Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Twenty-Two: Rally

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Rally

He’s been tracking the swallowtail for a hundred yards. Problem being, he wants to use the macro setting without using the zoom, so he has to get in close. The swallowtail finds a small yellow flower that seems to captivate her. Edward squats on the trail, raises the lens at a glacial pace, focuses and snaps. The sound sends her fluttering, a piece of confetti in the breeze. But that’s okay. He’s got her.



She expects that Zarita might be mad at her, might even give her a good chewing out, but their lunch follows the usual patterns. Z greets her at the door with a hug. They cross the parking lot to the thin-slice pizza joint near the coffeehouse. Founded in Santa Cruz, the Pizza My Heart chain operates on a surfing theme. The walls are covered in posters for surfing movies, and the combos have oceanic nicknames. Zarita gets the Maui Wowie, Canadian bacon with pineapple. Zelda gets the Big Sur, with garlic cloves, pepperoni, sausage, portobello mushrooms and green onions.

“Once in a while, I think I’m in a rut, so I order something else, but then I think, Damn, I should’ve gotten the Big Sur!”

Zarita laughs entirely too much. Zelda gives her a puzzled look.

“What’m I, Seinfeld ovah heah?”

“No,” says Zarita. “I was just remembering that time we were here and we saw Roxy making out with that college kid.”

Zelda’s eyes get big. “That was awesome!”

“I wonder what became of that guy?”

“You know, I never asked her. I think I didn’t want to admit that I was spying.”

Zarita takes a big bite and nom-noms all the way through to indicate her pleasure.

“It’s nice to have a crazy rich aunt.”

“Everybody should.”

Zarita takes a sip of soda and plants her cup on the table. “So! I have some business.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. Number one. Zelda. Darling. I know Jackson can be a dick, but please, if you’re going to kick him, anywhere but the jewels.”

“Oh.” Zelda hides her face.

“It’s just that I get some good use out of those things.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Quickly to number two. I have this trainer at my gym. The women’s gym? And she’s also the manager. The other day she’s teaching me some new yoga moves, and these workers are making all this noise in the corner and I say Margie what the hell is going on? And she says they’re installing stripper poles. And I say, Oh! Are you going to have classes? And she says Yes, but I haven’t found an instructor. Where the hell do you find a stripper pole instructor? And I say, I know just the woman for the job.”

Zelda can’t speak, because her mouth is full of Big Sur.

“Put your resume together, Z. You are so in.”

Zelda nods and chews. “Zhee! Ah wuv oo!”

“Ah wuv oo too.”



A dozen brave women sit on their stretching mats as “Lady Marmalade” plays over the PA. A curvaceous brunette struts to the center pole, takes a couple of recreational spins, then grabs it with both hands, flips herself upside-down and splits her legs into a dangling spread-eagle. The women gasp and applaud. She rotates around the pole, hand-over-hand, pulls her legs together, pointed at the ceiling, then flips backward into a dismount. The song cuts off; her students hoot and holler.

“Thanks you! I wanted to make sure that you knew, that I know what I’m doing.” She pauses to catch her breath. “Now the bad news. You will not be doing that.”

“Aww!” the students moan.

“Uh-oh,” says Zelda. “I’ve got one of those entertaining classes. Anyways, I do hope that you will learn some fun moves in this class, maybe live out some fantasies and develop a little attitude. Along the way, you may find yourself in some very unexpected positions, and that is why I am declaring this studio a non-judgement zone. Just remember, the next woman with her ass stuck in the air might be you.”

She stops to allow some snickering.

“You will find that pole-dancing requires much strength and flexibility, so if you want to maximize what you get out of this class I would recommend you also pursue yoga and weightlifting. Aesthetically, I will spend a lot of time stressing two important basic skills: pointing your toes like a ballet dancer or gymnast to elongate your legs, and keeping your shoulders back to produce the best posture. Now! Why don’t we start with some basic stretching, and then we can introduce you to your poles.”

