She’s a real steam-engine kind of girl. The type that’ll flirt with some dude while you’re off hustlin’ nine ball. The type that’ll make sure you peep the guy, who’s a real fake, flirting with her.
And then, she’ll make like reefer, planting herself close enough for you to dig.
Close enough to spy this cat whisperin’ apple butter in her ear. Close enough to see him take her hand and watch her wink at you while she’s makin’ eyes at him. So close in fact, you need only take one, two steps to cross the small pasture separating you and him.
Then you and this dude, or that dude – really any dude – ’cause it don’t matter where you’re at, you’re spittin’ spears at one another. Crossing verbal swords, ’til one of you smashes a fist into the other’s nose: crunchin’, crackin’, crushin’ the cartilage.
She’s the type of hard-body to hang back watching, a long grin spread like jam across her face, as the two of you pound the stars out of each other.
Yeah, she’s that type.
And this particular baby, her name’s Candy, and you know with a name like that she’s destined for trouble.
We meet on a Sunday, the first day, in a bar.
A real dive.
The type of joint that still uses really, I mean really sharp-tipped darts. A waterin’ hole serving only pissy beer and the three kings: Jim, Jack, and Jose.
And the dame, she drinks whiskey.
Straight, three finger full, no chaser.
And Candy, she drinks fast, she drinks hard.
I had just slipped a one bill into the juke, scanning through throw away music, looking for something slick and upbeat – a hip, cookin’ jam – when this belle, with cocaine wide eyes and a black bouncy bob leans on the box, sipping firewater from her glass. Castin’ eyes at me she asks, “Whatcha’ playin’ cowboy?”
Candy takes a drag from a Lucky Strike and it’s easy to see the chick is gritty, real bad news.
But, she’s cool. Subterranean cool.
“Don’t know yet, cowgirl. Any ideas?” I ask, snappin’ fingers; rollin’ and lightin’ a butt of my own.
“Yeah.” Skimming selections, she passes one, two, three, maybe four songs I’d boogie to, then presses F-66.
“I think you’ll especially like this one, fella,” she says, leaving me hangin’ at the juke.
Stairway to Heaven.
Candy’s walk, it’s supermodel mean with never-ending, bloodless legs spanning heaven bound from the floor, disappearing underneath a black, too short mini. A tarantula’s web of coffee-colored fishnets lattice up her calves, crawlin’ to the hive.
Girl’s a real dolly.
Cotton and white, her wife-beater stretches over two swollen tits and the Doc Martens on her feet are outer-space dark with long, crisscrossed white laces.
This broad, she’s a haul-ass, hostile ’69 Shelby GT 500. A sticky wicket, beggin’ for disorder.
At the bar, after picking the last two songs, I’m sippin’ Jack, feelin’ nowhere, trying to figure out how to get off the line with this queen.
And the gal – she’ psychic or somethin’ – stares me apart with hopped up eyes and says, “Hows ‘bout you and me, we take a ride?”
Now, I’m feeling panic and a half, like this foxy lady is trying to get one over on me.
“I got me a ’62 Impala outside, it’s real radioactive,” she says. “The bee’s knees, and it’s sittin’ on twenties with front, back, side to side.”
She smiles something seductive then says, “And get this friend, it’s rag-top.”
Now, I’m feeling real skinny, ’cause my rocket, it ain’t no ride at all.
Outside, I’m floored to the core ’cause the whip’s bumper to bumper candy apple red, sparklin’ like diamonds, and sitting on eighty inches of polished chrome.
The hot rod, it shines like Buddy Holly’s gold records.
And for a second I think she’s lightin’ up the tilt sign, you know, fuckin’ with me, until she digs out keys, pressing a button.
Four lights, runners and turns, flash and a voice deep as my Father’s says, “Viper, unalarmed.”
Man, this set of wheels is cherry, platinum.
The inside the six deuce, it’s way out. Black trim bordering heaven white leather.
Bottom to top leather.
Back to front leather.
All in orbit and all unreal.
It’s what you’d call Ivy league.
The ’62 Impala, with a dropped 350 small block and a turbo 350 transmission gives this tub some serious goose. If you’re racin’ for pinks, this is your space ship.
