i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Whoa!" I shouted to the hairy, naked ass and to the girl whose legs were wrapped around it. "Jesus! What the hell? There is a lock! Right there! To keep this kind of thing from happening! Jesus!"

After recoiling and slamming the door, I stole a quick glance of the bar where she sat, tucking her hair back into a clip with one hand and sipping from a beer with the other.

Forty hours ago, my world was gone. The woman I loved had dumped me with the help of the US Postal service, I had a few days left to vacate my apartment without anywhere to vacate to, and, because these things happen in threes, somebody put a gun to my head and took away my money. Alone and unsure, I'd resigned myself to spending the rest of my life without smiling again.

And now, there she was, catching my gaze and flashing me a raised eyebrow, a smirk, and a shrug so slight that only I would see it. She showed me how to get back to my feet and keep doing what I did best--much the same as I did to her from the moment we first met. She was beautiful, wild, sexy, and totally not my type. She was the most important friend I've ever had. She was my angel.

And it was that look in her eye that inspired me to open the door again and say to the couple, who had by now resumed fornicating, "How do you guys even dothat? Yoga? There's not even enough room in here for a sink!" I wish I was kidding, but it could actually be found around the corner. That reminded me: "And don't forget to wash up. Seriously."

"Get!" the woman yelled in the voice of a bear. "The fuck! Out!"

"Lock. Right here," I replied and slammed the door.

Forty hours ago, I never would have imagined me laughing, but here I was.

Lisa Green shot me an expression and gesture that said, "What the hell is going on over there?"

With my own expression and gesture, I replied, "I'll fill you in later," before stepping over to enter the second restroom.

"Occupied," snarled the unshaven redneck sitting on the toilet.

"I can see that!" I snarled back. "There is a motherfucking lock!"

I returned to the stool beside Lisa, sipped my beer, and told her, "Occupied."

"There's two restrooms, you know," offered Dan the bartender.

"Also occupied," I said. "By three people."

Lisa squinted at me. "Each?"

"Total," I replied.

Dan the bartender asked, "How can anybody even do that? Yoga?"

"And some lube, I'm sure." To Lisa I explained, "They're kind of small."

"Figured that's why the sink's on the outside."

"Do me a favor?" I asked. "Keep an eye out over my shoulder and let me know when someone finished up?"

"That might be sooner than you think," she told me.

"I don't know what that means."

"Was one of the guys a hick with a chin-beard and a trucker hat?"

"He's right behind me," I sighed, "isn't he?"

She nodded.

"Pissed?"

She nodded again.

Facing the man, I told him, "I said I was sorry."

"No you didn't."

"Well, I'm saying it now: I'm sorry I interrupted you defecating. Please forgive me." And with that, I returned my attention to Lisa.

"He's still here," she said.

"Still pissed?"

She nodded.

The man asked, "Anybody ever teach you to el knocko?"

I turned back around. "I see what you did there: You transformed an English phrase into a mockery of Spanish by adding an O and the article el to the..."

The next thing that happened was unclear, but I noticed that all of my air had been forcibly, the world burst into a bright shade of pink, and I groped the bar for anything to hold onto. As I sank to my knees, I managed to gasp, "Green, I'm going down."

The environment rushed back in, filling my lungs, and populating the space around me with an audience asking if I was okay. In my opinion, this was a dumb question. I panted for a bit and scanned the room for cute faces. "Any of you ladies a nurse?"

Just about every one of those cute faces frowned.

"Any of you ladies want to learn?"

That's when the crowd parted, and from my vantage point, I watched a pair of scuffed work boots stagger backward. The dungaree-clad knees attached to them buckled, and shortly thereafter, the rest of the redneck crashed to the floor.

Lisa's hand appeared in front of me, and I took it so she could drag me to my feet. "You had that coming."

"It's true," I replied.

It was then that we realized that everyone, including Dan the bartender, was aghast.

"What?" I asked them.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


A lot of people blow off work-related steam by getting drunk or high. My job is getting drunk or high, so I always had to look other places. I didn't really like movies because I had met too many people involved in making those movies. I didn't really like retail therapy because I didn't have any money. I couldn't go dancing because it's too social an activity. Same went for sex.

If there was one thing that always wound me down, it was the uniquely freeform structure of cooking. Not only did the sizzles, aromas, and flavors put me into a meditative trance, but I had something to eat when I was done.

If there was a downside, though, it was that I ended up with a lot of food I didn't know what to do with. Luckily, I had roommates, and one drifted in, buoyed by the scent of my hobby.

"Hey, roomie," Cameron said.

"Hey, roomie," I replied.

"Hangin' out in the kitchen?"

Since I was indeed hanging out in the kitchen, I could safely say, "Yes."

"You cooking?"

"Yes."

"Cool." He bobbed his head and studied every detail of the cramped space except for the large percentage of it occupied by me.

I waited a long time for him to say something, but nothing happened. It was pretty obvious what he wanted, though, so I decided to go ahead and skip the small-talk. "Want some?"

"I couldn't."

"I insist."

"Mitchell and I just ate," he replied. Not really hungry."

Maybe it wasn't that obvious what he wanted. "Oh."

"Roomie, I think we need to talk."

"Nothing good ever begins with that phrase, Cameron."

He took a breath and stared into space, looking for the words he'd need to continue. "You know that Mitchell and I have no problem with you smoking pot on the fire escape, right? We even join you sometimes."

"But...?" I asked, because the situation demanded it.

"But you need to be cool about it," he continued. "Somebody's been complaining to the super."

"Who?"

"The super?" he replied. "That's the guy that--"

"Who's complaining?"

"We don't know."

"I know who it is," I concluded. "It's our neighbor."

"No," he said slowly, "Emma and I talked a long time ago about it, and she's totally okay with us smoking weed."

"She's okay with you smoking weed," I clarified.

"So you're telling me that she dislikes you so much that she'd make all of our lives miserable just to mess with you?"

"Yes."

"That's crazy!"

"No," I told him, "she's crazy."

"You barely even know each other!"

Well, that wasn't entirely true. "Leaving aside the identity of the snitch," I said, eager to change the subject, "does the super know who's doing the smoking?"

"No, but he's getting pretty pissed."

"Well if he doesn't know..."

"Come on, roomie," he whined, "you know he's going to figure it out."

"He never struck me as a perceptive man."

"You've never met the guy."

"In that case," I said, "he'll never suspect it's me."

"I don't want to get evicted."

"What should I do, then?"

"Be," he replied, "cool."

He left me in the kitchen, considerably less cool I was when he'd entered. With a grunt, I spooned some of my lamb rogan josh into a plastic takeout container I'd held onto because I was my father's son, and he was apparently raised in the Great Depression of the 1930s. And the, after thinking long and hard about the implications of the conversation I just had with Cameron, I decided to smoke some pot on the fire escape.

I crawled outside, balanced the container on the railing, and spent the next hour watching the buildings of the city fade from the cool blues and grays of daytime to the reds and ambers of night. The sound and fury of my life dissolved away and blew away in a gentle summer breeze, and I hadn't even had to eat or spark up yet.

Wait. In other words, after all this time out here, the food was getting cold and my pipe was still in my pants. Fantastic. Now the memory loss was becoming a permanent fixture.

I shrugged and reached into my pocket, an action that knocked the container from its perch. In a move that would have impressed even the swiftest of hummingbirds, I lashed out my hand and caught it.

I placed it back on the railing, waited a moment for my heart rate to settle down, and put pipe carefully to my lips. No sooner did I light the match than I heard a voice behind me say, "Hey, dude."

I yelped, spun around, knocked the container over again, caught it, returned it, and hid the pipe behind me.

Emma shook her head and grinned that sexy, crooked grin I still remember from when I first met her. "You know, dude," she told me, "I'm not going to turn you in."

"Why would you think I was thinking that?"

"Because the walls are thin, and you were shouting."

I should have been mortified, but I really wasn't. "I was shouting?"

She shook her head and laughed. "Nice move there, by the way, Johnny Ringo."

"It's the boots," I informed her. "They're what give me ..." Once again, I knocked over the container, and once again, I caught it.

"There's got to be a better place for that."

I put it back and rolled my eyes. "Nonsense. This is the perfect... ah, fuck." Apparently I'd not braced it properly this time, because it tumbled off the edge, and I couldn't to anything to stop it this time.

It ricocheted off the railing below us, and, defying all laws of physics, bounced off the one below that before rebounding off the shoulder of a pedestrian, splattering lamb and yogurt and onions and ginger and cinnamon and lots of other colorful spices all over the sidewalk and said pedestrian.

Hypnotized by shame, I stared at the carnage until that he craned his neck to glare in my direction.

"Um," I said to him. "Sorry?"

He continued to stare, his rage simmering to a boil.

"Do you think maybe you can toss that back--urk!"

The urk happened because Emma had grabbed my collar and yanked me from the edge. Eyes wide and teeth gritted, she hissed, "Do you have any idea who that was?"

"An innocent bystander?"

"The super."

"Oh," I moaned, "fuck."

"You are such an idiot."

I switched to disaster mode. "Here's what we're going to do," I said. "We're going to split up. That way, he can't get both of us."

"Good night, dude."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


The ringtone I'd assigned to Sean McCoy was "Shower in the Dark" by Binary Mystery. The band was chosen because binary must have been his native tongue in the android factory in which I assumed he was assembled; the word mystery referred to the fact that I had no idea what the fuck he was about. The symbolism of the song itself was that it was free for download, and I didn't want to put too much work into a goddamned ringtone.

"Why didn't you shut that shit off, Max," asked my editor, Myron Fogle.

"Because nobody ever calls me."

"I call you."

"Nobody who doesn't ask me to do things that aren't my job calls me."

He frowned as he rifled through negatives in that sentence until he uncovered my point. "Your job is to do whatever I tell you to do."

"If you told me to eat the Chrysler Building?" I asked. "Would that be my job?"

"Yes."

"Checkmate," I admitted.

He sighed, "I don't like this either, Max, but word came from on high."

"Mr. Lloyd?"

Myron flinched, because he was Jewish, and his people were not in the habit of speaking the names of those at the top. And while Mr. Lloyd wasn't God, he was pretty close. "Not quite that high."

"So nobody gets struck by lightning if I pass?"

My editor took a deep breath and removed the reading glasses I was certain he only owned because he needed something to remove to show he was serious. "I really hate to tell you this, because you're a cocky son of a bitch, and the last thing you need is validation."

"It's true."

"You're the only one who can get in there." He explained, "When it comes to journalism, nobody's security is tighter than Hollywood's, yet you get through every time we ask you to."

"I don't do it because you ask," I replied. "I do it because they because they don't want me to do it."

"These guys really don't want you to."

"I'm listening."

"Total media blackout for three square blocks surrounding the entire Brook- Gareth Hotel complex. "Nobody gets in without an invitation, and those involve security checks."

"Catering? Cleaning staff?" I asked. "Being Hispanic does give me an unfair advantage."

He shook his head. "In-house."

I ground my teeth.

"You have thirty-six hours. No interviews--just the names of the people there, the gist of the keynote speech and the identity of the one giving it, and some color. All you'll need to do is get in, get out, and call Bill immediately so he can type it up." He sat down at his desk, returned his glasses to their former position, glanced at his computer, glanced back, and said, "You're still here?"

I called Sean back immediately.

He asked, "I'm curious as to your--"

"Busy," I replied. "I've got to get into this super-secret-media-non-grata-political-fundraising-bullshit and so some stealth reporting and I don't even know how I can get into the building without an invite..."

"I can acquire an invitation."

"Excuse me?"

"You are alluding to the governor's ball at the Brooke-Gareth Hotel tomorrow evening, are you not?"

"You're invited?" I stammered.

"Not presently," he replied. "Typically, I choose to avoid such events inasmuch as they tend toward the stuffy and pretentious." Yes, I was aware of the irony, but I don't think he was. "However, it will be a simple matter of a telephone call to amend my schedule."

And so, the next evening, a tuxedo-clad Sean McCoy strolled up to where I leaned on the outside wall of the Brooke-Gareth hotel and asked, "This is the attire you have chosen for such a prohibitively high-security, high-class gathering?"

"I tucked my shirt in!" I said.

