SHOWTIME IN DOWNTOWN SEATTLE - ROBERT CRISMAN
Some guys in the '60s dropped tons of acid and thought they could grab final wisdom. Joey dropped two hits of Sunshine one day and mailed his clothes to Lima, Peru.
He found wisdom alright...
The cops found him later, up a tree naked in Volunteer Park and coaxed him back down with an acorn. Then they took him to County.
The charge was Mope Two or some fucking thing. He couldn't make bail.
He had to call somebody who could. His buddy Danny? Danny had money like Nixon had good times in gay bars. His sweetie Danielle? Who thought he was looking for work? What would he tell her? Hunt for a job and they take you to jail?
So much for the short list. Who could he call? He thought and thought and, no one and nothing and—
Barb, the ditz barkeep down at his favorite watering hole! Hell yes, why not! She knew how to do it, post bail and all—Jack, her old man with his worthless thief ass was a regular here!
He made the call. It took some wheedling and flat abject begging. The problem was clothes. He'd sent his to Lima. She'd have to bring some.
"Barb, they won't let me go if I'm naked!" he wailed. "Bring me some, please! Thriftko, the Dork Rack, Army and Navy, something, anything, long as it fits... Huh? Ask Jack for some money. Tell him I'll pay him back, swear to God.
"Barb, we're talking, what, fifty bucks! I'll pay you back! Please, Barb, I'm begging!" Joey sank to his knees. His eyes lifted in prayer, beseeching a God more famous for blow-offs than mercy, but still...
"Oh, thank you, Barb, thank you! I kiss the ground that you walk on! ...Yes, Barb, I know, you love Jack...and he loves you, too...
"Yes, yes, I'll wait. Right here, I give you my word."
Joey walked into the jailhouse waiting room two hours later, followed by loud hoots of laughter, along with two offers to make him a star at the House of Blue Lights up on 14th and Yesler.
Joey himself was in shock. His eyes were glazed pits.
He stood there arrayed in metallic blue hotpants, pink bunny slippers, a spangly, skin-tight black sleeveless top. He clutched this little cloche hat in this hand.
Remember Steve Buscemi, Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs? Joey looked like Steve, down to the last snaggled tooth. Except in drag.
The other visitors gaped. It was as if they'd just seen a hippo jump up on a table and do the James Brown, then jump off the table, go into the splits, and scream, "Sex Machine!"
Barb said, "Hi, Joey!" Joey just gurgled.
On the street, Barb explained as traffic slid to a halt all around them. "Jack said no, Joey, so I had to get some stuff out of my closet. What can I tell you?"
"Oh, I don't know, Barb. Tell me again how he loves you, how's that?"
"Don't be like that, Joey. He does! It's just, you know how guys are. They don't like to show their feelings and stuff and—"
"Feelings? Jack? What fucking feelings? Outside of the fact that his pecker gets hard when he steals shit! Bet he feels something then, the no-good cocksucker!"
Cars continued to swerve all around them. A crowd had started to form in their wake.
"Barb! Look at me! Look at these clothes! I'm like a ho stroll all by myself! And all these damn people! Look at 'em, Barb! They're laughing! At me! The whole fucking world's gonna know! Hey, look, guys, it's Joey the sex-change! I'll have to leave town in a freight car!"
"Oh, Joey, no! You'd never made it like that! Besides, I need those clothes back."
"Oh, darn," Joey said. "You mean I can't keep 'em? And here I thought I was set for the Masquerade Ball at the Eagles next week!"
"No, Joey! That's my best stuff!"
"Your best stuff? Barb, what's your worst? This shit don't even fit you. You're—"
"Don't say it, Joey! Besides, I'm going on a diet. By the time summer gets here, I'll look like a model, you wait!"
Barb a model? Try Phyllis Diller at age 25.
"Wow, Barb, a model! That's great! We can go to the Masquerade Ball as a couple, how's that? You can be Twiggy and I'll come as Bridgette Bardot! We'll be the belles of the ball!"
"Oh, Joey, I'm sorry but, no, uh-uh, I can't. Jack wouldn't like it."
"What? He thinks you and me'll start bumping pussies or something?"
Barb giggled. "He's got issues with that kind of stuff. As far as he's concerned, God made Adam and Eve for a reason and—"
"Oh, for Chrissake," Joey said. "Tell you what. When I get this shit off me, give it to him. Broaden his outlook or some fucking thing. Tell him I think he'd look great."
"Huh," Barb said, and looked thoughtful. Jack in those hotpants. They'd show off his basket for days...
Three car wrecks later, Joey slipped into the Grifters Hotel, his home since forever. Crowds gathered outside, expecting the place would blast into space. They dispersed when the cops brought the hoses.
Meanwhile, Barb gave Joey's suggestion more thought. She broached the subject to Jack two days later. Later that night, while she was at work, Jack cleaned out their weed drawer and hopped the first freight car to Yuma.
Up in his room in the Grifters, Joey shucked off his slinkies and crashed for two hours. He woke up sadder but wiser.
Acid, the road to Nirvana? His ass! Maybe a drag show in Vegas or something. He decided that he'd stick with the weed from now on.
BIO: Robert Crisman writes crime and noir fiction. He spent 15 years on streets in downtown Seattle and has some idea of what really goes on in these realms. He’s had stories posted on A Twist of Noir, and some scheduled on Yellow Mama and Darkest Before Dawn. A movie he scripted, Chasing the Dopeman, is currently in post-prod down in L.A. and, with luck, it’ll be ready to go sometime this fall.
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