What Men Show Whores
M. E. Purfield
I could still smell the smoke and the
burnt flesh. It’d been five months. The whole one-level house a few blocks from
the beach burned right down. Egg was the only one inside. The rest of us were
at a party on the beach. She had a sore throat and a cough, probably another
respiratory infection. I wanted to stay with her, pet her head and cover her
face with baby kisses.
“No, you go,” she said. “My Sugar Kane
needs to have fun.”
“Aren’t you worried some girl is going
to swoop me away,” I joked.
“Never. I know you love me as much as I
She was right. I still do.
“Besides, I have Snuffy to keep me
company,” she said.
Snuffy was a stray poodle we found a few
months ago. Egg and Snuffy were inseparable. When they pulled Egg’s charred
body out of the wreckage, she was hugging Snuffy. They died together. I felt so
jealous of the dog.
I read in the paper that the fire was
ruled an accident. A tipped over candle burned the place down. It happened a
lot when kids squatted in abandoned homes. It might not have been so bad if the
pilot light on the stove was off and the gas was left on, they said. Bullshit.
That pilot light was always on to light our cigarettes and weed and we never
left the gas on.
Someone started the fire.
I knew exactly who.
Panhandling didn’t pay well. All the
busy spots were supermarkets, superstores, or Jenkinson’s boardwalk. Mangers
and cops often scared us off. Sometimes we hit up the business district to drum
up change, but all we were able to do was make people feel uncomfortable or
angry. Egg and I didn’t steal. Selling ourselves seemed easier. At least for
Egg it was easy. She looked the youngest even though she was a year older than
me: she hooked the most johns. I snagged a few who weren’t intimidated by my
We didn’t need much to live on, just enough
to buy food the next day. After a few men, we met our goal and hung out at the
boardwalk with our friends. Most of the time we kept our shorts on and the men
were okay. Except for one Egg told me about:
“Some white guy with white hair and tan
skin.” She shook in my arms. “Like really tan. His eyes were as dark as…”
“Did he try to hurt you?” I asked.
“Yes. I told him to stop and he got mad.
She stopped talking and shivered in my
arms until she went to sleep.
Most of the time men were gentle and
kind. They often tipped at the end, but never paid for more than my mouth.
Maybe they intended to get under my shorts but I was able to finish them before
they could get the chance.
I waited for them to grab my head, to
shove me, to dig their fingers in my skin, to call me names, or slap me. They
didn’t. Some of them even asked if it was okay to touch me while I worked. I
gave them permission. I’d imagined this was how they treated their wives or
girlfriends. But why treat me like that? I’m a stranger. They could show their
true vile selves and not risk their future happiness.
I still carried my lock blade in my back
pocket. It was open and ready.
“Sup, Sugar Kane,” Jelly Roll asked.
“Where you been?”
“Just hanging,” I said.
“We miss you. Miss Egg, too. So fucked
“Listen, I hear you’re tricking a lot.
Juju said he saw you working the Ave at like three in the morning. Never used
to work so late with Egg.”
“Egg loved you, girl. Don’t think she
wanted you to be nutting johns all night.”
“Lights green,” I said. “Better roll,
“Hey, have you seen Feather?”
The man in his twenties had a deep tan
that clashed with his white hair. He wore jeans and a tight black silk shirt.
He reminded me of those guys who picked up drunken girls at the bar to rape.
Maybe he struck out and needed someone to use.
“Feather’s sick,” I said. “She said I
could use her corner tonight.”
“How much?” he asked.
“For one nut?”
He nodded in thought and took off his
sunglasses. The guy laid his dark eyes on mine.
“My car is over here.”
He was parked in an empty community lot
a few blocks from the beach. I sat next to him. He paid me the money.
“Look at me,” he said.
I faced him, avoided his black eyes, and
tried to match his dead expression. He grabbed my neck and slapped my face.
“You like that?” he asked.
He slapped harder.
“You’re a piece of shit. Just a whore.
Garbage that no one wants except for one thing.” He slapped me again. “Right?”
I nodded again.
“Don’t even think of saying no to
anything. The last piece of garbage that said no burned up into flames. Got
I looked him in the eye.
“I got it now.”
He took himself out, pushed me down, and
held my head.
A growling filled my ears. Long nails
scratched into my scalp. I swallowed hard to keep from puking and groaned for
him to stop. He didn’t stop. I knew he wouldn’t.
My one hand gripped his shirt for
balance, resistance, while the other slid to my back pocket. I took out the
open lock blade.
He panted faster. His time was almost
His time was now.
He screamed, pushed me off, and held his
bloody groin. I grabbed his hair and jabbed at his throat until he stopped
shaking. His dead black eyes stared out while he bled. He died with a human
face. The monster was gone.
I spat on him and left the car.
In the community bathroom
at the boardwalk, I
cleaned myself off and thought about leaving Point Pleasant. Maybe start over
someplace nice. Maybe Cape May. Egg always wanted to go there.
M.E. Purfield is the
author of jesus freakz + buddha punx, Party Girl Crashes the Rapture,
and the Miki Radicci series. He has short fiction in print and on the web. You
can find him at www.mepurfield.com.