Written by S.T. King
“You gonna tell me the story now, Lenny?” I ask him.
Happy hour at the Broken Butterfly. And since I knew he wasn’t likely to forget any time soon, I figured I get him done and over with. Ordered a quarter-cow and homefries. Cut the pickles, I say, and put em on the steak, with the mustard and mayo. I say all this without looking at her.
See Lucy — she’s the waitress. And I’ll tell you something about her. Something you didn’t know. As of when I see her throw her lipstick at the guy dropped her off to work last week. Driving an 89 Trans Am with bucket seats — had to have been Monday morning — as of then my Lucille is single and ready to mingle. Not with the patrons, of course. Another thing — she graduated Summa Cum Laude at Syracuse University. She plays the piano on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Old swing tunes at Memorial Hospital. And I’ll tell you something else. She don’t like slicing the pickles on my sandwiches.
Gotta tell her at least three times, everytime. Slice the pickles. The magic number. “The pickles – don’t forget, okay. Pretty please. I don’t wanna work for it, Lucy. I’ve had a day and I don’t wanna do it. And it’s a crapshoot all the time whether it’ll be done or not.
Truth be told I think she gets off on the abuse.
“Oh, c’mon,” Lenny says, “a real stand-up guy every time we come here — huh, Bubba? Can’t you cut the girl a break for once? It’s your momma’s job to cut up your pickles and tear the crusts off your peanut-butter bread.”
“I’ll get out of here, Lenny. And leave you to pay for everything here with Lucille, you want her so bad. And ya’ll can make a date of it, for all I care — catch the AR Metro home in the rain together.”
By the time we settle down the rain had come down so hard it bounces off the walkways like tiny rubber diamonds.
Real gone, I say? The cat? This you gonna tell me, it about cats?
“I’ll tell you what it’s about, you ever shut your hairy keister.
“Serious shit, Bubba. I know your tearing your fucking hair out with tweezers to know. That your soft and wet around the edges…
“You keep on thinking,” I said. “You keep on thinking I won’t go out that door and take my sandwich with me.”
He looks at me then; and he frowns. A freshly shaven frown like a chimney sweep. “They never salt these goddam fries,” he says. Then he takes the shaker and sprinkles the tray. Takes the ketchup bottle from the empty table behind us. And the five-dollar-bill the guy leaves under it. He takes that too. “Need salt more than they need tips — aint that right, Bubba?”
Then he takes a handful of the homefries in his mouth and chews them quickly as he looks outside. “The best episode I’d seen so far, Bubba. This one I saw last night. The best one so far. Hands down easy.”
I can see Lucy’s head moving up and down the kitchen window. Then she’s out and holding a tray and a couple drinks — looking at me as she approaches. And something sweeps her face entirely – so she drops her free hand and turns about and the kitchen doors crash again behind her. Just enough time to hear the cook say ay no refunds, eh?
I’m so glad that she remembered. I smile and look back at Lenny.
“And how many of these things had you seen, you said?”
“You can forget it, Bubba – that what you asking me. It’s not relevant to the point. Now, let me tell my story, sir, please. Everytime we gotta go through this…
“Well, ever since you stopped smoking…”
“Fuck outta here,” he says. “I’m going, now alright. Listen up. And he leans over the table like this and says…
“It’s about this homeless guy sleeping in a box…
Lucy had come out only a few instances later. And by then Lenny had given me the primary plot. That there’s this dope who gets nine lives – works out a deal with a foreign doctor. A basement operation later and the guy’s lying next to a dead cat. Blood coming out the back of his head. Then the doctor’s gotta test his work, of course…
“It got me thinking,” he says, “what if you could do it more than once? Ever thought of that, Bubba? If you could kick the bucket nine times?”
And what is it with Joey Pants, anyway, I thought. And I can remember reading somewhere that he almost missed the role in Memento because Christopher Nolan had thought him to be too villainous.
“The Goonies Goon,” Lenny says. “You don’t feel bad when he bites the big one once. So it works perfectly. He get’s to take the long road time after time.” And despite that we’re talking about Joey, I find the comedy is somehow minimized. That since he’s dying over and over it feels like this terrible juggling act, you know? Like he’s really going to fuck up one of these times; and you feel bad for him because of it.
“Oh,” I say, inquiringly. “Thinking about your own mortality, then? That what it is, Lenny?”
He snaps the tray to the side, then: holding his hands like he’s cradling a small campfire – guarding it hurriedly from the wind. And he’s talking only to the table-cloth. Hundreds of red and off-white squares. Some that are stained with grease or ketchup, among other things. “Damn right, it gets me thinking,” he says. “And it wasn’t fucking Joey either, got me doing it. If I’m being true-to-god honest here, I still can’t figure out how they’d managed to pull it off — since the mood is right and all. God-awful characters and the mood is right. Maybe it’s carnivals,” he pauses. “Clowns and hairy women that gets under my skin.
“I tell ya,” he goes on. “I don’t like none of that shit, Bubba. You hear me? Gives me the spooks everytime. But the skit itself – whose that wrote it? Guy wrote Dead Heat – you remember that one? With the cop turns into a fucking zombie. Shit film, anyway. Forget it. But this one here. It really got me thinking.
“– it has this dense mysticism about it: treats death like the worst monster-under-your-ass bedtime-story. Raises the stock and cashes in when the price is right.”
It only took an hour of my time. A lapse in moving space when the rain had been coming down hard enough to punch bullet-holes in egg-shells.
Altogether, I’d say – maybe me and Lenny spent an hour and a half at the Butterfly. Picking at the cold potatoes that we’d both leftover on our otherwise empty plates. Talking about what we were afraid of: Like two soft-boiled twerps who couldn’t get a broke-dick dog to go with us to the goddamn Winter Formal. By the time the rain had finally died down I’d been ready to split more than usual. I hadn’t noticed I’d been standing until I’d seen Lenny sliding out of the booth to join me.
“Burn it for me, Lenny,” I’d said. “Hey, you gonna leave your girl a tip, today? She’s looking juicy-good today, aint she, Lenny. Neat and smooth around the bend, you hear me? Good scenery. Hair-pen turns and fastly learned. You gonna take that for a spin one day, young hoss?”
“A real romantic you are, aint you Bubba? You know beauty is only sin deep,” he said.
I reach out to get the door. “Skin deep, you mean. Skin deep?”
“I mean what I say, Bubba,” he says. “And I’ll tell you the rest later. After a nap.
Final Rating: 4/5
About The Author: S.T. King is an aspiring novelist with a ravenous appetite for the dark, and an insatiable thirst for the ink of the fantastique. Currently he’s a mental health counselor, helping people purge the skeletons from their closets – though admittedly, he thinks it’s more fun putting them back in.