Explaining It All, After All

“Do you mind if I use that in a story?”

“No,” said Hammett, curtly. “I might decide to use it someday to kill Harold Livingstone.” He said it so viciously no one laughed.

She gets blue and puts on a record, pretends she’s a rock star, hair flying, fingers curled around a mike that isn’t there, witch wild, face unknowable. It’s an urban sound, sidewalks and asphalt, car exhaust and freeways. Metal and glass and she lets it ride her.

She’s alone, unexpectedly so, the first time in weeks, and she feels herself uncramping, spreading out to very ends of her skin, filling herself anew. She is large and clumsy with her newfound selfishness.

There’s a sound at her window and Sam’s there, his face against the glass on the end of his ladder. She glares at him and he blanches. “Claire,” he begins.

“Go away, Sam,” she says, and opens the window so the ladder rocks backward and he has to scramble down before it falls. “Sorry!” She’s not at all penitent, but he pretends like she is and goes away with as much grace as he can.

That night she puts on angry clothes and goes out to a bar, wanting to smell like cigarettes and beer. She drinks at the bar and glares at anyone who comes near her. A guy with a broad chest and underdeveloped arms knocks her arm as he reaches for his beer and she shoves him across the room.

“Bitch!” he yells.

“Yaaaaah,” says Elvis, his head hanging out of her purse, and hisses at him. She is like him, ancient, cold-blooded, and patient.