Conviviality Beneath the Blue Moon

“It’s Maddy,” she winked back at the handsome man asking her name. “And if you’re going to buy me a drink, come on and do it already.”

His smile broadened, and he stepped up to the bar at her side, signaling the bartender with a raised hand, his fingers half-curled in a beckoning gesture. It was only a moment before the bartender slid down to take their order.

Maddy met his eyes with the confidence of the veteran barfly. “Crown and Sprite, easy on the Sprite,” she announced, firmly.

Her unwitting victim raised an eyebrow at her tone, but quickly shrugged it off. Surely she was far too young to be as much of an alcoholic as his mother. He ordered more quietly after she turned her face to stare him down. “Make it two.” He pulled a twenty from his right hip pocket and laid it on the bar, watching the bartender shuffle glasses and bottles with an experienced hand.

He realized that he hadn’t introduced himself to Maddy. “Don Davis. I know it’s the most cliche ever, but do you come here often?” he asked wit ha smile, not quite as broad as he had begun with.

He thought he saw a sly glint come to her eyes, but dismissed that idea when she took a half step closer to him.

“I’ve been here a couple times, but I’ve only just moved back here from St Louis. How about you?” She winked again, and all of his second thoughts washed away with that slow, sultry wink and the arrival of their matched drinks.

Don took a sip of his, trying to collect his thoughts while she lazily stirred her ice around with the tiny straw. “You mean do I come here often? Actually, no. This is the first time.” Was it just his imagination or did her smile just become the tiniest bit more authentic? It had to be his imagination.

He grasped for a topic of conversation, any topic. Please, anything. His panicked internal monologue was rising in pitch as the seconds ticked by. Somehow, Maddy was still smiling at him, her cheek resting on her fist as her elbow sat on the edge of the bar.

“I majored in biology at State,” he offered, immediately kicking himself. That tidbit was definitely not going to win him any points with her. But surprisingly enough, it seemed to work.

“Really?” For the first time, honest interest sparked behind her eyes, and she sat up a little straighter. “I minored in zoology when I was in St Louis.” Her excitement waned a bit, and her voice dropped. “Before I had to drop out.”

Don was legitimately curious about the reasons she ‘had to’ drop out, but judging by her emotional cues, it wasn’t the best story she had in her repertoire, so he made the good decision to let it drop and talk more about happier things. “So we have more in common than not coming here often.” He grinned, and was pleased to see some of the distant sadness leave her face.

The bartender slid by as if he were on a track, eyebrows raised in the universal question. Don shook his head, and the bartender continued on his way.

“We both like Crown and Sprite,” she added.

He laughed. “You’re absolutely right. A whole laundry list of things we have in common.”

“Add one more,” she smiled. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure we’d both like to end up in bed with the other before the night is over.” She finished off her drink and turned her body to face his, brushing her hip against his crotch in the process.

His surprise was clearly evident, so she prompted him, standing on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear. “Drink up and let’s go.”

He obeyed, swiftly lifting his glass and emptying it down his throat before replacing the glass on the bar and letting her lead him through the exit door beneath the softly glowing Blue Moon clock.



Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll

So, who wants to read an excerpt of the novel I’ve written 50,845 words of so far?


One night I snuck out because I was bored and I didn’t have anything else to do. There’s only so much time I can spend on the computer pretending to be someone I’m not before I can’t take it anymore. So I got dressed and waited until my parents were busy and just walked out the front door. I guess that’s not really sneaking, since there wasn’t anything sneaky about it, just planning and forethought.

And it’s not like they were going to check on me in my room anyway. They might holler up the stairs that it was dinner time, but they wouldn’t come looking for me if I didn’t show up. I missed enough meals to ensure that, at least.

The spare key to my car that I kept hidden underneath the living room windowsill came in handy that night; I pulled it from its hiding place in the crumbled space between the bricks, started my car, and headed for the hills.

I drove for about an hour before finding an appropriate venue to ply my trade, and got off the interstate to get to work. The exit sign said New Lindberg, but I didn’t care what the town was called.

I decided to stop at the bowling alley to play pool. Even though I hadn’t bothered to meet anyone in this backward small town, I could still count on people my age being at a local bowling alley on a Friday night, stacking quarters on the edge of the pool table to claim the next game against the winner.

I was right. There was a group of seven kids my age, maybe sixteen to twenty-one, two girls and five guys, and they were laughing and joking and stabbing at each other with the pool cues. I knew I’d found my target.

I slapped my quarters on the table as soon as an open spot was available. I could feel the eyes of the boys crawling down my backside, but I didn’t care. I wanted them to look. that’s why I wore the skintight jeans that I wore, so that they would look. I wanted the girls to be jealous and the boys to drool, and it looked like that’s what I was going to get.

Let them look, I thought to myself. Maybe I’d fuck one later. Maybe I’d fuck all of them later.

I sat down at a nearby table and crossed my legs so I could swing the dangling foot. I refused to make eye contact with anyone, my way of playing hard to get. I could see one of the guys nudge the other one with his elbow, and I chose my target for the evening. Even if I ended up not fucking him, I would at least fuck with him.

