The Grain of A Man or: How Some Women Learn To Play the Sex Racket


1
Christmas Eve 2013, 9:39 p.m.

Hollie Dollie is up working, grinding what she got on the stage to some protopunk
song with a dropped down vocal and flashing black and red lights. She’s twenty-four
years old and weighs over two hundred and fifty pounds, but she can do the splits with
the best of them. Not too shabby on pole work either. She tosses her bleached blonde hair
this way and that and the men go wild. She’s covered in Confederate flag and punk skull
tattoos shaking her ass in a tye dye bikini.
But Hollie isn’t a stripper because she’s earning her way through college and she
sure as hell isn’t a single mother of three. Hell, she doesn’t care too much about money.
No way. Hollie is a stripper because she likes cocaine and people who have cocaine. Lots
of cocaine. All of the time.
I’ve seen her leave the club with numerous men, most frequently with a guy
named Mr. Mason. Some fat cat in a swank suit and a horseshoe pinky ring. He kinda
looks like that Alpha type who used to play football in high school, but now has a belly
due to the laziness good money brings.
Fun fact; she likes to go ghost hunting around the tri-state area.
Her set is over and she waddles around on her hands and knees gathering the rest
of her earnings. She stuffs the dollar bills in wads clenched tightly in her chubby, greedy
fists. Like a scavenger over a corpse, I think Hollie’s been dead inside for years now.
I take a sip of wine from my flask as I watch her exit the stage. The MC starts
playing something synth with a heavy beat while the other costumers get lap dances,
drink, and carry on.
If I’d known it was going to be this crowded on Christmas Eve, I wouldn’t have
bothered. I’d have stayed home. Least I could openly smoke pot there, but no! I’ve got to
wait for Vanilla to come get me and go to the dressing room. I can’t wait until it’s
legalized. This sneaking around is for the birds.
I see Tiffany Amber Threesome and Angelique making the rounds dressed in the
skimpy uniform of The Cum Again Club carrying stacks of shots and pre-opened bottles
of beer. I make eye contact with each of them and Angelique comes directly, but Tiffany
Amber flips me off.
“Dude, why’d that bitch give me the finger?” I take another drink from the flask,
“What’s taking Vanilla so long?”
“Tiffany Amber didn’t tell you?” She looks dumb struck with those velvet eyes,
but I’ve seen her use this charm before. I call this the Brigitte Bardot.
“Tell me what?” I ask in frustration.
“Vanilla was askin’ for you ‘bout twinny mins ago.”
“Thanks.” I look over her shoulder and Tiffany Amber is serving drinks to Italian
businessmen. She still scowls at me.
Angelique walks on in an obvious stare. She has a sort of resting bubbly face with
gloss and the whole thing. To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to tell if she was an evil
genius. She’s always perky and wouldn’t that be low key evil genius status? To be able to
blend?
I butt out my cigarette in the red plastic ashtray on the edge of the stage. What did
I do to Tiffany? Why was she so pissed? I think the last time I saw her was…at a house
party and as I recall we barely spoke to each other. Maybe it was something I didn’t
do…?
I’m walking parallel to the bar when I hear a, “Hey, Suzy Lee!” Waichie stands
behind the bar in a tight fitted black shirt to show off his muscles. He works out twice a
day, “Phone call.” He hands it to me uselessly flexing.
Who’s even knows I’m here? For a second, I entertain the notion that
Grandmawmaw is dead, but no one can be that lucky, “Hello?”
“Suzy…Sssuuuzy…hey girl…”
“Patrick?”
“….yah. Yep. Thas tha one…”
“You’re drunk.” That is not a question and I make sure he hears the contention in
my voice.
“It’s Christmas Eve…”
“What city you in?” I ask almost ready to hang up.
“Port Alex!” Someone is talking in the background and his line becomes muffled.
Excitement!
“You’re in town?!” I haven’t seen him or Pax or Clay or Elijah since they started
their bus tour at the first break of summer.
“Hold on.” He says quickly and the phone mutes again.
I wait for sixty seconds, “Hey! Patrick!”
“What?”
“You’re in town? Right now?”
“Yeah. Two months-oh-uh…spilt my beer…”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“No. Tonight.” And that is him not asking a question.
“No. I’m tired. It’s been shitty holidays for me. I just wanna walk home and get
high.”
“Awwww…come on, Sleazy Lee…me an ole Hinton’ll pick you up.”
“Hinton? Hinton Greenspan?”
“Yeah…yous in?”
“He’s a miserable twerp.” And I hand the phone back to Waichie who hangs it up
for me.
I’m towards the back and catch Tiffany Amber in my sight. She rolls her eyes and
bumps me when we pass each other. I spin around on a tight heel, “What’s the fucking
problem, Tiff?”
She smashes her lips together slathered with burgundy-black lipstick and even
they seem like they’ve been spray tanned under all that, “Ain’t got no problem, no
way..no how…”
“You obviously do.”
“Waitress!” A yell flows out and she takes off into the crowd of groping hands
smacking at her body with wiggling wolf tongues and licentiousness. Fuck it. She can
stay mad all she wants. At least I don’t have to fuck strangers for money.
I get to do it for fun.
As glamorous as the front of the club is, you’d think the rest would be, but that
isn’t so. Away from the seeking eyes of the costumers it is a labyrinth of halls lit by dim
wall sconces. The doors are sunk into shadow so you’d get lost if you didn’t know your
way around. I sigh. The guy who built this must just love confusion. I wonder how many
dancers have been felt up by mysterious hands back here?
A girl with a malnourished frame walks up a set of stairs wearing white fringe and
bare skin. She has an overbite and frizzy purple hair, “Where’s the dressing room? I
always get fucking lost back here.”
“Down these stairs, take a right, second door on the left.” She whispers. She
motions downward lazily and gives me the heebie jeebies. She’s all bone and the entire
right side of her mouth is caved in forming a crescent shaped indentation.
We pass each other narrowly and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight
up. I make eye contact with her once more, I don’t think she knows how to blink. It’s a
hell of a poker face that’s for damn sure.
Down here in the depths of the club, I can smell them out. They started smoking
without me!
I open the door and they’re all sitting there passing a massive blunt, “What the
fuck, ya’ll?”
Vanilla sits so straight laced like there’s a stick propping her up. She chokes on
the blunt alternating between laughing and coughing. She passes it to Hollie who holds it
out to me.
“I thought someone was supposed to come get me? Tiffany’s being a real bitch.” I
hit it and lick my lips, “Oh grape. That’s nice.”
“Mr. Arliss doesn’t like the smell reaching the clients.” Vanilla pushes back a
strand of fire engine red hair.
“Costumers.” Natalia corrects, but speaks with such a thick Russian accent that it
sounds more like ‘kas-tu-merz’.
“Close the door.” Hollie says pulling up a lavender stocking.
I hit the blunt a couple more times while I close the door and the smoke envelopes
us. The room seems to shrink and the walls add to the claustrophobia as they are covered
from floor to ceiling with Mardi Gras masks and boas.
Each girl’s section is more colorful than the last as if rainbows come here to die,
but Vanilla’s has always been the focus of social activity. From the frame of her vanity to
the decorations and all her costumes down to the darn stitches are bubble gum pink.
Intrusively soft and sickening. With her petite build she attracts the real weirdos by
marketing herself as a Lolita. She’s thirty-seven years old and nobody can tell otherwise
through the low lighting and below the state regulated pricing of undiluted alcohol.
Vanilla’s phone starts buzzing. She picks it up with concern, “That’s strange.”
“Who is it?”
“Waichie…”
“Aw! Shiayt! Am I on?” Plateenum calls out past a cloud of OG Kush.
All the backs arch and they all try to pretend they’re not stoned out of their minds.
Carefully, she swipes left and asks, “Hello?” Her worried face returns to normal rather
quickly, “Oh, yeah. Hol’ on.” She holds her cell out to me, “For you.”
“Me?”
“In a matter of speaking.”
I pass her the roach of a peach blunt, “Waichie?”
“Look, Suzy, this guy is blowing up the line trying to get a hold of you. I gave
him Van’s number. Just giving you a head’s up.”
“Well shit! Thanks a friggin lot, you damned oriental. What if he was some serial
killer guy?”
“As if you don’t know em all already, dumb bitch.” He hangs up and the phone
rings again before I can even give it back to Vanilla. You know that I know the number…
“Patrick, leave me alone.”
“Awwww….don’t be like that lil Suzy Sue…” he drunk hiccups, “Little Suzy
Leeann…” he slurs.
“Vanilla doesn’t like people playin’ games on her phone, Paddy.” I glance to her
for background reassurance but all she says is, “It’s yall’s business.”
‘What the fuck’ I mouth to her and she laughs at my expense.
“Come on, Sally baby. Come out with us…we’ll come pick you up…”
“You’re with that toad.”
“Wha’? You don’t like him?”
“Damn it! You know I don’t.”
“Come on…”
“I don’t have any money.”
“Is okay…baby leg.”
“No.”
“Awww haha come on. Don’t be like that. We’re already here.”
“Where?”
“In the parking lot.” I can hear the glugs he’s taking from the bottle or can, “You
wanna…how longs it been since I seen you? Since you seen me?!”
I bite my lip and even though I don’t want to say it, I do but with one condition,
“Alright. Fine. But can we go get Clay?”
The phone is smothered by a palm, but I can kinda still hear him, “she…come…
yeah, Clay…West Port still…okay, okay, okay. Okie dokay, Suzy Lucifer.”
“Suzy Lee.”
“Yep.” he hiccups.
I hang up and I feel like I’m fuming, “Who’ll walk me to the main door?”
“You’re an adult. You got yourself into this, get yourself out.” Hollie lights a
cigarette from the end of her sleek, black holder.
“What? I’m not walking back through there alone. It’s a fucking maze and I saw a
ghoul earlier. A loungress!”
“Dat caunt be real theeng. A lawn-chress?” Natalia gives me a skeptical eye, “Dat
isn’t real.”
“It is.”
“Nit.”
“It is.”
“Vat is it thaan?”
“Like a phantom, a fucking ghoul, ya know?”
“Sound like new girl to me. Her name Dee-vine. I’ll go vith you. My set up
anyway.” Her accent is so atrocious.
Her seven inch platform heels leave a shallow impression behind us as we
venture down the hall.
Kind of like a click-clack-patty-whack…give a hoe a bone.
Natalia Stacevitch and I aren’t particularly close. We have different goals in life. I
like getting high and listening to records while I paint. She likes to shoot up and fuck for
money. For real, they call her The Golden Pussy.
See, we are all layered in different ways.
“I heard you say you need de monies?”
“The monies?”
“Yeah, green stuff. You buy and pay monies.”
It clicks in my head what she’s talking about and I laugh, “Shit, doesn’t
everybody?”
“Plateenum and me be going to party tomorrow. You could earn some good
monies.”
“Doing what?”
“Kissing a little. Dey pass out before you do like the sucking.”
I burst out nervous giggles, “No, dude. No thanks.”
“Vat? It’s good monies. I got grand jus last week.”
“No really. I’m totally good.”
“Fine.” she shrugs, “Your loss, skinny girl.”

