i_17bingo: (Default)


Tyffanie Grant was only sixteen, but she had spent the past five years selling out pop-music concerts and acting in her all-ages sitcom, Mac and Daddy. She'd always dressed and acted provocatively, yet maintained her virtue. Tonight, she was going to put money on it. Judging by the decorations and the size of this yacht on which I stood, I'd say it was a lot of money.

For a purity ball, I was expecting more white clothing. Even the boys, all athletic and bobbing their heads in unison to the music, wore mostly baby blue shirts tucked into their meticulously pressed khakis--too cool, of course, to dance.

The girls unanimously wore black cocktail dresses with skirts that reached down to their mid-thighs and kept hiking up as they wriggled, writhed, and sweat to the bubblegum blaring out of the unnecessarily large speakers in every corner. To Ms. Grant's credit, none of the tunes were her own.

After hours of this, I barely even noticed my colleague, Gretchen, finishing her photographing orbit of the room and gliding over. "Max, look at this."

"I am looking."

She smacked the back of my head. "Not there."

I turned my attention to the display on her camera. "What am I looking at?"

"Who's that?"

"Phil Ferris," I replied, "the washed-up comedian who plays the titular father in Mac and Daddy."

She smacked me again. "That's for saying tit in a yacht full of teenagers."

"It means title, you idiot."

She shrugged. "I know, I just like hitting you."

"That's nice," I told her. "Can I go back to being a creepy pedophile now?"

This time, when she swung at me, I caught her wrist.

"Do you think you could tell me what's going on without hitting me again?"

"I'm not talking about Phil Ferris," she said, liberating her arm, "I'm talking about the guy behind him."

I squinted. "Looks like a ferret in a sweater vest."

"Yeah, but who is he?"

I scanned the room and caught sight of him swaggering over in this direction, with his loosely knotted tie, well-worn cargo pants, and scruffy blonde hair. I'd never seen him before, but it was obvious to me exactly who I was dealing with: my newly acquired nemesis, who worked for my rival paper and had been snatching exclusive interviews right out from under me.

I said to him, "Allen Dean, I presume."

"Wayne," said someone nearby.

"Say what?" I turned to the voice to see a towering slab of Nordic beef. His blond hair, like Gretchen's, improbably swept over his head in the most stylish manner imaginable. His lips, like Gretchen's, puffed alluringly. His chest, like Gretchen's, threatened the integrity of his button-up shirt. And he brandished a camera, just like Gretchen.

The Aryan repeated, "I'm Wayne."

"I'm Gretchen," she purred, checking him out.

"Knock that off," I hissed at her.

"You must be the lauded Max Fuentes," the ferret said.

"You must be..."

"Not lauded much longer," he added.

"That's a declaration of war, Dean," I told him.

"A bit of a one-sided war, don't you think?"

"This sexual tension is killing me," I said. "Should we make out now, or should we trade a few more barbs?"

He shook his head. "You're funny. But redundant. I'm about to score an exclusive, and all you'll have left to write are captions."

"You're so cute," I told him before cupping my hands to mouth and turning toward the dance floor. "Tyffanie Grant! Come on over!"

A few moments passed, and she emerged from a cloud of giggling teenage girls without a word, just a curious smile.

"If I promised to dance with you and all your friends, you think I could get an exclusive?"

She looked me up and down, grabbed my hand, and said, "Deal."

As she pulled me away, I made sure to blow Allen Dean a kiss.

A half hour and a full notebook later, I rejoined Gretchen, who was standing alone and fanning her face with the hand not occupied with a camera.

"The hormones in there are suffocating," I told her. "If I don't fuck something tonight, I am going to die."

She let out something between a moan and a sigh. "Oh, yeah. It's a good thing I have a boyfriend to go home to." I couldn't tell if the sigh was one of relief or schadenfreude. It didn't matter, because I spent the rest of the evening inebriated to the point of nausea by youthful lust.

