TOO CHICKEN - CINDY ROSMUS
Atlantic City 1972
On the balcony, I turned the blade over and over, smiling. If Howard...if any of them knew...
They wouldn’t call me “Psycho” for nothing.
From the bar downstairs came hoarse laughter. My mother. Bitch, I thought, stabbing the air. Really hacking it, till my arm ached.
She deserved it. For never wanting me. For dragging me down here, just to cheat on my Pop, night after night.
As Marco and the Mustaches broke into “Spanish Eyes,” I pictured her in sequined blue getting up to dance. Maybe with Carlo, that scumbag who eyed me (a creepy fourteen-year-old) like a two-buck steak. Or with Dean, in his white leisure suit. Dean’s shoes had platforms as high as a girl’s. I hoped he stomped on Mom’s foot, hard.
But even more...I wanted to hurt...
Teeth clenched, I turned toward the mezzanine.
Howard. For tricking me. For hurting me so bad, I wanted to hurt him...and myself.
This blade...was mine, now. In my shorts pocket, I carried it with love.
“Give it back.” As he reached for the blade, Howard’s hand would shake. “Where was it, Pam?”
On the balcony floor. It fell out when you dropped your jeans. So that French-Canadian bitch could gobble you up! You just didn’t know...I was watching.
“In the lot,” I’d say, calmly. Behind the old salt water taffy store. Where you said you’d fight your boss.
But you never went.
No matter what, we were meant to be together. Alive, or...dead.
On the mezzanine, I waited, Howard’s blade hidden behind my back. I looked around, smirking, at the tacky velvet furniture, the grand piano Howard’s dad had got from some mobster. The chandelier, which seemed out of place in this rathole hotel his dad owned.
Mom again. Even on the mezzanine I heard her. Bitch, I thought, this is your lucky night.
Tomorrow you won’t be a mom anymore.
“Thought that was you.” Howard, at last! He sat next to me on the couch. “You weren’t in your room, so I came looking.”
Sure. “I was on...the balcony.”
He stiffened. Then played it off. “Wanna take a walk? On the boardwalk?”
Past the old taffy store?
Behind me, the blade felt good in my hand. “No. What I really want...”
He leaned closer. “Yeah?”
“You steal a key, and we’ll go up to a room...”
What he had wanted, all along. But I was too chicken. “Pam the Prude,” he’d called me, since Day One.
“You mean it?” he said. I just smiled mysteriously.
He stroked my bare thigh. I was ticklish, but it felt good. I wanted to feel good, even just a few moments, before I died.
When I grabbed him, he jumped. “Whoa!”
Maybe his thing was sore. From Frenchie sucking on it.
Soon he would know real pain.
“Be right back!” he said. I retrieved the blade from between the cushions.
When he came back, dangling the key, he looked so smug, I wanted to kill him right there. But this old couple was coming up the stairs, smiling like we were just dumb, lovesick kids.
“Oy, you’re Jerry’s son!” the old bat said. “Someday you’ll own this hotel, yourself.”
“Shut up, Miriam.” The old guy winked. “Leave the young people alone.”
Neither suspected we’d be dead in minutes.
The room Howard picked was on the top floor, at the end of the hall.
As we climbed the stairs, his arm was around me, squeezing me, gently. His blond hair brushed my cheek.
Inside, I was shivering as he locked the door. Too chicken to get naked. To see his...thing.
Never mind, I told myself. Kill him! Just...kill him.
As he kissed me, really hard, I dropped the blade. It landed, soundlessly, on the rug.
When he slid out of his jeans—for the second time that night—he saw his blade. “Oh, there it is,” he said.
And there it stayed.
BIO: Cindy is a New York textbook editor by day, a hardboiled Jersey female by night. Her fiction has appeared in Black Petals, The Beat, The Cynic, Red Fez, Zygote in My Coffee, Hardboiled, NVF, MediaVirus, The Monsters Next Door, Out of the Gutter, Devil Blossoms, 13th Warrior Review, Mysterical-E, and Beat to a Pulp. She has four collections of stories out: Angel of Manslaughter, Gutter Balls, Calpurnia’s Window, and No Place Like Home. She is the editor of the e-zine, Yellow Mama. She is also a thrill seeker, a Gemini, and a Christian.
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