2

I’m out into the brisk winter air huddled beneath an oversized olive green
corduroy coat fattened with padding and lined with matted wool. The shirt underneath is
too thin and my choice of wearing pigtails wasn’t the best move on my part, but I
remembered my scarf so that’s something.
I see them at the furthest end of the parking lot. Hinton is pulling up through the
alley. He’s barely at a full stop before Patrick hops out. He smashes a bottle on the street.
Do you know how fucking hard it is to break a bottle? Usually, they’ll just bounce with
sever damage, but it doesn’t matter. Patrick is beastly. Tall, honed, and toned. He seems
so much bigger now than before.
“HEY-O! There’s my minxy bitch!”
“Don’t call me that.” I walk towards them, “I don’t have enough cigarettes.”
“Don’t worry.”
“But I’ll run out.”
“Get in. I’ll think he’ll buy you some.” Hinton answers.
“We need more beer!”
I ignore Patrick’s outburst, “Hinton…”
“Yeah…” His sneaky cerulean eyes level on my chest and then pigtails. God. Just
seeing him pisses me off.
Hinton was a scruffy little boy of fifteen when I last saw him. With a mop of
golden hair and all the deep rooted signs of a Napoleon Complex. Now he’s standing
beside his glossy, emerald Trans Am with a smugness that already makes me sick to my
stomach, “You really filled out since high school, Suzy…”
“You haven’t.”
“She got ya there, Hint.” Patrick pats him on the head.
Hint.
Hinton.
Hinton Filmore Greenspan V.
What a stupid fucking name.
We pile in. I have to climb behind the driver’s side and I know Hinton’s trying to
see the shape of my ass past my coat. He exudes false machismo with his oddly parted
hair and overt cologne. And he squints. That isn’t even the shape of his eyes, he just
squints for whatever reason. I hate them. They’re like beady tricksy fox eyes.
He takes off while Patrick reaches backward and plunges his hand between my
legs. His other grabs a beer from a twenty-four pack beside me, “Patrick!” I yell, but he
smiles with a glassy gaze.
“You hit that?” Hinton asks.
“Back when, Shinton.”
“I’m literally sitting right here, you guys.”
Patrick guzzles half the beer and throws it out the window. His voice is deviously
calm, “Let’s go to McAfee’s. I wanna fuck a college bitch with a nigger name.”
“Don’t scare, Hinton.” I mock.
“You wish I was scared. How much for a blowjob?”
“Fuck outta town. I need smokes.”
“Stop at this gas station, Shint. We need more beer.”
He pulls of the road and I want to get out with him, but I’m trapped between a
douchbag and a case of beer.
“We need cigarettes.” I remind him.
“Yeah.” He gets out while the car is still rolling.
“Whoa!” Hinton gasps, but Patrick is slick and merely bumps his ankle.
“So, how many guys you fucking, Suzy Lee?”
“None. I’m not looking.”
“Bullshit. Bitches are always looking for a man to pay their bills or take care of
their kids.”
“Nope. Not this girl. I pay my own bills and I don’t have kids. Can I smoke in
your car?”
“No.”
I shove the cigarette back in my silver case, “Right.”
Patrick comes tripping out of the store taller than his own shadow with another
case of beer and a carton of Georgian brand cigarettes, “You still smoke those?” He
pushes them at me as he gets in.
“I smoke Hi-Lo’s now. This had to be a pretty penny.”
“Don’t worry. I got money.”
“Patrick…”
“Go to McAfee’s, Shinton. I wanna fuck something!” He rips into the newly
bought beer and starts going to town.
“Take is easy, banana hands.” I say on deaf ears.
McAfee’s Pub, est. 1985
McAfee’s is the only true college bar in town. It has a d.j. and a dance floor,
billiards, beer pong tables, and a very long and happily accommodating bar. Over a year
ago I’d came here to listen to the band. When they went out on tour, after Pax and I broke
up, I stopped going out into public. I made the strip club an exception, I mean…it is
Christmas after all. And if not Christmas…when?
So, yeah, it’s packed to the brim. People are spilling out from the dance floor unto
the pool players and the bar folk are gathering mass heading out to the alley so that they
can smoke while they drink. It’s hot and everyone is overlapping and cheering Christmas
festivities.
I tug on Patrick’s and he bends an ear, “I wonder how many abortions will happen
because of tonight?”
He laughs loudly scaring a brunette in a short white mini dress. Her legs are shiny
and orange like she is a mannequin dipped in Tang. She snarls up at us from her chair, her
blinking lashes thick and clumpy from mascara.
“Hey, Rocky Raccoon!” Patrick yells, but then shoves on through the crowd
squeezing my hand. As if I’d run away…more like, as if I’d have the opportunity to run
away. He leads us to the bar and clasps a hand on my ass, slipping a twenty in my palm,
“Get me a beer. I gotta piss.”
“What kind?” I hate being left alone with Hinton again.
“Whatever!” He calls out over the heaving swarm of other drunken fools,
“Israeli!”
Because they will have Israeli beer here in southern Ohio…
Hinton leans against the bar too close to me, “So, I own my own business now.”
My fingernails tap the marble top while his stubby fingers reach in his back pocket to
give me a card, “Impressed?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“Because I find you repulsive as a human being and I wish your dick would rot
off just so I could pick it up and shove it down your throat until you choke and die and
this…” I hold up his card to his face, “…let’s me know where not to go for car repair
even if I had a fucking car.”
He laughs as if I said something really funny, “You’re still a slut aren’t you? Bet
you’re planning to tag team me and Patrick. Sucking us off by the end of the night.”
Vomit and fury fill the back of my throat. God damn it, he is a special kind of
horrible. I struggle to swallow my vitriol as a tender slides up, “One cheap domestic, a
bourbon, and a water.”
The balding man winks, nods, and says, “Comin’ right up, darlin’.”
I can feel my face burning red and he gives me the most brilliant sneaky bastard
smile of all time, “Girls blush when they’re horny…”
“Or about to commit homicide, you little worm.”
“Ohhhh….using them big words, huh?”
I ignore him and pay the bartender for the drinks he sits before me. I take the
plastic cup of water and dump it over Hinton’s head, “It’s five below out. You’ll have fun
walking back to the car.”
“Damn…she mad…” A girl wearing polka dot leggings voices, “Mmmhhmm…”
Before he can utter a word, Patrick is back and has the beer in hand, “Jesus Christ,
Hinton! The hell happened to you?” He starts groping me hard and fast. I try to wiggle
away, but he’s much stronger than I am and so he holds me to him, “Suzy girl, Suzy, play
nice with Shinton. He’s a good guy, ain’t you, Shinton?”
He doesn’t say anything as he storms off to the bathroom like the girl he is.
Patrick and I get a table. It’s too warm in here with all these people. I’m sure
they’re pushing maximum occupancy. He scans the mass like a shark, “And just think,
baby girl, no one knows we are the worst people here.”
I smile genuinely for the first time tonight, “They’re clueless.”
“God damn right they are.” His face lights up looking off over the heads of
patrons, “Pax!”
My belly bottoms out, my heat leaps, to my throat as I turn around in my seat. Pax
is moving through with ease with a girl on his arm. He seems better than I remember. A
solidarity looms over him as he closes the gap between us. He looks good in a fitted
leather jacket, but the girl he’s with looks better. I can tell by the way they move together
that they are together and my heart breaks a little bit and falls to the floor right with the
spilt beer and cuff marks.
Pax and Patrick clap each other on the shoulder and then I slid off the stool for a
hug. I murmur in his ear, “Please, save me from him?”
He breathes heat against my ear, “I spent almost a year with him. He’s your
problem now.” His grin speaks of vengeance. Revenge for me breaking up with him all
that time ago. It’s amazing how long eight months can feel.
And they’re gone as quickly as they appeared. My eyes follow after their trail
wantingly, “Who was that with him?”
Patrick’s hunter eyes are practically swimming in their sockets, “Who?”
“That chick with Pax…”
“Oh, uh, Saija. He picked her up in Topeka. Stayed with us ’til the end. Guess
she’s sticking around. Who gives a fuck though? She’s a fat bitch anyway.”
But she’s the fat bitch in his arms.
I slam back my shot, “I wanna go home.”
“Ah, come on, baby legs…we got to go to King’s! It’s tradition.”
“It isn’t.” I say under my breath even though it really is tradition.
King’s Court, est. 1952
We walk across the esplanade and I smile to myself when I see Hinton pull the
hood over his wet hair. Shiver, you little cunt. Shiver.
They head in as I stay outside smoking a cigarette. I could ditch them right here
and just walk back home, but Patrick’s unstable. He’s too drunk to be left with Hinton.
He could get hurt, or worse…arrested. I should ask him where he’s staying since he gave
up his apartment before he left town. All his shit is in storage so long as he remembered
to pay the bill.
I smoke the cigarette and listen to the hullabaloo across the way at McAfee’s. Pax
is in there dancing with her. Laughing with her. I’m probably the last thought on his mind
because I’m the cunt that crushed his heart. I’d cry if I thought my tears wouldn’t turn
into crystals.
She was so pretty too with her hooded navy-gray eyes and matchy matchy outfit.
Her bowed clips holding back her dark red hair. I don’t know why Patrick called her fat
though. She had chubby cheeks, a sizeable ass, but nothing like Kirstie Alley on a
Dunken Donuts spree.
I toss the butt out to the street and go inside. Patrick and Hinton are playing pool,
barely in one man’s case. Patrick has three beers lined up on the bar and Hinton is nursing
an unknown substance. The great inebriated one hit’s a striped ball in the left pocket and
looks over at me, “What you drinkin’, Sally-Sal Lane?”
“Nothing.”
“What do you want?”
“Nothing.”
He holds out his arms, “It’s on me, slut biscuit.”
“That isn’t a thing.”
“Could be if you let it.” He winks, “A screwdriver for the butch, I mean bitch, I
mean…her!” he points to me absently.
Before I can blink there’s one in my hand. I slurp it down watching them play.
Both are awful. Patrick keeps critiquing the music selection of some college patrons,
“Bastards wouldn’t know good music if it bit ’em in the dicks.”
“Shut up, Paddy.” I rise from my position in the corner.
“Where you goin’?”
“To the bathroom. Am I allowed?”
“Mmm, I love it when girls ask permission.” Hinton smirks and they laugh
together.
In the bathroom, I smoke a bit of a blunt. Shit combined with all I’ve smoked, the
drinks, and the two denies (Dennexatrine) I snorted before I left the house…I’m looking
pretty blurry eyed in the mirror. But my pigtails look straight enough and my make up
isn’t askew so I’m doing better than most other ladies under the influence.
I’m scarcely out of the bathroom and Patrick is there waiting. He grabs me up
pinning me against the wall, “Patrick, fucking stop.” He tries to kiss me and he smells
like booze and puke, “Quit it!”
“Oh, come on! I’m jus’ playin’, ya fucking apple baby.”
Apple baby? I’m not Native American.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“Yeah, let’s hit it.” And he smacks my ass hard enough to make me jump.
Frank’s Bar, est. 1981
We were headed towards Voudou Alley when Patrick got distracted by a couple of
girls in skimpy Santa outfits going inside Frank’s, “We’re going there.”
“I don’t want to go to a coke bar, Patrick.”
“Well…” He stumbles and breaks a bottle down the middle of the sidewalk almost
hitting Hinton. I carefully brush a few pieces from my jeans.
Past the flashing neon lights and shivering smokers, the inside of Frank’s is colder
than the wintry weather encircling these pile of bricks despite all the tweekers dancing to
southern rock rubbing their noses.
“Everyone looks like Rudolph.” Patrick laughs going up to a waitress, “Two
beers, a shot of whiskey, and a shot of whiskey.”
“RC for me, thanks.” Hinton points to himself.
“You said whiskey twice, Paddy.”
“Oh, uh, Two beers and two whiskies.” Patrick corrects himself as the elderly
woman nods her head and ducks behind the bar.
Hinton’s feathers seem ruffled as I watch him gather in his surroundings. Yes, you
pig oaf, you’re in one of the most notorious bars in Shawnee County where everyone is
on drugs and of your two companions; one loathes you and the other is a drunken
madman. I want to ask him if this is how his mommy wanted him to spend his Christmas,
but then remember his mother (one Florence ’Flo’ Greenspan of now 723 W. Derbyshire
Lane, Dubay, Mississippi) abandoned him when he was three.
Oh well. It doesn’t matter. All parents leave at some point or another rather it’s by
death or personal decision. No one loses, but no one really wins either.
Patrick grabs my arm so hard I feel bruises already forming, “Ow!”
He ignores me, “Hey, hey, hey, Shinton, there’s a house party on Sixth Street.”
“No way, man. I think I need to…”
“Don’t be a pouty Mary, Shinton. This girl here has been telling me about it.” He
turns around to reveal a beautiful Nubian Queen behind him that I hadn’t noticed him
talking to, “I’ve got beer.”
“You got weed?” She asks me.
I say yes, I’ve got like three blunts on me.
And after he drinks everything he has ordered, we’re going again…

