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Mercenaries, Misfits, Miscreants and Misanthropes – Chapter II

October 22, 2011

Chapter II of the short story series –  the misfit.  A fictional character drawn from observing those who come to town to party, often staying a bit too long.

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She perches at water’s edge on a blanket, reading a book.  She looks like any tourist from anywhere, with only the honey brown skin of a local suggesting otherwise.  Her beach bag, stuffed with supplies an indicator she’s a veteran beachgoer outfitted for the day.

It’s hard to determine her age, an intentional act.  She wears a string bikini, the softness of her solar plexus and slight sag of her breasts betray an age closer to 40 than 20.  Large sunglasses and dry blond hair hide eyes puffy and bloodshot from the prior evening.

She’s with a man – but not quite.  He appears younger than she, fit and wiry.  He’s on a towel, laying off to the side and slightly behind her.  He’s wearing a pair of brightly colored board shorts which draw attention to his pale, nearly translucent skin.

A phone rings.  She puts down the book, rummages around in her bag, pulling out a brace of phones and an organizer.  The caller is requesting a reservation later this evening, the sunbather jots down a note and confirms.  Arranging the phones in a row next to her bag, she places the organizer within arm’s reach, crafting a virtual office for the day’s work.  Satisfied with the setup, she pulls a water bottle from her bag and pours half into a large tumbler.  A downwind passerby catches a whiff of acidic chardonnay at 10:00 AM.  She takes a long pull from the tumbler, finishing most in three quick gulps.  Adjusting her top, she lays back and begins to daydream…

It’s been fourteen years since she’d discovered this place, this island.  She came on a spring break and was immediately enthralled by the sights, the sounds, the smells – and the party.  Oh! The party!  Live music on every street corner, exotic drinks thrust into her willing hand by tightly muscled boys…boys who were insistent, urgent…

It was a dream, a dream come true.  She’d finished college that year, a drab local school in her drab, little town up North where you were supposed to graduate and then work in the gray factory down the street or live within the halls of the giant hospital complex, nursing the residents of an aging community whose idea of a good day was to remain continent.  Suffocating ideas, these.  She knew she had to escape, but where?  A girlfriend suggested a road trip to the end of the line one dull February morning, and the rest was history.

A week later, transformed.  Bright sundresses, dancing on the beach, dancing on the bar, cocktails with umbrellas and an offers – multiple offers – to go back to the rooms of eager young men.  She had no need for money; gifts, dinners, drinks, and an endless stream of companionship.  A carnival all night, every night…

“You gonna answer that?”  She is shaken from her reverie by the man in board shorts.  Young at first glance, the crow’s feet around his eyes a sign of age; temples touched up to hide gray.  His tone one of annoyance.  They were not close.

She takes the call with robotic efficiency, cradling the phone on her shoulder while topping off the tumbler.  A watersports reservation from Phone #2.  Finishing up, she turns around and says, “Thank you, ….”

A pause.  Eric?  Eddie?  Ed?  Brain thick from drink, she struggled with the pages of a mental rolodex, falling short.  She tried to recall events of the evening.  She’d started out with friends, moving from bar to bar in a well-rehearsed version of the Duval Crawl.  They’d avoided the foul, sticky tourist-trappy joints of Lower Duval, preferring a less raucous crowd.  She’d met him at an outdoor bar off Angela,  a place elegant yet careworn. He’d seemed dashing and trim, a catch reminiscent of her early days in town.  He bought her a drink; regaining consciousness aside him in a moldy motel room on the far eastern edge of the island.  Cheap seats at the party.  Blackness in between.

“… Erbb…”, she muffled the aft of a presumed name into her tumbler as she took another pull.  It was a well-practiced maneuver, one which saves her the embarrassment of memory loss, an event which came with every-increasing frequency.  The water bottle empty, she pulls a second from her bag and tops herself off.  It was not quite 11:00.  She laid back, covering her face with the book, and returned to daydreaming.

The party…the party!  She lost track of time, weeks blurred. She’d taken a job waitressing at a bar and rented a room in a rickety house off Galvaston Lane, a place to rest her head on those rare nights where she needed to recharge.  Between the crash pad and pocket change, she’s well equipped to be a player in revelry unique to this small town out in the middle of the ocean.

She held the job for a few months, losing it when she opted to attend a blowout band party at the Green Parrot in lieu of working a shift.  No matter – with experience, she replaced a wayward waitress in a restaurant two blocks down.  In a town with hundreds of bars, a job was almost always available…

Her mother came down to check on her over the holidays.  Aghast at her living conditions and her predilection for a promiscuous nightlife, she dragged her unwilling daughter back to the frozen Midwest, to order…to decency.  An ordinary life in a northern town, solitary confinement for the life of the party.  She managed three months before slipping out the back door in the middle of the night, catching a Greyhound back to the gay lights of the never-ending carnival.  She’d not heard from her parents after.

She moved from apartment to apartment, job to job, man to man, seeking the good times – increasingly elusive times.  She gained a reputation for showing up drunk to work.  In a town where everyone knows everybody, this made finding a job difficult.  She resorted to filling gaps with a number of odd jobs – cleaning, house sitting, working the sunset boats.  More recently, she’d stumbled across this job – a phone booking service for local businesses.  She’d considered it the perfect job, as one did not have to stop partying while one worked.  Business and pleasure.  Beach and bookings.  Great!

She dozed off.  The man, clearly disappointed, gets up, rolls up his towel and quietly slips away.

The phone rings.

Startled from a deep sleep, she awakes with a start, jamming her elbow into the ringing phone.  The impact shatters the phone’s face, rendering it silent.

“Shit,” she mutters under her breath.  Picking it up, she holds the crushed phone close to her face, examining it intently.   She takes of her sunglasses, revealing dull gray eyes, watery and lifeless.  She pauses for a moment, then tosses the phone into the rocks and surf a few yards away.

“I’ll just tell them I lost it,” she rationalizes.  “Good thing, too.  One less phone to answer.”  She drains the tumbler, rolls over, and falls asleep immediately.

A phone rings insistently, its call unanswered.

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