The thing is hopped up, a stone-faced hottie, and when Candy punches it, poppin’ the clutch with the pedal to the floor board, all four Pirelli’s pound the pavement and we’re pushing sixty under six.
Flip-top back, wind blowin’ hard, drowning out Brian Setzer razing through the Kenwoods, punching out four twelve inch Kicker subs in the back.
And, it’s late.
2 AM Late.
We’re half-blitzed, only Candy and I on the road, and I’m killed with the performance of the beast, but even more impressed with the way Candy works the steering wheel.
Pull up to a long, painted-on red light and she drops three, two, one gears, slowing the chariot to a stop. Candy reaches across my lap into the glove box, pulling out a silver flask with A.C. etched on the front and twists off the cap.
She takes a serious swig, passes the canteen to me and says, “Here Daddy-O, have a nip.”
Chug-a-lug the juice, sit back and when the light turns Granny-Smith green, Candy pops it, agitatin’ gravel, a hot mess of rubber and smoke trailin’ behind us.
I tip the tin once more, the nectar igniting my gut and ask, “What’s this stuff?”
“Yeah, Big Daddy. The Green Fairy, you know.”
I twist the cap again, my nose to the lip snuffin’ the sap.
Licorice. It smells like licorice.
Bend my elbow and let the spirit slide down my throat.
“No, I don’t know,” I say. “What’s it gonna do to me?”
At 105mph she snatches the flask from my hands, turning her hazels to mine. Tipping it, she takes a long, too long guzzle. Tossin’ the tin back to me she says, “Have another nip, and don’t get all kookie on me, you dig?”
“Like a grave, kitty cat. Like a grave,” I say and I’m feelin’ real stand up, right on top.
Candy, she slows the roadster and says, “You know, it is beautiful. All of it. I gotta say, your Father, he did a fine job… with this, anyway.”
She lays those scorchin’, saucer-eyes back on me and says, “So, heavenly sent, you been here, what? Two, two hundred and fifty, three hundred years?”
“Huh? What?” Mocking me. “Listen, Papa Bear needs to have a sit down with you. A get-down-with-Jesus chat.” Then she laughs, punchin’ pedals, shiftin’ gears.
When we pull under another light she leans into the back. And me, well, I’ve dissolved into the seat, immobile.
Absinthe: the devil’s, or Donald’s juice.
“You’re pathetic. You know that,” she says, digging her eyes into my soul, still digging in the back. “Almost two-hundred and fifty years, and you never revealed yourself? You sick bastard, ain’t worth the hype. You.” She points a long black nail at me. “Should be crucified.” Through tight teeth with lying lips she sneers, “again.”
Then it strikes me from the corner of my eye. I lay bloodshot beadies on somethin’ wood, somethin’ hard, somethin’ slow motion with Louisville printed on it swinging over my seat.
A crunch followed by an excruciating throb and I know I’m cruisin’ for a bruisin’.
Before I fade out Candy says, “Cool it, you’ll be A-Ok once we get to the corral.”
A double-barreled sawed off, both hollow eyes trained on my chest, and she’s nailed me to the bed. Cut Clasp nails into four bedposts, driven through one, two hands. Through one, two feet.
This is what I find when I come up and there’s no fighting the nails.
Candy says, “The law. They say eighteen inches is legal. So, this one here…” The double barrel scanning to my gut, then back to my head. “Is sixteen. It’s so much more fun goin’ against the man. Don’t ya think?”
I can’t move and I try biting through the rubber ball-gag stuffed in my mouth.
Try to ignore the glazed drool cracking my lips and chin.
Try to say something, anything, but man, my chops is beat.
“Sawed it myself. With a hacksaw and a vice grip,” she says, running a finger around the edge of the barrel. “Smooth. Smooth like Hugh Hef. And deadly, too. Deadly like a Mamba.” Like she’s in Fat City havin’ a grand time, she flat out slides back the pump, pointing the smooth deadly thing at my peepers.
“You ready to rattle, snake?” She asks, squeezing the trigger. The hammer says click, and it’s very apparent Candy has done this before.
