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