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previously...


"Hi," I said as I slid into the booth next to the bored-looking blonde, "I'm Max."

"Are you the wingman?" she asked.

"Do I look like a fighter pilot?"

She glared at me. "You know what I mean."

With a cartoonishly eager face, I looked at her. "Please tell me."

"You're the one who's supposed to distract the ugly friend while your partner swoops in on the more attractive one."

I frowned and turned to the other side of the nightclub, where Sean was in the process of swooping in on the more attractive one. However, using her as a point of comparison was hardly fair. She was simply the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen; keep in mind that I still carried a massive torch for my gorgeous, elegant ex-girlfriend, so that's saying quite a bit.

The thing was, Sean was terrible at this. And so was she. It was like watching two pre-adolescents learning to waltz while their parents coached them using semaphore.

Ordinarily, I would have left him to it while I found a place to drink in which I didn't have to be audience to this. Ordinarily, I wouldn't tolerate being dispatched to distract the ordinary friend. This, however, was no ordinary friend. Nobody who filled out a camisole the way she did could be described as ordinary. Besides, there was something delightful about her cynicism. This meant that I knew in advance she'd consider the next thing I would say to be utter bullshit. I said it anyway: "She has an ugly friend?"

She growled, "Don't start."

"Let me make this simple," I told her. "If I were only here to distract you, I wouldn't be asking you to leave with me for someplace quieter, and with better lighting."

"Really." She still looked skeptical.

"Okay," I sighed, "let me make this simpler." I reached over and caressed her cheek with my thumb, guiding her closer to me.

And then, just before our lips had a chance to touch, a voice looming over us declared, "Max, I believe it is time for us to converse exclusively with each other."

"What the hell did he just say?" the blonde whispered to me.

"That he's an asshole who has no idea how to interact with human beings," I replied. To Sean, I said, "I believe no such thing."

"Your beliefs are irrelevant."

"I think I should go," she said.

With a flick of my wrist, my business card appeared in front of her face. "I'd like to continue this conversation," I told her.

She plucked it out of my hand as she stood up to collect her attractive friend. "Maybe."

As I followed him to the bar, a petulant silence thickened between us that I was determined not to shatter. Obviously I was perturbed about his shattering of my impending arousal. I didn't give a shit about what was pissing him off.

My stubbornness outlasted his, and he snapped, "Please explain to me the purpose of that exchange."

"I was being your wingman," I reminded him.

"You were far exceeding the duty for which I enlisted you."

"I don't do anything half-assed, Sean."

"Thus I must ask, has it become a necessity to refresh your memory, vis-à-vis our wager?"

"You mean the one where I swore that I wouldn't have sex for a year?"

"Indeed," he replied. "Only ninety-four days have passed since we reached this agreement."

"It's only been three months?"

"And a smattering of days."

"Fuck." I reached for my wallet, took out three dollar bills, and slapped them onto the bar.

"And what, pray tell, is the purpose of that?"

I looked at him and then back to the bar.

He looked at the bar and then back at me. "You've engaged in coitus?"

I shrugged.

"I believe there might have been some kind of miscommunication," he told me. "If I recall correctly, the wager had originally been set for one dollar. Two, if the object of said fornication was your neighbor."

"My mistake." I tossed three more dollars onto the bar.

"Three times?"

I clarified, "Does the dollar cover the entire period of time our clothes were off, or every instance of actual intercourse?"

"We had not actually negotiated the terms to that degree of specificity."

I took out six more dollars. "It's the spirit of the thing."

"Motherfucker!"

"What about heavy petting and groping through clothing?" I asked. "Oh, the hell with it," I muttered and tossed two more dollars onto the pile.

"There are no words in my vocabulary, Max Fuentes, that adequately describe the tenor of the loathing I feel for you right now."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


I'd solved my first problem earlier today--I was no longer homeless at the start of the month. This, however, only exacerbated my second problem, which was how to transport my belongings from my old apartment in Brooklyn to my new one, which was within shouting distance of the Bronx. While I didn't actually own much, the idea of schlepping it over the entire length of Manhattan was enough to make me want to douse it all in napalm and ignite it. That wouldn't work, though, inasmuch as I couldn't afford to replace any of it.

