May. 4th, 2012 07:53 am
i_17bingo: (Default)


Most pornography is produced by males for a male audience, and therefore it tends to favor male fantasies. Whether we dream of being all powerful or powerless, one thing is for certain--the pleasure is all about us. For example, if a woman suddenly finds herself consumed by an unexpected, libidinous frenzy, porn would dictate that she begin by performing furious fellatio on her partner.

It turns out this is not the case at all. She came four times before I came once. Between that and the weed, she fell immediately to sleep.

Being objectified sexually was something most men didn't really mind, and, Lord knows, I've had a lot of sex with a lot of women who really didn't know much about me. In this real-life porno, however, something seemed off. I existed only to scratch Emma's itch.

I remained in her bed for quite a while, wondering what the hell had just happened, until I finally decided that any thinking could be done better in my own bedroom. All I had to do was find my clothes.

My khakis and underwear were easy; they were dangling, inside-out, from my left ankle. The reason they were hanging there was the same reason I only needed to locate my right boot and sock. My tie, still knotted around my neck, was clenched in her fist. I tugged gently, but it didn't give. I tugged harder, but it still wouldn't give. I yanked, and that caused her to roll over in the other direction, taking my neck with it. Slipping it over my head, I twisted and arched and squirmed my way to freedom.

The condom plopped into her wastebasket before I untangled pulled my pants and pulled them up. I located my missing boot on top of her bureau, my shirt in her half-open closet, and my sock in the tiny hallway outside of her room.

After dressing, I wondered if I should take my boots off to tiptoe over her hardwood floors to her window, but a long, deep snore from the bed informed me that I'd be okay. All the same, I'd prefer a few moments to myself to get my thoughts together, so I crept as softly as I could for the exit.

And then, just before I made it to safety, she began muttering. I froze. My ears strained, until they heard, "Just bark if you need me."

I retrieved my belt from the fire escape and returned home.

Work the next day was tedious, which was just fine with me. Had anything exciting happened, like, say, former child star Julian Glass getting arrested for DUI as he had twice already this month, and had I been stuck standing outside the courthouse with all of the other alleged journalists, our tape recorders and notebooks in hand, I likely would have snapped.

Every inch of the news floor sensed my frustration and confusion, and all stayed away, except for Bill, who didn't know the meaning of the word couth. He said, "You look like someone beat the hell out of you last night. And you look like you kind of enjoyed it."

I enjoyed it a lot, actually.

That evening, I knocked on her door the instant I'd made it to our floor. When she didn't answer, I tried again fifteen minutes later, and again after another twenty minutes. After the fourth attempt, I gave up and headed to my room.

During the immeasurable amount of time lying on my mattress, staring at the ceiling, I'd completely forgotten that my favorite way to alleviate boredom and stress was smoking weed. When that factoid came back to me, I headed immediately to the fire escape, reaching for my pipe and matches; I mean, if there ever was a time for getting thoroughly baked, this was it.

On second thought, if there was ever a time for not getting thoroughly baked, this was it.

I had nearly made it outside when a barely audible shuffle rattled from the wall. My legs propelled me to her door, upon which my knuckles rapped.

She answered immediately, my tie in her hand-- exactly where I'd left it. "Here for this?"


We both alternated between looking at each other, looking at the floor, and looking at the ceiling. Finally, I coughed out, "We should talk."

She sighed and beckoned me inside.

We shared a long, anxious moment until she spoke up. "I don't know where to start."

"I'll go," I said, choosing my words carefully. "I have serious, serious opinions... beliefs, actually... about taking advantage of someone under the influence of... you know... anything."

"I know!" she moaned. "I'm so sorry!"

"I know!" I moaned. "I'm..." I frowned. "Did you just apologize to me?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Because I came here to apologize to you."

"For what?"

"For taking advantage of you."

She laughed. "Dude, wasn't I the one who tore all your clothes off?"

"Yeah, but you were under the influence."

"So were you."

"I'm a professional," I told her. "You smoke, and you turn into this lust-crazed monster. That's what I took advantage of."

She paced back and forth, to compose her thoughts. "You're saying I was so strung out that I would have fucked anything, and you just happened to be there?"

"I wouldn't have phrased it quite like that."

She sighed. "Dude, if it were anyone else, I probably would have just run away and played with my toys."


"Maybe not anyone else, but you catch my drift."

"Oh." I asked, "So what does that mean, exactly?"

"Dude," she replied, "let's not turn this into a thing. Let's just chalk it up to a bad night."

"I don't know if I'd call that bad."

She grinned a crooked grin and pushed a cinnamon curl behind her ear. "How about 'poor judgment'?"

"Close enough." We simultaneously sighed, letting the air out of our shoulders. "I should probably go then," I said.

"Yeah, dude," she replied, "you probably should."

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

The crappy punk band was about three quarters of the way through its crappy set when Rafaela caught a glimpse of Noah's face in the crowd. He looked exactly the same as he did the last time she had seen him--the only difference being a pair of cheap, plastic sunglasses. She couldn't tell if he had seen her, but just the presence of that gelled, spiky hair, pierced septum, slight overbite, and dog collar padlocked around his neck came across as kind of a blessing.

When Rafaela was working, she didn't like to draw too much attention to herself, so she shoved the cheaply tattooed idiot next to her and slipped away through the ensuing, good-natured brawl that followed. Her goal was the men's room, wherein she pushed open the doors to all five stalls, apologizing whenever the occasion called for it. The one she was looking for turned out to be the one farthest from the entrance. It looked exactly the same as it did in the photos she had received in the mail last week--the only difference being that the medical examiner had removed Noah's body.

The pictures, the coroner's report, and the general vibe in the room all smelled like suicide, but another odor drifted subtly underneath it all. It reminded her of a teenager burning patchouli oil to cover up the scent of weed. Why would Noah still be hanging around if he was so desperate to leave in the first place? Who the hell sent Rafaela those photos? And why?

After grabbing a beer from the bar, she wandered back into the audience to get her thoughts together--no small feat given that crappy, crappy band. How long was this fucking set going to last? And whose idea was it to name themselves Cunt-Punch?

She put the bottle to her lips and dropped it when a hand slapped her between the shoulder blades--a hand so cold that it froze her skin through her army-surplus jacket, argyle sweater, T-shirt, and bra strap. "How's it goin', Raf?" said what she assumed was the hand's owner.

She frowned, turned, and asked Noah, "Aren't you supposed to be dead?"

"I am dead."


Noah grinned. "Cool, right?"

Her mind contemplated the growing welt on her back. "But you're physically here."

"Yes and no." He shrugged. "Let's just say I got skills I didn't have when I was breathing."


"Like, for starters, I'm standing here when I'm lying on a slab with more smack in my veins than blood."

"I see your point."

"And," he added, "I just turned you invisible just by touching you."

"Seriously?" Just to be sure, she snapped her fingers in the face of the nearest idiot. She frowned again. "I can still see my hand, Noah."

"It's just a glamour, dumbass," he sneered. "You've done it before."

"Once," she said, "and it took four of us and hours to prep."


Impressed, Rafaela tilted her head. "So what's this about then?"

"Aside from showing off the skills?"

Rafaela nodded.

"I brought you here to kill you!"

She concentrated long and hard on this before she spoke again. "Why?"

"Because that was the deal," he replied. "I'm supposed to take out the old coven and some solitaries here and there. But I thought I'd start with you. Student killing the master and all."

"That's really interesting," she told him truthfully. "Who wants me dead?"

"Aside from me?"

Rafaela nodded.

"That would be telling, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would."

"She told me not to."

"Even though I'm going to be dead soon?" While she was at it, she had to clarify, "I'm assuming that means really dead, and not dead like you."

He clapped his hands. "You really learn fast, don't you?"

"You never did."

"Fuck you, Raf!" he roared before he spit on her face.

Her nose exploded as if it had been smashed by a brick. She staggered backward, and the audience unconsciously parted for her.

"I'm just getting started, you fucking airhead!" He snatched a glass out of the hand of an idiot and dipped his middle finger inside. While the idiot in question just shrugged off the loss, Noah turned his head toward the stage, and then back at Rafaela. "Cunt-Punch, huh?" He snapped his fingers, causing her to grab her crotch.

"Fuck!" she cried out.

"You like that?"

"No," she groaned.

"Then you're gonna hate this." When poured the rest of the liquid onto the back of his hands a weight began crushing Rafaela, forcing her knees to buckle and give out. "How's that feel?"

Through her teeth, she replied, "Really bad..."

He laughed. "Told you I had skills!"

"Yes, you did," she wheezed. "Pulular."


Rafaela cleared her throat. "I said, Pulular!"

With that, the crowd swarmed around Noah, giving her a chance to pull herself to her feet and try to work something out. Her agony, the mystery of Noah's current condition, her concern over whether or not she'd need plastic surgery, that crappy band being on its fifth crappy encore, and her inherent flakiness made it extremely difficult to focus, but she wasn’t particularly worried. She’d been doing this kind of thing for almost twenty years, so inspiration was bound to stroll into her mind anytime. To help it along, she did a quick inventory on the contents of her pockets--a plastic lighter, chips of amber in a medicine bottle, a butterfly knife, a brass cigarette case filled with sticks of incense, a small grimoire, a kazoo, a candle, and a cell phone.

