Otherwise is

For SS#189 “oracle” and 3WW “accident, loyal, obscene”

laundromat.jpg picture by pemerytx

Photo “Spin Cycle Café & Laundromat © jamesplankton

It’s Wednesday.  I’m done working in this town, got an obscene amount of cash and I’m looking for a place to burn some of it before I hit the road to the next town.  I find a hole in the wall bar and I’m having a drink when a tiny pistol of a chick trips through the door and cuts across the scarred wood floor in the highest-heeled boots I’ve ever seen.  She’s got on faded jeans and a faded, metal-studded jean jacket.  Over her shoulder she has a great sack of a black bag twice the size of her ass.  She plops bag and ass down next to me, shakes a cigarette out of a pack of Marlboro 100s, and sticks it between her dark maroon lips.  The bartender’s in front of her in an instant with a light and a “What’ll it be?” She leans toward the flame, sucks it into the cigarette and tells him to get her a JD on the rocks.  No thank you, no please, no smile, she gives him nothing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch the pistol fidget while she waits for her JD.  She jiggles her foot on the barstool rung, taps her nails on the bar, hotboxes the cigarette, blows the smoke straight out, hard, and sighs like it’s the end of the world.  I sense this chick is too big of a bite to take, and my plan is to ignore her altogether, maybe move to another seat or pay up and get the hell out of there.  Instead, something makes me not only stay, but pay for her drink.  She gives me no thanks, no smile, but I do get a quick look and her name.  “I’m Shiz,” she tells me.

Sure ‘nough are, I think.  “I’m Hank,” I say.

I have to work to get her to talk, but once I do it’s like I blasted a hole in a dam.  She starts what she calls philosophizing.  I call it going off half-cocked.  It doesn’t take long to see that anxiety hangs over her head like a guillotine blade.

“I wish it were a big-ass blade,” she tells me.  “Because livin’ through the days is too slow a killing.  Come on with it, already!” she says, shoots me a defiant look.

“Would peace be assured, though?” I ask her.  “Or would it be more of the same on a different plane?  What about reincarnation, karma?”  Shiz raises an eyebrow.  I tell her, “No human can look you in the eye and tell you for sure that there’s peace in death.”

For a moment, Shiz has a look like a jammed-up computer, then she says, “Fuck you, Hank.”  She rolls her eyes and looks away, catches the bartender’s eye and signals for another JD on the rocks.  She looks back at me, says,  “I’ll take my chances on what the higher percentage of people say, that there’s peace or Heaven or whatever you want to call it.”

I pay for her drink again.  I figure it’s too late to stop now.  “Believe what you want,” I tell her.  “It’s your life, your prerogative.”

That gets her up on her high horse, plus the JD is starting to kick in.  She throws her shoulders back, glares at me.  “Damn straight,” she says, louder than she has to.  “It’s peace or nothing, no dice otherwise.  Otherwise is a joke.  Otherwise is too much going on around you to assimilate, it’s no time to think, to stretch out and laze after you make a few bucks and have to get up and do it all over again.  Otherwise is Morse code, dots and dashes, SOS in splashes not seen flashing or heard bleeping, and so the ship goes down, and the bystanders wonder WTF.  Otherwise is—”

Shiz’s cell phone goes off.  She pulls it from the great black bag, looks to see who it is, says “Excuse me,” and flips the phone open.  She gets up, saunters toward the door, talking low.  I watch that sweet ass of hers shifting side to side.  I watch her lean her back against the door jamb, one leg stiff, the other one bent and tapping one of those tall boot heels on the floor.  She’s got this sweet smirk.  I watch her walk back and slide up onto the barstool.  I adjust myself.  She doesn’t miss a beat.

“Otherwise is balled up, wasting time preoccupied with your own pain, deaf to lips moving ‘Get over it,’ and blind to blank eyes and yawning mouths.  It’s eyes wide shut, sleepwalking into a Laundromat  that way—like you’re going for double or nothin’ in the pain game—with a mountainous armload of blankets and what all else you got, you don’t even know, but it’s so massive that you fucking get stuck in the doorway.  You push through, heave your laundry down and look around and it’s nothing but thugs just waiting for an excuse.  Teach you to be preoccupied, won’t it?  Because now it’s too late, and it don’t matter if you’re butt ugly, dudes’ve already smelled pussy.  Boat goin’ down, blood swirling from red to pretty, sharks move in, it’s the law of nature, the only loyalty.”  Shiz downs the rest of her drink, sits silent, an oracle shut down.

