“You want another one?” he asked in a voice meant for church. He always sounded expectant, as if he was waiting for me to become a better person.
“I’m still eating this,” I said, sticking out my tongue to reveal the cantaloupe lifesaver. I noticed my nails, how long they’d gotten, more like claws. I noticed my shell ring. It was half missing, not a good sign.
We were in his Camaro on a sticky July night. We’d just made out, bodies gnashing. My lips still tingled, my skin burned from the entire day at Stimson Beach. “You going to invite me in?”
He shrugged. His shaggy locks fell over his forehead like a wig that was too far forward. “Sure. But I have to warn you. I have something new.”
My brain raced as we walked toward his porch- another woman, lost his job, STD? We stood in his cluttered living room, he flipped on a light. Might have been better in the dark.
“I have a new pet,” he said. “Follow me.”
Great. I hate cats, not crazy about dogs. Birds nauseate me, hampsters scare me. He was leading me toward the bathroom. “Don’t tell me it’s a freaking turtle.”
“Shhh,” he turned around, finger held to those lips. Switched on a flashlight, slowly opening the door, as if a dinosaur might eat us.
I swallowed, hard.
And there, floating in the bathtub: a yellow-striped baby alligator. Those lifeless eyes glared at us, eyes I will never forget.
Category Archives: Robert Vaughan
I was late to the square dance bar for guys with O.C.D. It was fully underway but before I stepped into the Dew Drop Inn, I had to circle back to my car thirty steps one way, three times, circle the car three times, thirty steps total, then click my alarm beeper three times off/on, off/on, off/on. Ah, better.
I’d hoped they’d all be in two straight lines, the way we used to choose partners in gym class. It’d had been ages since I’d square danced, or danced at all. But Benny said, c’mon, you’ll have fun. All the guys are a blast.
When I entered the room, he waved to me from the floor. I don’t wave, it confuses people. As I hung up my coat, I did a quick scan, counting heads, relieved to find there were thirty-six dancers, four couples formed nine squares, but the caller made me anxious.
I joined Benny, the first song was Abba, and everybody sang along. I abhor pop music. Only listen to waltzes and was hoping we’d start with the Blue Danube. Benny reminded me it’s not Ballroom Dancing. He led me around the circle while the barker called things out of alphabetical order, like “heads promenade” (fourteen letters, shit!) before “allemande left” (same…fuck!)
Just didn’t make sense. Felt like two left feet, or fifteen toes or I’m just not cut out for this inane activity in a room filled with whirling dervishes.
Lucy pastes pink post-it notes on her dashboard. She is driving to Los Angeles to complete her Indie screenplay about lovers who eat each other, part by part until there is no ‘other’ left.
Some post-it notes have JOE at the top. Some say LIS for Lisbon which Lucy knows is a place but thinks, well, there are people named Dallas or Madison.
JOE is changing, becoming more and more of an asshole. By the time Lucy reaches the New Mexico state line, JOE is a perfect fuckhead. He’s seeing three other women (all named for European cities, like Sofia) and lies to them all. He’s also a sodomizer, and fronts a band that gets five or ten people to a gig. So, he’s getting fucked, too. JOE figures we all are.
By the time Lucy hits the Mohave desert, LIS decides to stop stripping (or being a dominatrix?) LIS wants to be a bilingual teacher in East LA. Lucy scribbles ‘town?’
JOE and LIS love baseball and attend a Dodger game. They get to the stadium early and tailgate, partying, listening to Los Lobos.
1st inning, they finish their first six-pack.
During the 4th inning, JOE uses the restroom, never returns.
6th inning, LIS catches a Cubs pop fly in her gaping mouth. She is unable to breathe and she suffocates. They serve her as a buffet entrée for a Chinese New Year fundraiser in downtown Los Angeles. JOE’s band is in the entertainment line-up.
As a rule, people avoided him. Whether he was bowling, in line at the ATM, or drunk-dialing his iPhone waiting for the M103 on Houston Street and Avenue A, they steered clear. Bar patrons even ignored him during a drag show at Barracuda.