Solving unsolvable problems, though, was my specialty, and so I set my right brain to the puzzle while my left brain typed up the notes I'd taken from my Jane Plains concert review and feature from last night. Both sides were brought to a halt when the cell phone in my desk went off.

I should probably point out that this phone wasn't mine. Some fuck-nozzle had dropped it onto the East Village after shouting a strange obscenity in my general direction. I'd kept it, because hey why not? I answered it for the same reason.

"The electronic device into which you speak is my property," the phone told me.

"Finders keepers," I replied. I had no intention of keeping the thing, mind you, but the whole experience that put it into my hand was kind of ludicrous, and I wanted answers. In my profession, I'd come to discover that adversity, if massaged properly, tended to produce answers.

"I find your immaturity to be unpleasant."

I opened my mouth to speak, but the directness of the statement was kind of startling, and so I closed it again.

The voice continued, "I am prepared to negotiate for its release."

"Why don't you just buy a new one?"

"I would prefer not to follow that course."

"Are you a robot?" I asked sincerely.

"I fail to see the pertinence of that question."

"So you're not denying it."

He sighed--or simulated a sigh; I had no way of telling. "Decorum dictates that I should utter your name in frustration at this point, but since I have not yet been made aware of it, I would prefer to bypass this and remind you that I am willing to exchange a great deal to repossess that cell phone." He added, "I should probably make it known that I am remarkably wealthy. So what is it you want?"

"Okay," I said. There was a lot I could use right now, I'll admit, but none of that would clarify the situation that put me into this position of strength. You see, the man on the other end of this phone didn't freak out that night when he saw me; he freaked out when he saw my best friend. When I asked her to explain, she absolutely refused. If there was one thing I hated, it was not knowing something. "I want you to tell me how you know Lisa Green and why you reacted that way to her."

"As a businessman," he replied, "the term I would use to describe such an offer is deal-breaker."

"I thought you were going to give me what I want!"

"The word I employed was negotiate," he told me.

"Don't you want your phone back?"

"I am willing to purchase another."

"Because you don't want to talk about some girl?"

"Lisa Green can hardly be described as some girl."

All right, I had to give him that one. But still... "That's crazy!"

"Indeed."

I massaged my eyes. "You drive a hard bargain."

"Doing so is my livelihood."

With a sigh, I confessed, "I'm moving from Park Slope to Inwood after work tomorrow, and I don't have a car or any money."

"Deal."

"Seriously?"

"I require your current address, your new address, and a convenient time of departure."

I grinned. "I bet your cybernetic arms can lift a lot."

"Nonsense," he replied. "I'll be utilizing professionals."

"But your cybernetic arms could lift a lot, though, right?"

"The information I requested, if you please." After I provided it, he told me, "I will be present at your new residence when you arrive so that we may conclude this transaction, and subsequently, our relationship."

"Thanks," I said. "I'm Max, by the way."

"Sean," he replied.

"Let me guess, it stands for 'Synthetic Engineered Android... Ah hell, what does the N stand for?"

He hung up.

I shrugged. "That went well."



to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


"Request denied," Sean told me as he slid off the stool at the International Bar.

I appealed his ruling. "Why?"

"Because, as is the case every morning," he explained, "I must report to my place of employment."

"So?"

"The hour at which I must do this is rapidly approaching."

"Again, so?"

He sighed. "Excluding you, and perhaps some chemically enhanced rock musicians, the mammalian biology requires a number of hours to rest and reset its physiology. A more economical way of describing this function is..." He pantomimed quotation marks, probably because he knew how much I hated that. "... 'sleep.'"

I wasn't sure how this applied to him. Given the way he interacted with people in general, as well as the fact that his fashion was as robotic as his vocabulary, I'd always suspected he was not a mammal at all, but rather a really badly disguised alien that didn't actually need to sleep. Regardless, I chose to play along with his subterfuge; I was desperate. "Call in sick to work," I said. "Spend a few extra hours in bed."

"The flaw in your logic is that I would find myself wracked with boredom upon awakening."

"Watch some TV."

"I derive the same amount of pleasure from television as you."