My target sank the eight ball in the corner pocket, and I got up to choose my cue stick and take my place at the table. I slipped my quarters into the slots and slammed the mechanical tongue back into the table’s voracious, quarter-eating mouth. The sound of the balls dropping out of their locked cage was music to my ears.

I grabbed the triangle and racked the balls quickly and more professionally than anyone else I’d seen around here do it. When I had them all tightly adjusted to my satisfaction, I whipped the triangle up, spinning it around between my two forefingers as I squatted to slide it home into its little cubby hole on the side of the table.

He was practically drooling. Just how I like them.

“Are you gonna break or just stand there?” I asked him.

He chalked the end of his cue stick and took his place at the head of the table in lieu of answering me. When the cue ball hit the rack it was like a crack of lightning, but he didn’t make anything in.

“My turn,” I smiled at him.

I called all of my shots, and made most of them. I was wiping the floor with him, but he wasn’t taking it lying down. He kept up pretty well until we were down to the last two balls. Then he choked.

I was done playing, so I had to scratch on the eight ball so that he would win and have to take the next challenger instead of me playing them. It was all part of my game, and I knew how to play it well.

I went back to my seat at that table, and I watched his friends ribbing him about almost losing to a girl. He handed his stick to one of his buddies and came to sit down at the table with me.

“What’s your name?” he asked me.

“I’m August.”

“That’s a pretty name. A pretty name for a pretty girl.” I almost threw up on him. If this was the best pickup line he could come up with, I’d chosen a lot more poorly than I thought.

“Thanks.” I couldn’t just throw in the towel, though. I had to keep up appearances. I could see the two girls that had been hanging all over this guy and his four friends making faces at me, and I knew they were talking about me. Probably getting a story ready to spread around about me. Maybe syphilis or something.

“I’m Bobby,” he said, and smiled at me. He smiled at me, and I saw that his teeth were badly yellowed and practically fuzzy from lack of brushing. I could smell his breath from across the table: Bud Light and Marlboros. A class act, that’s for sure.

“Nice to meet you,” I said, looking him in the eyes and trying to breathe air that didn’t stink of poor white trash. I was failing.

“We’re just about done playing for the night, you wanna come hang out with us?” he asked.

Maybe things were going better than I expected. My lip began to curl up on one side.

“I’d love to,” I answered. “I’m new in town and I don’t know anyone around here yet. Or what there is to do here. Maybe you could teach me a thing or two about that.” I cringed internally. I can’t believe I talked shit about this guy’s pickup lines when that’s the garbage that came out of my mouth. But he didn’t notice anything wrong with it.

“Come on, then. Did you drive?” he asked. I shook my head. Like he’d ever find out. And my car would be safe enough here. Not that I cared if someone stole it. I could always steal someone else’s.

“Then you can ride with me. let’s go.” He beckoned me forward as he stood up. I meekly followed, but with my head held high. The girls shot daggers at me with their eyes, and I just smiled back over my shoulder at them and I reached up to loop my arm through Bobby’s arm.

He snugged his elbow against his body, pulling me a bit closer, and looked down at me in admiration. If only he knew what he was getting himself into. I smiled broadly back up at him.

His car turned out to be an old Firebird with the floorboards rusting out under my feet. I wasn’t sure how much weight I could put on it, so I just bent my knees to the side and rested my feet against the side of the door. He started the car, and it sounded just as loud and obnoxious as I had expected it to. It backfired twice before he even got out of the parking spot

I saw the other six climbing into an Oldsmobile and a Ford Escort and following us out of the parking lot.

He took a lot of turns to get to our destination, especially for a town as small as New Lindberg. But like I said, I have an excellent sense of direction, and I didn’t have a problem keeping up with where I was in relation to the bowling alley.

The streetlight was out in front of the house that was evidently where we were going, and he squealed into the driveway on two wheels and turned to look at me like I was supposed to appreciate what he liked to call driving. I didn’t appreciate it, but I fluttered my eyelashes at him anyway.

The Oldsmobile was right behind us, and they parked in the street before pouring out of the car. In another minute, the Ford Escort pulled up as well. I thought we were all going to go inside, because it was dark, and the mosquitoes were getting bad, but it turned out that we were all going to hang out underneath the carport. What a joy. I rolled my eyes.

Introductions were made all around. Bobby introduced me to everyone else as August, and I was surprised that he’d remembered it at all. The rest of the crew went around in a circle waving and saying their names. I don’t even remember them; they weren’t any names that stood out in my mind, just normal, generic, Jennifer and Steve type names.

Not that their names were important to me at all.

One of the girls went back to the Oldsmobile and retrieved a small baggie from the glove box. When she got back to the carport, I saw that it was a pair of joints. So we were going to get high before we fucked. Whatever, I can do that.

She lit one up and passed it to Bobby, who took a couple hits before passing it to me.

I took it like an old hand. I’d smoked plenty before, just with a group of people that I’d known for a long time. People I was familiar enough with and comfortable enough with. This was an entirely new experience for me, smoking pot with a pack of strangers that I’d only known for half an hour, most of whose names I couldn’t remember anymore.