Rafaela reached the bar and leaned on it, squeezing her eyes shut. "Okay," she panted, "this is kind of a big deal." After a long, slow, deep breath, unscrewed the lid from a salt shaker and spilled it on the counter. With her left hand, she scribbled a sigil into it, and with her right, she dug through her jacket.

By this point, Noah had extracted himself from the crowd and was headed for her, looking smug--annoyed, but smug. Rafaela lit some incense, traced the shape of the sigil with the smoke, and whispered.

Noah said, "Don't you think you're going to--"

Rafaela twirled the knife open and slammed the blade into the middle of the salt.

His shoulders fell. "Son of a bitch! You did not just ward me out of here!"

"I did."

"Motherfucker!" he hissed as he stormed over to the exit. Just before he left, he called out, "I'll be right outside, waiting for you."

"I know," she moaned impatiently. "Just go."

The glamour wouldn't last long without Noah around, so she extinguished the incense, pried her athamé out of the counter, and wiped off the salt. Sure enough, the bartender blinked. "Whoa! Didn't see you there!"

"Of course you didn't," she muttered. And since she was going to have to hang around and work out a solution to Noah problem, she asked, "Could I get a bottle of Sheisse Haus, please?"

"Sure," the bartender replied, but when he saw the condition of her face, he jumped. "Holy shit! What the fuck happened to you?"

"Punk rock," Rafaela replied.

*This is a bit of world-building for a fantasy novel my wife and I are writing.*

i_17bingo: (Default)

This is based on a piece by the amazingly talented comedychick.

* * * * *

It's easy to forget that every prostitute is someone's daughter.

"There's not much historical data about Victorian-era sex-workers, you know," said the librarian who'd just returned from the back office.

"I'm amazed you could find anything at all," the young man replied. An eight-by-ten-inch paperback flopped onto the counter in front of him, and he frowned at the title. "Folklore and Legends on the Eve of the Edwardian?"

She nodded.

"Are you sure you have the right Mary Lewis?"

"She's the aunt of Martin Lewis, the father of your grandmother."

He pointed at the book. "All that is in here."

"I was able to cross-reference all of the genealogical information you provided with the woman in this particular tale." She picked up the book and flipped it to the table of contents. "Page 106: 'The Water Nymph of Tower Bridge.'"

"You're kidding me."

She shook her head. "Why don't you have a read?"

That's how he came to be in London, standing under the Tower Bridge at dusk. He wrote a name on a slip of paper, rolled it into a tiny glass bottle, threw it as far as he could into the water, called out the name, and waited. The next day, he wrote the same name on a slip of paper, rolled it into a bottle, threw it, called out, and waited. On the third day, after the name was called out once more, a silhouette rose from the river without a sound.

"I have never been summoned before," the shadow said. "Why have you done this?"

"I have a question for you, Prudence," he told her.

"Perhaps you could accompany me into the water, and I will provide all the answers you need."

"Why don't you come out here?"

"If it pleases you." As the woman emerged onto the banks, he noted with disappointment that she didn't have a tail, just legs. However, because he was focused on something more precious to him than her nudity, he didn't see glistening scales dissolved into skin with every step she took.

"Do you remember a woman named Mary Lewis?"

"No," she replied.

"According to her, you met over a hundred years ago."

"That is a very long time ago," she said. "And I have been introduced to a great many people."

"She was standing on this spot, shortly after this bridge was built."

"Ah, yes. I do recall meeting someone then. She called herself a 'lady of the night.'" Prudence cocked her head with curiosity. "And what is your interest in Mary Lewis?"

"She's my great-great-great-aunt," he explained. "When I found out she had an encounter with a water nymph, I did some research. According to some legends, you are the spirits of dead prostitutes--"

"I assure you," she spat, "I have never sold my body to anyone!" Her anger then drifted away. "A fate such as mine is reserved for those who have stolen the love of another. Many of that profession are guilty of this."

"That brings me to my question," he said. "Is she with you now?"

After considering this for a few moments, she asked, "Would you like me to take you to her?"

"I know exactly what you're doing, Prudence," he snapped, "and it's not going to work."

A tiny smile grew on her face as she moved toward him. "How can you resist me, standing naked before you?"

He backed away. "Is she with you or not?"

"I have not encountered her," she replied. "How is it she died?"

"She threw herself off of this bridge."

"Then she is not," she said. "To swim with us, one must die at the hand of another."

His shoulders fell with a sigh.

"Why is it so very important that Mary Lewis be immortal?"

"This may seem weird to you," he started, but he stopped and chuckled. "I'm telling a mermaid that something might be weird.

"Anyway, the more I learn about her, the more I can feel her loneliness and despair. I've been almost..." He hesitated, searching for the proper word; "... possessed with this desire to console her."

"I see," she said. "And would this consolation be for her sake, or for yours?"

He didn't react.

She held out her hand. "I can give you all the comfort you seek if you just follow me."

"Prudence, don't."

"I've yet to meet a man who can dismiss me as you do. What makes you special?" She leaned in closely to read his eyes. She concluded, "You are one of us."

"I thought you said you weren't a prostitute," he replied. "You were pretty adamant about it."

"You take the love of men from their betrothed."

He snorted. "My johns are senators, ambassadors, businessmen, ministers; they don't love me. They just want to do something filthy to a boy."

"You smell of love," she told him.

"It's not good enough."

"I know."

He waited before asking, "Will I become one of you?"

"You cannot," she replied. "And you should not wish it. Like you, I've stolen the warmth of countless men, yet I am still cold. Unlike you, I will be cold forever."

Hope then fled him, taking with it the facade of strength he had been wearing for most of his life. He fell to his knees.

A tear tumbled down her cheek and over her lip. "You can do something I cannot," she told him. "You can vanquish this solitude."

"How?" he croaked.

"You could follow your ancestor," she said. "You could fall from this very bridge and die, as anonymous meat and bone. Or you could take my hand, and you will fall asleep in the arms of love, and you will never again be alone."

It's easy to forget that every prostitute is someone's son.

i_17bingo: (Default)

She stared at the ceiling. It was easy last night to avoid thinking about the afternoon phone call, but here, hours before the alarm would go off, there would be no avoiding it. Maybe if she reached over and played with the boy snoring next to her, she could put it off a little while...

She sighed. Now that the phone call had taken root in her mind, she wouldn't be able to focus, and, given the boy's condition, she'd have to do most of the work. Fuck.

"Lisa Green?" the man at the other end of the line had asked yesterday afternoon.

"Speaking," she'd told him.

"This is Steve Hartmann? From CUNY? In New York?"

For just a second, her heart and lungs had just stopped. "Hi?"

"I wanted to talk to you about your CV and letters of recommendation. Do you think it would be possible to schedule an interview sometime this coming Thursday or Friday?"


"I know it's short notice," he'd apologized.

"I can be there."

"But we need to fill the position next semester."

"I can make it work."

"And you live in Montreal, and most of the applicants live in the area, but you are extremely qualified, and we'd really like to meet you in person."

Ordinarily, she'd pick that time to shout to get this guy's attention, but this was someone whose good graces were crucial to her future. She decided to wait until he finished.

She was glad she did, because he had good news: "We're aware of the hardship this will be, so we'd like to reimburse you for your airfare." And bad news: "But due to budget cuts, you're on your own for sleeping accommodations."

"I'll see you Friday."

Clearly, she hadn't thought this out. She couldn't really afford to get a motel--the flight would come close to maxing out her credit card. She could always stay at a friend's place, but she didn't have any friends in New York. She did know people there, but one she didn't want to see again, and the other didn't want to see her again.


As quietly as she could, she rolled out of bed into a her jeans, pulled on a pair of heavy socks, shrugged on a parka, and tiptoed to her balcony. She stopped when, for a just second, and for the first time she could remember, she thought the weight in her jacket pocket was a half-empty pack of cigarettes with a lighter stuffed into it. And for just a second, she was so relieved that she didn't have to ride out the sting of this bitch-slap of a day alone. And then she realized it was only a phone.

Not long after Steve Hartmann had called her, she'd met her boyfriend at that franchise coffee bar, just like they always did after classes, squirming in her seat.

Her grin echoed in his face as he sat down and asked, "What's got you all worked up, babe?"

"I'm going to New York!"

He'd frowned. "When?"

"This weekend!" She shrugged. "Well, Friday."


She always found his confusion adorable. Even more adorable was how easy it was to make him that way.

"But," he continued, "we're going to that dinner party at Gabe and Marilyn's this weekend."

"They'll understand."

"I don't understand."

She'd fought off the urge to keep herself from squealing like a little girl, because that's something Lisa Green never did. "CUNY!"

His eyes widened in disbelief.

"It's only an interview," she clarified, "but they practically begged me to come in. That's a great sign, don't you think?"

"What if they make an offer?"

"I'll pretend to play hardball, but I'm going to take what they can give me."


