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Gay Degani
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Call Girls


Gay Degani


 


At Thirsty Liquors, I flapped eyelashes at the belly-heavy man behind the counter, handing over money for two bottles of Sassy Bitch pinot. I slid the dude our newly minted business card. His eyes popped out of their bags when he read it, then he gawked at my boobs. Behind him, Jess smuggled Bourbon into her beach bag. I bit my lip and treated him to my bikini-clad backside. We howled all the way to her old Buick Rendezvous.

We’d dropped out of community college and moved to the beach—well, toward the beach—because Jessica wanted to ditch her hound-dog dad.  The queen-sized bed barely fit into the one small bedroom. Our costumes hung on a rack in the hall. We crammed everything else into the closet.

The love seat we salvaged from a curb got Febreezed and topped with my mother’s faux-fur bedspread, then we smoked the joint we found under the cushion. We giggled, high-fived. We’d soon have enough money to vacay in Aruba.

We made a video on my iPhone, me prancing around the clothing rack, peeking between schoolgirl uniform, can-can outfit, and Daenerys Targaryen’s leathers, not a stitch on. I recorded Jess in a bubble bath wearing nothing but cat ears. We posted our ad online, sipped wine, and waited for the phone to ring.

It took a day. Jess answered the first phone call.

“He asked for you.” Her face scrunched up. “Sounds weird.”

“Stalker weird? Serial killer weird?” I was teasing, but not really. We’d talked about the potential danger of launching our website.

 “Nah. More like trying-to-disguise-his-voice weird.”

I snatched the phone, and purred, “Your pleasure is my pleasure.”

“I saw your ad.”

His voice was weird, robotic, like that crippled genius my old boyfriend used to be obsessed with. Maybe this was my old boyfriend. “Is this Joe?”

 “I really like that little schoolgirl outfit you weren’t wearing in your video.”

“Use your own voice or I’m hanging up.”

“I’ll pay you $100 just to rip that plaid skirt off of you.”

The science-guy-in-a-wheelchair voice made my neck hair rise. I hung up.

Jessica asked what happened and I told her.

She said, “Dodged a bullet,” and I rolled my eyes.

We got three more calls, one phone and one email for Jess, one email for me. Claimed his name was “Walter,” and I figured him to be the Thirsty Liquor clerk. Then I remembered Jessica stealing his booze. Maybe he saw her. Maybe he wanted revenge. Wishing I hadn’t given him my business card, I lay awake that night wondering if what we were doing was a really stupid idea.

The morning sun shone on the taped-up picture of an Aruban beach, palm trees like flags in the sand. I grinned, forgetting last night’s worries.

At four Jess went out, and I put on my can-can outfit, all that tulle making me feel light-hearted and French. I tidied up. Snatching the corkscrew left out after last night’s wine, I wondered how effective it might be as a weapon. We’d done this all wrong. We should not have given our address to strangers. The rat-a-tat-tat at the door made me grab a handful of frothy skirt, flashing on all the dead hookers I’d ever seen on TV crime shows.

I summoned up sandy beaches, daiquiris under Tiki roofs, hot bartenders under cool sheets. These were the adventures Jessica and I both wanted so badly. She was counting on me. We were counting on me. No way was I going back to that greasy restaurant job, toting trays for dollar tips. Besides it was just that liquor store guy, wasn’t it?

I opened the door. The man’s back was turned, but I knew right away this wasn’t my clerk. The polo shirt, rumpled and worn, was familiar, the sandy hair mixed with gray. He turned toward me, that voice-changing gadget at his throat.

It was that raunchy man-whore, Jess’s father.

“You’re not wearing that little schoolgirl uniform.” He sounded like a robot in a bad movie. “I guess ripping off your tutu will have to do.”



It’s Xmas and Maureen Feels Like Death Warmed Over

 

by Gay Degani

 

 

Maureen is dog-sick. She can’t smell or taste, and her eyes burn like she’s rubbed them with jalapenos. She’s only twelve but hacking up phlegm like her 70-year-old, chain-smoking, hard-drinking uncle who hasn’t come back from the Ace of Spades for days.