3
2:30 a.m.

Right off the bat, I know we’ve screwed up.
At the stop light right before Sixth, a car of girls pulls up beside us. Patrick rolls
his window down, “Hey, ya goin’ to the house party?”
They giggle at him.
“Dumb redneck bitches. How much beer we got back there, Suzy Sue?”
“Um, two twenty-four packs. Relatively.”
He reaches blindly backward tickling my inner thigh. I push him away and he
fondles around for a beer. He eventually gets one, but not before he pinches my calf with
a wink.
“How’d you get so buff, Patrick?”
“Jus’ working out. Had a lot of time out on the road. Getting booed off stage and
shit. I don’t know, jus’ how I spent my time.” He shakes his head and take a swig, “I’m
just another cog in the machine, Cindy Sue.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Well, you don’t call me Polly Pocket, ya dumb broad.”
“We’re here.” Hinton announces while parking across the street.
I look through the foggy window and it’s a goddamned traphouse, “Patrick, this
isn’t a good idea.” But he’s already out of the car and carrying a case of beer.
I hate to agree with a woman, but I think you’re right.”
“Shut the fuck up, Hinton.” I get out of the car and snuggle my coat closed and
carry on behind my foolhardy friend as Hinton pitters bringing up the rear. We march up
the steep cement stairs and pass a small huddled group on the porch.
The music is shallow as we enter on the bass drop vibrating ratty wood floors.
Groups of people are clustered about holding red and blue plastic cups and bobbing their
heads. Hinton nudges me, “We’re the only white people here.”
“So?” But I am worried. I’m worried about what’s going to pop out of Patrick’s
mouth. I don’t bother taking off my coat. Patrick’s need to shock people has never
allowed me to get comfortable anywhere new and tonight he is agitated and restless.
What happened to my friend? Even his green eyes seem a little less vibrant. Glossy from
spirits, but dead as ghosts.
He’s putting the beer in their fridge and chatting up random people. Hinton sits on
the sofa with the coats. I don’t really know what to do or say and I’m feeling a bit wobbly
on my feet. I need to smoke some pot and stabilize or I’ll pass out on the floor.
“These ig’nant niggers don’t know anything.” Patrick mumbles in my ear,
“They’re listening to this shit rap. Not even decent rap. Nobody here has heard of Danny
Brown.”
“Who’s Danny Brown?” I smile.
“Aw, get outta here with that shit.” And he rubs my head like I’m a kid.
I saunter over to a guy with shoulder length dreads and tear drop tattoos under his
eyes holding a half empty Mad Dog, “You know were the bathroom is?”
“Through the hall there, first door.”
“Thanks.”
The entire time I’m pissing, washing my hands, and toking on a mango blunt; I
am praying he’s not out there saying anything stupid. He may be the tallest and built guy
here, but he would be one against twenty at least. And this is a traphouse and where there
are traphouses…there are guns.
I walk back out and notice right off that Hinton is nowhere to be seen, “Patrick?”
He’s talking to a couple of girls about some murder rapper named Esham, but he
looks like he’s being a real dick based on the way he is standing. With folded arms over
his chest and his hips cocked to the side and he gives off that dead eyes stare.
“Patrick?” I repeat.
“What?”
“Where’s that dwarf Hinton?”
“Oh, he took off.” He’s so nonchalant about it that I’m shocked.
“What the fuck you mean?”
“Said it was getting too late for him. Fuck him. He’s a pussy.”
For a second I forget that I only live three blocks from here, “How am I getting
home? How are you going to get back to his place, Patrick? Patrick?! Pay attention to me,
damn it!”
“What’s wrong?” He slurs behind another brown bottle.
“How…are you…gonna get back…to his place?” I slow my words so he can
properly understand me.
“Why’d I go to is house?”
“Aren’t you staying with him?”
“No. I’m a bang a random slut and couch surf from there. Stay with Elijah.”
“Yeah, where is he?”
“His trailer. Where else would he be?” He looks at me like I’m stupid.
I go back to the bathroom and regroup. Plus, liquor makes me pee a lot.
Damn. There was a whole carton of cigarettes in his backseat! What the hell is he
going to do with them? He don’t even fucking smoke!
I’ve got to get home. I don’t live that far from here anyway. Patrick can crash on
my sofa or whatever, but I need to get out of here -out of this night- smoke a bowl and
pass out. I just hate the holidays.
I walk out into an uproar and some guy looks at me with a red glare, “And you
gotta go too!”
“What’s going on?”
The guy I’d asked where the bathroom was is on Patrick’s heels, “Yah don’t come
up in mah crib disrespectin’ my peoples. Get the hell outta here…”
Somehow, I’ve been ushered out unto the porch and am standing at the top of the
cement stairs, “Patrick! What did you say?!?”
He stands in the street below me lit by the lonesome pestering glow of the
streetlight. With a bottle to his lips and an antagonizing gleam in his eye.
Somebody shoves me. I’m quick to grab the railing before I fell down every step,
“You BOTH gotta go!”
“Hey, man…okay, but you don’t have to push!”
“THEY TOUCH YOU?!?!?!” Patrick shouts.
Pause
As I stand here looking down at him and the alcohol fueled blood lust in his eyes,
I see him as something else. Something else entirely.
You see, when you’ve known someone most of your life, you don’t witness their
aging like the outside world does. Or even as you look unto yourself in the mirror every
morning. You just see them, never the lines or the graying or the oncoming Dad/Mom
bodies. And people change, but you’re morphing along beside them so there is no notice
until you get a big old moment of clarity like I’m having right this second.
And in this particular moment, I see that Patrick is no boy. He has become a man.
A year on the road has challenged his hometown sensibilities and the road won. No
longer is he the peacekeeper, but the warrior instead. All his baby fat is gone. All his heart
lay barbaric and naked. In all the years we have known each other, I never thought he
would turn out so raw.
The second has passed and I carefully descend as his screaming echoes into the
Yule tide darkness, “Don’t you niggers TOUCH her! You wanna FIGHT! I’ll go Scioto
County on all you got dainmed darkies! Come on! Come on! YOU BUNCH OF
PUSSIES! I ain’t scared!”
“Hush, Patrick. I’m fine.” I tug on his shirt sleeve marveling at him being without
a coat in this weather, “Stop being a dick. Let’s go!”
He shrugs me off, “I’ll beat yall’s asses!”
“I’ve had it wit this crackah’s shit.” I hear someone yell out from the porch.
POP
POP
POP
Like lightning cracking, shots ring out and Patrick grabs my hand. We’re running
so fast I can’t tell what direction we’re going and my nervous laughter seems manic
against the silence of the night.
But he’s laughing too…and that scares me more than bullets.

4
3:26 a.m.

