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This is a work of fiction.
Words scraped from Charleston’s dried-out throat, “Am I paralyzed?” He panicked, ignoring the perturbed cop, an older black detective towering over his hospital bed.
“Get the doctor back in here! What are you doing?”
“Stop changin’ the subject, Mr. Cranston. You’re in a lotta trouble.”
The blurry guy was probably more intimidating than he seemed. Charleston’s good eye spun in its socket. His body floated on a warm tropical sea.
“I need tests,” he said, his voice barely audible. Unable to raise his head, he sank to sleep again.
Uniformed policemen shuffled through the small curtained-off nook.
“So you were drinking?” The detective’s deep voice berated.
“Yeah. Of course. You have my blood already. The hell else do you want? Bloodsucker.”
The predicament might be humorous if only he could dig his way through the joke. Glancing right, he saw that his wrist had been handcuffed to the gurney’s railing, big silver bracelets reflecting ugly green hospital light. His body ambiguous from the morphine, the opiate splashed into his bloodstream.
“Tell me about the crash then.”
That blob of a detective held some potential. The man fronted like he already knew all the answers. Charleston resisted, swallowed, and attempted to reestablish feeling with his tongue.
“I have no recollection senator. Why don’t you ask Giordano? I’m the victim here. I need care.”
He could hear the E.R.’s cacophony outside the sterile white curtains. Doctors barked orders, and patients rolled by.
“Is that so?” The detective scratched a note. “The victim?”
“You’re fuckin’ A right. Fat fuck was trying to kill me. It’s on the video.”
Charleston tugged at his handcuff. “Wait. I’m supposed to get a phone call.”
The man grinned with pity. “Yeah? Who do you want to call?”
As he scanned the bland curtains in confusion, he realized he was friendless. “I guess a lawyer. Public defender?”
The cop flipped through his pad. “The eyewitnesses said you rammed your vehicle into Giordano’s.”
Charleston’s jaw, inhibited by a tight neck brace, forced his mouth open. “No that’s not right. I defended myself. Self-defense.”
The man cocked his head. “So you remember the crash now?”
Charleston’s un-bandaged eye peered up, pinned wide open.
“Is he uh? Is he all right? Gary? Is he okay?”
The detective shook his head angrily. “I’m askin’ the questions. Get it?”
“Well he’s not dead, is he?”
“Did you crash your car intentionally?”
Charleston breathed to stall for time.
“He fucks with me. That’s how all of this shit started. Okay? He’s a real fuckin’ asshole.”
The detective’s eyebrow tensed, and he stared down coldly.
“All of what shit started?”
The incident began in an innocuous conversation. Charleston was on the cusp of his thirtieth birthday. He and Giordano still sat on a couch playing video games most days, surrounded by food containers and Gary’s wayward butts. Their cheap Reseda apartment, on ground level, sat in the center of the Los Angeles sprawl, five minutes from everywhere. Charleston pressed pause. “La, la, la—Labia. That’s such a great word. Underutilized.”
“Tastes great too.” Gary Giordano had surpassed the 300 pound mark, and he munched on gourmet jelly beans.
Charleston popped a stick of watermelon gum as he pondered. “Labia. Lady parts. Gotta get the L in there. Labyrinth. Labial labyrinth?”
“No…” Charleston reached for his ever-present notebook. “Ladle?” He raised his bushy brow. “Ladle the labia?”
Gary said, in cockney accent, “Lappin’ up them labia lips, laddie.”
“Wait. It’s coming. It’s coming.”
“That’s what she said.”
Charleston swept out his palms. “Labia. Arcadia. Uh. Anastasia?”
“Gonorrhea?” Gary hunted for his cigarette pack.
“Yeah. Call me Captain Obvious. Just fuckin’ pay me.” Gary obtained a cigarette, but he was unable to locate his lighter.
“No, dude. There’s more to this labial phenomenon than meets the eye.”
“Or the tongue? Oooh. Gonorrhea tongue. Yum.” Gary flicked his tongue about.
“Class act, Gar. All the way. Lydia! Lydia would work! Lydia’s labia. Something.”
Gary caught sight of the darkness through their living room window. “Hey what the hell time is it?”
Charleston checked his phone.
The club’s owner and resident personality Laff Daddy dressed like a Hell’s Angel, his face a grey, fluffy beard. The dark club was dimmed further by stained wood walls. It seated fifty.
“Hey,” Laff Daddy breathed into his mic. “Now this guy. Charleston.” He strolled off, and he didn’t seem to care about much.
Charleston approached the mic. “How are you doing? That’s right. My name is Charleston, like the dance from the 1920s. I shit you not. Thanks, Mom!”
He wiggled out a quick Charleston demonstration for the tepid crowd.
“School was paradise.” He located Gary seated at the bar, drinking, and he surveyed the thirty people in attendance.
“So what has our species learned from that proud magnificent product of natural selection, the peacock?” His gaze slithered across the young women.
“Everyone assumes that the colorful Prima Donnas are the females, because of our own experience with same. But no! The plain, grey—dare I say—ugly peacock females are why the guys prance in Technicolor splendor. Ergo, trying to approach hot chicks is a fool’s errand. You gotta get them to approach you. Ahhh…”
The crowd raised its interest a few decibels. Charleston singled out faces below.
At the farthest point of the club, in the entrance corridor, strolled in a stunning blonde alone. Charleston couldn’t help but strain for a better glimpse. Tall and confident, a modern Nordic Valkyrie in shimmering silk, her emerald eyes peered up across the expanse and jolted him silly.
He said, “That’s what the pop industry’s figured out. Right? Rock stars?”