At first, Zelda was hesitant about having friends in the class. But the idea of speaking to a room full of strangers scares the bejeesus out of her, and it helps to see a couple of familiar faces. Afterward, they adjourn to a neighboring juice bar to conduct a recap.

“Well, Z, I gotta say, the yoga training gives you a distinct advantage. You’re very graceful.”

“Thanks, Z!”

“Now we just have to build up those biceps and you’ll be flipping around like Cirque de Soleil.”

“Okay. As long as I don’t look like Popeye.”

Zelda takes a sip of her Mango a Go-Go. “As for you Countess, there are certain subtleties to pole dancing that come not from learning but from doing. Perhaps occupational doing.”

Roxy gives a sneaky, close-mouthed smile. “How do you think I worked my way through college?”

“Aha!”

“For that matter, how do you think I snared Carson Alameda?”

“Oho!”

“But that inspires a question, dear Zelda. How did you get so good at this?”

“I was quite the hot gymnast as a kid, but then I began to develop hips, and the gymnastic world is pretty brutal when it comes to body types. So I quit competing, but I still found time to mess around on my own. A few years later, I got hooked on that show The Sopranos, and I especially liked the scenes at the strip club. Lots of different bodies working those poles, and it sure looked like fun. I found that studio in Campbell with the proper equipment, and I visited a few strip joints to pick up some moves. I never dreamed that pole-dancing would become this, like, female empowerment thing, but I gotta say, I like the way it worked out.”

“You’re a natural teacher,” says Roxy.

“You are!” says Zarita. She finishes her Very Berry and stands. “Well, sistahs. I need to get home to my husband. ‘Husband.’ I still feel funny saying that.”

“How does hubby feel about the class?”

“Oh, he thinks this is an aerobics class. He’s going to be very surprised when I break out some of these moves.”

Zelda laughs. “You may have to install a pole in your bedroom.”

“Let’s hope!”

They exchange a round of hugs and see her off, then Roxy and Zelda sit back down.

“How are you doing?” asks Roxy.

“Fine,” says Zelda. “Like I said, it’s the public speaking part that…”

“No,” says Roxy. “I mean, how are you doing?”

“Oh!” says Zelda. “That. Well, I’ll tell ya, the avalanche was building force. It’s so great to have this class to focus on. I mean…” She covers her face and laughs. “I was getting bad, wasn’t I?”

Roxy smiles and touches her hand. “You were getting to be a scary-ass bitch.”

Zelda swats Roxy’s arm. “You don’t have to be so fucking honest all the time.”

“That’s okay. I knew that really wasn’t you. It’s good to have my Zelda back. Hey, but I need to head out, also. Take care, sweetie. And congrats! You were terrific.”

“Thanks, Countess.”

Zelda gives her a kiss on the cheek and watches her saunter away. She powers up her phone and is surprised to see a text from Mr. Piccone.

Hi Zelda. Got a new guy covering the games, but I need a second Gigante to do a fundraiser Thursday. Would you be interested?

Well! thinks Zelda. The avalanche is in full reverse.



It’s not the best year for the Giants. They fall into a slump in August and find themselves out of the playoffs for the first time in years. After the final game, a week after Labor Day, Zelda showers up and reports to the seats behind home plate, where Tee awaits for a post-season strategy session.

Zelda has been developing a theory of mascots. The classic high school mascot is an energetic nerd. College, an energetic nerd with a major in dance or theater. Once you get to the pros, the mascots tend more toward former athletes with theatrical leanings. This is certainly true of Tee, who possesses a lean, gangly physique and a tremendous wingspan. The long arms, once useful for blocking shots, now fit nicely into playing a gorilla. Zelda teases him, calling him a “knuckledragger.”

What’s more helpful to Zelda, given her recent history, is that Tee is newly married, to a shapely brunette named Luisa. In addition to the differences of thick and thin, short and tall, Tee is black and Erin is about as white as a woman can be. Their kids, four-year-old Eric and one-year-old Grace, are freakin’ adorable, a testament to the benefits of interracial breeding.