Patrick and I sit in a taxi driven by a man named Elvin who seems to be one of
those quiet weirdos who shoot up a coffee house because they don’t sell the right kind of
bagels. His sparse graying hair is parted sharply to the left like a French art film villain
and you know what else? I think he has a glass eye.
A fucking glass eye!
“Can I smoke in here?” I ask.
“No.” Elvin answers strictly.
For fuck’s sake. Can’t a bitch get a break?
“Where youn’s headin’?”
“Jus’, uh, drop us off the mouth at o’ Crooked Creek Holler.” Patrick fumbles
with his seatbelt.
“That’ll cost an extre five goin’ tah West Port.”
“Tha’s fine.”
“We’re going to Clay’s?” I perk up.
“Yeah! Ole buddy, ole pal Clayton!” He acts as if he hasn’t seen him. Like he
didn’t just get off tour with him. What an asshole.
“It’s, like, three a.m. What about his parents?”
“We’ll be quiet.” He whispers that lie like a toddler.
“Yeah, right.” But screw it, it feels like forever since we three have been in the
same room.
Patrick blathers on the entire ride about nothing in particular while Elvin curtly
nods and I absently laugh at random words he mispronounces. It is apparent that Elvin
can’t wait for us not to be in his cab. He speeds down the icy highway connecting Port
Alex and West Port at an alarming pace and I’m not even allowed a fucking cigarette?
What health nut bullshit.
Elvin pulls up to the corner of Crooked Creek Hollow where the Parker residence
rests right at the crosshair. Patrick pays the man with a twenty and jumps out before he
receives the change. I get the five and chase after him. I pull him back, but his newfound
weight is like a bag of bricks, “Hey, wait up! His parents will be asleep. If we knock the
dogs will bark.”
“So? We can wake up the WHOLE WEST SIDE!”
“Shush! No we will not!” I laugh.
“Patrick? Suzy Lee?” Clay steps out from beneath the giant elm at the corner of
his parent’s property smoking a cigarette. His mom, Tonya Lynne, is on an oxygen
machine so all smoking is done outside. Except pot, of course.
“Clayton, my man! Best bassist in the world!” Patrick thwacks him on the back,
“Oh fuck!” He trips a little, but regains his footing just as quickly, “You got any that
Washington weed left?”
Clay laughs prudently as he hushes him, “Dude, shut up. Yeah, I got some, but
you’ve got to be quiet and let me finish my cigarette.”
“Me too.” I say sparking up a Georgian.
Patrick leans heavily on me, pawing at me while half singing Pink Champagne by
The Honeydrippers. He exaggerates the word wine every single time, “Wiiiiiine! Wiiiine!
Wiiiine!” One hand thumping a vague beat on his thigh.
I push him off, “Your jeans are gay as fuck, Paddy.”
“Wha’? I don’t pick this shit out.”
“Well, you ought to. Who doesn’t pick out their own fucking clothes?”
“Let’s go up Paw Paw Hill…Sofie Sue…”
“That isn’t even close to my real name. You know that, right?” I look at Clay who
seems beyond amused by us, “Was he like this the entire time ya’ll were gone?”
His face shadows over and shrugs, “It…touring isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
You done?”
“Yeah, I s’pose.” And I toss my cigarette out unto the road.
We creep through the squat one-story house in line. Clay’s dad, Clint, sleeps on
the sofa snoring louder than the breaks on a train. Patrick is stumbling in a mildly
functioning kind of way.
Jesus! He almost collapsed on Clint!
Huddled in Clay’s room, I flop down on the bed and Patrick sits beside me, “Hey
Clay, let me see that First Act guitar.”
“Nah, man. It’s too late. Let’s toke a bowl.”
“Yeah, but let me see that First Act?”
“Let him pack a bowl first.”
In a matter of minutes, we’re passing the pipe of some good shit called Affluenza.
Patrick lights it and says, “Straight to the DOME!” And inhales the entire thing leaving
nothing but ash, “Clayton? Let me see that First Act?”
“Fine, but play it low.” Clay gathers the guitar from the corner and hands it to
him.
Patrick doesn’t play it low. He strums the shit out of it and as loudly as possible
too. Clay snatches it from him, “Right, that’s enough.”
“Aw, come on, Clayton? I’s jus’ getting started.”
“Let it go, Patrick.” I motion to Clay, “He’s been trying to fuck me all night. Since
when is that a thing?”
“Half subhuman bitch.” He tries fingering me through my jeans, but I kick at him,
“You know the only thing saving you from being a full subhuman bitch is that you’re
white trash like me. Like Clay. We’re just scum poor fucking nobodies. Fucking
nothing.” He gets silent then bolts from the room making his way to the backyard.
Clay and I look at each other in confusion and follow him out. Oh god, it’s gross
and really sad watching him vomit.
“I forgot to tell you…we got shot at.”
“Oh shit, where?”
“Down in the East End. We were at a party and he started saying racist shit…he’s
out of control, Clay.”
Together we stand on the porch and watch Patrick puke his guts out under the
cold moon hanging like a death sentence over him. He’s leaning over the chain link fence
separating the Parker’s yard from the Gillis’ yard. All that liquor and beer pumped up hot
from his stomach over the fence and unto Brock Gillis’ award winning rose bushes.
Luckily, they’re nothing but thorns on sticks this time of year. His sneaker clad heels rise
two inches with every wet, congested heave of liquid.
Clay and I watch with Nihilistic voyeurism and smoke cigarettes until I ask, “Are
you alright, Patrick?”
He staggers backwards wiping his mouth, “Yeah, hey, Clayton…let me see that
First Act?”

5
4:32 a.m.

After some private negotiating between Patrick and Clay while I stay outside and
chain smoke; it is decided that we go.
They come out and Clay looks exasperated, “Can you take this from here?” And
by this, he means Patrick’s hooliganism or more likely Patrick himself.
“Yeah, I got him.”
He goes back to the warm sanity of his house while I’m alone with Patrick once
more.
We travel around the house and down the small side yard lined with ceramic pots
of long since dead petunias and Queen Anne’s Lace. Tonya Lynne used to be quite the
gardener in her day. Now it all lays in a paused state of perpetual decay.
Patrick climbs over the fence, breaks a decorative pot, and giggles. He falls to the
other side on his shoulder. I shake my head as I push the gate open, “You’re a belligerent
moron.”
“Bout to be more than jus’ drunk, baby face.” His lips curl in a grin that puts the
fear in my belly.
“What do you mean by more?”
He holds a protesting hand up, “I’ll tell you when we get to your place.”
Fuck.
We got to the stop sign and wait for another taxi. He slides down the pole and
kind of lay-sits on the frozen tundra this land has become this December. He’s shivering
and a small streak of pity rises its head. I sit beside him and he encapsulates me like a
jellyfish, “Go up on Paw Paw Hill with me?”
“No. You smell like beer and bile.”
“God, I wanna fuck you so bad. Jus’ fuck the shit outta yah, cuddle yah, and wake
up and fuck you again. You have no idea.”
“You’re such a romantic, Patrick.”
“I mean it.”
“No, you don’t. You’re drunk.”
“Drunks tell the truth.”
“You don’t.”
He pushes his hand up my shirt to cup my breasts. I don’t say anything. It’s too
cold. He shakes and we grow closer beneath the soft street light. We cuddle there in
silence until the headlights of the cab come hovering over the hilltop.

6
5:02 a.m.

My apartment is warm, but I turn the heater knob until it clicks. Patrick falls down
on the couch and kicks off his shoes, “Guess what I got?”
“Whiskey dick?”
He smirks, “Nope. Guess again.”
“Christ in your heart?”
“Nope.”
“Well, I’m beat. I’m sticking with my first answer. Whiskey dick.”
He reveals a vile of that all elusive, luminescent tangerine liquid, “Number 9.”
I sit down beside him in awe, “Where the fuck did you get that?”
“Clay bought half a gallon from some redneck in Mobile, boiled it in his shed. It’s
the best stuff. We tripped for months on the road.”
“Oh my god, Patrick.”
“That’s who we’re about to see.” And he takes a sip, but a sip is all you need.
I haven’t tripped hard in such a long time and Number 9? Well, it’s the best
hallucinogen that has ever been made. You get completely devoured by visions that
gradually wear off over a period of three to five days, but what you see gets ever more
vivid and vicious until it’s totally out of your system.
I take the vile, “Bottoms up!” I press my tongue to the glass and dip my tongue.

7
The Intermission

I’m at a party. No, I’m not. I’m on drugs that is making me think I’m at a party
because I doubt Matt Damon and Idi Amin Dada are spending their Christmas in Port
Alexandria, Ohio.
I’m blinking my eyes really hard looking around. People are buzzing everywhere
dancing and laughing and drinking. Their edges are blurred white light, but they look so
real. Like if I touched them they would touch me back. I don’t want to.
I need to find Patrick. Neither of us should be alone on this trip.
I ramble around and see my mother and sisters sit talking to men dressed in
shabby garbage men uniforms. I almost ask her if she’s seen Patrick, but she gives me
this look as if she’ll eat my soul if I dare to speak.
Oh my god, the Queen Mother is topless!
Avert the eyes and look somewhere else! Anywhere else! Anywhere!
“Suzy Lee…” I hear Patrick’s call ringing inside my head.
I walk through the crowd gathered at tables eating roast beef and drinking
champagne in phallus shaped flutes. This is absurd. I bump into the table of a middle
aged red haired lady and a man wearing a full tuxedo, “Excuse me.”
She grabs my hand and rubs it sweetly, “You need no excuse.”
My nose scrunches up as I take my hand back, “Thanks, I guess.”
“Suzy Lee?”
I turn and see Patrick’s hand stretched out and waiting for me. His palms feel dry
as he guides me to the edge of the party where we come to stand upon the top of an
ancient, stone staircase as long and wide as the Ohio River, “Patrick, where are we?”
“They used to have four temples overlooking the valley for strategy. There was
this one, one across, and two down that way running parallel. Now all that’s left are these
stairs to a temple long gone…”
I glance down to see my toes equal with the stone’s edge and tighten my grip on
him.
“…we are standing on the edge of a dead civilization, Suzy Lee. Doesn’t that
blow your mind?”
“No.” I release him and retreat a few steps.
He looks crushed, “But why not?”
“You know I hate heights.”
“But this is a dream.” He smiles at me with all the innocence of the boy I once
knew, “And in dreams you can fly.”
I shake my head, “You’re wrong. You’re always wrong, Patrick.”

