Bruce Taylor, Neither Here Nor There (story)

As all the motels got too expensive the more they went to them and riskier too, J- and T- finally came to sort of a time share arrangement with an old friend of J-‘s, a guy whose latest project was a biography of the minor forties film personality Carol Landis in which he proved that when Rex Harrison wasn’t Professor Higgins or Dr. Doolittling around he was murdering the young blonde starlet and cleverly passing it all off a suicide. To write this book his friend needed to be dressed in exact copies of Landis’ wardrobe for Four Jills and a Jeep (1944) which he sewed himself, as well as her makeup and shoes, which he could only approximate. He had yet to get an agent for the book but was optimistic though he kept his day job at Starbucks, which was when J- and T- used his bedroom. Is everybody crazy, they often wondered, rolling around on the sleeping bag they stashed in the corner to place on top of the often questionable sheets? Or just those people you know well enough? They had two wash-cloths and a towel, their own soap; after all they were not animals, a hair brush and her bottle of hand lotion and his of bourbon. There was never any hot water so they washed up with cold the whole length of a longer than average Wisconsin winter. They had a pen, in order each to jot down smart things the other said, leashed to the mini-blind’s cord that hung over the bed from which there was also suspended, hangman like, a small superman action figure wearing, for a reason neither of them could remember, an unused breathe-right strip as sort of a diaper. There was a wind up Nun who was really just a different shell on a wind-up Godzilla so she lurched like he did, Through one wouldn’t expect a matchstick Tokyo, but across the small bedside table from which they tried not to let her tumble. She breathed fire too. They called her Sister Sparky. There was a clock that was not theirs with numbers big enough to be read easily and often from completely across the room, and the occasional stranger condom too, or bottle of wine they would never drink, a magazine they might perhaps read together but rarely had the time to. Once her boy was sick at school and no one could find her. Now and then a car door slammed oddly, or a Jehovah’s Witness knocked downstairs, or the light just went somehow wrong and he got, as she called it, ‘skittish,’ though he liked to think of it as ‘alert.’ Then they just sat and smoked together sometimes not even talking. She never teased him about it though, nor dismissed it either, she always just said, “Of course. Things happen to guys.” Once this guy, or this woman, it varied since they were divorced, and instead of schlepping the kids back and forth between two different unaffordable houses, either he or she moved in and out of the sleeping room down the hall, depending on whose week it was, and let the kids stay where they were. So once the kids ended up here rather than there and there seemed to be no place else for them to be timed out when they misbehaved, which they did most of the afternoon, except for right outside the adulterous lovers’ door, little nylon snow pants rustling sullenly on the straight backed chair put there for that purpose. Feasting upon a witty repartee and the kinds of exquisite disclosure only lovers get to sip, selfless if what we mean by self is some bare and needy thing, shame was never was much of a factor – what a quaint 19th Century concept they quipped – they wouldn’t have any, didn’t want any. The rest of the world too busy with its own mucking and thrusting about to notice or care. Guilt of course was something else – like a tumor -- and they each handled it their own way. He not at all, or so he said, and felt badly more and more the heavier it grew. She bore hers as not so much the cross she feared if no longer believed in, but as the peril of true love and a challenge in time-management. Which is to say she took it very personally. Took it as a triumph of nerve and imagination, took to it all like someone does who has taken enough. She was twenty-six and had only been in love once, he had had more wives than she had lovers and was mired in his fifties with hard liquor staring him down. Neither of them had enough time left for anything much but this. Working this high without a net, leaping like that, throwing yourself tumbling out into nothing, sure there was someone out there to catch you, absolutely certain they would. On the way to wherever they get to go together for a couple of days together, whenever, whatever excuse or reason, a conference on this or that, a workshop on that or the other -- like two fat guys bellying up to an all you can eat buffet. In his beige mini van with the vanity plate, "Boomer,” they chain smoke, chew sugarless gum, drink cups of bad coffee so big they have their own tides. Radio's always on but not so loud they can’t talk. They pull over often to kiss seriously and piss. Once on the interstate at interstate speeds or beyond, she shrieked, pointing off to the side of the road flashing behind her, “Pigs Fucking!” And sure enough, after he hit the breaks hard, then backed up in the breakdown lane. They were. And they stood arm and arm sharing the last Colt 45 and watching. The people not the pigs.

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Alan King