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“Drizzle,” Posy said. “Drizzle drizzle drizzle drizzle drizzle drizzle drizzle...”
It was drizzling. Early afternoon. Posy Pendleton watched beads of precipitation sparkle across the singing neon above her head: LIVE NUDE GIRLS in dazzling phosphorescent color, bathed in popping aqueous jewels. Humming, trilling. She stared at the sign, hypnotized by its celestial beauty.
“Drizzle drizzle drizzle...” The word had lost its meaning. It had puffed into an amorphous blob, a hazy shape of faded contours and air. “Drizzle.”
Posy had been up for nine days (a new record - grease the trumpets!), smoking crystal meth with Peachfuzz and Kitty and now she was back on the street, trying to earn some quick meth money before the crash came.
“Crash,” she said. “Crash crash crash crash crash crash...”
As Posy moved away from the strip club, her black reflection in the window caught sight of her before she could turn away. Her hair was greasy and damp, stringing into her pale, haggard face. Her mascara was running, spreading, giving her raccoon eyes.
She looked pathetic. Hooking a john might be tough. And she didn’t have much time.
“Fuck,” she said. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck...”
Posy Pendleton was twenty-two years old.
“Nuh,” a man grunted and she looked up, a spike of fear shooting through her overworked heart.
Fear is sharp-sighted, and can see things underground, and much more in the skies...
Who wrote that? She couldn’t remember. Posy had dropped out of college a year ago. She’d been a literature major. Reading constantly - God, the books. Old poems and quotes occurred to her all the time but she rarely remembered the sources.
“Nuh...” The man’s face had absorbed a lot of rain. His face was soggy, dripping, drooping. Melting. “Nuh,” he said again, his mouth twisting into grotesque, rubbery figure eights.
Posy backed up, turned, started walking back the way she’d come, back to the comforting beauty of the LIVE NUDE GIRLS sign.
“Cervantes,” she said to the buzzing colors. “Don Quixote, right?”
She turned to her left. The man had vanished. Had he even existed? Maybe she’d imagined him, like last night when she thought she saw a band of chimpanzees capering in the alley, rummaging for fruit in the trashcans. When she mentioned it to Peachfuzz, Peachfuzz called her, “The Queen of Casual Hallucination.”
Posy loved that.
Posy Pendleton used to stay up all night in her dorm room, snorting crystal meth, drinking wine. And reading. Consuming words. She read everything by Proust. She read Ulysses by James Joyce. Sometimes she paced while she read and when daylight broke she’d collapse on her bed with aching legs. She read Shakespeare and Goethe. Dostoevsky, Kafka, Balzac, Voltaire and Cervantes. She read for her classes, she read for herself: Hamsun, Huysmans, Celine, Genet, Lautreamont, Mirbeau, Artaud, DeSade...
A middle-aged guy with a gray ponytail and green sports jacket came out of the strip joint.
“Hey man, suck your dick? Twenty bucks,” she said.
The man ignored her and walked away. His shoes went click click click click on the wet sidewalk.
Posy turned back to the sign. The drizzle had turned to light rain and she noticed she was shivering, bottom lip trembling. She was also soaked to the skin. She looked like a drowned rat, she was sure. A drowned rat.
“Rat. Rat rat rat rat rat rat...”
Someday she was going to write a book.
Someday she was going to quit The Life and write a book about her experiences: Diary of a Prostitute. Crystal Skies and Gutter Mud. I was a Coed Hooker...
Someday she’d win the Pulitzer Prize.
Someday this would all be worth it.
Someday she would see her mom and dad again. She wouldn’t be ashamed to face them anymore. She wouldn’t look so pathetic. So strung-out and hungry and poor.
Posy Pendleton hadn’t seen her parents in almost a year. She missed them but they wouldn’t understand that this was just research. A temporary thing. She was suffering for her Art. Paying her dues.
For a book. Someday.
Manny and Linda came out of the Cassowary Club and Posy quickly turned and walked away. The Fear was back, squeezing her heart, stroking her spine with a cold hand.
Manny was a pimp. And a fucking asshole. Posy didn’t know what Linda was. His administrative assistant, Posy supposed, and that idea made her smile.
“Administrative assistant,” she said. Ha. That’s funny.
She dared a quick glance back. Oh shit, they were looking right at her. Fuck.
“Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck...” she whispered in a panicked breath. She could see the anxious little “fucks” fluttering out of her mouth like snowflakes in a draft.
Posy Pendleton only hooked when she had to. And when she had to, no way was she gonna give 80% of her profits to some shit-eating pimp. She’d been able to avoid Manny and Linda so far, but the atmosphere around State Street had changed. A lot of Manny’s girls had gone missing. His profits were falling, drastically. He was pissed, paranoid and spying on his girls like a predator eyeing quarry, furtively following and watching them on their dates, a
loaded gun in his pocket.
And he wasn’t as forgiving of freelancers working his turf anymore.
Posy’s best friend Kitty had learned this firsthand and Kitty’s poor, damaged face emerged intense and vibrant in Posy’s memory; eyes punched to purple slits, two front teeth missing behind swollen, blood-crusted lips, her earlobes bleeding and tattered where Linda had yanked out her earrings.
Manny had given Kitty a violent layoff from hooking with his ringed fists.
Cruel, cruel bastard.
“Cruel, cruel world,” Posey muttered.
No, wait. Cold, cruel world. Or was it cruel, cruel world? She couldn’t remember.
Who cares? Both were true.
She turned the corner onto Union Street. As soon as she was out of their sight, she broke into a run. Puddles exploded under her feet, sending shards of colored glass jingling into the street.
And then a tiny chipmunk voice said, “Hey there, sweetheart, what’s your hurry?”
Posy stopped, expecting to see a leprechaun dancing a jig on the stoop or a colony of industrious elves toiling between the trashcans.
Instead, a heavy-set woman with big thick glasses stood at the edge of the alley. A giant bat sat perched on her head, leathery wings folded over its body like a black Dracula cape.
No, wait. Wait...
It was an umbrella. Only an umbrella.
What a relief.
“Where you runnin’ off to?” the woman asked her. Her voice was high and sugary and Posy suddenly saw her at a little girl’s tea party, talking to dolls and stuffed animals in that cutesy, precious little voice: Would you like some more lemon, Mister Bear?
Posy chuckled at the image, then said, “What?”
“You’re soaking wet,” the woman told her.
Posy nodded and bright diamonds cascaded from her pores, clattering delicately at her feet. “Very clever observation,” she said. “I have to go...”
“Oh, okay. I don’t want to keep you. I was just wondering if maybe you’d like to party with me and my husband. But if you have somewhere else to be...”
Posy looked around. There were several men on the street. “Which husband is yours?”
“He’s at home. I came out here to see if I could get a pretty young girl like you to come over and, you know, hang out. Do stuff.”
“Fifty bucks,” Posy told her. She turned and saw Manny and Linda standing at the corner, watching them. The rain had turned them blue and they blurred and refracted behind the falling water.
“That sounds great,” said the woman. “My name’s Janet. What’s yours?”
“Posy, the Queen of Casual Hallucination.”
“Come on this way, Posy. I’ve got a car.” She pivoted the umbrella so it sheltered them both.
Posy walked with the woman until they reached the parking lot of Mel’s Meat Palace. The rain had picked up, the wind too. Tatters of the city’s conversations were being carried and shuffled by the liquid currents and Posy heard a stream of jumbled words and voices sweeping around her. Rainy Burroughsian cut-ups. Ha.
They stopped in front of an old, beat-to-shit Cadillac.
“Is this your car?” Posy wanted to know, feeling it, sliding her hand over the cool wet surface.
“Yeah. It runs better than it looks.”
“I think it’s beautiful.”
Janet got in, opened the passenger door. Posy lowered herself into the car.
When they pulled into traffic she noticed that Manny and Linda were standing (drenched, Ha) at the intersection. Their faces were twitching and billowing in wet flesh spasms.
She gave them the finger and said, “Bye-bye. Bye bye bye bye...” She was safe now.
The squeak-mouse said, “Do you toke?”
Posy turned from the window. “Do I what?”
“Toke. Toke weed, pot, hash...”
“Oh, toke.” She laughed. “That’s weird. Why do you call it that? Why don’t you just say ‘smoke pot’ or ‘get high’?”
“Okay, do you get high?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
“There’s a bowl of hash and a lighter in the glove
box. Help yourself.”
She opened the glove compartment and rummaged through the mess: incorrectly folded roadmaps, crumpled receipts, little packets of ketchup, salt and pepper. Wet-naps and napkins. She finally located a small, stainless steel pipe and disposable blue lighter.
