BABY BLUE MEETS STRANGER
The city lights shone early summer bright, a light heated breeze with a slight taste of pollen touching and feeling through the concrete and metal. Rose locked the car and pulling a black handbag over her shoulder, walked into the city solitude, alone, looking fleshy plump in a baby blue halter and white skirt, which moved pleasantly against her legs, dancing in summer wind. Down the avenue towards never, she glided her feet and sandals covering cracked pavement and garbage. She saw, without giving a sign of recognition, the bus terminal, the mechanical life of coming and going, of oil and gas, the place of the lost hopeless. Words flitted through her mind, her mother’s.
“Only poor people take the bus.”
She walked past the benches and bums and into the bright downtown night, seeing in front of her neon and advertised fun. She checked her watch, without slowing, and frowned. She pressed painted fingers through her hair, one last attempt to straighten and fix blonde locks that refused to be tamed. She paused for a moment at the door, looking at her reflection. With a shake of her head and a sigh, she entered.
Bar darkness blinded blue as eyes turned to meet the open door. A couple nearest the door returned to conversing, making little note of newcomer. Further along sat the men, alone and leering, cheap animal seething, masked in khakis and collared shirts, hooded college jerseys and authentic team apparel. She moved slowly forward, eyes moving slowly with her, eyes tasting pearl thighs, bare navel. Slow steps past them, to an empty booth against the wall, sitting, and legs crossed, waiting.
She looked around as she waited for barkeep to fix a drink. The same hungry eyes tasting and licking, four sets of hungry eyes. The bartender put a drink in front of her, which she finished quickly.
“Another.” She glanced at her watch with disappointment and sighed. I shouldn't have been late.
A drink, drink empty. She signaled again.
She placed the handbag next to her, removing a phone, gray contact with concrete world. She flipped it open: no messages. She sighed and drank, all the while a he, with the tan khakis and collared shirt, sauntered close, leaning against the booth. He smelled scented clean, standing dangerous near. he avoided his eyes, hungry and bright, and let her eyes wander. A couple holding hands and whispering of secret love, an elderly man staring into his beer, and further down the bar, he, alone, he of wild hair and blue plastic pants, sat writing mysteries into a black book.
“Strange,” she said.
“Indeed.” Khaki spoke.
She looked at Mr. khaki and gave fake smile, hoping he’d leave. He smiled back and slid confident into the open space across from her.
“How about a drink?”
She nodded and reached into the handbag, removing a package of cigarettes. Khaki extended fire and smiled.
He reached his hand toward her, which she met with her own. His hand felt cool and soft. A moment of silence spent watching him write, while Kyle fed animal hunger and stared. She finished her drink and he signaled for another, his eyes fixed on blue.
“I’m meeting someone,” she said.
He nodded understanding and flipped his hand in the direction of writer.
“Hopefully you’re not waiting on him.”
She sighed and began to pick at her fingers. She finished her drink and pressed her cigarette into the ashtray.
“I’m not sure.” She watched as he wrote, wondering. She saw Kyle smiling, light laughter on his lips. She turned to face him, looking into hazel eyes, which burned deep red with alcohol high.
“There is a story here.”
“Not one that I’m going to tell you.”
Kyle let out a low whistle and tapped his fingers against his glass. He sat silent, watching, eyes against her bare shoulders, touching her skin. He signaled for another round, finished his beer and walked from the bar. Rose lit a cigarette and returned her gaze to writer. She gathered handbag and phone and walked, unsteady with drink daze, past the eyes watching to the end of the bar, taking a seat next to him.
“Mind if I sit?” She asked. He didn’t respond and continued writing. She drank while looking him over, seeing cigarette stained fingers and ragged clean nails, fingers in constant motion. She crossed her legs and turned towards him, her foot brushing against his pants. She adjusted her skirt and ran a painted finger over pale thigh, all while keeping her eyes on his hands. Silence and fingers in motion met her efforts. A sigh escaped her lips, lips full and colored light pink. She pulled hard on her cigarette and began once again to pick at her cuticles.
He turned to face her, his eyes wide and dark and brooding, eyes that seemed to bore into her own, and placed his hands flat against the black book, as if shielding the words from her.
“Is there something in particular you wanted or are you just looking to get laid,” he said. His voice rang deep and angry, bringing a rush of red to her plump, pale cheeks.
She attempted to speak, but her voice failed her. In a hurry to answer, she dropped the cigarette and reached for the black bag, struggling to tear it open. The phone fell out onto the bar as she searched, finally bringing out a folded magazine. She opened it and pushed it in front of him.
“Did you write this story?” She asked.
He took the magazine in his hands, looking at the cover and at the page she wished him to see. He took a deep breath, ran a hand through his hair, which leapt out in wild spiked bunches from his head, and pushed the magazine back towards her.
“I wrote that in another life.”
She waited for something more, some sign of interest, anything, but he remained silent. He finished his beer, ordered another with a flick of his hand, and pulled a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket. He closed his book and leaned back on his chair, watching her, looking into her eyes. Moments passed one into another; a cigarette lit, a drink finished and refilled, music sounding from the jukebox in the corner.
