We’ll settle up latter punk.”
The giant leers at me. Next thing I know the place is empty. Fat Pete is tugging my arm and
we’re out the back door which someone opened.
. “I do declare!” The girl is standing in the alley next to Nesbit’s old Ford, naked as a Jay bird
holding a can of beer. “You boys do carry on!”
The man mob outside hoots at her.
“Get back in the car, whore!” They shout as she sips her beer and pats her hair. I see Plugger
climb inside first in line.
“Don’t be so randy!” She chides the men. “There’s plenty of fun for everyone!”
Her voice is light and lyrical, with a sugary Southern drawl. She pitches and sways like a
puppet on a string, purring and preening like a cat in heat.
“All in due time.” She sighs. Not acting sexy, but coquettish, as if her dance card were filled
but she is trying to be gracious and accommodate all her suitors the hooters.
“The belle of the ball.”
I light a cigarette and look around at the shadowy figures crowed into the alley.
“Bell of the ball!” Fat Pete laughs. “I got her ball!”
The crazy girl’s in a world of her own. She’s someone else, someplace else – a dime-store
novel, Civil war flick, filled with Southern ladies and landed gents.
Not my party. I hope they don’t kill her, accidentally.
Leaving the bar, no moon or bright stars, just broken bottles glistening under corner street
lights amidst urban blight.
I decided to play a joke on the guys at work.
Phone sales jobs have high turn over. Some guy who started today will just as likely go out for a smoke and never come back. You can’t keep track of the people you work with. So, I decided to play a joke on the guys at work. I made up a name out of thin air and asked where the guy was.
“Where’s Jamison?” I said to the guy rocking in his chair in the cubicle next to me.
Who, he said.
“Jamison, you know that guy who sat over there.”
I don’t remember him, the guy rocking in his chair said.
“Ask around, see if he still works here,” I said.
The guy rocking in his chair asked the guy on his other side if he’d seen Jamison. The guy on the other side said: “Who?”
The guy rocking in his chair said that Jamison wasn’t there, and that I had gotten Jamison the job, and I was wondering where he was.
Nice twist. Funny how stories get out of hand. I kept a straight face and stared at my computer screen. The guy on the other side of the guy rocking his chair got up and went to go ask the boss. I was ready to laugh.
The guy came back, and said the boss didn’t know. Then I did laugh.
When it was time to go out for a smoke, the boss pulled me aside.
What happened to Jamison?
I told the boss I didn’t know.
The boss said that unless Jamison came back I wouldn’t be entitled to the bonus I was scheduled to get for bringing him in.
I nodded, and I smiled as I went outside to take my break.
I discovered a little playground. Preschoolers were running around. They were maybe 3, 4, 5. I’m a white cracker, haggard, bedraggled, red-eyed, neurotic, irritated today due to anxiety, irritated more than usual, and some of it real. I visualized a minor news article: ‘Bum found dead on the street, frothing at the mouth.’ At least I had I.D. They could identify me.
All the little children were dark, West Indian, African-American, some Hispanics, Indian children from India. Unbothered by the hot temperature, they were scampering and shouting and squiggling, running, jumping.
Then out of heaven, it seemed, burst one beautiful little girl with eyes shining like stars, a smile beaming a laser through the bars of my inner prison temporarily.
‘Hey, Mister, look at my picture!’ She’s waving it. It’s a beautiful crayon-colored drawing of a small animal, like a dog. She writes her name big, SHERI.
I notice all this through the playground chain-link fence.
Approaching slowly, I say, ‘It’s very pretty.’ Sheri’s friend runs over, pulls at her blouse sleeve.
‘Sheri, is that your daddy?’
That night in the parking lot of the Paramount Club when you went off with Roy and left me standing there in the pouring rain with my Elvis on black velvet, I didn’t know what pissed me off more, the fact that you ran off with my best friend or that I was going to have to find another Elvis, thanks to the one you ruined. Finding another Elvis would be a cinch; forgetting you, even less.