He Stepped out into the Cool Night

Bash wrote his Blue Strings poem on the morning of Monday, June the twentieth, the day he planned to meet Percy at West Seventy6, inside the newly opened hotel down on the waterfront. If anyone had asked who it was written about, they would’ve gotten a shrug and nothing more because he’d long ago sworn off love. Ten years had passed since the pugilistic throes of passion left him badly bruised, and in that time, he stopped taking calls from his heart, or so he thought.

A fog of denial rolled through him, obscuring the nature of the poem: Percy had served as its inspiration but he was neither willing nor able to admit this to himself. Instead, he chalked his burst of literary ardour up to a work of fiction that could be used in the play he was planning to write. In the fullness of time, however, love would slouch toward him through the fog like a dog from hell.

Around eight thirty p.m., he opened a bottle of whisky and did three shots before unzipping the garment bag that held his immaculately preserved black leather jacket. Outside a taxi waited, so he carefully put one arm and then the other through the sleeves while staring at the mirror, eyes narrowing into a James Dean squint, lips pursing into an Elvis pout. If anyone saw him do this, they would’ve assumed the squint resulted from nearsightedness. As for the pout, well, even a blind man would’ve deemed it absurd because Bash didn’t have the take-no-prisoners attitude of a lady-killer no matter how hard he tried.

Next came a string of lastminute rituals made non-negotiable by an obsessive-compulsive disorder. First, he patted himself down thrice verifying the presence of keys, wallet, and phone. Then he triple checked the stove, making absolutely sure the elements and oven were off. Finally, he flicked the kitchen light switch three times before leaving it in the on position. With his compulsions accounted for, he stepped out into the cool night.

Above him, a full moon was being smothered by clouds that were also concealing a clutch of mischievous stars, crossed for maximum effect. Below him the earth was poised for movement. Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum to place it on, and I shall move the world, said Archimedes twenty-three hundred years previously, but on this auspicious night, the lever sat squarely in Percy’s hands.

West Seventy6 still smelled faintly of new paint and seemed like it’d been decorated by robots, or by someone planning to skip town. Personal touches were nowhere to be seen. It was, after all, situated in the belly of a corporate hotel, looking every bit as soulless as one would expect.

A pair of uniformed waitresses, scrolling on their phones, and two customers seated at a small table, also scrolling on their phones, were the only people visible to him upon entering the place. He’d yet to see Percy out of costume, so he wouldn’t have recognized Brittany even if she’d been right there in front of him, but she wasn’t there, of course, because she only ventured into the world on rare occasions and never for long. As it happened, this was one of those rare occasions. Soon after arriving at West Seventy6, Brittany ordered a drink and then excused herself to the bathroom carrying a bag containing Percy’s rainbow wig and red ball nose. Paring the costume down to the wig and nose was a courtesy extended to very few people and it signalled a degree of physical attraction.

Bash’s dirty blonde hair fringed his face, falling messily on his forehead. This, and a three-day scruff, peppering his upper lip and the round of his chin gave him a boyish look despite his age, and Brittany found it cute. She had a thing for skinny guys who were kind of shy and a little nerdy, and he fit the bill perfectly, but only when sober. Drunk Bash was far more compatible with Percy, which became obvious as the night wore on. Presently, however, he knocked back a double whiskey sour poured by a bored looking bartender, while his date crept up behind him and tapped his shoulder. Loosened by the alcohol, he whirled around on his stool, a little unsteadily, and sat there squinting, open-mouthed, at a sexier version of Percy the Clown About Town.

  • Pull my finger, Bash.
  • Wh—whaddya gonna do?
  • I think you know what I’m gonna do.
  • Here?
  • Would it offend you?

She brought the whoopee cushion out from behind her back, placed it on the stool next to him and sat down. The sharply resonant sound of flatulence forced the bartender, the waitresses, and the two other customers to tear their eyes away from their phones, ever so briefly.

  • Go ahead and let a real one rip, it won’t offend me at all.