Tee’s face is sleek and aerodynamic, a bit like a friendly viper, and he’s got a snake’s wide mouth, as well. At the moment, he’s using it to grin as he pops the cork on a bottle of champagne.

“Well!” says Zelda. “And here I thought we were having a business meeting.”

“Yes! And the business is celebrating.” He pours the bubbly into two Giants beer cups and passes one to Zelda. “Have a seat. Enjoy the view.”

The sun has just ducked behind the Santa Cruz Mountains and is sending up a crown of goldenrod. The groundskeeper, Caravel, is dragging the infield one last time, the dust rising in his wake.

“Hey Tee, I always wondered, when the kids come to the games, do they know it’s you in there?”

“Well, not Grace of course. But one night Eric saw through the screen and said, ‘Hey, it’s Daddy!’ I spoke with him later and said that Daddy’s job was to help out the team by pretending to be a gorilla, and that is was very important for him to play along.”

“Oh yeah. No kid can resist a game of pretend.”

Tee laughs. “I hear you encountered one kid who didn’t want to.”

Zelda hides her face. “Oh God. They told you about that?”

“Through the grapevine. You’re a hero, you know. You know how many mascots have wanted to tell off one of those little shits?”

Zelda laughs out loud. “I’m a hero. Haven’t felt like a hero in a long time.”

Tee takes a drink and swishes it around his mouth. “Hero to me. Your little Tourette’s attack got me some much-needed work.”

“Glad I could help. I hope my return didn’t cut into your wages.”

“Your return saved my ass. Remember that heat wave, late July?”

“Yeah.”

“Second game of a doubleheader, got a full-body muscle cramp. They had to put me on an IV! That’s when they decided I needed some help.”

“Yikes.”

“So what do you do in the off-season?”

“Well, I teach a… class.”

Tee points a finger. “What’s that about?”

“What?”

“That pause. ‘I teach a… class.’”

“I teach a stripper pole class.”

“Well! Innocent little Zelda.”

“Yep, that’s me. And in two months, it’s gone from one class to three.”

“Wow!”

“Yeah, I’m trendy. Hey, speaking of, I really like your moves.”

“Thanks,” says Tee. “I’ve been studying with a friend.”

“You’re very smooth. I was wondering if you’d like to do some couples dancing?”

“Two Gigantes?”

“No! I used to do this, well, human counterpart, Gigantina.”

“Awesome! Yeah, let’s meet sometime and see if we can come up with something.”

That decided, they lie back in their seats and watch the darkening field.

“What about you?” asks Zelda. “What’s your off-season like?”

“I work with a D League basketball team in Santa Cruz. I am a dancing sea turtle.”

Zelda laughs. “Does he have a shell?”

“Yes. But it’s very aerodynamic.”

Zelda looks past the right-field fence, where the final cars are leaving the parking lot. “So your job description is sea turtle-slash-gorilla. That is wild.”

“Hey, whatever feeds the kids.”

“And what cute kids they are.”

Tee smiles. “What about you, Zelda? Family? Family to be? Hot dates? Just tell me if it’s none of my damn business.”

Zelda flashes on Edward’s latest post, a rust-colored salamander. “Boyfriend.”

“Serious?”

“Three years.”

“Yep. That’s serious. Does he come to the games?”

“Used to. He’s away right now.”

“Ah, that’s too bad. Business?”

“Yeah. He’s a photographer.”

“Nice!”

“Yeah. He’s really good.”

Tee’s eyes get bigger. “Hey, hear that?”

“What?”

He trots to the fence behind home plate. “Hey, Caravel! Crank it up.”

Caravel grins and runs to his radio. It’s a salsa number, “Suavamente.”

Tee holds out a hand. “C’mon. It’s your audition.”

Zelda hops down the steps and takes Tee’s long arms. She lets the rhythm climb from her feet into her hips. Tee pulls her into a wrap, reels her back out, and then keeps the spin going – two, three… Zelda whips herself away, kicks a leg high and out, and returns to the salsa step, her hips in full swivel.

