PRINCES - WALTER CONLEY
(for Miss Alister)
A woman at the bar said, “It’s not my blouse that smells like mothballs. It’s my bra. The...”
“Cup,” I told her.
She sighed, looked at the row of bottles along the wall, made a face, then shook her head. I thought she might collapse, so I eased back to give her room.
The speaker tapped me on the shoulder. It wasn’t a friendly tap, either; more like a fingerpad jab. I turned to find Michael A. looming.
“Who brings their mother into a place like this?” he said, nodding at the woman.
“She ain’t my mother.”
“Must be somebody’s mother.”
“How should I know? Why don’t you ask her?”
“You,” he said, giggling.
I leaned toward the woman and nudged her. “Hey, lady. You got any kids?”
“No kids,” she said. “Only grandkids.”
“How can that be?” Michael asked.
She turned to him and said, “My kids are dead.”
“Jeez,” Michael said, almost under his breath. “I’m sorry.”
I let him know what I thought of him with my eyes--and it wasn’t that he was cute.
He looked back at the woman, opened his fat stupid mouth and said, “How’d it happen?”
“Don’t ask her that,” I whispered.
“I already did.”
“It’s all right,” she said, waving her hands. “In a place crash. Last year. One of those little ones that goes between Boston and New York, with business people on it.”
“Your kids were business people?” Michael asked.
“No. They were coming in from Arizona. For some reason, they had to go to Boston, instead of New York, and then fly back.”
“Where,” he said, “did they go down?”
“They made it to Deep River. And then they crashed in that big empty field by the high school, where they have the carnivals and stuff?”
“No kidding,” Michael said. “You’re not going to believe this...”
“Knock it off,” I told him.
“What?” she said.
“My friend’s father is a cop,” Michael said. “Police photographer. He showed me a couple polaroids of these fucked-up people who died in a plane crash.”
“One of them had his leg on backwards.”
“Stop,” she said.
“What?” he said, like he didn’t understand.
“What?” he said again.
And while his mouth hung open from that last What, I drove the lip of my G&T right into it. He cartwheeled backwards, his sideshow head bouncing off the floor. Dazed and bleeding—realizing he was helpless—Michael raised his hands in front of his face. I got off my stool, picked it up by the legs and swung the edge of the seat into the top of his head. He bucked off the floor, out before he touched back down.
The bar went quiet for a minute. I could feel everybody staring at me. Then the talk started up again, the TV came back on, somebody opened the door to the kitchen.
“I can’t remember the last time anyone stood up for me,” the woman said.
“I owed him money,” I said, shrugging. “He was going to hurt me, bad kind of hurt, as soon as he quit bothering you.”
I tossed a five on the bar, lamenting the waste of a good Gin & Tonic, then shuffled out through the uncaring crowd for some much-needed sunlight.
BIO: Walter Conley was a founding member of the Inkpunks. He has written for a variety of media, with online work appearing recently at Blink-Ink, Danse Macabre, 6S and Gloom Cupboard. Walter is a Contributing Editor at Full of Crow and currently publishes the ezine Disenthralled.