I derived the same amount of pleasure from television as someone getting beaten in the face with a sanitation worker's shovel, so that was out. "Don't you have any hobbies you've been meaning to get to?"

"Excelling at my family's business is the closest approximation I have to a hobby," he replied, "inasmuch as it is the only pastime for which I've shown any talent."

"I don't know what to say to that."

"Then say nothing." He gave me a moment before sitting back down and asking, "What is it you seek to avoid at home by further socializing?"

I sighed and signaled Dan the Bartender. "I think I need another beer."

There was one in front of me almost instantly. "You really look like you do," Dan replied.

I poured it down my throat and said, "I think I need another beer."

Dan handed me another bottle.

I turned back to Sean. "Where was I?"

"Your fear."

"Right." I sighed, "Every time I go home, I run into my neighbor, and she calls me Dude. And that word cuts into me like a..." Okay, so where the hell did my wit go just now? "Like a sharp thing that hurts a lot."

"What qualifies this as more dire than other verbal indignities you tend to endure on a regular basis?"

"Because," I tried to reply. "Because... To be honest..." I said before turning back to Dan the Bartender. "I think I need another beer." Upon my order being delivered, I spat out, "Because it makes me feel awkward."

"Why, pray tell, would it be awkward?" he asked. "You have, after all, seen her in the nude and have performed unspeakable acts upon her body..."

"Enthusiastically, I'll have you know."

"You have performed unspeakable acts upon her body with great vigor..."

"Vigor's a good word for it," I sighed.

Undeterred, Sean continued, "and you fled from her without so much as a simple telephone call, and now you're hiding in the closet--figuratively, of course--only to discover that your most recent sexual conquest..."

"Not my most recent," I mumbled.

"I'd forgotten you were a slut."

"I'm not sorry."

"Be that as it may," he continued, "one of your more recent sexual conquests sleeps in a bed not more than four feet away from yours, and you have yet to learn her surname."

"When you put it that way," I said, "it sounds kind of filthy."

Sean laughed. "I find it astounding that I'm sitting next to the most preposterous thing ever to grace this bar. And, if you'll recall, it had been recently patronized by a man in a gorilla suit."

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

Inspiration struck me. "This is a message from the heavens!"

"The gorilla?"

"No," I replied, "Sex. I quit having it."

"I doubt your conviction."

"I believe me, and that's all that matters."

"This is the most ill-conceived idea I've been party to in quite some time," he told me.

"It makes perfect sense," I said. "I am tired of being led around by my penis. When I think about it, I've made so many bad decisions in pursuit of sex, and what do I get out of it?"

"Orgasms," he replied.

"Well, it's not worth it," I declared.

"There is little doubt in my mind that you'll find yourself fornicating at some point in the near future. As a matter of fact," he told me, "I'm willing to entertain a wager in regard to your poorly thought-out declaration."

"Really."

"I'm prepared to stake one dollar on this."

"That's not exactly a fair bet," I said. "You'll only have pay up if I die before you."

He sighed. "Very well. If, by this time next year, you haven't engaged in sexual congress of any sort, I will pay out the dollar you will have earned."

"That's not a lot of money."

"My father would say, 'It's the principle of the thing.'"

I shook his hand. "Better make sure you have enough money in that bank account in a year." I added, "And can we keep congress out of this? They just fuck everything up."

He ignored me. "Double if your partner in said acts is your neighbor."

"Hell, I'll go triple on that."

"Double is sufficient."

"Sucker," I mumbled.

"Sucker," he mumbled.



to be continued...

A Taste

May. 21st, 2012 05:54 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

Her broken-in jeans and threadbare shirt, through which he could make out a dark bra, clashed delightfully with his antiseptic decor. "Fancy," she said.

"Yeah," he replied, "fancy."

"Must be nice being rich."

"Indeed it is."

She glanced around the apartment and asked, "Somebody actually lives here?"

He slung his jacket onto his easy chair, threw himself onto its matching slate gray sofa, loosened his tie, and kicked off his wingtips. "I fully intend to ignore your vague insult."

"Nothing vague about it," she told him. "Thanks for letting me stay over."

"Think nothing of it. It's a long cab ride to your place of residence."

"I wish you wouldn't use that kind of language around me."

