November 16th, 2012
My stops at The Drunken Redhead had become more frequent, now that I shared my house with a perpetually naked lunatic. The Peppermint Schnapps I had turned to on Rump’s first visit raised up an angry side of me that I disliked almost as much as I did my sobriety, so I started drinking Johnnie Walker Black, which affected me less severely. In those three days I had smoked a carton of Newport Reds, drank 4 liters of expensive Scotch, and smoked a quarter ounce of marijuana. The despondency I felt with Rump around served as an excuse for my excessive behavior.
I never felt comfortable sleeping with him in the house. I knew that, at any moment, he could, without a noise, slink into my room and watch my unwitting slumber. Every second he was there I had a presentiment of something terrible, not simply because my guest’s grasp on reality was brittle, but because he was, as he put it, the perfect secret. My guest was as invisible as he was mercurial. If he chose to commit a crime, he would get away with it. Still, I was, vainly, punctilious about every object in my home. I locked my doors and kept my eyes on his gun.
The snub nosed pistol he carried was not the secret that he was. He’d shown his hand the first night we met, when he brought his steel weapon into the light. I would, often, see his floating pistol trying to enter one of the other rooms. Whenever that happened, he and I would have a long conversation about the kindness of strangers and why one should never take advantage of it. They were flat and one-sided.
I would relish the opportunity to tell you that a heated conversation erupted on the night that I found out that Rump was connected to my first visitor, but the atmosphere was stale after his last warning—that my first guest was the least of my worries. Rump would speak, often, but very little of what he said would make any sense.
“Are you quoting Tarantula?” I once asked him, joking about his incoherent babble.
“Tarantulas don’t talk.” he said.
Rumple Minze would still accompany me on every outing, constantly remaining invisible. He was in The Drunken Redhead with me on the night that I met Rebecca Randy.
Ed had the stereo tuned to an oldies station that night. He was particularly taciturn that night, sipping black coffee from his navy blue mug.
“Hey there, Miles.” he said.
A Bel Biv Devoe song started playing on Ed’s radio.
“That girl is poison…”
The music faded into the background as I made my way to the long aisle that was draining my funds, intending to grab a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, when she, standing in one spot, shifting from side to side, stopped me.
“Scotch is a sad drink, Matthew Broderick. Are you sad?” she said, catching my glances at her as I turned to leave. Her brazen question grabbed my attention.
“I’m sober, and that makes me sad. Also, I don’t look like Matthew Broderick. Why do people keep saying that?”
“Maybe it’s because you’re gay.”
My face was expressionless as she smiled at me and laughed at her own joke.
“I would ask you if you’re drinking alone, but that’s an obvious come-on, and, judging by the joke you just made, you’re a minor.” I said.
“I’ve never mined anything in my life.”
I laughed, sardonically.
“I’m legal and hilarious, so you can suck it,” she said, smiling. “Name’s Rebecca Randy.”
Rebecca’s long, auburn pigtails, which were draped over her small breasts, stood out to me. Her smile was wide, showing her pristine teeth. Her short dress had gradation from green, covering her shoulders, to red, fanning around her thighs. Around her waste, there was a thin, baby-blue ribbon, tied in a small bow.
Her legs were long and thin; slightly bronze, and freckled. Her amber eyes pierced mine. Her rosy lips were thick and glistening, the top one faint with her radiating smile. Light freckles spattered the barely-tanned skin of her cheeks and arms.
The way she shifted nervously when she spoke fanned a flaming desire that her subtle, yet incomparable beauty had sparked. Her puerile sense of humor was endearing and attractive, or annoying—it’s hard to tell.
I tried, and failed, to be pococurante.
“Do you listen to any music?” I asked.
“I like folk music and Jazz. What about you?”
“I like everything.”
“So, you’re a pretty big fan of The Wiggles, I assume?”
“Alright, not everything. I guess I like oldies, like The Eagles and CCR. And, I like some Rap.”
“Don’t you like Jazz?” she asked.
“I heard a funny joke about Jazz, actually. You want to hear it?”
“Nope.” She said.
She held her tummy and folded over giggling—really selling it.
“I love Jazz.” I said. “I’m a pretty big Charles Mingus fan.”
“Holy Shit, I love Charles Mingus! Mingus Ah Um is one of the best albums of all time.” she shouted. Her profanity was relieving. “I really like Miles Davis, too. Sketches of Spain is my favorite Album.”
I stared at her and smiled, imagining the beginning of the Concierto de Aranjuez as she swayed, stationary, and smiled at me. She pulled me out of my trance.
“I don’t plan on drinking alone, you know.” She said.
