A Work of Fiction
Part One: The Poem
The dented circle
Not a Palindrome
Stop at the
just around the corner
bears no fruit
It’s just another
on a car door
I’m a straight-shooter
said a cop with a gun
serrated edges of
The ugly little secret
a man called Charlie
stay open after dark
Just another bug on the
windshield of time
take the next right
after the lights
trash can lid
rolling slowly, the cruiser
it’s just us now
It’s that magic spell that makes everything better.
I can’t believe you thought of me.
Surely, you’re kidding!
Darn, I can’t believe he just took my parking spot. Did you see that?
Just pay attention to where you are going, Mr. Cop Man.
I’m an off-duty
officer Josh, coffee grounds make the rounds
I could just shoot him for doing that!
The Cheshire Cat
smiles in the darkness
above the city lights
such small-town mentality!
Another bookstore closes down
to make way
In a darkened
my day in the desert town
is ending in silence
I cannot solve the mystery
I came to this town
Why would a cop
in a doughnut shop
pull a gun
on an unarmed man?
I just can’t figure it out.
a wall with mirrors
in a small-town doughnut shop
of all places, that
A red-flashing traffic light,
no, a train-crossing safety-light
makes way for
a slowly lumbering
The cash register drawer
opens with a ding
the man looks ragged
as the floor to ceiling windows
unshaven man looks
like a cat
chasing the rolling
roiling garbage can
a ‘rat-of-a-man’ they said on
several occasions afterward,
after it all happened, I mean
down an alley
black like magic
was his beard
like the night
soon to come,
arriving I mean
he’s not gonna last, he said
set the sun upon
there’s the gun!
A mirror image
by the counter
Where am I?
Well, what were the last words spoken?
The only pentagonal building
one brutal story
train with flashing red
cop of all-of-thirty years of age
and green as gilt
strange to see
two guns drawn at once
as we both stand
beside the counter
the drawer opens
with a ding
Were there any other witnesses, ma’am?
A town from the 1800’s
a watering hole
a whore of a town
a truck stop
lumbering train screeches
to a crawl
as the tracks creak and drawl
man chewing tobacco
and a display of
coffee stains upon
how things replay in
the rolling freight
of a train
to the flashing
the dying light
in this little town
of Texas-Red in the West
and the rolling,
can, death, fleeting life
to be so brief
Why the cat
would want the can
couldn’t I see his
hands at all
Impossible, the drawer
roiling and lumbering
and in slow-motion
crossed the train
screech and scratch and
And I lay here
with blood on my
in a darkened motel
with all but neon
that cat’s got his can
the screechy crawl
the doughnut smell
the day’s sweat
of a day
the day one arrives
and the day he leaves
a case of
you think someone,
is someone, he is not.
an unarmed man
in a doughnut shop
portrayed in mirrors
it was all an illusion
It was a busy day. -thinks
the Cheshire cat -for
a murder and a
In such a small town
as the train
finally pulls out
on metal tracks
into the desert of
Part Two: The Trial
Let me get this straight, you were meeting someone for cocktails, is that correct? Yes, or, No, Ma’am? May I remind you, you are under oath!?
We stopped by the doughnut shop to…
And you were interrupted when the man in the mug shot suddenly stood up and…?
Let the defendant finish. -Demanded the judge, sternly.
The African American lawyer, the prosecutor, straightened his crisp white shirt cuffs while flashing his bright metal watch, a nervous habit, then began again after clearing his throat, perhaps a bit too theatrically.
And the trial impugning the integrity of the cop continued.
You went to the only doughnut shop, “…the only one-story, pentagonal building in town…” -those were your own words, your sworn testimony?
She shielded her face from the tears, the woman would be the only other African American in the courtroom.
We have, here, a laundry list of facts. -the lawyer turned to the jury, as someone well practiced in this, would – a laundry list of facts -and at that, with a staccato motion, the white page was placed down, with a pause for emphasis. Of course, the jury knew what he was talking about.
