Maggie stands slouched in her usual spot among the vending machines, between a soda machine and a machine filled with dry snacks. She has eaten Cheetos, sucking orange dust off her fingers. She’s heard they have better vending machines in Japan, machines that offer things like breakfast and beer. She could go for both this morning.
She stands with the machines behind the grubby little motel on Rush Street, a hard-won territory and she’ll cut any bitch who tries to encroach on her claim. It is prime real state there on Rush Street and she won’t give it up without a fight.
Maggie had been born with a face like an octopus; her bulging black eyes almost on the sides of her pale, bulbous head; a long mustache of tentacles hanging over her mouth-sphincters. She shows off her shapely legs in a short leather skirt. She is waiting for a john to approach. She caters to the blue collar men in the factories who need a quickie before they punch into their dismal jobs. The men are desperate, frantic. They have rough, dirty, calloused hands. She doesn’t hate them yet but she’s getting close.
Maggie thinks about buying a soda and then dismisses the idea. Carbonated beverages give her gas. Besides, the sun is coming up. Time to go to work.
Her heart has lost its luster. It has erased any empathy she may have once felt for herself. She hasn’t felt self-pity in years. She misses the way she used to feel sorry for herself. Now she thinks, Well, life is hard.
A man approaches her with strange delicacy, as if trying to sneak up on her. He is not one of her regulars. He’s a middle-aged man with a gray beard and a stupid hat. She knows the type. He is probably married and figures going to a prostitute doesn’t constitute cheating. She says, “You looking for action?” Her voice is muffled behind the tentacles. The tentacles are sleek and muscled and move with her words.
He nods and says, “How much?”
She lays out her prices and he makes a thoughtful face, listening. Finally he says, “Blowjob,” and looks around nervously, as if the word had been broadcast by loudspeaker.
His skittish behavior is phony, she thinks. Some men have to act intimidated to soften the awkward situation. They act anxious because of her octopus face. She is already bored by the man. He hands her the money and she says, “Follow me,” and leads him into her motel room. She doesn’t turn on the light.
They stand in the gloomy paneled room and look at each other. His expression betrays no shock as she removes her top, revealing four small breasts.
“Okay,” she says. “Take it out.” And she drops to her knees.
What he shows her she’s never seen before. He has a corkscrew penis, like a pig, and three testicles.
She doesn’t know what to do with it.
“Come on,” he says, slight aggravation in his tone. “Do it.”
She leans back and looks up at him. “Look mister, I don’t know about this...” Her voice is tentative for the first time in years.
“Don’t be afraid. Just treat it normally,” he tells her.
And so she does and with the intimate contact she feels herself floating outside her body and she drifts toward the ceiling on soft, undulating cushions of air. She feels free. The ceiling grows and expands, breaking apart into atoms of light. And there is a beyond, she realizes for the first time.
He moans and she looks down and when he finishes she crashes back into her body.
There was a shift from present tense to past and it seemed to happen instantaneously, in an eyelash of time. He zipped up and said, “Thanks,” and left her alone in the room and she wept, finally feeling sorry for herself again.
She allowed herself to cry for ten or fifteen minutes, and then went into the bathroom to puke and rinse with Listerine.