“Well, you could always share scotch with me.”
“I’d be honored.”
“Well, you should be warned—my current house guest is a little on the strange side, if he happens to show himself, you might be scared off.”
“How weird can he be?” She asked, smiling at me. “What was your name again, Matthew Broderick?”
“I’m—“ a tickle in my throat interrupted me. “I’m Miles Saffron, but my friends call me M, and my really good friends call me ‘thunder-cock’ but I never understood why.”
“That’s probably the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard,” she said, walking away from me, but turning back to smile, swinging her bottle of Scotch forward and backward in her hand. I watched her soft steps carry her—energetic and small—to the register.
“Everything alright, M?” Ed asked me, with gaunt eyes.
“I’m fine.” I responded, waiting to make conversation with Rebecca.
For a moment Ed walked away from the register, but left his coffee mug. After he left, I noticed Rebecca pick it up and take a sip from it.
“What the fuck?” I whispered under my breath.
“Everything alright, Miles?” Ed shouted again, out of nowhere.
“Oh, yeah.” I said. “All’s well, Ed. How’s business.”
“Fine. Just, fine.”
Rebecca looked back at me and smiled a tainted smile. Who knew where Ed’s mouth had been? His mustache alone was its own ecosystem, collecting the sweat and food from his fat, greasy face. She left her bottle at the register and walked out the front door, into the cold, with no jacket. She was a pretty fool.
As Ed returned, he caught me wiping the rim of his coffee cup with my handkerchief.
“What the hell are you doing, M?”
“Nothing, Ed. It’s just—well, that girl out there took a drink from your coffee.”
“A girl drank my coffee?”
“Yeah, and then she just left. You didn’t see her?”
“Guess not. M, have you been sleeping alright lately?” he said, sipping from his coffee cup; changing the subject.
“I’ve been fine. I have a new house guest who’s keeping me busy, but other than that I’ve been sleeping like a baby.”
“Oh, you didn’t tell me someone was staying with you.”
“Yeah,” I said, “it’s some weirdo I met.”
“Some weirdo? Tell me about it.”
“It’s just this guy I met a few days ago. He walks around my house naked a lot and he carries around a gun. It’s crazier than it sounds.”
“Crazier than a naked stranger walking through your house with a gun?”
“Stranger things have happened.”
Ed chuckled. We exchanged the money and I left, lighting a cigarette on my way outside.
“I hope your car is warmer than it is out here.” said Rebecca.
“My heater’s broken.”
“Maybe I should go back in there and see if he wants to drink with a pretty girl?” she said.
I opened my door and pulled my seat up to let Rump in.
“Thanks, Matthew Broderick.” Rump said as he climbed in.
“You’re not going to make me sit in the back, are you?” Rebecca asked.
“Well, no. I’m just putting the bottles in the back seat.”
“I’d rather hold them.”
I slid the seat back and crawled into the car.
“You can’t even open the door for me?” She said, slamming it. I lit up a cigarette and offered her one.
“No thanks. I don’t want emphysema.”
“You pronounced it wrong.”
We drove, in silence, for ten minutes before she finally broke it.
“So, M, tell me a little about yourself.”
As we drove, Rebecca looked out of the window at the passing city, which was frozen and gray. She seemed to pay no attention to my autobiographical monologue, but, instead, fanned smoke out of her face and checked the rear view mirror repeatedly.
“Gosh,” she said, still smiling. “I wasn’t expecting a life story, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t an axe murderer or anything.”
“Not yet.” I said, faking maniacal laughter. She didn’t laugh.
“What about you?” I asked. “Are you an axe murderer?”
“I’m a sweet, pretty girl, and that’s all there is too it.” She said, as she stared at me, blinking rapidly, with her fingers intertwined in her lap, in mock-innocence.
I lit another cigarette before we arrived.
I pulled the door closed behind me and turned to see her standing in my entry way.
“Have a seat.” I said.
She opened the first scotch bottle and took a drink from it before she sat down. I went to the kitchen; grabbed two glasses; brought them to where she was sitting.
“I got a little ahead of myself,” she said, looking up at me, her lips wet with scotch.
We drank in silence for a few minutes before she asked if there was anything we could do to kill time until we were drunk.
“I have a boom-box in the garage. I’ll go grab it.”
I sat it on the table and put in Sketches of Spain. Concierto de Aranjuez came on and Rebecca’s eyes closed. She sat back in her seat. Sipping scotch and seeming to soak in the music, she rested her outspread arms atop the seatback and whispered “Goddamn, Miles.” I said nothing.