The defendant composed herself -”It is just a story I wrote. It is entirely fictional.” -she said, haltingly, between sobs.
“This is your threadbare defense…” – the prosecutor added almost offhandedly “…for the murder of an upstanding member and servant of the community” – he said with contempt, then added, after a calculated look in the general direction of the jury, “…it is a story of perversion.”
The lawyer of the defense stood up at this: “I object your honor, for the gross mischaracterization of my client’s defense, her story, written in her own words, and it happens to be factually correct. Although, perhaps, it was not intended to be.
“It is evidence.” said the judge, “And you will get your chance to refute that. I will allow it to be entered, along with your objections.”
Part Three: Skinny Dipping
The high desert knows nothing of time. It slumbers outside of all that.
The Pecos River meandered, somewhere, under a truss bridge, long in disuse, the trains now long gone. Within a mile of the motel, and within sight of a Victorian house set upon a hill, higher up, would be this favorite swimming hole, far from prying eyes. Even the house was presumed deserted, but not to those who new the area.
Where the water turns in a meander, a deep Aqua, turning like the side of a broken circle, was a deep watery hole surrounded by scrub, cacti and rocks, and a lazy bank. Perhaps this was where Charlie and Josh met originally, in their teens, and swimming in the nude. Charlie would have left a pack of cigarettes wrapped-up in his briefs and the rest of his clothes, tossed aside on the bank. Josh would have happened by, and undressed himself, and then lit a cigarette from Charlie’s pack. And not far from here could be seen the roadside sign of the Motel, down the road, not yet lit, with dusk still approaching.
Josh exhaled the smoke, that curling smoke, that languorous smoke -sultry and dark, diminishing as it rose. That… drag. All that’s drag. Josh watched Charlie swim. His mind went to that place.
It caressed light itself
could not exist without it
merely a state of being
And is love
the same resolutely
we constantly try to trap in Amber
existence, as unlikely, as
existence itself proven false
illusory desultory fleeting
What this light
but from a star
a flame, its burning, borrowing glory
is from a match, same such energy
match heaven from timeless is
a desert, vast in its emptiness
in time, as this light blazes on
with its flaming soul, lubricious
decanting, rising home slowly as
to be reality
Crouched on the bank, Josh contemplated the Aqua.
“…sup” -Josh said, startled from his reverie.
“You look like a fag scrunched down there with you man-bobs dangling between your legs. Are you in, or what?” – shouted Charlie.
Then suddenly, Josh decided to immerse himself. This would be the time. Bracing himself mentally for the sensation of cold, that foil to the dry desert air, as the day diminishes, the sun’s decline, a broken circle of water. With water, caressing the men, the inevitable journey shall continue. They join each other, this substance and they, do, with a sworl, a concordance of swirling as Josh got in deeper, pained expression and all, and waves registering the disharmony, moving outward with a swoosh.
There could never be anything so timeless. The lit cigarette persists above the water’s level. Aloft, birds of prey, flirt with infinity, searchingly, higher, the air thinning with the altitude. This spot remains, within, forever now.
Perhaps time itself will circle. There would be no one to witness. The Universe unmasks itself. How ethereal is Aqua. And, how lofty the ether.
“Let’s take a look at that house up there.” -Josh pointed to the house, painted black, ominous.
“Are you freakn’ crazy?”
“No car, they must be gone now.”
And with that logic, Josh headed for the gentle bank, scrub, with dirt, clothes askew upon some rocks, and walked, fully in the nude, still, towards the house, resolutely, far from any road as far as anyone could tell, other than a long dirt, rutted drive way, somewhere from the front of the house. Charlie followed, first pausing to dress, then watching Josh, changed his mind and threw his clothes down again. And they continued on their short journey to the back porch. There, Josh gently pushed the door, and it yielded. He must have done this before -thought Charlie, to know the door would be unlocked like that. And, noiselessly, Josh entered, followed shortly thereafter, by Charlie.
