Coin Toss

Every coin has two sides…

The sound of his voice brought her back from gazing out the door. Light at the end of the tunnel. It had been very…weird. She thanked him for the wine, congratulated him on it being something she wouldn’t have tried. Stooped to. She’d pushed the chicken salad sandwich around enough to make it look like she’d eaten some of it, and thanked him for that, too. He stood when she did, started to walk her to the door. She dismissed him with a flick of her nails.

“I’m a big girl.”

He found that contemptibly laughable. She could pass for an anorexic corpse that had been roasting in the desert for a couple of days, clutching a pair of stolen basketballs to its chest. She checked her posture and look in the door, from the front. The view that failed to show the slight forward tilt from the bolt-on basketballs or the black stilettos the end of a pair of fishnets. Or both. Her bracelet, a sinuous armband winding its way like diamond crusted golden ivy from her wrist halfway up her forearm caught the foyer light when she reached for the door.

***

Lamar pulled up a stool at the bar, stared off into nowhere and pursed his lips. Reagan pulled a towel from under the bar and started wiping

“Move your elbows.”

“It’s clean.”

“I keep it that way. Just being thoughtful, in case the teardrops start to fall.”

“I’d cry for Hitler first.”

The towel went back under the bar, one hand landed on her hip, the other on the under bar. “Who was that?”

“‘What was that?’ makes a better question.”

“Okay. So what was that?”

Lamar shook his head, sighed. “‘The things you think are precious I can’t understand’.”

“Steely Dan, Reeling in the Years. You’re going to have to bring significance into this. Riddles make me drool.”

“Someone I knew. Not so much in the biblical sense. Just kids, thrown into a social blender. Doing what we could to belong where we hadn’t, have some fun. Get by.”

“Seems to have gotten by okay. Your friend was worth a couple grand, easy. Without the tits or jewelry.”

“Funny. I said something about designer purses.”

“And the shoes and the blouse and the skirt. That woman walks through Neiman’s and those things jump off the rack for her. Five, six-hundred-dollars on her feet. Each.” She checked her black Skechers, smiled. “Doesn’t matter what you pay, gum sticks to all of them. You plan on explaining Steely Dan?”

“I finally asked her, after watching her play front loader and moving her sandwich all around, you know, what do you want me to say? Congratulations? You managed to turn your vagina into a deep designer purse full of somebody else’s money? Way to go? Sorry. Disgusting is the wrong word. But it’s close.”

“Get back to me with that, because disgusting and fascinating are damn near next door neighbors and I’d hate to think you bought into any of that.”

“You and I are both on the wrong word street. Ring me out and I’ll tip your new waitress too much for tying up the table.”

“She’ll appreciate that.” She watched him zone his way into his wallet for the credit card. “I can see you going all Pretzel Logic over what your old acquaintance became. There’s no figuring it, Lamar, so give it up. I mean, how people can wear so much designer misery and look at themselves in the mirror every morning is a riddle that will make you drool.”

***

She took off the bracelet and necklace, set them on her dresser. “Anyway, I think I shocked him.”

“You shock a lot of people.” He reached around from behind her, dropped his hands on the basketballs she was smuggling under her blouse.

“Stop.” She rocked her shoulders like he was a loose bra strap and got out from under him. “He looked at me like I was an alien, or made the room smell funny, or he’d just stepped in shit barefoot or something. It was uncomfortable. I really hated not to pick up the check.”

“There were times you thought the same way about him. The alien shit on the shoes of your teens.”

“True. For three years he put his hands on everything old enough to breed in half a dozen counties, told us all he loved us. Then we grew up a little and he turned into a shadow. Like something on the far edge of the patio, you know it’s there but can’t make out.”

“Listening to you that’s all he ever did was make out.”

“Funny. Unless you were there. He claims being the ‘gangster of love’ got him banished, but he did that to himself. I could almost see his point, though. He’d stepped all over so many and so much that ‘Move on or move’ became a single option choice.”

“Meaning?”

“He said he’d gotten to a point where there was no back to go to and it was tread water, drown, or swim to the other side. He took off before he drowned.”