Candy digs out a bible from the nightstand drawer. The same bible buried in every drawer of every motel from The City of Angels all the way to The Big Apple. She’s blowing through pages, picking psalms and gospels, trying to bring me down. Smokin’, torchin’ through Revelations:
“And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?’ And the beast,” she says, pulling her head up, staring stilettos through my eyes. She begins bashin’ my ears more, “the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months…”
Headlights outside illuminate inside.
The bible drops from her hand and thuds on the floor, pages upon pages fanning open.
Two shells from her pocket and loading.
Then, raising the gun back to my blues she says, “He should be here, right about…”
Cocking gun and car door slam.
“…now.” She smiles somethin’ sick. Aiming gun.
One, two, three, four, five, six six six footsteps.
Knockin’ at the door.
Dude’s peacocked in Johnny Cash black and he says to Candy, “Honey, you see the sky?”
“Daddy, it’s Vegas. There ain’t no sky.”
“Oh, yeah.” Cash-Man, he speaks something in Hebrew then says, “Baby, go outside now and have a look-see.”
Candy’s eyes light up like drive-in projectors, a silky smile spreading across her face and with a giggle she says to me, “I’m gonna cop a breeze, you know, check out the stars.” She rock and rolls out, shutting the door behind her, leaving me alone with the man in black.
The guy, Cash-Man, his eyes pounce up down, left right, before saying, “You know, I’d have at least brought you to an upstandin’ hotel. Somewhere crazy cool. A spot with room service. I mean you are the Big Dog. You do deserve it, but hey, that’s just me. I can’t control what she does.”
A black, feathered fedora fits his head.
“Call me, Black Donald,” he says. “But, I’m sure you already knew that.”
Ocean floor dark, sole to soul.
Stopping at the foot of the bed, adjusting his tie, he stares somethin’ fierce into my eyes. With one long, extended finger he points at me saying, “So, you’re him, huh? Goddamn,” laughing, “I was expecting so much more.”
I know who he is and it’s not like he’s makin’ the scene to every shindig in town, but here he is, in the flesh at the foot of the bed. He’s not what I expected, and I’ve been waiting since birth for this.
“Really though, seein’ you, I mean it is you, right?” It’s rhetorical, not that I could answer anyway. “Seein’ you in this position, it kind of makes me… sad. I was hopin’, prayin’ that we’d have a throwdown. Holy deity versus evil entity. But it wouldn’t be a fair one, would it? When’s the last time you turned water to Merlot?” Laughing again, something addictive, and for one second – only one second – I understand why so many men, women and children fall prey to his false integrity. He’s got that ill communication weak folk find alluring, mesmerizing.
The black, infinitely dark man leans in on me, face to face. Foul, grody, and goopy death pours from his breath, and he’s right here like a knuckle sandwich, nose to nose.
“You have any idea how long, how many lifetimes, how many eons I’ve waited?” He asks.
The door swings open and Candy, all her beauty, all her hipness gone behind absent, sunlight yellow eyes says, “Daddy, I think it’s time.”
Black Donald rises from my face, slips out of his sport coat, slides it onto the back of a chair and undoes his tie saying, “Yes baby, I think it is.”
Pulling a chair to the end of the bed, perching himself on it he says, “So, Mr. Bright, or should I call you Mr. I Am? I mean, I Am is your birthright. Right?”
They laugh. Candy continues, “Here’s the tale, Nightingale. See, Papa Bear here is turnin’ over a new leaf. Takin’ inventory. Makin’ amends.”
The blood that’s been leeching from my palms and down my arms has dried, leaving a trail of crusted crimson. Agony from the nails has my berry razzed; smog in the noggin. I’m driftin’ between far out and far gone. My runnin’ lights milkshake under their lids, blurred and fadin’.
“While you been up here, be-boppin’ around, Papa’s been makin’ arrangements with your daddy,” she says.
Black Donald plucks a Lucky Strike from a pack, snatches a Zippo from nowhere with A.C. on it, and lights the gasper.
He continues, “Yes, Daddy Joe-Below and Papa Up-Above have made a deal.”