“Whoa,” I say.  I give it a moment.  Nothing.  So I start her back up.  “Did that really happen?”

“Yeah,” she says.  “But listen, this is also a metaphor.”  She pulls out a cigarette and I light a match like a candle for the dead.  Shiz breathes it in, lets the smoke just spill from her mouth with the words falling out.  “And it works out,” she says, “because ultimately you didn’t walk into that Laundromat in the middle of the night by chance.  It’s no accident.  Something inside you was guiding you, needing you to cut into that iceberg and go down, because shit builds up and something has to give.  Something has to push you past your rational limit and you’re too scared to do it yourself in a slower, easier way.  Preoccupation is the blindfold that gets you there watching those thugs twist their cigarette butts on the floor with their feet, then get up and move toward you real slow.  Now you got somethin’ else to worry about, really worry about.  Preoccupation’s become just a sweet, wet dream.  And you might as well act cool, unfazed, because it’s all you’ve got right then.  You can start over after the bad shit’s done.  That’s life, that’s Otherwise, and I’m sick of it,” Shiz says.

Now I don’t believe her.  My BS alert goes off, but I figure since she’s so hell bent on getting fucked, I might as well take advantage of it.  I grind my cigarette out in the ash tray and put my arm around her, pat her shoulder.  I feel her stiffen at my touch.  “Alright, alright,” I say.  She’s still tight, got a low buzz of anxiety going on, but she lets me keep my arm around her, lets me turn into her and move my lips slowly toward her dark, maroon lips, let’s me kiss her.  Then she shakes me off.

She sits back.  There’s that sweet smirk.  “So don’t you have anything to say about what I was talking about?” she asks.

“Yes, I do,” I say, “but not here.”

Shiz smiles.  “Alright,” she says.  “Where, then?”

“Come with me,” I say.

She slides off the stool, yanks her big, black bag onto her shoulder.  “Let’s go,” she says.

I let Shiz lead the way so I can look at her ass.  She’s cruising in those heels.  I have images of us walking out the door all cozy-like, her back up against my car, me pushing into her, kissing her.  She blasts out the door.  So much for cozy.  I follow her, pick up my pace.  Shiz is heading straight out into the parking lot and now that it’s dusk, I notice a lit Laundromat sign.  I wonder if that’s the one she was talking about.

As soon as I get amongst the cars in the lot, some thugs jump me, take me to the ground, work me over so fast and are off running, I don’t have time to think.  I see my gutted wallet splayed out on the ground between some cars about ten feet in front of me.  I jump up, look around for Shiz.  She’s booked it to the far side of the parking lot by now and she’s just standing there watching me.  The thugs are beating it straight for her and I start to run and then I think, “To do what?”  There’s four of them.  I stop, watch.  The thugs blow by Shiz.  Three of them jump a fence that divides this lot from the next, one waits at the fence.  Shiz hollers, “Iceberg, Baby!” at me, then she turns and runs toward the thug at the fence.  He helps her over and they high tail it out of dusk into the dark.



Usable news:  Writer Walter Conley, editor of “disenthralled,” likes Laundromats in a story and I’m schmoozing for a spot over there.  Actually, I’ve already squeaked in, he’s just got my noir sensibility stirred up.  “disenthralled.”  It’s a hot, new literary journal, co-produced with Walter Conley by Paul Dutra.  I recommend it like dark chocolate.  I’m still reeling from Bruce Brown’s and Len Kuntz’s stories in Issue #2.  Some of the hottest writing I’ve ever run my eyes over.  Our girl Quin Browne  has been featured over there with her smooth-writing ways.  Dutra’s photos are all over the place there to even more rock the writing.  And I’ll be showing up there soon.

