Friday, July 10, 2009

Sonny's Girl

Shae Sveniker, July 2009

The woman in the red dress sank into the light of the stage like a bloodstain on white carpet; a bloodstain that could sing. The haunting sounds of a stand-up bass sliding notes like moans down the neck, from low to high and high to low, the saxophone scooping up the tears of imaginary one-night-stands in it's tenor bell, the soft buzz of a guitar's strings just touching blue notes, a piano expertly setting the mood like candle-light on dark velvet, and the subtle hint of latin blue in congas and bongos; they were all there, but the spotlight shined only on her, the woman in the red dress, who wore the room like a mink coat in winter.

The other boys see her, they try to talk to her, but the bloodstain chokes their little-boy voices and her eyes explode inside their brains like roses blooming in time-lapse films. They squeak like mice, these accountants and lawyers, doctors and engineers, wannabes and had-been men. None of them with the guts enough to say what they really mean, and so every night, in the back of the club, she stacks her gifts from not-so-secret admirers, the flowers and the love-notes and the chocolate boxes and the envelopes of stranger's moneys and she takes off the red dress and waits, alone in the dressing room, for me.

Sometimes she waits until four or five in the morning. Sometimes she waits until three, but she's always waiting for me and I always show up.

She does her nails and adjusts her garter, she practices singing lonely blues in the keys of longing. She makes up lyrics about me, about how cruel and beautiful love can be, and I never sing them back, but sometimes I harmonize. I listen to her move. Sometimes, I speak to her, when there's something to say, but most nights we just listen to each other breathe.

I walk her home and never go inside, always take off my hat and kiss her good night and promise to make an honest woman out of her one day. She jokes about making an honest man out of me too, but I know she doesn't mean it. It don't mean a think if it ain't got that...

One night a thief stole my wallet on my way to the club. I chased him down in a back alley and hit him on the head with a tire iron I found beside a dumpster. I didn't hit him very hard, but he just crumpled like a sack of potatoes. I turned him over and reached into his jacket pocket and took my wallet back. I was winded, but it was fine.

As I turned around to leave the alley, I heard movement on both sides, and seeping from the shadows like oil from the shale beneath the harbor was a gang of young punks lookin to get made. I knew one of them, a little Italian prick named No Face Jimmy. They called him No Face on account of he was jumped into a gang pretty young and couldn't even defend himself at the time. No one has ever seen his face since, he wears a plain white mask, like for Marty Gras, and speaks like he's got a mouth full of toungue and no teeth. Which he probably does.

There was about ten of them in workshirts and slacks and then there was me, clean cleaner than a broke-dick dog with shined shoes and ready for my bloodstain that can sing. Bloodstains was what I got. No Face also had this penchant for makin people as ugly as he was, the psychophant, and by the time the others had had their fun and he was done, I'd be lucky if the best surgeon in the world could make me into Quazimoto.

She waited for me that night just like all the others, but I never came.

She was alone, vulnerable, and there was nothing I could do, bleeding in some downtown alley, my wallet missing and body broken, bleeding to death as the sewer rats gnawed on my fingers. I began to crawl as soon as I regained conciousness, but I was blind, the blood in my eyes, so I found a warm stretch of concrete and lost consciousness.

She waits for me...

I regained conciousness in a hospital wrapped in bandages and high on morphine. Something was definitely wrong. There was no one in the room so I tried to move and found my right arm and left leg in a cast. I looked at the fingers of my free hand and they were swollen and bruised. They made popping sounds when I balled my fist and the tips were numb. I felt the bandage around my head and the shapes underneath were alien. Whatever they did, I couldn't speak except to moan and grunt. I started doing this as loud as possible.

With enough of that, a nurse finally came into the room.

"Mister, you're awake! That's good, you can start by telling us what happened. Oh no, don't try to speak, here, use this." She gave me a shitty ball-point pen and a note pad of stationary with little hearts and roases and cute little self-affirming statements on the top.

I wrote "Phill Carney, 1(866) 929-3100, lawyer."

She looked at the note with a quizical expression and hesitated before I threw the pen and made some sort of animal noise. She got up quickly and left the room.

Within the hour Phill was sittin at my bedside.

"They busted you up pretty good didnt' they buster?" Phill was a wiseguy but a good man. Plus he owed me a favor. "What do you need, buddy, I'll get you anything! You need a bottle of Hennessey I bet you, maybe some real fried chicken, I know how these hospitals work, they cut costs on all their food, it's such bullshit, how are you s'possed to get better eating this crap? hey, I know, I'll order in somethin from Roscoes, lemme give'm a call..." He reached for his cell but I grabbed his hand before he could call.

"Gimme outta here!" I said, but it sounded more like "Giyyee outta here." My jaw was qired shut and I couldn't feel my lips.

"Sonny, I don't think that's a good idea, you can't be seen out in--"

I grabbed him by the tie and pulled him close "Do me a favor." I said. Well, more like "Do ye a yayor." but he got the point. it's all in the inflection I guess.

He said "Sure, Sonny, anything you need, where do you wanna go?"

I wrote the address of the club down and he looked at it and shook his head. "I don't know what you see in that broad, but I'll get you there. You sit tight for a minute."

Fifteen minutes later, two big orderly's with leather jackets over their scrubs were lifting me into a wheelchair to be taken out. Hospital policy, I couldn't use crutches until I was off the property. Liability and such.

Phill's limo waited at the entrance. I struggled into the back and waited quietly while Phill's driver took his sweet-ass time getting to the club. Phill filled me in on the sports scores, the Celtics beat the whoseywhatsicouldgiveafucksits but I sat quietly and waited untill we got to the part of town the club was at.

One of the orderly's had ridden with us and helped me get out of the car. Phill waited for me while I went inside. I didn't know what I was there for, I just knew I had to be. The place was unlocked and there was no bartender. It was about two in the afternoon I guess. Bobby must have had the day off because the place was still sticky and boozey from the night before. I looked around mypoically, the bandaged covered my right eye too. I hobbled passed the stage on crutches and the orderly followed me at a respectable pace.

Passed the stage into the back, and up the stares to the dressing room.

There in the velvet folds of the nest she had made, the woman in the red dress, naked, laying there, waiting for me--

"I knew you'd come to me baby"

--she cooed a love song sweeter than all the blood in her red, red lips, and as the morphine wore off and the pain set in I couldn't help but let the tears come out.

That bloodstain voice of hers, ringing in my muffled ears, as I held her cold hand, and rested my weary head on her soft thighs, I could say nothing, except hum that slow, sad song, our song, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.

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