Sunday, February 19, 2012

Simple Math

Category: Short Story

It ain’t no Nine to Five, this thing I do, in the glass-glittered alleys and vacant industrial lots of the city. My stare bores into Jake, the fight hustler, as I wipe my mouth with a filthy hand. One more fight and I can take the money and go.

Drink, shower, forget.

Fuck, I could use that drink now.

The first four haven’t been too bad, but I am feeling the strain. My inner thighs are trembling, my skin is crawling up the back of my eyes, and every bone in my body is aching.

His glance reminds me that I can skip this shit if I let him share a bed. Mine reminds him he’s too old to wake up an eunuch.

The crowd begins to whisper and I detect a note of anxiety in the sound. I lift my eyes up from the ground as the last fighter steps into my circle.

She’s a ragged vision, tiny Asian china doll with a ragged sweater and immaculate porcelain wrists. Her thin, impassive face is pale and smooth, swallowed by dark almond eyes blazing with the terrible fire of determination.

The spectators sigh, their hard shiny eyes shying from her tiny form to my thick one. I shake my head as I hold up a hand, shooting Jake a venomous look.

This is a child.

I stare at Jake, but he avoids my furious eyes. He won’t pay me if I don’t. I’d love to break him into pieces, but no Jake, no fights.

When you are a drunk, the math is simple.

The girl flows into the ring, and her movement whispers to me. I feel the hair on the back of my neck ripple and stir. She is poised and liquid, her approach predatory.

I nod at her; she bows and assumes a horse stance.

Ah, her bow is fractional. She believes she is superior; I am curious myself.

A blink later, a whisper of air whines as it chases the flicker of her black cottoned leg. Her blurred foot appears in my left peripheral and vanishes again.

I feel my nose break.

Damn, she has something. Third time this year I’ve had my nose broken, and by a slip of a girl too. I feel my lip curl in a reluctant, appreciative smile, as her slight form weaves around me, light as a dandelion. I shift to defense as I scrape my streaming eyes with a quick sleeve.

What you got there for me, baby?

She rises in a trophy kick that would be applause worthy in an exhibition. I block her kick with a casual forearm, clench my hands around her airborne ankle, and give it a hard yank.

Too bad she’s in the real. Someday, if she survives, she will be good, but not tonight.

I don’t want to hurt her, but I got to have that drink.

I swing her high off the ground and her soaring kick turns into the frightened arm-waving flutter of a helpless child as I curve her up, around, and down, slamming her face first into the gravel littered dirt.

The impact wrenches a shriek from her lips, and the crowd flinches along with me in unwelcome synchronicity.

A black silence falls in both my inner and outer worlds. A violent surge of shame almost doubles me over and I fold my arms across my belly to hold it in. There is a breathless period when no one moves or speaks. We simply stare.

A single tear slips down the slack of her jaw from a trembling eyelid, transforming the dusty powder of lot dirt into a muddy trail. The overhead light traces the fine peach fuzz of her cheek with glints of amber fire. A small river of blood, black in the night air, is spilling down her temple and pattering to the gravel below.

The delicate blue of the skin under her eyes looks so fragile, I want to vomit.

Her fight pimp eases up, eyes prying at my shame-numbed face. He leans forward, whispers a single word next to my cheek.


I smile at him, a tight glittering row of vicious blood - streaked white; he flinches, prudent instinct over-riding greed.

Too late.

I roundhouse Mr. Fight Pimp on the side of his pointed little head, and he sags to the ground unconscious. I lean over him and spit with heartfelt contempt into his rubbery face.

Then I relieve him of his fat wallet and make it disappear.

“Fuck your cash!” I hiss.

Jake is holding out my prize money.

I snatch it from him.

He shrugs at me as he backs away, holding his hands up in the air. I see most of the crowd has wandered away; none of them look excited anymore. Plenty look sick.

I turn to the girl and lift her to her feet. She manages to stand alone after a moment spent clinging to my arm, her face a white blur in my shadow. I dab at a trickle of blood running in a thin thread from one of her nostrils with one of my sleeves, and stuff a twenty in her front pocket

“Get something to eat, little cobra.”

I feel her dazed eyes follow the back of my head as I turn away.

Behind me, Jake is pawing through the fight pimp’s pockets in a feverish haste, exclaiming over the dope he finds, a cascade of gold chains already stashed in his underwear.

Gritting my teeth, I pin my nose between my palms and wrench it back into place, as fresh blood, snot and tears run down my chin. Stuffing the money in my bra, I pull out a cigarette and light up.

The glowing cherry of my smoke shivers in my jiving fingers, as I head down the alley toward the strip.

I’ll get a fleabag for a night or two, one with a hot shower, lots of ice packs, and order-in Italian.

First the liquor store.

I need two bottles. One for me, and one for eternity, because it’s gonna be forever before I forget that child’s face.

Posted by Chalice_Divine on 02/19 at 01:23 AM | Permalink
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