This is the first part of Robin's Procrastination Buster Speed Story. If there are any rules, they go roughly like this... A section a day. Can be a new story or a significant rewrite. Must be complete within three/four days. Readers to make helpful comments. Simple. Enjoy. And quake. I may turn tagger on this one.
This is...Hoof Man (a chapter from Robin's novel)
I’d been driven north to Cincinnati when I was young. There was a zoo up there, and an opera house, and sometimes the people from the opera house went over to the zoo and sang in an outdoor amphitheater to bring opera to the people, is how my father said it to me, and we drove up there on a weekend afternoon to get some cheap culture and listen to the zoo animals baying and moaning with the opera singers in their evening performance, and, even though that animal part wasn’t supposed to be part of the show, it was the best part. We knew we’d better not laugh, or we’d get it, but I was laughing inside. That was almost just as good.
The second time I drove up to Cincinnati I drove up alone in my blue MGB that was the color blue that matched my eyes, people said. I had an appointment with the manager of the Playboy Club on my twenty-first birthday. I was really nervous, so I kept saying to myself OK, panic bone, calm down, just calm down, and it didn’t matter anyway if I got a job or not there, but I said I’d try so I was trying, I was trying. Then the manager, this older guy with stringy brown hair that looked longer than most men wore when they had on dress suits like the one this guy had on, he had me change into a blue bunny suit to try me out, he said, and I walked into his office and he looked me up and down and didn’t talk much but he adjusted his glasses and looked some more and then he said I would do and when could I start, so I said Monday. I ended with a name change and propped-up pantyhose boobs. And I did all that driving and changing to make Randall T. Macon, the Hoof-Lamp Man, happy.
Here is how it started. I was antsy, and I knew I was going to be staying that way unless something different came along, and then one day, just like it happens in stories, something different just fell in my lap like a gift from a stranger, when this girl Charisse invited me home from the office with her. There was a man she knew, she said, and he wanted to meet me. She said he’d seen me downstairs in the lobby one day, delivering some papers, and he knew Charisse from before, and he asked her to introduce us.
So she asked me what did I think, and I didn’t know what I thought, I only knew I was antsy, so I said all right, sure, because it was a hot summer afternoon and I was always only about an inch away from being flat dead broke, so there was nothing much else for me to do but go back home and sit in the living room with Jeff and Tony, maybe cook out on the little grill on the back stoop, and wait to see who came walking through our living room door to sit down with us and pass away the rest of the day.
And that’s how I ended up over at her little box of a white-walled apartment at this apartment complex called The Something Something Pines, way out in the county. And that’s how I ended up enduring a weird little interview that felt more like a one-woman lineup, with me just about standing back against the wall right inside Charisse’s front door that looked like wood but was really thick plastic. This guy with one pale hazel eye and one other eye not quite looking at me and not quite the same color as the other, stood across from me, grinning big and looking me over. Because when I drove out to her apartment after work, she’d beaten me there, and so was the man who said he wanted to meet me.
“Renae, this is Randy. Randy, Renae.”
I nodded over at Randall T., standing beside where Charisse was seated on her sofa, and he nodded over at me, and kept grinning, as Charisse spoke her pleasantries. And she looked like she was enjoying herself. I thought maybe that was because she’d worked to make her voice sound this certain way, like a permanent customer service voice, all low and pleasant, and just a little husky, so she liked hearing it, and feeling proud, sitting there like a Buddha lady draped in billows of fabric on her small white sofa. At work, she hardly ever moved from a spot once she’d planted herself there, and it looked like she lived that way at home, too.
Charisse, I thought, thought Charisse was quite a lady. For one thing, she had her manners. For another, she had her face mole. Charisse loved her little face mole. You could tell because she fingered it a lot, and called it her beauty mark, sitting there on one of her big smooth cheeks, alongside her nose. Charisse just seemed made up, like she grew up with her butt planted on that sofa, like she came fully formed like that, all grown up and hefty. It made her seem not real, right on down to her name that sounded made up to me.
The three of us stood there for a longer minute than I thought possible with only the one sentence lingering between us. Then I thought that was because I was supposed to say something, maybe it was my turn, but I didn’t know what to say. I was going to say nice to meet you, but I’d better be going, when Randall T. finally talked.