It was then that she recognized that the disbelief wasn't the kind of giddy excitement she deserved.

"What do you mean, Oh?"

"Aren't we going to discuss this?"

"We already discussed this," she reminded him.

He didn't reply.

"You told me I should go for it. That I needed to go for it. You know how much this means to me."

"I don't know if I'm ready to deal with this," he breathed. "This changes everything."

"You said..."

"It was easy to say that when I didn't think you'd get the job."

She set her jaw and took a deep breath through her nose. "Brody, that has to be the coldest way anybody has ever dumped me."

"Wait a minute," he said. "I never said anything about dumping you!"

"You did just now."

"We can't end this because of that!" he pleaded. "We're going to move in together!"

"You just saved yourself some trouble then."

"Come on, babe! I'm sorry!"

"So am I." She stood up and whipped her jacket off the back of her chair.

"But I love you."

She loved him too, but, Jesus. Did he really think that? She had to get out of there.

"Don't go, Lisa."

But she did.

Now, as the cold air burned her lungs, she asked herself if she'd overreacted. The answer was easy; she had. Still, this simplified things. Five and a half months was hardly enough of a relationship to bear the burden of long-distance--or even a mutual move. And it sure as hell wasn't long enough put up with that kind of shit coming out of his mouth. Besides, he hadn't called at all over the past nine hours. He was probably waiting for her to apologize. He didn't know her at all.

Still, she felt like such an asshole.

Goddammit. How the hell was she supposed to dazzle the folks in New York with this Brody-shaped hole sucking her in?

She took her phone out of her pocket and checked the time. Four thirty. Her alarm wouldn't go off for another hour and a half. The best way to pass the time would be to get her mind off of things she couldn't fix right now, and the only idea she had to do that would be to go inside and fuck the boy in her bed.

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

Does the cliché "diamond in the rough" have an opposite? If it does, it would describe the living room in which I sat. Outside, meticulously maintained brownstones walled off the neighborhood from the rest of Brooklyn. Birds sang, squirrels scurried, and young, white people walked large dogs and larger strollers up and down bright sidewalks.

Yet this apartment rotted like a cavity within an otherwise healthy set of teeth.

But hey: rent-control.

"Why are you looking at this place?" asked Pat, whose name was on the lease. "You could probably afford something in Manhattan."

That was a good question, but it wasn't addressed at me. Pat had double-booked this morning's interview for the roommate share, which would have been awkward had my current hangover not made me too sluggish to give a damn. I should have given several, considering the competition.

The soft-spoken vice president of a prestigious insurance firm sitting next to me replied with a cocky grin, "You know why divorce costs so much?"

"Nope," Pat replied.

"Because it's worth it."

"No frickin' kidding," Pat chuckled. "Want to see the room?"

Mr. Right nodded. I stood up in agreement, mostly because I was on the verge of dozing off.

Pat led the way down a short hallway, opened a door, and gestured. The first thing I noticed when I peeked inside was the soon-to-be-former tenant piled up in the fetal position inside of a sleeping bag. He groaned and waved his hand just a little.

"Hi," I said, "I'm Max."

He grunted.

"Raymond," said my rival.

The tenant grunted.

"That's Sergio," Pat told me. "He's moving out later."

"Pleasure to meet you, Sergio," I said.

Sergio grunted.

As we headed back to the living room, Pat asked, "And what do you do for a living, Max?"

"I don't know yet."

"I see," said Pat.

I may have been only twenty-three and fresh out of school, but I'd heard that phrase spoken with that tone enough times to know exactly he meant. I couldn't afford to scratch this apartment off my list, because it was the last item on it. The good news is, I had no objection to cheating. The better news sat on the bookshelf beside me.

"The Rise of the Son" was a fictional account of the End Times, written by a convicted tax-evader, noted serial adulterer, and beloved pastor named Jimmy Prewitt. A few years ago, while deep in an ironic phase, I'd picked up a copy, because I thought it would be hilarious. It turned out to be spiteful and self-righteous. Right now, it was my salvation. Pointing, I squealed, "I love that book!"

"Really?" Pat grinned. "I've never met anyone who's even heard of it."

"Well," I replied, "you know how the media is when it comes to Jesus."

"No frickin' kidding." He shook his head. "What's your favorite part?"

"That the Surgeon General turned out to be the real False Prophet. I didn't see that coming." I jerked my head toward Raymond with a convincing gasp. "Oh no! I probably spoiled it for you!"

"I wasn't planning on reading it anyway."

"I see," said Pat.

I tried not to smirk.

A few minutes later, Pat escorted us to the door, but signaled for me to hang back. Just as Raymond stepped outside, though, a pair of EMTs shoved their way in. They charged past us a few moments later carrying Sergio, still curled up in the fetal position in his sleeping bag.

Pat didn't blink. He whispered to me, "When can you move in?"

"Um," I replied.

i_17bingo: (Default)


I don’t know why I even bother. I mean, I should have known when I took a goddamn train to goddamn Boston and tracked down the ex-girlfriend of Lane goddamn Sheridan to uncover that massive bombshell from his past, that goddamn Allen goddamn Dean would have beaten me to it. Yeah, so he’s only done it once before, but, given that he was my brand new nemesis, it was inevitable, wasn't it? I was getting old--almost twenty-eight. Over the goddamn hill.

And I don't even know why I bothered to schlep this goddamn lawn chair all the over from the goddamn Cloisters and up four goddamn floors and to my goddamn fire escape because I knew full well that the moment I turned my goddamn back, my goddamn neighbor was just going to sit on it. And I would try to goddamn converse with her, even though she was just going to call me Dude, like she had ever since I've goddamn known her. And it was only a matter of goddamn time before she blew my goddamn cover with my goddamn roommates and outed me as a goddamned heterosexual.

I sat in my prize, determined not to let her win. I had no idea where she was, but I knew she was watching me, and that this chair was comfy. Unfortunately, a sizzling jones then set in, and I needed to get high right goddamn now.

I stood and mourned the upcoming loss of my seat. Oh well, I sighed, my funeral. It took only a moment to gather up my pot-smoking and return to the outside, but that was all she needed. The inevitability of it all did nothing to lessen the sting.

"Dude," she said.

I gritted my teeth, and choked out a polite offer, "Weed?"

She shook her head.

I was used to that too. Still, just before I put my pipe to my lips, I told her, "Your funeral."

She sat up in the chair. "That doesn't even make sense. How is it my funeral if I'm not doing something that could make me cough and die?"

I took my hit and held it, wondering how exactly it was that I'd set her off--so I'd know how to do it again.

"Why would you even say that?" she persisted.

I exhaled. "It was just something to say," I replied. "I didn't even think about it."

She closed her eyes and sighed. "That was really weird of me," she said. "Sorry."

"That was pretty weird."

"You know what?" she continued, extending her hand. "Fucking day I've had, I don't care."

I handed her the pipe and a book of matches, asking, "Are you sure you can handle this? You had a lot of fear before."

She snatched the paraphernalia away. "Dude, don't." A flick of a match later, her beautiful chest rose as smoke filled her lungs. Her equally beautiful face grimaced as she tried to keep it to herself.

A smirk crept across my cheek.

She exhaled in a fit of coughs, and when she recovered, she snickered, "What are you laughing at?"

I shrugged.

"It's not funny."

"It's a little bit funny." I reached for my stuff, but she yanked it away from me.


"Mine!" I replied.

"Yours when I'm done."

She took another hit, and another. I found that my irritation at watching my marijuana disappear, bud by bud, into this woman's mouth was tempered by the fact that it was one hell of a mouth. Finally she returned the half-exhausted pipe and a third of the book of matches she'd started with.

"Are you sure you're finished?"

She giggled.

"I'll take that as a yes."

"Oh, my god," she moaned, "I needed that."

"Cannabis has that effect on people."

She sighed as I helped myself to the remains of my bowl, and I asked her when I exhaled, "You want to tell me about the fucking day you had?"

Her eyes shot open. "Oh, no."

"You want me to tell you about the fucking day I had?"

She sat up in the chair, gripping the armrests like she was on a plane hitting severe turbulence. "You want to go inside."

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do."

"I just shared an assload of weed with you."

"Dude," she insisted.

"Okay, what the hell is going on?"

She giggled.

I laughed with her, but I had no idea why. "Better now?"

Still giggling, she got to her feet and shook her head.

"You are one strange cat," I told her.

She started to glide toward me.

I backed away, until the only thing standing between me and a four-story fall was a flimsy, cast-iron railing. "Now just wait a minute."

She giggled again; her face was less than an inch from mine. I tried to turn away, but she followed my gaze in every direction. "I warned you," she said.

My blood pressure rose. "Are you going to tell me what this is about?"

"I just remembered why I don't get high," she whispered into my ear before nibbling on it.


"This is your last chance to get away."

"You're not making a very good case for that."

I felt a quick tug, and my belt clattered onto the fire escape. "Your funeral," she said.

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)


"It's Bupkis," I said to the pixie-haired, bespectacled woman who answered the door.