Her smile lost its vacancy and she turned her eyes with focused intent on his face, but despite the whisky’s bracing effects, he crumbled under her piercing gaze and looked away. Warm colour brushed his cheeks and to distract from it, he tried hailing the bartender whose back had been turned since the whoopee cushion belched out its air. During Percy’s clown-about-town adventures, uptight adults regularly took offense at her gags, and when they did, her instinct was always to double down.

  •  Excuse me, mister bartender, do you take MasterClown?

The bartender turned around, eyebrows raised in disdain and saw Percy proffering her credit card.

  • I want six shots of your best tequila. Three for myself and three for this fine gentleman beside me.

Six shots of Patrón were lined up on the bar and Percy raised one to her lips, pausing long enough to make a toast.

  • To cancer.
  • Cancer?
  • Yes.
  • Why?
  • Because it’s brilliantly ironic.
  • How so?
  • Well, it’s the cure for cancer.
  • Whaddya mean?
  • Humans are like a cancer on the planet, so cancer is curing cancer.
  • I don’t get it.
  • C’mon, Bash, it ain’t hard to understand… Without incurable diseases, Earth would’ve already been carpeted by amateur clowns.
  • Still don’t get it.
  • You know what a clown car is?
  • Yeah.
  • Well, Earth is the car and humans are the clowns crowding it.

He looked away, resisting the urge to immediately check his phone after it vibrated in his pocket.

  • It’s just the truth. I mean, they call it the Anthropocene for a reason.
  • Alright, I guess I’ll drink to that, but what about the kids?
  • Are you referring to the children I entertain at the hospital?
  • Yeah.
  • Those of them who don’t make it will never have to grow up to be clowns like us, destroying the Earth with our standards of living.
  • That’s pretty dark.
  • Oh, don’t you worry, the future’s darker still… I’ll be right back; gotta pee.

After swallowing the tequila shooter, his eyes darted down to her knee-length skirt, then to her shapely calves displayed to best advantage, as she headed for the bathroom. He thought she looked as hot from the back as she did from the front. The rainbow wig and red ball nose only make her hotter, he mused, before polishing off the remaining two shooters, per his need for things in threes.

She had rushed off to the bathroom after slamming her empty shot glass on the highly polished surface of the bar, further annoying the bartender. Several minutes later, she reappeared, sniffling under her red ball nose. Bash saw the bartender shrug derisively at her return, and something about it made him think the two of them knew each other.

  • The bartender seems a bit uptight… Is he afraid of clowns or something?
  • I like to call him tenderclown.

Tenderclown was said loud enough to be heard by the bartender who reacted by adjusting his tie and loudly clearing his throat. Percy gulped her remaining tequila shots, slammed the glasses down, defiantly, wiped her lips with the back of her hand, and let loose with a belch that rivalled the whoopee cushion. Bash laughed a little uneasily as she turned toward him, lowering her voice only slightly.

  • He thinks he’s running a classy joint here but there’s bedbugs and cum stains in the rooms upstairs, just like in every other clown hotel, five-stars or not.
  • I—I get the feeling he doesn’t appreciate your costume.
  • Nope, and he also hates it when I do cocaine in the bathroom, even though he loves the stuff… We hooked up one time when he was working at the Irish pub down the road. Terrible in bed. Average dick but thinks it’s big. Has no stamina. And he’s afraid to eat pussy.

Bash went silent, wondering to himself whether she’d agree that his own penis was above average in length, but especially so in girth. He was pretty confident she’d concur because he’d measured it countless times against the white male average. For a while it was another of his obsessive-compulsive rituals. Whenever he thought about that period of his life, he’d get shamefaced. One time his mother walked in on him using her sewing tape. He had it wrapped around the thickest part, just below the head. Her reaction was to pretend she couldn’t see it. She merely asked if he wanted meatloaf for dinner and when he didn’t respond due to paralyzing embarrassment, she smiled and said, I’ll take that as a yes.

Percy’s ability to see into the machinery of men’s minds, where gears turned on the dime of measurement gave her quick and mostly accurate answers when it came to predicting their thoughts. Bash’s lapse into silence spoke volumes, so she addressed it.