"You may wish to remain by my side for the duration of the evening, lest your goal be ascertained by those who do not want their greased palms exposed."

I watched limo after limo pull up to the front door to be met by enormous, humorless security guards. "You're probably right," I told him.

Naturally I wandered off at the first sign of an hourglass figure in a backless evening gown.

"Hi," I said to the woman who possessed both the figure and the gown, "I'm Max."

"Sara," she replied before she even saw me. When she did, she looked me up and down and smirked. "You're wearing cowboy boots?"

"Yes, I am."

"At a formal, fundraiser?"

"Yes."

"You may be the ballsiest man in this building."

"I wouldn't go that far," I replied. "Senator Bruno Sanchez is standing over there, and he's running in the primary as a fiscal conservative."

She laughed. "Ouch."

"He's not the ballsiest man in the building," I continued. "That would be Councilman Marvin Hechtmann over there, who insists he's the go-to guy for family values. Now, if you want to expand the field to both genders, then the ballsiest person in the room is Senator Vicky Southern, who voted against the last federal jobs bill and has actively been campaigning to repeal it. And when the money from it started rolling in, she signed the checks and went to all the photo ops, and--this is my favorite part--claims that the money came from a different spending package."

With a grin, she shook her head.

I concluded, "On the other hand, I am wearing cowboy boots to a formal fundraiser."

"You know the press isn't invited here tonight."

"What makes you think I'm the press?"

She flashed me a dirty but amused look.

I gave her a card. "You win."

She took a look at it. "I was wrong," she said. "You're not a real journalist if you work at this paper."

"I like you."

"The feeling's mutual."

"Want to get out of here?"

"I can't," she replied. "It's my party."

"You're the governor?"

She laughed. "I'm the social director. I'm the one who brought all this together."

"Oh." I asked her, "You want to find an empty room nearby and fool around?"

"You really are the ballsiest person in the building."

"You didn't answer my question."

"There's an old smoking lounge on the other side of the bar," she replied. "No one knows it's there."

I don't know how long we'd been in there, but I do know that I had my hand up her skirt when Sean turned on the lights.

"Max," he announced, "you need to be aware that..."

Sara jumped off of my lap and began smoothing out her dress while I tucked my shirt back into my pants.

He groaned in frustration. "Is there any point in your life, Max, when you are not..."

Sara said, "Hello, Sean."

His back stiffened. "Sara."

"Are you his plus-one?" she asked me.

I shrugged.

She snorted and walked to his side. "You, of all people, should remember that the media is not, nor has it ever been, invited to gatherings such as this."

"He is merely my companion," he replied. "What he chooses to do with that status is his business."

"Your companion? I was wondering how long it would take for you to realize that about yourself."

"Aspersions about my sexuality? Mature."

After she stormed away, I asked, "What the hell was that about?"

He rolled his eyes. "She's my ex-wife."

"Say no more."

"I had no such intentions." He pointed a thumb at the door. "Regardless, I have come to bring to your attention that the keynote speaker has nearly ascended to the podium. It might interest you to know that she is Andrea Gareth, heiress to this both the Gareth and the Brooke family holdings."

"I need a minute before I can go out there."

"Erection?"

I nodded. Nothing Sean said surprised me anymore. Nothing.

Ninety minutes later, I whipped out my cell phone the moment I stepped out of the media-blackout zone. "Bill, I hope you're ready to type. We might be able to catch the first edition--"

"No rush," Bill replied. "We've been scooped."

I handed Sean the phone. "Take this," I said. "I need to find a quiet place to throw up."

"Evidently you have given Max news of an unpleasant nature," Sean said to Bill. "Please clarify while he vomits."

After several hours' worth of hors d'oeuvres fled my stomach, he handed me back my cell. "A journalist for your rival paper, The New York Caller by the name of Allen Dean had secured, by means which remain unclear, interviews both with the governor and Andrea Gareth, as well as an advanced copy of the speech she eventually delivered."

"Allen who?"

Sean replied, "Unbeknownst to either of us, you appear to have acquired yourself an arch-nemesis."

to be continued...

Road Trip

Jun. 29th, 2011 07:55 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


At first, everything stopped, and I mean everything--even gravity it seemed, just for a moment. It had to have been only a short moment, though, for had it been any longer than that, my ceasing heart would have killed me. It didn't feel like a short moment. I gasped, and with it came the jolt that ran down my thighs and calves to rebound off my toes and shoot up my spine, tightening every muscle it passed through.

This wasn't my first orgasm, not by a long shot; what made it special was that it was the latest in a long line with her.

She hadn't quite finished this time, but there was nothing I could do about that. I gulped in some air, rolled onto my back, and bathed in my own humidity.

"Wow!" she panted.

"Yeah," I replied. When I regained control over my body, I sat up and disposed of the condom.

As I did this, she reached for the wad of sheets in the corner near her head, shook them out, and covered herself up to her collarbone. Her modesty always made me smile, especially since I'd just seen and tasted her naked. Hell, I was responsible for making her that way in the first place.

She sighed. "I love how worked up you get when I get out of class."

"I don't have any control over that." I really didn't. She went to a catholic school and wore the uniform; though not for long whenever I had a say in it.

I know: it's weird that I was fucking a schoolgirl when I was in my mid-twenties. Sure she was nineteen, but it was still pretty weird.

"I wish I didn't have to go," I whispered.

"Please, Fox, let's not do this. You're not leaving for a few weeks."

"I know, but New York's so far away."

"I'll be there with you before you even know it."

Her sleek black hair had become understandably entangled, and so I ran my fingers through it. "Where's the first place you want to go when you get there?"

"Besides your bed?" She giggled at me when I rolled my eyes. "I always assumed you were too cool for touristy crap."

"I am cool," I replied, "but I do love the touristy crap. I just never have an excuse to go unless I have a visitor."

She screwed up her face in mock concentration. "Statue of Liberty?"

"Fuck that," I said. "You get a better view of it from the Staten Island Ferry. How about the Empire State Building?"

"Could I see my house from there?"

"Cariño," I told her, "you can see the entire world from there."

"I only need to see you."

I laughed. "That's the cheesiest thing you have ever said."

She shoved me onto the bed. "I'll show you cheesy."

"Are you going to sing show tunes?"

"Stop it ..."

"Deliver an emotional monologue about the triumph of the human spirit?"

"Stop!"

"Give me a pizza with extra mozzarella and ricotta?"

"You are so dead!"

"So you can read blank-verse poetry at my eulogy?"

She couldn't bring herself to stop grinning. "I don't even know why I even talk to you."

"Because I'm witty."

She kissed me tenderly. "And because I love you."

Tossing aside the sheet, she crawled backward and then began running her tongue up my thigh.

"Is this what you mean by cheesy?"

She giggled.

I moaned. "Because I can do cheesy."

That was months ago.

Decades before that, I looked at my bedroom, tucked into the back of a trailer that perched along the unpaved, gravel road that skirted the edge of the ragged hills that orbited my hometown in a remote corner of New Mexico, and I decided that it was time to go. I was seven.

Ten years ago, I graduated high school and ran toward the world in front of me while fleeing the bridges burning behind me.

Six months ago, for reasons I'm still not sure I fully understand, I went back.

Four years ago, I began my career as a journalist, spending my days and nights with no overtime, conning celebrities into liking me and telling me how their next movie, album, or TV season was going to be so much better than the last and how they didn't care about what others thought and how they were really just shy.

Six months and one day ago, I looked into the mirror and saw, like I did everyday, a vision of myself ten years in the future, dressed in the same clothes, working the same job, and tearing myself to pieces.

Six months ago, I met her.

Yesterday, I could look in the mirror and see an adult.

Three months from now, I would going to walk away from all of this. I was going to leave New York, and with it, the drugs, the alcohol, the sex, the rock, and the roll. I didn't care where I went--it was time to go.

Twenty years ago, El Dorado was anywhere but home.

Twenty years later, El Dorado was back home, in her arms.

Today, the letter in my hand told me that she wouldn't be coming.

It took me three tries to get through it.


Fox,

I tried to begin this letter with some small talk. Maybe I'd tell you about Daddy. Maybe talk about school. But I can't do that to you. By now, you already know what I'm going to say, because that's just how you are.

I can't tell you how much I love you. It makes me crazy that I can't. I can't even tell you how much you changed me.

When my mother left, I thought I was being punished. Because I had too much fun, goofed off, cared more about anything other than school and being a good daughter. And even though I knew she wasn't coming back, I worked so hard to study and to take care of Daddy... I didn't think I could have fun and be responsible at the same time. You showed me I was wrong.

It's funny, but I don't think you know that. You think I'm going to rescue you from the life you lead. You think I can make you a grownup. I can't do that, Fox. I'm just a kid. Sure, I'm older than everyone else at school, but I'm still a kid. I'll be starting college next year.

You're living in your own apartment, paying your bills. I'm going to be living in a dorm, getting care packages from Daddy.

I'm still learning who I am, and I can't support you when you're trying to run away from who you are. We're so different, and for one split second, we were the people we needed each other to be.

That doesn't make sense.

I'm sorry to do this like this. If I saw you or heard your voice, I'd chicken out. But I'm not sorry I love you. I hope that one day you'll feel the same.

I'll always be your cariño.


Yesterday she was my cariño.

Today she is my ex-girlfriend.

Tomorrow she'll just be Carissa.

I had no friends, no one to hold onto, and now, thanks to my landlady and my penis of a roommate, I had no place to live.

I called in sick to work, but I don't remember how. I didn't know where my phone was. My fingers were useless. It felt as though every word that left my mouth would melt into anguished sobs.

For an unknown period of time, I couldn't bring myself to eat. I couldn't even bring myself to walk to the kitchen and find a bottle of liquor. The only reason I got off the couch was because some movers came and took it away.

When I finally stood again, I took in the apartment without my roommate. He had taken with him the large television I never watched, the dining room table I never used, the wall art I never looked at, the canned food I never ate, and the wireless Internet antenna I never lived without. All that remained for me was a wok and some saucepans, a spice rack, a flattened mattress on the floor, a bureau moments away from collapsing, two unpacked boxes of books, and a refrigerator full of leftovers.

She left me.

Now what was I supposed to do?



to be continued...

Sobriquet

Jun. 20th, 2011 07:08 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Maxwell?"

"No."

"Maximus?"

"Do I look like a gladiator?"

"I've never seen you in a toga."

I liked her. "Keep playing your cards right."

"I give up," she said with a coy smile.

"Maximiliano."

"Really?"

I nodded.

"Why would you ever want to shorten a name like that?"

"Because it's impossible to say in the middle of an orgasm."

After she blinked them, her eyes went wide.

"Have you ever tried?" I asked.

"Max Fuentes!" shouted someone else entirely from outside the dressing room we occupied.

"What is it, Fraulein Kommandant?"

When Gretchen entered, her angel's face was scrunched up in confusion; but she let that pass before replying, "You're supposed to be interviewing the star, not the makeup girl."

"Makeup woman," I told her.

"Well?" Gretchen tapped her feet to further illustrate her point.

As I stood, the makeup woman said to me, "When you're done in there, let's get back to talking about your name."

"Looking forward to it, Jen."

"Lynn," she replied coldly.

I winced. Gretchen snorted.

I let Gretchen go ahead of me, because my dislike of her did not extend to the way her ass swayed when she walked. "I don't see why I have to be here for this," I muttered.

"Because you're the reporter." She didn't end the sentence with the word idiot, but it was implied.

Sarcasm was a concept that didn't exist in her world, so I skipped ahead in the conversation. "I'm a goddamned stenographer. Let me save everyone the time: 'I'm Curtis McKean, and I'm really excited to be working with Stanley Marshall again. He's an actor's director, and he has this vision I believe in that really connects with the audience. Know what I'm sayin'? It's a dream come true to be working on a movie about the character of Mastermind, because I've been a fan of the comics since I was a little kid ...'"

She tossed her perfect waves of blond hair and growled, "What the hell is your problem?"

"My problem is that I have to walk through that door and say the words, 'Rumor has it that you and costar Alysin Perez sizzled off-screen as much as you sizzled on-screen. Any truth to that?'" I held my thumb and forefinger millimeters apart. "I am this close to clawing out my own goddamned tongue." I muttered, "Not like I'm going to get to use it on Gwen anyway."