The photo:  Spin Cycle Café & Laundromat, Newington, CT.  This cool photo is from jamesplankton’s Flickr photostream.  Dude’s hot, got some killer photographs.  Check him out if you dig cool photos : )


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Missalister’s “Otherwise is,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#189 – Oracle” and 3WW words accident, loyal, and obscene.  Click here for more on prompt #189 from other Sunday Scribblings participants and here for more from 3WW participants.

14 responses to “Otherwise is

  1. What better to do on a slow Hump day trying to kickstart my own 3WW attempt (ain’t comin’). This reminds me of a bar laundromat in Dallas, I think it was Spudz and Suds, or something similar, around the state fair grounds. The dryers were crap, which left plenty of time for another mug or two. Ha, thanks for the DFW memory, unintended I’m sure.

    Another great bar scene from your A+++ self! Sex is never that easy, figures it was a set up. Not that I saw it coming, just hindsight 20/20, and all. You’re on a pleasant roll. Happy to be here for the ride.

    • Michael, I think it was Suddz and it was on Fair Park. Hung out there from time to time, listening to the music (never did do my laundry there).

      But Miss A, this prose kicks some serious azz. Great pace, great timing.

      Two words slowed me down in the beginning:

      “…burn some of it before I hit the road to the next town tomorrow. I find a hole in the wall bar and I’m having a drink when a tiny pistol of a blonde chick trips through the door…” I think tomorrow and chick aren’t needed. See what you think.

  2. Missalister,

    I think I agree with Thom.
    In fact, I do.
    But that wasn’t what I wanted to say.

    A generic thank you. Sure.

    A post-neuralcoital sigh, from that sleepy place of the satisfied oblivion of the senses, for your dialogue? Absolutely.

    A bit of stupefied wondering where on earth, or otherwise, the same wells up from, too. Sure.

    And, here are the two snippets that I adored, today:

    “an oracle shut down”

    That made me re-read the Delphic words.


    And then suck down the slick delight of “an oracle shut down” with a satiated grin of silly stupefaction.

    And the second?

    Long before she stiffened at his touch, and I at yours, there was this beauty–the image and description a scene and emotional setting where one would “light a match like a candle for the dead”.

    A frisson snakes through me with just rewriting that and re-entering your written, created, lived world for a second run-through.

    It is time for me to pack up just about everything I do out here in the eworld.

    I always hope to be clever and I like to think that I sometimes succeed.

    You, however, to me, aim straight for the gut and pull out all the stops, and the piping, and, especially, the viscera.

    And you get it. Every time.

    Which is why I ought to pack up and move out. Or work a hell of a lot harder. But you ought to too, but for different reasons.

    You see, Missalister, you get it. Every time. And I love you for it, every time, because I love the way that you encapsulate these rough circumstances and experiences and peoples that we all are or know or have had or have been had by.

    And then you inject that bolus straight into our guts via neural mainlining. Straight through the window to the soul, souljacking the optic nerve, hijacking the brain, and making all systems subservient to the story you are feeding, nay, streaming, nay, smashing into our consciousness. The ultimate bot-net network of the soul. And it’s great. (Except when you write so much and your programming forgets to allow me to breathe.)

    So, hot stuff. Keep it up. But, one day, you have to stop. Because you are publishing out here. And this is free. And you deserve to be paid. Big Bucks. “an obscene amount of cash”. And then hit the road to the next world to conquer. And you won’t have left us, because we will buy.


    Peace out.


  3. What the hell can I add to all that was said here – all true except I disagree with Michael – I wanted to tell Hank right from the git go to git out and go – she is gonna be trouble and your obscene amount of money is not going to make it to the next town. This was a fun, smoky ride from beginning all the way to the parking lot. …And I so covet a great sack of a black bag bigger than my ass :)

  4. I’ll be contrarian on one count: I don’t miss the missing “tomorrow,” but the first “chick” worked rhythmically: I miss its beat, reading without it this second go-round.

    Okay, two counts: WTF should be what the fuck.

    I will not, however, be contrarian in the least about the heapings of praise that have avalanched upon you like Shiz’s laundry. Don’t you just love noir and don’t you just love nasty? Clearly you do. So do I. And so, pobrecito, does Hank. Of course, Hank’s Titanic should have turned tail once she laid that godforsaken name on him. F’ shiz. Good lord.

