Feather Roads - City



Watching yet another idiot crash through the double doors reminds me of a poem by Joel Silvermen..or was it Silverstien? Either way I think it ended with..

'Rumble, rumble, whistler roar, Tom ain't ticklish any more.'

Or something like that.

I think this is the third time I've heaved that sad sack out of here this week. Maybe he enjoys it?

"Crash, crack, smack, boom, slam!" I mutter. "Jack is sucking on a garbage can."

"What ya say Hope?" My boss asks.

"Nothing." I reply. "You owe me ten bucks by the way. He was airborn for over five seconds." She doesn't say anything right to my face but I can hear her grumbling as she reaches into the cash register and hands over my cash.

"Closing soon." She says. "Last call in half an hour."

"Didn't you have last call twice already?" I ask though I don't really care. I just want to go home.

"I mean it this time. You'll back it up if needed."

I walk out from behind the bar and take my customary seat in the corner. It's closest to the door in case I need to intercept anyone, keeps the whole place in sight and above all, keeps my back to the wall. Course if any beastie decided to come in here a wall won't exactly slow them down.

But I'm aware of this so that too is no biggie.

One of the 'waitresses' comes to my table and puts a coke in front of me. At least she didn't give the customary 'jiggle' but I'm staff, not a customer so I'm spared a lot of the bullshit.

"Weren't you kinda rough on that last guy Hope?" She asks.

"He tried to paw at your sister like a dog in heat Sherry." I snap back. "I thought I was being lenient."

She sits down. Great..company.

"Aw, he just had too much to drink." She smiles. "He didn't mean any harm."

Sure, keep on thinking that. I actually say nothing just take a sip of the coke.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch movement. Damn, another moron trying to climb on the stage. I move to stand up but Sherry grabs my arm.

"It's no trouble." She says. "That's just Rally."

Who?

I pull my arm free of Sherry's grasp and move toward the stage.

"Hope!" I hear my boss call to me over the music. "Stand down."

I turn on her.

"Say what?" I yell back.

She quickly steps from behind the bar and makes her way over to me.

"That's Rally." She says in an odd echo of Sherry's words.

"This is an explanation how?" I say. "Rules say anyone gets on the stage I bounce em'. Now someone is.." I eye the situation. "Quite on the stage and you don't want me to bounce em'."

"Shut up and watch." Is all my boss says.

Normally I wouldn't but I need the money, rents due.

The so named 'Rally' is an old man, I'd guess around late fifties. He's dressed like your average factory worker, maybe construction. Not bald though, good shock of grey hair. Kinda pudgy gut behind a t-shirt and faded overalls. Nice arms though, looks strong. Just the thing to hold a woman dow.. what the hell?

The dancer on the stage is Susan. She's one of the rare ones. She has a chance to get out of here, actually have a life. She doesn't just get on stage and take off her clothes, she can actually dance. Black hair, white skin, lean build, really flexible. As I said, she can actually dance. I've never really talked to her, I don't really talk to nobody but the scuttlebutt says she went to some prestigious school of dance somewhere, how she got here I dunno but that's not important.

She makes the motions of a curtsy to Rally, okay, not a real curtsy as she's wearing exactly a thong with all the coverage of.. not a whole hell of a lot really. Rally returns the motion with a bow and she gives him her hand!

Rally steps forward with arms outstretched and I move to jump up on the stage. It's my job after all. My boss's hand on my shoulder stops me. Okay, not really, I could break her grip..hell..break her without a seconds hesitation but the grip says 'wait' so I'll wait. I don't care about getting in trouble or starting a fight, I'd just rather not get thrown out of my place.

Susan takes Rally's hands in her own and he pulls her close..what the hell is going on here?

She disengages one of her hands and reaches into her hair, she has a rose tucked behind one ear, this she removes, Rally opens his mouth and she pops the stem of the rose between his clenched teeth.

You've got to be kidding!

They're going to..no way..they are! I don't believe it, it takes quite a something to surprise me.

Who would dance a tango in a strip club? With Snoop Crappy Crap thundering in the background?

But that's what they're doing.