8
Christmas Day, 2:00 p.m.

I don’t want to ever move from this spot. The blankets all piled over me and their
fuzz tickles my skin as I roll over. My bed is so comfortable even if my ears are ringing a
little bit from all the partying last night. I yawn and rub my eyes to see Patrick at the table
eating a bowl of cereal and texting. There’s a flash of a miniature Idi Amin Dada demon
on his shoulder. I rub my eyes and it‘s gone. Damn Number 9.
“What time is it?”
“Two in the afternoon, lazy ass.” He says with a mouth full of milk and tasty
cardboard.
“What day is it?”
“Today and don’t you know today is the greatest?”
“Smartass.” I get out of bed still wearing the same clothes as the night before.
After a shit, a shower, and finding some (decently) clean clothes, I sit with my
house guest who is still eating my food and texting. I light a joint I must have rolled the
night before as he belly laughs at a message, “Who’s got you wrapped around their
finger?”
“Her name’s Keira.” He fiddles with his phone and then flashes a picture of
blonde hair and ass, “I’m meeting her later at Frank’s.”
“Somebody from the tour?”
He shakes his head, “Craigslist. I’m going to take her to a hotel and fuck her
brains out.”
“Don’t you have a girlfriend? Oh shit, what’s her name? Lindsey, Lissy, Liddy?”
“Leslie, and yes she’s still my girlfriend.”
“Why don’t you fuck her and eat her off brand cereal?” I cough out.
“I did and, uh, she buys real Lucky Charms.”
“You’re an asshole.”
“I’m an insatiable asshole.” He pushes the now empty bowl away with a clatter of
the spoon, “What are your plans?”
I carefully flick the ash into the bowl thinking on what to say. I don‘t want to get
looped into another night with him, “Thinking of going to a party with some Mexicans
and strippers.”
“Mexican strippers?”
“No. Russian.”
He cringes, “Good luck with that.”

9
Around 5-ish

Through various phone calls to the numerous exotic dancers of the lower-middle
east side, I got a hold of Natalia around three-thirty. I told her that I was interested in
being a ride along to her scam because I had nothing better to do on Christmas…so long
as I didn’t have to touch anyone’s dick or riffle through pockets. She said that was cool
and that I could make an entrance as eye candy then hide out in the bathroom until they
were done.
With the deal struck, I pissed around for a while before getting ready. I already
have makeup and hair done and I’m putting on a tight black blouse, silky and very low
cut, “What time you taking off?”
Patrick, who is dressed like some clean cut prick from an Old Navy ad, checks the
time on his phone, “About ten minutes. Soon.”
“You meet Keira before?”
“No.”
“Nervous?”
He stares at me in careful consideration as I wiggle into a pair of jeans, “I have to
get a boner pill.”
“The fuck?”
He shrugs into a tan bomber jacket (where the hell did that come from?), “I can’t
just fuck a bitch I don’t know unless I’m drunk or know her…better.”
“I wouldn’t drink and pop one of those suckers at the same time. That’s a recipe
for a heart attack.”
He walks across the room and kisses me on the forehead, “I’ll be fine, worry wort.
Meet me at the bar after your weird sex party.”
“Which bar?”
“You’ll know the one.” He says with the slamming of my front door.
With him gone, I lit a cigarette and gather my utensils to pack them in my purse.
Miniature grinder? Check,
Pipe? Check.
Big bag of sticky green?
Wait, before I check that off the list I’m a roll one while I wait. A fat fucker too
because I’m not good at rolling anything better.
I sit and smoke and lace up my boots waiting for my ride. My apartment is a
shroud of smoke and I’m heaving my lungs out by the time that knock comes to my door,
“Suzy Lee?”
“Hold up, I’m comin’.”
I put on my coat and purple knitted gloves, grab my purse which is really more of
a backpack, and head out the door.
Plateenum is an African Queen donning a skimpy white sequenced dress. Her legs
are long and supple. When she dances the pole at the Cum Again Club, I’ve noticed men
really love when those legs hold her up as she spins to do tricks. And she is a true blue
pole dancer in every sense of the phrase.
Her fingernails are a good two inches of neon green clenching a Virginia Slim.
She smacks her maroon glossed lips and looks me down from head to toe, “This is you
trying to make men thirsty?”
I shrug, “What of it?”
A perfectly groomed brow arches, “Ain’t none my bidness.”
“What the hell does that mean, Plateenum? What? Because I ain’t gussied up like
some Amazonian stripper goddess that means I can’t possibly be attractive?”
She chuckles. Her chocolate eyes lighting up as she flicks ash on the floor of the
apartment complex’s hallway, “Is jus’ funny how you do things. You’re different than any
white girl I ever met.”
“You need to meet more white girls then.” I lock my door and follow her into the
chilly air, “Because you sound racist as fuck.”
She laughs loudly with a snort, “Ya can’t be racist to white people. Ya’ll done too
much fucked up shit.”
“I think it’s you and me against Big Brother.”
“Wut?”
“I was raised in a trailer in a holler mostly without indoor plumbing. You think
those nice suits in their big houses on the hill like me any better just because I’m white?
If this was olden times, I’d be lynched right with you. White trash is still trash to those
kinds of people. It’s called classism.” Plateenum pushes back her long, wavy weave locks
and nods as if she understands, but I don’t think she does. But it doesn’t matter in the end.
I playfully nudge her elbow, “How can you be warm in that outfit anyhow? I see more
skin here than I do at the club!”
“Well, girl, I be movin’ an’ shit. Whatcha think of Natalia’s Santa’s slut lookin’
ass?” She’s laughing as she points to Natalia as we get in the car.
“Vat? I luk good. Like Santa elf.” And she really does. She looks like a Christmas
special Barbie doll with her honey hair in soft ringlets and her icy white skin is pleasantly
contoured, but then she belts out with that thick accent. Deep and throaty, she slices
silence with it like a sharpened bloody knife to nubile flesh.
I quickly regret this decision I’ve made and I only did this as an excuse not to get
rolled up in more of Patrick’s insanity. I don’t want to see a bunch of drunk, horny
Mexicans. I don’t want to see anyone drunk and horny. Just remembering Patrick’s
roaming hand makes my belly ache, flipping and flopping, “I don’t feel so good.”
“Here. Dayk dis.” Natalia passes back a blunt.
I hit it and lick my lips, “What flavor is this?”
“Weed flavored.” Plateenum answers.
“Bullshit!” I hit it again and I don’t taste a fruity after taste, but it does seem
potent, “I’m serious…”
“It’s a dope flavored wrap. Honest engine.” Plateenum scratches her cheek with
one of those talons.
“Holy guacamole, Batman! They make those?”
“Bought it down at theRed Store.” She nods.
“Nice!” And so I spend the entire car ride toking in marvel. Weed flavored wraps,
oh my god, I must get some of these! This is awesome! What will they come up with
next?
The house she pulls up to is a crumbling two-story. It’s skinny with white paint
peeling to expose its bones. Every light inside is on and there’s Christmas music with a
salsa flare playing. I can’t understand any of the hoots and hollers coming from inside,
but my stomach is in knots again. This is idiotic. I don’t even know what I’m doing here.
There’s no point. No point to any of this.
“Can’t I just wait in the car?”
“Ant freeze to deat?” She says something in Russia that I’m pretty sure is a curse
word and shakes her head.
“How long will this take?” I ask biting my lip.
She shrugs loosely, “Don’t know. Dee-pends. Maybe hour, maybe five.”
“What?” I stop dead in my tracks sliding a little on the snowy sidewalk, “I can’t
hide in a bathroom for five hours.” Oh holy Jesus, the Number 9…
“No. I give you sign when to go.”
“What kind?”
“You’ll know. Don’t worry, short girl.”
Why are people being so god damned vague with me today? It’s bullshit. After
this is over, I’m going home and reevaluating why I put myself in the hands of less than
responsible folks.
For the past year, since Pax and I stopped sharing a bed, I’ve been doing really
stupid shit. Just passing the months in meaningless void. Barely leaving my apartment.
Hell, I haven’t even painted…not even a sketch. A doodle here and here, but they usually
get thrown out at last call.
I’ve got to shake this off, but I can’t. I’m sad and I screwed up. I should have
gone with the band out on the road like Pax wanted. Maybe Patrick wouldn’t be so
fucked up, maybe Clay wouldn’t be so withdrawn. I don’t know, but I do know that my
heart wouldn’t be so broken as it is right now. I could be cuddled up to Pax in bed
laughing at a cheesy joke he’s made, but instead here I am at a party with two stripper
streetwalkers on Christmas night while he’s got another gal on his arm. In his bed, in the
place where I used to lay. I don’t even know what he’d say if I were able to tell him
where I am.
He used to rescue me, but somewhere along the way we all grew up. I can’t even
remember the last time I saw Dutchie, let alone talk to him. Everyone is gone or changed
or both. I’m tired of it all. I want to recapture the past and relive it and I’m only twenty-
four! I suppose regrets make you feel older than natural age. Weighed down by all those
‘what could have beens’.
“Suzy Lee, Benny. Benny, Suzy Lee…”
Lost in my own thoughts, I hadn’t realize I was inside and face to face with our
venerable host. A gaunt man, I clock him at six-seven easy as pie, maybe taller?
I crane my neck to meet his hooded eyes. He looks disinterested like he doesn’t
even want to be at his own party. I stick out my hand, “Hi, nice to meet you.” I furce out
my best smile.
He doesn’t shake my hand and says in a low voice that is early inaudible, “Feliz
Navidad.”
“Yeah, Merry Christmas.”

10
10:00 p.m.