Over time, he’d developed a “laissez faire” attitude. His mantra was “let it be,” and he’d chant the chorus repeatedly like a koan. He grew a tortoise- like shell, masking his pain. Home alone, he’d put on a wig, sculpt layers of make-up, using centerfold cut-outs for inspiration. He’d croon along with his favorite ballads, performing to cheering fans.
One summer night in 2007 while preparing his routine, CNN leaked the news: a senator was caught in a public bathroom. An idea came to him: what if I try his tactics with a twist?
He decided to give it a whirl in the toilets at Grand Central Station. He stopped by Wigs and Plus on 14th Street where the owner, Sunny, would sell him a cheap hairpiece “for his mother.” Then he’d prop himself in the furthest stall from the door on Sunday morning. Wig in place. Like a parishioner. Or a TV evangelist. Or a congressman.
On the way home, he’d stop at Magnolia’s for a cupcake. “It’s all about service,” he’d say to no-one in particular while he devoured his dessert.
For someone who’s barely
I love you…
I liked it better
no clue. I found
peace in that
“Greed is good,” Kennith Andrews said. He finished shaving, and he smiled at the image in the marbled mirror. He liked this week’s mantra, downloaded from mantra.com and taped on his moisturizer bottle.
He stretched his neck, had he slept well? Sleep. His nemesis. He could sleep on planes, as he had yesterday from Thailand to Oahu. His laptop powered on: seventy unread e-mails, double spam. Too many and not enough time. Never enough. He took a bite of his bagel. Sighed.
His iPhone rang. Wells-Fargo Bank. Open this early? He answered.
“Mr. Andrews?” A woman’s voice.
“Yes, what can I do for you?” He disliked business calls, they might trace his location. Could misuse the information somehow.
“Mrs. Shelton from Wells-Fargo. I’m sorry to inform you, there’s been some recent alarming activity with your savings account. Are you aware of this?”
“Alarming how?” Kennith walked to the blinds, peered out. Sickening sunlight. A neighbor speed-walked her dachshund.
“Sir, our records show that during the past twenty-four hours, your account was drained.”
“Dr-drained?” He couldn’t swallow.
“Yes, sir. The original balance of 478,000 dollars is now 2.78.” Complete silence on the other end.
“But, that’s impossible. I’ve been home this entire time. And no one but me has access. No one.”
“The activity was mostly between 2 and 4 a.m.”
“How? I was asleep.” Or was he? He traced his steps into his bedroom, as if surveying the wrought iron bed, or crumpled white comforter would give him clues, anything.
She never misses church on Sunday, leads Wednesday night Bible Study class. Her kids call her a holy roller. When her husband moves south, she starts a Christian Online Dating Service, screen name is kittykitty. She struggles between saving money for Botox or Jesus.
He’s been burned so many times he’s crispy. Downs Miller six-packs at the Trysting Place Pub. Writes sonnets that he’ll burn later in the firepit. Waiting for money at the ATM, he wants to remove his heart-shaped tattoo, cover it up with a pitchfork.
What the hell kind of name is Penfield? She wonders while he takes a leak off the back porch. She leans to see fresh bruises through curtains in dawn’s early light. She rolls too far, ends up on the bamboo-planked floor, giggling. Creepy- crawls under the bed, dials 911 on her mobile phone.
He can’t recall the last time he was paid. Money doesn’t grow on trees, his mother had told him. And yet, he glances out the finger-print smudged patio door and there, in place of leaves on his prized beech, are hundred dollar bills fluttering, Benjamin Franklin’s irises staring at buzzing breezes.
Those first days back. Horrible insomnia. 2 a.m. in their guest room, night sweats, bombs bursting in mid-air attacks. No proof, except those hacked memories he wishes he could erase. But he can’t. He opens the adjacent bedside table, retrieves his dogtags. Cradles them in his palm.