KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Flash Fiction: 948 words


by Janey Skinner

He acted like he didn’t know me. Like he hadn’t good as sanded down and repainted four walls of my vajayjay, back when I lived off of 45th. These days, you can’t flick an ash on 45th without hitting a hipster, but it was different back then. Way different.

His beanie was pulled low and he’d grown jowly. From his nose, I’d say he hadn’t cut back on the vodka tonics any. Still, I’d know that face anywhere.

Marcus! I said. I leaned across the counter to greet him, arms wide out. I know my tatas must have been hanging half out of my shirt, but I didn’t care. I was pretty sure he’d appreciate the view.

He looked taken aback. I wondered if he’d become one of those chemically sensitive types, you know, afraid of a shampoo bottle, or if maybe he’d joined some cult that didn’t allow men touching women. And boy, did he used to like touching women! He’d run his fingers up my miniskirt and read Braille on my genital warts.

Anyhow, he didn’t seem to like the smell of me on his fingers now. He didn’t even shake my hand. Instead, he crabbed his way toward the counter, his eyes shifting between me and the empty tables. The post-lunch lull.

What brings you around these parts, Marcus? How’s LA? You know, Suzie did get the abortion. She told you, didn’t she? Before you hightailed it out of town?

He looked at me like I was speaking Greek. Not that I speak Greek, you know. I might do Greek, but I don’t speak it! Same as French. I never was good with languages.

He pulled his beanie lower on his forehead, as if that could hide the wrinkles time and booze had left there. In the old days, he wore one of those fishermen caps with the short little bill and a line of braid. Looked good on him, too. Hell, we were young. Everything looked good on us then.

He rustled around in his jacket, and I thought, ah, geez, still broke? I never knew the man to rush to pull out a wallet.

Coffee, Marcus? You still take it black? Damn, it’s good to see you. How long has it been anyhow?

I was already pumping the thermos over a mug.

Lady, this is a stickup.

He had pulled out a baby gun from his jacket, not the flattened wallet I was expecting. I had already decided I wasn’t going to take his money. Even if he wanted a sandwich. Damn, I could offer old Marcus a sandwich after all this time.

Aw, Marcus, I said. You were never a gun-toting man.

He looked at me like I was the crazy one.

The cash register, lady. Hurry up.

His voice was deeper than I remembered. Of course, I’d changed a lot too. Sagging in places I barely had places, back then. Still, I make an effort. A little Botox around the eyes, and Kegels on the daily for the old squeezebox.

When did you get into crime, Marcus? Things must be pretty tight in LA.

Enough with the Marcus, lady. Just hand over the cash.

His voice was drawly, almost subterranean. I liked that.

Sure, babe. Whatever you say.

Maybe he took a few hard blows to the head. Maybe he had the Parkinson’s or that other thing, Harrington’s or something, that made you not yourself. That tremor in his hands—it could be organic damage, you know. Live on this planet long enough, you’re going to have tread marks.

I opened the cash register and pulled out the money, including the twenties I keep under the tray. I scooped up the quarters and piled them neatly on the counter. Maybe he’d have to do his laundry one of these days. Then he’d remember how I used to pick his shorts up off the bathroom floor. Launder everything with lavender, I did. I like a nice smelling house, and that’s not easy to have when you got a man living there.

He stuffed the cash, about eighty-five dollars, into his pocket, a couple of quarters rolling to the floor. The gun vibrated like a tambourine. I felt pity for him, then. That’s not a nice thing to feel for a man you have history with.

Okay, Marcus. Don’t worry about it.

I put the coffee in a to-go cup, two sugar packets on top, and slid it across the counter. He tucked the weapon back into his jacket, keeping one hand on it, and took the coffee in his other.

Lady, I don’t even know anyone named Marcus.

He backed out of the café, his feet just like his voice, quiet and slow.

I watched him recede like so many men in my life. Not as beautiful as I had wanted them to be, and most of the time, more expensive.

Marcus used to make me feel like every hole in my body dripped with gold. Everyone wanted a piece of my pie. My generation never did get over the Seventies—the way it felt to be the freest sexiest most righteous people on earth.

I turned over the Closed sign and shut the door. I’d call the cops in a minute, make the insurance report, all that.

I’d have given Marcus much more than eighty-five dollars back in the day. I’d have raised Suzie’s baby for him, too, if he’d asked. Not just because it was Marcus—in fact, I was starting to doubt that it ever was Marcus—but because back then, it just felt so damn good to be the one who had it all to give.

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