Gretchen looked over her shoulder to the dressing room with a frown. "I thought her name was Lynn."

"Fuck this," I told her as I burst into the green room. "Time to be a quote-unquote journalist."

"Pull yourself together, Max Fuentes!" she scolded.

And the worst part? She was absolutely right. I loved my job. When was the last time I let it get to me like this? When was the last time I forgot a woman's name like this--especially one I was wooing so successfully? And so, as much as I didn't want to admit that she was right, I had to. "Okay," I sighed. "Why don't you give me a second while you go take some pictures or whatever it is you do."

"Because I took them already."

"Even the one where he gazes soulfully out a window?"

"Yes."

"How about the faux-candid shot where he lets down his guard and laughs shyly into his hand?"

"I forgot that one."

"Well get to it, then!" I demanded.

"You don't get to tell me how to do my job!"

From the overstuffed couch nearby, Curtis McKean chuckled, "You two need to get a room."

I was aghast because, while my body would gladly explore a weekend's worth of sins with her body, my personality found hers intolerably irritating. She was aghast because she'd found out by accident exactly what my personality thought of hers.

"Curtis," I said. "Can I call you Curtis?"

"Sure!" he replied.

I took a careful, cleansing breath before I said something I might regret. See, I know that I can be a cranky person. Some of this could be attributed to the fact that my job consisted of enabling overpaid narcissism, often on an irregular schedule, and usually at the cost of my sleep and health. Some of this could be attributed to my biggest hobbies, which consisted of sex, drugs, and the acquisition of such. Some--if not most--of this, could be attributed to the fact that I was a New Yorker. Hell, I'm sure that a lot of the blame could go to growing up in a trailer park with a bipolar tomboy as my closest friend.

But today was special. Today marked the eighth time in the two weeks since I met my new neighbor that she called me dude. That's not what was breaking me. No, what really pissed me off was how much that was getting under my skin.

Curtis McKean didn't deserve me taking this out on him, but that wasn't going to stop me from doing so.

"Curtis," I told him, "if you ever insinuate any kind of romantic chemistry between me and my photographer again ..."

"The newspaper's photographer," she clarified.

"...this photographer again, I will drop-kick your skull across the Triboro Bridge."

"What he said," Gretchen agreed.

Curtis McKean's perfectly sculpted nostrils flared with a furious veracity that he could never quite bring with him to the big screen. "You can't talk to me like that!"

The fact that I did was all I needed for me to return to character. I laughed, "Just kidding, Curtis! Can I call you Curtis?"

Curtis McKean's membership in Mensa was one of those little publicity factoids bandied about as a means of distinguishing him from the rest of the stars dotting screens big and small, but even all that intelligence couldn't help him comprehend what had just happened. He turned to Gretchen for slack-jawed clarification, but she just giggled, rolled her eyes, and shrugged.

"Before I ask you what it's like to work with director Stanley Marshall," I began, "how about letting me in on some of that behind-the-scenes chemistry between you and costar Alyson Perez?"

Hours later, I shuffled up the stairs to my apartment, dreading the inevitable run-in with my neighbor, who always seemed to be waiting to ambush me with that most cruel of cudgels: the word dude. Yet somehow--and I don't know how--I made it home unscathed.

As I deadbolted and chained the door, my fellow apartment-dwellers waved from the loveseat in front of the television.

Fellow dweller number one, Cameron, said, "Roomie."

"Roomie," I said back.

"Just getting in?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Cool."

"Yes, it is."

Fellow dweller number two, Mitchell, chimed in, "Shorty."

"Chico," I chimed back.

"How was work?"

"Crap," I replied. "Yours?"

"Crap."

"Glad we had this talk," I told them.

"Same again tomorrow?"

"Probably," I muttered before stumbling into my bedroom, kicking off my boots, and tossing myself onto my mattress just in time for my cell phone to buzz. I didn't have to look to know that it was my editor, Myron, who was the only person who ever called me.

"Chief," I said.

"I hate it when you call me that," he replied.

"Probably as much as I hate it when you call me on my phone."

"I don't really care what you hate," he said. "Reese Kensington just got arrested again for drunken disorderly."

"I'm not surprised," I replied. "Guy can't hold his liquor."

"I need you to meet Gretchen downtown and get a statement as soon as he makes bail."

I whined, "I just got home!"

"Well," he said, "since you live all the way up in Inwood, it's going to take you forever to get there, so I suggest you leave now."

I cried out, "Fuck!" so that the fu part lasted all the way through my ending the call, getting to my feet, slipping on my boots, splashing my face with cold water, and storming through the living room. The ck only occurred when I stepped out of the door, only to see my neighbor in the process of stepping into hers.

"Dude," she said before disappearing into her apartment.

Great. Now I was going to have to lash out at Reese Kensington, which sucked because I actually liked him...



to be continued...

Winding Up

Jun. 14th, 2011 08:49 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


If you stopped me right now and asked if I had the time, one of three things might happen: I might ask, "The time to do what?"; I might treat you to a verbose, rambling meditation on the concept of time, how it relates to motion, and how a time machine would actually deposit you in the empty vacuum of space, due to the unending revolution of the Earth around the sun, and the rotation of the outer spiral arm of the Milky Way, and to the ongoing expansion of the universe; but most likely, I would give you a blank, bloodshot stare as your question ground to a halt the delicate, hard-fought momentum of my thoughts.

I needed every thread of concentration I could muster for my journey to the battered comfort of my mattress, because I couldn't tell you where it was. The only thing I could say for certain was that it wasn't in Park Slope anymore, because my landlady sold the place out from under me and my roommate was a cock.

I was pretty sure I had a new floor onto which my mattress now rested, and I was pretty sure I had new roommates, and I was also pretty sure I had to fib a little to get them to accept me. What was it I told them? Oh, yeah: that I was gay.

So maybe I had to fib a lot.

But why would I do that? I couldn't have been that desperate ... unless, of course, the apartment was in Manhattan. Even the filthiest of heterosexual harlots would tell that lie to get an apartment in Manhattan, and I was pretty damned filthy. However, there wasn't much of a point to having a place in Manhattan if one couldn't retire there for illicit trysts--unless it was somewhere really inconvenient, like Inwood.

That's it! I lived in Inwood as a gay man!

Okay, that was beyond fucking ridiculous ... but it had enough of a ring of truth that I was just going to go with it. And now that I knew where I was headed, I needed to figure out how to get there. That part was easy. I just had to take the A-train north to 207th Street and walk. The trick was figuring out which subway train I was on right now, where it was headed, and how to make the necessary transfer.

"The next stop is," the far-too-pleasant computerized female voice announced, "Inwood-207th Street!"

"Stand clear of the closing doors!" added the equally pleasant computerized male voice.

"A-train, next stop is the final stop, final stop," continued the less-than-pleasant conductor over the intercom. "No passengers, no passengers, remember all of your personal belongings, last stop, A-train, last stop."

Well, shit. This was going to be easier than I thought.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. My editor had assigned me a phone-in fluff piece about whatever summer movie was scheduled to bust the blocks this coming weekend--but then word got back to us about a super-secret, super-spontaneous, super-small-venue being put on by super-big-rock-stars at a bar in Long Island City. This kind of thing happened whenever a stadium-stuffing band like Duckpants felt the need to return to its alleged roots to reassert its alleged street cred. This kind of gesture is useless, however, if the public doesn't know about it, and so details are "leaked" to the press.

Being a successfully filthy harlot, I didn't have a whole lot of time for anyone playing hard to get, but unfortunately my editor did. And since Duckpants would be acting coy about their "unexpected" publicity, I needed to turn on the charm. I called a guy I knew in Bay Ridge who knew a guy in White Plains who knew a guy in Binghamton who knew a guy in Ontario, and before long, I was trading a notebook full of candid quotes for two ounces of the finest, not-at-all-legal agricultural engineering in the Northeastern Corridor.

And that's why, hours later, I found myself shuffling out of a desolate subway station, more stoned than I would be had I been living in Roman-occupied Palestine, seeing as I was a filthy harlot and all.

"God," I whispered, "let's make a deal. If you get me from here to my mattress, I will stop being such a harlot." I considered this for a moment. "Yeah, that's not going to work. How about, you get me home unscathed, and I will stop drinking and smoking the funny weed or the wacky tobaccy or the whacko tobacco or whatever it is you call it ..." What would God call it? "You know what I mean. Consider it. Amen. Sign of the cross and all."

I lurched forward, one foot after another, pretending not to notice the small pack of teenage hooligans popping up around me like prairie dogs wearing denim. Any interaction with these whippersnappers, whether it be confrontational or conversational, would extinguish the tiny, smoldering embers of brainpower that had survived the trip here. I had to get away, right the hell now.

"Hey, Ed!" one of the teens called out.

This was good, because I was not Ed, and so I didn't have to acknowledge them.

"Ed!" a teen called out. It could have been the same teen, but I didn't care, because I was not Ed.

"Come on, Ed! Talk to us!"

Yeah, Ed, come on.

"Ed!"

Come on, Ed! I looked up to see if I could help these teens find Ed.

"We're right over here, Ed!"

My eyes scanned the otherwise empty street.

"Behind you, Ed!" yelled a voice from behind me.

I pushed forward.

"Don't be that way, Ed!"

Was I Ed? I thought I was Max. Did I become Ed when I wasn't paying attention? How is that even possible?

"Turn around, Ed!"

If I was going to make it over this last hurdle, I needed to hold onto one important fact: I was not Ed

"Ed!"

Maybe I was Ed.

"Whatever, Ed! Fuck you!"

And for the next half-block, silence blessed me. Even if I was Ed, I still made it to the front door of my apartment building, and that was something. To follow this up, I amazed myself further with my ability to climb four stories of stairs and operate not just one, but two locks, and, since I was batting a thousand on this quest home, I thought I'd take my chances in the kitchen.

That was my first real mistake of the night.

I'd been squinting to keep my eyes open since I first left Queens, so it took me a long moment to understand exactly what it was I was seeing. On the kitchen counter sat a rectangular block of wood. Towering in the center of this block was a pair of flashlight batteries, from which copper wires coiled away, wrapping themselves around a pair of handles that rose from said block like horns; and holding onto these handles were the white knuckles of one of my roommates.

"Mitchell," I asked, making my second mistake, "what are you doing?"

"Electrocuting myself," he replied without taking even a moment to think about it.

My voice cracked. "Why?"

"To kill the parasites."

"I'm going to bed," I concluded and headed straight to my room, stopping when the front door knocked gently. I studied it, not fully comprehending. When I finally understood that it was not the door knocking, but someone on the other side of the door, I announced, "I'll get it!"

Strike three.

I peeked my head outside to find nothing. Maybe I was right the first time. Maybe the door did knock itself.

Proving me wrong, however, was the sound of a tussle to my left. I turned to investigate and witnessed someone struggling to balance several file folders and a purse in a desperate attempt to get inside her own apartment, which was right next to mine. What this meant, I didn't know--any and all conclusions were far beyond my reach at this time. I still had an eye for detail, though, and these details were fantastic: a short, black pencil skirt; well-maintained thighs in charcoal stockings; knee-high, leather boots; and bouncy, cinnamon curls. I couldn't tell you the color of her eyes or the shape of her lips, though, because she didn't raise her head when she told me, "You left your key in the lock."

"Well, shit," I replied when I realized she was correct. "I don't know where my head is today."

"Happens to the best of us, dude," she replied.

"My name's not dude," I said, and sobriety struck me like it was a sandstone boulder and I was an anthropomorphic coyote.

The sound of my heart beating its last was drowned out by the sound of a purse and several folders crashing onto the landing at her feet. "What the fuck you doing here?" Emma demanded.

"What are you doing here?"

"I asked you first!"

"I live here!"

"No, you don't!" she insisted.

"I have a key," I replied.

"No," she said, "that was there before you got here."

"Then how did I get inside in the first place?"

"It doesn't matter. You don't live there. Cameron and Mitchell live here."

"And now so do I."

"No, you don't!"

"What about you?" I asked. "I thought you lived in Williamsburg."

"I told you I was apartment-sitting."

"At the time," I admitted, "all of my concentration was on defiling you."

