I sat in the bathtub with my poor sister's lame Valentine ribbon making smooth arcs around and across my legs. The hairs on them, my legs, were black and looked like underwater weeds. My mother still knock knock knocked and had begun to sound concerned. I licked the washcloth. I enjoyed the waxy thickness of the soap foam.
After my bath was over, after I knew my mother had drifted away from the door, I decided to wear my oldest swimsuit to bed because it was much, much more comfortable than my pajamas.
Any of them.
I was coming out of the Pussy Cat Palace and I had changed all my money into quarters for the arcades when I saw her. She was in the doorway of one of those donut shops. She was one of those whores. She was one of those whores but she had a scar running through her eye and across her cheek. She didn't see me or even notice me for a while so I got to look at her before I had to pay attention to her. She was reasonably pretty but the scar, twisting down her face and accentuating the lines of the bones beneath her face and echoing the sweep of her shoulders and drawing me with it under the collar of her blouse, made her beautiful. She looked at me and noticed me staring at her after I had left her no other choice. She stared back and she sucked deep on her cigarette. The donut shop's flashing sign made her scar appear to pulse, to appear first convex and then concave and then convex again. When I stood next to her after she noticed me, I could see that she was much closer to my own age than I had expected, much closer to a normal age than the usual typical eighteen or nineteen going-on-two-hundred-year-old whore I usually saw outside that kind of donut shop.
"Hi," I said.
"Hi. Baby," she said and dropped her cigarette on the pavement, making no move to grind it out and not even attempting to say anything else. I stepped on the smoldering thing for her.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Angelique," she answered and pronounced it "angel eek." "Do you like to party? Do you want to date?"
"Yeah. Sure. I guess so. Don't you?"
"Where'd you get that scar there? On your face there?"
"Where do you think I got it?"
"I think you got it when the car went out of control and crashed over the barrier and landed upside down in the lake. That's what I think."
She looked at me with her head tilted to one side, a kind of schoolgirl gesture of puzzlement that also happened to cover the scarred half of her face with her hair.
"Close enough," she said. She hooked my arm into hers to drag me into the donut shop. I nearly blew the whole deal there arguing with her pimp while three policemen were looking at us. Her pimp could tell I wanted her badly and assumed I was a freak. We sat together in his booth in the donut shop while Angelique was in the toilet. He finally settled on forty dollars but then he nearly walked away with her, fresh from the rest room, when he found out that it was going to be in quarters. He made me feel small and made me walk up to the cashier to change coins back into paper money. The cops laughed at me the whole time.
Driving up to the hills, I tried to talk to my new whore.
"What's your name?" I asked her again.
"I already told you," she told me. "Angelique [angel eek]."
"I mean what's your real name?"
She didn't say anything.
"I will give you an extra twenty dollars that you may keep for yourself above and beyond what that pimp back there may or may not give you if you tell me what your real name is."
"Give me the twenty dollars."
I had to really arch my back to get into my jacket pocket and drive at the same time. I gave her two rolls of quarters. She snickered at the change but did not refuse it like her pimp had.
"Been saving up?" she asked me. "Out of your allowance?"
I said, "What is your real real name?"
"What do you think my real real name is?" she giggled while she stuffed the rolls of silver into her scrappy, crappy little clutch bag thing. The weight of the quarters made it heavy, made it bulge as if it were ripe.
"Well, you know, I think your real real name is...I think it is...Jane."
She held her swollen purse between her legs and pretended to be so surprised that her mouth actually fell open.
"You're absolutely right!" she exclaimed. "Why! That is absolutely amazing! I can't believe it! You must be fucking psychic or something!"
I thought, for a fraction of an instant only, of ripping that trashy little bag out from between her legs and just throwing it out the car window. I didn't.
"Isn't it? Just?" I said that exactly the way it sounds.
I imagined her in the kind of movie I could have made if I could have made the kind of movie she should be in. I was then, suddenly, and I remain, certain that it is possible to recreate the kind of beauty that pulses beneath any sequence of flesh and noise and that flickered in the disfigured whore that slumped next to me. The scar reclined with her; that alone was worth at least twenty-five cents.
"Angel...Jane," I called from the front door of the house I parked at. She emerged from my car, propelled herself from my car, and followed the sound of my voice inside the house through the door I had opened for both of us. I was surprised that she was actually there, that I had brought her to that house, and that she was actually following me into it. I was surprised that she allowed me to rent part of her self and surprised at my self that I had.
Hours later, after she had fucked me, when the lock on the front door turned just loudly enough to pull me back from sleep and the clicking of high-heeled footsteps approached the bed in the room where we lay, I was not at all surprised. I did not try to awaken Angel Eek/Jane or to conceal her. I was a little surprised, though, to notice that I was reaching for my trousers when the light was snapped brilliantly on.
Where had the moon been that night?
I had know exactly where the moon had been that night because I was able to see where the stars were not. There were more stars in the sky that night than I have ever seen before or since. They actually glazed the sky.
Though it did not reflect, though it did not even dimly return the visual noise of our dying sun, I knew where that idiotic new moon was hung because it left a perfect hole in the sky and the crowd of stars, a hole in an otherwise perfect scattering of light.
That's how I had known where the moon was though I still wonder how I knew where to find a shotgun. What is important is that I found it. I had just known that when I reached for it, a shotgun would fall into my arms.
I had just known. That's all. And I had known enough to pump a shell into its chamber and I had also known enough to hold it up and point it out and assume an easy kind of crouch to catch the recoil should I have need to pull its trigger. Again. And again.
I had known enough to keep it pointed at Tom. I had known enough to know that no matter how much blood may have been coming out of his head, there would always be quite a lot left and that the best idea would be to keep that shotgun pointed at what he had become and what I had only been able to wound if even that. I saw blood but I didn’t see any pain on his face.