It was a cluttered room, a ‘sitting room’ from the era when that was popular. But, Josh went directly up the nearby stairs. Charlie hesitated, but then followed. They found themselves within what must have been a lady’s bedroom at the end of a short hall. Josh turned to face the mirror above an antique vanity.
Still with lit cigarette in hand, he briefly examined his naked body while Charlie watched from behind. They both faced the mirror, but, Charlie stood beside the lady’s bed, some distance away, with an expression of disbelief and amusement, on the verge of laughing. Josh looked like he was pretending to lip-sync, although there was total silence. There was no sound other than the rustle of a breeze through the curtained window. Josh, seemed to be assuming a new personality as he inspected the cluttered vanity where his gaze stopped upon a bottle of baby oil. He picked it up.
Then, with Charlie looking on, Josh, with his powerful legs slightly spread and buttocks clenched, suspended the newly opened bottle of baby oil over his neck and chest. Slowly at first, but, then more rapidly, the clear viscous liquid fell over his torso, rivulets running over waist and legs and then onto the pristine and colorful Persian rug. Charlie, torn between conflicting emotions of the erotic and hilarious, finally broke into loud cackles of laughter, both hoarse and forceful.
Josh watched this process in the mirror with fascination. Then, with arms raised in an eccentric pose, and most of the front of his naked body glistening in baby oil, Josh pirouetted around with the affect of a somewhat crazed female impersonator, but did not notice the chair directly behind him, and fell. The lit cigarette flew out of his hand and onto the curtain, which, with sudden violence, caught fire.
“Oh…sh…” cried Charlie. It took a moment to realize what had happened as he pulled himself upright again from the floor. Then, they both ran out of the room and down the stairs and out the door, with Josh leaving a trail of baby-oil footprints all along the floor.
Part Four: The Bar
The following are the things that are purported to have happened that evening. Charlie Shaunce, the doughnut-shop owner and off-duty officer Josh Squashberry were in a bar called: The Golden Banana. On weeknights there were no strippers. However, this was a Saturday. The interior was painted all in black. The tables were arranged around the hollow square that the bars formed within which worked the bartenders and bar-backs: bars on four sides with a table-top gate they used to get in and out of their work area -sort-of like a trap-door. Anyone who has spent more than a couple of hours in a bar has probably seen this.
The room was defined by its own darkness. The tables notoriously wobbled, drinks would fall off and have to be subsequently replaced. There was generally room enough at any given table for two patrons and three drinks. The strippers would work the crowd or dance upon the square defined by the bars. There was also a round stage with a brass pole. They were always referred to as ‘dancers’, as that was the gentlemanly thing to do.
The A/C never worked. That was the first problem. The place was a fly-trap for crime: Heroine overdose in the toilette, that sort of thing. And, this is where Josh and Melody intended to go that fateful evening, the evening of the shooting. Unfortunately, the make up of the bar was a victim of the town’s smallness, in that, the town was small enough to where the one bar in town would have to serve all types of clientele.
It had been a hot evening. Josh and Charlie sat across from each other at the tiny table. Several drinks had been consumed, purportedly. Josh’s plaid dress-shirt stuck to his well-developed chest, wet with sweat. His speech was slightly slurred and legs spread apart. Apparently, he sported a driving hard-on as he watched a stripper perform, gyrating atop the bar, while in the same proximate area, a bartender adeptly worked the drinks, avoiding her footfalls to the pulsing music.
“You wanna bag a stripper, don’t ya” – Josh teased.
Charlie turned back at this. “Wha…?”
“You want that lady up thar…” -he clarified, pointing.
“Jaah…” Charlie had trouble forming the thoughts, much less, the words. “Josh, you see that laaa…lady dancin’ up thar ..top a the bah?”
“Yeah, you noticed her, didn’t ya?”
“Shhh…she was my literature teacher in high school.” -Charlie countered.