Long, longer, longest drag.
“So,” he goes on, “what we’re gonna do is, we’re gonna sit tight, wait ’til you pile up your final Z’s, then me and Candy here, we’re made in the shade. You dig?”
Cloud, cloudier, cloudiest nicotine haze.
The digital face on the bureau reads 4:20am. It’s the last thing I see before I cut out.
I come to from the budging of cold metal against my face, slug tips glowing gold at the end of each shortened barrel.
“Wakey, wakey,” Candy says and before I can even twitch, the piece is shoved between my pearly gates. “Now, the gag, it’s a bye-byes. You gonna be a good little Christian?”
I nod. Raw gunpowder bites at my throat.
“If you yell. If you scream, even peep,” she starts. “This piece here, it’s gonna pump sacrosanct shells through your face. Dig?”
I nod again.
It’s a bad scene down here and Father, He’s out to lunch.
Candy says, “You’re probably feelin’ a bit separated, ain’t ya?”
I have no connection to Father. This jazz-box is empty; just a woodshed swingin’ through limbo.
“Lemme give you the story morning glory.” Tippin’ the flask, she continues, “You’re in quite the predicament here. Crucified, again, but this time to a cross in Hell with the adopted daughter of Goddamn Lucifer aimin’ a double-barreled hot metal heater at your face. And let me tell you. My finger, this one right here,” holding up her right index finger, waving it, “is real, real itchy.”
Holy Lord, my Father, eternal God, graciously deign to bless this Absinthe…
Candy lays the weapon across her lap, picks up the flask again, guzzling the blessed fluid. Her will is strong, but she’ll fade out soon enough.
“So Papa Bear, he sent me to find you, bring you down, but his lust… His lust is too strong. He just had to make the scene. Just had to meet you. But…” Her eyes go black-holed and she picks up the gun. “I have a serious, hard bone to pick with you.”
Venom germs her words. Rank and vile, the temperature drops twenty degrees. Limbo, it goes blank, black; empty, closed night club silent.
Pulling the trigger, a small spark acrobats up and over Candy’s head, flaming out on the floor.
Two hot licks cut a trail past my face before lodging themselves into the wall behind me.
An electric current buzzes and the lights flash back on. Buzzes Candy’s eyes back to neon yellow.
“You dig?” She asks, taking more from the flask.
Holy Lord, my Father, eternal God, graciously deign to bless this Absinthe with Thy spiritual benediction that all who drink it may have health of body and soul and that they may be protected against all sickness and against all the snares of their enemies.
Repeating it silently, over and over.
She continues, “Your Goddamn Father! May the day come when he feels the heat of the pits of Hell! He sent me here. And you! You rotten maggot.” She coughs. A scarlet stream trailing the corner of her mouth. “You stood and did nothin’ when you were born. You couldn’t even give me exemption? Couldn’t find forgiveness in your heart?” Wiping her insides on the top of her hand then continuing,“He sent me down here!“ Pointing at me, coughing more blood. “And you let me stay!”
Out loud, I start again, “Holy Lord, my Father, eternal God -”
Cutting me off, “Don’t start with that shit, Daddy-O.”
A door from nowhere opens. “Don’t you start either, baby. You know why we’re here,” Black Donald tells her.
Candy’s eyes pass Donald’s, pass mine, then fix on the flask. Taking a nip, then Candy continues, “He left me here! Left me here to rot, for eternity, with you,” and Candy slides the heater holes into Cash Man’s face.
“Don’t blow your top, baby,” he says, stepping a beat towards her.
I repeat the prayer again and Donald turns to me, “And you! Shut your cocksucker! I’ll turn this place into a Goddamn barrelhouse. The both of ya need to chill out.”
Candy coughs and crumbs of blood escape her mouth, splattering my face.
“Candy,” Donald starts again, “case the gun. You know how we rock n’ roll.”
“And now!” The words zinged like a one-two at my head. “You shall pay!” Candy swings the barrels back on me. “Repent, you sick Goddamn bastard!” Then the jump of one, two killers at my chest and I know my disc is about to be waxed.
