Sleet, slick, slivers, wintry rustbelt razor winds, slashes at my face and ears. In the frigid darkness, the failing town feels feeble, hollowed out, empty, and deserted.
My Southern California blood runs cold in the walk of fewer than one-hundred yards from my motel to The Boiler Room Bar.
She's leaning against the wall next door to the entrance to the Boiler Room. She's dressed in skinny jeans, a thin, ripped, nylon jacket, and tennis shoes with no socks. Her only makeup is her pale skin and red-nosed response to the cold. Her short, thin, dirty blond hair's styled by the rakish wind.
"Hey, you got a quarter?" Her voice has a hillbilly twang with a smoker's rasp.
"Hey, yourself. You must be freezing out here."
She shakes her head no and steps closer to me. "I'm all right, but a quarter from you would warm my thighs and heat my heart." She leans in closer. "For a quarter from you, I would turn tricks, do flips, and be your nightly pleasure."
"Wow! That's quite an offer. Let's discuss it in the bar. I don't have any change with me. I'll get change and give you a quarter, buy you a drink, dinner maybe."
A brutal blast of arctic air flips her hair and freezes my cheeks and nose.
She steps back away from me. "I can't go in there with you." A lightning flash of disappointment and desperation crosses her face. "Do you have any change in your hotel room?"
I look into her serious brown eyes. I see and sense rage, a slow-burning anger, and frustration with a dark cloud of bitterness. "You have such expressive eyes. I don't think I want to be alone in a hotel room with you."
She steps closer to me and stares up into my eyes. "What do you see? Do you see our long and fruitful future together or do you see your eminent, untimely, and messy demise?"
Now, I take a step back from her. "OK, OK time for me to go in the bar and warm up. Good luck with your quarter quest."
The harassing wind sweeps down my collar.
She resumes her position of leaning against the wall. "Are you a faggot? A black, freezing-your-ass-off faggot?" Her eyes and her voice have gone flat. Her anger has morphed into indifference.
She grabs my jacket sleeve as I move past her. "It has to be a solid quarter, not change. Quarters like you used to charge the boys to peep through your wall to see your sister naked."
The fast-moving winds create a dark chuckling sound in the distance. I snatch my sleeve out of her grip. "Who the fuck are you? Who put you up to this? Did Sylvia --"
"Why did you insist on quarter coins? What do you have against change or paper money?" She's in my face, blocking my access to the bar.
I feel a new cold front coming from my stomach and moving up through my torso. "Who the fuck are you? What do you want?"
She grins, showing a mouth crowded with too many small, gray teeth and a slimy snake of a tongue. "A quarter from you."
Suddenly, hail's jack-hammering the sidewalk, the walls and my face and hands. I panic, turn back and race to my motel room. I'm bombarded and blinded by the hail, slip and fall, right myself, surge onward to my motel room door. My hands are so cold and numb I fumble with the key and drop it. She's there with her bony fingers scooping up the key before it hits the concrete step. She grins as she opens the door, and holds the door open as I stumbled into my overheated room.
She crosses to the small table and pours a quarter glass of the fifth of Johnnie Walker Black Label. I hate to drink alone.
"You hate to drink alone." She hands me the drink. Her face and voice brighten as she spies the pile of change on the nightstand. "Yes! You have a quarter. Do you want to pay me, buy me, gift me, or just throw me something of no value or consequences to you?"
I gulp down a mouthful of Scotch, remove my jacket and hang it on the door. I sit on the bed and wrap myself in the spread, and I'm still cold from the inside out.
"What do you want? What do you want from me?"
"A quarter. You rescued your brother and his failing business. You don't like your brother. You despise his family. Why did you do that?" She unwraps the other drinking glass and pours herself three fingers of Scotch. She settles back into a chair next to the Scotch.
"If I give you a quarter will you tell me who the fuck you are and how you know so much about me?"
"You want to buy my services? Okay, but you know who I am."
"No. I don't have --"
She smiles and crosses her thin legs. "Think about it."
I want the answers to my questions. However, I do not want to be in a contractual relationship with her. I have a very bad feeling about establishing any kind of give-and-take relationship with her. I sure as hell do not want to own her. I pick up the quarter and examine it carefully. I toss the quarter to her. She catches it with two fingers on the edges of the coin. She slips it into her jacket pocket. "It's a gift, a donation free from any obligation on your part, whoever you are."
She gives me a nasty smile that seems to inspire the hail storm to double down on its intensity.
"Your father trusted you so much. He was so proud of you. His son the lawyer. He made you the executor of his will, and you stole from his estate. You cheated your siblings. Why? You didn't need the money. You're not greedy. So, why steal and betray the trust of your father?"
