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Cockroaches Under Glass - Mimi Carmen

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The bar is empty at first except for me and Andy. The lights are lonely amber. A pretty lady comes in, blond, big teased hairdo. Sheís a regular. I am too. I light a Camel and blow smoke through my nose.

She takes her silver cigarette case and pulls it open. Itís empty, I offer her the pick of mine, she takes one, I flick open my lighter. She leans over, small breasts, a lot of big teeth. She lights up. Pretty soon she jumps up on the bar, pulls up her skirt and starts dancing. I like this and clap my hands at first, but then I get to thinking she looks cuckoo up there.

Come on down, crazy lady, I say. She sings, throws her chest out. The bar begins to fill up. Some of the guys throw coins.

So I struggle to pull myself up onto the bar with my cane. I dance with her so she wonít look so nutty dancing alone. I know sheís had this operation, and her real name is George. Iím a man so I think, why am I doing this silly thing? Why do I dance with this man who wants to be a woman and calls himself Liz, when heís actually George? Then she tries to kiss me right up there in front of Andy and the bar full of men with bug eyes that show up now, clap their hands. More! More! More!

Matty, the owner doesít care if we put on a show, long as we donít deal drugs, but Iím sick of this now and I say, I canít kiss you right now, but I will later, after you get down. She has her arms wrapped around me and says, Iíll get down after you kiss me. So I kiss her on the lips and believe me I donít go around kissing men. I wipe off her kiss with my hands. She gets back on her stool, Matty says to Liz,

Drinks on the house tonight, sweetheart.

I see Kelly, the waitress, black short hair, mini-skirt, long-legs in black tights, white, soft skin. I motion her over. She smiles and her teeth sparkle. She leans down to pick up my cane I see the arch of her back, wonder how her pelvis would feel in the dark. She pats my cheek, and sits down for a moment. She smells like vanilla.

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I say to Kelly, If you see a big guy, white hair, crew cut, and a brief case, let me know, will you? Weíre having a big conference here tonight. I kid around with her to keep her near. She says, Oh, sure, Bill Clinton already called in reservations. She gets close. I get this kind of dizzy feeling that comes over me when Kelly gets near. I say, Kelly, bring me a Pizza with everything on it, will yaí, hon.

She hollers, One P with the works, to the kitchen, and orders me another draft from the bar. She brings it over and I take a sip, the foam comes up over my mouth. I hold my glass up to her like a toast. She winks at me, turns away. Hi Norm. She hollers at a young guy in a college sweater two stools down.

Liz comes over with her plate of chicken-wings, sits next to me. She wants to talk about her son, busted for drugs. Well, I think, whoíd want you for a mother? You look like a Liz but you talk like a George. I turn my back.

Andy Tibers on the other side of me, jabs me in the ribs. She wants to know you better, he says winking. I give an, Oh my God no, shrug. I see a cockroach on the bar. I cover it over with an ashtray. It goes round and round.

Andy swings around, tells me him and his wife just split. I say, Oh, no, Andy, too bad. He says, Well, she had to have her can of beer before breakfast. I like to have a drink, myself, he says, but she was drunk all the time. I say Iím sorry. I donít tell him about my divorce. Sixteen years and three kids later, she walks out. So long ago I donít think of her any more. I say, Andy, I donít want my Pizza, would you like it? Heís on Social Security, not much else. He says heíll take it and says heíd like red pepper and extra sauce. The bartender shoves the cheese and crackers my way. I say thanks, but I donít take any. The yellow light glows on the ashtray with the cockroach. Heís not moving. I blow smoke and squint at him through the mist.

I'm still nursing my beer at 2 a.m. when the place closes. I remember my cane, go outside and start to walk home. I walk for my leg, the doctor says it helps. I turn around, go back to the Lost Dog Cafť. Maybe Kelly will come out.

She comes out and says, Hey, Jim, forget something? I say, Well, itís a nice night, Iíd like to walk you home. I know she lives close. She checks me over to be sure I have my cane. I hold it up. She says, Sure, why not? I walk her home, a lot of apartments, gray in the dark.

We talk awhile about this and that in the cold, night air. She says, Jim, would you like to come up, have a drink? We go up to her second floor apartment, very clean, a bed with a white, Martha Washington spread.

I sit down on an old, comfortable chair with flowers on the cover and it feels good to sit, while Kelly putters around fixing drinks.

I know what Iíd like to do next, the normal thing . But itís been so long since Iíve been out, Iíve no idea how to handle a situation like this, like a date.

I look at my watch. I say, Kelly, hon, itís been a long day, and I really have to run, Sure, she says. O.K., sure.

I give her a hug, a big grin and wave. So long kid, I say, pulling my scarf around my neck. I turn back, put my arms around her, give her one last hug. She looks puzzled. I should tell her, about this goddam curse that makes me impotent.

I could try, but suppose I canít. The doctor says, Well, itís iffy. Maybe you can, maybe you canít. Do I want us ready to go and I canít any more?

She pulls me back. "I have a leak in my faucet. How about you fix it.

I'm quiet. "It's iffy" I tell her. "Suppose I can't make it work."

"You could try," she says. I go back inside.


I take the stairs carefully, one at a time, lean on the rail. Nobody on the street. I start to walk home, my leg doesn't ache. I look back at the lights in her window. The Lost Dog Cafť is dark. Itís a long way home. The moon is bright. I whistle.

The end.


"I live in Binghamton, New York, USA. I have been working systematically on my short fiction with a serious group under the guidance of Alex Keegan a prize-winning UK author. I have had eleven publications on the Internet, a story on CBS radio, placed in an anthology of short stories and one print publication in Vietnam. Most recently I placed third and fifth in two popular UK competitions."

Another short story of Mimi Carmen at this site.


You now can visit her at her own website: http://mimicarmen.home.att.net/ .


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