I interrupted her entrapped awe of the music and asked if she wanted to see a comic.
“No, thanks.” She said, and went back to drinking the scotch; her eyes closed.
I went outside to smoke another cigarette and let my mind wander just long enough for the Concierto de Aranjuez to end. I stopped the CD before the next song began.
“Hey, you,” I said. “Why don’t we take a walk around the neighborhood and get to know each other. I’ll even loan you a jacket.”
“Can I bring the scotch?” she asked.
I put the bottle into my jacket pocket and winked at her.
After I found her some warm clothing, we walked outside and admired the little offshoot to my city.
This neighborhood, of sorts, was small. There were, in total, about 25 houses, most of them with the same style and color. I told Rebecca about my neighbors as we sipped scotch and walked around in the encroaching night. Across the street, I pointed out, lived Luke and Annie Simmons, who I had over often. Luke had worked for the post office until Annie found a job as a paralegal, giving Luke more time to work on painting, or writing, or something. My focus drifted whenever he talked about his dreams (which were a delusion, because he was horribly untalented). Luke had short blonde hair. He was tall, muscular, and friendly, although rather boring. Annie had a black, pixie haircut and always wore red lipstick. She was a small, plump woman with puffy eyes and stubby fingers. Luke would often have men over when his wife was at work, and I assumed he was gay. Annie seemed completely ignorant of it.
“To our right,” I gestured, “lives the illustrious Mr. Fenton Garfield. He is my drug dealer.”
Fenton either had multiples of the same pair of blue-jeans, or he washed his every night. He always had the same style on, and they were always very clean. He wore polo shirts and had a tattoo on his neck in a language that I didn’t bother to remember.
“It says something stupid, like patience is a virtue, or don’t count your chickens; something cliché.”
“Why did he choose to get such a stupid tattoo, right where everyone can see it?” she asked.
“How the hell should I know? He’s always high out of his mind, so he was probably out of it when he got it.”
I had never met my neighbors on the left, but she wasn’t listening to me anyway, so it didn’t matter.
As we walked in the cold, snow began to fall. I opened the bottle of scotch, sipped it, and handed it to her.
“I wish we had gotten something other than scotch,” she said as she took a large drink from the bottle.
“Well–“ I interrupted myself with a large drink which burned my throat, causing me to cough. She pointed at me and laughed as she snatched the bottle out of my hand.
“What I was going to say was that you should’ve said you wanted something else instead of grabbing the Scotch.”
“Oh, fuck you. I told you it was a sad drink. You could’ve recommended something else.” She whined, sarcastically.
“You know, your snarky demeanor is grating on my nerves.” I said, flirtatiously.
“Well, maybe if you go get me something with a little less kick, I’ll straighten up and fly right.”
“I have some Tennessee Honey left over that I’ll get you. Now, are you supposed to be the monkey or the buzzard in this scenario?”
“What?… Oh! The monkey. You’re the buzzard.”
I walked back to my house, alone, to get her drink, humming Straighten Up and Fly Right on the way. When I returned with the liquor, I found that she hadn’t moved.
“So, are you getting cold, or are you just too hot for hypothermia?”
“I’m fine. So, are you always this bad at flirting?” she asked.
“Damn.” I said. “I spent the whole way back thinking of something clever to say.” She just chuckled and said I was pathetic.
After we finished the walk around the neighborhood, she had finished her drink and was begging for more. A little drunk from the scotch, I acquiesced. I drove slowly to The Drunken Redhead. Paramedics were placing a body bag inside of an ambulance when I arrived, and I rushed over to where they were.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Who’s the stiff?”
“Ed Porkins.” said a paramedic.
“So, that’s his last name.”
“Yes, sir. Did you know him?”
“Yeah. I just saw him, only a few hours ago. What happened?”
“Well, by the looks of it, he was poisoned. Prussic Acid, seems like.”
“Cyanide. Liquid. It was either in his coffee or on his mug.”
“And when you arrived, he was already…”
“Yes, sir. We received a call from someone, saying they had found him. Not much we could’ve done, anyway. Cyanide is the fucking kiss of death.”
I jumped back in my car and sped home. My mind was racing. Had it been Rebecca, who sipped from his cup, or me, when I wiped it down that had killed him? Was it something else entirely? Regardless, the gloves I had worn to protect me from the cold prevented the poison from coming in contact with my skin.
When I arrived home, my door was opened and the phone was ringing. Rebecca was nowhere in sight. After I answered, I felt the sharp pain of Rumple Minze gun barrel hitting me, hard on the back of the head. I collapsed, but remained conscious long enough to see Rebecca’s silhouette in my fading vision.