She was stark naked and falling fifteen stories at three in the morning. A
Siamese cat howled from an eighth floor balcony when she passed. She woke up on
the couch screaming, “You bastard, you fucked up the T.V.”
The room hung in familiar silence; the only sounds became her breath and a car that
seemed to inhale as it drew closer and exhale as it passed down the off-ramp and up
She was armpits stuck to blouse, black slacks tangled at the crotch, sweaty panty
hose, short hair matted like a rooster; she only drank beer breath, cigarettes and a
half-eaten piece of banana cream pie. Where the hell was the lighter? He probably
stole it. He fucked up the T.V. even if he did have good teeth. She lit the cigarette on
the stove. The smoke rose and lingered in the dim yellow light and she shivered with
They came and went by the dozens; middle of the week men who smiled and went
home early, dazzled with drink and stories of wonderful columns of figures that came
out just right, price indexes rising and falling, dockets lost and found, new suits, cars,
clubs, wives and a vacant acceptance when she lied about her age. “Who the hell lies
about their age anymore? I do.” The room had nothing to contribute.
Weeks passed, telephones rang, teeth got brushed, armpits shaved twice a week;
she shopped her lunch, bought cigarettes, went back to work, left late, stopped at the
Regis for a nightcap, intended to marry, but no children, thank you very much.
She smiled to herself and ran her free hand through her hair, frowned, flicked the
ashes on the table, stood up and undressed quickly, Oh the men, the men. The room
seemed hot when she looked down at herself. Somewhere doorbells rang and tennis
rackets thwacked in morning fog.
Tall black hair, she couldn’t tell the eyes for the glasses. He’d already had a few drinks
when she sat next to him at the far end of the bar. He smelled like wool. A nice guy
who bought her a drink right off, then another and another.
“I’m worried about not putting on weight.” she said.
He told her she looked fine. He asked her the usual. Bought her a third drink and one
It felt real. It was real. Poor little body thrown over the balcony. Poor little body
broken on the street. Cars slowed down. Blood tricked from her nice little mouth. Her
eyes rolled back.
The poor girl opened a beer; slinked back to the couch, flicked on the T.V. and waited.
She hadn’t turned on the sound, but she knew it was something about God.
The guy was polite, clean, complimentary, probably a genius. Now it was Sunday. He
was a fool. Something poured out of magazine ads and gin bottles, to be petted,
fucked, picked up after and thrown away. Her teeth itched.
It’s about your daughter. She fell. Tell them anything Mother. Tell them she was a
career girl, a lawyer. Just look at the place she lives in. What nice people. Safe. Tell
“ Oh my poor dear daughter. We had crab at Thanksgiving, just the two of us. We
stood right at that window. It just couldn’t have been suicide.”
Allowed. That was it. She allowed him to look around her apartment. He stopped in
the kitchen and looked in the drawer under the sink, cocked his head, scrutinized.
Allowed. Oh yes, he’d drag her to Barbados to look at the moon, or Ohio, New Jersey,
somewhere, to meet someone. They always want you to meet someone if you look
right. She’d be good to have around if he was drunk and couldn’t drive. Not about to
drive. No way. She knew all she had to do to was run her tongue over her upper lip
and any old friend of his would give them a lift.
“Where’d she fall from?” The officer looked up, tipped his hat back on his head and
scratched just above his left temple. The gold cap on his right incisor caught the sun.
“I don’t know. I just don’t know. She was just lying there when I walked by. Awful,
just awful. She’s so beautiful. My God, I was just going to get some milk.”
“Take it easy lady.” He re-adjusted his cap and put his hand on her shoulder. She
was all wrapped up in coat and buttons, shopping bag, blue hair and bifocals. So
small, so small and tired, she didn’t deserve to see this. “Wally, call the wagon and
take a walk over to the office and ask around. This looks funny.”
“Real funny. Men.”
Broken cigarettes on the floor. She lifted the glass. Her nipples swelled and she
smiled. Good hips, thin good hips. Enough flesh so he’d like it and still feel the bone
underneath. Her skin settled easily through ten o’clock, stretched eleven, tingled
eleven-ten, her oh-so-bay-brown eyes blinked slowly. The TV screamed in silence.
Did he want anything to eat? There was nothing to drink. First the usual cuddle, and
then short pecking on the cheek. Hands off so far. She tried the tongue. Let him
sweat. No patience. Hard as a rock. Drunk as a loon. Mammy’s little boy love
‘shortnin’ shortnin’, ran down her left nostril and sneezed on his shoulder. “Turn on
the TV will you?” He smiled and turned on the TV. It went black.
“I hope you haven’t broken it.” She yawned. “I hope you haven’t broken my
“I will be fine, just fine. Give me a minute.”
“Well I’m going to the bathroom while you play electrician.”
“It will be fine.” He was crawling around behind the couch.
They come and go, electricians, carpenters, amateur photographers, TV repairmen. All
the same. Finger in the hole, butt in a mess. She curled up in Sunday beer and smiled
to herself. It was getting chilly. Was the sun shining? Maybe he could fix her bicycle.
She could fix it herself. Good hands for a big man. Generally huge hands flop. Flop
around. Stick it here. Stick it. Fumbler. Stick it here. I’ll smile.
“It’s a good thing.”
“It works. The TV. It’s working.”
“I told you.”
She flopped on the couch and lit a cigarette. “It’s a good thing.”
“What the hell are you getting nasty for?”
“Don’t get upset.”
“What’s the big thing? It works.”
Condescending she thought. “Oh don’t be so sensitive.”
He walked around behind her. The room grew thick in a split second. She felt a
warning bell. He’s between me and the door. A rush. Hot. A nut. A nut in the
“Forget it. You’re too sensitive,” she said.
“Too sensitive, too sensitive. What’s the stink over the stupid TV?”
Light a cigarette. Quick. He’s going to kill me. Strangle me with the TV cord. The
towel. Panty hose. He stuck them in his jacket pocket. He’s taking them out. So
warm and slow. Jesus.
“Sit over here.” She patted the couch next to her left thigh. Fool. “Don’t panic.”
“Don’t panic,” he yelled. “DON’T PANIC!”
“Keep your voice down.”
Remember the smell. Some kind of musk. In case, just in case. He’s everywhere.
Laughing. He’s laughing at me. Don’t turn around. No. Please. Don’t.
The room grew brighter. She took another beer from the refrigerator, let the door
swing shut by itself, tossed the cap in the garbage and walked slowly towards the
window, pulled the drapes, slid the glass door open and stepped out on the balcony.
The sun stuck her in afternoon and the cool breeze made goose bumps leap furiously
along her naked arms. She took a swig and held it in her mouth for a good two
seconds. She leaned against the railing. She watched a yellow pick-up coming down
the off-ramp to Washington St.
David Plumb‘s work appears in St. Martin’s Anthology, Mondo James Dean, Irrepressible
Appetites An Anthology of Food, Beyond the Pleasure Dome, 100 Poets Against the War, Salt Press, UK, The Miami Herald, The Washington Post and The Orlando Sentinel. Books include The Music Stopped and Your Monkey’s on Fire, stories; Drugs and All That; and Man in a Suitcase, Poems. A Slight Change in the Weather, short stories will be published in November 2006. Mr. Plumb has worked as a paramedic, a butcher, a San Francisco cab driver and an actor in several Hollywood films.