"Request denied."

She grunted.

He pointed to a hallway. "The bedroom is through there. As I am, if anything, a gentleman, I will sleep out here."

"And if I don't want you to sleep out here?"

"Then you are welcome to use the sofa."

"You are such a doofus." She rolled her eyes. "Got anything to drink here?"

"If you'll recall, I've been sober longer than you've known of me."

"People have been known to change," she said. "You did."

"Not as much as you think." He popped out his gold-plated cufflinks, tossed them into an empty ashtray, and rolled up his sleeves. "Besides, alcohol was responsible for these."

It had been years since she'd seen the scars that ran down the underside of his forearms, and their presence almost seemed to comfort her. "You think it was the liquor that did that?"

"I've chosen to believe so."

"Fair enough," she sighed. "Mind if I have one?"

"Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding the absence of potables in this place."

"I brought my own." Sure enough, there was a stainless-steel flask in her purse. "Got any place to put this?"

"There are highball glasses in the cabinet near the refrigerator."

"I thought you told me you still don't drink."

He shrugged. "I pretend."

"You are so weird." After pouring herself a few fingers of whiskey, she leaned on the counter, as casually as if it belonged to her, and took a long swallow, locking stares with him. They said nothing for what could have been hours until she asked, "Miss it?"

"Every day."

"Still? It's been, what, seven years?"

"In my defense, I enjoyed alcohol a great deal."

"Fair enough." She studied him for a moment. "Remember what it tastes like?"

He frowned in concentration. "No," he replied sadly.

She strutted over to him, taking her time doing so. "Want a reminder?"

"Perhaps I should have been more clear regarding my sobriety."

Propping her knee on the sofa next to him and steadying herself with a hand on his shoulder, she took a deep drink of the whiskey. Her lips brushed against his, and instantly he recognized the sour sting of the rye. He leaned hungrily toward her, but she backed away.

Without a word, she dipped a finger in the glass, traced her lip with it, and kissed him again. Eager for the flavor of the drink and of her, he licked and nibbled, causing her to moan.

"More," he whispered when she pulled away again.

But when she raised the glass, he snatched it from her hand and placed it on the end table behind him, not caring that there was no coaster. Her hand, now free, stroked his cheek, drawing him in.

He brushed a lock of hair from her face. "More," he told her again.

i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


The coolest thing about police interrogation rooms anywhere in the country is that they all look exactly like they do in the movies or on TV. There's variety, of course--some have shackles, while others don't, and their sizes differ, but that's really it; they're all decorated with a metal table and plastic aluminum chairs, and they're all lit by unflattering fluorescents. Through the two-way mirror--also a prerequisite--I watched a uniformed policeman enter, legal pad in hand. Tradition dictates that he should have had a file folder as well, but this was the twenty-first century, and paper costs money and trees.

"So your friend in the other room told us the whole story," he said.

"Are we really going to do this?" I asked him.

"Do what?"

"Well, there's no Good Cop with you, and you don't strike me as a Bad Cop, so I guess that makes you Mildly Irritated Cop."

"Shouldn't you be taking this a little more seriously?" he asked.

"Look, Officer..." I squinted at his name-tag. "... Reynolds. Do you know how many times I've done this?"

"A hundred and two."

"Seriously?"

His expression told me nothing.

"That's really cool." I reached into the pocket of my trademark brown leather pea coat and pulled out my notebook and pen, which, for some reason, they hadn't confiscated. "Can I write that down?"

"Be my guest." He clicked his own pen so he could record the upcoming conversation. "Do you know why you're here?"

"Because some guy in a trucker hat got punched in the face."

"And the girl..."

"Don't call her a girl to her face," I interrupted. "She hates that."

"... woman with you, a Lisa Green, states that you were punched in the stomach."

"True."

"Did you happen to see who did it?"

"I did not," I replied. "I'm assuming it was the same guy." It wasn't.

"That seems unlikely."

"The bar was kind of crowded, and my attention was already occupied."

"By what?"

I smirked. "By the ladies. The attention-getting ladies, if you catch my drift."

If he had, he didn't let on. Definitely Irritated Cop. "Why did you volunteer to come in to sign an affidavit then?"