“Oh, yeah!” says Tee. “This’ll work.”


He pulls her back in.


Photo by MJV

Monday, August 24, 2015

Song for Bernie



Song for Bernie

I know that words like “integrity” are thrown around too much
And believing in an honest man just means you’re out of touch
But I met a man in the Vermont woods and he took me for a walk
Said he wants to be the President, and I like the way he talks

It used to be that a working stiff could buy himself a home
Send the children off to college, take a summer trip to Rome
But they’ve decided that the upper floor is the only one that counts
So they leave the rest to buy food and shelter with miniscule amounts

Have you had enough of lesser devils when you go off to vote?
Have you had enough of bailing water from the bottom of your boat?
Well listen up, America, there’s a way to change your fate
Pick the greater of two angels, and let’s set this country straight

Oh it’s easy to throw up your hands and say they’re all the same
And the way that it’s been going, I can’t say that you’re to blame
But if you had one man to fight for you, what more could you ever want

Than to put your country in the hands of an angel from Vermont



Copyright 2015 by Michael J. Vaughn

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Twenty One: Frenemies


Frenemies

 After eight games in a row, Zelda is overjoyed when the Giants hit the road and leave her a few days off. When Roxy hears about it, she extends a dinner invitation that involves a drive all the way to Davenport, a small town ten miles north of Santa Cruz. Their target is the Roadhouse, an impressive two-story restaurant looming over the Highway One strip. Also impressive are the offerings. Roxy gets the pan-seared King salmon; Zelda orders the molasses-cured duck breast with tarragon risotto and porcini mushroom glace. The food is just as good as it sounds; afterward, they sit in a mutual food coma as the sun lowers over a battalion of cliffside cypresses across the way.

“Roxy, you’re so good to me. Why are you so good to me?”

Roxy takes a sip of dessert wine and sighs. “I’m one of the lucky ones, honey. It’s my greatest pleasure to share that luck with my friends. Besides, I know you’ve had a tough time lately.”

“You’re an angel.” She takes a drink of coffee. My God, even the coffee is brilliant. She envisions a Buddhist monk somewhere in Colombia, persuading each bean to fall from the bush of its own free will. Then she remembers.

“I have some news on rat boy.”

Roxy laughs. “I assume you mean Edward?”

“Yes. He set up a Facebook page. The only items that appear on the page are photographs. Nature photos, extremely close-up, like he’s got one of those special lenses…”

“Macro,” says Roxy. “Carson was quite the buff. I know much more about photo gear than I ever wanted to.”

Zelda smiles. “Did he take intimate photos of his wife?”

Roxy answers with a crafty smile. “When I was your age, I had a body that wouldn’t quit. And, thanks to Carson, lots of evidence to back it up. All very tasteful and anonymous, mind you.”

“I’d love to see them.”

“I’ll dig them up sometime. Any dessert for you?”

“Ooh! I’ve got my eye on this guava cheesecake. Want to split?”

Hell no. You’re going to eat an entire slice of that cheesecake, and I am going to get this fudge volcano.”

“You are livin’ on the edge, Mama.”

After dinner, they head north, take a right into the coastal hills, then a gravel road through a narrow valley. The road ends in a redwood grove, and a large house built in the timbered style of a National Park lodge.

“This is one of my favorite places,” says Roxy. “It’s got a lovely little creek, and the fields out front are gorgeous.”

“Well, okay,” says Zelda. “But what are we doing here?”

Roxy lets out a high peal of laughter. “I’m sorry, honey. This belongs to some old friends, the Simonsons. They’re away in Spain, and asked me to drop by once in a while. Follow me.”

They climb onto a broad-timbered deck. The fog has decided to stay over the ocean, leaving the stars to spangle the sky like tinfoil ornaments.

“My God, Rox. It’s beautiful.”

Roxy’s naked.