“Eve!” Donald yells.
Candy’s gut jitterbugs and she falls to the ground, clutching her stomach. Black Donald snatches the gun from her fingers, snap capping two into her head. Candy whispers, “Blessed hell.”
All this before I peep the bad news ripping through my ribcage. And before Candy hits the floor, I’ve forgiven her.
Black Donald says, “This is quite the gutbucket. You, my friend are in pocket.” Lightin’ another gasper, he saddles next to me and I know I’m in the heat now. Starin’ licks through my eyes he says, “See here J-Dog, your Daddy sent you Earth-bound for a reason, and I think you know that. And He gave you free will, sin and mortality. Ain’t they a bitch?” He asks, burnin’ a grin. “But, while you’ve been up there fuckin’, fightin’, and sinnin’, me an the Supreme Bein’, we been workin’ out our differences. Catchin’ up on old times.”
He grounds the lit end of the cigarette into my chest, branding me with an upside down cross.
“Lemme ask ya,” he starts again. “Was it fun? Was bein’ human the bee’s knee’s? As the little bitch would say?”
I’m feeling something real sinister and I’m feeling real fractured from Father. Something separate. I feel this before the cold freezes my breath and shatters in front of my eyes.
“You can have her back. Eve, or Candy. She fucked it all up for you, huh?” He asks. And she did. Candy and Adam wigged out and now I’m in a real train wreck. Again.
“Plans have changed Mr. Christ, and all that rapture and left-behind bullshit is clutched,” he says. “Now, you just need to die. You need die for their sins… again.”
This ain’t no takin’ five. I’m real frail, screwin’ the pooch without a sugar band.
“I’ll clue you in,” he starts again. “G-Man, he’s got jets for brains. I mean hell, he created all of this. And as you’re aware, he cast me out, laid it on me. Looking back, I don’t blame him. But, I’ve been dead too long.
“God and I, we’re on the stick. He’s actually a cool cat, man,” he says. “I want back in the upper room and He’ll let me in, but…” Donald stops and for the first time I sense hesitation.
Exhausted of all strength, my body collapses in on itself. Lungs go dry, suffocating before I die of asphyxiation.
My screams are nowhere.
Pain is nowhere.
One, two, three days. Back into body; blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh.
When they saw me, they fell at my feet as though dead. Then I placed my right hand on them and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Forty days I’m roamin’, screaming across the land in a ’58 Old’s Eighty-Eight and it’s real radioactive, the cat’s meow.
My hot rod though, it shines brighter than Ritchie Valens gold records.
The bent Eight, it’s the bomb, bringin’ eyes and ears. When I’m in the mix, scattin’ to anyone and everyone that’ll listen, it’s a real jam session. Preachin’ and prayin’. Firin’ up sermons, scarin’ shucksters and non-believers straight. And on this fortieth day I find myself back in a Vegas bar. Find me a juke. And find me a friend.
The guy’s Madison Avenue, wearin’ an expensive zoot with polished Earth pads on his feet. He puts down next to me at the bar, ordering eggs, bacon and toast to refuel.
The juke rattles and Cash comes on.
Will You Meet Me in Heaven?
Then, the dude next to me says, “Play dead and listen. You ready for Nowheresville? Ready to pull night shift?”
We meet on the first day, Sunday. I’m sippin’ king Jack and hep cat, he’s sluggin’ king Jose.
“Balance,” Father once told me. “Balance, my son. Without evil, there is no good. Without good, there is no evil. We must have both.” It’s some jazz Father spit, but right now, I’m feelin’ cool. Feelin’ jake.
Tipping the glass, the nectar moldin’ my fig, I turn to Donald and say, “No sweat. Let’s blow this joint, boogieman.”
Staring cold into my peepers he says, “That’s real boss, man. Adam’s in town and Eve’s waitin’ outside with the six-deuce. And, you can call me Judas.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ryan lives in southwest Pennsylvania where he reads, writes and drinks too much coffee. His stories are fast paced, gritty and hold back no punches. He loves the Steelers, his cat and his family. He writes a bi-weekly column for Parable Press, entitled The Naomi Shots.