    The real punch in the guts is that she put it all out there for him to see before it even happened, Spacey’s Kint to Chazz’s Kujan. “And like that…[she’s] gone.”

    Thank God you ain’t. This is one helluva noir, but Shiz’s Ode to Otherwise is also one helluva prose poem. And how hilarious is it that she delivers it in two acts.

    “Fire in his eyes…smoke comin’ out of his nose.” Helluva Bucephalus.

  5. … like Sepiru Chris, the phrase “light a match like a candle for the dead” stood out for me, gave me pause, I can’t coherently tell you why, I don’t think I know myself, but pat yourself on the back, I don’t rarely have phrases jump out at me and insist I slow down and enjoy the words :)

    I had a feeling she was bad news… heehe :)

  6. Dirty laundry spins downtown in the wild west. You have such talent for throwing characters into a tumbler to produce a jaw-dropping tale that always leaves me speechless and yearning for a soupcon of your ability. Congrats on disenthralled.

  7. I’ve said before how I love the give and take of commenting and responding, and I’ve been loving everyone’s e-mails, so what could keep me from it this long??? The weeks. Like bad bosses, the past couple of weeks have been piling the work on us bees while they sit back on their asses blowing hot air through the telephone. When they’re not on the phone or at lunch with their lovers, they’re in the break room talking smack and getting black sludge coffee to take with them on their elbow-rubbing visits to upper management. Meanwhile, the bees struggle to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools. We rob Peter to pay Paul, cut a few procedural corners, bandaid components together, miss SS to do 3WW, and so on…

    Wouldn’t surprise me if the owner of that fine establishment clogged the exhaust vents so folks’d buy that extra mug or two! When I was down that way in Dallas, I used my apartment complex’s laundry rooms, so I never had the pleasure experiencing Suddz. But I’m glad you and Thommy G got to sidle down memory lane…not as glad as I am to have you along on the roll : )
    Oh! And again, thank you for letting me know my link at 3WW wasn’t!!! My body was trying to move faster than my brain and get out of here in time for that Wed. p.m talk. I ended up making my own dessert, but as usual the main courses delivered here were delish : )

    THOM G
    Thanks and geezus, Thom ; ) I do agree, dude, wholeheartedly. “Tomorrow” is history, no question, but ooh, the agony of which to ditch, “blonde” or “chick,” because like Paschal, I was grooving with “chick trips.” Then Nick said “It’s hard to say” and I said “Well then if I keep “blonde” it makes me want to say ‘a tiny pistol of a blonde bombs through the door’ and that’s hokey” and he said “No, keep trip because it relates to pistol”… Anyway, it went from chick to blonde and now it’s back to chick, because I like the rhythm that “chick trips” gives. Seriously, I did so much appreciate you alerting me your stumbling points! I need that.

    Good Lord, my Kowloon friend, you can go on, but how I can I not love how much time and attention you paid to my blood and sweat? How can I not love post-neuralcoital and Delphic (which caught Paschal’s attention, of horse) and frisson snakes and neural mainlining and souljacking optic nerves? It’s impossible. You are happily incorrigible and that is pleasantly that : ) I enjoy your presence here and your way of writing, a mix of high IQ and a joyous passion.
    About making money at this writing racket, yeah, that would just be so delightfully fairytale. Right now I’m a piece of fruit ripening on the vine and I expect I’ll either get picked or hit the dirt. Good writers are a dime a dozen. It’s crap shoot city. But! Please know your vote of confidence counts for everything in giving me all the more reason to keep at it : )

    Yesss, my “evil” plan worked! LOL!
    That you showed up here and wrote what you did is momentous, Walter. Thank you, for that and for believing in me. I’m looking toward furthering the effects of my kick at “disenthralled” for both our sakes : )

    LOL! And Hank knew it, too! I think Shiz was not ignorable, so he should’ve gone with Choice C, to pay up and get the hell out of there! But it’s just like everything else that was entertained in this piece. It’s all about knowing or seeing clearly what you should do but ending up “watching” yourself do otherwise, like you are not guiding you, like something else is.
    About bigger-than-ass bags, I used to have one, but in the name of class and downsizing, I got a sharp-looking smaller one. My “mentality of stuff” stayed the same though, so what I have now is yet more irony in my life, a small bag rendered classless by being upsized from the inside out, as in overstuffed, overflowing. LOL!