“Jesus! Maybe you should warn me when you’re gonna do that.”

Roxy slides behind what looks like an enormous wine barrel and removes the cover, releasing a cloud of steam.

“Oh!” says Zelda. “I get it.”

Minutes later, they’re soaking inside, tennis-matching a joint.

“Zelda, Edward’s photos, what were they of?”

“Oh, um. This amazing orange mushroom. A maple leaf. A purple iris. California poppies. A monarch butterfly. And… a banana slug.”

“Banana slug! Y’know, I think he’s actually trying to tell you something.”

“Yeah, those banana slugs are pretty phallic.”

Roxy produces a smurfy pot-laugh. “Pssh! No! Banana slugs are found in very few places, and one of those places is here. I think what he’s saying is, he may have gone off the radar, but he’s still around, and he will be back.”

Zelda takes a toke and lets it out into the steam. “Yeah. Well, good. I will look forward to kicking him in the nuts.”

Roxy snickers. “Well. Don’t hate him forever, honey.”

“We’ll see.”



Jackson stalls a little, chatting with McHenry, the sharp old dude who runs the Heineken cart. When he sees Gigante head up the tunnel, he creeps along next to the wall, feeling like a cop conducting a raid. He crosses to the dressing room and slips a key into the lock.

“What the fuck do YOU want?”

He turns to meet the loopy smile of Gigante.

“Zelda! You’re in costume.”

“Don’t give a shit.”

“At least come inside.”

“Sure thing, asshole.”

For two people, the room is pretty tight. Jackson heads to a locker and starts filling his backpack: toiletries, clock radio, windbreaker.

“So what the fuck do you want?” asks Zelda.

“Just clearing out.”

“Makin’ a clean getaway?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“Traitor.” She pushes him. He stumbles against the locker.

“Keep your fucking paws off me, psychobitch. I’m not your fucking boyfriend.”

“What do you know about it?”

Jackson finishes filling his pack and tries to look the gorilla in the eyes.

“Edward tells me everything. And I tell everything to my wife, so don’t waste our time with your bullshit sob stories. You’re a fucking mental case, and you need to get some help before you end up in jail.”

“You know where he is, don’t you?”

“I told him not to tell me. But what’s important is, he’s away from you.”

She points a furry finger. “He’s the criminal. He’s the one who left me.”

Jackson feels stupid, arguing with an ape, but he decides on one last foray, just in case something sticks.

“That man lost his life to real things: illness, death, poverty, homelessness. You had your feelings hurt. Welcome to the world, honey. What he did to remake himself, it’s a goddamned miracle, and if you had any decency at all you would just let it go!”

“He owes me,” says the gorilla. “He owes me! Goddamn bastard.”

“Well I don’t really give a fuck.”

Jackson tries to leave. Zelda cuts him off and aims a knee at his privates. He blocks it with the side of his leg and drives her into the wall, pinning the gorilla head with his forearm.

“Unlike Edward, I don’t mind being an asshole. If you ever go after me again, I will fuck you up.”

Jackson gets up and heads for the door. Zelda starts to cry.

Jackson calls out over his shoulder: “Not buying that, either!”

The door slams shut. Zelda cries for a while more, then takes off the head to check for damage. Once the adrenaline has seeped out, she suits up and heads back to work. She is immediately assailed by a squad of eight-year-olds led by a red-headed instigator.

“You’re not a gorilla! You’re a man! I see you in there.”

Zelda tries to remember what she does in moments like these, some kind of gag, but she can’t find it. Her head fills with heat.

“Come on, take off your head, you faker! I’ll bet you’re not even a guy. I’ll bet you’re a big, fat girl. Faker, faker, faker!”

Naturally, his followers join in, faker, faker, faker echoing through the tunnel.

“I will FUCKING kill you!!”

The snack lines go horribly silent. Zelda peers around to see the faces of parents, children, infants, every one of them looking at her.

The redhead laughs. “Oh, you’re in trouble now.”