"I didn't," I replied. "My friend did."

"She gave us a description of a white male, age eighteen to thirty-five, dressed in blue jeans and a denim jacket."

"That could be anybody."

He rolled his eyes. "The victim said he didn't know who assaulted him either, so he's not pressing charges." That was probably because he didn't want to admit that a diminutive woman knocked him out with one punch. "That said, between you and me, were you the one who did it?"

I snorted. "If I had, my knuckles would be broken, and he wouldn't have suffered a concussion. I'm a wimp, Officer."

"I see." He jotted that down. "So you think it was your companion?"

"She hits like a girl." Well, a cave girl. Especially when somebody knocks the wind out of me.

"I thought you said she didn't like to be called a girl."

"There's no reason that statement has to leave the room, is there?"

He shook his head.

"Then she hits like a girl."

"Is that a no?"

"That is a 'I can't tell you for certain.'"

He stood and said, "Mr. Fuentes, we don't want to take up anymore of your time." What he meant was that he didn't want me to take up anymore of his time, but calling him on that was a good way to get pepper-spray in my face. "You can go ahead and check out and go your own way."

"Do I need to sign anything?"

"Only whatever Roger gives you when you check out."

"Roger?" I both grinned and frowned. "Is he ever not at that desk?"

"Not as far as I know." Heading for the door, he recommended, "Stay out of trouble, Mr. Fuentes."

That wasn't likely. "Have a nice evening, Officer!"

He grunted.

After I'd been processed, I exited the building, only to be greeted by Lisa, who was leaning against a lamppost, lighting a joint.

"You've got balls of solid steel," I told her, "going into a police station with an eighth of weed in your sock."

"Being here with you after all these years," she replied, "inspired me to act out."

I chuckled. "Why don't we head back to the Village and find ourselves bar without fisticuffs on tap."

She held out her arm, and I wrapped mine around it. "Let's."

A quick train ride later, we wandered the narrow, vibrant streets of my favorite neighborhood in which to drink a lot. While contemplating a well-worn pub, a douchebag in a gray, three-piece suit, a black shirt, a white tie, and a camel-hair overcoat rounded the corner, thus lowering the tone. Something about the way he studied us with his expensive, horn-rimmed glasses and looked away as if we weren't there made me want to break my knuckles on his nose. It didn't help that he was informing his cell phone, "Our business partnership goes into full effect at the start of the next quarter. I suggest that, between then and now, you grant Mr. Franklin sole contact with my company, inasmuch as you can't be trusted to ..."

All of the color drained from Lisa's face. "Wait a fucking minute! I know that asshole's voice!" She then squeaked, "Sean?"

The douchebag turned back around, this time with his eyes wider than I'd ever seen anybody's get. "Fuck me in the ear!" he replied before dropping his phone and running like hell.

"What the fuck was that?" I asked, intending the question for anyone who might be listening.

"Take me home," Lisa replied.

"What... ?" I repeated.

"Take me home now."

Since she was my best friend in the history of the entire world, I obeyed, but not before picking up the discarded cell and pocketing it. I loved myself a good mystery.



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...

Atrophy

Jun. 26th, 2011 09:57 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

"You could really use some pussy, kid," said Sean's uncle.

"Bart!" Sean's mother snapped, "Language!"

"Or cock!" said Uncle Bart, his hands raised in front if him in mock surrender. "I don't care either way. Just do something to celebrate."

Sean raised a forkful of seared salmon to his lips, but his mother's hand secured his arm before he could finish. "Smaller bites, Sean," she told him. "You're almost thirty. You should know better. And I think your uncle is right, regardless of his vulgarity."

"You agree with me? There's a first time for everything."

Sean dusted the pink flakes off of his fork and decided to saw off a slice of asparagus instead.

His mother glowered. "I agree that a celebration is in order, Sean. You've made company history; nobody has been able to secure that account. Not even that creepy fuckface, Harima."

Sean chewed, swallowed, dabbed his lips with a napkin, took a sip of sparkling water, and said, "It had not been brought to my attention that an intercompany war raged over this client."

Bart snorted, "The way that fat bastard struts around, you'd think he owns the place."