She groaned in defeat. "Now I remember. They told me they needed a new roommate."

"That's what I've been telling you," I said. "New roommate."

"Dude," she replied, "I read the flyer. 'F or GM only.'"

"First off," I reminded her, "My name isn't Dude. Second off, I'm totally a GM."

"I can testify under oath that you're not a GM."

"That was a fluke."

She shook her head. "Nobody flukes that good without a lot of practice."

"That's kind of you to say."

She squatted down to pick up everything she'd dropped. "Fuck this," she growled. "I don't care what you're doing here, dude, but leave me the fuck out of it."

"That's not going to be a problem, Em." This was going to be a problem, because, God help me, I wanted to bend her over the railing and fuck her until my legs fell off.

"My name's not Em, dude," she replied.

"Right back at you," I told her as I yanked my keys from the deadbolt and slammed the door between us.

"Sounds like you met our neighbor," Mitchell said from the kitchen.

"She's ..." I replied. "Something else."

"She's pretty sweet once you get to know her," he apologized.

"I'm sure she is." She tasted like vanilla, actually, but I wasn't supposed to know that.

"Good night, Max," he said.

I grunted. If this was God's idea of unscathed, then I was going to have to renegotiate the terms of our contract.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

Modern movies cost a great deal of money. If you'd like to see an invoice, look no farther than the big screen. Millions upon millions go into the sets, the on-location shoots, the costumes, the props, the explosions, and any number of bloated egos. There are also expenses you never hear about or see, like grips, makeup artists, animal handlers, lighting and sound technicians, tailors, caterers, and personal assistants. Of all of these, none are more invisible than the gofers.

The gofer system works like this: the bloated ego wants a coffee not offered on the catering cart, so he places an order with his or her personal assistant. The personal assistant to a major movie star probably has personal assistants of his or her own, who takes the order to the head gofer, who passes it on to a lackey. More likely than not, that lackey has neither the time nor the inclination to leave the set, so they turn the job over to another. Eventually the coffee arrives. It's not the most efficient method, but if you want efficiency, the second-to-last place you want to go is behind the scenes of a blockbuster in the making--the first, of course, being Congress.

Marc Weisman was the kind of director who preferred to speak directly to the one who would fetch his drink. This wasn't because he considered himself a regular guy; he just couldn't trust the telephone game of the gofer system to get his order right. Sure he could just write down what he wanted, but he shouldn't have to. He's Marc motherfucking Weisman.

To the gofer standing at attention before him, he held up a finger, which was bloated-ego-ese for, "Wait right there for me to conclude this business that is far more important than any business you might have." To his cell phone, he shrieked, "He wants to do what?"

Weisman paced back and forth along a three-by-eight-foot area of Manhattan asphalt and shrieked again. "The motherfucking film is entitled Intentions, and that's final!"

He barely let a moment pass before continuing, "I'm not some motherfucking music-video shit-for-brains, Benny! I'm motherfucking Academy-Award-winning filmmaker, motherfucking Marc Weisman! He's just some empty-headed fucking cattle who's about two movies away from retiring to motherfucking family-friendly entertainment!" He didn't allow the phone to say much before he continued, "I don't care if he's Jesus motherfucking Christ; I am not changing the name to The Darkside! Do you have any idea how many motherfucking movies are called The Darkside?"

After a beat, he told the phone, "I don't either. Look it up." Another beat passed. "You're a big-shot motherfucking producer, you can afford to pay somebody to look it up!" The phone talked for a little bit. Finally, Weisman concluded, "Call me back when you find out, you motherfucking asshole! I'm motherfucking curious!"

He stabbed the end button on his cell and held out his free hand, into which was shoved a triple hazelnut mocha with two shots of regular and one shot of decaf espresso, topped by fat-free whipped cream, sprinkled with a dash of nutmeg and three dashes of cinnamon, and blended with exactly six ounces of piñon-flavored coffee found only in one place in all of New York--a bodega in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

If he cared that he hadn't even placed his order yet, he didn't show it. He didn't shout, though, so that meant it had been properly prepared. He breathed deeply, stretched, took a long, hard look around the set, and produced a walkie-talkie from god only knows where. "I need to see the head of security," he calmly said to it, "right motherfucking now."

Instantly, a five-foot-six, butch woman in a tight ponytail and black T-shirt appeared at his side.

He spoke to her loudly and slowly, like she was a mentally handicapped child who didn't speak English. "You're head of security, am I correct?"

She nodded.

"What do I pay you for?" he asked the woman.

"Security?" she replied.

"That's right," he said. "And it's your job to keep paparazzi off of the set, am I right?"

She nodded.

"Good. I want you to keep that in mind, if you have the mental capacity to do so. Understand?"

"Yes, sir."

He frowned. "Where is your clipboard?"

"I don't carry a clipboard."

At this point, a vein in his head began to throb. "What do you carry?"

She held up a plastic tablet. "This here doohickey."

His eyes widened. "Did you just say doohickey?"

"I did, sir."

"Who the motherfucking fuck says doohicky?"

"Um," she replied, "me?"

"That was a rhetorical question, you rock-stupid fuck," he snarled. "Do you know what that word means?"

"It means you're giving a speech?"

He moaned. "Forget it. Let's look at your motherfucking doodad."

She switched her doohickey on.

He explained, "My assistant is supposed to give you a list of the most troublesome journalists who like to sneak on set. Did he?"

She said, "I know he's the mayor, but he's not allowed to have a camera backstage."

"What?"

She indicated her earpiece and carried on her conversation with it. "He can talk to me about it." With a sigh, she added. "Tell him I am having a conversation with Marc Weisman right now, and I'll be over ASAP." She turned back to the director. "Sorry about that, sir. Where were we?"

He pointed to the list of names in her hand. "See that one? The number-two most wanted? He's especially tenacious. Do you know what tenacious means?"

"It means determined."

"Very good. I owe you a motherfucking biscuit."

The head of security was about twice the size of the director, and the look on her face indicated that she was weighing whether or not it would be worth losing her job for the satisfaction of breaking his jaw.

He continued, "I know for a fact that this motherfucking leech of a reporter has been champing at the bit for an onsite interview with our star, Jack Lagattuta. I also know for a fact that Jack Lagattuta has never given an onsite interview, nor will I let that happen on my watch. Get me so far?"

"It does say all that here on the doohickey," she told him.

"Then I want you to look around this entire cordoned-off section of New York City and tell me if you spot Max Fuentes."

"That's bullshit!" I declared. "Are you telling me I'm only the number two most wanted?" I probably should have mentioned that I was the gofer who brought him the coffee, but I didn't want to spoil the big reveal. After all, this was the movies.

The head of security scrutinized me, and then she scrutinized her doohickey.

"Um," I said.

"What do you think you're doing here, Mr...." She double-checked the doohickey. "...Fuentes?"

"I have a reasonable explanation for everything," I replied.

"I can't motherfucking wait to hear it," Weisman said.

"It goes like this:" I began. It occurred to me at that moment that I actually didn't have a reasonable explanation for everything, so I ran.

I admit it, that was kind of dumb of me. After all the time I spent getting here--from getting one of the key grips drunk enough to reveal the identity of caffeinated beverage Marc Weisman drank; to calling every bodega to find out who sold piñon coffee, to stealing the exact model of headset worn by this particular film crew--I had to go blow it on ego. I guess Hollywood was rubbing off on me.

As a runner, I don't have a lot of endurance. This is probably due to the thousands of cigarettes and joints I've smoked since I was thirteen. Regardless, I needed to shake the growing swarm of black-clad thugs behind me. Having had the foresight to wear two T-shirts, I ducked around a corner and stripped off the top one. It wasn't much of a disguise, but it might buy me enough of a head-start to flee the neighborhood and concoct another set of ruthless shenanigans to get me into Jack Lagattuta's trailer.

The two-T-shirt trick wasn't particularly useful, in that the top one got tangled in the headset and its battery. With a muttered "fuck," I tossed the whole mess aside and proceeded straight to plan B: hunkering down in the dark, lonely, far-off tent that housed the writers and their interns. Nobody ever went there, so I just might be safe until could continue my escape.

However, just before I arrived, I slowed down to a cool strut, caught my breath, smoothed out my hair, smirked, and said to the really cute lighting technician, "Hi, I'm Max."

And that's when security tackled me.

Damn. Women wearing tool belts: my only weakness.



to be continued...

Whisper

Apr. 3rd, 2011 04:34 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


To be honest, I've had worse hangovers than this. Hell, compared to some of the benders I've plunged into in the name of journalism, this was amateur hour. I did drink a lot, though, and so my sandpaper eyes refused to open, the sparkplugs in my brain weren't firing properly, and my metaphors were mixing. Until any of these things sorted themselves out, I would never be able to work out whose hair and warm breath were tickling my bare chest.

I concentrated a little more and determined that it wasn't just my chest that was bare. In fact, based on tactile deduction, the only part of me that wasn't bare was my sock-covered left foot.

None of this made any sense. That's not true. It made sense that I'd wake up in bed with a stranger; that's just classic Fuentes. What didn't make sense was the irresponsibility of my current position. If I was too drunk to remember sleeping with someone, I was too drunk to sleep with someone; safe sex is, to me, pure instinct.

My alcohol consumption at the party last night barely registered on my Richter scale of substance abuse, though, so it took only a few minutes of shaky concentration to recall that she had been more than a little tipsy, and that I walked her home, and we made out on her couch, and we both had the presence of mind to call it off before it got too far.

Good for us.

It didn't explain why I was naked, though. And it certainly didn't explain who she was. Best-case scenario, she was September, the glorious siren who'd taken my breath away last night with her musical laugh and dazzling green dress. Worst-case scenario, she was my irritating photographer, Gretchen; this would make things really awkward, because she'd caught me speaking ill of her behind her back last night, and I was still pretty mortified.

I heaved and pulled, and one of my eyes finally pried open. Her hair was red. The good news was that Gretchen was blond. The bad news was that September was brunette. So who the hell was she? And why was she wearing my shirt?

She groaned unsteadily, "You awake?"

"Not so loud," I replied. Sure I was a pro at this, but that didn't make the headaches any easier.

She whispered, "You awake?"

"I want you to go over this conversation in your head for a second," I whispered back, "and then think about the answer to that question."

"I had no idea you were such an asshole, Mike."

"My name's not Mike."

She sat straight up. "Oh my god, I am so sorry, dude!"

"It's not Dude either."

"Mitch?"

"Do I look like a Mitch?"

She sighed. "Oh, Jesus, this is bad."

"It was that kind of night."

Her wobble indicated that she knew exactly what I was talking about, and she lowered herself back onto me. In the brief moment she'd been thrashing around, I caught a glimpse of my boxers on her hips. I really needed to get to the bottom of this.

"Matt?" she whimpered.

"Getting warmer," I replied. Her name was Emma.

"That's right," Emma moaned. "You have the same name as one of my friends."

"You have a friend named Dude?"

Evidently, she didn't find it necessary to remind me what an asshole she thought I was. "What exactly did we do last night?"

"Well ..."

"Never mind," she interrupted. "I remember everything now. Thanks."

"For what?"

"For an asshole, you have a lot of restraint."

"Men are more than just sex-crazed animals, you know."

"Just take the thanks."

"You're welcome."

She asked, "Could you do me a favor, Max?"

Wow, it only took her four tries. Yet my self-esteem couldn't think of a single reason to be nice to her at this point. "It's Mike, actually."

"Could you hold my hair back when I go throw up?"

"You realize," I informed her, "that as soon as do that, I will never be able to think of you sexually again."

"That's a sacrifice I'm going to have to make."

I wish I could say I was right about that sacrifice. Sure, there was nothing at all appealing about the seven to ten minutes I spent restraining her chaotic, cinnamon-colored curls from tangling up with a ribbon of liquor and mostly digested hors d'oeuvres; but the way she sank to the tile floor turned me on even more than her turtleneck-stocking-knee-high-boots combo from last night. I couldn't tell you why with any certainty, but I was willing to bet that it was because, in that moment, she was more naked than I was--and all I had to wear was this bedsheet.

That all dissolved when she belched. With a grimace, she told me, "I think there's a spare toothbrush around here somewhere."

