Evil has appeared in human form and its name is Janet Silton.
My sole reason for seeking out the elixir I so desperately needed, the amber liquid that could banish her from my mind, albeit temporarily. Just the thought of that wicked woman caused me to shudder, the motion propelling me forward, each step leaving behind the faint imprint of rejection.
Closed off from the chaos of the New York street, I was welcomed to a serene world reeking of lost love, far off lands and, if I wasn’t mistaken, the heavy aroma of garlic.
I could see from the appraising eye of the barkeep that he was hungry for a spark not found in this city since Carrie met Big. I'd bet my first advance check that he would be wanting more than a twenty at the end of his shift.
“Tequila,” I said, as I slid onto the leather barstool, draping my New York knock off on the seatback and tossing my AMEX on the bar all in one motion. “I’m here to drink, not dance, Max, so throw your come hither looks in another direction.”
“Fantastic! Can I use that line?” Her laughter sparkled like the crystal stem of her wine glass as she tipped it to my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “Took me forty five minutes of bar chat before I realized his belt needed another notch and I looked like a good tool.”
There was something faintly familiar about the well put together redhead at the bar. Perhaps she reminded me of an inspired, more naïve version of myself. Me, before the curtain was pulled back revealing the Great Oz for who he, or she, really was. I turned from the mirror for a better look at my new companion.
Oh, that's why she looked familiar. The darling of the conference was sitting right next to me, the after burn of the collective agents' praise still lighting up her cheeks like Rudolph’s nose.
“Scusi senoras, for special tonight we offer Roasted Silton," Max crooned in heavily accented English,"a fully cooked agent, filleted and prepared with an inky reduction sauce. I must warn you, the meat is quite tough this evening.”
We both ordered the pasta.
“Taking no prisoners, Boston?” Kilt Guy settled between us at the bar as I shot back, I mean sipped, my tequila, his deep baritone carrying to the bartender. “Scotch neat. Roasted Silton, rare.”
“Tough day, Kilt Guy. Have you met Red?” I provided the introductions before excusing myself in search of the powder room.
“Effen, eff, eff, mother effer. I’ll teach you who’s the effen boss here, you effen sh#*.”
“Well, if you’re going to have a potty mouth I guess this would be the place for it.” A stall door was open, revealing the source of such colorful language.
She was on her knees, elbows to the floor, blonde hair falling precariously close to the open toilet, one shoeless stockinged foot braced against the wall. The source of her frustration was wedged between the wall and the throne – a four hundred dollar patent leather Pedro Garcia. “I’m not even going to ask how your shoe got there. Here, let me help.”
We fought diligently, retrieving the shoe with nary a mark on it. Standing, we smoothed down our skirts and our dignity. “Ms J." she offered a well-manicured hand. "Backspace?”
“Indeed. I’m Boston. And tomorrow’s another day, right? Hopefully a kinder, gentler day. So the shoe. How did you – “
“We agreed not to mention that, right? Hmmmm... Royal Shoe gets eaten by throne. Or maybe why Feet and S#*t don’t mix. Oh I know, Pedro Garcia, meet John… yeah, that’s it. That’s good stuff right there.”
“Excuse me?” I watched in fascinated horror as Ms J kicked the stall door open like The Karate Kid meets Devil Wears Prada, whipped a laptop out of her bag and perched on the edge of the shoe-eating toilet, fingers flying over the keyboard.
“Wedgie? Love that word but no, wedges get wedged… shoe of sh#*… Boston and I gave a rallying cry… mmph, funny stuff!... almost as good as Christmas poop. Can't make this crap up. Crap! Hilarious!” I tiptoed backwards, silently making my way to the door. She looked normal enough. But what does crazy really look like anyway?
I froze as she called out. “Hey! Don't go! I’m just posting a blog while the humiliation is still fresh in my mind. My followers are going to ell-oh-vee-ee this.”
I watched in silent awe as she shut the laptop with a flourish, flashing a smile and rising from the toilet like she had just been called from the green room of The Letterman Show. “Now about that drink?”
We rejoined Red and Kilt Guy at the bar, our spirits lifting as the night grew longer. We toasted each other cheerfully, mocking our characters, killing our darlings and licking our wounds.
Max began to stack chairs around us, his bedroom eyes bouncing from me to Red to Ms J, his ego not too bruised for one last questioning look.
"You get points for trying, I'll say that, amante." I laughed, signing the check and standing a bit unsteadily.
"Here's to us!" Kilt Guy drained his glass and slammed it on the bar."It’ll all work out. I just know it. And if not we can always publish feline erotica, right?" Red said in all seriousness. "I hear there’s a big market for it right now.” She winked at Max as she slid off her stool.
“I don’t know about you, but every one of those mother effing mother effers is going to get a copy of my book. And the inscription will read “Told you I could write, b*tch.”
I looped my arms through theirs, knowing that fate had put the four of us together for a reason.
One hit wonders?
Literary world dominion?
Feline erotica serial writers?
I didn’t know but I sure was looking forward to finding out.
Kilt Guy held the door open as we braced ourselves against the cool New York air. “We’ll show them, won’t we girls? And whoever is published first, well, dinner is on them next year. Deal?”
We shook hands solemnly, pausing in front of the public library, knowing with a cool certainty that someday our books would grace the shelves of this sacred place.
I spoke the words we were all thinking. “It won’t be long, my friends. You’ll see.”
“You know it, Boston.” Red's smile was genuine. She did know it. We all did.
Flipping up his collar, Kilt Guy turned against the wind, his eyes squinting to see the future laid out before us. “Until then my friends, I’ll See You at Arno’s.”