"He is responsible for over half of this company's revenue," Sean said, contemplating whether he should again attempt a bite of the salmon or go for a sample of the risotto. The later was normally a forgettable byproduct of the otherwise exemplary dish, but rumor had it that a new hire in the kitchen staff was a little more creative with sides than his predecessor. "Some of that swagger is duly earned."

"I'm just saying someone needed to take him down a peg," Bart insisted.

Sean decided on the risotto. What the hell; life is short. "I don't put quite that much value on Schadenfreude," he told them before he took a taste.

"This isn't about Schadenfreude," his mother agreed. "It's about success."

The rumors were true. This now ranked above the asparagus when it came to the flavors on this plate.

"And success deserves a reward," Uncle Bart added.

"Yes, it does," said his mother.

"Evidently there is a second time for everything," Sean muttered. More loudly, he said, "I find a 10 percent commission for an transaction of that magnitude to be a sufficient reward."

Uncle Bart shrugged. "Maybe if you threw in some pussy."

"Language!"

"Or cock!"

"Bart!"

"It's not like I can buy him a drink!"

"That's not even remotely funny, Bart," his mother growled.

Sean groaned. "I am going to explain this in a manner I hope the both of you can appreciate: I am paid for a skill at which I excel, so anything less would be a disservice to the company. It just so happens that my talents were better suited to woo this potential client than Harima-san's."

Uncle Bart shook his head, and his mother rolled her eyes.

Ignoring them, he continued, "Therefore, the business I have just conducted will not be validated by another's genitalia, nor by any other frivolous gesture either of you could concoct."

Uncle Bart put his hand gently on Sean's shoulder. "I'm worried about you, kid."

"There is no cause for concern," Sean explained. "I'm not dour. I merely am."

"It's those pills you got him on, Amber," Bart said. "They made him into a zombie."

"They saved his life!"

Sean wasn't particularly hungry, so he switched his attention from the table to the restaurant in general, specifically the men. Some were plump like Caesars, and some were fit like movie stars. Most wore ties. All wore starched collars and polished shoes. Some even wore vests. Sean wore a vest and a tie. His color was stiff, and his shoes shone.

He noted that few ties made it over to the bar, and all that did were loosened. Sean's remained firmly encircled around his neck.

He tried to ignore the women, particularly the ones in crowds, because her ghost tended to drift among them. But his eyes looked anyway and were immediately haunted by the uneven edges of her dirty fingernails, the threadbare scarlet of her favorite long-sleeved T-shirt, the sexy tangles of her hair, the denim-clad superiority of her strut, and wicked curve of her smirking lips.

Her apparition smelled like stale cigarettes and bourbon, and it whispered his name. Actually, though, it never used his proper name; it called him asshole, just like she did.

Whenever she possessed him like this, his fingers took the opportunity to act of their own accord. They dismantled one cufflink and had already begun working on the second when his mother's hand clamped on his forearm.

"Don't embarrass me," she whispered.

"Then perhaps I should depart," he replied, "before I do that."

"Really," she said. "Really."

"I could always remain here," he told her, "but there is an itch in my wrists, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes unbearable."

She released him, and he stood, reaching for his wallet.

"Put that away," she said. "Uenishi-san told me the company should treat you for your hard work."

"That is very generous," he replied. "I will make it a priority tomorrow to express my gratitude."

As he made his way to the coat check, he heard his uncle tell his mother, "Nice work with your kid there, Amber."

"Bart," she replied, "you know as well as I do what's under those sleeves."

"Still," he muttered.

Sean didn't hear the rest, because all of that was behind him for now. And the very instant his feet touched the sidewalk outside, he tapped a ten-digit number into his cell phone. "Deuce," he told the voicemail that picked up immediately, "it's Fancy-pants. I'd like to have a conversation."

A few moments later, he received a text. He hailed a cab and read the contents of it to the driver: "Suffolk and Rivington."

"Are you sure? That's maybe a hundred blocks from here."

"Eighty-six," Sean replied as he slipped into the backseat. "And I am sure."

As they drove south, Sean watched for her phantom in windows and doorways and on corners, but she didn't show.

After about forty-two blocks, the driver cleared his throat. "You don't really look like the kind of person who would hang out in that area."