He tracked the blonde, natural, no black eyebrows, while she hunted for a seat. She gazed back up in the glow of the stage lights.
“What I’m saying is I need to sing!”
From the back of the room the Valkyrie shouted, “Wooooo-hoooo!”
“Thank you. Thank you. Now all I have to do is brag shamelessly about how hot and rich I am, right? My private jets and my Benzes and my bitches. So many bitches and Benzes. Shameless narcissism and rhythm. ‘I’m all that. Better than you. ‘Cause I’m on the radio, muthafuckas.’ Right? That is a fucking hit. I’m gonna write that shit down… But didn’t assholes like that used to get beat up, justifiably? I’m just saying. Somebody’s got to say it.”
When the little blue bulb lit up Charleston had scored several rounds of chuckles and just as many misses.
“Hey, it looks like that’s my time. But people, I put a few flyers out over on the end of the bar. Check ’em out. The elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, rhinoceri? They’re all going extinct as a result of human malfeasance. Your species. You’re responsible. And once they’re gone it’s forever. So think about helping them out. Save the elephants.”
The people politely clapped, and he exited at the side.
Next up, Gary hit the spotlight with a half-eaten open box of pizza. He placed it on the stool, and he continued munching. “I’m a big fan a sex, blow jobs particularly. Receiving, not giving.”
Instant rapport, the crowd giggled.
“They say don’t knock it til you try it, but I don’t know. You ever get a bad piece a sausage? Huh? That’ll leave some taste in your mouth.”
Half of Gary’s presentation was through facial gestures and body language. He rolled up his pizza slice, and he used it for phallic effect, nibbling cautiously at the tip.
“I’m not really sure how you chicks stomach it, but I love each and every one of you for trying. My God. You’re all angels sent down from heaven.”
The women whooped.
“Or wherever. The other direction.”
He paused for laughs. “I say America needs a blow job appreciation week, or a month even better. January hasn’t got shit goin’ for it. Christmas and New Years is over. What are we gonna do? Wall to wall blow jobs! Hello!”
The crowd seemed to approve.
“Hey Charleston?” An unseen woman called into his ear.
Charleston swiveled on his bar stool to find the Valkyrie goddess seated beside. Her golden hair teased to flow toward her shoulders, her lips were a soft shimmering pink gloss.
“You know my name?”
The green-eyed blonde cocked her head and squinted. “They announced it, repeatedly. And you did a little dance?”
“Yeah. Yeah, of course.” Charleston fumbled for his beer mug.
“Answer me something,” she said.
“How many times can a guy come in one day?”
Charleston shook his head in a double-take. “Uhhh. For real? I don’t know. Three. Maybe four.”
The young hottie leaned in close like a political reporter. “You have first-hand experience?”
“I hear things.” He whispered, “But four. Jesus. That’s like the dictionary definition at that point.”
“How so?” She sat back and inhaled.
“Self-abuse. Self-torture.” His shoulders cringed.
The blonde suppressed a giggle. “So you ever get to four?”
“Me? Nooo. Yeah. Maybe. I’d need a referee on that one, counselor. The final jizz it’s like, there’s nothing left. Blip.”
“Blip.” She nodded with a guttural, devilish rumble. “What about piercings? You got any hardware pounded through down there soldier?”
He snickered. “No fucking way.”
“Whips, chains, nipple clamps?”
“I don’t think so.” He smirked and reassessed her. “I’m not into pain. My own. I mean other people’s, sure. Whatever. Knock yourself out. Hey you know there’s this video I saw, you should—”
“Yeah.” She lifted her can of diet cola and sipped through a red straw.
Charleston regrouped. “What, what about you? Anything piercing the labia I should be aware of?”
Her pale eyes rolled and then stabbed. “I can assure you there’s nothing that you need to be aware of down there.” Her index finger extended to stroke the side of his cheek.
Charleston’s body stiffened as she instead flicked his nose and strutted off like a femme fatale siren.
“Ow!” He pinched his nose. “Hahaha. La, la, la, labia…” He tranced as he watched her disappear into the shifting crowd at the bar.
Giordano plopped down onto the vacant stool beside him. “Who the hell’s she?”
Charleston swooned like a sixth grader. “I don’t know, man. But I want to find out.”
Gary bit his own knuckle. “Oh my God, her ass was made by Ferrari.”
Laff Daddy reentered the spotlight up on the short stage, and he puffed his cigar, smoke up into the rafters. “Ladies and whatever the hell you others are, I would like to give to you the sexy, the gorgeous, and the twistedly funny Amanda Winters! Yeah. Check this.”
The crowd roared to life as the inquisitive blonde emerged from the back curtain and took the microphone from his hand. Laff Daddy delayed his exit to the side as he attempted to flirt, obligatory for the crowd.
Charleston guzzled his beer, and he quickly called for another.
Gary muttered with faux mental retardation, “She’s purdy.”
At center stage Amanda smiled for an extended bout of applause. “Hey you guys. I’m now on my way to New York City,” she said. “But on my tewer I’ve decided to stop at every shit hole dive bar that my manager could possibly find. The more infested the better.” She nodded around the room. “So let’s have a big hand for vomit-stained, bullet-hole ridden, piss-smellin’, diarrhea-smeared dive bars!”
Amanda Winters glowed golden in the warm yellow stage lights, and she peered around the room to steal hearts and minds with minimal exertion. The mostly male mob hollered back and cheered.
“I’m really on my way now.” She smiled. “This is livin’ it up.”
Charleston gawked up in a self-induced hypnotic lull. He and Giordano laughed at every single punchline she threw out.