Just then, she hears the opening strains of “YMCA,” and, seeing it as a chance for escape, turns to make a dash for the stands. Standing at the top of the ramp, arms crossed, is the team owner, Mr. Piccone.

“My office. Now.”



Zelda ends the day at the old coffeehouse, sipping at an Istanbul not Constantinople as she studies Edward’s Facebook page. The latest offering is a rose, blood red, spangled with beaded raindrops. A praying mantis. A chunk of quartz. A clamshell streaked in blue. A heart carved into a treetrunk. These are all she has left.

Photo by MJV

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Twenty: The Return


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 The Return

Zelda savors the comfy embrace of her leggings. She is back to her human identity, cleaned up, ready to breathe. A twelve-inning day game in the heat of late June has her longing for Jackson’s return. She opens the door to find a Pakistani supermodel in an orange blouse, glowing with honeymoon sex.

“Zee!

“Z!”

Their embrace is so exuberant that a family of Giants fans turns to check the hubbub. Zarita laughs.

“We have disturbed the patrons.”

“I don’t care. Let them think we are lesbian lovers.”

Zarita gives her a swat. “I am taken, honey. And taken. And taken.” Her eyes drift skyward.

“Good sex in the Bahamas?”

They stroll the tunnel arm-in-arm.

“I didn’t even know that Jackson and I had any boundaries left. But we did. Wiped out by marriage and the tropics. Oh Z, I don’t mean to sound all Hallmarky, and I know it won’t last forever, but lately I’m so happy I’m having trouble containing myself in my own skin. Can I buy ya a drink?”

Zelda has so many things to tell her that they jam up like drivers at a bottleneck. She smiles.

“Yes.”



In the late seventies, the city of Sunnyvale wiped out most of its downtown to construct a monstrous mall called TownCenter. The mall is now a half-empty ghost, and the center of town is Murphy Avenue, two blocks that the bulldozers missed. Its patrons park across the street in the lot of a failing Macy’s. In the welcome shadow of eight o’clock, the two Z’s settle at a table outside an Irish pub with matching black-and-tans. Zelda attacks a pastrami sandwich.

“Poor girl!” says Zarita. “You must be famished.”

“You know,” she says between chews, “normal people don’t have jobs that go overtime just because some idiot pitcher gives up a game-tying homer in the ninth. I will be so glad when Jackson gets back.”

Zarita chews on a fingernail. Zelda bears down on the sandwich. A wave of music drifts down the street, a band gearing up on an outdoor stage.

“That’s the… thing, Z. Jackson and my boss sort of hit it off at the reception, and he offered him a job as an installer. The thing is, he has to start training first thing Monday and… he can’t do Gigante anymore.”

Zelda’s eyes go blank, as if someone has unplugged her. Zarita reaches for her hand, but Zelda jerks it away. She gives her a panicked look and bolts, kicking over her chair. Zarita gets up to follow, but then she sees all the things they’ve left at the table and waves down a waiter.

“Excuse me. Could you watch my bags? I have to find my friend.”

The waiter looks very unsure about this proposition, but gives her a nod. Zarita paces the sidewalk, dodging pedestrians.

Zelda doesn’t know what she’s looking for, doesn’t remember what she’s running from. She hears a funny old song, “Youngblood,” and follows the sound. The banner over the stage reads Megatones. A tall blond man stands at the edge, fanning his hand over an acoustic guitar as he sings into a clip-on microphone. He sees Zelda and smiles. Zelda looks down and notices his boots, which are the color of butterscotch and have little metal rings on the sides. She slips her fingers through them and holds on.

This one is not going to get away.

The singer finishes, and finds that he can’t move his feet. He sees Zelda’s grip and laughs.

“Hey guys! I think we just got our first groupie.”

Zarita’s picking her way through the tables outside a Mexican restaurant when she notices the cessation of music, and the words of the singer.

“Has anyone lost an attractive brunette?”

Zarita pardons and excuse-me’s her way through the crowd.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what…” She manages to yank Zelda’s fingers from the loops. Zelda screams.

