Decade In Review: One of My First Parasol Stories From LABN
About an hour before sunset in room 118 of the Best Western on I-40-W (right before the I-25-S turnoff), Parasol woke up famished. She knew what she was going to do. She didn’t particularly like it, but the drive in her was not going to be quelled by good intentions.
She threw back the covers from her body. Of course, they didn’t keep her warm. There was no heat to trap. It was more of a habit with her, and she liked the feel of the sheets.
Parasol went into the bathroom and turned on the shower, tempering it to just above scalding. It would heat up her flesh and give her, for a few moments, the feeling of life.
Stepping out of the shower, she took a towel from the rack over the john and caught the sight of the towel hanging in a triangle in mid-air in the large mirror behind the sink. The humor of the sight distracted her for a moment from her hunger and she giggled. She looked down at her body. Yep. She was there as she always was. Then she frowned. The reflection thing was tricky. She never liked it. Absenting her from the world.
Okay, now she was pissed and in a better frame of mind to do what she had to do.
Parasol dried off and walked to the bedroom and sat down on the bed. She rummaged around in her suitcase and pulled out her moisturizer, which she put on her face and body – H2O Plus Smoothing Body Complex with AHA – best brand on the market. Parasol turned the tube over to read the back. “A naturally fragranced, pH-balanced complex that helps remove dead surface skin cells while moisturizing.”
Parasol snorted. Ludicrous, really, but she imagined her skin was softer. Then again, she died relatively young while all that youthful moisture was in her cells. Her body was held in stasis, stuck in its time.
Perched naked on the edge of the bed with the ceiling fan above her turning, Parasol looked down at her painted toes against the haphazard pattern of the carpet and got lost in reverie. She considered the sight of watching her daughter, Chinaka, growing up and growing old. She watched as Chinaka’s body blossomed, strong boned like Loxum’s, held in amazing posture on that African frame as she moved into womanhood, and shifted and sank as she grew old, her face and skin never wrinkling but sagging into a receptacle for those African bones. Parasol squeezed her eyes shut hard and shook her head to evaporate the memory.
All the while, Parasol stayed the same, caught in that moment in time when she died. She often felt the adrenaline pumping through her at the moment of her death still in her system. She felt it last night as she was driving through the desert. That’s what made her feel so alive, while her daughter and her daughter’s daughter were dust in the ground.
*All right, Camille,* she told herself. *I’m hungry. Stop thinking about that.*
Parasol sighed and stood up, still naked. She walked over to the telephone on the nightstand and placed the call to the front desk.
Good. It was that backwoods jerk that checked her in, the one who looked her up and down and asked her a million questions and implied that Parasol was in the hotel to conduct business of the nasty sort.
“Hello, front desk. This is Parasol Smyth in room 118. Listen, I have a bit of a problem here.”
Parasol’s conscience was dissolving.
“Yes, well, I wanted to take a shower and well, there’s no water coming out of the faucet.” Parasol thought a shy giggle was in order.
“That’s impossible. You turn the knobs all the way?” he condescended.
Parasol thought, *It’s “that’s impossible, MISS,” you moron.*
Parasol did her best breathy “Why, yes, both are turned all the way and, *another giggle* no water.”
She hated the damsel-in-distress route, but it always, but always, worked.
Long sigh from the other end of the phone. “Well, I can send a handyman around in about an hour.”
“Well, see, that’s going to be kinda too late. I have to get on the road,” Parasol intoned sweetly.
*Right. Time to bring out the big guns, even though it's gonna prove the jerk’s insinuation correct.*
“I have to meet my girlfriends at this club up I-40 by the airport by…” Parasol took a quick look at the clock, “nine o’clock, so, you understand, I have to be on the road in an hour.”
"Well, Miss. Tell you what. Give me a minute to find one of my staff…”
*Like he has a staff other than the obvious.*
“…to cover the front desk and I’ll take a look at it myself.”
“Thank you, Mr.?”
“Call me Richard.”
“Thank you Richard” Parasol all but cooed and hung up the phone, disgusted. She really didn’t know which was worse: what she was about to do, or what she just did.
*Chivalry is just…dead. Phht. Stripper-in-distress.*
Parasol was mad. And she was very, very hungry.
