novel #1.5

cadillac 51
Chapter 5 (To read this novel from the beginning, click here)
To his credit, JJ tried to pay for the damage to my Miata after craning his neck to see my smashed up front bumper. That’s before he understood who I was, when he still thought a few dollars could get him out of the embarrassment of being caught cock-fisted and bleeding on his upholstery. I insisted we go by the book and take down each other’s insurance and snap photographs. He opened his glove compartment, retrieved a checkbook and a pen, and started writing. “Ten thousand,” he said, waving the check at me between his fore and middle fingers as if it were a cigarette. I took it. It was a personal check, which showed at least some good judgment. He had scribbled it out in a shaky hand with the words Pay to cash. I would have preferred it if he’d left it blank, allowing me to insert any word in the world. If I were to put down say the name of a known drug dealer or child pornographer, I could make life rather sticky for mister Jud Junior. No matter. I folded it, put it in my wallet in my purse, and said, “Aren’t you kind? And here I thought I was in the wrong. Let me park and I’ll buy you a drink.”
            “I don’t drink,” he told me.
            “A soda, then? Or a tonic water? Or a juice? I’ll buy you whatever it is you do drink.”
            He looked awkwardly at me and then at his shirt and pants, the stains of blood dark against the off-white fabrics.
            “We can go to my place,” I said. “Or yours. We don’t have to do the club.”
            In my mind, given enough options, JJ would have to say yes. He had been disturbed, if somewhat violently, in the midst of pleasuring himself, and I felt that by leaning forward and displaying what modest cleavage I could, surely the prehistoric parts of his brain would get the better of him. I admit that I was tempted to forgo this line of flirtation, to tell him bluntly what an ass he was, to ask him if he’d ever heard of Pap. Pap, I knew, would get a kick out of all of this. But what would I gain by showing my hand? Wouldn’t I gain more with the promise of showing my breasts, my buttocks, with the promise of touching his ears with my lips? Wouldn’t it be interesting in at least an anthropological way to see the path this man would pursue? To get a sense of his desires and fetishes and animal perversities? Was he a magnum or a pencil pusher? A lover or a sadist? You will understand that I have, for the last ten years, been supremely self-confident when acting within the role of my profession. I am an arsonist. A con artist. A criminal. A woman. I am five-feet-nine and one-quarter inches tall in my bare feet, heels firmly on the floor. I weigh an average of 136 pounds when I awake, according to a digital, biometric scale. My percent body fat rounds up to five. During the course of the day, I gain an average of three pounds in water weight that shows in my paunch like a burgeoning beer belly. I cannot be scared or sloppy or start second-guessing myself when I am handling a client or servant. I have to play whatever part I choose with my whole heart, mind, and body down to the tremble of my lower lip, the thrust of my hips, and the whisper of my breath. By turns I am a predator, a floozy, an intellectual, a virgin, a bitch, a lesbian. I carry out these roles as required to whatever extent necessary. I use protection usually. I carry mace always. I have once employed the high-prong setting of an emerald cut ruby ring to slice a man’s thigh nearly to the femoral artery. He proceeded to strangle me until I lost consciousness, and I am still not sure entirely why didn’t kill me. Certainly from the standpoint of pain and terror, that incident ranks as the closest I have come to my own death. But all of this is only to say that I have gauged the risks of my profession through personal experience. I am not a simpleton. I am not a naïf. I am not overconfident. And I am not to be pitied.
            My right headlight was out and I didn’t feel like risking getting pulled over on the highways so I parked in a garage on Evernia Street then joined JJ in the Cadillac. He was dabbing at his shirt with a wet napkin. Without looking at me, he said, “Where do you live?”
            “South,” I told him. “A guy’s there. Maybe. Maybe not be the best place to go.”
            “I’m out in the country,” he said, his words coming out in defeat. Who was this man? A virgin? An ineffectual depressive? I realized how very little I understood him. I let him sit with only his own answer for a minute while I buckled and put my hands on the hem of my skirt. Finally, bashfully, he lifted his eyes. “Isn’t too far. Hour drive is all.”
            A wonderful lie! It was an hour-and-twenty minutes doing eighty on the highways in the light of day. At night? A good hour-forty. Unless he had a different place in mind.
            “Good thing for you I’m a country girl,” I said. “Take me the hell out of this city, mister. West Palm ain’t good for nothing but dinging up my car.”
(To read BIGGER THAN A CADILLAC from the beginning, click here
– Candice Cousins
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someone