Monday, December 16, 2013

The Popcorn Girl, Chapter 9: Flash!

Read the novel here, a chapter a week, or buy the Kindle book at


You’re a whore. No man will ever love you.


Maybe I could have lied. If I had thought it through beforehand, if I had prepared myself.

If it weren’t for Paul, I could be happy right now. Mack treats me like a princess. And the sex has gotten surprisingly good. We’re like a couple of office-mates collaborating on a project. There’s nothing emotional about it, but there’s this sense of achievement. I had my first orgasm. Ever. Electrical charges, parts of my body moving on their own. I’ve heard women talk about this, but I had no idea. Mack was thrilled. To see your penis do that to someone, that’s got to be such a buzz.

Minutes later, the two of us were sitting in the jacuzzi bath, laughing like a bridge team that has just cleaned up. But still, I think of Paul, and what I may be giving up for my self-preservation. I see him, once in a while, outside his shop, smoking a cigarette over the creek. My insides feel like metallic parts rusting over. I have heard that love, when it strikes, does not respond to analysis, or prodding, or verbal commands. Love is an ill-trained puppy, and it will do what it wants.

It’s only been two weeks. I am in for a ride.


It’s been a month, and it doesn’t go away. Each time I see her through the window, she looks sadder and more beautiful. She actually wanted me. The idea confounds me. I know I made the right decision, but it hurts that much more because the decision was mine to make. If it was Jasmina who had turned me down, the world would make a lot more sense. I have thought of finding some large poster to tape to my window, along the sightline from my front counter to the moviehouse box office. But I don’t want the clean black slate. The yearning is better. It reminds me that there is wonder in the universe.

I continue to surprise Javid. I handed him a free ounce and invited him to join me for a drive-and-lunch to Stinson Beach. We’re on a patio next to the main strip, wolfing our way through enormous burgers under slabs of provolone. Javid wipes his mouth and laughs.

“Why are you being so nice to me? I was, like, totally cock-blocking you.”

Kid cracks me up. “Yes you were, y’little shit. But you realized it. And you effectively did the hard part for me, regarding the clarification of certain agricultural issues.”

Javid looks across the street, where a quartet of high school girls are adjusting bikinis and rubbing sunscreen on each other. “So… how come it didn’t work out?”

For this I have worked out a beautifully crafted phrase. “I wish I could tell you.” (Read it again – I should be a damn lawyer.) “We are awfully fond of each other. But sometimes the real world gets in the way.”

Javid leans back and locks his hands behind his head. “Well I wish you two would work out something. The gloom just pours off of that girl, and it’s getting all over me.”

“That bad?”

“Compared to Jasmina, you’re like Professor Sunshine.”

Javid and I have a deal: even our most evil thoughts are fair game. I mimic his locked hands, give a shameless ogle to all those tits and asses across the street, and I say, “Good!”

Javid breaks up. “Oh! You atheists are heartless.”

“Hush or I’ll sic Shiva on you.”


I am backstage at a converted warehouse in Oakland, watching a rag-tag troupe act out a poem about insects. A trio of topless spiders sit in front of me.

“Shit! Where’s the cocoon? Did you see a green bag here somewhere?” She paws the dark spaces, her tits bouncing.


“Ohmygaw! What’re we gonna do?”

“It’s all right, we’ll figure out something.”

The music rises. The topless spiders race onstage. They are met by a potato bug in assless chaps, holding a green bag. A minute later, applause, and we’re on. I scurry onstage with my stripped-down kit: snare, floor tom and crash. Some guy slaps two mics on my rims, strings up my vocal mic and locks in my levels, all within a matter of thirty seconds. When I look up, the band is ready and the emcee is finishing her intro:

“…a special song that we think you all will appreciate.”

I look to Anne. She nods into a series of eighth notes on the low keys. I match her on my tom. Sixteen of these and we’re in:


Well. At least I’m in. Pamela and Anne follow me with harmonies on “Ah-ah!” Sixteen more and we’re in again:


Nope. Just me.


And there they are. I have apparently received a field promotion to lead singer.

We’re playing a 500-person birthday party for a dude named Flash Hopkins – which explains the campy Queen song from Flash Gordon. We’re even doing the cheesy dialogue parts, after which I cue us back in with a roll on the toms.


Alas. But the brain-locks go unnoticed by our spectators, who are digging on the name-joke, the fact that it sounds reasonably like the original, and the actual Flash Gordon movie clips on the screen behind us. The birthday boy is out of his mind with glee. After our final “Flash!” (thank God, all three of us), Pamela hops offstage to give him a hug, and we get a nice rowdy applause. I give them a wave and pull my drums right back off. Tonight, we are the surgical-strike rock band.

I’ve got an intriguing case of mixed feelings. I’m a little miffed that my choirmates choked so badly, but I’m thrilled that my balls-out vocals saved the day. Not that I can verbalize any of this. I would rather my bandmates not hate me. Plus, I need to maintain their egos for future use. So I tell them that we covered everything, nobody noticed, and the acoustics were really muddy.

I wander onto the floor to watch Goat Fluffer, an all-female band with a drummer and three bass players. The lead, a brunette with Betty Page bangs and lime-green stockings, is just going off, getting so into her solo that you would swear she’s on heroin. After their set, I run into her backstage.

“Hey, that was great! It’s amazing all the sounds you can get out of that thing.”

Anne’s in the passenger seat, leaning all the way back. We’re climbing onto the Richmond Bridge.

“And she gave me this look like, Why is this person from another band giving me an entirely unsolicited compliment?”

“It’s a shame how… competitive the music scene gets.”

Anne’s words are getting mushy, which means that the hour, the beers and the road massage are having a soporific effect. (Great word, soporific.) I let her drift off as the lights of San Rafael get closer. It occurs to me that right now – two-fifteen a.m. – is the first I have thought of Jasmina for hours. I am in peril of actually getting a life.

Photo by MJV

No comments: