Wednesday, June 6, 2012
The night shift has settled in at their desks. He moves carefully leaning against the wall. His balance is so dicky these days because of the arthritis in his knees, and the pain in his hips. He used to do somersaults over high fences. Hair coloring doesn’t fix everything.
He loves the old feeling like a ghost, like a spook, like a sneak thief, like the old days, the dangerous days, the fierce days, the righteous days, he smacks his lips with the old happiness, leaning on the wall in the dark of the corridor listening to the night crew up at the desk. He holds his breathe inside, half closes his eyes and confers only with his ears. His hearing isn’t what it used to be back in the day. His intuition has gotten sharper as his body has gotten weaker. It’s a part of his strangeness.
He squeezes his eyes, squinting, wishing he’d thought to wear his glasses. Up the hall, down the hall. All quiet on the western front.
Steal. Steal away. Steal away to Jesus.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, lowering her head and wrapping her arms around her knees she thinks – the fact is I don’t know if I can love anyone again. This place is so clinical. So fussy. It suffocates love, anything that isn't on the schedule. Sometimes I want to just pack it all up and call it a life. Its not like it used to be.
She stands up and goes to the window. They designed the latches on the windows to be opened only with special four sided keys. But she had been a master escape artist among other things back in the day and knew how to deal with latches using a swiss army knife and bobby pins. The window only looks locked. She pops the latches and lifts it enough to let some of the night air in. It blows on her stodgy blue issue button up pajamas peaking her sagging, unsucked nipples. She lifts the back off the radio on the night stand and takes out a pack of zig zag papers, a book of matches and little plastic baggie of leaves dried into a wad like a ping pong ball. She pulls off a paper and loads a line into it from the bag, and licks the edge. She rolls it into a neat cylinder and twists the ends shut and climbs out on the window edge. Sighing with pleasure, she lights up and sits on the window sill with her head and the blunt kept well outside in the dark, three floors up, her feet dangling down. The moon is up. A Hunters Moon, back in the day.
Look at that. They made the night so safe. Damn you. You’ll see, someday, you soft souls. When you lock away all the wolves, it’s the moon that will howl.
He counts the room numbers. He thinks if he could remember the numbers and who the person behind them is, his brain is still more or less intact.
Foot steps. Night watch. Fuck! Weren’t they all supposed to be up front?
He flattens against a wall, and closes his eyes tightly. Willing himself to disappear. The guard is coming. His silhouette is in the light of the front hall entrance.
The hall is empty he thinks at the guard, flexing the old mental muscles, sending out his thoughts like carrier pigeons. Wallpaper. I am wallpaper. He feels a thought touch the man’s forehead like a soap bubble.
You see no one.
The guard is coming forward purposefully.
Look over there – is someone standing there? See? No?
It is an act of faith that would have tested a saint. He makes a gesture with knobby arthritic fingers and the man’s eyes automatically, unconsciously look at the picture hanging on the opposite wall, a visual ventriloquism. The man hesitates, puzzled at the discovery that what he thought was a person pressed against the wall is just a picture frame. What shadows do. Laughing at himself, he turns around and goes back to the desk, muttering.
I’ve still got it! Goddamn if I don’t. It’s harder than it used to be, but I still got it. Goddamn I’m good!
He lets out his breath, leaves the wall and begins counting the room numbers. 27B Mrs. Goldberg. She’s still quite a piece. She had been American Maid back in the day. Her costume had been shiny blue spandex bikini panties (which doubled as a chastity belt armored against super villain rapes, which were a dirty secret of the life) and a skin tight bustier of red white and blue with a gold eagle barely covering her big knockers with small round circles right where her nipples would be. It had a way of getting a man’s eyes looking down – setting him up to be clocked solidly in the noggin with her Hammer of Justice. Or maybe kicked in the nuts with those steel pointed go-go boots. That was the inside secret of super heroines, their costume was a weapon of distraction and you had to keep yourself looking good in it to stay alive. Her gloriously puffed up cleavage was no accident; it was her best weapon against male adversaries. Or lesbian super villains, though she was secretly lez herself so she preferred gentle tranquilizer darts to the Hammer for the ladies. One or two she’d gotten pretty friendly with.
28A, Plastic Man. Hermetically sealed door, because he could ooze through a crack no wider than a piece of paper. Now there was a fun guy. Over a Bridge game he could get the common room table into an uproar – alas poor Yorick! –with his screwy stories of the old days. And when you can change your body into any shape on request - Oh! any shape at all, the things ladies will ask you to do when you’re alone with them. He had some stories about that too. Now he just has very bad dreams. A man like that is lethal when he has very bad dreams.
30B. Mavis. The White Mantis.
How many times did I put you in prison before you made me realize I should stop fighting you?
The door opens and she’s sitting outside the window. She sees him in the faint light of the hallway as he stands there, old and broken and familiar.
“Close the goddamn door, Shadow. “You want to set off the smoke alarm?”
He pushes the door closed, silently and waits there. She blows smoke rings out her nostrils. “My joints are acting up again. I could sure use with a foot rub.” She holds out the blunt. “Hit you?”
He takes the blunt and inhales, holding it in as his head pleasantly falls apart. Then she does the thing he loves. The thing that gets him on his knees. She reaches under her pillow and takes out a rubber band.
The blunt stops halfway to his lips. She spreads the rubber band in an O in her fingers with one hand and scoops her hair into a pony tail with the other. He’d never seen a woman do that the way she did, a gesture of the most intimate aggression. It was as workmanlike and personal as drawing a sword. She wants it rough tonight. She doesn’t want to mess up her hair when it gets just about rough enough.
She had tied it back the first time in a warehouse where she’d had the police commissioner tied naked to a chair with a strip of leopard spotted duct tape over his mouth. A smart man would have taken advantage of her distraction and attacked but her gesture had frozen him with strange feelings. It was pure fate. She had known exactly how to get into his skull and without any mystical mental powers. She had looked at him with a soul mates intuition and – Smack Bang Pow - found his button. By the time they’d finished wrestling on the warehouse floor; their costumes had been torn away. They were entwined in each other’s loins and howling like hyenas. Two hours later, naked, exhausted, sated, sweaty, scratched and bruised, and leaning her head happily on his shoulder, they stood over the wide eyed commissioner tied to his chair and threatened him into silence.
She ties her hair back as he watches, slack lipped. She unbuttons the stodgy plastic buttons of the pajama top, beginning at the collar, and button by button by button to the bottom and lifts it open for him. She tucks the two sides under her armpits so he can see. Her old granny breasts hang limp, used up and swollen, the long nipples pointing down at her knobby knees. Stretch wrinkles at the tops like storm gullies. She hates her breasts. Can't stand to look at herself in the mirror anymore, remembering the way she had once been. But when he comes around, her hound dog, she can see her breasts through his eyes. She uses his eyes to look at herself. Through him alone she can feel young and horny and so terribly wicked again.
I’ve still got it. Look at his stiffy firing up. Sorry God but I’m still so bad.
He puts the blunt in his lips. The varicose veins in his ankles are burning, his knees hurt, and his hips are killing him. His belly hangs over his belt line in spite of his regimen of fifty sit ups. As the smoke rises like yeast into his brain, he cries out – “Oh shit!”
“I’m stoned,” he whimpers. “My mental powers are shot until I come down. I can’t believe I let you do that.”
“If this were back in the day, honey, I’d be mopping the hallway with your head right this minute and there wouldn’t be a damn thing you could do.”
“I’m so stoned,” he whines. “You did that so easy. Hey, you don’t suppose its Alzheimers?”
“No,” she said.
“I got nothing! Why'd you do that to me?”
“If I wanted you to do me hypnotized, I’d have asked for it.”
“But you love doing it hypnotized. You have so many orgasms. And you think I'm Brad Pitt.”
“Tonight, I just want you for plain folks.”
“Jesus, I’m stoned. Is that the moon out there?”
“That?” She turned her head for a second, but he was too slow. They burst out laughing as she put out her foot and he fell into her arms. She slapped his face, but not hard. “Pow. Gotcha again.”
“Mavis,” he sounded sad. “I’m so starved for magic. Do you ever feel that way?”
“All the time, honey.” She kissed him.
He kisses her."You're all the magic that's left," he says.
She reaches under the mattress and takes out the old titanium handcuffs, the first ones he had ever used on her back in the day, the only ones she could never break out of. She holds them out on the end of her finger.
“Don’t make too much noise,” she says. “Someone might call the cops.”
Posted by Garceus at 12:30 AM