As the hours pass, I’m introduced to a few men with desire and hard cocks ready
to go.
Santiago is handsome in that ever so swarthy way, but he has his cap at Natalia’s
door. Which is positively okay by me. I see she never leaves him or Benny without a
fresh shot or distracting eye.
Speaking of shots!
Plateenum is a one woman force to be reckoned with! She’s got Mateo, Alejandro,
and a gaggle of guys taking body shots of her belly on the kitchen counter. She soaks up
the energy of the whole house and bathes in it like a cat in sunlight. She laughs, teases,
and plays a great game.
A dude named Tomas keeps on my trail though. He’s nursing a beer and attempts
conversation with me multiple times. He even tries putting his rummy arms around my
shoulders.
I wiggle free and give Natalia a desperate silent plea. She excuses herself from
Santiago, “Suzy Lee, you come to bathroom with me.”
“Gladly.”
She takes me upstairs where people are passing out here and there. Some so far
gone that they’ve spilled their drinks all over themselves. I want to run as fast as I can out
of here, but I’ve come this far.
I need heavier drugs to deal with these brief touches of lunacy. These dealings
with the underside of life. No, not heavier drugs, just better drugs.
Natalia ushers me into a small bathroom that smells like stale cigar smoke and
used condoms. She slams the toilet lid down, “You sit until we come get you.”
“Fine, Miss Bossy Pants.”
“I not this Bossy Pant. It is Stacevitch. Natalia Stacevitch.” She says in confusion.
I laugh at her, “No, it’s just a saying.”
She scoffs, “Americans have too many sayings. I can’t keep up. You sit. I’ll be
right back.”
With her gone and the quiet overriding me, I pack a full bowl not knowing how
long all this is going to last. I wonder if they implore roofies? Is this aiding and abetting?
I laugh at myself, at my predicament, and feel a little more apathetic than I did
earlier. It’s the pot and shadow shapes forming along the grapevine print wallpaper. I feel
numb and giddy sitting on a closed toilet smoking weed while my comrades coerce
alcohol down men’s gullets so they can go through their wallets.
I close my eyes trying to push the Number 9 visions away as I sense the
weightlessness that comes with them. I hit the pipe trying to calm the nerves.

11
1:00 a.m.

Sometime later after someone stumbled against the door asking to come in, and
then after my fist buzz faded a little did Natalia knock on the door, “We leaving.”
I gather my things and hop to. The house is an unsettingly mixture of
noiselessness and shade. Plateenum plummets a twenty-four pack of Potter Beer,
imported from Brimson, Missouri into my arms. She moves on before I can protest.
I struggle to move as quick as them even though Plateenum crosses over a sheet
of ice in seven inch heels. The whole time carrying three bottles of XR-Teek liquor and
stuffing money down her cleavage. I felt the urgency to leave, but at the same time
everyone in the house is asleep. Slumped over sofas and lying on floors. And since
they’re out doesn’t mean I should break my ankle.
I push the beer in first then slide in beside it. The leather bucket seats squeak in
the cold. Natalia softly levels the engine while Plateenum whirlwinds her way in like a
bull on the passenger’s side.
There are no cars at one a.m. on Christmas. All the kids are sleeping in bliss
having opened their gifts. Parents around here either get drunk or do right. So, here’s to
hoping that each kid got something rather it was a ball or an orange.
It’s so dark that the streetlamps seem frosted on a glimmering pale green. There
are no stars tonight, just windy snowflakes…but by God if it ain’t bitter, “How’d you
make out?”
“We get grand each.” Natalia answers.
“Well, hell! That’s a very lucrative business you got going.”
“You want a cuts of monies?”
“No. I’ll just take a beer for the road.”
“Deal.”
“Where we going anyway?” I light a cigarette and make rings in the air with the
smoke and echo of my breath.
They talk about how huge Benny’s dick is and how his fingers are long and
bendable while I sit quiet occasionally flicking my ash out the rolled down slit of the
window. Everything seems to be in slow motion and it’s taking forever for this big
Oldsmobile to chug its way up The Hill in this weather.
And Plateenum just chats away comparing cocks and the shallower sides of
different men’s personalities. She’s so damn chipper for being as tall and strong as she is.
Like one of those professional body builders. Her body harkens back to muscle bikini
contests of the 1980’s.
“Did anyone ever tell me where we’re going?” I ask hazily. Somewhere out in
Port Alexandria I hear the last of the Saint Melito’s Christmas bells of the season.
Natalia pulls up to the gate of Building D of the Dwayne Dells apartment complex
and I know from all the experience that they’re about to traipse on through the door of D-
7. That belongs to De Vahn and Colleen and I want no part of it, “I’m taking off.”
“Where?” Natalia asks as the engine roars down.
“To the bar…I guess.”
“Vait here, I’ll drive you to after ve’re done.”
And so I do.
And so I wait.
It’s pretty uneventful so far.
Cold and bleak as hell. A solid white rock of desolate social sludge. A wintry
wasteland. And so I’m not waiting for them. Why?
I take my beer and jilt the bitches.

12
1:20 a.m.

I butt out my cigarette and walk into Frank’s. Patrick is sitting at the bar talking to
Luey Shapiro and Margery a.k.a. Madame Skag. He hasn’t seen them in over a year. The
last time we were altogether was at the band’s last show at McAfee’s. That was before we
had gone to Mississippi.
Luey stands up in an ironed button down with crisp slacks and handmade leather
British shoes. We hug and say our howdy-do’s. Margery steals me a look with her
heterochromic eyes and says, “I hear a lot about this Netflix and chill, but what about
traphouse and choke a bitch?”
I laugh and shove her shoulder, “Where the hell have you been?”
“Oh, I got caught up in some shit and had to lay low. There was a warrant out for
me, but that’s all taken care of now.” She smiles yellowing rows and I observe a fresh
scar running up her cheek and curving on the left side of her nose. She giggles as I stare,
“You like it? Courtesy of a Rottweiler outside of Hanging Hill, West Virginia.”
I crowd Luey out of his stool, “What the fuck? Are you serious? What happened?”
“One of my girls sucked this one guy’s dick and they found her body upriver. The
house in Hanging Hill got hot so we scored a ride with this widow named Minerva. She
had these two Rottweilers and one, Germany, was skittish. We were in the back of her
van and Luey’s getting loud and stupid in front of Germany and she attacked me. Luey
got into beast mode…Luey? Show her what Germany did to you?”
Luey lifts his Irish setter’s hat and there is a gash running over his eyebrow and
down the side of his face over his temple, “Oh my god, Luey? What the fuck were you
thinking yelling at her like that?”
“No, now I did screw up pretty bad.” Margery says bluntly, “I gave that guy a
clean bill to visit my house and to some other rival’s house”
“But still…” I am distracted by Patrick’s face. It is swollen and shiny on one side
like he’s been in a fight, “What happened to you?”
“I’m having an allergic reaction.”
“To what?”
“Let’s go first.”
“Go where?”
“To a bar.”
“What bar?”
“A bar where I can tell you to go fuck yourself. Come on. Don’t get comfortable,
let’s go.” He slams a five on the counter.
“I want to visit.”
“Nah, we were heading out anyway.” Luey pipes up, “We have real Anarchist shit
to do.”
“I thought you were a Capitalist?” I ask.
“I am, but the chaos turns me on.”
“Suzy Lee…?”
“Okay!” I snap.
I hug them and out we go into the night of hypothermic sidewalk people, “So?”
“So what?”
“What is wrong with your face?”
“I’m having an allergic reaction to that boner pill I took.”
“Yeah, I told you not to drink with it. I can’t leave you for five hours! You’re a
mess, Paddy! A hot fucking mess! I love you and everything, but this has got to stop. You
look like Quasimodo.” I light a cigarette, “What happened to Keira when she saw the
ugly mug?”
“She never showed.” He checks his phone for the time, “We have to get going.”
“Going where?”
“To The Bayou Inn.”
“No.”
“Yes.”
“No.”
“I’m going with or without you.”
“Is that a threat?”
“It’s a fact, Jack.” Damn, he thinks he’s so smooth.
“Okay. Why are we going there?”
“Why does anyone go to The Bayou, Suzy Lee? To get their dick wet.”
“I don’t want to be apart of this.”
“Too late.”
“What? No, it isn’t.”
“It is.” He points ahead through the wafting snow, “We’re already here.”

13
2:42 a.m., The Bayou Hotel-Motel est. 1950

The Bayou Hotel-Motel, or the Bayou Inn as referred by us locals, is THE hooker
hotel in town. The crème de la crème of broken people and their equally broken dreams.
The building itself is a decrepit creature with hanging pipes and busted stairs
covered in archaic shag carpet. Painted a dull lavender with a gargantuan sign made of
stylized cardboard propped on the roof. And with all of this, each window still has blinds
and a set of curtains closed and closed tightly. That’s the nuance of a hooker hotel.
“Room 217.”
“No fucking way!” I exclaim, “This place has gone to shit. Look at that, Patrick?
There’s a baby stroller.” I point out as we walk twenty feet past it just sitting there in the
middle of the parking lot.
Carefully, and I do mean carefully, I find my footing on the precarious stairs.
Patrick’s up them in no time impatiently awaiting me. I don’t give a fuck. I’d rather not
die.
“Slow fat ass.” I hear him grumble.
‘Oh, yeah? Your face looks like a Gobstopper, Paddy.” I laugh reaching him,
“You’re turning violet, Violet!”
“Shut the fuck up.” He laughs and then turns on the hunt for the room.
All the doors are royal purple with tarnished fake gold numbers, all of it chipping
away. Faded and fading from memory.
This used to be a hot spot back in the 70’s. A goldmine, if that was your thing.
The girls were trashy, but they were proud. There wasn’t any of this forced self-shame
you see now. The stigma. The stain of being a soiled dove. That was when low rent
working gals still wore red lipstick and high heels. The mighty days of AquaNet and
moose. I shudder to think of what is behind door number 217 when he knocks on it
because I know it won’t be anything as what it should be or even what it could be.
I can see my breath hanging like diamonds in the cold when this woman answers,
“Yee-aw?”
“Crystle?” Patrick asks briskly.
“Yee-aw. Come on ee-an.”
Her hair is in a messy bun all dried out and dull brown. She’s wearing an
oversized gray t-shirt with moth holes dotting the seams like Swiss cheese, no pants.
She’s tweeking madly trying to eat a microwavable burrito, “If it’s two of ya, it be
double. Mah rats are mah rats.”
“Rats?” I question.
“Her rates.” Patrick whispers to me then faces her with a look carved in stone, “I
jus’ want a…hand job.”
“Fine. But lemme git some mout’wursh. I dun wan bee-an breath.” She motions to
our left and says, “That’s mah sisa, Nita, an er boyfrien, Jovan. Dun min if dey wash?”
And like THAT our vision comes together as one. Nita is a chubby girl with
smeary eyeshadow doing whippets at a small table. And what I can only describe as a big
fucking Asian guy, sits next to her shooting heroin. Balloons and heroin are splayed
across the table along with opened cereal boxes and stacks of dirty dishes.
I start laughing and wave, “Hey.”
Neither acknowledge me.
“I don’t care if they watch.” Patrick answers her question.
“I don’t want to. Is there another room I can go to or something?” I demand.
“No.” She says anxiously as she scratches pimples on the back of her neck.
I give Patrick a ‘oh, come on’ look, but he’s peeking out the window. His fingers
cracked between two blinds. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to. I can tell when
he gets serious enough to just roll with it.
He digs in his pocket and tosses a hundred on the bed, “If anyone asks, I paid you
to wash my car.” He grabs my hand and there we are faced with Jack Frost once more.
“Oh my god.” I say seeing that beside the stroller we saw coming in now has a
cop car next to it and one of the pigs is holding a crying black baby.
This time he doesn’t wait for to carefully descend as he gently tugs me to follow
suit. Not aggressively, but sternly and with enough pressure to inform my fuzzy brain to
shape the fuck up for a few minutes and try not to trip over my boots on the way down.
And by god, don’t draw the attention of the uniformed swine.
“Where are we going?” I ask crossing the parking lot, our arms linked together.
“To the bar. Well, any bar. Or a tavern or pub if you like? A place to get rowdy
and mean. To fight and fuck.”
“The fuck drugs you on, boy-o?”
“Liquor and genetic superiority.”
We weed through a small patch of encroaching wood from the hill away from the
cops’ hearing, “Did you see that fucking shit? That was a baby, Patrick! A baby! A human
life left out to die in this weather!”
He doesn’t say anything for a long time as we make it back to the drinking
district, but mutters, “She had a microwavable burrito.”
“Yeah.”
“But there wasn’t a microwave.” He is most amused.
And I giggle.
Hm, the words of a poet.

