I looked over the edge. The trains rumbled by, below me. Red lights spelled their end.
‘Hey, fancy meeting you here.’ A boy approached me, folding away his umbrella.
‘Fancy meeting you here,’ I replied.
Rain fell around us, outside of the station’s overhangs. It poured and poured.
‘Damn this rain!’ the boy cursed, yelling it over the rapping of water on the tin roofs.
‘I know. How was school?’
‘Shit, as per usual.’ The halogen lights flicked on, lighting the seats. He took one next to me.
‘I thought education was fun.’
‘It was. Now it’s shit.’ The boy shook his hair, spraying wet everywhere.
I felt a cold creep onto me; as a train thundered under us. I observed the other people on the station apart from the boy. There was a woman chewing gum, a man reading a newspaper.
The boy stared out onto the tracks, nudging himself up to me on the rails that overlooked. ‘So, how was your day?’
‘You ask me?’
‘Of course I do, you’ve asked me already.’
‘It was okay.’ I looked out onto the tracks. The colour in the lights changed from green to red. It was a sombre scene.
‘Know how these work?’
‘Yeah. The trains run when the light is green. They don’t when it’s red.’
I furrowed my brow at the boy’s naivety.
‘I mean, really know how they work?’
He smiled. ‘Not really.’
‘I’ve always wondered…’ It was so…grey. This place, this creation, it was merely where nature stopped, and humanity continued. The place where the grass did not grow, trains ran them over. A labyrinth of metal rods and iron bars, there was just no life to the place.
My eye found no grass growing in the station that looked over the train tracks. No little insects scavenging for food. It felt so artificial.
‘Do you reckon we’re like a train?’
My thoughts stopped when I blinked. ‘What? Repeat the question?’
‘Do you reckon we’re like a train? Like, we go when things are green, and stop when things are red?’
I ruffled the boy’s damp hair for him this time. ‘No, we must go no matter what. And although it isn’t shown on the track controller; what about the yellow? “Not sure” parts that we must encounter in life? That’s where I believe we lie. We are never sure whether the lights are green, or red. Therefore we must run when the lights are yellow. It is the unknown that keeps us going. For if we knew everything, there’d be no point to anything.’
‘I guess you’re right.’ We stared in contemplation for a few minutes. Rain still fell all about us. The woman chewing gum went down the stairs off the station, drenching herself. She tripped.
‘Going to help her up?’ the boy asked.
‘The lights are yellow. It would be best not to do anything.’
The woman picked herself up and kept going.
We watched in silence. The lights turned green. A train rumbled past.
‘But…you said – ‘
‘I said that we should continue in the yellow of what we are doing. For life is a mere moment on a line. It bears no relation to anything. They are the “not sure”.’
As if in reply to what was said, something happened. The lights of the track fused, lighting sparks before going out.
To me, this was the lights going yellow. Fear gripped me as I watched, motionless, as train sounds reached our ears.
That rumble, that rumble of change. That yellow, rushing towards us. The track ahead was unknown.
I looked in shock. The trains rushed by, below me. Red lights spelled their end.
“What’s waiting at the end?” I asked.
“Only what you take with you.” The little boy replied.
I walked across the boat, slowly, feeling the sunlight on my shoulders. Burning into me. What’s at the end? What’s at the end? I felt it in me, the carnal want, that plagues all humanity, and it was waiting. It needed answers.
I shook the thoughts off my mind.
“You must learn,” the boy said, “to accept yourself for yourself.” He cast his stick out over the boat’s side. The line of string holding the hook, plopped in the water, the little worm on the hook squirmed and squeezed, trying to remove itself from its predicament.
“Shut up, you.” Was all I could say as I cast my rod out over the rails. “I meant what sort of fish are we going to catch today.”
“Oh. So you’re not flawless.”
“Sorry, philosophically speaking, I meant.” The boy pulled a crooked smile, reminiscing over our past conversation, the one at the train station.
I shook my head in dismay at his impudence. That boy will have to learn to keep his big mouth shut sometime. Probably never at this rate.
Minutes past; they grew into one long, drawn out hour.
I lit up a cigarette.
“You shouldn’t smoke.” the boy said when I slouched in the fold-out chair, leaving the rod in its socket.
I waved a hand in his direction, to silence him. The sea seemed so quiet, so calm. What fish would turn up here? There’s no commotion. I bet all the fish are further out, with the big waves.
“I got something! I got something!” the boy yanked on his line feverishly, trying to bring the stick up.
“That fishing rod’s so small,” I told him, “you wouldn’t be able to catch squat.”
The sun caught the little string as it was pulled up, up into the air. A wisp of silver. Attached to the end was a huge Tuna-fish, its skin gleaming with the glint of a thousand summer suns. For a moment, it looked like a rainbow leaping out of the water and into the skies. The fish fell onto the boat with a dull thud, blood slowly trickling from where the hook had skewered the mouth.