"I brought my own."

She squinted at me. "Dude," she said, "don't you think that's a little presumptuous?"

"My name's not Dude," I replied. "Besides, you've got a pack of condoms in your purse."

"So?"

"Oral hygiene is very important to me," I added.

"You know what, dude?" she groaned. "I don't care about your cavities. I need some privacy."

"My name's not Dude."

"Get the fuck out."

I waited in the hallway through the sound of the toilet flushing, the whir of an electric toothbrush, and the toilet flushing again. The door cracked open just a little, and her fingers snaked out, waving my underwear like a flag of surrender. My shirt followed a moment afterward.

"Why are you wearing all of my clothes, anyway?" I asked her hand.

"I needed something to sleep in."

"You don't have anything in your own place?"

"It's not mine," she said. "Apartment-sitting." She added, "Boy clothes are more comfortable."

"I've never tried to sleep in a bra, so I'll have to take your word for it."

"Trust me, dude."

"My name's not--"

She slammed the door. While she showered, I located my boots, my tie, my leather pea coat, and my khakis, donning them in that order. Finally, alert, refreshed, and bound in terrycloth, she emerged from the cleansing steam of the bathroom. "All yours if you want it."

I frowned at her. "That's a boy robe."

"This is a boy apartment."

"And this didn't occur to you last night when you made me strip down to nothing?"

She looked me up and down before replying, "It did."

I didn't want to smirk, but I couldn't help myself. "How's the hangover?"

"Pretty much gone."

"Want to have sex?"

She laughed, stopping mid-ha. "You're serious."

I held up my index finger. "We didn't last night, even though we both wanted to." I held up my middle finger. "You have condoms." My ring finger went up. "I don't have to be to work until ..." I glanced at my cheap-looking watch. "... twenty minutes ago." I showed her my pinkie. "I don't actually like you, and I have no intention of calling you after I leave today, and I'm certain the feeling is mutual."

She mumbled, "Well, I wasn't going to say it out loud ..."

To wrap it all up, I extended my thumb. "And finally, I have a thing for redheads, and you have a thing for sleazy, arrogant bastards. You can't argue with my logic."

"You're right," she replied, "I can't. Get naked."

I began disassembling the tie I'd just reassembled.

"Brush your teeth first, dude," she added.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"One plastic cigarette lighter; one three-by-five-inch spiral-bound notebook, blue cover; one leather wallet, no cash ..."

"Hey!" I snapped. "There was cash when I got here!"

"That's not what the logbook says."

"Son of a bitch!"

"Continuing on:" said the police officer as he tallied the items piled on the desk in front of him; "one cell phone, turned on; one breath-mint tin full of business cards; one watch, cheap-looking ..."

"No editorializing, please."

" ... one eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch flyer, folded; three condom wrappers, empty--want me to throw those away?"

"I think I'll hold onto those for now," I replied with a grin. Mementos."

"You are a smug bastard, Fuentes."

"It's true."

"And finally: two disposable pens."

"Thanks, Roger," I said as I swept the items into my pockets.

While I signed the necessary forms, Roger read from his clipboard. "Says here you were brought in for possession."

"Accessory," I said. "Came in with the band." My definition of accessory was scoring some mescaline in exchange for an interview, but that was between me and my work-appointed attorney.

"Anybody I ever heard of?"

"Doubt it," I replied.

"Try me."

"The Jane Plains."

"Never heard of them," he admitted. "What's their genre?"

"Hip-hop-slash-tribal-Native-American fusion."

Roger winced. "That doesn't even make sense."

"I know," I told him, "but they actually sounded pretty good."

"Wonders never cease."

I shrugged and headed for the door. "Until next time, Roger."

"See you later, Max."

In the men's room of a nearby coffee bar, I checked the date on my phone while brushing my teeth. It was the twenty-fifth, so I still had about a week to find a new apartment That comforted me just a little, until I remembered it was February.

I rinsed, spit, and muttered, "I should probably do something about that."

Even though the night before had come and gone without any real substance abuse on my part, it still took a few minutes for my brain to rev up properly and remind me of the flyer in my pocket. I held my breath and called the number.

"Hello?" muttered the man's voice on the other side of the phone.

"Is this Cameron?" I asked.

"Cammy!" the voice yelled. "Phone!"

From somewhere in the distance, Cameron yelled back, "Jesus! Stop shouting so loud!"

"Can I ask what this is about?" whispered the first voice.

"I met Cameron at the Jane Plains show last night, and he said he was looking for someone to help out with the rent."

"We are!" the voice said. "Do you want to schedule an appointment to swing by and take a look at the place?"

Cameron yelled, "Jesus! Stop talking so loud!"

I read the flyer. "Your address in Inwood, which is a little over two hundred blocks from here." I read my cheap-looking watch. "Also, it's eight thirty, and I'm expected to be in the office by nine. I can come over right now if you like."

"I don't know. Cammy drank a little too much at the concert. It might not be the right time."

"On the contrary," I told him, "it's the perfect time. Hell, I just spent the night in a holding cell ..." Shit. I probably should have kept that to myself. I pushed on, though, just in case. "If we can get along in this condition, then maybe we're made for each other."

After a long pause, he said, "I like the way you think."

"Doesn't everybody?"

A little over two hundred blocks later, I knocked on a door on the fourth floor of a five-story walkup in the northernmost neighborhood in Manhattan. It was not Cameron who answered. Where Cameron's shape was tall and slightly rounded, this guy's was short and sharp. Where Cameron's skin was the shade of cappuccino, this guy's was more like hot cocoa. Where Cameron's forehead was expansive and crowned by a tight, salt-and-pepper fade, this guy's was hidden by a threadbare golf cap. And where Cameron wore cargo pants, this guy opted for snug cotton briefs.

I could have stood there in silence, averting my eyes for all eternity, but Cameron rescued me by yelling from somewhere within, "Jesus! Stop opening the door so loud!"

"I'm Mitchell," said the guy. "Come on in. I'll get some pants."

"Thank you for that." I froze immediately upon entering. When Mitchell returned, I asked with great awe, "What is this, nine hundred square feet?" After consulting the flyer, I asked with even more awe, "Two bedrooms? In Manhattan? At this price? Is this for real?"

"I know, right?"

In shock, I sank into a nearby easy chair, impossible flyer in hand.

Cameron yelled from the kitchen, "Jesus! Stop sitting so loud!"

"Long story short," Mitchell said, "Cammy got laid off in December, and there's not a lot of prospects out there."

I shrugged with genuine sympathy.

"It's a big place, and the other bedroom is empty anyway, so we figured could really use the help."

"What a coincidence," I replied. "I could really use the bedroom."

After we traded names and occupations, the important questions began. "What do you think about living with a couple?"

"I think domesticity is comforting." Truth be told, I was worried about relationship drama.

"Most people are worried about relationship drama." Imagine that. "You're not a party animal, are you?"

"Not at all." Not at home, anyway.

"Do you smoke?"

"Not for years." I was referring, of course, to cigarettes.

"Do you cook?"

Finally, something I could be completely honest about. "I love to, actually."

"I bet you make a mean enchilada."

"Excuse me?" I couldn't remember the last time someone had drawn attention to my ethnicity with that kind of recklessness, and I had no idea how I was supposed to react.

From the kitchen, Cameron yelled, "Jesus! Stop being tactless so loud!"

"What?" Mitchell was confused for second, and then he caught on. "Oh."

Had there been even the slightest bit of malice in his words, I would have walked away right then and there. We chose instead to ignore it.

He moved onto the next topic. "Have you ever seen a UFO?"

I laughed.

A wide-eyed Cameron appeared suddenly behind Mitchell, making quiet slashing motions across his throat--which is the universally recognized signal for "Stop what you're doing! Oh, for the love of God, stop!"

I recovered in the time it took me to blink. "I laugh because I was born and raised in New Mexico, and the UFOs practically live there."

"Wow," sighed Mitchell.

Cameron flashed me a grin and a thumbs-up before retreating back into the kitchen.

Mitchell cleared his throat. "And last, but not least, do you have a boyfriend?"

"I'm between relationships right now," my mouth said before the rest of me had a chance to comprehend what my ears had just heard. And it was a good thing too, because my eyes now discovered a detail on the flyer I'd missed before: "F or GM only."

And so the question before me wasn't whether or not I was willing to lie about my sexuality in order to win their approval; I had no problem with that. The question was, how long did I really think I could get away with it?

Oh, what the hell. Nothing ventured, et cetera et cetera. "I just haven't met the right guy yet."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


Behind the open bar of my media-mogul boss's epic birthday extravaganza, the man froze. I plucked two glasses of scotch from his hands and gulped down one of them. The other I would savor, because it was not likely this bartender was going anywhere--not while the plump lips and dexterous tongue of my vain, vacuous, and voluptuous coworker inadvertently simulated fellatio on one very, very lucky buffalo wing. After an eternity, Gretchen let out a tiny groan and pulled a naked bone from her mouth.

If you're curious, that exact turn of phrase did not pop into my brain at random.

Suddenly, her head jerked around, as if it had been smacked by a thought that had been hurled across the room by a slingshot. "Oh! Did Myron tell you?"

Myron was my editor, and I hated it when he told me anything. "Possibly," I replied, "but I tend to tune him out."

She punched me in the shoulder before stuffing a wad of bubblegum into her mouth. "Max Fuentes," she said between chomps, "you crack me up!" And she laughed.

That laugh.

"I'm your new photographer!"

What? "That's," I said. "That's," I said again. "That's eventful."

"I know, right?"

The tiny devil sitting on my left shoulder whispered into my ear, Who do we kill first: Myron, Gretchen, or us?

On my right shoulder, the angel whispered, Man, I wish I were that chicken wing. Or that barstool. Or that black, satin bra. Or...

"What do I pay you for?" I asked them.

"To take pictures," Gretchen replied.

"I need to take a walk," I told her.

"Do you want me to tag along, Max Fuentes?"

"No."

"Okay!"

I plunged into the crowd. The last thing my sex drive needed was more revving. That would be like dropping a three-stage Saturn V rocket into an already souped-up muscle car. I steered myself out of doors, where my inevitable explosion would kill the least number of people.

But then something yanked on my emergency brake, and the last thing I said before all the breath left my body was, "Oh my."

From her regal bearing, to her shimmering, green cocktail dress, to the way her almost black hair swept over her face, to the eyes that were such a deep blue they were almost violet, everything about this woman in front of me was sultry.

I blinked. "Hi," I said to her, "I'm Max."

"My name's September," she replied.

I'll take it from here, the devil on my shoulder told me.

Take it away, the angel told both of us.

I told her, "Between the alcohol and all the music, I could have sworn you just told me your name was September."

She took a coy sip of her martini and let out a chuckle.

"No nickname, then?" I asked. "Like Seppy? Or Tember?"

She shook her head.

"Um." There was no way I could tackle this entire conversation by myself. Desperately, I tried, "what's your connection to Mr. Lloyd?"

"My date did some graphic-design work on one of his Web sites."

My spirits fell. "So which one's your date?"

She pointed. "He's over there, dancing with his boyfriend."

My spirits rose.

"And what brings you here, Max?"

"I came here, specifically to this tiny little space where I'm standing," I said, "to inform you that there are about a thousand puns I could say about your name, and that I will not use any of them, and that restraint is a great sacrifice on my part, so you should take it as a gift, like I brought you flowers or something."

"Really."

With a well-oiled snap of my wrist, a business card was in my hand. "Give me a call if you ever feel like thanking me." Without another word, I resumed my trek to the front door, because my knees were only moments from failing.

Since I just didn't give a fuck, I lit up a fat joint the moment my feet hit pavement sucked the whole thing down during a brisk walk around the block. Mellow, I returned to the entrance, only to find my editor sharing a cigarette with my desk-mate and fact-checker, Bill Cunningham.

"Is this a great party or what?" Bill yelled at me. "It's a fucking blast!"

Oh, the devil on my shoulder moaned, not Bill.

Come now, said the angel, he's a confused young man in need of friendship and guidance.

He's an asshole, replied the devil.

Well, there's that.

Bill pointed to his companion. "Have you seen the tie on Myron's head?"

"I like to cut loose at these things," Myron admitted.