She replied, "I remember." Her face then twisted into a frown. "I never told you where I live."

I shrugged.

"I never even told you my last name."

I shrugged again.


"I know an art major who I'm guessing has a promising future as a police sketch artist," I explained. "Given the fact that you could legally buy alcohol, I asked around in the hangouts where junior and seniors go--this took a while, by the way--and then headed to the registrar's office and cashed in a favor."

"You're putting me on."

Again, I shrugged.

"You know," she said, "in some places, that's considered stalking."

I smirked. "But not in this place."

She smirked back. "What can I do for you, Bupkis?"

"I was considering... acquiring some beer and sharing it with you." I had no idea how I would acquire said alcohol, me being eighteen and all, but I had time to work it out. "After Thanksgiving, of course, if that's okay with you."

"Hell, you can share on Thanksgiving if you want," she said. "I'm not going anywhere."


It was her turn to shrug.

"Come on over to my house for dinner then," I told her. "My parents never turn down a stray."

She blushed. "I couldn't."

"Yes, you could."

She pondered this for a minute. "You live close?"

"More or less." I clarified, "Right on the border of Arizona."

"Close enough." Not really--it was about a five-hour drive away. Regardless, she asked, "You got a car?"

"More or less."

And so, the next day, we sat in the back of a bus. We'd managed to fill about a hundred and thirty-five miles with small talk before she grinned and shook her head. "You're really paying attention to what I'm saying, aren't you?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

She looked at her legs, which had somehow draped themselves over my lap without me noticing. "You tell me."

"That," I agreed.

She studied me. "I can tell you're not gay."

"I most certainly am not."

"You must be a virgin then." A disappointed pout momentarily drifted over her face.

If there was ever a call for a spit take, this was it. It was a good thing I wasn't drinking anything. "What?"

"It's okay, you know. You're only a freshman. Lots of guys wait until they're older," she told me. "And lots of guys lie about being a virgin too."

"I'm not lying," I said.

"About what?" she clarified. "That you're a virgin, or that you're not a virgin?"

I shrugged and pulled my arm back, and with it, my fingers. They came to a stop at the top of her knee. My thumb, however, rested on her inner thigh. I pressed my nails into her leg--just hard enough to get her attention, and began dragging them upward toward the hem of her skirt.

She squirmed, but she didn't retreat.

As soon as my hand felt fabric, it came to a halt. I leaned close to her, my gaze resting on her cheek and her neck. "Go on..." My lips brushed against her ear. "... guess."

"Why would you do that?"

"I wanted to show you I'm not inexperienced."

"I mean," she said, "why would you stop?"

"Good question." My thumb followed the outline of her underwear, where it met with the inside of her leg. She moaned. And when it slipped underneath, she sat up and kissed me. It wasn't so much the romance of the moment as it was she needed to keep herself from crying out.

I don't know how much time had passed--based on the throbbing ache building up between my legs, it must have been a day and a half--by the time I asked, "Are we supposed to fuck on a bus, because I don't know if I'm brave enough for that."

"Just keep... doing... that."

I stopped moving my hand and instead ran my tongue from her collarbone, to her neck, and to her ear. "Doing what?"

"What you were doing?" she whimpered.

Her hips tried to do the work, but I kept pulling back, just out of reach. "Say please."

Suddenly, her nails dug into the back of my skull, her eyes seared mine, and she growled. The voice that poured out of her clenched teeth didn't even sound human. It said, "I am so close to fucking coming right now, and if you don't fucking go back to fucking fingering me again, I will fucking kill you."

I did as she asked. "Like that?"

"Oh," she grunted, and, after two more gasps, she lunged forward and bit my shoulder with enough force that, even if it didn't draw blood, it was going to bruise.

It took her a while to breathe again, and when she could, she giggled, "So you're not a virgin."

"Yeah, but only barely."

"It's a zero-sum game, Bupkis," she told me. "You either are or you aren't."

"I guess I'm not."

"How could you barely be a virgin?"

I shrugged. "There was only one girl."

"Really?" she asked. "You learned how to do that from one girl?"

"There was a lot of build-up," I replied. "Lots of time together in cars. Lots of groping. Lots of oral sex. You know--practice."

"Are you trying to tell me you went down on your high school sweetheart?"

"Doesn't everybody?"

She threw her arms around my neck, laughed, and kissed me, for real this time. "Bupkis," she said, "this is going to be a long vacation."

to be continued...


Mar. 2nd, 2012 12:31 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)

"This is what I don't get," the clerk said. "You are standing there, telling me that you can get me anything I want, in exchange for two cases of beer." He added, "And, because that's not hilarious enough, you want to pay for the beer?"

"I'm not sure what's so hilarious about this."

"If you could get anything," he said, "then why don't you just get your own beer?"

"Were you a philosophy major when you dropped out of school?" I asked the clerk.

"I graduated, jackhole," he replied.

"I see that worked well for you," I replied back.

"Insulting the guy with the stuff you want isn't helping, you know."

"Respecting the guy with the stuff I want wasn't helping me either," I told him, "so I guess that leaves me at square one."

"You got balls," he said, "I'll give you that. You just marched in here and told me you were eighteen without giving me any bullshit about a lost ID or even a fake."

"That would mean a lot more to me if it came with a liquor purchase."

"Well, it doesn't."

"What does?"

"A valid driver's license or state ID with your real date of birth of more than twenty-one years ago," he told me.

"Then we're at an impasse."

"No," he clarified, "You're at an impasse, and the chick behind you who's probably not a minor is also at an impasse. Me, I'm right where I belong."

I smirked and raised an eyebrow. "I was right! You really were a philosophy major!"

"Get the hell out of my store."

"If I do what you want, will you let me buy the beer?" I asked, just in case.

His voice went up a couple of extremely frustrated octaves. "Are you fucking serious?"

"Only a little bit," I admitted as I obeyed and whispered a quick apology to the chick behind me, immediately averting my eyes from hers, which were stunning, amber, and hidden behind thick-framed glasses.

Shrouded in frustration, I'd made it nearly a block and a half before a voice called out from behind me, "Hey, Bupkis!"

Since I didn't remotely look Polish, I ignored it and returned to pondering my line of attack for the next gas station.


I looked around for a Mr. Bupkis and realized that I was the only person on the street--other than the owner of that voice, of course.

"Why are you yelling Bupkis at me?" I shouted back at the shadowy figure strutting up to me.

"Because your name is Bupkis," the figure replied, stepping into the light.

"Why?" was pretty much all I could choke out at that point. That was because I finally got a decent look at the woman who had been behind me in line, with her black, boyish haircut revealing a neck that sloped from her jaw all the way to the collar of her jean jacket, which both concealed and hinted at the snug T-shirt beneath, with a hem that didn't quite make it to the waist of her just-as-snug jeans.

"Because that's all your incredible ballsiness got you," she replied.

"My name's actually--"

"Don't tell me," she interrupted with a grin. "Bupkis is cuter."

I blushed.

"Hi," she said, "I'm Mac." After a moment of silence, she added, "Mackenzie, in case you were wondering, but I'll be fucked if I'm going through life with a cutesy Scottish surname like that."

"Hi," I squeaked.

She held a case of Sheisse-Haus Lite to eye level and said, "Pay up, Bupkis."


"I wouldn't buy this shit for myself, that's for damned sure."

I handed over a wad of cash and reached for the case, but she yanked it away. "That just covers the beer," she informed me. "For me getting you the beer, you owe me one or two."

I'm not stupid. I knew what she meant by that. Unfortunately that's not what I heard.

What I heard were eight-month-old sounds, which were echoes of sighs and moans coming from the only comfortable spot in the car graveyard just outside the boundaries of my trailer park back home. What I smelled was weed, which was perfectly normal in this private, hidden location. What I saw was the misshapen lump of a hand underneath a T-shirt, cupping a breast, which was also perfectly normal in this private, hidden location. What I tasted and felt was bile burning the back of my throat, because that breast belonged to my girlfriend, whom I loved hopelessly, and that hand belonged to my oldest friend, whom I loved like a brother.

"Well," I replied in the present, "I was, uh, planning on using it to, uh, bribe this guy in the theater department for..."

"That's fine," she said. "I can't stay up too late tonight anyway. Classes and all." Her eyes never found their way back to mine by the time she turned and wandered away.

That's right. I was Bupkis.

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)


While enjoying a cup of black coffee in a semi-classy diner in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I flipped through one of my trademark reporter's notebooks and ran across a ten-digit number. With a shrug, I muttered, "Now's as good a time as any."

"Um," said the voice coming from my cell, "hello?"

"Hi," I told it, "this is Max."


"You gave me your phone number last night?" I reminded the voice. "Need me to narrow it down?"

"I don't give out my phone number a lot, Max," said the woman on the other end with a happy sigh.

"I'm flattered."

"And I never give it out to guys at that bar."

"Why not?"

"Well," she explained, "it's kind of an old man pub, not a meat market."

"I'm not really a big fan of meat markets." Especially when the meat markets are too crowded that particular evening. "However, I've always been a huge fan of that pub, though." This would be a lot more convincing if I could remember that pub's name.

