(Art by spoon+fork.)
Andrea Conti wanted to give me a handjob as usual, but I was done with it. I think those anti-horny jail chemicals were completely out of my system. I still wanted to jump on Mrs. Angrywall and I was mad at her for having that much control over me. I guess I was mad at all women.
We were standing in the back of the walk-in van.
“Let’s not,” I told Andrea. “It’s all right. I held on to my zipper and pushed her hand away.
“What!” She nearly dropped the sack of money from the hamburger stand’s receipts.
“Everything’s okay. Just, you know, we’ll unload the food each week, I’ll give you the money, and that’s just fine.”
“Nothing’s wrong. It’s just. . .that’s how it’s going to be.”
“You don’t like it anymore?” Her eyes were shining. Christ, it was like trying to break up with someone.
“I’m gonna be honest,” I said. “This just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’m tired of bunting when I step up to the plate, you know what I mean?”
“All guys are like this, aren’t they? Deep down inside you only want to score, isn’t that right? You just want to fuck!”
“Not all the time, but some of the time, yes, definitely. I do have to get laid every once in a while.”
“Maybe I could suck you.”
“That’s nice, but it’s not going to do it, either.”
“I’ll give you what you want, then,” Andrea said slowly. “But you have to wrap it and I don’t want to do it in the van.”
“Where we gonna do it?”
“How about one of the hotel rooms?”
“Here?” I said, nearly choking.
“Yeah, here. What, are you scared or something, now? You only want to talk about fucking?”
“Naw, it’s just that, I don’t know if they’ll let me.”
“Go ask the dot for a key. She won’t give a shit. You know what they do in her country?”
“Don’t call her a ‘dot,’” I warned.
“I’ll call her whatever the fuck I want!” She crossed her arms.
“I’ll wait, but not too long.”
I rubbed my ears as I walked to the office. I wondered if I could look into Mrs. Angrywall’s eyes and ask for a room key just like that. Sure, she was going to ask what for. I couldn’t lie to her, but maybe I should tell her that I’d clean the room up after, too.
Every potentially good situation always had something tough to overcome. “Man Has to Be His Own Savior“ talked about it endlessly. Mao had the Long March. The American autoworkers nearly starved to get their right to a 40-hour workweek. I could ask Mrs. Angrywall for a room key to get laid.
“Are you looking to buy a car or something?”
“No, but I do like the little descriptions of the cars, particularly the antique models. It’s a bit like reading tombstones, only one presumes the cars are still running. I’m amused by the number of ‘easily repaired’ problems there are.”
“A lot of car dealers take out ads to make them look like some guy selling a car in his driveway. But then you call them and show up at the address and it’s a used-car lot. They’ll try to sell you another car for more money.”
“You speaking from personal experience?”
I thought about how I went with my mother to what turned out to be a used-car lot. The guy was a snake. Her instincts were good enough that she ended up not buying a car, but for whatever fucking reason she went on a few dates with him.
“No, I just heard,” I said.
“You on break now?”
“No, I just. . .I wanted to ask you for a favor.”
“I definitely owe you. If anything, for that excellent weed this summer. You name it.”
“Could I get a hotel room?”
“Are you throwing a party?”
“Not really. I’ll only need it for an hour, tops.”
Mrs. Angrywall scrunched up her eyebrows and nose and tried to make them meet somewhere between her eyes.
“What exactly are you planning on doing?”
I put my hands on the counter and hunched down.
“I’m going to have sex with this girl.”
Mrs. Angrywall folded up the magazine and smoothed down her hair.
“Are you mad, Sean? Just who is this tart you’ve brought in?”
“It’s Andrea Conti.” I wanted to be as upfront as possible.
“She’s a married woman, you know! Oh, I’ve forgotten! That doesn’t mean anything to you! You can’t keep it in your pants!”
“Oh, it matters, all right. But it’s not the biggest thing in the fucking world!”
“Is she aware of your plans, or are you thinking you can manage to seduce her and be through with her in an hour?”
“Andrea knows what’s going on.”
“I see. Now, then, let me find a room appropriate for such debauchery.”