She sniffed the bowl and false memories of Morocco flashed through her mind; sitting on a straw mat in a darkened kif café at the edge of the Sahara, watching a caravan of camels lumber wearily across sharp-edged dunes of deep shadow...
Was Morocco on the edge of the Sahara desert?
She clicked the lighter over the bowl, inhaled.
She felt an immediate density in her lungs, as if the smoke had solidified in her body. She held the smoke, felt the molecules attach to her spine and travel upward, up...
She watched the windshield wipers smear rhythmically across her field of vision, wiping thick viscous tears from her giant eyes.
She exhaled a churning white cloud of vanishing faces. “Wow,” she said and her voice bounced and reverberated around the car. “That’s...”
......what’s the word........
...what’s the word...?
The big birdie cheeped, “Only the best. Have some more.”
“...okay...” She clicked another teardrop of blue and white flame over the bowl, inhaled.
Another false memory: she was in a small lifeboat, rising and falling in the middle of the ocean. The sky was a vast gray expanse. She leaned over the rough-hewn edge of the boat and could see huge blue whales just beneath the surface of the water. They were moving her along, stirring a current with their advancing mass. She could hear them singing; a low mournful cry echoing through the black depths.
“You left the ship,” her father said. She turned. He was sitting across from her.
“I’m sorry,” she told him.
“You panicked too soon. The ship wasn’t sinking.”
“I thought it was.”
“No. You made a mistake. You’ve made a lot of mistakes.”
“I’m writing a book.”
Posy gazed into the water. The whales were gone. The sea had flattened to glass, the boat had stopped moving. What was that called when that happened? The doldrums? They were caught in the doldrums. Yeah, that’s it.
“What’s the book about?” he asked again.
“Nothing,” she told him. She couldn’t admit a thing like that. Not right now.
The boat ran aground on the shore of a tropical island. Her mother had joined them. “We’re here, wake up,” she said.
“What’s the matter with her?” her father asked and she felt herself being lifted and carried.
When she was a little girl, her father used to carry her like this when they came home late at night after a long drive. Sometimes she’d just pretend to fall asleep in the backseat so he’d carry her gently across the yard and into the house and lower her into her bed.
When she was a little girl she thought she was a big genius. She read The Old Man and the Sea when she was four years old. Four years old. That’s impressive, right?
What would that four-year-old think if she saw her sad, sordid condition today?
“I’m no genius...” she mumbled sleepily and someone laughed and said, “That’s for sure.”
She tried to open her eyes and see who was laughing at her - insulting her - but her lids were glued shut. She tried to move - stand up - but her limbs had been injected with concrete. Her body weighed a thousand pounds. The gravity here really pressed down hard. She felt like she was on another planet, like Jupiter. Was that right? Did Jupiter have heavy gravity? She couldn’t remember. Jupiter was the biggest one, right? Yeah. She was sleeping on Jupiter, in the calm eye of that big stormy thing, The Great Red Spot.
“You getting this?” said a voice full of helium.
“Yeah, do it. Do it.”
And then a sickening shock of pain struck the side of her chest and her eyes blinked open.
An ape was leaning over her. An ape with a melting rubber face, breathing acidic industrial fumes.
Posy said, “Ow, I’m hurt.” She twisted her inflamed body, trying to rise.
“Stay down!” said the ape and Posy felt another sharp pain stab her stomach and she cried out and collapsed back to the hard stone floor. Her eyes were shut again, her teeth clenched and grinding against the agony.
What was happening? Where was she? A warm wet trickle began to soak through her clothes.
This wasn’t right. She didn’t like this. She wanted to go back to Jupiter. You can do that if you’re having a nightmare. You can change the direction of the dream. You can orchestrate things. Go somewhere safe. What was that called?
That’s it. Lucid dreaming.
She wanted to return to the warm peace of the Great Red Spot. All she had to do was let herself float back through space.
Another pain in her chest, this one only a numb pinch.
She was easing further away.
She passed the Earth’s blond moon, surrounded by a dazzling wealth of stars in a black skillet sky.
She saw Saturn and its pretty rings and as she drifted closer she realized that the rings were composed of liquid music and she swam toward them and breathed in the warm syrupy sounds.
Floating, falling back toward Jupiter and The Great Red Spot.