When I got home hours later, I tried a cold shower, but I couldn't wash the hormones off of me. It made it worse, actually, as I became aware of how nude I was, and how badly I wanted to share that nudity with someone who richly deserved it.

I tried masturbating, but I kept remembering how young the objects of my fantasies were. Whenever I tried to change the subject, I found myself recalling the skinny, immature limbs of my high-school sweetheart. Whichever way my mind's eye went, it landed on jailbait.

And so I tried climbing onto my fire escape and getting some fresh air laced with tetrahydrocannabinol, but this was the worst idea of them all, because of my neighbor.

I could have fled at that moment, because, facing away from me with her cell to her ear, she had no idea I was there. Yet I was paralyzed by her neck, exposed by a loose ponytail and glowing with sweat, by the damp polyester clinging to her back, and by her workout pants.

Damn. Athletic women: my only weakness.

My mind, already on fire, ceded control to my body, which maneuvered my feet right up to her. The fingers of my right hand slid over her hip so they could tug loose the knot that held her drawstring together. The rest of them stroked her stomach and crept under the hem of her shirt.

She told her phone, "I'm going to have to call you back, Mom."

Fifteen minutes later, give or take, I rolled onto my back and wheezed, "Sorry."

She also rolled onto her back and attempted, with limited success, to slow down her breathing. "Why?" she panted. "Fair's fair, after all."

to be continued...


Jun. 10th, 2012 12:45 pm
i_17bingo: (Default)


The door to the holding cell opened, and the officer on the other side told me, "You're free to go, Max."

With a yawn, I asked him. "Hey, Jason. What's going on?"

"You know, the usual."

"Really? Because the last time I was in, they told me you and the family went to Florida for the week."

Rolling his eyes, he said, "Not much of a vacation when you got to stay with your in-laws, if you know what I mean."

"Not personally, but I've heard things."

"Lucky." He shook his head. "You know the way out. Stay out of trouble."

We smirked at each other.

When I got to the check-out desk, I said to the uniform sitting behind it. "Hey, Roger."

"Hey, Max," he replied. "Says here you were trespassing backstage at the Staplebitch concert."

I shrugged.

"My daughter loves that band."

"Your daughter has lousy taste in music."

"That's what I keep telling her," he said, "but you know kids."

"Not personally, but I've heard things."

He handed me my belongings, I signed for them, and he told me, "See you next time, buddy."

Upon exiting the building, I was greeted by my colleague and photographer, Gretchen, leaning on a lamppost, playing with her fingernails. Her voluptuous hair was tied up into a stringy ponytail, her pin-up-girl figure was hidden under too-large jeans and a T-shirt, her bright eyes were bloodshot and framed by the ugliest pair of glasses I'd ever seen, her lips were pale, and her smile was absent. I'd recognized her only by the sound of her gum-chewing.

"Gretchen," I told her, "you look like shit."

"You look like the shit that shit shits," she replied.

I took a moment to comprehend what she had just said. Failing that, I closed my eyes and exhaled.

"We done?" she asked.

I nodded.

She strode off, and I turned on my phone to see what the world had been up to in my absence. "You have one new message," the ethereal voice inside informed me.

"And I bet you a dollar I'm going to hate it," I mumbled in reply.

"Max," the message growled, "this is Myron. You know, your editor? The one who keeps having to bail you out of jail? That Myron? I expect to see you in my office within a half-hour of you getting you out, and I expect you to have an interview for me with the notoriously difficult-to-interview it-band of the moment with the stupid name. If not, I will murder you, chop up your body, and throw it in a compost heap."

Seeing as I'd failed to get said interview, I figured I should try to make a run for it.

"If you failed to get said interview, and you try to make a run for it," the message continued, "I will hunt you down then murder you, chop up your body, and throw it in a compost heap."

Scratch that.