“I loved that story.” She managed. He didn’t acknowledge her comment and continued to watch her, eyes not moving from her own.
“I guess you get that a lot. I mean, I’ve read lots of your stories and I think you’re a really great writer. I wanted to meet you and see what you were like.” She finished in a rush, too many words, sounding foolish to herself. He remained silent. She gulped down a drink in an attempt to gather courage.
“I’ve always dreamed of a man speaking to me the way you write.” She smiled, happy to have said what she wished to tell him, for once not lacking courage.
He smiled and laughed. He called for shots from bartender and pushed one in her direction. Without a word, only a simple nod at her, he tossed the shot back. He gathered his things, threw money on the bar and stood. He walked towards the door, not looking back. She downed her shot, through a grimace of discomfort and followed behind him, not knowing why or where he led.
He stood outside the bar, waiting, black book under his arm, cigarette between his lips. Again, in silence, he began walking, a brisk pace. She followed, likewise silent, wondering and thinking and wishing. The city passed in a blur, a jumble of crosswalks and alleys and stoplights. Her feet felt sore from the exertion and she wondered if he lived in the city at all.
“Am I getting a guided tour?” She joked. He smiled at her and kept walking, turning sharply into a narrow lane. Towering three story apartment houses lined the street on both sides, an endless stretch of humanity. He walked up the steps of a gray giant and with a turn of a key, entered. He climbed the stairs, expertly in the darkness, Rose trying to keep close to him, her hand upon his shoulder. He came to an abrupt halt next to a door that seemed to materialize out of the darkness. He pushed the door open and led the way inside.
“Welcome to my humble abode.”
The door opened into darkness, which he entered, leaving Rose to stare into the black. She heard and then saw a match touch light to a candle, revealing a wide room with low ceiling. The candle sat upon a wooden table in the center, the outlines of a couch to one side visible. He walked to each corner and lit more candles, turning darkness into shadows. The kitchen opened to the left through an opening and another door against the far wall, which Rose thought to be the bathroom.
“Where do you sleep?” She asked, peering into the shadows in search of another door.
“On the couch,” he said, extending his arm. She sat and leaned back, the couch feeling deep and soft beneath her. She pushed a hand against the cushions, feeling the fabric, as he placed a drink on the table.
“I don’t place a high importance on possessions. I need few comforts to work.”
Rose sat silent, looking and seeing, noticing the bookcase against the wall and the desk adjacent to the couch, as music sounded behind her.
“Mozart,” he said as he changed into a shorts and a tee-shirt. He grabbed an ashtray and a beer and sat down next to her, close. Hand against bare leg, the light pleasure of alcohol in her veins, the rush of a moment close, Rose shut her eyes.
“Can I read a new story?” Rose asked.
“I don’t like to have a story read before it is ready to publish.” Palm against thigh, fingertips run slow and delicate against cream and pearl.
“Please,” she said, placing her hand upon his, pulling it higher.Ray handed her the black book, pushing fingertips under white skirt.
“Thank you.” She reclined against a pillow, opening the black book.
There is a terrorist in our midst.
He is the leader of the land.
Rose moaned and gripped the book, tightly, as Mozart played mad heat upon her thighs. She read on.
“This is fire,” she whispered. Cellos and violas danced upon her navel, touching and teasing, a chorus of intent.
The downward pressure exerted upon the individual must be excised. I am one, unique and strong. I will oppose. I deny my number; I stand and scream at metallic murderous god, I will not bow! Hear my song, my song of death, my song of opposition. To see is to live, to live is to die. You, our leader, shall die.
Nails clean and ragged dug into arm flesh, pulling Rose down and deep. A violin makes its voice heard, in one final rush, a maddening run of minor.
You, those that fail to oppose tyranny, fail in the defense of the weak, infirm, aged, and young; you too shall die.
Rose stared up at the ceiling and took in several deep breathes to calm her heartbeat, which raced from both the story and pleasure. Reaching her hand, she squeezed his and turned to face him. "I'm happy we finally met. This is better than all the times I imagined what it would be like."
He lit a cigarette, but didn't speak. She returned to looking at the ceiling, a smile on her face. I met Ray Holden!
STORIES - Collected Fiction 1992-2018
A short fiction collection by Stephen Moran spanning the years 1992-2018
Warning for graphic content and violence.
Stories for the Mad Volume One
Paperback Edition of
Stories for the Mad Volume One - Anthology of dark, literary fiction from Moran Press
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“If the lady at table twenty-four asks me for another side of ranch dressing, I’m going to stab her in the neck with a fork ...”
Scott Holden lives two lives. In one, he waits tables, enduring an unending siege of abuse from customers, co-workers, and bosses. Invisible to them, he also feels like there’s a target on his back.
In the other, Scott is a writer during furloughs from his working-class nightmare. But the line between his work identity and his artistic one is blurring under the strain.
Is his life filling his fiction with violent daydreams or is his writing fueling the real-life desperation and darkness in his soul?