Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14th - Girls' Night Out by Mary Ann Back


We call ourselves The Marion County Jezebel Society. Our membership consists of two divorced, semi-pickled cougars – Jilly, a tiny blonde, me - Roxy, a six-foot redhead, and my saucy little Shih Tzu named Alimony. Don’t be fooled by that over-processed hairball, she’s a haughty, gin-soaked pocket bitch who never met a man she wouldn’t bite. Did I mention we elected her president?

Each year on Valentine’s Day we meet at an exotic one-star restaurant serving food-like substances and fermented umbrella drinks aged in hundred-proof, incendiary pineapples. A token, beer-bellied male, sporting what appears to be road kill on his head, must be seated at the bar, close enough to provide wicked inspiration, yet distant enough to remain oblivious to our discreet insults. Silly rule really. After several cocktails, both our distance and discretion fade anyway.

This particular Valentine’s, I suggested Madame Tso’s Tea Room, an old haunt owned by an old friend, Ming Tso. After sharing a pu pu platter and a pitcher of Mai Tai’s, I took Jilly to the private VIP room for some excitement. It had a tiki-hut-turned-opium-den ambience with lighted plastic palm trees and vintage fishing nets suspended from the ceiling. Paper lanterns and oil lamps almost lit the room where ceramic dragons stood guard like terra cotta warriors. The air reeked of incense, tobacco, and old fish, courtesy of a murky lobster tank.

Members of the Triad, or “The Boys,” as Ming calls them, stopped by occasionally to play Pai Gow. They were there that night, crowded around a gaming table; their conversation cut short when we walked in. One of them stared a hole through me.

“Take a picture, it last slonger,” slurred Jilly, who’d had enough liquor to spontaneously combust. She tried to throw her drink at him but drowned my Jimmy Choo’s instead. Alimony made a dive for the spilled alcohol, tongue lapping wildly in mid-air. Undaunted, Jilly snarled and poked a finger in the guy’s face.

“What’s your problem, buddy?”

“Please excuse her, she’s a little tipsy.” I smiled, attempting to shove Alimony back inside my purse and drag Jilly to a distant table. “Bad dog! Bad Jilly! Crap on a cracker, are you trying to get us killed?”

We were settling in when Ming brought us another round. “We didn’t order those,” I said.

“No, but Leung Ciao did,” she glanced at the mobster. “He asked me to give this to ‘the Flaming Goddess’. Watch yourself, Roxy, he’s dangerous.”

“Oo, Flaming Goddess! It suits me, don’t you think?”

She handed me a fortune cookie. I broke it in half and silently read the message.

‘Woo Tang knows you’re testifying against him before the Grand Jury. Your life is in danger. Say nothing to anyone. You must leave the city immediately and never return. Repeat: say nothing.’

Being a flaming goddess was starting to lose its allure.

“What’s it say?” Jilly reached for the scrap of paper but I stuffed it in my pocket. No need to frighten her.

“I’m going to the lady’s room. Be right back.” I stood up to find Leung Ciao but froze when a 400 pound mountain wearing a black suit and a fortune in gold chains appeared in the doorway.
Jilly squealed, “Look, it’s a Sumo!”

“That’s Japanese.”

“What do you call a really big Chinese guy?”

“Woo Tang!” Leung spun around; his eyes darted from the mountain, to me, and back again.

One look at me and the mountain erupted. “You!” Chairs flew and tables toppled as Woo Tang tore across the room, stopping inches from my nose. “Have you no honor? Have you no shame, Flaming Goddess? Why do you bite the hand that once fed you?”

“Come any closer and see what else I’ll bite! I am not your Flaming Goddess, sir.”

“You insult me. Ten years is not so long. Have I changed so much, my consort?”

“Your what?”

Jilly’s forehead scrunched like it does when she thinks too hard. “I think he said you were his Geisha.”

“Again - Japanese. Please don’t help me. Mr Tang, is it? You’re obviously mistaken. Please excuse us, we were just leaving.” I grabbed Jilly and broke for the door.

“Not so fast, old lover. You cannot kiss and tell my secrets.”

Gunshots rang and a bullet whizzed past my head. The lobster tank exploded, spewing water and panicked lobsters onto the floor. Jilly slipped and fell, smacking her head on the linoleum, coming eye to eye with the tank’s alpha lobster.

She heaved. “Oh, Roxy, I don’t feel so good.”

I threw her feather-weight ass over my shoulder and hit the door on a dead run. A floor-shaking thud caused me to look back and find Woo Tang lying unconscious in the sludge. Between the lobsters and the mobsters the place was a death trap.

I carried Jilly outside and heard Leung ordering the goons. “Stay here with Woo. I’ll get the girl.”

He caught up to us in the parking lot, gun drawn.

I threw my purse at him. “It’s about freaking time! NOW you and your gun show up? Where the hell were you when I was getting shot at? And why the hell did you set the message drop for tonight if Woo Tang was going to be here?”

Alimony stuck her head out of my purse and growled at him.

“Sorry, Flaming Goddess, ah, Rox. He was supposed to be in Hong Kong. That was close.”

“You think? Get your ass back inside before you blow your cover. Tell them you saw us flag down a trucker and get away.”

“What about you, Rox? He’ll try again. If he finds out you’ve been FBI for the last ten years, it won’t be pretty.”

“Is it ever?”

Jilly, sprawled on the ground, opened one eye. “What happened?”

“Too many Mai Tai’s, party girl– you passed out and hit your head. You’ll live.”

“Next Valentine’s I’m picking the restaurant. This place sucks. Roxy?”

“Yeah, Jilly?”

“Who’s Flaming Goddess?”

I smiled, eyes wide, and answered, “Who?”

BIO: Ms. Back, of Mason, Ohio, was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creative writing by Thomas More College. The characters she creates are often disreputable and are not to be trusted. She kicks them out of the house every chance she gets, when some unwitting publisher agrees to take them off her hands. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including: Short Story America, Every Day Fiction, Bete Noire, Apollo’s Lyre, Liquid Imagination, 50 to 1, Flashes in the Dark, A Twist of Noir, Flash Fiction Chronicles, and Screenwriters’ Daily.


Katherine Tomlinson said...

I want to see a whole book about these women. They are my kind of gals.

Mary Ann Back said...

Katherine, so glad you enjoyed this story! I've gotten some encouragement to spin this into a collection of short stories. I just may work on that. It sure was fun to write. Mary Ann