"Well," Bill said, "It's really fucking funny. Because it's on your head, instead of on your neck."

"Hilarious," I replied.

"You look like you've been taking bong hits," Bill said to me.

"Is this a great party or what?" I replied.

"This party sucks!" Bill declared. "I can't believe I'm forced to attend a vanity ball for the fucking rich media fuck who built a statue of himself in his hometown. How self-absorbed can one man be?"

At this point, what little color existed in Myron's face vanished as he observed something behind the still-ranting Bill. I followed his stare and sobered up at the sight of Mr. Lloyd, the rich media fuck in question, strolling toward us, right out of a bad comedy.

Mr. Lloyd measured six feet, five inches. Bill, on the other hand, stood only five feet, six inches; so when Bill realized we no longer watching him, he turned to face what we were watching and received an eyeful of Mr. Lloyd's chest.

Bill said, "Well here's the king amongst his peasants."

"I'm going inside," I told everyone.

After a few minutes, Bill came back in and headed for the bar, but I grabbed him before he made it.

"Look," I growled, breathing deeply to avoid saying something I might regret, "I know I'm not your boss, but you're a vital part of my team, and now, more than ever, I need you to stay sharp. Lord knows I'm going to have my hands full with that overprivileged, underqualified, unwelcome airhead, Gretchen. So do me a favor, Bill: next time you're going to go off on someone, look behind you to make sure they're not standing there." To illustrate that last phrase, I turned around, only to see Gretchen.

She didn't shout, cry, or storm off in fury. She just stated in a clear voice, "I begged Myron to let me your photographer because I thought you were cool and a good role model." And with that, she disappeared into the crowd. I wish she'd shouted, cried, or stormed off.

"The good news," I said with a shrug, "is I don't have to pretend to like her anymore."

I turned back to Bill, but he'd been replaced by a wide-eyed September. "You have no soul," she snapped before stomping away.

It's true, said the angel on my shoulder.

Yeah, said the devil, it kinda is.



to be continued...

Nimbus

Feb. 25th, 2011 02:57 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Man, what is that freaky thing?" the hip-hop superstar asked me.

I held up the freaky thing. "It's my notebook."

"It's the twenty-first century, y'all. Why you ain't got no tape recorder or some shit?"

"Notebooks are cool," I replied.

"Rev," he said, "you think notebooks are cool?"

The Rev, who sat next to him in the stretch SUV that sped across the Triborough Bridge, was less a man than he was a looming piece of landscape. Without a word, he tilted his head slightly. It could have been a nod or a shrug or any number of gestures.

The hip-hop superstar snatched the notebook from my hand. "Lemme see that."

"All yours." The main qualification for my job as a sleazy reporter for an even sleazier New York tabloid was a high narcissism tolerance, so it was going to take more than this display of dominance to faze me.

"Is this some kind of motherfuckin' code?

"It's shorthand."

He snorted. "It that your gangsta name?"

"It depends," I told him, "on whether or not I can use a dollar sign for the S."

He turned to the Rev. "Can you believe this guy?"

The Rev tilted his head.

The hip-hop superstar said, "Max Fuentes, you all right." He tossed back the notebook, but because his aim was kind of pathetic, it ended up beneath my seat.

This is not how I'd planned on spending my day when I arrived in the office this morning.

* * *

When I'd arrived in the office this morning, I'd planned on spending my day praying for the sweet release of death. I hadn't actually made it home since last night, out on assignment, trading tequila shots with a former child star looking to tarnish her image and make a comeback. What I got out of it was a scandalous interview, a clumsy visit to second base, and a five-alarm hangover.

None of that mattered to my editor, however, because it was clear from the tone of his voice as I passed by his office that he wasn't going to be thanking me. "Max, get your ass in here!"

I stood in front of his desk and grunted.

With both hands, he removed his reading glasses and studied me with what could have been concern. "What? No snide remark?"

"I prefer to think of my remarks as cheeky."

Satisfied that all was normal, he returned his glasses to their rightful place on his nose and began barking at me. For some reason, my damaged brain took that moment to worry about his future. When this newspaper folded under the weight of the Internet, where would he go? His skills were universal, there was no doubt about that, but his persona was as obsolete as shorthand in a notebook. Would any blog have any place for a gruff-but-loveable editor who wore suspenders and shouted a lot? My rumination ground to a halt as soon as his monologue did. "Any questions?"

"Yeah," I replied. "Which one do you want me to interview?"

"I don't have time for your shit today, Max."

"This isn't shit," I told him. "I know it sounds like shit, but I assure you there is no shit here."

"Really."

"Not at this particular moment, anyway."

He sighed. "Explain to me this absence of shit you're talking about then."

"There is a pretentious indie band with that name. And a rap sensation. And a three-man off-Broadway performance-art troupe, though I can safely assume we're not talking about them." I took a second to wonder if I missed one. "Oh, yeah; it's also the stage-surname of an up-and-coming porn star. How come I never get to interview porn stars?"

"Jesus," Myron muttered and picked up his phone. Several pushed buttons and one moment later, he said to it, "That piece you wanted my guy to write? Who's it on?" He waited for a response. "I heard that part. There's like three of them and some mimes." He grabbed a pen and a piece of scratch paper. "Spell it for me." He carefully repeated what he heard, "N, Y, M, hyphen, B, dollar sign, dollar sign." Without another word, he hung up and read what was in his hand. "This is like a goddamned license plate."

"Rap sensation, then?"

* * *

Fishing my notebook from under the patent-leather seat of the speeding SUV, I said, "You never answered my question."

"Hey!" he snapped. "I answered five of y'all's questions!"

"You answered seven of my questions," I replied, "but not the one I keep asking."

"You wanna know why I call myself Nym-B$$?"

"That would be the question in question."

He looked at the Rev, who tilted his head. "Wheels!" the hip-hop superstar yelled to the driver. "Let's show this dude why I call myself Nym-B$$!" He asked me, "You know what a nimbus is, $horthand?"

"It's a cloud," I replied.

He frowned. "Is that right, Rev?"

The Rev tilted his head.

"Well, that ain't why I picked it. And I'm gonna show you why." He yelled, "Wheels! Are we ready to show him why?"

"Twenty," Wheels replied, "maybe twenty-five minutes."

"I'm gonna show you why in twenty, twenty-five minutes."

After ten minutes of uncomfortable silence, Nym-B$$ asked, "Catch the game the other night?"

"Brutal," I said.

The Rev tilted his head.

Thirty more uncomfortable minutes followed, until the SUV squealed to a halt. Blinking in the painful afternoon light, I poured myself onto the sidewalk and followed Wheels, the Rev, and Nym-B$$ into a battered, but solid, Methodist church.

The hip-hop superstar gestured toward the Rev. "This is Reverend Alvin Jefferson." He gestured to a statue of Jesus Christ. "This is my lord and motherfuckin' savior." He then very specifically pointed to the halo around Jesus's head. "And that is a motherfuckin' nimbus." He wrapped it all up by returning his attention to me. "You got all that?"

"Yeah," I replied, "I got all that."



to be continued...

Cracks

Feb. 16th, 2011 06:09 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


In the first fifty-six years of his life, Mr. Lloyd assembled a media empire with the tenacity and humility of Xerxes. And so, at the dawning of his fifty-seventh year of potential conquests, he threw himself the kind of party the gods would envy from the heavens. Among the guests were various A- and B-list celebrities and every New Yorker on his payroll. Most of the latter showed up to hobnob with the former. I showed to hobnob with the open bar.

Etiquette demands that attendance at these kinds of gatherings be a desperate race to show up last, yet my tardiness, while impressive, could not compete with that of the upper crust. That left me alone with an open bar, an inattentive bartender, thumping speakers, and nothing to do. I spent the first half hour attempting to drink the place dry and praying for a familiar face.

And that's when, through the dense musical fog, I heard a tapping. I knew that tapping. It was the sound of fingernails--slightly too long to be practical; slightly too short to be inconvenient--rapping on the bar. I froze.

Next time I prayed, I'd make sure to be more specific.

The scent of chewing gum stung my nostrils as I listened to molars squishing it, over and over. This stopped long enough for air to stretch the inside of the bubble being blown. It popped, the noise stinging long enough for me to be mesmerized by the sound of it slurping back into the mouth from whence it came. This was followed by twenty-eight knuckles cracking, one by one. Until finally ... that laugh.

That laugh.

I pondered the idea of making a break for it, but there was an open bar behind me, and I'd be damned if I let that gum-chomping, knuckle-cracking, braying banshee deter me from that. I inhaled, exhaled, and steered my attention to the fingernails and the gum and the knuckles and that laugh.

That laugh.

All of the life drained from my voice as I said their name: "Gretchen."

With earnest, exuberant eagerness, she squealed, "Hey, Max Fuentes!" It wasn't a flirty eagerness, either. I knew when I was being flirted with, and this wasn't one of those times. She seemed genuinely happy to see me.

That was half the problem. From what I could discern, she had not a single malicious bone in her body; she was just really annoying. She was far from the most annoying person, I knew, either. The reason I couldn't stand being around her was the tension between my head, which had little patience for her type of simplemindedness, and the rest of me, which wanted to copulate with her, like, a lot. She couldn't help the way she looked, with her face that was roughly 50 percent teeth, framed by grinning, cranberry lips and garnished with a delicate nose and bright, emerald eyes. Her hair came straight out of a shampoo commercial, and her body straight out of a men's magazine.

She was gorgeous, and she knew it. That much was apparent by the way she perched her glorious body on the barstool next to mine, squinted into the mirror behind the counter, and tossed her hair. "What are you drinking tonight?"

"Nothing." I kept myself from looking at her, and that took work; it wasn't often one got to see a sight like that.

"Why not?"

"I can't get any service here."

"I can help!" She leaned over the counter, and waved.

The bartender appeared out of nowhere. "What can I get you?"

"What'll you have, Max Fuentes?" she asked.

"Scotch and soda," I replied, "hold the soda."

"Funny," the bartender replied in a voice that indicated that it really wasn't. He returned his attention to Gretchen's blouse.

"That sounds yummy!" she said. "I'll have the same thing, only with the soda! Do you have buffalo wings?"

"Coming right up." He brought the drinks right back, and I didn't leave a tip.

I put the scotch to my lips and accidentally noticed that her bra was black satin. I swallowed the remainder my drink and tried to change the subject. "Is that you I smell?"

"Is it awful?"

Actually, I kind of liked it.

"I put something in my hair," she continued, "something that's not supposed to go in hair!"

"Mayonnaise?"

"What?"

"Motor oil?"

She laughed and punched my shoulder. "Lotion!"

"Really?" I asked, hoping she was being sarcastic. Then I remembered: Gretchen is vapid. "Lotion?"

"Yeah!" She leaned closer and suffocated me with her hair. "Smell!"

I needed to be more careful how I prayed.

The bartender returned with the chicken, and he asked her, and only her, "What else can I get for you?"

She replied, "I think Max Fuentes needs another drink!"

He groaned and walked away with my empty glass. I reluctantly returned my attention to Gretchen, only to discover her lips and tongue wrapped around a wing, cleaning off the buffalo sauce that coated it. After returning the bone to the plate, she dabbed her chin with a napkin, sucked on her fingers, and asked me, "Want any of this?"

I saw that the bartender, carrying my scotch, was equally hypnotized.

"I need two more of those, pronto," I told him, dropping a wad of cash into his tip jar. "And get one for yourself."

"Right away, sir."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Stand clear of the closing doors, please!"

The night I just had at work, everyone in New York needed to leave me the fuck alone. This wasn't helped by the crowds shoving their way through me, trying to dislodge me from the pole I clung to. Nor was it helped by the taunting, passive-aggressive cheer of the MTA.

"The next stop is ... Fifty-ninth Street; Columbus Circle!"

I seethed for quite a while, but when the buzz of my cell phone cracked open my shell of grouchiness, my eyes shot open.

"You get reception down here?" a random passenger gasped.

I replied, "I get reception down here?" To the phone, I said, "Yeah?"

Sean's voice asked, "Do you have any intention of gracing the International Bar with your presence this evening?"

The International Bar perched between a pair of single-digit street numbers on First Avenue, so the amount of trouble it would take to get there outweighed even the certainty that Sean, who was rich, would buy all of the rounds that night. I told him, "No."