14
3:37 a.m.

King’s Court is dead except for us and a few people in the back. It’s pretty calm.
The cute waitress slinks down in a wooden chair to the right of the cash register. She
looks exhausted which she’s due since it’s the end of the night. A larger man, less salty in
attitude, wipes out glasses on a tray and stakes them on a shelf behind him.
Patrick is drinking beer rubbing his face, “Feels like it’s gone down some.”
“A little bit. You look like you got roughed up down at the docks.”
He smirks tipping his bottle towards me, “No matter what, you’re always funny.
Such a clever girl. You’ve always been a clever girl, Suzy Lee.”
“I take that as a compliment.”
“You should.”
A few people by the pool tables shuffle and scuffle out the door lifting up what’s
left of their night’s pride from the floor like picking up shattered glass. It is a primordial
fear to be as alone as it is to touch something that draws blood, but some are drawn to
pieces of glass as if they only appreciate their lives when they’re in shards.
I shake my head at the thought and sip my whiskey and water. Two flies strut up
to the bar looking jacked up and ready for bed. One has sandy hair all curled and gelled,
but losing it’s bounce…much like her tits. The other is an olive-skinned brunette with
hair as straight as a board.
Patrick the Predator turns on his charm light like a chameleon, “What are you
pretty foxes, drinking?”
“Sherry.” Answers the blondish one.
“Potter Light Lime.” Says the other.
“Sherry and a Potter Lime for my girls here!” He calls out slapping the edge of
the bar in proclamation.
I roll my eyes.
They introduce themselves. The sherry sipper is Roxie. And she looks like a
Roxie in that tight red pleather skirt and black halter top. The other is Junelle. She’s
younger and says she’s a freshman at Scioto State University. She’s certainly fresh. Off
the boat like this bomb ass dank, Fresh. Capitol F. And by way of her accent, I believe
she’s a New Englander. Maybe New Hampshire?
“Right, you go to school…any job, Roxie?” I take a drink of tongue numbing
whiskey.
She is brazen and dumb behind those big owl eyes, “I waitress over at the Truck
and Slurp.”
“Out on Route 139?” Patrick slurs taking his gaze from her tits for exactly three
seconds, “Marion’s Diner?”
Roxie shakes her head, “Not anymore. Gill bought Marion out so now it’s just the
Truck and Slurp…with a diner.”
“That makes me a little sad. Like another era has died.” I take the rest of my
whiskey in honor.
She seems unsure of what to say and blurts, “But our hushpuppies are way better.”
“I bet they are.” Patrick stands up from the bar, “You’s girls wanna accomp-
accomp-accompany me and my sister, Sally Sals, here to breakfast at the All American?
It’s like…fuck, Suuuuzy, what time is it?”
“Late or early depending on your point of view.”
“Well, I say it’s time for biscuits and gravy. The good kind with sausage. They
don’t make gravy right in the south.” He pats Junelle on her flat ass and she turns skittish.
She giggles anxiously into the straw sticking out of her beer.
“Can we at least finish our drinks, cowboy?”
“If I had a hat it would tip it jus’ for you, darlin’.” He grins. His face does look a
little less swollen. Not by a lot, but definitely an improvement. He stretches out his arms
and both girls stare at his muscle, then at each other. They want him. They want to feel
him. They want him to chew them and spit them out. Get gnawed on like a piece of
gristle.
“I’m a take off home, Paddy.” I stumble from the barstool. My head is a fog like a
rolling cloud crushing my skull and blurring my vision. For once, in a long time, my head
is aching from a hangover and not DT’s.
“Nononononono. We’re getting breakfast, Sally Luey Longenberger.”
“Shut the fuck up. That isn’t even close to my name.”
He lightly nudges my arm, “You like it. An’ I know you, bitch, and I know after a
looooong night of partying that you can’t ever say no to blueberry pancakes and hot
cocoa.”
I stiffen. Damn it, he has me here, but I try to rebuff, “If you know me then you
know I like sleep better.”
But I’ve worn down his patience. He turns back to Roxie and Junelle with a snake
charmer’s smile, “My sister gets so prickly.”
“As a cactus.” I whisper.

15
4-5 a.m.

Roxie drives all across town in her beat up 1978 Cordoba painted marijuana green
with a Coexist bumper sticker. The odd color is, or rather was, NOT a factory approved
shade. No. This was done Shawnee County style with spray paint and desperate need.
There had been no masking anything off as green flecks pepper each window. It gives off
this false impression that she’s just come back from a mudding adventure, especially
beneath the dimming starlit sky now barely transforming into morning.
Patrick keeps the mood lively in the car. He acts like his talking will somehow
extend the night. That he alone will stave off the inevitability of dawn, of being sober, of
being an adult, of being a man, of everything…because Patrick Randal Louder’s will is
so strong and so beyond measure, he can hold off time itself. And he’s never looked so
human as he does right now. He shows his delicacy in what he doesn’t say. Inside the
short gaps of thick Appalachian boy mojo, he is an artist, a failure, and my very best
friend.
God only know what he thinks about anyone else.
Roxie pulls up sharply in front of the Ole American and I can hear the ice and
slush splattering out unto the concrete. The snow has seemed to dissipate some, but I
bet’ll freeze before seven a.m.
Hitchhike by Marvin Gaye is playing on the radio from the kitchen. A couple of
waitresses in their yellow and white checkered uniforms talk as they fiddle with the
coffee pots. A few bikers are in the back drinking water and eating steak and eggs.
There’s an old Jewish couple in the left corner near some strung out junkies. A few Black
Panthers sit in a booth over untouched menus.
For the record, as it stands to this day, life is hard in a small town and so there are
just neutral places about the county where no one starts shit with anyone else. It’s the
food really and it’s 24/7.
We sit at an open table that fills the space between the Panthers and the bikers.
From the griffen with flames patch, I can tell they’re the Flaming Demons and not the
other one-percenter gang in town, The Cunts. Who’s patch is not what you’d think when
you first hear the name The Cunts.
The younger of the two waitresses comes over with a worn out glide and a tray of
ice waters and menus. Slick girl. Her name’s Caroline. She works part time, but I’ve seen
her a couple of times before. It must have been a long night for her too, but she’s still
smiling and bubbly as she passes out the drinks, “Merry Christmas, ya’ll.” She has a
pronounced overbite with squeaky like mousy features and freckles as cute as a Raggedy
Anne button.
“Merry Christmas.” Roxie, Junelle, and I say at the same time.
“And Happy New Year.” Patrick guzzles the water placed before him, “I already
know what I’m having. Biscuits and gravy. Proper gravy with sausage. None of this
pepper gravy shit. That’s bullshit.”
“Is that how they make it down south there, Harold?” I ask fetching a cigarette
from my case. I snap my lighter twice before I realize it’s dead. I lean over to a Black
Panther chick and ask, “Any you gotta light?”
None of them do, but she points to the Jewish man, “D. Bones do though.”
Patrick looks over at him and says, “Hey, D. Bones? You got a light for my sister
here?” I don’t alert him to the fact that just yesterday he had his hands up my shirt and
how creepy it is him calling me that.
D. Bones wipes his brow with a clothe napkin he had to have brought from home
and tell me to come over. As I saddle up beside their table he chuckles, “Aren’t you a
colorful bird?”
I inadvertently blush, “Thanks.”
He reaches within his sport coat and presents a Zippo, “Keep it, keep it. I have em
all over the house. Esther hates it.”
“Ugh.” His wife sighs in revulsion, “In the sofa, on the floor, on the table, in the
sock drawer. Everywhere.”
I light my cigarette, “Thanks for the lighter.”
I take my seat back with someone in mid-sentence, “…here before?”
“Nope.” Junelle blinks, “But I heard Roxie talk about it before though.”
“Yeah. My parents brought me here after church when I was little.” There is a
sound to Roxie’s voice that notes sadness.
But Patrick doesn’t give a fuck, “”So what’ll ya have?”
Caroline is still waiting for orders, “I can come back…”
“Nah. I’ll have blueberry pancakes and a hot chocolate.” I hand back my menu.
“Flapjacks with eggs.” Roxie replies.
“How yeh want those eggs, hun?”
“Over easy.”
Junelle’s oversized hazel eyes scan the menu meticulously, “Do you have
anything gluten free?”
Caroline chews the inside of her lip, “We got buckwheat germ.”
She looks worried, “Do you have bottled water?”
“Fall Springs or Aqua-Aqua-Aqua?”
“Fall Springs.”
Caroline pencils it in, “Anything else?”
“Is your bacon organic, um, range free?”
I laugh. So does Patrick.
Caroline seems confused, “Range free?”
Junelle bats her lashes in solidarity, “Were the pigs fed naturally and without
antibiotics?”
Caroline laughs caustically with an open mouth much like a naying horse, “Hey,
Rhonda? This girl here wanna know if the bacon didn’t have…what was it? Antibiotics!”
Both waitresses are rolling with laughter while a snicker goes through the patronage.
“Who the hell cares? It’s a pig.”
Junelle’s face tightens and her throat is clenched with the sigh of the offended, “I
care.”
“You want animals to go without antibiotics?”
“Yes. It’s unnatural to their existence and it makes people immune to diseases.”
“So, what? You wanna eat sick meat?” Caroline scoffs.
“That’s what I’m trying to avoid.”
“I don’t think you understand her counterpoint, Junelle.” I lick my lips, “When
cattle live together ad eat together and shit together, they can get sick together which is
why farmers give their animals antibiotics.”
She purses her lips for a second before, “I’ll just have the pancakes, ‘kay?
Thanks.”
Patrick and I listen to them chatter about a few friends of theirs. I guess Arizona is
a real tramp, who knew?
“Sally Sallien!” Patrick drinks a cup of coffee, “Favorite piece of Tarantino
dialogue?”
“Hmmm…” I think butting out my cigarette in the metal ashtray, “It’s a tie
between Tim Roth’s joke as Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs and Aldo the Apache’s little
motivational speech in Inglorious Basterds.”
“And I want my scalps.” He quotes, “I like Ordell Robbie’s gun speech in Jack
Brown.”
“As good as Jule’s ending lines in Pulp Fiction?”
He takes a gulp of water, “No, but I think it’s better than all of Kill Bill.”
“What? Aw, fuck off with that shit! Kill Bill doesn’t need longwinded craziness. It
already has all that violence . And it don’t matter ‘cause Carradine owned that movie.”
“Fair enough. Django’s the best though. Second to Dogs.”
“But you asked for best dialogue.” I remind him.
“Oh, yeah.”
Caroline returns with plates. Junelle doesn’t seem to be aware that her bottled
water is open with a straw. It’s a small thrill to me. No doubt Caroline and Rhonda took
turns hocking loogies in it. People can be so mean to each other, but fuck it. I’m stoned,
drunk, and slightly hallucinating. I’ll find amusement where I can at this point.
“Favorite Keitel moment?” I pose almost done with my first pancake. The
chocolate tastes so thick and rich. Nobody makes it like Deenie Moretto in the back. How
he carefully boils the milk and whips the cream p by scratch the week before in bulk. It
might as well be crack.
“The Wolf, hands down.”
“What? No, Mr. White? More range there. The Wolf is more like a gimmick one
time character within the narrative.”
“I’d watch a movie just about The Wolf. Keitel and Tarantino have chemistry.
Like McDowell and Kubrick or…”
“Divine and John Waters?”
“Only you’d say that, Suzy Lee.” He grins.
“Divine? Isn’t that the new girl at the Cum Again Club?” Roxie asks.
“No.” I answer, “We’re talking about an actor.”
“Oh.” Her cherry stained lips form a perfect circle. She looks like a cheap blow
up doll. Her hair is frizzier than it was at the bar, but I think that has to be a mixture of
lighting and alcohol. Junelle may be younger, but she’s as sour as a dried cranberry.
Roxie is the prettier of the two and that says a lot on its own.
“Let me out. Gotta take a piss.” Patrick requests.
“Me too. Excuse us.” And I follow him to the back.
I wait in the hall until he’s done and then go in after he stumbles back to the table.
I do my business ad toke a few on off a joint from my cigarette case. I don’t think I’ve
been in here for three minutes when a banging rattles the door down to its bolts,
“Occupied!”
“Come on out! They ditched us!”
“What?” I butt out the jay ad open the door.
“Did you wash your hands?” He chides.
“What do you mean they ditched us?”
“I mean they went scram. Gone. Left us with the bill.”
“Left you with the bill, you mean?”
“Yeah, I already paid it. Want to go back to Frank’s with me?”
I laugh, “Hell no. I’m going home. And besides, it’s like five in the morning.”
“Jus’ walk with me over to the Ole Bayou and I’ll let you go back home.”
“If I don’t?”
“I’ll rape you, beat you, and the cops won’t give a shit because you hang out at
places like the strip club and you’re not a tax payer.”
I sigh, “Fine. Let me get my coat.”