Josh, paused for a moment, beer midway to his mouth, then burst out in hilarity. Then, after a few seconds, Charlie sputtered his own squeal of laughter, red in the face, before another draught was brought to his mouth, hesitating, and then gulped with a grin.
Charlie seemed to consider something of profound importance upon placing the beer down with a thud, but finally “Josh?”
“I tha…think we should go on back to thahh…that Motel soon.”
“Whays that?” -Josh countered.
“Cause I wanna satisfy a real cop-man tah-night”
And after some hesitation, Josh replied “Well than, go over to tha bahr, stick yer sweaty chest on top near where that lady’s dancin’, spread yer legs so you can bottom fer me, farm hand.”
And then, after a brief mutual silence, they both burst into uproarious laughter, red in their faces, and beer running down the side of the tiny table. If it were possible for Charlie’s legs to be spread any further apart, they were. And the protuberance grew thicker still in his jeans, as the night progressed.
Purportedly, they left the bar together, after leaving a tip.
Part Five: The Motel
Charlie now waited, in a room of the motel, watching football on the television. The blinds were closed. The sunlight streamed in between the cracks. The remote near at hand alongside a half-finished beer sweated droplets of condensation that slowly soaked a magazine sporting the image of a cheerleader, blond and enthusiastic. The game continued as Charlie waited.
Part Six: Like Clockwork
Someone once referred to the antique cash-register as ‘the old clunker’ and the moniker stuck.
On any given Friday:
A Canary Yellow dress, knee length, high heels, black car parked directly in front, she got out, closed the car door. It was Melody, enchanting name, for a woman in a Yellow hat, brimmed from the sun.
No one bats an eye as she strolls into the doughnut shop, soundlessly the door opens. Two women talk, one facing the door, the other with her back to Melody, seated, gesticulating, hands aloft to describe something to her friend. If there were another African American women in town, especially this beautiful, you would have been hard pressed to find her.
Is it possible to describe a women’s figure as stark in its slenderness? In the wall of mirrors on the back side of the doughnut shop, there was a Hollywood-esque moment. At no time in the desert?
On any given Friday, Charlie, the doughnut shop owner, would be meeting up with Josh in the motel, roadside, plaintive neon sign. The whole-town-knew-it type of thing. And, they never talked about it. Certainly not to out-of-towners. You’d never hear it.
Melody carefully selected the doughnuts and boxed them herself, opening the cash register with a ding and inserting a twenty. Then she left with her purchase.
Part Seven: Last-Chance Book Stop
It was then that Charlie glanced up and happened to see Melody, apparently getting ready to leave the book store. The only other pentagonal building in town was the ‘Last-Change Book Stop’ which was nowhere near the railroad tracks -no red lights to speak of. Everyone in town knew this fact. No Hollywood mirrors. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows were covered with posters for local bands and civic announcements. The store was closing in a few days, going out of business for good.
Josh was fiercely loyal. What I don’t understand is: why would he commit suicide? -said Charlie.
It wasn’t a suicide. – said Melody.
At this, Josh appeared stung, almost dropping his brown, crumpled shopping bag from under his arm.
Why did you lie about being in the doughnut shop? – Melody asked, after some thought.
Her question was met with silence. Chalie’s face, deep in thought, not even present. No acknowledgment. Finally, “So, you were there?” Charlie said the words slowly, as though forgetting the ability to speak.
Melody turned as though on a fashion cat-walk and headed for the door. But then, after a few moments, stopped and turned to face Charlie again. “I’m leaving town. I just thought I’d drop by to sell some books. I’m pregnant. Josh is the father.”
So, you were there.
And there was no surprise registered on Charlie’s face. No dropped package. All was placid. The rummaging of a bookstore continued in the background. And, finally, inevitably, she turned to face the door, walked out, and the door closed, finally, with a ding.
You know, I wish you the best of luck. Getting out of town will be good for you. -said Charlie. Although, there would be no witnesses. And, there never were.
-by James Legare
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