"Then how come I've never seen you there before?" she asked.

"You must have just missed me."

"You're hard to miss," she said.

It was time to get off the subject of geography before my bluff ran dry. "You're referring to my distinctive broken nose."

"It does stand out," she agreed sheepishly.

"It also makes it tough to commit petty crimes."

She chuckled. "So why are you calling, Max?"

"I was hoping you were free tonight."

After a moment, she replied, "As a matter of fact, I am."

"What do you think about me swinging by your place later?"

"You don't even know where I live!"

"I was hoping you'd tell me."

She paused again. "Monroe Street. Hoboken."

"That's good to know," I told her. "There are some pretty good takeout places in Hoboken. Got any preferences?"

"Surprise me."

"Sevenish?" I concluded. "I think that gives us plenty of time to get to know each other, and if we want to go out later, we can. If we don't, we don't."

"Eightish?" she replied. "I need to straighten out my apartment."


After I hit the End button, I turned to Gretchen West, the currently scowling photographer from my newspaper with who happened to be sharing my booth. "What?" I asked.

"Don't you ever stop?" she replied.

"Why would I?"

Gretchen shook her head. "What makes you think this woman you just met is just going to sleep with you?"

"Why wouldn't she?"

"Because she doesn't know better."

"She knows enough to find me attractive," I told her. "Isn't that enough?"

"You are so gross."

A small part of me winced, but that was mostly because I didn't usually endure such condemnation in the bright, green eyes of someone with that smile and décolletage. Her opinion of every other person she'd ever met sparkled invitingly, and so her negativity stung a little. But only a little. Otherwise, I welcomed her contempt, as it was matched by mine. Besides, her assessment reminded me of something important: "Are there any good takeout places in Hoboken?"

Aghast, she asked, "Why would I even consider helping you take advantage of some poor girl?"

"Why wouldn't you?"

"You are so gross!"

"You said that already," I reminded her.

"That's because I mean it."

On the inside, I smirked. For someone so vain and vacuous, she was getting pretty good at keeping up with my banter. On the outside, however, I completely ignored her. "For obvious reasons, I should probably avoid Italian. There's nothing sexy about slurping."

"You're making me uncomfortable," she told me.

"I should probably avoid Indian food too, because I don't know how her digestive tract might react." I frowned. "Have you ever seen those movies where the characters feed each other erotically? Maybe they could give me some ideas."

"Focus," she demanded.

"I suppose I could pick up some strawberries from a bodega on the way over, but that's not much of a meal, you know?"

She pouted, which was a lot cuter than it was intimidating.

I snapped my fingers. "Something with chopsticks! I can feed it to her sensually! Maybe sushi..."

"Max Fuentes!" Gretchen snapped.


Aubry Hitchens, reality TV's It Girl de jour, cleared her throat from the other side of the table. "Are we going to get on with this interview?"

"Right," I admitted. "Totally forgot."

She sneered. "I have a talk show and a magazine shoot later, you know."

"Sorry," I replied. "Important business."

"That was important?"

I grinned. "I'll ask the questions here."

Despite herself, she smiled a tiny smile. "Then get on with it."

"Are there any good takeout places in Hoboken?"

Gretchen groaned, and Aubry frowned. "Is that really your first question?"

"It is now."

"I've never been to Hoboken."

I jotted down Hobo and struck a line through it. To her, I said, "What kind of food do you think of as sexy?"

"Is this part seriously going in the print edition?" she asked.

"Why wouldn't it?"

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

The events of which I speak transpired in the year of our lord, two thousand and four, in the final week of the eleventh month, in the city of Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington isn't much of a metropolis, but the vast number of students at Indiana University certainly try to make it one. The side-effect of this is the sudden decline in the town's population during holiday breaks.

And so, during Thanksgiving week, peace reigns. That night, so long ago, the air was brisk enough to require a light jacket, but not so cold as to prohibit cycling. The hour was late, in that I had finished a long shift at the copy shop whose name I will not mention (it rhymes with "Pinkos"), and the quiet inspired me to push my bike home and relax.

On my right loomed the vast parking lot for the IU Stadium, on my left sat the houses unfortunate enough to be across the street from the stadium, and on my cell phone spoke the man who, unbeknownst to either of us, would one become known as "Best."

We'd been trading vulgar jabs, as usual, through most of the journey, until a police car whispered up behind me and continued on. Given my history, I still flinch whenever I see a representative of the law, but tonight, I tried not to show it. I don't have a firm grasp on the statutes of limitation on said history, so it was best I not draw attention to myself.

"Be cool," I told my friend.

"Why should I be cool?" he replied.


He laughed. "You know I'm not actually there, right?"

"Be," I repeated. "Cool."

"Okay, okay."

"Oh, shit," I muttered, because even the most law-abiding of citizens tenses up when a representative of the law flashes its lights and performs an action-movie U-turn in his or her direction, which this one just did.

It took only a second for it to occur to me that the officer in that car was not after me. It's not like I was carrying around a trunk-load of cocaine; I didn't even have a trunk. The inspiration for this act of vehicular drama must have been quite spectacular, and I was sorry I had to miss it. I mean, this town was dead.

As the cruiser sped away, reflections of its lights receded behind me... except... except they weren't actually receding. My heart leapt.

"Okay," I said, "I think something really entertaining is about to happen nearby."

"You're going to have sex with a bunch of goat farmers?"

"I've been doing that the whole time we've been on the phone," I replied as I looked over my shoulder, just in time to witness the same cruiser executing another U-turn in my direction.

This time, it took almost three whole seconds for it to occur to me that the officer in the car was not after me, even when the siren whooped that singular whoop that heralded an upcoming punishment for a traffic violation. Because that would be ridiculous--so ridiculous in fact, that the officer had to stop his car, jump out, and trot over to my side to get my attention.

"I'll have to call you back," I told my phone. "I just got pulled over."

"What?" he replied. "I thought you were walk--"

I flipped the phone closed and faced the civil servant who was only a little bit out of breath. He asked, "Do you know why I stopped you?"

There are so many things I wanted to say at this moment. The first was, "Speeding?"; the second was, "That may be the dumbest question I've been asked in some time." However, the police packed pepper-spray in this town, so I went with number three: "No."

Before he could respond, a second cruiser came up from behind, passed by, flipped on its lights, turned with even more urgency and panache than the officer who currently held my attention, and came to a screeching halt directly in front of me. The driver swung open the door and stepped out, one boot at a time. The time of night forbade the use of the mirrored sunglasses clipped to his shirt, but in his heart, he was whipping them off with cocky menace. He swaggered up to the other cop, looked me up and down, and muttered something in his ear. Officer One muttered something back, which caused Officer Two to study me more intently.

I would have been more self-conscious, were I not more clean-cut at that moment than I had been at any other point in my life--up to and including my First Communion twenty years before. This left my current state of being squarely between "What" and "The fuck"--so much so that I was completely numb to the third cruiser that whipped around the corner. The fact that its siren was already wailing and its lights were already strobing ferociously meant that someone had dispatched it. For me.

The third cop's assessment of me was much more appropriate given the situation. Frowning, he muttered to the other two, and they muttered right back.

After some intense chatter, Officer One stepped away from the group and asked me, "Do you have any idea--"

"No," I replied.

"Well," he explained, "this time of year, there is a rash of bike thefts while all the students are on vacation."

Officer Two watched my reaction before adding, "And walkin' on the side of the road like that, you look awful suspicious."

"Can we see your ID?" asked Officer One. I complied, and he took it back to his car for further scrutiny.

Officer Two folded his arms. "That really yours?"

"Yes, it is."

"Prove it."

This was a challenge, inasmuch as there was no registration I could pull out of my glove compartment, inasmuch as I had no glove compartment. And yet, somehow, a clear thought jumped into my head just as Officer One returned, license in hand. "If I unlocked this chain," I asked, "would that do it?"

Officer One frowned at Officer Three while Officer Two unfolded his arms so he could fold them again. "Sure," Officer One replied with a shrug.

It took only a moment for them to witness my demonstration, return my ID, thank me for my cooperation, and drive off. The blue and red flashing from their roofs gradually faded into the amber of the streetlights above my head. That night, I learned very important lesson: if I ever want to steal a bicycle in Bloomington, Indiana, I should bring my own lock and chain.

i_17bingo: (Default)


I could tell you every single detail about the history of this cable channel. I knew the date and time of its first broadcast, and of the content it inflicted upon the world. That date was a long time ago, which, in television years, was a very, very long, long time ago, and the content was educational in nature, twenty-four hours a day. About halfway between that date and now, the executives in charge noted that learning didn't turn much of a profit. And so they set their meager budget to the task of scouring the continent for a half-dozen egos and ids the size of ten ids, transplanted them to a mansion in Long Island, surrounded them with cameras, microphones, liquor, and hot tubs, and set them loose on each other. And, despite the fact that an incalculable number of formerly educational cable channels had walked this path long before this formerly educational cable channel, the result was still gold.