“So that was his backhanded apology?”

“No. All he was trying to do was ‘understand’. What, I don’t know.” She let a light, nervous laugh hit the mirror and bounce back. “And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have understood it if he’d tried. He’s…” She got a far off look for a second. “Out there.”

“How did he like your new profile?”

She sidestepped the boob honk and dropped a pair of twelve-thousand-dollar diamond stud earrings into a jewelry box like they’d come from a Cracker Jack box. “He asked me where the hell these tits were in high school, because if I’d had them back then he would have been happy as a pig in shit. He’d have been too busy looking for the nipples on the soccer ball twins that I wouldn’t have had to keep re-buckling my belt to keep him out of the promised land every time we stopped at a stop sign.”

“He said that?”

“He never had much of a filter. And what he had is gone.”

“Anything else nobody gives a damn about?”

“Something about how some women didn’t have to stand under the waterfall, if they bought a high-priced ticket they could catch the rainbows and the sparkly things that kicked out of it as it went by, without even getting their hair wet. And down to a letter or the letter he bet I made you a first-class pompitus, and something about Steve Miller and a guy named Mo-reese. He’d lost me at the music beyond playing the radio shit by then and I wasn’t sure what the hell he was talking about. Any ideas?”

“Nah. You could Google it, but who knows what a guy like that’s talking about? You gotta wonder how the fucking space cowboys find their way out of bed in the morning, much less remember to breathe and live this long.”

**** Notes ****

“You wouldn’t know a diamond if you held it in your hand … The things you think are precious I can’t understand.” **

“Some people call me the space cowboy
Some people call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
‘Cause I speak of the pompatus of love” ++

The real word is “puppetutes” or “puppestute,” depending on who is listening to how good a recording and what day they discussed it with the author, Vernon Green, from the 1954 Medallions song “The Letter”. The word is a combination of Puppet and Prostitute, a description for a paper doll fantasy woman. One who will look and do and be whatever, in an equitable exchange of favors. The 1954 Doo Wop version of a Stepford Wife. Misquoted as “pompatus” by Steve Miller, who was quoting himself from three previous albums. I’m not sure if that would be re or up cycling.

**From “Reeling in the Years” Copyright Fagen/Becker. RIP, Walter.
++ From “The Joker” Copyright Steve Miller

Published by

Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

9 thoughts on “Coin Toss”

    1. Thank you. I wondered if it was enough to put you in the bar and the bedroom and sell the Bolt ons without getting in the way of the two sides of one story. This was an exercise that sneaked out.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I wondered if it was enough to put you in the bar and the bedroom and sell the Bolton’s without getting in the way of the two sides of one story. This was an exercise that sneaked out.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Story and plot are the same thing. There are a gazillion plot formulas, and a gazillion stories to tell them with. But down to it, it’s all man/woman against self/world/others. Or a combo. I like the Hitchcock formula where average joe gets in the middle of mayhem and ends up with the girl or the prize or just gets out alive, dusts off his jacket. “Well, that was interesting.” Check your email.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wait a minute. You call them the same thing and then proceed to separate them?
        This discussion came up on Scribophile. In the end, it appeared that plot is what happens, events, story is to whom, why and to what effect and response. A Bond film is mostly plot. A Jane Austen novel, mostly story.

        Like

  1. I’m using plot two ways. One as the equation to wrap “story” around, the other as story arc. To me they are the same. Film and literature are not. The Bond and Austen novels are stories. Good guys, bad guys, little internal morality plays, flirtations, sex, social mores, difficult choices. Told in different manners, set in different environs, but in the end far more similar than different. Star Trek and Star Wars and et al sci fi is Gunsmoke or Bonanza in space. Hey, Pa, lets hook up the wagon and roll into Escarpmeoid VI, get into some shit. Oh dear, Princess Kitty Leah is in trouble!!! Come on man, story is story. Plot is plot. Story is plot, plot is story. Here to there with a creamy filling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And what George F said. No tags. With brilliant writing like this, none neccessary, i say, state, comment happily, whisper. Just kidding. Seriously, i love this.

    Like

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