Damn! They're..actually...mm..jeeze, they're tearing the stage apart. Nobody's talking anymore, except for the music, the click of Susan's shoes as they blaze over the stage and the heavy thud of Rally's work boots, there is no other sound. Everybody is acting like me, except for the other dancers who are all smiling like they know something and Rally's friends who are also just grinning like idiots.

My fists itch.

Stamp, spin, catch, bend, dance..jeeze..okay..okay..I'm impressed. You can stop now! Oh for crying out loud..right..just..end it already..no, I'll never tell you you're good..you can stop trying to impress me. Not gonna work. God..okay here we go..big finish..no? Damnit. What? Hey..that..was..I was right he is strong..just lifting her off the ground like she weighed nothing at all and.. Don't you dare drop her you big dumb.. nice catch.. Another spin and..ah..they're done.

Finally.

"Okay," My boss pats me on the shoulder. "Get them outta here."

My fists really are itching now.

"We're closing!" I holler. "Everybody out!"

There are a few grumbled complaints but everyone heads for the door peaceably enough, darn.

Rally steps off the stage, turns and offers his hand to Susan. She smiles and takes it before stepping off the stage herself.

"You sir," She says. "Are a true gentleman."

"Oh I dinno lass." A brouge? He has a Scottish brouge? Oh this is priceless. "I been starin' at yer hooters the entire evenin'. Now how gentlemanly is tha?"

Capn' the engines cana take it anymore!

Susan just chuckles, reaches us and tousles his grey hair for a second. "See you soon?" She says.

He cocks a finger like a pistol and says, "Count on it."

Then with a final bow he heads for the exit.


A few minutes later I'm back in my seat finishing off the coke. Sherry returns to my table, ah she discovered 'shirts' a wacky new invention but some of us like them. She's got a rag and starts to wipe off the tabletop.

"Sherry." I say.

"Yeah?" She says.

"What was that all about?" I ask.

"Rally and Susan?" She says.

"No the other construction worker who was doing a tango with a topless woman." I reply.

She shoots me a cross look but I don't care. "Rally's a foreman actually." She says.

"And?" I coach her.

"No biggie really. Rally's wife was a dancer and..." She says.

"My God," I interrupt rolling my eyes. "A sob story? Please..let me guess she was the victim of some tragic accident, disease, violent crime ..whatever..and he remembers her by dancing with topless women on the anniversary of her death, their marriage, birthday or something like that."

Sherry is really looking pissed now. She is no longer 'wiping' the table top but seems to be trying to scrub it.

"Actually she ran off with some other guy, but not before taking all the money they had." She says through gritted teeth. "No, Rally just likes to dance and so does Susan so sometimes we're lucky enough to see them that's all."

I say nothing.

Sherry finishes with the table and turns to leave, pauses. "You do know you can be a real bitch Hope don't you?" Then walks off.

"Ain't that the truth." I mumble to the only company I have left, the lemon at the bottom of my glass.


Aaahh..freedom. I'm standing outside the side entrance of the WBG Klub, no moon. Even if there is one seeing through this level of pollution..fat chance.

I stretch. I'm exhausted, it's not the work. That's easy, compared to my old 'job' it's a damn vacation. It's being someone else. That's what wipes me out faster than anything. Who would have thought remembering to answer to a name that ain't yours would be so..tiring? Been doing it for a couple months now, think I'd be used to it. Ah well. As I said..freedom.

Freedom to go back to that shit pit I call my 'home', free to sleep. Which means I'm free to not be anybody, not Hope, not Faith, not nobody. Which.. is freedom I guess.

"Hope!"

Aaahhh..fuck.

I turn around slowly.

There they are. Almost the entire staff. Susan is there, Sherry and her sister Gracie, and 'Raquel' though if that's her real name than my real name actually _is_ Hope. At least they're all dressed.

Sorta.

If I was a conservative politician I'd be trying to pass a law about skirts that short. If I was a democrat... I'd be in a scandal after about a week.

"I'm Hope." I say with a completely straight face. "How can I help you today?"

They stop short and Sherry and Gracie exchange a quick glance. Sherry whispers something to Gracie it sounds like 'I told you she was a bitch.' but I can't be sure. Bullshit, of course I can, it's what I'd say if our roles were reversed..or..maybe I'd just break her nose.