"I recommend it."

"I'm northbound, approaching Seventy-second Street," I told him, "and nothing is getting between me and my mattress."

"I urge you to reverse course."

"I urge you to hang up."

"There is a man in a gorilla suit situated near me."

I considered this and replied, "No, there isn't."

"I assure you there is."

"Your assurances mean nothing."

"I swear to you on my mother's grave," he told me, "that I am gazing upon a man in a gorilla suit."

"I'll be right there."

I hopped off at the next stop, took a series of trains downtown, strolled the multitude of blocks from the station to the bar, sat beside Sean, ordered a beer, and took a sip. "You know," I said, "when you told me there was a guy wearing a gorilla suit sitting in the International Bar, you meant there was a guy wearing a gorilla suit sitting in the International Bar."

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, "Silly gorilla-suit guy."

Sean replied, "I find it a little disconcerting that you believe for even one moment that I would dishonor my mother's spirit in such a way."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm Japanese, for god's sake!" The volume of his voice had crept up to uncomfortable levels.

"I said I was sorry!"

His tirade ground to a sudden, skidding halt, as if someone had engaged his emergency brake. "Upon reflection," he muttered, "the presence of a man wearing a gorilla suit is a tad farfetched."

I took the mood-shift in stride and squinted over to the corner, where the costumed man sat with a pint glass full of stout. "Is he drinking beer out of a straw?" I asked.

"Alcohol hasn't passed my lips in years," he replied, "and even I understand that idea is ill conceived."

"Even more ill conceived than wearing a gorilla suit to a bar?" I clarified.

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, "Silly gorilla-suit guy."

I shrugged. "It is the Village."

Sean shrugged right back. After a moment, he cleared his throat. "Simian-attired individual aside," he said cautiously, "I had coincidentally planned on inviting you here this evening to discuss a proposition."

My attention still in the corner, I said, "Shoot."

"I am curious as to your opinion on the Knights."

"I like the nights," I replied. "Way more than the days. It's tough to justify drinking when the sun's up."

He huffed. "I am, of course, referring to the New York Knights."

"I don't put a lot of thought into baseball," I told him. "Why do you ask?"

"My mother and I share season tickets."

I frowned. "Didn't you tell me your mother was dead?"

He froze. "No," he stated after the long moments it took him to think of a response.

"Yes, you did! Just now! You swore on your mother's grave that there was a guy in a gorilla suit in this bar!"

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, "Silly gorilla-suit guy."

"Merely a hypothetical," Sean insisted. "I'd been imploring you to put your faith in the facts I'd been communicating to you, utilizing as collateral the reverence I feel for the burial plot that my mother will occupy at some point--preferably a distant point--in the future."

"There's no trust in this relationship," I replied.

"There is a man in a gorilla suit," he reminded me.

I nodded reluctantly and took a swig of beer.

"Resuming our discussion of the New York Knights," he continued, "there's a home game Friday, and it's a bit of an event on account of the competition being against Pittsburgh."

"Why's that a big deal?"

"Because, after the Yankees and the Red Sox, this is widely considered to be the most contentious baseball rivalry in the country."

"New York has a lot of rivalries," I observed.

"New Yorkers are, by in large, assholes."

He had a point.

"Also," he added, "my father lives in Philadelphia."

"So you're making the entire state of Pennsylvania pay for his sins?"

"Mother is."

The animosity there eluded me, but that was because my parents were still together, and as far as I knew, still very much in love.

He continued, "Mother has to be out of town for a deposition, the details of which bore me. The end result is that I am in possession of two tickets, and I have no intention of going alone."

"You're inviting me?"

"I am."

I frowned. "Don't you have friends who care more about baseball than I do?"

"Absolutely," he replied, "but I'd rather spend a Friday evening in the ballpark in your company."

I blinked. That had to be the kindest thing anybody's said to me in months. I wanted to bask in the moment as long as I could.

It didn't turn out to be very long at all, because he immediately began to stammer, "Oh, god, that was inappropriate, wasn't it? I apologize; I my intention wasn't to come across as creepy, but ..."

I grabbed hold of his bicep and squeezed until he shut up. "It would mean a lot to me to go watch the game with you."

"And that didn't strike you at all as creepy?"

"No," I replied, "it makes me feel good to know that there's someone who actually enjoys my company in a non-professional ..."

"Max," he interrupted, "as you are doubtlessly aware, my attitude toward gender identity leans toward laissez faire, but the innate homophobia installed in me by Western culture finds this particular portion of this exchange threatening to my heterosexuality."

"Understood."

"Perhaps this awkward moment will pass if we focus our attention on the man in the corner wearing the gorilla suit."

Dan the bartender shook his head and chuckled, "Silly gorilla-suit guy."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Bring me her phone number," demanded Lisa, my oldest and closest friend in the world. She subtly pointed to the other side of the crowded bar where a skinny woman with too-straight hair, too-long fingernails, too-high heels, and too-much makeup sipped from her unnaturally pastel alcoholic beverage.

"You want me to do what?" I squeaked.

"You heard me, Fuentes." She used my surname to indicate to me that she was serious.

"I don't really go for the Long Island type, Green." I used her surname to indicate that I too was serious.

"I'm not asking for her hand in marriage," she replied, "just her number."

"Why?"

"Because it's something you've never had a problem with before."

"People change," I told her.

The look she gave me was one part mourning and one part pitying. "What happened to you?"

"Feel in love," I replied. "It took the edge off."

"It'll do that."

We shrugged at each other and took a sip of our beers at the same time.

After a moment, she grabbed me by the shoulders, looked deep into my eyes, and said, "Trust me."

Taking a deep breath, I stepped away from her protective aura and flexed my fingers in a quixotic attempt to restore circulation to them. I moseyed over to the plastic doll and forced my lungs to spit out the single most successful come-on line I've ever used: "Hi, I'm Max."

"Lara," she replied.

"Are you from the ..." I stopped when I realized that we'd both lost interest about three words ago.

Head hung low, I returned to Lisa's side. "I give you ten for effort," she said, "but dock you seven for desperation."

"I am desperate!" I sighed. "Can we just go?"

She gently slapped my cheek and pushed my forehead with her index finger. "I don't think you're listening, asshole. We're not leaving here without a phone number."

I groaned.

She nodded toward a pair of women a guy like me could fantasize about but never date. "Round two," she said.

"I can't even get one number."

"I'm only asking for one," she replied. "And the sooner you bring me one, the sooner we can get out of here and go find a real bar."

"Look," I began.

"You look!" she shouted, startling the both of us. She took several deep breaths before reaching up, grabbing my chin, and forcing me to look her in the eye. "Do you remember your cousin's graduation party?"

It took me a moment to change gears to keep up with her, but I did.

"You brought the keg, and you were fifteen."

I shrugged.

"Or the time you and me stole my father's truck to go tailgating, and he never noticed."

"What does that have to do with ..."

"Fuentes," she said, "you don't do things that are impossible; you do things because they're impossible."

We locked stares for a long time until I broke away with a grin. "That's a pretty moving speech."

She blushed. "Been practicing." She tapped her finger on the bar in the space between two shots of whiskey. "They'll be waiting for us when you get back," she said before she spun me around, patted my ass, and shoved me away from the counter.

I counted to ten, regained my composure, corrected my stumble, and broke out into an easy stroll. Ahead of me stood the women in question, hugging the wall and looking as bored as thirteen-year-old nerds at a spring formal.

Without warning, I appeared between the two of them, leaning against the wall so casually you'd be forgiven for assuming I'd been there all night. "Hi," I said to them, "I'm Max."

They giggled, more out of surprise than anything.

The woman on my right held out her hand with a smile. "Jaz," she told me.

"My pleasure," I replied.

Her friend informed me, "Legs."

"Your name is Legs?"

She shrugged.

"Really?"

She took a coy sip from her daiquiri.

"So your parents could tell the future."

She peered at the space between the hem of her skirt and the floor before grinning and playfully punching my shoulder. I was doing pretty well so far, but if I didn't wrap this up soon, I was going to lose control and stagger into boorishness. "I like both of those words," I told them, and with a well-oiled, smarmy flick of my wrist, I held up a business card.

"What’s that for?" Legs asked skeptically.

I pointed at Lisa. "See that woman over there?"

"Yeah?"

"She's like a sister to me," I said, "and she's never been to New York before." I made intense eye contact with both Jaz and Legs to make sure they were with me before continuing, "I'm thinking of stuff to show her, and I want you to call me if you had any ideas." Backing away from them, I grinned. "Thanks!"

I turned around, let out a slow sigh of relief, and made it back to Lisa's side before I fell over.

"Nice move with the wrist there." She reminded me, "But aren't you forgetting something?"

"Wait for it," I replied before downing the whiskey.

After a moment, a delicate hand placed a different business card on the counter, and a throaty voice whispered in my left ear, "I don't know about your friend, but I have a pretty good idea what to show you."

Another card fluttered over to the bar, and another voice whispered into my right ear, "I don't want you to get lonely when she goes home."

The expression on Lisa's face was halfway between stunned and smug.

I picked up the cards and studied them. "Allegra," I said. "That explains that. And Jasmine. Of course."

Lisa grabbed my cheeks and pulled me toward her to give me a grateful, platonic kiss on the lips. After giving me a moment, she took her shot and announced, "Come on, Fuentes, let's get out of here."

As we left and walked down the street, her grin was matched only by my own, I bumped her shoulder, she brushed my palm with her pinkie, and our hands drifted together.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


For reasons unclear to me, work saw fit to let out early for President's Day weekend. Days had passed--I wasn't clear on how many at this point--since fate had delivered the one-two punch of an eviction, effective March 1, and being single, effective immediately.

Fate's kind of a douchebag.

This gave me an extra afternoon to pull my shit together, and Lord knows I needed it. At this point, the only comprehensive solution for my problems I could envision was death. Since an alternative inspiration wasn't coming to me, it was my duty to go out looking for it. I always tended to do my quickest thinking on slow walks, so I got off the train a few stops from home--far enough away to get an idea, but close enough that the sun would still be shining when I got there.

As soon as I ascended the steps to the street, a fragrant homeless man asked me, "Spare a few bucks?"

"I really can't," I replied.

"I really need the help."

"I can't afford anything right now." I stormed away, fleeing the reality that, as bad as I had it, it could be much, much worse. Still, if I didn't pull something out of my ass soon, I might be standing at a subway station myself, imploring the kindness of others.

Deep in thought, I barely registered my shoulder clipping someone else's. In fact, I never would have noticed it had the owner of the shoulder not shoved me from behind.

"Watch where the fuck you're going, you fuck!" the shoulder yelled when I turned to face him.

Looking past him, I saw the homeless man's pleading eyes. "Sorry," I mumbled.

"You better be, you fuck!"

I shook my head and returned to my walk, stopping myself only a half-second before I crossed paths with a delivery truck. I froze in wide-eyed shock as it passed, lashing me with its wake.

The ice was broken by a hand touching my arm and speaking with a humble voice. "Are you sure you don't have a little cash?"

"I'm sorry," I told the man, "but I just don't have anything."

He shuffled away, leaving me wallowing in the thick odor of guilt. On the other hand, that smell could have been the homeless guy. Regardless, I pulled myself together and resumed my walk home, paying closer attention to my surroundings. No light bulbs had clicked on over my head, but at this point, the best I could hope for was a candle. Now that distractions weren't buffeting me, all I needed was time. This calm didn't last, though, as a hand once again touched my shoulder.

I whipped around in fury. "I said I wasn't going to give you any money!"

Instead of the homeless guy, I was yelling at the barrel of a gun. The fact that one man wielded it meant that it was probably a pistol, but from this angle, it was an artillery cannon.

"I stand corrected," I said.

"Wallet!"

I handed him my wallet.

"Watch!"

I handed him my watch.

"What else you got?"

"Nothing," I replied. "I've got nothing."

He tore through my wallet, pulling out all the paper and plastic, hoping to find something useful. He kept the cash and tossed the rest away. "This all you got?"

I nodded.

He considered this, and then he shoved the muzzle against my temple. "On your knees!"

"Please don't kill me."