I rolled with it, and took two big hits. It wasn’t bad pot. Pretty mellow flavor. I was starting to get a tiny bit high when I noticed how everyone else was looking at me.

And then I felt it. I didn’t know what it was just yet, but there was something in that joint that was more than weed. They all knew, and were waiting to see how I handled it. I looked around the circle of faces staring at me and I felt something creeping up my body, from my feet to my head. A warmth, a ring of cool fire that didn’t burn me.

Those assholes.

I felt myself falling and took a step back to steady myself. One of the girls let out a hateful laugh, and I knew she was laughing at me. One of the guys began to smile. I knew that smile; I’d seen it too many times to not recognize it. Somebody thought he was going to get lucky with the girl he just got fucked up.

But I had news for him. Not today.

Not today.

The joint continued to go around the circle, and I stepped back into the ring to take my hit. I wasn’t going to back down now. I could handle anything they could handle. I knew that much, at least.

Two more rounds and the joint was dead. Bobby killed it, and I said a little prayer to the many gods I didn’t believe in that I didn’t have to take another hit of whatever it was mixed in that pot, because the smallest part of me was beginning to be honest with myself, and I knew I couldn’t handle it half as well as I thought I could.

I staggered back again, but since they’d had just as much as me by now, the only person to notice was Bobby, who tried to catch me. I stumbled about five steps backward before I caught myself on one of the poles holding up the roof of the carport. I spun around it like a stripper and tightened my grip just enough to not hit the ground at the last minute. Bobby tried to walk over to check on me, but he stepped on his own untied shoelace and went down hard on his hands and knees.

I could hear one of the girls off in the dark corner close to the house laughing softly. I wanted to punch her in her slut face. Using both hands, I pulled myself back up to a respectable standing position.

One of the guys, the one with the pizza face like a road map, was reaching his hand up the shirt of one of the girls, the one with the long ponytail and the giant wire hoop earrings. Her head was lolled back on her neck, and she looked pretty out of it.

I was astonished to realize that all of this was going on out in the driveway of whoever’s house this was. At that moment I began to wonder if that was the reason why we didn’t go inside—because none of these people actually lived here anyway.

I felt something on my hips. I looked down and it was Bobby’s hands. I looked up and his face was directly in front of mine, his eyes closed and his lips pursed. He was coming in for a kiss. I turned my head and he got a mouthful of my hair. While he was sputtering, I pulled his hands off my waist and turned to leave.

“Fuck off, Bobby. you’re a piece of shit.” I spit the words at his feet like they were the foulest venom I could come up with. At that moment, they were. I wasn’t working at my full mental capacity just then.

The girl by the house laughed again, a high, tittering laugh that sent chills down my spine. I spun on my heel and headed for the street. Fortunately for me, my brain was still working well enough that I knew the bowling alley was only about half a mile away, as the crow flies. It was probably a good mile with all the twists and turns and dead ends between here and there, but that was still a walk I could definitely make without a problem.

I looked back over my shoulder once and Bobby was standing at the edge of the driveway with a lost, forlorn look on his face. One hand was still, but the other swung at his side as if he were trying to get up the energy to beckon me back to the party.

Not a chance, Bobby. Not a chance.

It was about an hour before I got back to my car. I wish I could say that most of the drugs had worn off by then, but I’d be lying if I did. I felt worse than ever. The only reason it took me as long as it did to get there was that the longer I walked, the more lost and confused I felt. My brain was stuck on a spin cycle, when all I wanted to do was finish drying out and fold myself up like laundry that needed to be put away.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I have absolutely no idea how I found my way back to the interstate, let alone how I drove all the way back to my house, where I parked in the driveway, crooked enough that neither of my parents were able to get their cars around mine the next morning.

When I got out and onto my doorstep, I couldn’t remember how to work the doorknob on the front door. After a couple of minutes that felt like an eternity, I realized that I was already inside, and contemplating the knob on the door to my room, from inside my room.

I turned around and looked at my bed. It must have been six feet off the ground. There was absolutely no way I could just collapse onto that bed, which was the only thing I wanted to do just then. I gave up and sat down on the floor.

I leaned back and my head hit the side of the door frame and rolled off it to land against the wall. Good enough. I tried to stretch my legs out, but they wouldn’t move, so I passed out right there.

The next day I woke up feeling the worst I’d ever felt without actually being sick. Everything that happened the night before felt like a dream that someone else had, something that I’d only heard about and hadn’t actually lived through.

I tried not to think about what could have happened. That wasn’t really a problem for me until I was older. You know, a teenager thinks she’s invincible. No chance of anything bad or life threatening ever happening.

Even though I’d already thrown my dignity into the trash and stomped on it, even though I didn’t believe that I was a decent human being worth even a cursory glimpse of happiness or respect, I still believed that nothing truly bad would happen to me.

I don’t know what I considered truly bad. Looking back on it now, I lived through a lot of horrible things. Things happened because of my poor decisions and because of my poor judgment, and because of the trust I put in the wrong people. I put my life into everyone else’s hands as often as possible.

I can’t imagine acting like that anymore.