16
Who the hell cares about time anymore?

The five block walk to the Bayou Bridge Tavern is a cold, somber one. We share
the rest of a joint in quiet chill of leftover seasonal lights and Christmas displays. Frost
glitters from the trees and the snow crunches under our boots. The slush froze while we
ate, but at least it stropped snowing.
I don’t really know how he’s still standing after all this, but his eyelids are
drooping and his legs move like Jello. Each step he takes seems like a struggle not to pass
out, “You wanna lean on me, Paddy?”
He slumps his shoulders to reach my level and drapes an arm over me. He starts
humming at first and the humming becomes whistling. I think it’s an old Dixie Cups
song, “We’re goin’ to the chapel and-we’re gunna get married…gee, I really love you an-
we’re gunna get married.” Patrick sings, “Spring is here, the sky is blue..whoooahhoho,
birds all sings as if they knew…today is the day we say I do and we won’t be lonely
anymore…”
“This is unnerving.”
A hand wanders to my right breast, “You gotta stop wearing these push up bras.”
“I’m not wearing a push-up bra, asshole. Stop touching me. Less than an hour ago
I was your sister, remember? I’m too tired, too stoned. You’re too drunk and full. And
we’re both vastly disappointed.”
He flings his arms out wildly and nearly trips backwards unto the road, “The night
is young!”
“The night, Patrick? It’s over.”
He smiles at me and bops my nose, “You’re as cynical as you are clever.”
“And you’re as douche as you are drunk.”
He laughs and snorts ad hobbles about three feet beside me, but he grows tranquil
as we near the last bar of this awful misadventure. The bar under the bridge. Really, more
of shack built for sailors and bargemen who come up and down the rivers. I don’t know
how old it is, but I do know that it’s never had electricity wired in so it’s always darker
than the usual dive.
It sits back nestled in the thicket of river weeds and reeds with a narrow rock path
that slightly slopes downward. Many drunks have fallen on this walk, but the bar isn’t
necessarily legal. Well, anyway that is a discussion of pros and cons (and ethics) meant
for another time.
I open the door to the rickety old place and the scent of beer and fried fish exit,
“Ladies first, Patricia.”
“Har-har.” He snarls, but goes in ducking to get through the doorway.
The tumbledown planks creak below our feet. Mary is tending bar. Oh, yeah,
‘cause there’s so many people here! By tending bar, I mean wiping a single spot on the
counter repeatedly while her nose is buried deep in chapter five of My Baby is Movie
Famous, Crime of The Century; The Shawnna Crane Story.
A couple of old timers are spread among tables sipping rum and cokes as they
slowly die. It’s so quiet. The only other thing I hear is the soft droning of The Joker by
the Steve Miller Band. I don’t see a jukebox so who knows where it’s coming from.
Patrick settles himself at the bar, “Bourbon, neat.”
Mary glances up from her book with her enormous brown spectacles, “Haven’t
seen you’ns in a while.”
“Been on the road.” He rubs his eyes while I move away from him, “Share a drink
with me ‘fore ya go?”
I shrug, “I guess. I’ll be back in a sec.”
The bathroom behind the bar is difficult to get to if your eyes aren’t properly
adjusted to the dankness of under-dwellings.
I have to admit something. I really like cleverly named restrooms. Like Guys and
Dolls or Marion and Barry. Here at the Bayou, they are noted by cardboard signs which
read Steve and Eve in big black marker.
It’s cramped inside and I shimmy my way between the sink and toilet. I pull
down my jeans and bang the shit out of my knee at the corner of the sink board, “Son of a
bitch!” It will most definitely bruise.
I stand and walk out only to realize I’ll be limping home as well in this dreary
morning.
The elderly patrons abandoned the place while Mary tinkers loudly in the kitchen.
Patrick has already downed two bourbons and working on his third as I slither up beside
him. I hop up on the stool with a grunt, “How fares it, music man?”
The corners of his mouth twitch as he holds his glass before him staring intently
into it’s alcoholic soul, “I squandered myself, my opportunities, my whole life.” He sighs
deeply in his throat, “Do you remember when Holly got me that summer job at Howard
Buchanan’s ranch? Out on 28?”
“You were obsessed with those fucking horses.”
He nods, “I was. I loved horses back then. I was going to be a rancher just like
Grampaw. Last day I worked there, Mr. Buchanan’s son…”
“That piece of shit Bucky.”
“The very one. He brought home this big red stallion. He was a beautiful fucker,
Suzy Lee. Silky black man, a machine of muscle…” He takes a sip of his bourbon,
“While I was looking at him that motherfucker bucked and kicked me square in the chest!
I remember lying on the ground staring at the sky listening to Dad and Bucky laughing at
me. I couldn’t do nothing but lay there and catch my breath and it was there I decided I
didn’t want to be a rancher. I didn’t want to get kicked by animals all fucking day!
When I got up, I was dedicated myself to my guitar and singing. I felt it was like
god whatever out there was blessing me, I mean, the two best musicians I know were
already my best friends! Music man? Hmph…I’m a grain of the man I could have been,
Suzy Lee. One kick and I was done. We went out there and showed the world our souls
and they booed us! All I kept thinking out there was that I could’ve been a rancher. I can
handle an ill tempered horse better than an ugly crowd.” He finishes his drink in a slow
roll, “I’m a be here for a while. Why don’t you go on home?”
“You sure? Maybe I should stay?”
“Nah, go on with yourself. I’ll be fine. I’m a big boy. You look tired anyway.”
“Jesus Christ! You should never say that to a girl!”
“You’re a girl?”
I playfully hit him, “Stop it!”
“Oh, come ‘ere.” He scoops me up in his arms and hugs me as tight as a vice grip
on a finger, “I’ll be seeing you ‘round, Suz. You know I’m in town for the next couple
months.”
“I know…I just…don’t like leaving you this way.”
“Aw, fuck off. Don’t get sappy on me now, girl. Get the hell outta here, you
mangy bitch.”
I giggle at that one and kiss him on the cheek, “Stop by later today and we’ll get
stoned.”
“Sounds like a date.” He turns back to the drink I never touched and literally
drowns his sorrows.
I reach he door and brace for the cold, but I can’t make myself go out the door. I
turn around to see him leaning against the rough wooded bar. His head in his hands with
all the doubt and fear of a child shifting behind those boozy green eyes, “Hey, Patrick?”
“Yeah?”
“You’re getting a little fat.”
He laughs out a, “Bitch.”
I wave and leave having the same amount of questions as answers, but nothing is
making sense to me right now. Thoughts best left to deal with another day.

THE END

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