This is what comes from hanging out next to the Casino bar, drinking Coca-Colas, and eating fajitas while her uncle plays craps, but she likes it there because the staff has strung Christmas lights overhead and the servers wear skimpy Santa costumes. Better by far, she thinks, than staying home in his rundown trailer with no tree, no presents, and only a fan to keep her cool.

Now, she crawls from sagging sofa to toilet, knocking over the cigarette-stuffed corn chip bowl on the open case of beer. Makeshift bed, burnt ash, cheap booze, a perfect triangle of misery.

Eventually any journey away from the couch is impossible. Wracked with chills and fever, she barely notices the perpetual dampness of her sheets. The thought of food, even Almond Joys, makes her retch. 

The trailer door rattles. Her eyes flick open. He’s come back, Uncle Jack. Finally.

“Ho-ho-ho,” he cries as he slams the tinny trailer door. He’s wearing a Santa hat. Lipstick smears his cheeks. His stench of stale tobacco, sweat, and gin smother her like a winter blizzard.

“Where—have you—been?” she gasps, angry, clutching the sofa arm and shoving herself to her feet. She plucks at her soggy nightgown. Notices he has a wrapped Christmas package in his hands. She’s suddenly glad he’s back. It isn’t his fault, not really. He’s just a weak man. 

Then he turns, his face filling with horror.

They stare at each other. He gags, grabs his heart, and crumples to the linoleum. The gift tumbling away.

Maureen leans against her uncle’s threadbare recliner, gaping. Is he dead, or drunk? She leans down. His eyes are wide open, glassy, his mouth a rictus of shock, his chest still. Could the sight of her face and stench have frightened her uncle to death?

She pulls herself along, swaying from chair to kitchen counter, glancing at herself in the toaster. She squints. Sucks in breath at the face, her face, gray and distorted.

Stumbling into the bathroom, she forces herself to look into the mirror. The toaster didn’t lie. She is herself. Maureen, but not Maureen. Fuzzy, translucent. Skin dangles from her bones. Her eyes loll in their sockets. She stinks, too, like the rotten corpse she’s become.

 

 

 

Huggermugger

 

by Gay Degani

 

 

She buys polyester dresses from Walmart, this kindergarten teacher, her doughy face and pliant flesh suggesting empathy, comfort, trust. We expect these traits from those who tend our young.

She doesn’t honk at drivers when they cut her off, nor does she push ahead in movie lines. She has yet to wring the necks of grocery baggers who pack soup cans on top of her bananas, her tomatoes; and if the cashier suggests a donation to some charity, she nods and beams when her $2 contribution earns an announcement over the loudspeaker and applause from employees and customers alike. 

She doesn’t call the cops when neighbors blast their music as if it was the national anthem at a baseball game. She is tolerant of the cats, raccoons, possums, and occasional coyote that haunt her yard at night, digging up her azaleas.  She bakes cookies for the mailman. Returns library books on time.

Making breakfast, she runs a finger along the hot grooves of the waffle iron, sucks up the pain, and later in the classroom, when Sarah with the runny nose throws puzzle pieces against the wall, this quiet spinster offers comfort by brushing her burned finger across Sarah’s angry cheek.

And when she cuts her curly hair with a razor blade, slicing a bit of thumb, she watches the blood ooze. Later, during morning rest, when Robert crawls off his blanket, she scoops him up, hugs him to her, rubs her newest cut against his neck, until she leaves a smear of red. 

She does all these things, this teacher of small children, this model citizen, so when she moves in the night with her switchblade, no one, not one person, will guess it’s her.

 

 

 

Gay Degani’s work has received Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominations and won, placed, or received honorable mentions in contests. The PhareMidway JournalGhost Parachute, and Bending Genres are among those who have published her work this year. She also has a full-length collection, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Books), a chapbook, Pomegranate, and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press). She occasionally blogs for Words in Place














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