You sit quietly, sipping your beer,
while around you, all hell breaks loose.
The Yanks are winning; you could care less. Metallica blasts on
the jukebox. Over at the pool table, he’s
just won . . . again. The cheers and claps are more for him than the Yankees,
though except for you, they’re all diehard fans.
Plenty of coke-bucks on this
game. He sees to that. There is
nothing seedy, or self-destructive
that he’s not in charge of. The pool
Over those cheers and claps comes
laugh: hearty, near-maniacal, and so loud, you swear he’s right next to you, standing
over you, looking down at you, instead of over there, dancing by his winning
He’s always dancing, always
Why me? you ask yourself. Why only me?
Why can’t they see it, too?
The Devil. You’d think he’d be handsome. Brad Pitt, or
Johnny Depp-looking, instead of
scrawny, with that too-curly black hair.
A wig, it looks like, though who’d choose a wig like that? And those
black pop-eyes. “Hellzapoppin’ ” eyes,
like twin doors to hell. Like behind
them, demons hurl themselves, trying to break out. No wonder he wears glasses.
And those teeth. Needle-sharp, though
only you can see that. To the guys, they’re
just too many long, white teeth.
But you’re a chick. Maybe that’s it.
There’s Kate. The beautiful,
You need a drink. Wearily, you wave her over, but she doesn’t
seem to see you. It’s like you’re dead.
The way she’s clapping for him, you’d think he was this stud-ly, Brad
Pitt-looking thing. You’d never know she’s head-over-heels for her own
Where is Butch? you think.
“I ate him,” this purry
right in your ear. You turn, but no one
is there. “I bit clean through his
bones, swished his flesh around in my mouth, then swallowed him.”
Wildly, you look around. Over by the pool table, stick in hand, he’s
grinning right at you. “Mmmmmmm,” you
hear him thinking. He licks his lips. No
one but you sees his tongue is forked.
“Santos!” Kate calls to
him. “It’s on Richie!”
Another free drink.
Richie holds up his own beer for a
toast. “Good luck!” he tells Santos.
What nerve, you think, to name himself
“Can you think of a better one?”
You jump. He really is beside you, now, pool stick in
hand. “You play,” he tells Richie, but
he’s watching you.
“But it’s your table,
man!” Richie’s a
beefy biker. His face looks like a rat’s
been gnawing on it.
says. You cringe, as he lights a cigarette. Sulfur,
you smell. Smoking in bars was
outlawed in Jersey, but he does as he pleases.
“I’m talking to Magdalena.”
An exorcist, you think. That’s what you need. Somewhere you could
find one. Write to the Pope, or something.
Or, if all else fails, do the job
yourself. Wearing a giant wooden cross
and a garlic necklace . . .
“Not a chance.” Santos
sympathetic. “I could live on camerones
ajillo. Somebody’s been feeding you
a line of bull.”
“Kate,” he says.
Chin in hand, Kate is watching him, closely. Red, swirly
contacts, she wears now, for him. Her real eyes are brown.
“Two shots,” he tells her.
The look she gives you makes you instantly cross yourself.
“It won’t help.” Santos can’t help smiling.
But you’re not beat yet.
You, with your cheap gypsy earrings and chipped nail polish. You, who’ve
been “connected” to The Other
Side since birth. Wasn’t it dead Grandma
Tucci who’d stopped you from falling out of your crib? Mama had screamed as
those sheer batwings arms caught you in mid-air.
You, drunken slut or not, are the Chosen One.
“Yes, you are,” he says, right into your brain. “ ‘The Chosen
One.’ ” His glasses are ice-cold against your cheek, his purry voice tickles
your ear. You almost like this! “I’ve
chosen you . . . for my queen.”
You bolt your shot. Shut
your eyes tight against him.
Around you, guys are cheering the Yanks, ignoring both of you.
It’s like neither of you exist. You feel
you’re floating, in your stools, a few feet above the floor. “Aw,
shit!” Richie yells, as if from a great
distance. He smacks the stick down on
the table. Laughter is muffled.
You open your eyes.
Santos . . . he’s changed. You’ve never seen anything like
him. Deep-set dark eyes, high cheekbones,
a kissable mouth. Those Harpo curls are
gone: his dark hair is wavy, tousled.
Like he’s been in a windy place.
You are, you realize. Both of you stand at the edge of
a cliff. Like a glowing red Grand Canyon, all around
you. You’re scared to look below, but
the smell finds you. . . .
Like rotten eggs, and too-sweet cologne. You realize
you always smell him before you
Holding his shot, he backs toward the edge, smiling. The
fangs are gone. He has such a beautiful mouth: perfect, even
white teeth, and lips you are dying to kiss. . . .
Blood, you smell now, as it gets closer. The shot-glass
brims with it. Coppery, and meaty, you feel hungrier than
you ever have in your life!
His shot he holds to your lips.
Still backing up. Any moment
you’ll both be over the edge.
“It’s worth it,” he purrs.
With all your strength, you smack that shot into him. A
maniacal howl rends the air. Louder than the biggest bomb. You’re torn in half. Cracked ribs split, bleeding
over and over! You’re falling. . .
Screaming. . . .
“Maggie!” It’s Kate. Her
brown eyes are warm, concerned. Around
you, the guys, all Yankees fans, are watching you instead of the TV screen. “Are
You open your mouth, but nothing comes out of it. That’s
when the door opens.
As he creeps in, you wonder where he got that hair. Is
it naturally curly, or did he sit for
hours in curlers, in some old lady beauty parlor? And for what? His glasses
are so thick, you
wonder how he can see where he’s going.
Somebody snickers. You
relax, a little.
When he reaches the bar, he throws down a bill. Smiles
nervously, all around. “Buy the bar!” he tells Kate, in this reedy
And that’s how it begins.
originally appeared in Black Petals Issue #44, Summer 2008.