She turned her back to me to look through the key rack.
“Look,” I said to her shoulders, “I’m a man. I’m human. I have certain needs I have to take care of.”
“Yes, that’s completely legitimate. All men should take care of their needs. Otherwise they wouldn’t be men.” She snatched a set of keys and came around the counter. “Shall we inspect the room first?” asked Mrs. Angrywall, sweeping her arms to the stairwell.
On the second floor landing, she stopped and unlocked a small closet.
“You’ll be needing clean sheets, I assume. I mean, for her sake, at least,” she said, standing on her toes to reach for the top shelf. I dropped my eyes to her calves. They were a sight I had missed from all our afternoons sneaking to the roof to get high. They were incredibly tan, impossibly smooth.
She whirled around, two sheets over her left elbow.
“Wondering if you could seduce me, now, hey?”
“It’s not a crime to look.”
“No, it’s just rude to stare at a woman’s ass.”
“I wasn’t looking at your ass, I was looking at your calves.”
“A leg man. And I once had you pegged for breasts.”
“You don’t know what men are like. Hell, you don’t even know what people are like. You only know plants, little fucking underwater green shit smears.”
“You think life is about doing whatever you want, never having to take care about anyone else.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry, in America we tend to look down on momma’s boys.”
“In India, any man who treated his mother the way you treated your mother would be a perfect pariah!”
“Well, maybe that’s what I am!” I didn’t actually know what “pariah” meant. Sounded French.
“Let’s go to the top floor. Some of the storm-damaged rooms might fit your fancy.”
We went up and I looked at her calves some more. There was nothing else to look at apart from rough gray concrete.
Room 424 was at the far end of the west wing. Walking across the terrace to the room, I looked down at the hamburger stand. It looked lopsided from that angle. Andrea was sitting in the driver’s seat of the van, the door open and her bare legs sticking out. A cool breeze was coming in, raking thin wisps of clouds.
“Do you want to open the door, or shall I?” she asked. The key dangled on her finger like a little bird.
“Is Mr. Angrywall around?”
“He might be. Do you care who knows that you’re taking care of your needs?”
“I’ll open the fucking door,” I said. I took the key from her and tried to stick it in the wrong way. I turned it over and slipped it into the lock, but it still wouldn’t budge.
“It’s not working,” I told her.
“Let me see.” She couldn’t get it to work, either. “I’ll use the master key.” Mrs. Angrywall reached into her wrap and pulled out a key with a brass circle tag. The door opened easily.
There was an unpleasant smell, like the carpet was woven from dirty athletic socks. You couldn’t see much of the floor, though. Most of the space was taken up by potted marijuana plants under a complicated system of lights and water pipes.
At some point the plants had grown to about two feet high, but they were all dead and limp, lying around like washed up seaweed.
“Oh, my,” was all I could say.
“That fiendish bastard. . .” whispered Mrs. Angrywall.
The smell got worse closer to the bathroom. The door was closed.
I saw my hand go to the door handle. She cupped both hands over her mouth and nose. We both knew what we were going to find.
Howard was sprawled out on the bathroom floor. Half his face was caved in. There were maggots and flies in his mouth. The stench interfaced with the most un-evolved and primitive cells of my brain. For the first time in my life, I could make my ears twitch.
Mrs. Angrywall was out on the terrace, screaming. I stumbled outside. She was sitting on the concrete floor, throwing her head around, spraying spit and tears. Her fingers were tangled in her hair.
From the east wing someone was running over. It was Mr. Angrywall. He slowed when he saw me. As he got closer, he smiled.
“I changed the locks, but I had forgotten about the master key. I forgot she had a copy, too,” he said quietly.
“You killed Howard,” I said, my voice sounding like someone said it in back of me.
“Hey, buddy,” Mr. Angrywall said, “be quiet.” He crouched down and held Mrs. Angrywall.
He was still there when several cops led by O’Keefe charged out of the stairwell and told us all to freeze.
Of course, Howard’s body was foremost in my mind. But right up there, in second place, was the thought that I was going to be drinking water out of the toilet for at least a few years.
(Part 18 next week.)