"And how would you describe the 'kind of person' who might 'hang out' in that area?"

"You know--young."

"I am young," Sean told him.

"I mean, acting young," he clarified. "You know, with the funny clothes. And the hair."

"I agree," Sean said. "I am not that 'kind of person.'"

The rest of the ride was silent.

Deuce waited on the corner of Suffolk and Rivington, a crumbled a paper bag in his hand. In exchange for it, Sean gave him a large wad of cash and twenty-five minutes of his time, after which Deuce got bored and returned to whatever it was he did when he wasn't selling drugs.

And finally, Sean had no family, no business, and no friends; he was truly alone. He smiled. "Hello, darling," he said to the city that reared him. "It's just you and me now."

He'd wandered less than a block before his phone went off. He sighed and read the display. No name appeared, but the area code belonged to the client whose future transactions Sean had just secured. He looked at his watch. The person on the other end would either be very happy or very upset; only extreme emotion would prompt a call at this hour.

"This is Sean McCoy." He waited for the phone to talk before replying, "Hello, Mr. Clark." The phone barked, and he told it, "As a matter of fact, I am the agent who conducted the sale. If I remember correctly, you were present when negotiations began. I hope, in that case, your question was merely rhetorical." He held the phone away from his ear. After a moment, he said, "We're professionals, Mr. Clark. That kind of volume, tone, and language is unacceptable."

The phone asked a question, which Sean answered, "Because it creates a sizeable profit margin, which is beneficial to my company, but does it in a way that your company is able to afford our rates comfortably and indefinitely. I thought that was obvious. Was this also rhetorical?"

It answered his question with a question. "I am indeed being condescending, Mr. Clark, because this phone call serves no purpose other than empty bluster."

There was more such bluster, and Sean allowed it. "There is a contract, Mr. Clark, that was signed and notarized this afternoon." Sean looked at his watch. "Technically yesterday afternoon, but only by thirty-three minutes."

Sean resumed walking north while the phone, with a great deal of gravitas, told him something. "Given that your company is called Clark Industries and you are the majority shareholder, I had surmised that you were the owner, but I appreciate your clarification of that point." He interrupted when it tried to talk again, "However, sir, you had explicitly given Mr. Franklin full authority to act and make decisions on your behalf, a duty he performed remarkably, if I do say so myself."

As the phone went off on a lengthy rant, he crossed Houston Street into a neighborhood of bars and college students who laughed and flirted and huddled together. Her ghost was everywhere. This only strengthened his belligerence. "I would advise against that, Mr. Clark. The attorney my company has on retainer happens to be my mother, and she is nearly twice as ruthless in court as she was at home." He added, "To grant you perspective, I should inform you that she was exceedingly ruthless at home."

Sean stopped in his tracks with a frown, not caring that he was standing the middle of the road as he did so. "Yes," he replied cautiously, "I am familiar with that television franchise." The phone asked a follow-up question. "It's been years since I've encountered it, but I seem to remember that the character in question was an artificial life form with no emotions that was baffled by humanity, but drawn to it nonetheless." Amused, he resumed his journey, saying, "I can see the resemblance, Mr. Clark, but there is one key difference: I do find humanity baffling, but I am otherwise ambivalent toward it."

He rounded the corner onto to First Avenue, scanning the area for taxicabs; it was late, and he wanted to enjoy some of the marijuana in his pocket before work tomorrow. Besides, it was really obvious how tired he was getting: the phantom he just saw on the corner didn't look like the others that usually followed him around. This one's hair was longer, its clothing fit better, and the last edges of its youth had eroded beautifully away. It was definitely time to bid his phone adieu. "Our business partnership goes into full effect at the start of the next quarter. I suggest that, between then and now, you grant Mr. Franklin sole contact with my company, inasmuch as you can't be trusted to ..."

Behind him, the ghost spoke. It said, "Wait a fucking minute! I know that asshole's voice!"

He turned back around, and every single thing inside of him simultaneously froze and burned. She was not the will-o-the-wisp had been daydreaming of all this time.

"Sean?" she whispered.

"Fuck me in the ear!" he replied before dropping his phone and running like hell.

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...

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Jeremiah

January 2013

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