My phone went off while I was a dead man walking to the train, and I went ahead and answered it, given that I was too numb to give a fuck anymore.

"Am I talking to Max Fuentes?" it asked.

"Who wants to know?" I replied.

"I need you to confirm or deny the veracity of a recent news-related rumor."

"And what rumor would that be?"

"That an exclusive, all-access, behind-the-scenes story about Staplebitch is not running in your paper this weekend."

I'd never heard the voice before, but the cockiness of my arch-nemesis could not be mistaken. For starters, it rivaled mine. "Allen Dean," I moaned.

"I also need you to confirm that I scooped you. Again."

It didn't even occur to me to ask how he got my number, because I was too busy informing him, "Dean, I am going to fucking kill you."

He laughed and hung up.

I sighed, "Myron is going to fucking kill me."

Forty-five minutes later, however, my editor sentenced me to a fate worse than death. I blinked. "You want me to do what?"

"Not you," said my editor as he pointed a finger at my colleague and photographer, Gretchen, who had somehow gone home, showered, washed and blew out her hair, dressed, and applied most of her makeup, since I last saw her not all that long ago; "both of you."

"I'm clear on who's involved, Chief, but it's what you want us to do that I don't quite understand."

"Go to a purity ball," he repeated. "And you should probably stop calling me Chief. You're already skating on thin shit."

Gretchen snorted. "Max isn't exactly pure, you know."

"Well," Myron continued, "it's not your purity in question, but you're still attending."

"Yeah," I said, "I'm not going to do that."

"Since when did this become a democracy?"

"Since 1788," I replied, "when the Constitution was ratified. Mind you, it excluded blacks, women, and poor people, but we've since made improvements."

During the course of this back and forth, Gretchen produced a vial of mascara from God knows where.

"Max," Myron said as he absently produced a mirror and held it up for her, "if you don't shut up and do as you're told, I'm going to physically kick your ass."

"I'd like to see you try."

"I'd pay money to see that," Gretchen muttered.

"You're young," he told me, "but I could take you."

"You're probably right," I admitted. "So, I totally forgot with all the banter, what was our assignment?"

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)


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...


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





"Do I look like a gladiator?"

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

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

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



I nodded.

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

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

After she blinked them, her eyes went wide.

"Have you ever tried?" I asked.

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

"What is it, Fraulein Kommandant?"

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

"Makeup woman," I told her.

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

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

"Looking forward to it, Jen."

"Lynn," she replied coldly.

I winced. Gretchen snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Because I took them already."

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


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

"I forgot that one."

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

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

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

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

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

"Sure!" he replied.

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

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

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

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

"The newspaper's photographer," she clarified.

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

"What he said," Gretchen agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Roomie," I said back.

"Just getting in?"

"Yes," I replied.


"Yes, it is."

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

"Chico," I chimed back.

"How was work?"

"Crap," I replied. "Yours?"


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

"Same again tomorrow?"

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

"Chief," I said.

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

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

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

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

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

I whined, "I just got home!"

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

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

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

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

to be continued...

i_17bingo: (Default)


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

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

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

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

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

That laugh.

"I'm your new photographer!"

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

"I know, right?"

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

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

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

"To take pictures," Gretchen replied.

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

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



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

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

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

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

"My name's September," she replied.

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

Take it away, the angel told both of us.

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

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

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

She shook her head.

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

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

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

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

My spirits rose.

"And what brings you here, Max?"

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


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

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

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

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

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

He's an asshole, replied the devil.

Well, there's that.

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

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

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

"Hilarious," I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, said the devil, it kinda is.

to be continued...


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


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

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

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

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

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

That laugh.

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

That laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

"Why not?"

"I can't get any service here."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is it awful?"

Actually, I kind of liked it.

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



"Motor oil?"

She laughed and punched my shoulder. "Lotion!"

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

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

I needed to be more careful how I prayed.

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

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

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

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

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

"Right away, sir."

to be continued...


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