***************************************** Richard had spoken to her on the phone for a few minutes before he remembered her. He nearly dropped his britches. Well, that’s when he nicened up. He’s never nice on the phone. Usually, it’s some old hag that says she needs help. And they cry and they whine. And they want an extra soap. Or they want an extra towel. Or they can’t get their tv to work, probably to watch the XXX channel with their henpecked husbands doin’ don’t-want-to-imagine-what in that creepy tv light. The women that end up staying here are just like his razor-mouthed hag of a wife. Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile, is what he always says. He just sends Jualito to “help.”
But once she let slip that she had to meet her friends at the club by the airport, well, he knew it had to be to strip. The only one in the whole godforsaken hole of a Best Western that could even think about doing something like that was that pretty colored girl with that figure. You don’t see many like her around these parts. Hell, you don’t see none. He knew she was up to something like that, even though she had tried to act all hoity-toity when she checked in. He could smell a workin’ girl a mile off. The ones around town acted the same way to him, like he wasn’t good enough for them.
He wasn’t gonna let an opportunity like this just sail by. Not with one that didn’t know him. Not while Little Richard was still workin’. God, he hoped Little Richard still worked.
Oh, yeah. He’d turn her faucet on, all right. And he’d still make her pay for the room. After all, he was a business man -- Night Manager at the I-40 Best Western, right there at the I-25 turnoff.
******************************************** Parasol was so focused on her hunger that she barely heard the knock at the door. Her muscles felt dry. She was blinking over sandpaper. She could feel the bones rubbing against each other in her joints. There was grit in her mouth. And then, of course, there was the good old-fashion stomach rumbling.
She stood up from the bed and went into the bathroom, pressing herself face first to the wall to the left of the doorway across from the mirror and said as sweetly as she could manage, “It’s open. Come in Richard. I’m in the bathroom.” She leaned her forehead against the tile and turned her head to look at the emptiness of the mirror.
Parasol didn’t hear the words that Richard was saying, but she could tell they were smarmy. Something about pretty colored girl (*Colored girl!? What is this – Utah?*) and fix your pipes, heh-heh-heh. Parasol felt her face wrinkle into hills and valleys. She could smell his sour sweat. She heard the thunk-thunk of his pulse. She saw his body outlined by its heat right through the shoddy workmanship of the plaster wall.
*Happy meals with legs. Who said that?*
He was still talking. Parasol felt that adrenaline rush through her body. She’d drain him bone dry.
*Yap. Yap. Yap, moron.*
************************************************** Richard’s heard that sweet voice and imagined it yelping his name. He went on in the room like he was told and looked around. Her suitcase was open on the caddy. Good Godamighty, her underwear was sittin’ right on top. Well, she was a stripper for sure if she had that kind of underwear. He nearly fainted but instead thought the thing to do, especially since he was fingering those lacy pinnings, was to compliment her. That’s what he read once in this man's magazine the vice president of some software company had left in the lobby of the hotel. The article was called something like “What Women Want” and he read it over and over, his sweaty hands bleeding the ink right off the page.
“You know, I knew right off that a pretty colored girl like you might have some business over by the airport. Too bad the shower broke. But don’t you worry. I’m here to fix your pipes.”
And Richard chuckled. He was having mind movies. All that brown skin against his pasty white skin, except, of course, for his left arm; the one he hung out the window of his Taurus. Old habit.
Richard heard her in the bathroom. It sounded like she was breathing real hard. Hell, maybe he wouldn’t have to talk her into this after all. Maybe she was thinking about him, too. Maybe.
“Sounds like you’re having a hard time in there. Maybe I can help. I brought my wrench, here, so’s we can get your pipes fixed in no time flat.”
He crossed the doorway of the bathroom but didn’t see her. He looked in the mirror to the right and the room was empty. Well, hell, where was she? He still heard her breathing, hard.
Richard ran one more mind-movie through his head involving the both of them in the shower and the water running over that smooth skin and afterwards going home to his wife with a mile-wide grin on his face and then doing it to her too. He started to turn to his left to see the rest of the bathroom and heard a growl. Did she have a dog in here? Because he didn’t know if he told her, but pets weren’t allowed at Best Westerns.
