Saturday, September 29, 2012

Probably More Than 500 Words--Draft 1

The Thing With Feathers

Jorge told me Joyce the Dane was a little more radical, even by our standards.  But we were in a hurry to get to the hotel, so his description was left at that and my imagination didn't have a lot of time to pick up where he left off.  I got as far as nose rings and tattoos of cats humping.

She perched her boulder-sized butt on a pointy rock oddly situated in the Colorado field.

I was right about the nose ring--silver, big as a quarter--and I liked the butch Mohawk, black like her tank top that shamelessly showed her chubby but strong looking left arm.  Even as we got closer, the tattoos were hard to read, color running from her left shoulder to her thick fingertips in a blur of black, red, yellow too-closely placed to say anything more than, "I'm a rebel."  But it was her right arm that took me a second to figure out.

Dark, peacock blue, fan shaped, layered rows from neck to wrist on the outside of the arm so at least the inner arm could lay naturally flat against her side, made a plumiferous pattern like no bird clothing I'd ever seen.  

"Implants," Jorge said.  "The quills are stuck under the skin on either side, so she can get that round look." 

"Feathers?" I asked.  "Seriously?"

"I told you she was a little different."

When she called to us, I expected some kind of caw, but her voice was just that of a woman who had smoked more than cigarettes for a long time.  "You're late, hairbag!"

"Yeah, yeah," Jorge said.  "And you never are."

Her cheeks, nose and chine were smooth, her lips young looking, her dark eyes aware and naked of makeup.

"Is this the bitch?" she asked.

I answered for him.


"What's your name?"


"No fucking way.  Janet?  That's it?  Janet?  The one I've heard so much about?"

"I guess.  What have you heard?"

"Jorge's told me you're something different, someone I'd like at least a little.  But you don't look like much."

"Well," Jorge came to my defense, sort of.  "I said a little.  You don't like many people anyway."

"Point taken."

"Why the Dane?" I asked.

She tilted her head like a curious raven, probably not expecting a question from someone named Janet.  "Viking invaders.  Tenth century or so."

"No horned helmet?"

"Shut the fuck up."

She lit something funny smelling.  "Try this," she said handing it to me."

"What is it?"

"Just try it."

I took a drag, a little nervous to inhale something hot, but did anyway.  History and reputation said I was intrepid, among other things, and I didn't want to disappoint anyone.

It was sweet and somehow familiar, something I'd smelled in my grandmother's house when I was a kid and cared about things a little more.


"Herbs. Non-carcinogeous.  Hard to get, but I found a dealer."

I handed back the smoky stick, thinking I could probably break one up and make one hell of a pasta sauce.

"Keep it."

"Do it," said Jorge.

"Thanks," I shrugged, rubbing the tip against the side of Joyce's rock.  "I'll save the rest for later."

"You're welcome."

"We better get going.  Check in was an hour ago," Jorge said.

I sometimes call him Jorge the Frugal.  He doesn't like to waste a single penny on things he pays for, and that includes minutes for hotel rooms.

My forehead was crying in sweat before we'd gone twenty feet.  I was in shorts.  The tall, tan and pale-green weeds cut my legs.  Joyce the Dane must be cooking in those black parachute pants, I thought.  But maybe she'd built up more heat tolerance, wearing those feathers.

"What happens when it rains?  Does she towel them down?"

"Shakes them dry.  And keeps them oiled so the wet doesn't get in.  Cuts down on replacement costs."

"Do they ever pop out?"


"Does she have to go somewhere to get them fixed?"

Jorge shook his head.  "She sticks them back in herself."

I pondered that for a minute.  Then, "What did you tell her about me?"

"Just the usual."

The room was bland, two queen sized beds, one already claimed by some ignorable blond guy I didn't know who was making out with a prep-school girl.  Jorge and I dropped our cheap duffel bags on the other bed.  I stripped to my underwear and wrapped a big, yellow towel around me.  

Jorge pulled up his speedos, making him look skinnier than his already emaciated self.

The pool was warm and filled with hyper little kids, which is what makes pools like this warm.

Jorge and I swam underwater, challenged each other to breath-holding contests, did a breast-stroke race.

It took about ten minutes for a lady dressed in a bikini to screech, "Oh my God!  You! You!  You can't come in here like that!  This is a family pool!"

I gave her one of my classic stares, the one that usually shuts people up when they see the scars.

"I'm calling security!"  She bounced out of her plastic lounger, boobs bouncing.

"What's the difference?" I had to say it twice to be heard.

She paused, mid-horrified-haste.  "What difference?  What do you mean?"

"You've got your nipples barely covered and a string across your ass crack.  I'm mostly covered in water.  And my underwear covers more than your bathing suit."

 It was true.  I wear white, cotton briefs.  Keeps away the yeast infections.

"What I'm wearing is legal," she said, like she was some kind of pool priestess.

"Oh," I said.  "Well, I guess that makes a difference, right?"

I floated on my back, breasts poking out of the water, my thick thighs rising enough to reveal body-length fossils of what I'd started to call "The Big Burn."

"I'm calling security!"

The man in the burgundy blazer showed up, faster than most of them usually did.

"You need to leave, lady," he said.  "Now."

I looked at Jorge.

"Guess we better," he said, swimming to the ladder, reaching the top rung, an erection under his tiny suit more obvious than the guard who kept his eyes on me as the lady gawked at Jorge's crotch.

"Get that towel," the guard said.  "Cover yourself"

I did.  It was a little damp from the kids' splashing that had stopped for about five seconds during the drama to look at the screaming lady.

Jorge wrapped the towel around my shoulders, leaving most of my legs exposed.

"Hey!"  A boy with dark curly hair yelled from the edge of the pool.  "What happened to your legs?"

"They got burnt," I said.

"Your face, too?"

"Yeah, and my arms."  I shifted the towel and showed him more of the thickly grown tissue.

"How?  I mean, what happened?"

"Fell asleep with a lit cigarette." 

"Can you fix it? Your skin, I mean?"

"I guess," I said.  Then, suddenly visualizing Joyce the Dane's feathers, "Yeah...I guess...I guess I could.  Maybe I will some time." 

Yellow, though.  I really like yellow.

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