Maybe I will break her nose.

No, these are my 'co-workers', gotta watch for 'morale' and all that.

"We're.." Gracie starts to say. "Uh..we're going out for a few drinks. Since you won most of our tips with all those 'Jerk Tossing' bets we were wondering if ya might wanna come along?"

Oh, yes..right..let's go do that. We'll bond, become like sisters, exchange fashion tips and do each others nails. You'll take me to meet your family for Christmas dinner and I'll inexplicably fall in love with your brother whom I'll marry on a fine spring day. Fifty years from now we'll be sitting on porch somewhere, the setting sun in front of us as we watch our children's children playing in the yard.

Peachy.

"Sure. Sounds like fun." I say.

Obviously my mouth is not paying any attention to the rules. Namely, don't connect, don't be friendly, if no one is inside than no can hurt you.

Ohhh..I get it now. My brain is turning against me. I got all close and fuzzy with Willy and..no way, not a chance. Nothing gets in, nothing hurts me. Fine, I'll go have a drink but the first thing I do when I get back to my place is tear Willy's number to pieces.

To quote someone ..else..'What a revoltin' development this is.'

It's gotta be ..almost three in the morning and we're still at this lousy dive. All the other girls are completely blasted, I used ran out of money an hour ago and than Raquel had to get that brilliant idea of challenging men to arm wrestle me in exchange for free drinks.

"But Hope.." She had cooed. "Yer so big and strong! You could handle em' no sweat."

"Yeah?" I had said. I was not at my best, had few too many drinks I think. "An..an..what if I lose?"

"You won't." And she just smiled.

So..here I am about to arm wrestle yet another jerk for a free round.

*WHAM* "I win." I smile sweetly.

"You..you..go..uh.." Gracie slurs.

"Hope." I provide.

"Yeah!" She exclaims. "You go Hope, show those ...those..."

"Men."

"Men!" She breaks off into a fit of giggles. "Men that we don't need! We just gotta have Hope!"

Sherry pokes her sister in the forehead. "Punning..is..punishable by death." She intones with mock severity.

"I throw myself upon the mercy of the court." Gracie giggles.

"What does the court say?" Sherry asks and all of a sudden I'm the center of attention.

I like being the center of attention but on my own terms. These are most defiantly not my own terms. All the girls are grinning at me, well..most of them are. Susan looks passed out.

"Yeah." Raquel lays her hand on my shoulder. I _must_ be drunk, I'd have laid her out for that if I was sober..or wanted to at the very least. Now I just..let her hand sit there. Weird.

"Yeah." Raquel says again. Wobbling only a little she stands up on the table. "Hear ye, hear ye!" She bellows.

"Gracie of the great big knockers," Oh my God. "Has been accused of 'Punning' and shall be punished forwit..forwi..right now!" She holds up one arm overhead trying to be melodramatic.

"How shall she be punished oh great and mighty Judge?" She finishes and her arm comes sweeping down and she points a finger at me.

Grrreeeaaaattt....now the entire BAR is staring at me. This keeps getting better and better.

What to do..what to do...aha..

"Three shots, hard tequila straight up." I say.

Gracie is really, really, drunk. This should knock her down for the count. She'll be hating herself come the morning. I'm bad.

Go Hope...

Faith..I meant Go Faith.

The bartender comes over with the shots and I place em' in front of Gracie who is looking none to happy right now.

"There ya go babe." I purr. "Drink up!"

Gracie looks at her sister who just shakes her head grinning a very evil grin. Oh..look. Susan has rejoined us.

"Wha..was going on?" She mumbles.

"Capital punishment." Raquel says getting off the table.

"That's nice." Susan gurgles and she's out again.

Gracie is still staring at the shots in front of her. She swallows nervously.

"Drink!" Raquel commands.

"Yeah!" Susan echoes, whoops, she's back. "Drink!"

"Drink!" Sherry takes up the chant.

I can't help myself, I'm probably wearing this big, stupid grin, drunk out of my mind, getting all friendly with people I shouldn't and..I'm going to pay for it, I just know it..but I ..I..still can't help myself.