“No!”

The singer quickly backs out of reach. Zarita pulls Zelda as her screams become louder and more shrill.

“No! No! I don’t… You can’t… Noooooooooh!”

“Thanks for coming,” calls the singer. “And as for the rest of you, let this next song be a warning.” They start into “Tequila.”

Zarita doesn’t know whether to laugh or take offense, but meanwhile Zelda is disintegrating in her hands. She leads her into a dark tunnel between two restaurants and settles her onto the Mexican tiles. Zelda turns her face to the wall and sobs.

“Everybody’s leaving me, Z. Everybody’s leaving.”



Zarita hands the waiter a five for actually watching their bags (her faith in humanity partly restored) and walks Zelda to a loft overlooking the bar. She’s quiet for a long time, and Zelda knows better than to interrupt. That’s a good thing about friends, she thinks. They understand each other’s recuperative systems.

A band is setting up downstairs: Darkwave, ‘80s cover tunes. When they blast their way into “Melt With You,” Zarita takes Zelda to a balcony overlooking an alley. Couples pass beneath them, looking cozy in the twilight. Zarita recalls an evening from her honeymoon, a restaurant on a white sand beach, the waves dappled with bio-fluorescence. A jet passes overhead, recalling her to duty.

“Z? Did you say that Edward left?”

“Disappeared.”

“Again? Bastard.”

Zelda touches a napkin to her overused nose. “He is the disappearing man.”

“How long has he been gone?”

“Two weeks.”

“Were you guys getting pretty serious?”

Zelda gives a sad laugh. “Yeah. The sex was great.”

“So… why do you think he left?”

A long silence. “I was a little mean.”

Zarita slaps the railing. “Well what did he expect? Instant forgiveness? God, if he was here right now, I would kick his ass.”

Another silence. The band plays Depeche Mode. Zelda sniffles.

“Yeah.”



Photo by Sonia Cuellar

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Nineteen: Coup de Grace


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Coup de Grace

He finds that he is near the end. This string of battles has been anything but dull, but in the final reality he wants something else. A loopy daydream of partnership, the coupling of equals, mutual uplift. Like it was when they danced. Three years ago. He rings the doorbell.

Quiet footsteps. A lock sliding open. The door. She’s naked, standing there like he’s taking a survey. He wonders if they can be seen from the shopping center. She smiles and slaps him, hard. He spins away and holds his jaw.

“God… damn… mother…” A set of stairs, right in front of him. He could be gone so fast. He makes the mistake of looking back. She has positioned herself on all fours, her ass aimed his way, wide open. He leans down and inserts a finger.

“Can we do this inside?”

“No. Right here or nothing. If you want, you can keep your jeans on. Pussy.”

He is, after all, human and male. He unzips, extracts his dick and plunges home. Zelda lets out a guttural “Ungh!” and pounds back, berating him to the beat. Edward doesn’t hear a word, he’s watching the movie, intent on completion.

Soon enough, the moment arrives. He stops to watch as his cock pumps fluid into her body. He gives her ass a parting slap, stuffs himself back into his jeans and hits the stairs. He hears yelling. A potted plant smacks the asphalt, a firework of terra cotta. The door slams.

He zips up and wanders to the shopping center, an obstacle course of strolling families who know exactly what he’s been doing. Buca di Beppo. Lisa’s Tea Treasures. He is a homing pigeon, reading the magnetic waves. The courtyard. The coffeehouse. The pepper tree. A magnificent woman in a white dress. She sets down her caffe Borgia and smiles.

“Well hello!”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Eighteen: Counselor


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 Counselor

Zelda sits in a restaurant in Los Gatos, the walls lined with that Tuscan-looking plaster that may as well be constructed of dollar signs. She nurses a glass of Chablis as she listens to a woman at the next table speaking Mandarin. The woman’s sentences accelerate in the middle and end on long, almost sung phrases. Zelda hopes that her makeup is doing its job.