********************************************* A growl escaped from Parasol before she could edit it. She grabbed Richard just as he was turning to her. Her left arm went over his and held his torso against her. His right arm flailed, grabbing at the bathroom counter for anything he could reach. She grabbed it and pinned it against his body, the hand firmly clapped over his mouth. They were in the middle of the bathroom and she could see the incredulity in the man’s eyes as he watched himself twisted abnormally alone in the mirror.
Parasol whispered into his ear, “Oh Richard, were you dreaming of us being this close? All of our limbs wrapped around each other like this. You can’t see me, but I’m naked behind you.”
The mirror showed his eyes weeping with fear.
“You thought you were gonna come up here and get you some, dincha?”
She licked his neck tasting salt and the tang of fear. She almost hated herself for how good it tasted, like caviar on little toast rounds with a dollop of sour cream. She knew this was what she did, how she continued to be. All thoughts of God and Chinaka and her grandchildren retreated to the cellar of this existence. She looked at Richard one last time in the mirror and his eyes were peaceful.
Parasol closed her eyes and savored the moment before she would feel the oxygen from his blood in hers and she wanted to say a prayer.
********************************************* Richard was still mad about the dog when something stronger than his big-ass goldbricking WWF wannabe brother-in-law Jimmy grabbed him under his left arm and he couldn’t move. She must’ve had a man in here, and they were trying to cold-cock him for his wallet. Too bad for them, though, ‘cause all he had was maybe twenty dollars and about three maxed out credit cards. If it came to this, hell, he’d let her have the goddam dog. She didn’t need to have her man do this. It was probably her pimp. He heard about this kind of shakedown. He read about it in that man's magazine that software fella left. The article was called “Fear the Inner City” or something like that.
He saw the hair dryer on the bathroom counter and went to grab for it when another arm grabbed his arm and glued it to his body, clamping the hand over his mouth. Well this was just great. He couldn’t even holler for Jualito, though it’s doubtful he’d do much good. Jualito was about 5’2”. Jualito’s claim to fame, from hear tell from the whores who wouldn’t touch Richard, was Jualito’s parts down there. Come to think of it, Jualito was at his house right now. Richard had hired him to do some work building that fence his razor-mouthed nag of a wife wanted between their property and those stuck-up neighbors his wife hated. Jualito could only do it after his shift at the Best Western which, lately, was when Richard was at work. Wait a minute. Well, goddamn. Jualito was doing his wife. His pretty wife. His delicate wife. Boy, could she cook. The idea of the two of them together scared the bejesus out of him. Richard looked in the mirror and only saw himself twisted up like an “S” and he began to cry despite himself.
And then he heard her voice in his ear. Little Richard sprang to attention. Not so much to her words, but that breath in his ear always did get him going. His sweet wife used to do that when they used to make out in his car. ‘Cept, this breath was cold. Which could be good. That magazine said women sometimes like ice. It was an articled called “How Women Like Ice” or something like that. He bet he’d like ice.
Her voice said she was naked!! Naked! Lord-a-mighty, this was some game. There wasn’t no pimp; just a turned on invisible Amazon behind him, trussing him up to have her way with him. Damn, wait until Jimmy heard about this.
The woman’s voice said something else but he didn’t right hear it. All he could think about was that magazine that fella left in the lobby. He had read it cover to cover. Had cheesecake pictures in it, too. Talked about all kinds of sex games. Richard had a feeling he was in the middle of one right now. So what if his wife was screwing Jualito. That was small potatoes. He was playing Sexopoly with an invisible colored stripper who seemed to know what she was doing. Richard damn near unhinged his left shoulder reaching around to get a big ol’ handful of that sweet round colored…
********************************************** Parasol finished what a vampire might approximate a prayer to God, and started feeling guilty.
*Damn,* she hated this part. Why couldn’t she just be more like Darla? No regrets, no guilt. She was a demon, dammit, and she was so hungry she could barely breathe – not air, mind you – because she didn’t need it, but it’s the point of the thing.
Parasol was in the middle of this Calvinistic train of thought when she felt Richard’s left arm move and…
He grabbed her ass. He grabbed her ass. He grabbed her ass.
************************************************* Parasol threw her suitcase in the trunk of her car and slammed it shut. She got in her baby, shuffled through her CDs for one to reflect her mood.
“Ahh, this calls for Metallica,” she said out loud, fired up her ridiculously muscled car and merged onto I-40 West.
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