    It’s mutual, my friend. Might as well break down and do a little of the Warner Bros goofy gophers here and tell you what never ceases to amaze/amuse/astound me about you, and that’s your ability to crank out new story ideas every single freaking day! You and Thommy G, geezus. Your dead squirrel rocks and your tweetales rule! Been really enjoying Peggy’s and Thom’s tweetales, too : ) Still not quite ready to jump into that fray. Feel like it’d be Keeping up with Twitter: Fail. But you guys are having so much fun

    You already know chick does indeed trip. But, Paschal dear, WTF goes with Morse code SOS. It’s got ta be, mi amigo ; ) Which reminds me of besos. Thanks for those : )
    I guess I must love noir. I figured I end up in Nastyville a lot because I’ve seen a lot of that town. Never really thought much about genre. It’s like when I got Nova. I didn’t research Lhasas, their dispositions, good and bad habits and all, I just walked in and bought the little guy ‘cause he was so homely he was cute, and oh soooo very, very sweet : )
    Walter Conley puts my latest stuff in the modern gothic category. No dark castles or extreme horror outside of that which anyone in this day feels in struggling to break free from the grip of their tormenting darknesses. And that’s enough, says I! The whole Shiz ode came out of my feelings of being so against a wall with shit going on that I couldn’t write. And who has time to get drunk, lose their job, and hang out with hobos for years and years, eh??? I tried a shortcut of spewing word carnage and fortunately it worked. Then I began to see a story and then began to work it.
    About the punch, like I put it to Dee, Hank’s Titanic would have turned tail if it could’ve. But that’s his iceberg to deal with. The thing a person could also pull out of this tale is that Shiz may’ve been looking to set up a rip into her own iceberg. If Hank wants to get the police involved and they can find Shiz, she might could have her next drink in da slammer and it won’t be a JD :-D

    It’s good to see your great-writing self here! I like just as much that something in this bar scene brought your eyes to a screeching halt. Amazing the power of the words that come to those of us who sit ready to receive, eh? It’s my favorite part of the process : )

    I like the idea of characters in a tumbler. 1200rpm spin speed. Yeah, for sure they’ll come out whacky and doin’ weird shit. LOL! What got me was the word that tumbled out of you: soupçon! Forgot all about that one. Hadta look it up!
    Thanks for the congrats. It means a lot : )

  8. miss!!! — holy shit!!! — i thought what you were pumping before was brutally bad, gal, but back for the first read in a long time i find it beyond brutality – LOVE that you are so imbued with fidelity for JD – and you honest to god just “bend me , shape me, anyway you want me!!!” — i like chick in the piece, does go for the roll of it, but did without tomorrow alright – but who am i to critique the bad ass, but rather add my lonely plain pansy to the designer boquets of praise at your doorstep? — the barrage of the little blonde bitch left me breathless, came through me like an AK47 at full fire – reread severally – a talented, well sculpted, and raw reflection of “shit happens” delivered a la mode with sawdust and peanuts atmosphere — not only do you deserve hands down to be paid(kudos!!!), i can see something like this being a screen product — forget me not, for even in absence i remain – faithful reader

  9. DANNI
    Danni! How in hell are you?! I haven’t heard from you in eons. And I have to say, that was the most explosive pansy I’ve ever had dropped on my doorstep. I opened the door and it blasted past me and made itself at home, grabbed my bottle of JD and took a swig! I like a pansy with moxie, so we chatted awhile, ‘til the bottle was empty, and the pansy had to head back to the mass of pansies in the beds out in front of the Bank of America building over on MainStreet. “Ooh, how prestigious,” I said. “It’s better’n gettin’ pissed on in the wee hours at the train station like last year,” Pansy said. “I can see how that’d be,” I said. Pansy just brushed past me. Then after a couple of seconds, I heard a soggy, “Yeah, yeah…” as Pansy moved like wet moss down the walkway into the night. What does all this mean? I dunno. It’s late, I’m goofy, and just glad you stopped by : )

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