"On your fucking knees!"

I did as I was told.

"Close your eyes and count to a hundred!"

"I don't want to die."

"Do it!"

I wish I had used the time to appreciate the sheer poetry of this; or the sheer irony of wishing I was dead less just a few minutes ago. I wish that I had taken the time to appreciate my fortune, both bad and good. I even wish my life would have passed before my eyes. In actuality, each number that left my lungs was a plea for mercy.

It took forty-two seconds until I thought it was safe to stop counting. The fear and speculation as to my fate was only now starting to quiet down, and I could finally hear the dull rumble of the present.

The tears on my face were nearly dry, but the February air chilled them anyway. Drainage from last month's snow seeped through my khakis as I knelt here on the street between two parked cars. In front of me lay my wallet, stripped of cash and emptied onto the sidewalk.

And the sun still shone.

I steadied myself on the bumper nearest to me, setting off its alarm. The sound startled me at first, but I quickly got used to it as I gathered up my credit, business, state ID, and store-discount cards, along with assorted receipts and phone numbers. Then there were the photos of my mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, nephew, my junior-year prom date, and my girlfriend--sorry, ex-girlfriend.

It was only after I shoved all of this into my jacket pocket that I remembered I had a cell phone. I opened my contact list and realized that I had no idea who to call. My parents would lose their shit, and my sister would remind me that she'd long ago predicted this. And the last thing I needed to tell my ex was how close I'd just come to dying. I stumbled home, and it wasn't until I was mostly there that it occurred to me that maybe I should call the police.

The dispatcher told me an officer was on his way to take my statement, and so I shuffled into my desolate, barren living room, remembering that there was no couch to sit on because it had belonged to my former roommate. With a grunt, I headed for the kitchen. At least the liquor belonged to me.

After the policeman arrived ten minutes later and jotted down my account of the events of the afternoon, he asked, "Height?"

"Six feet, maybe."

"Weight?"

"Two hundred. Two twenty?"

"Race?"

"African American."

"If we had to call you in for a lineup at some point in the future, do you think you could point him out?"

"I don't think so, because ..." I started to say.

"Yeah," he said, "I know what you mean. They all look alike."

"Because he was wearing a ski mask."

Unperturbed, the officer handed me a clipboard to sign, and then a slip of paper when I returned it. "A detective will contact you within a week."

When I was sure he had gone, I returned to the kitchen and fixed another stiff drink.

Fate really was a douchebag.



to be continued...

Brouhaha

Dec. 15th, 2010 07:51 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


I hate Times Square. Most New Yorkers do. Unfortunately, it tends to be unavoidable, especially when you work in the lower part of Midtown. There are, of course, easy ways to avoid it, but today I found myself craving a falafel, and the best place to buy one was at a cart on Forty-fifth Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue. I had been waiting here a while, and at the moment, I was fifth in line. Behind me stood five feet, six inches of casually dressed fury. "Come on!" he shouted to the front of the line. "When you're standin' in line for fifteen minutes, you can have your money out!"

Now I was fourth in line.

"Jesus Christ! What the hell is so hard about this! He hands you the falafel, you hand him the cash! What is this? Rocket science?"

He was not nearly as obnoxious as the gentleman in front of me. I say gentleman because that's exactly what he was, with his tailored, charcoal gray suit, brown, patent-leather briefcase, and the shiniest pair of shoes I'd ever seen. Being a businessman in the twenty-first-century Manhattan, a Bluetooth sprouted from his ear. "A falafel!" he shouted. "Falafel! I said falafel! Fah-lah-ful! Falafel! I said falafel, what do you think I said? No, I didn't say that, I said falafel!"

Now I was third in line.

"Come on!" yelled the man behind me. "You can't buy a falafel off a cart with a credit card!"

"Falafel!" yelled the man in front of me. "Falafel! F-A-L-F ... No, wait! F-A-L-A-F-F... No, wait! F-A-L-A-F-F ... No, wait! F-A-L-L-A ... No, wait!"

I leaned over. "F-A-L-A-F-E-L."

He turned to me with an expression halfway between "Did he do that?" and "Oh, no, he didn't!" He snapped, "Excuse me, jerk-off, do I listen in on your private phone calls and tell you what to say?"

"Point taken."

He returned his attention to the thing in his ear. "Not you! I was talking to this jerk-off in line behind me. Jerk-off! I said jerk-off!"

I was now second in line.

From behind me, I heard, "Come on!"

"Give me a minute," the gentleman told the vendor, "I'm in the middle of an important call."

"Jesus Christ!"

"Falafel!" the gentleman informed the Bluetooth. "I said falafel!" He then turned to me. "How did you say that was spelled?"

"F-A-L-A-F-E-L."

"F! A! L! A! F! E! L!"

"Jesus Christ!"

The vendor asked the gentleman, "You want falafel?"

"Excuse me," he told his earpiece. To the vendor, he asked, "Do you have a hot dog?"

"Come on!"

"No hot dogs. Only falafel."

"Are you sure?"

"Sure."

"You can't make one special?"

"I cannot," the vendor replied.

"Jesus Christ!" yelled the guy behind me.

"Well, all right, then," the gentleman said and left the line. As he disappeared, we could hear, "Hot dog! Hot dog! I said ... "

Now I was first in line. By this point, the word seemed funny, so I held up my index finger.

"Hurry it up!"

The vendor wrapped the stuffed pita in paper, told me the price, and I replied, "That's not right."

"Says on the sign," he told me.

"Jesus Christ!"

"The sign says a different price than the one you just told me."

The vendor stretched his neck out of the cart to see what was posted. "Price go up."

"Come on!"

"I only brought enough for the price on the sign."

"Then no falafel," he replied.

"There are other people in line here!"

"I'll make you a deal," I said. "I'll pay yesterday's price today, and when I come back tomorrow, I pay the difference."

"How I know you come back?" he asked.

"Move it!"

"Because I'm here every day."

He thought about it for a moment while the man behind me offered some helpful advice. "Just sell him the stupid falafel!"

The vendor took the cash and handed me the food. "You come back?"

"You've got the best cart in the city."

"Thank you, my friend."

I stepped away from the line and toward my freedom.

"Finally!" was the last thing I heard.

Walking back to work, I unwrapped that for which I'd fought so hard, and just as I brought the savory taste of the Mediterranean up to my lips, I saw something that made me drop it.



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


My roommate Pat had the same relationship with me as any New Yorker had with a cockroach: we knew the other was there, we didn't necessarily like that the other was there, and we ate the other's food; however, we were willing to accept all of this as long we never made contact with the other.

Pat had moved to Park Slope a long time ago, when it was ethnically colorful and loud and affordable. Gentrification later corroded the neighborhood with strollers and Labrador retrievers and franchise coffee bars, forcing everybody else out--everybody but Pat and his revolving door of housemates, of whom I was the latest and the longest lasting, mostly because I was never there. The place was huge, the rent was cheap, and the trains were nearby. If my roommate wasn't such a penis, my living arrangement would have been perfect.

From the subway, I strolled home, slipped inside, scooped up the mail from the floor, and scurried to my room, sorting through the envelopes in my hand.

"My bill, my bill, Pat's junk mail, a hand-addressed, perfumed letter from New Mexico, my junk mail, Pat's bill ..." I frowned and backed up a few steps. "What?" Stacked in the living room were dozens of taped-up wine and shipping boxes, all labeled with black magic marker. "Pat?" I called out.

His response took the form of a loud grumble. I followed it past the kitchen to his room, where he sat on his bed, looking like a fire hydrant in a buzz-cut and surfer shorts.

"Pat, are you moving?"

He glared at me with the impatience of a ten-year-old explaining how to play a tricky video game.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because our landlady sold the building."

"What?" I gasped for breath. "When?"

"I don't know when she sold it."

"I mean, when do we have to leave?"

"March first."

"That's in two weeks!"

He glared again. "I can count."

"Our lease said we get sixty-days notice before she can pull this kind of crap!"

"We did get sixty-days notice," he told me. "It was in a letter she delivered six weeks ago."

"I didn't receive one."

"Sure you did," he replied. "I saw your name on it."

"Don't you think I'd remember something like that?"

"Lifestyle you lead," he snorted, "I'd be surprised if you did."

"Wait," I groaned. "Six weeks ago I was in New Mexico with my girlfriend."

"Were you?"

"And you didn't think to say something when I got home?"

"Yeah, because we talk all the time."

On the bright side, there was no further need for diplomacy. "Pat, you are a penis."

"At least I don't have a Peter-Pan Complex."

"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response," I told him, "you penis."

On my way back to the living room, I tossed Pat's mail onto the kitchen table, which was no longer there. Let him pick it up himself.

By the time I landed on the couch, I'd pulled out my phone, called my dad, and explained the situation.

"I just can't give you the money to move," he concluded.

"I know that."

"I can loan it to you," he said. "With interest. And you'll have to pay it back on a monthly schedule."

I groaned. At least I had that hand-addressed, perfumed letter. As Dad droned on about finances, I gently tore my way into the colorful envelope and let my girlfriend's handwriting take the load off.

But after skimming it, I said, "Papa, I'm going to have to call you back. I think I'm getting dumped."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


Last time I saw her, she was seventeen, unwashed, and covered in hooded sweatshirts and baggy jeans. Now her jeans fit delightfully, her long-sleeved T-shirt showed off her voluptuous, athletic figure, and she cleaned up remarkably well. At twenty-seven, she looked like a woman.

She squinted around my apartment. "Anything to drink around here?" she asked.

"As a matter of fact, there is," I replied and directed her to the kitchen, where I showed her a bottle of vodka. "We have potatoes." I held up some gin. "We have juniper berries." Waving at my collection of scotch, whiskey, and bourbon, I told her, "We have various grains. And finally..." I indicated the tequila; "whatever the hell this is about. Worms or something."

"I'll take the worms."

"Of course you will."

Between us, we exchanged a half-dozen shots, three joints, and a mea culpa or two. With all of this behind us, she said at last, "I'm exhausted. Where am I supposed to sleep?"

"You're tired?" I asked.

"This has been a hell of a day," she replied.

I sighed and pointed. "There's a lumpy mattress in my room right over there."

"Where are you supposed to sleep?"

"On the same lumpy mattress."

"Interesting." She strolled down the hall, shaking her hair out of its clip and pulling her shirt over her head. As she reached back to unhook the clasps on her bra, she peered over her shoulder and purred, "Don't you look now."

I turned my wide-eyed, bewildered attention to the liquor. "Um," I said and poured myself a shot out of the closest bottle without looking at it. I gagged. It was the gin.

"Coming to bed?" she shouted.

Since I'd known her, she'd been constantly careening through various moods and identities. Adapting to these had become a routine for me--a jarring, sometimes terrifying routine, but a routine nonetheless. Clearly I'd fallen out of the habit, because I had no idea what to do with the seductress currently in my room.

After blessing myself with the sign of the cross, I inhaled and peeked around the corner. She'd long since covered herself in a T-shirt and a blanket while having stripped away all the suggestion from mere moments before. Relieved, I plopped down on the mattress and removed my boots. I asked, "Anything you want to do while you're in town?"

She appeared at my side immediately, brushed her thick hair behind her ear, bit her lower lip, and glanced down at my mouth.

Crap. I knew where this was going.

"Yeah," she breathed and kissed me.

It was the longest kiss of my life. Of course, I'm not referring to the duration. What I'm referring to is how it felt. She and I had been the oldest and closest of friends; she protected me from bullies, and I protected her from herself. Not once did it ever occur to us to try this, but here we were, twenty years after we first met, ten since we'd last spoken, our lips and tongues probing each other.

Until we stopped.

"Anything?" she gasped.

"Nothing," I replied reluctantly. "You?"

"Nothing."

"This is really awkward," I said.

She rolled onto her back. "I guess we know the answer to that question."

We stared at the ceiling even longer than we'd spent trying to kiss, waiting for the other to say something that might dig our way out of this silence.

She was a woman of action; I was a man of words, and therefore, it was up to me: "You know, this isn't the most embarrassing thing we've done together."

"It's the most embarrassing thing we've done to each other."

"Touché."

Another long hush smothered us.

I said, "Want another drink?"

"I thought you'd never ask."



to be continued...

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