Sunday, November 2, 2014

FREE on Amazon Kindle, Nov. 3: The Popcorn Girl

FREE on Amazon Kindle.


I am horribly baked out. So I declare my own sabbath. I leave Jasmina snoozing away, tie my hangover to a leash and take it for a stroll. My limbs feel like sections of lumber, but the memory of lovemaking leaves them loose at the hinges. This divinity, this sacred girl has penetrated my tendons.

Inevitably, the Depot. Patty makes me a perfect latte. She turns to grab a pitcher, revealing her madrone shoulders. She catches my gaze and smiles.

“You’re Jasmina’s squeeze.”


“So you read the story?”

You read the story?”

She waits for the milk steamer to quiet down. “I was equal parts impressed and embarrassed. If only I could get a guy to write me something like that.”

She squares her stance behind the glass and begins the espresso-pour.

“Jasmina’s mind is pretty borderless. She stuns me on a daily basis.”

Patty finishes and spoons a cap of foam over the brown spot. “Yeah. And the package ain’t bad, either.”

This makes me laugh.

“Hey, I-Chun’s the lezzie. But I do know gorgeous when I see it.”

I crouch a little so I can study the stripes. “This is exactly how I pictured it.”

“Presto!” says Patty.


The back corner affords an old couch for the weary, and I am certainly that. I drink my perfect latte and attempt to read the Sunday paper, but soon I’m down for the count. When I awake, I feel like a spelunker emerging from a mile-long cave. The sun has migrated to the other side of the cafĂ©, and the clock reads three-fifteen. After a brief dance of stretching, I am able to hobble streetward. I lean my head into the moviehouse, but Jasmina’s not there.

“She’s not in.”

I follow the voice to the box office, where Javid wears a haggard expression.

“Really? I thought she was working today.”

“Supposed to. I’ve been covering the snack bar all day.”

“Wow. Sorry. I’ll go see if she’s sleeping.”

“She’s at your place? She’s fifty goddamn feet away?”

I wave and cross the street. When I open the door, I hear a sound like a ventilation fan with a squeaky belt. It’s her.

I race up the stairs and find Jasmina in the bathroom, curled up next to the tub. There’s blood everywhere: the sink, the tiles. She looks at me with frightened, animal eyes.

I grab a towel and wrap it around her arm, trying hard not to look. In ten minutes we’re at Ava’s clinic and the towel is soaked. Ava jumps up from her chair and pulls us into a back room.

Ava’s hair has a mind of its own, a mop of wiry red that can be molded into shapes like topiary. Her preferred nervous habit is to pat it down, as if that’s going to do any good. She hands me a glass of water.

“Okay. Look. I understand the impulse to come to me, Mr. Undercover. But… I am really pushing my luck here. Your girlfriend’s got some pretty deep lacerations, but I’ve got them stitched up, and the bleeding has stopped. From what I can tell, she took the zig-zag thing from the other arm and just went a lot deeper. I’m going to give you some bandages and disinfectant; you need to clean the wound and re-wrap it once a day. At the first sign of infection, you need to take her to Marin General, okay?”

“Yes. Definitely.”

Ava grips my shoulder and drills me with those blue eyes. “This is some serious shit, Paulie. You need to get this girl to a psychologist.”

“Yes. I’ll do that. Thanks.”

“I’ve got her on some pain meds. She’s a little groggy, but I think you can take her home. She should be able to get by on Ibuprofen after this, but let me know if she needs something stronger. Or perhaps you can give her something homegrown.”

I give her a nervous smile.

Jasmina stumbles up the stairs, mumbling like a drunk.

“Let me out… out! Don’t… want to. Don’t make me.”

“It’s okay, honey. We’re almost there.”

“Outside, want out…”

I manage to ease her onto the bed. I do a quick study of her bandages before pulling up the blankets. She’s already out. I pull a chair next to the bed and watch her face. My hands begin to shake, and then I just cry. A few minutes later, I’m all leveled out. I wipe my face on my sleeve, and then I see a wad of paper on the rug. I pick it up and flatten it out. Kelly Copper.

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