Along with this disappointing story, I also could tell you the names, ages, and hometowns of every single one of these egos and ids. If said ego and id was female, I could tell you her measurements, and whether or not they were fake. And finally, I could tell you the highlights of their hookups, breakups, and fisticuffs.

Yet my soul has remained intact for one reason alone: I have never watched a single minute of this program. Knowing these things was my job, and I was damned good at it.

The champion ego and id of this particular house was Aubrey Hitchens—32DD, with a twenty-six-inch waist and what has been described by many as a "smokin' booty." Currently, this particular booty was strolling down 116th and Amsterdam, across the street from where I stood, my photographer by my side.

"I can handle this," she said.

"What's your plan," I asked, rolling my eyes. "Go up to her, compliment her shoes, trade ab-crunching techniques, and ask if you can take a picture and let me follow up with a few questions?"

"Well, her shoes are really tacky, but I like her purse," she replied without the slightest trace of irony in her voice--or even her soul, really. It's one of the reasons she got under my skin. The other reasons strained the top buttons of her blouse.

"That's not going to work."

"Have you ever tried it?"

"I don't like her purse," I replied.

"Fine, Mr. Bossy Pants," she said. "What's your plan?"

Bossy Pants. That was new. At least she called me Mister. "Just follow my lead," I told her.

"Why would I want to do that?"

I smirked. "You've been my sidekick--"


"--for how long?"

"Four months," she replied.

"And what's my ratio of pulling to not pulling things like this off?"

"After you, Mr. Bossy Pants," she admitted.

I jogged down the street as fast as my charcoal-lined lungs would take me. "Miss Hitchens!" I wheezed. "Can I get you to answer a few questions?"

"You have to talk to my publicist," Aubrey Hitchens snapped without slowing down or looking in my direction.

"Did that," I replied. "She told me there was a fee."

"Then pay the fee."

"Can't afford it."

"Then you don't get an interview," she concluded.

"Can I quote you on that?"

She stopped walking. "Do what?"

"I mean," I told her, "my editor demands a story about you for the weekend edition. He gets what he demands."

"He scares me," Gretchen agreed. "Like when he ordered me to get a candid of you in case we need to fill a hole in tomorrow's paper." Without warning, she squeezed off two shots from her hip. They were probably going to be amazing shots I had to admit. For someone like her, she really was an excellent photographer.

I continued, "I had hoped to talk to you, but I'll just have to write a column speculating as to why a self-proclaimed farm girl from Omaha, Nebraska, would be so vain as to charge that much money for her attention." I removed a notebook from my pocket for effect, not because I had anything to write down. Also for effect, I frowned and turned to Gretchen. "Are there even farms in Omaha?"

"How am I supposed to know that?" she replied.

"Because you're from Nebraska."

Her eyes widened in confused shock. "No, I'm not."

"Yeah, you are."

"No," she reiterated, "I'm not."

"There's no point in denying it," I told her. "We already know the truth."

"I'm not from Nebraska!"

"You shouldn't be so embarrassed," I said. "Nebraska's a fine state."

"I'm from Baltimore!"

"You went to college in Baltimore," I clarified. "You went to high school in Nebraska."

"I went to high school in Connecticut."

"And before that you lived in Nebraska."

"No, I didn't!"

This didn't make any sense. Based on my rudimentary understanding of evolution, the kind of boisterousness, naivety, and delicious curves of someone like Gretchen West could only have developed from the hardworking, honest, God-fearing, German-Nordic genetic stock of the American Heartland. "At least tell me your parents are from Nebraska."

"What the hell is going on?" yelled Aubrey Hitchens.

"Isn't it obvious?" Gretchen replied. "We're blackmailing you."

"And if she can get that," I added, "then it should be obvious."

"You do this," Aubrey Hitchens warned, "you're burning every single bridge between me and your paper."

"We can't afford the tolls anyway," Gretchen told her.

Startled, I blinked and said, "That's... that's really fucking clever."

Her kissable cheeks blushed.

"Who did you steal that from?" I asked.

Those same cheeks flushed with anger.

I returned my attention to Aubrey Hitchens. "What do you say?" I asked. "Tomorrow afternoon?"

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)

Something I couldn't quite put my finger on told me that the editor of the newspaper I wanted to employ me wasn't yet convinced I was the person he was looking for.

So that editor put his finger on it. "I'm still not convinced you're the person I'm looking for."

"Tell me, Myron," I started.

"You just met me," he replied. "You're not allowed to call me by my first name."

"Can I call you chief?"


"Name one celebrity who won't talk to your paper," I told him, "and I can have an exclusive piece in your inbox by deadline tomorrow evening."

"Okay, Mister..." He peered skeptically at my resume. "... Max Fuentes. If you can blow my mind with a story about Gerald Davies, you're hired."

"You won't regret it, chief."

I know that I regretted it, because there was no way a twenty-four-year-old, wannabe journalist could get access to a mega-super-blockbuster-action star like Gerald Davies. Still, my favorite things to do were things I couldn't do, so I spent the night and the rest of the next day looking for inspiration in a bottle of cheap scotch and a plastic bag full of weed.

It wasn't there.

Oh well, there was always blackmail. I opened my laptop, consulted a few search engines, and picked up my cell.

"This is Cheryl," said the voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hi, Cheryl," I replied with an exaggerated twang, "this is Maxwell Fox from the Internal Revenue Service; I was hoping to ask you a favor." Yes, I was aware that impersonating a federal agent is a serious crime.

"You want a favor from me?" Cheryl asked with hesitation.

"Yep!" I whispered conspiratorially, "I wouldn't ask, but I am in such deep doo-doo." I laughed, "Sorry about that. I've got two little boys, and I think I've forgotten how to swear."

"Tell me about it. My girls have kids of their own, and I still say fudge when I'm really mad. How old are they?"

"Two and four." I plucked from my memory the names of my nephew and his best friend: "Luke and Cody."

Cheryl cooed.

"Can you tell me something?" I asked. "When do they stop putting everything in their mouths? There's always slobber on everything!"

She laughed. "Slobber's the least of your problems. Wait until they start driving."

"They grow up too fast."

"Yes, they do." She sighed. "What can I do for you today, Mr. Fox?"

"Please," I insisted, "call me Maxwell."

"Sure, Maxwell."

"As I said earlier, I'm in a bit of a pickle. It says here your firm handles the account of a Mr. Gerald Davies? The big movie star?"

"That's right."

"Well," I told her, "we're looking over some returns--routine government brick-a-brack; you know government."

"Tell me about it …"

"Well, I was supposed to draw up a little report, and I had all of my information on my little laptop, and it busted. You know computers."

"Tell me about it."

"Well, they told me over and over. They said, 'Maxwell, you better back that file up!' And I said I would, but I plum forgot! And if I go to my meeting this afternoon and I don't have that data, well, I don't have to tell you how much trouble I'd be in."

"What can I do to help?" she asked, genuine concern in her voice.

"The information I need is in Mr. Davies's expense accounts for the last fiscal year."

"Oh, I don't know."

"Cheryl," I pleaded, "they're going to boil my potatoes. I wouldn't ask if I wasn't in such a jam!"

She sighed, "Only if you don't tell anyone about this."

"Oh, God bless you!" I gave her a private e-mail account I'd set up for such an occasion, and she promised she'd send the information right away.

"Anytime, sweetheart!" Just before she hung up, she added, "You just be sure to give little Cody and little Luke a hug for me!"

"Sure thing!" I settled back in my desk, gulping down a mouthful of cold coffee to wash out the taste of Midwestern colloquialisms. A few minutes later, Cheryl came through, and I had in my hands every cent that passed through Gerald Davies's hands last year.

More importantly, I had in my hands my new job.

I made a couple of similarly dishonest phone calls and found the number of his publicist.

"Mark Ryan," the publicist answered.

"My name is Max Fuentes," I told him. "I'm an unemployed journalist, and I'm trying to exploit your client, Gerald Davies, to get a job. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask him a few questions."

I could almost hear him blink in surprise from the other end of the line. "What?"

"Hold on," I said, "I'm nervous. That came out totally wrong. What I meant to say, Mark, was, what can you tell me about the Loving Spoonful, located on 103rd Street and Amsterdam?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," he replied after a long pause that indicating that he knew exactly what I was talking about.

"Not ringing any bells?" I insisted. "How about the one on Franklin? Or the one on Avenue C? How about Forty-ninth and Ninth?"

"What do you want?"

"What I want is to understand why a multi-millionaire would spend 35 percent of his net income to open up a chain of soup kitchens and then cover his tracks so thoroughly."

He sighed. "His pastor told him that charity doesn't count if he brags about it. It's that simple."

"How does this sound?" I asked. "Banner headline: 'Action star fights homelessness!' Subhead: 'Davies defeats …' Oh, hell, what's another word for poverty that starts with D?"

"I don't know," he replied.

"Never mind," I told him. "The copyeditors write the headlines anyway. They're really good at that alliteration bullshit."

"Your point, Mr. Fuentes?"

"Let me break this down for you, Mark," I said. "I am going to write an expose of your boss's extracurricular activities, and there's nothing you can do to stop me. In fact, you guys come across better if you give my staff a 'no comment.' Hell, I'll save you the trouble and take that down right now."

"Then why the song and dance?"

"Simple," I replied. "In exchange for all this free character-building publicity I'm about to rain down on Mr. Davies, all I ask is that you reconsider your relationship with me and the paper that's about to hire me."

After a moment of silence, he grunted, "Fine."

I grinned. "Pleasure working with you, Mark."

Forty-five minutes later, my phone went off. Before I could even speak into it, Myron Fogle's voice barked at me. "This e-mail you sent me; is this for real?"

"Have I ever lied to you?"

"I just met you."

"Give it time, then."

"I want to see you in my office tomorrow," he said. "Bring a passport or two forms of ID."

"Thanks, chief!"

Just before I hung up, he added, "And don't call me chief ever again," he said.


Jan. 27th, 2012 08:34 am
i_17bingo: (Default)


When her alarm went off at six a.m., her first impulse was to smash it to death with the table lamp. Instead, she held the urge back, picked up the phone, moaned, and shut it off. She rolled out of bed and rested her heels on the hardwood, cold-as-fuck floor and came close to crying out the dirtiest word that came to mind that day, just like she wanted to every morning. And, just like every morning, she swallowed it. This was her own fault for moving to goddamned Canada after growing up in a goddamn desert.

New Mexico. Shit. What did she have to go thinking about that for?

She closed her eyes, took a breath, and restrained the thoughts that wanted desperately to run there, steering them in the direction of the day ahead.

Shit. That didn't help.

She focused on the next ninety minutes.

That did it.

As she shuffled into the bathroom, her hand instinctively swept up a bottle of mood stabilizers and fumbled fruitlessly with the childproof lid. She barely kept herself from hurling it at the wall. After a great deal of concentration, she finally got the pills down her throat, leaving her free to speculate on the person watching her on the other side of the sink. Five years ago, that person would have been hung over. Ten years ago, she would have been crying. Twenty years ago, she would have been whining. This morning, she was calm, naked, and Zen with the events of yesterday.

She shook her head before wrapping her hair in a ponytail, slipping into a pair of track pants, pulling a sports bra over her head, making the necessary adjustments, zipping up a thick hoodie, and lacing up a pair of sneakers. On her way out the door, she leaned over to kiss the boy in her bed on the cheek. She wanted to tear off her clothes and fuck him, but she told herself she couldn't.

"Pete," she whispered, "I need to go to work."

"Why?" he mumbled.

"It's work."

"Oh." He rolled over. "Call me later?"

"If I feel like it."

Poor Pete--her perpetual rebound. She could tell he had been falling for her for a while now. She should probably stop calling him after days like yesterday, but she hated sleeping in a cold bed. Maybe she should just get a goddamn cat, like every other librarian.

It didn't take long to get to the gym, where she wrapped her hands and stretched. Here, in front of the heavy bag, her weight on the balls of her feet, her gloves up to keep from getting hit in the face again, it was okay to give in.

Five years ago, someone who maybe understood her more than anybody in the world--the person she hated most--walked out of her life.

One, two, one, two, one, six. Jab, straight right, jab, straight, right, jab, right uppercut. One, two, one, two, one, Sean.

Ten years ago, the closest friend she ever had up and quit on her.

One, two, three, two, five. Jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, left uppercut. One, two, three, two, Fuentes.

Twenty-five years ago, her mother was gone before they ever had a chance to get to know each other.

One, four, three, four, three, four, three, four, three, six. Jab, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right uppercut. One, Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! DAD!

Yesterday, her boyfriend said something she could only think of as a deal-breaker, leading to a pretty dramatic public breakup.

One, one, four, three, two, seven. Jab, jab, right hook, left hook, straight right, nut-punch. One, one four, three, two, Brody. Okay, so she made up seven.

She bounced back for a second and had to admit that she and love just didn't get along.

Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of some person bouncing around in the reflection of the room. Teeth clenched, sweat and tears stinging her eyes, muscles tight, lightning searing her bones, she looked like someone she used to know.

One more round to go: Six. Right uppercut. Me.

After a long shower, she didn't have to worry about holding anything back anymore--the medication had kicked in, taking care of most of it; the rest had been rinsed away. It had taken a long time for her to stop hating herself so much that the world wanted her gone; simultaneously, it had taken a long time for her to stop loving herself so much that the world wanted only to do her bidding. Now, with her collar straight, her hair swept back, and her makeup alluring-but-subtle, she was just another twenty-seven-year-old on her way to work.

A long day beckoned. She needed to have a talk with her more-likely-than-not-ex-boyfriend, she needed to figure out whether or not to keep stringing Pete along, and she needed to pick up her phone and call the man who'd told her specifically never to "ever fucking dare" ask him for anything ever again and ask him for something. In other words, she needed to clean up a series of messes she'd made. In other words, it was business as usual.

She studied the woman in front of her, through the rouge, the eye-shadow, lipstick, and brushed-out hair. "Yeah," Lisa Green said. "I'm still in there."

i_17bingo: (Default)

I know what those three little words mean. At sixteen, I'm not supposed to, but I do. They've been so diluted by music and television and movies that it seems pop culture's most touching uses of them is how they get substituted with little codes like "I know" and "Ditto." They still do mean something. I'm not stupid, you know.

Sometimes they're used to manipulate; my friend Hakim does that. Sometimes guys say them to each other when they're too drunk to know better; my friend Dusty does that with his frat brothers. Sometimes they're used to stop an argument; my sister and her boyfriend do that. Sometimes they're used as an apology; my step-uncle and aunt do that.

This is not what happened. She just whispered those three little words into my ear. Okay, it wasn't just those three little words. She started with three other words: "Maximiliano Alejandro Fuentes"--two big words and a medium-sized one, I guess, followed by those three little ones.

It started last night. Before that, it started in the afternoon, when I said, "I'm not getting naked. Not for anybody."

"Not even for Heather?" asked Hakim.

I did have to think about it. "Not even for Heather."

"Oh, come on!" he whined. "You made it to second base with her!"

I cleared my throat. "Third."

"So you've been naked."

"Well," I said, "we kept the rest of our clothes on."

"You must be the only sixteen-year-old who's never done it."

"Heather hasn't."

"I have," he told me.

"That's because you're a slut."

"Lisa has."

I stuck my fingers in my ears. "La, la, la-la, la!" Lisa has been my best friend since the first day she scrambled my huevos, so I wasn't going to think about her like that. Ever.

"Dude," Hakim insisted, "I'm not going skinny-dipping without you."

"That's wrong on so many levels."

He clarified, "I'm totally chickening out if you're not."

"But Ange and his girlfriend, Whatshername, said they'd go."

"Not the same."

"And..." I gulped. "... Lisa..."

"I get to see Lisa naked anytime I want."

"La, la, la-la, la!" I repeated.

"Come on, dude!"

"My name's not dude." And then, with utmost finality, I told him, "And I am not taking Heather skinny-dipping!"

And so last night I took Heather skinny-dipping.

Getting to that point was only a small challenge. The weaknesses in the security of the municipal swimming pool were the windows above the locker-room doors. These windows were really narrow, mind you, but, fortunately, Hakim was much, much narrower. He was tall enough that it only took the slightest boost to get him within reach, but, unfortunately, Hakim was as awkward as he was tall.

The only person with the strength and stubbornness to lift him up was Lisa, who steadied his legs with uncharacteristic patience. Her hands, perpetually grease-stained from the tune-ups she performed on her piece-of-shit truck and my piece-of-shit car, cupped his ass for balance, and her raised arms lifted the hem of her hoodie and turtleneck, exposing the bare skin of her hip as it thrust his weight upward.

"La, la, la-la, la!" I whispered.

"What the hell are you doing?" Heather whispered back.

"Did I just do that out loud?"

She giggled. "God, you are so weird." She gripped my cheeks in her palms and drew me in for a clumsy kiss, complete with anxious squirming. "Sexy and smart and totally weird." That's all it took to snap me out of whatever the hell that was.

A glance at Lisa stretching out her taxed limbs snapped me back into it.

In moments, Hakim cracked open the locker-room door, and we scrambled inside. Ange wasted no time stripping and getting into the water, which was just as well, since I had no desire to see him naked. His girlfriend, Whatshername, took her time, which was not just as well, since I had no desire to see her naked either. Teenage curiosity made me look anyway, though, and I was not happy about that.

Heather did a slow striptease for me. This would have been much more exciting had it not been for three things: the first was that, having rounded 75 percent of the bases, I was already very familiar with her long, creamy white torso--perfect for stroking with my tongue, and her barely swollen breasts--perfect for holding in my hands while my fingertips squeezed her nipples. The part of her I hadn't seen was covered by black denim, which she had yet to dispose of.

If she had gotten that far, I just might have missed the second thing, which was in my line of sight behind her. Hakim had removed his shirt to reveal the jutting ribs and shoulder bones I'd always suspected were hidden there. He'd peeled off his fishnet sleeves and half of his pants before he remembered he was also wearing tightly laced, calf-length leather and canvas boots.