  • I can tell you’re ruminating on your size but don’t worry, that only matters when a guy doesn’t wanna eat pussy. Do you enjoy chowing down on thee ol’ vajayjay?
  • Um, uh, yeah, I mean, yeah, of course… And…
  • And what?
  • Nothing.
  • C’mon, Bash.
  • I was just gonna add that…
  • That what?
  • Large condoms are tight on me.
  • Oooh, nice, Percy likes a thick dick. Wanna blow this popsicle stand and go back to my place? I’ve got lots of tequila and an eight ball of clown powder if yer so inclined.

9 thoughts on “He Stepped out into the Cool Night

  1. This expanded post from your book reminds me of something I was thinking a few days ago. Exceptional writers present unique or at least severely augmented views of how people interact with each other. For example, when someone is lying to you and you ignore it and just continue on with the relationship, it actually might be worse than throwing a fit. Taking it out of the person. When that happens, usually people get hurt one way or the other. So the easy thing for humans to do, you know after the person has been shot or starts crying, is to say, well he or she should have controlled their temper. So, can one make the case that actually it would have been worse to ignore the lies and just go along like nothing had happened? I would say, that if you could pull that off, you are entering into literary territory that is not normally trod. Can one be convincing in such a point of view. I know one story that did it. What does this have to do with you and Bash? Only, that over the years it appears to me that your grasp of relationships has expanded and you are toying with going to unique or at least severely augmented views of how people interact. Yeah, I already wrote that, but I think it was worth saying again. You are the only one writing novels in our group. Keep it up and be like those people on the command deck of the Enterprize. You might finally settle in your own alternate reality on a 24/7 basis and not just Saturday night with some cokehead. Duke

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Au contraire, Duke – I am writing several novels but they aren’t playing nicely together. By the way, Aaron, I can finally walk without the damn walker and so will be able to get to the PO to ship off your book somewhere on the horizon. Hopefully our PO hasn’t washed away.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I know, at least I should know. Working on novels for sure. I supposes I was thinking about finishing a novel.
        I should have said, you are the only one in our group who has lately finished a novel. I would have nailed it. I have the feeling he will finish the Bash one as well. Will you and I ever finish novels in our remaining time? I hope so, but with every passing day, it seems to grow more unlikely for me anyway. It’s that wack a doodle thing. I was feeling sorry for myself a few hours ago about how I will die in a foreign land. That’s a joke, no? I’ve spent over half my life outside the US. Now that I am completely gone from Texas, thank you Duke, I am so fucking happy. I have few options and that’s a good thing. I have a strong feeling for Mexico, both the good and bad. When my maid talks she sounds like a happy bird. When I talk to some of the street people in my group, I have breakthroughs of various sorts. New ways to think. I used to tell staff that I didn’t care if the cleaner, Beatrice, had the best idea to move forward. We will go in Beatrice’s direction, I would say. It is funny looking at the world these days. I am so out of it, but I think I know about the basics. The names change but the way stuff happens is fairly static. The way people and things move through time and space remains the same. Of course, I am not up on the new technology, but still the consequences are the same. People live and they die and the governments come and go and one is a king today and a pauper tomorrow. Ok, that has already been done, but you get my point.

        I, I can remember
        Standing, standing by the wall
        And the bursts, shells above our heads
        And we kissed, as though nothing could fall
        And the shame, the shame was on the other side
        Oh we can beat them, forever and ever
        We can be heroes, just for one day

        Things like that never change and they are very small, microscopic really, and they push into the blood and clean the heart and we are new for that instant of our lives. Love. Duke

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah, we’re tired Duke. It doesn’t help to see friends suffer and die or watch the lunatics take over. I do hope to pull some of my stories out of the rabbit holes they’ve dropped into and end them finally (somehow) before I’m washed away in the next flood … but who knows. Hurrah to Aaron for continuing to define his style and bring his work to fruition! Not too many people realize what an achievement that is in these times. Take care, Duke. Sending love to you both.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.