Hang on! Today’s entertainment has been co-opted by La Ronde, a flash fiction experiment plus diabolique. It originated here in the genius mind of Patricia Arlene Abbott. Each story features someone experiencing green-eyed and occasionally murderous jealousy. The next author has one week to write a story from the point of view of the object of that jealousy. And on and on.
Eight authors have gone before me, each dragging the concept to lower lows and higher highs, and introducing more characters than a Robert Altman movie. Last week, Nigel’s story was so good I was sleepless with dread. Could I add another chapter to La Ronde?
To prepare yourself, read the other stories, listed here. And now….
Knocked Out Loaded
“Tim, lighten up. So you got a little flying eyeball concussion.”
“Hey, Patrice, you weren’t there.” Tim felt for his keys, got nothing. “Fuck! Andrea!”
He didn’t bother covering the mouthpiece of the phone or getting out of his personal assistant’s way as she inched her way around him, keys jangling.
Patrice was his—what the hell was Patrice, anyway? His agent? Pimp? Owner? Tim’s head really hurt, especially the soft spot where that apple freak had clocked him with a glass eye. Tim was beginning to think he should have stayed in the hospital. But that was Patrice—Tim in the hospital wasn’t Tim on stage.
“You lost some hair. You’re fine.” Patrice said. “LA’s waiting for you.”
“Fuck you. The tour’s over.” Tim clicked off the phone and pushed past Andrea into his apartment. “Andrea! Get me a goddamn beer!”
Patrice had another gambit. She always had another way to get what she wanted. Three hours later, after Andrea had filled his prescriptions, sucked him off and ordered in Pad Thai, his cell phone buzzed.
“Baby yourself.” Tim sat up in bed, despite his splitting head. India’s delicious breath fuzzed the tinny ear of her cell’s microphone.
“Are you going to make LA tomorrow?” she asked.
“Patrice call you?” He sighed. Damn, Patrice had more strings than a harp. He couldn’t remember what Patrice had on La Hamilton but it must be something choice. The girl had been visible lately, her husband dead and all that. Yet she was making a bitch call for Patrice, trying to get the Kellys back on tour.
“No, baby, I just want to see you.”
“Right.” In the kitchen Andrea was rattling dishes. “Why don’t you come here?”
“I got shit to deal with. My dog’s at the vet.”
“Baby, you’re no fun. I just got out of the hospital.” Tim lowered his voice. “I need you.”
“You don’t know me well enough to need me,” India replied. “Come to LA and I promise you will.”
She clicked off. Patrice was too fucking clever. She knew Tim too well.
The oxy put him out and he wasn’t fully awake until Andrea was wheeling him into the first class lounge at Kennedy the next morning.
“Our lord and master!” said Stuart from behind a bottle of Cristal. “Nice of you to fucking make it.”
Tim peeled his eyes open to look at the band. Stuart, Brent, Blue. They all looked like they belonged in different movies. Blade Runner, Lonesome Dove and the New York Dolls. Except that wasn’t a movie, was it? He couldn’t remember. Tim wondered what movie he looked like and then realized he was in a wheelchair wearing Uggs, his painted coat and a trucker hat.
“Are you going to be all right?” asked Andrea, placing his guitar on the floor at his feet. With her nervous little mouse face she didn’t even look human. He liked that about her.
“What does it fucking look like?” he replied, which was in some ways a real question. What did it look like? Did he look as bad as he felt?
“Patrice wants you to wear this.”
Right. Patrice. “Unless it’s a cheerleader with a pastrami sandwich in her bra, I really don’t give a damn what Patrice wants me to wear.”
She put a small box in his hand. Tiffany’s. Inside was, what else, that apple freak’s eyeball hanging on a gold chain. Nausea liquefied his lower intestine and Tim handed the box back to Andrea who didn’t like it any better than he did. After all, it had been in that douche’s head.
“I think she wants you to, like, wear it.”
“You think? Did you get, like, permission?”
“Leave her alone, Tim,” said Patrice as she entered the lounge, pulling a tiny black suitcase behind her. Tim wondered, as he always did, how she crammed all her whips, chains and thumbscrews into that quart-sized bag.
“None of your business, Patrice.” But he took the box from Andrea and scooped out the eyeball. She helped him fasten the chain around his neck and it hung there against his chest, heavy and a little warm.
They called the flight and Andrea pushed him down the jetway with the rest of the Kelly Gang. As Andrea stowed his guitar, a stewardess helped him into his seat. Her hand lingered over the seat belt buckle a little longer than he’d seen in the safety videos.
“Is there anything I can get for you, sir? Anything special?”
Across the aisle, Patrice cleared her throat. “You can get me a water, sweetie. No ice. I like it warm.”
Tim had to smile as he closed his eyes. That was one thing about Patrice he liked. He got his share of female attention, make no mistake. But nothing like Patrice. That dyke was a stallion.
In no time Andrea was there again with the wheelchair. LA. Tim watched Patrice exiting the toilet, followed by the stewardess. Unless Tim was mistaken, and he rarely was about these things, the stew was minus a bra. Good old Patrice, mile high club and all that shit.
“Um, I think Patrice—”
“Andrea, what did we decide about you thinking?”
“Patrice called a press briefing in the airport. Like right now.”
So that’s what eyeball was about. A trophy. Tim sighed. He’d better step off the plane and act like it was all his idea. Eye-dea, get it? He hoped she wouldn’t make him bite the head off a rat or anything.
“I’ll walk.” Tim was dizzy but he’d shake it off.
They shuffled into a VIP lounge where Andrea gave him another oxy. He could hear a distant rumble of voices, lots of voices, coming from the other side of the door.
“Maybe I should have stayed in New York.” Tim yawned, exhausted again. Could you die of a concussion? It felt like an earthquake in there.
Suddenly India Hamilton was in the room. Tim got tracers in his eyes trying to see around the sculpted greyhound planes of her killer bod. They called that kind of dress a sheath for a reason.
At his side, Patrice said, “Good enough to eat.”
India walked toward him like she had extra joints in her hips, like a wave machine. And walked past him to Patrice.
“Hey, baby,” said Patrice, a growl in her voice.
“India, you said. . . .” Tim swayed, reached behind him for a chair, anything. What had she said? He couldn’t remember. The pain in his head was eating him alive.
India shrugged. “I’m sorry, Tim. I signed with Patrice last night.”
“Here,” said Andrea, easing him into the wheelchair.
Patrice pushed open the door to the press conference. The buzz of voice became a mob, not a nice, hazy mob of music-lovers, either. “Time to go walk on rice, asshole.”