Drakkar (A Noir)

“Darling Jesse,” she says—her voice is a bassoonist playing in the back of a concert hall—and then she ashes her cigarette into a waiting urinal.  The wide brim of her sun hat and her five-o-clock shadow obscure her face, but I recognize the mole on her right bicep just below the hem of her puff sleeve. “Where’ve you been, lamb?”

Sleeping on dusty couches in basements. Imagining us on Jerry Springer: me with a chair raised above my head, you appealing to the audience, the cameras. “Around.”

The neon light from the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign in the window makes the sweat in the air glow cobalt blue, and the smell of stale cologne mixes with the smell of urinal cakes. Every kind of Lycra shirt slides by us on their way to the urinal or to hide behind a stall door, but my eyes stay on her mole.

“Mm hmm,” she says and blows smoke into my face. “You could have come by anytime. I don’t hold grudges.”

You stole money from me.”

“Borrowed. I borrowed money from you. I told you about it, didn’t I? You did get my IOU, yes?”

Yes. She’d only written four words to justify taking $1,000: MISS VEE HAS NEEDS. The block capital letters had reminded me of her past life as an architecture student.

“That was no IOU. That was a cry for attention.” The DJ punctuates my words with techno breakbeats.

“Maybe.” She slips the cigarette back between her lips. “Or maybe it was charity.” The beat of a Chemical Brothers song fades and a man’s voice rings through the building. Vee’s show was about to start.

“Right. Stealing money from me was an act of charity.”

“That’s right, lamb, because we both know you weren’t saving that money up to hand off to the nuns.”

“Still. You didn’t have to take my money and kick me out.”

She reaches an acrylic fingernail out to touch my collar bone, and drops her voice low. “You’re welcome back in my hive anytime you’re ready to follow the Queen Bee.”

The MC’s voice echoes down the hallway. “And now let’s welcome Miss Veronique Ahhhhhh to the stage.” The crowd roars. I hear the sizzle of embers hitting the water in the toilet bowl before she glides down the hallway to stand in a waiting spotlight.

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5 Replies to “Drakkar (A Noir)”

  1. Oh, I just adore things that make me go…wait…what? “she” and “five-o-clock-shadow” are unusual. What a unique hook there. Miss Vee Has Needs — that really made that character come alive in technicolor. I got a wee bit tripped up at the inner dialogue at the beginning…not sure why…but it made me trip in my head 🙂 But…this is written in the present now? That’s really hard to write and I didn’t even realize what was different until the end when I was trying to figure out why this piece sounded different in my head 🙂 Nicely done that.

  2. So much texture here. The smells, the smoke-filled air, even the gritty feeling of Ms. Vee AND the space between your two characters had a texture. I just want to walk outside and breathe some fresh air right now. (That’s a compliment.)

  3. I would read this whole book. The characterization of Miss Vee is so thorough, and while Jesse doesn’t get to say much, what he says conveys his character strongly too.

  4. I like that the first thing Veronique does is ash her cigarette into the urinal, such a great character illustration. I also love the last paragraph. You really captured the last human moments of the performer before she steps into the spotlight. A great little slice!

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