Towering above her, all of a sudden, is Roxy Alameda, in a navy blue knit dress. She smiles, and then stops.

“Zelda! What happened to your cheek?”

Zelda stands and gives Roxy a hug. They sit at the table. Zelda gives an embarrassed smile.

“I was beating the snot out of my boyfriend, and…”

Roxy gasps. “Did he hit you?”

Zelda laughs, then touches her wound. “No. I was delivering a left hook and I completely missed. My follow-through took my face directly into his elbow.”

“Well what got you so angry that you were throwing punches?”

“We were having sex, and…”

Roxy waves her hands in front of her face. “W-w-wait a minute. You were beating the shit out of Edward during sex? Why?”

“Because I fucking hate him.”

That’s the cue for the waitress to show up. Roxy smiles.

“I’ll have a Manhattan on the rocks.”

“Certainly.” Before parting, the waitress winks at Zelda. “I’m probably on your side.”

“Thanks.”

Roxy watches her leave, then returns to Zelda. “Why do you hate him?”

“Because I love him. Because he left me.”

“And… how long will this punishment continue?”

“As long as it takes.”

“That’s not how it works. Eventually you will have to forgive him or leave him.”

“I’d rather stay and make him suffer. How does a man disappear at the peak of a romance? A rare, beautiful romance.”

The waitress delivers Roxy’s drink. Roxy takes a sip and sets it down.

“Ah, bourbon. I could take a bath in bourbon. I want a pre-nup on this discussion.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. I want you to acknowledge that I know more about men than you do.”

Zelda looks around the room. “It pains me to admit this, but… Yes.”

“Okay then. Edward seems much more comfortable in his own skin. And he has money now – correct?”

“Yes.”

She folds her fingers. “It’s difficult for a man to accept love when he’s not feeling manly. I think he wanted to go off somewhere and get his mojo back. He certainly seems more attractive to me. Do you have a problem with him finding success?”

“He won’t even tell me what he was doing those three years.”

“Why do you care?”

“Because I was suffering those three years. I want to know what I was suffering for.”

“Do you think he was selling drugs? Working as a hired assassin? Get your head out of the moviehouse, honey. Maybe it involved lots of ass-kissing, or degrading labor. Maybe he’s embarrassed.”

Zelda crosses her arms and stares at the table. “How do I know he won’t disappear again?”

“He came back for you.”

“He came back for Jackson’s wedding.”

“Loyalty to a friend – yes, let’s condemn him for that, as well. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? I think you’re seeing yourself as a prosecuting attorney, and believe me, you don’t want to be in that position. And any man worth your time will not tolerate an eternal cross-examination. Or a left hook.”

Zelda speaks to her Chablis. “Says the woman whose husband was fucking around on her.”

Roxy leans forward, then stops, takes a breath, drinks her Manhattan. “Yes. How do you think I know all this? I had a man go bad on me. I conducted the cross-examination. For six months. Eventually, he confessed. I realized I couldn’t forgive him, so I left him. That’s what I’m saying. This in-between crap is exactly what will kill you. And tell me this, just a theory. I think you were indulging in a lovely little Mother Teresa rescue mission, and I think Edward screwed up your plans by growing a pair. Do you know how admirable it is for a man to go through what he did and still want to do the work it takes to rebuild his life?”

The waitress returns.

“Hi,” says Roxy, “I’ll have the mozzarella focaccia and baby greens. Zelda?”

“Pot-stickers and chicken salad.”

The waitress picks up the menus. “I’ll have these in a few minutes.”

“Thanks.”

They sit in silence. Roxy understands that Zelda is stewing and is happy to let her do so. A minute later, Zelda mutters something.

“Pardon?” says Roxy.

“Now I hate you.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you. And because you’re right. Probably.”

“I’ll take it.” She indulges in a long sip of bourbon. “So tell me, this hateful sex. Good?”

Zelda smiles.

“Yeah,” says Roxy. “I thought so.”


Photo by MJV