"Drink!" I say.

"Drink!" I say louder.

"DRINK!!" I'm shouting now.

The whole place picks up on the chant.

"Drink!"

"Drink!"

"Drink!"

Someone starts pounding on their table and that catches on too.

"Drink!"

Pound.

"Drink!"

Pound.

I find myself pounding along with everybody else, slapping the table top in time along with them.

Heh..this is so fucking stupid.

"Drink!" I scream at the top of my lungs.

She drinks.

Damn! She's a ballsy one. All of them one after the other! Bam, bam, bam!

The bar erupts into a shouting and applause.

Gracie just sits ramrod straight with this tiny smile or her face, she appears to be blushing.

"Way ta go sis!" Sherry crows.

"Thanks." Gracie says very, very quietly.

"Way ta go sis!" Sherry shouts again, oh yeah, she's snockered. Repeating oneself is a sure sign of massive imbideness. Or gross stupidity. Either works.

"Way ta go sis!" Sherry says a third time..and then pounds her sister on the back.

Mistake.

Gracie stands bolt upright, claps one hand over her mouth and sprints in a random direction, she doesn't know where the bathroom is so she's just zinging around the room, bouncing off tables, once she ricochets off a wall, looking frantically for some door that will lead to a toilet.

"Outside..OUTSIDE!!" The bartender shouts. Eyes really wide Gracie nods and darts for the entrance. The jukeboy is playing really loudly, everyone is still laughing and shouting but even through all the noise you can hear someone being very, very, sick.

"Huuummmm.." Raquel leans forward. "Due to these extenuating circumstances do you think we should make her drink some more? Justice must be served after all."

"Oh I dunno." Sherry replies. "I'm thinking it's being served right now."

More sounds of retching follow.

I think my face is going to split wide open. It's..it's bubbling around in my gut and it won't stop.

It wants out but I mustn't let it free. If I do I'll be open, I'll be vulnerable and these ..these...strippers will get inside and they'll hurt me, I'll get hurt again but it's just so strong and it's won't stop pushing!!

I start to laugh.

I start to laugh at everything. It was so funny, Sherry I mean. The chanting, the screaming, everyone laughing with us..funny, funny, funny and I'm laughing. Sherry's laughing too, Raquel is laughing so hard she's about to fall over. Her arms wrap around my shoulders to hold herself up. Hours ago I would have ripped her apart for touching me, now..now I'm just laughing harder.

Susan is laughing even though she's still a little muddled.

Gracie wobbles back into the entrance, has to use the door frame to remain upright. We just keep laughing, laughing, laughing, laughing.

"Hmph." Gracie snorts. "I'm..I'm..I'm jusht so..happy.. that some...people were entertained by my misfor..mis..barfing."

Which just makes us laugh all the harder.

I am so doomed.


It's four in the morning. Three more guys now are nursing severely bruised hands and egos. We have a tray full of drinks in front of us. Yippee. I'm going to be peeing all day tomorrow. Oh well, that's tomorrow.

I slam back my vodka. Reach for another.

It's quiet now. The jukebox is crooning some...crooning song..shit..whatever. Most everyone has gone home. Just us and a few stragglers at the bar. The three guys who I recently bested are playing pool.

No one has said anything for a long time.

"What..." Susan suddenly asks. "Whatever happened to Grey?"

"Who?" I say.

"Grey." Sherry supplies. "Bouncer before you. He was a really nice guy."

"Yeah." Gracie echoes. She can still talk? "Tall, black hair, big muscles. Really, really nice. Never tried to peek at us in the changing rooms."

"Cept on Fridays." Raquel adds. "He _always_ peeked on Fridays."

"THONG NIGHT!" Sherry and Gracie shout together then start giggling again.

"He had a really nice ass too." Raquel throws in.

"You should know dear." Susan says. "You were fucking him after all."

"I was not 'fucking' him." Raquel says holding up her fingers in the air to make the quotes motion. "I was engaged in a meaningful relationship."

"With lots of sex." Gracie says with a grin.

"Of course." Raquel says taking a drink. "As I said, he had a really nice ass."

"So..whatever happened to im'?" Susan asks again.