The hole in the sky had been where the moon would have been had I been able to see the moon. It was like damage in the sky, like I had really shot a clean, clear hole in the sky. I kept thinking to myself that I had gotten myself into a real situation and that I had been stupid to get myself there and that if I could have redone or done over the last thousand things I had done to lead me to such a position that I would have done anything, given anything, to have been able to have them redone or done over. I had wished for something to take my finger from that trigger and to stop that blood from moving down Tom's cheek, across Tom's jaw, and underneath Tom's shirt.
I was not able to feel thoughtful for long. I began to feel tired and I grew anxious, as if what I had been able to do with the shotgun had become more and more than merely possible. As if that, because I had curled my finger around that rigger, I had become required to pull it. Again. I would have rather jerked the barrel up to the moon that was not there and just shouted "bang." I could have looked down at Tom and said, "Whoa. Too weird, huh?" I would rather have given that weapon to him, apologized for acting so dumb and frightened like a little kid, and been forgiven by him. I would rather have held the hand he had that wanted to curl around his head but couldn't. I would rather have done all sorts of goddamn things but I was afraid and, instead, I waited and waited and waited for some kind of space to be filled with something that meant something. I waited until my arms just couldn’t hold the shotgun up any longer. Again.
I think I must be psychic or something because I couldn't even seem to help myself, I couldn't even stop myself from twisting the wheel and putting the Datsun into a dangerous power slide to get into the parking lot of a deserted motel on a twilight highway. Something washed over me there that came from inside my head but hadn't been there before. It was something like wave after wave of big dead people's feelings.
"That there's Jane Mansfield. No shit," lurched out of Bill's mouth.
"What?" was all that Tobe could manage to say and he spilled his peanuts when he stood up, too.
It was, indeed, Jane Mansfield and she removed herself from her convertible automobile like a diamond dragging itself through a slaughterhouse. She was crying. And she wobbled on her high high-heels. Tobe and Bill watched her wobble and they watched the exquisite moisture from her eyes trace her exquisite cheekbones and then they watched her wobble again. They separately wondered if they were really so lucky.
"He's not here yet. He won't be here for years," Jane Mansfield sobbed but the boys couldn't hear her. They were bumping against the inside of the window with the flies.
"She's crying," whispered Tobe though not to Bill.
By that time, Jane Mansfield had entered the motel office and stood leaning against the Tom's Snacks vending machine.
"Do you know him?" she asked them. "Do you know where he live? Robert Masterson?"
The boys could only barely look at each other and then only just barely back at her.
"Do you know him? Robert Masterson? I have to find him. Does he live near here? Has he been here yet?"
Tobe relocated his forgotten throat, his recently petrified vocal chords.
"What?" he managed.
"We don't know no Mastersons. There's a fellow named Matthews down near Nokesville," Bill offered. "Are you Jane Mansfield? I mean, are you really her?"
"Yes. No. So what?" said Jane Mansfield. "Robert Masterson. Is he here yet? Is he going to come? He drives a brownish Datsun."
"What?" Tobe asked her and Bill at the same time. He felt certain that one of them was bound to know what everybody was talking about.
"I don't know," Jane Mansfield said. "It's a kind of car, I think, and it's called a Datsun. Or a thing that sounds like Datsun. I don't know." And then she slid down the side of the Tom's Snacks vending machine and sat on the floor of the motel office and they could see the tops of her nylon stockings dark against the skin of her thigh. They could see the strap of her garter leading up underneath her skirt. The little dog that she had left in her automobile started to bark in a squeaky kind of way.
"Oh. Missy," said Tobe but he was afraid to do anything more than that, afraid that whatever he did more than that would be the wrong thing. He remembered that it usually was.
"Could I get you a cold drink>" Bill asked Jane Mansfield and found his hand already in his pocket searching out the change he would need if she wanted him to buy a soft drink for her.
"No, thank you. It doesn't matter. Yes. He won't be here for a long time. I just know it. A 7-Up would be nice. He won't be here for years and years. No, I think I'd like a Crush. A nice, cold Orange Crush. Do you have a straw?" Jane Mansfield seemed to be rambling. "It's going to be a long, long time before he gets here. It's going to be too late."
"Would you like to leave a message?" Tobe asked her. "We ain't got no straws."
I shifted back into first gear not quite believing I had driven into that dead motel's parking lot in the first place and struggling to sort out or understand the vision that had accosted me there. I was also grateful that I was late because I don't think I could ever have standed to have a girlfriend like that who got her and her little dog's heads cut off.
We climbed over the fence, my mother's sister's daughter and me. We were not allowed to swim in that particular pool at any time, but because the night was dark enough and because there was going to be no moon we decided to swim in it. The chain-link fence was a bitch.
Terri stripped off her clothing quickly with an ease and grace of unselfconscious selfabsorbtion that I wished I could emulate. I was struggling with my jockey shorts when she was already cutting through the neon night water.
I only briefly noticed the ribbon of opaque red that trailed her, that hung in the water behind her to mark where she had been. When the white white skin of her back floated above the skin of the water, there was a dark wonderful flower growing around her in the pool and it was beautiful even as its outline spread and dissolved. I was making a noise that would have been screaming if I could have made that noise. I noticed that I had stepped free of my shorts but was still wearing my socks.
She was dead before I could do anything other than notice she was dead.
I was fumbling for phone booth change in the place where the pocket of my jeans would have been if I had remembered to wear my jeans. My hands made crab movements all their own against the bare skin of my tight and I was standing in front of a Quik-Stop pay phone wearing only socks and trying to think how I could explain that my cousin was floating dead in the country club pool and how the worst days of my life were just starting.