"Fuck you! Get the fuck out of here. Now! Out!"
She shrugs. "You gifted me with no obligation. Still, I feel I should give you a gift in return."
I'm trapped between the cold front rising in me and the hail storm raging outside. Somehow she's my jailer, my keeper, the warden of my prison. I want to choke off her voice, her life, her presence.
"Choking me isn't the gift I came for."
"Get out of my head! Get out. Go!"
She sips her scotch, licks her lips, grins. "Tell me about you pimping your sister. Help me understand. It'll warm your soul and body."
"Fuck you -- wait, you do look kind of familiar. Where have I seen you --"
"You have known me all your pathetic life."
I try to stare her down, but her eyes are changing from brown to gray. I look away.
"I wasn't pimping. It was Sylvia's idea --"
She hisses at me. "You blame it on your sister. I've heard enough --"
"Shut the fuck up and listen. It was her idea, but I was fascinated, entranced with the idea. She suggested it. I ran with it."
"Why? Why would she want to expose herself --"
I sneer at my interlocutor. "Power! We both wanted power. She knew which boys had paid a dollar --"
The blonde interrupts. "A dollar in quarters."
"... to spy on her. It was her secret power over them. And mine too. We had something on them that we could use whenever."
The thin woman laughs long and loud. "Delicious! Delightful! Decadent!"
"And, we did it for the money. We used our ill-gotten gains for movies, pizza -- what's your name? What do I call you? "
"Oh, call me Helga, Doyle." She offers me her cold as ice hand and an even colder smile. "Did you peek too? Did you spy on your nude sister?"
I lean forward eager to explain. "Yes, but I never cheated her. I paid my dollars in quarters like everyone else."
"Yes, I bet you did but did Sylvia know you were spying on her?"
"Of course. She teased me about it. She put on 'special events' when she thought I was watching." I'm no longer cold. I shrug off the blanket.
There's a glow on Helga's pale face. "Did you ever use your power over these juvenile voyeurs?"
I smile at Helga. "Not just kids. Adults, grown men, uncles, fathers, fathers with daughters, cousins. And, and, seven women, but three were in their teens. It was not just kids."
Helga convulses in laughter and squeezes out her question between bursts of laughter. "You two were master marketers. But did you ever use your power over these despicable ones?"
I stand, pour myself a drink and take the other chair across from Helga. "I don't think they were all despicable. Judiciously, we used our secret knowledge maybe seven times, eight at the most."
"Tell me. Tell me about your astute use of your prurient leverage."
I settle back in my chair. "We had pictures of the peepers. Sylvia's most excellent hidden camera idea. Our apartment manager was a peeper. He was pressuring our mother and some of the other women in our apartment for favors and delights. We told him to cease and decease. He laughed at us until we pinned a cropped picture of him peeping, to his apartment door. We slipped a quarter under his door."
"Did he comply? What happened?"
"He threatened us with eviction. He threatened us physically. We mailed the next picture to the police with the word, 'Pedophile,' on the back. We put another quarter under his door. The police paid our landlord a visit."
"You were daring, bodacious. Were you scared?"
"I was. Sylvia thought it was a great adventure. The Apartment Manger ceased, relented, and departed a few months after the police visit."
I sit there sipping scotch, warm and comfortable in my memories.
Without prompting, I detail each of our other seven 'adventures.'
* * *
Helga's aglow, her hair is brighter, thicker, her teeth cleaner, her smile sunny. "Did you put these childhood 'adventures' behind you as you grew up?"
I smile, stand and turn down the thermostat. "I had a thing for my sister. I wanted more than a hole in the wall view. I wanted her. I wanted her more than anything in the world."
"Poor boy, poor spider, caught in your own trap." Helga gives me a dazzling smile. "Don't keep me in suspense. What happened?"
Helga has removed her jacket, and her breasts that were hardly noticeable when she took off her coat are now stretching her tee shirt.
"I told Sylvia how I felt about her. About how much I needed her. She laughed until she cried until she peed on herself."
"And? And what happened?"
"She fucked me. I fucked her. I supped on her juice. She swallowed me whole. She added our show, brother/sister fucking to the program. In a cheap motel at first, but now in our house. A theater in our own home."
Helga's pulling her tee shirt over her head. Her breasts are bare, excited; her dark nipples look bullet hard and far more deadly.
As I take her breast in my mouth and pull down her jeans, she whispers in my ear. "Is the price of admission still four quarters?"
I reluctantly release her breast to reply. "Yes, but free for you for the rest of my life."
Death laughs long and loud again and again.
Article © Frederick Foote. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-01-09
Image(s) are public domain.