"Dunno." Raquel shrugs. "He just vanished one night, never heard from him again."

Uh-Oh.

"Then Hope comes in," Raquel continues. "And we get aaaallll the free drinks we can handle. She doesn't peek at us on Fridays either which is a plus. Miss the sex though."

"Heh." I say weakly. What else is there? "Did.." I wet my lips. "Did Grey have any distinguishing features? Y'know..scars..or a tattoo?"

"Well.." Susan sits up. "He had grey eyes. Grey wasn't his real name. We just called him that."

Oh. Doesn't ring any bells. Don't think I dusted a vamp with grey eyes recently. Maybe he did just up and leave. Yeah..maybe...

Hey. Ya just gotta have faith.

Whoops! A pun! I hereby sentence myself to shree..I mean three..shots of vodka. Yippee!


Ah..dark alleyway..middle of LA..can't see a thing.. surrounded by ..frie..asso..co-workers.. and we're all drunk! Could a vamps night get any better? He'd get drunk, fed and the prestige of slayer-slaying in one easy package!

No vamps though..nope, nada, zip...

We're all lurching in the darkness..I've got my arms around Susan and Raquel who, subsequently are practically carrying Sherry and Gracie.

Basically I'm a mule. Hee haw!

I snicker.

"What's so funny?" Raquel asks.

"Nuthin'." I say. "Just a weird thought."

"Don't those rule?" She asks.

"Dunno..try not to think so much." I say.

"I hear ya..ya...ya.." She stutters. "Ya..ya know what would rule right now?"

"No what?" I reply.

"Some..dude coming out and trying to ..mug us y'know and you get all 'Bouncery' and beat the shit out of him."

I give her a look.

"You're wie.." I start to say.

"Ladies!" This guy just is THERE! How the hell he do that? Wow, I am seriously out of it. No vibe though..he's human.

"A pleasant evening to you." He says. "I find strapped for cash and would be wondering if you'd care to make a donation."

He flicks out a knife..a KNIFE! I'm about to pee my pants laughing. Adrenaline dumps a shitload of sobriety on top of me. Play time!

"Bye bye." I whisper.

"What did you say lady?" The guy demands. He's walking toward us. Standard punk swagger, ah..what memories that brings back. Young..spikey hair. Leather jacket and black jeans. Fuck me, he looks like a damn extra from some action flick with Van Dummy.

I snicker. I really need a bathroom.

"What're you blind? What the fuck are you laughing for bitch? What the hell did you just say."

I release Raquel and Susan who each are still supporting the sisters. Raquel has this big grin on her face and Susan is actively muffling herself but I can hear her giggles.

"I said," And I take a step toward him. "BYE BYE!!"


"Awww..you're no fun Hope." Raquel whines. "I didn't even see you move. Can we go back and beat him up again?"

"No, we can't beat him up again." I sigh. "Just go home Raq. I gotta sleep this off. So do you all."

We're at a well lit corner of the city streets and I'm herding the girls into a taxi. I refused to let them get in the three before this one, but this driver is female. They should be okay.

"You got the address?" I ask her.

"Yep." She says. Takes a drag off her cigarette that's hanging from her lip. "No worries, I'll get em' home safe. Here's my dispatcher's number if ya get worried about yer friends." And hands me a card.

"They're not.." I start to say. Fuck it. "Thanks."

"Night." The cabbie says.

"Night." I reply.

"Bye bye Hope." Susan calls out the window.

"Yeah.." Raquel pokes her head out the opposite window..how can she do that with Graci and Shelly in their laps? "Bye..BYE!" and she closes the window laughing her ass off.

I just shake my head and wave a bit as the taxi zooms off.

Ah..freedom.

I reach into my jacket pocket and pull out a old piece of paper. It's crumpled, and dirty and I know what is says by heart. Keep it though, sentimental ain't I?

I can see the 'scrapers of LA being backlit by the rising sun. Tommorow's Saturday. Technically today is Saturdays but I say fuck technical.

I read the words and numbers on the piece of paper.

Yep, tomorrow is Saturday.

Gonna ring up Willy, lots to tell her.

Also be nice to have someone call me by my real name for a change. Heh.


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