The third was something I would not have missed, no matter how many girls might be rolling her hips for my benefit. And no amount of la-la-las could hide the way Lisa whipped off her hoodie and turtleneck and unhooked her bra in one smooth movement. I couldn't stop it--a teenage heterosexual boy was blessed and cursed with a photographic memory when it came to exposed female flesh, even if it was just an arched, muscled back.

And then, almost as if she could feel me fighting the urge to stare, she turned her head, smirked, and uttered to me three little words that seemed at the time to be just as--if not more important than--the earth-shattering three little words I would hear later. "Don't look now," Lisa said.

Just like that, a door slammed shut in my mind, reinforcing the wall of the status quo, echoing with the loudest la-la-la of them all.

That settled, I focused again on Heather, noting that most of her jeans were gone, and her thumbs were hooked around the elastic of her underwear. After they dropped down to her ankles, she kicked them over to the rest of her clothes and told me, "Your turn."

Home plate now in sight, I obeyed, with considerably less grace than she had shown.

"Wow," she said.

"Yeah," I repeated.

The other four were comfortable enough with each other's bodies to splash around the pool, squealing with the goofy innocence of five-year-olds. Heather and I, however, stared into each other's eyes in stunned silence. We drifted away, my arms holding her waist, her arms draped over my shoulders. After a romantic eternity, she leaned in close and said those three words--well, those six words. But it was those three at the end that were the most important. And though even though we're both only sixteen, we know they'll last forever.

i_17bingo: (Default)

I knelt down, folded my hands, and told the person on the other side of the screen, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been four days since my last confession.

"Since then, I've smoked three cigarettes--which is up from last week, and it's only Wednesday. I also thought a whole bunch of impure thoughts. I don't know why that's a sin, you know? I'm fourteen. That's what fourteen-year-olds do. Oh, well, God's house, God's rules; you don't make them.

"Where was I? Oh, yeah. What commandment tells you not to draw schlongs in someone else’s textbooks?" I asked. "Either way, we also drew gross pictures of Sister Mary Sebastian in the margins and put it someplace where she could find it. I mean, it's not like I'm coveting Sister Mary Sebastian or anything, but I'm pretty sure framing Jimmy Emerson for that is bearing false witness against my neighbor."

I added, "Speaking of coveting, Heather Baruchel is still going with Alfred Nuñez, and I really want her to be going with me. It's not like they're married or anything, but I still think it would be adultery if I stole her away, so I'll go ahead and skip that one, I think. That's not my kind of sin. Besides, Alfred's kind of a..." I wracked my brain for a confessional-safe word. "... jerk-face. It's only a matter of time before she's single again.

"And of course, I skipped school yesterday..."

I straightened my back. "Actually, I'm not going to apologize for that. There's nothing to apologize for. I thought no impure thoughts, I didn't covet my neighbor's wife, and I didn't kill anybody. My friend had a crisis, and word got back to me--always does--and I went to her. That's what I do. Am I supposed to do anything less?

"She's lost. She's like a sheep in a briar patch or something like that, and I'm going to lead her out." I wanted to stand to emphasize my point, but that's not how things were done in a place like this. "Isn't that what Christians are supposed to do?

"Anyway, let me get back on script: Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest--"

I thought of something else. "And it's not like she makes it easy to lead her away from the thorns. One minute, she's like a puppy, you know? Following me around and attacking anyone who's being mean to me? And the next she's sulking and impossible. But I still look after her because she's a good person. She really is."

With a frown, I asked, "Could I get sainthood for that? How do you get sainthood anyway? Is there an application process? Because, believe me, if the pope ever met my friend, he'd fast-track me.

"Oh, and I can't forget to mention the reason I'm here in the first place: Darla O'Donnell hired Angelo Schaaf and me to steal the answers to her Anatomy final, and the Mother Superior heard us in the teacher’s office, and we took off, and I'm hiding in here until she stops checking out the chapel. Amen."

Just before I made the sign of the cross, I added, "Oh, and I played with myself at least ten times since my last confession."

"Jesus, Max!" hissed the screen.

"Priests don't say Jesus," I replied. "Taking the Lord's name in vain and all."

"I'm not a priest!"

"You're on the padre's side of the confessional, Ange;" I told him, "you're the padre."

"Fine," he said, "but I don't want to hear about you playing with yourself!"

"There are no secrets from the Lord."

He mumbled a bit until he stopped and opened the door a crack. He whispered, "I think she's gone, Max."

"Anyway, Lord," I said to the sky, "Got to go. Thanks for listening. I'll say Hail Marys and shit later." I made the sign of the cross, jumped to my feet, and ran for it.

i_17bingo: (Default)

"Mr. Murphy!" shouted the jaywalker behind me.

Crap. I knew that voice. It belonged to a reporter with a leather pea coat, a rumpled shirt, pointless tie, dusty-colored skin, dark and squinting eyes, bedroom hair, a nose scarred from some long-ago, violent injury, and the kind of smirk that made me want to straighten that nose out with my fist.

I replied, "I said I'm not taking questions."

"The public demands answers!" he informed me.

"No they don't."

He massaged his forehead and lobbed a journalistic Hail Mary: "Gary demands an introduction entry for this season of LJ Idol*."

My shoulders sagged, my eyes rolled, and I sighed. "Fine. Take a seat in that chair."

"Why is there a chair here?"

"Because I want you to be comfortable."

He frowned. "But we're in the middle of the street."

"Look again," I replied.

His eyes squinted around the surroundings. "I'll be damned. How?"

"This place is a product of my imagination," I explained. "And that makes me God."

"You're a little full of yourself, aren't you?"

"Yes," I said. "Yes, I am." I sat down in a chair that was far more comfortable than his. "Was that your first question?"

He scribbled in his small notebook. "It is now."

"Why aren't you using a digital recorder or some shit to take notes?"

"Because," he replied, "thirteen years ago you were a sort of intern at The New York Post, and that being the twentieth century, reporters carried pads like this."

"Was that going to be part of one of your questions?" I asked.

He flipped a few pages and crossed something out. "Not anymore." He added a smirk. "Thirteen years, huh? That makes you old."

"Hey! Thirty-five is not old!"

"It means you've aged out of the eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-old advertising demographic."


"And that brings me to question seventeen," he told me. "Why the potty mouth?"

"There's seventeen questions?"


"I'm not answering thirty-eight questions."

"Then why did you put thirty-eight questions in my notebook, God?"

"Because," I replied, "I thought thirty-eight was a nice, daunting amount for me to object to."

"Fuck this metaphysical bullshit!" he announced, tossing the notebook over his shoulder. "What is the point of this?"

I snickered. "I thought you just said you had enough of this metaphysical bullshit."

"I've had enough of you too, but here I am."

I turned my attention to you, dear reader. "Since the first week of LJ Idol is devoted to introductions** I figured this would be a good opportunity to introduce my fellow contestants to some of my literary strengths, such as clever banter..."

The reporter muttered, "It's banter anyway."

"Watch it, you!"

"Just clearing my throat," he said.

I growled for a moment before continuing, "I also like cranky sarcasm..."

"Yeah, right. Whatever."

"And a little bit of vulgarity..."

"A little bit of vulgarity?"

"And a lot of vulgarity." I gestured to the reporter. "I'm also a big fan of this guy."

The reporter sat up and grinned. "Who isn't?"

"This is Max Fuentes, a twenty-seven-year-old entertainment journalist in New York City. He's clever..."

"It's true."


"Also true."

"A little bit sleazy..."

"But only a little bit, ladies."

"And morally deficient."

"I have morals," he told me. "They're just--"



"He's my most frequent writing subject, mostly because he captures not only the randomness that dominated my life in my mid-twenties but most especially the 'I-don't-give-a-fuck' side of my personality, which, you have to admit, is really fun."

"Except for the hangovers," he said, adding, "functional hangovers, but hangovers nonetheless."

"And that's something else that comes up. Even though most of the stories center around navigating the sex-crazed, booze-soaked, drug-addled, rock-n-roll lifestyle with no money..."

"Mama, Papa," Max said, "I want to assure you that the drugs and alcohol and sex talk is all exaggerated, unsubstantiated rumors."

"Max," I told him, "your parents are figments of my imagination."

"You only say that because your mother has never given you the mal de ojo.

I sighed. "Moving on... the strange web of Max's even stranger friends(sometimes even seen through their eyes), as well as his past also opens a different, more complex aspect of my life that I explore in my fiction, likemy bad luck, my even worse luck, growing up surrounded by poverty, heartbreak, and, most importantly, my struggles with

mental illness.

"I do write about other things, mind you, but really, I am at my best and most relaxed with this guy and his world, and so count on more of it."

"That it?" Max asked.

"I don't have anything else."

"Cool," he said. "

Let's go get a falafel."

"Lead the way, chico."

"I'm not that short, asshole."

"Yeah, you are."


* Not this time.
** LIES!

i_17bingo: (Default)


"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.


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)


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?"


"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."


"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?"


"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)


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?"


"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?"


"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."


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)


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?"


"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.


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...


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