“See? Got one!” the little boy cried with joy, running to where the big Tuna had fallen, putting his hands on the fish’s scales as it thrashed.
I couldn’t stop myself. “How the fuck did you catch that?”
The boy looked up, seeing right through my many guises, the masks I put on in society to get by. In that moment he saw through all that was personality, habit, and what I was raised to be. He saw ‘it’, in me, in humanity, and understood it.
He spoke only two words to me.
There’s a smile on her face that Harry knew well. They’d been sitting on the bench now for a good hour, watching all the tourists walk by.
“There’s a lot of different crocodiles. Do you know how many there are?”
“Yeah. Not enough.”
“The family Crocodylidae have loads of subspecies, like Gharials and caimans, and Crocodylomorpha. And they all live together in this one zoo. Well, except Crocodylomorpha, that species is long gone.”
“I’m not so sure about the caimans and the gharials and all of them. I’d like only one specific kind of crocodile.”
“Which? Caiman or gharial?”
There was a pause as Quinn considered. She looked at the ground, frowning a little.
“Gharial?” Harry suggested.
“Oh yeah. I could go with a gharial. Saltwater and mugger crocs are too dirty for my liking. Alligators just aren’t crocs in my eyes. I like a quiet, feminine-looking croc.”
“Did you want to go and see them?” Harry stood up and dusted himself off. Even now, the day looked to be coming to a conclusion. He was bored and Quinn looked exhausted. He wanted a change. He hoped Quinn would pick up on this too. “Well?” He asked, a little annoyed at how long Quinn always took to answer these sorts of questions.
“Maybe. I’m not sure.”
“I thought you were a fan of crocs.”
“I am, you know that. I just want some time to think about it. We just had lunch.”
“That was two hours ago.”
So Harry sat down, and they waited. The tourists in front of them began to disperse; the loudspeakers droned the same tinny So Fresh! album, and the birds sung and squawked from the bird sanctuary a few fences over. They were sitting in front of the leopard cage; even the leopard had gotten tired of chewing on the lamb leg and fallen asleep.
“I think we should,” Harry told her, “it’ll be a new experience. We’re still studying them at university, and I know it’ll be good for both our work and our entertainment. We still don’t know many things about them.”
“I guess you’re right. It’s just a big step for me; we’ve been walking around all day.”
“You know what I’m getting at, don’t you?”
“Yeah. We’re discussing crocs.”
Harry sat back, defeated. “We are.”
“How about we go?”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
They stood up and walked into the thinning crowds. They still held hands, even though Harry was pressing too hard. Quinn didn’t notice, at first. Harry could tell she was slightly annoyed with him. Her lips became a thin, unchanging line and she sighed that drained sigh of hers that seemed only to express contempt instead of exhaustion. He didn’t choose to question her on it. It was too late in the day for pointless anger.
However, Quinn let it go as soon as she’d made it known, and, pressed on, that carefree smile back on her face. Harry knew he couldn’t resist. He found it too hard to stay angry with her, and instead, bought a plush crocodile in some twisted attempt at atonement for their failed conversation. A kid had stood in front of him at the check-out, tugging on his father’s sleeve with a Dolphin snapper toy.
Sitting in the car, Quinn put the key in the ignition as Harry bit at the Maxibon he’d gotten for himself. The Volkswagen (Quinn’s Dad’s) choked a little, knowing its end was near, before kicking into a driveable gear.
“Made a decision?” Harry asked, yawning. “This is kind of a big thing for me. And you too, I’m sure.”
“Croc? Oh…um, I’m not sure.” Quinn chewed her lip in that idly attractive way that Harry wasn’t sure he still loved.
“Can’t make up your mind?”
“I don’t want to rush, Harry. We have plenty of time for all that.” She giggled a little. “Choosing your favourite croc can be hard sometimes.”
“How do you know?” Harry asked. “How do you know if you never make the decision?”
Quinn pulled a faux-serious face and turned to him as she backed the Volkswagen out of the car park. “Okay. I’ve decided. Gharial.”
“Just drive. I don’t care anymore.”
Willie Costello sat in his office, the cigar sticking out of his mouth. He was envisioning a dragon, and trying to make his smoke clothe the roof. Staring up at the various fungi on the ceiling, he completely missed his secretary, Kristy Bain, enter the room.
“We’ve got a situation, Mr. Costello.” She said, putting her clipboard on the office couch. “There’s a spider in the water cooler.”
Willie Costello composed himself, spreading his hands on the paper-laiden desk. “What are you saying?”
“It’s dead. I think it’s dead but I can’t be sure.”
There’s a look of panic that Willie Costello noticed now. He raised an eyebrow and the cigar flopped out, rolled off his bottom lip and hit the desk with a drooly splat. “Spider?” It was a Friday. He’d organised a stripper party at around six o’clock with prospective stockholders. There was a girl coming he fancied and he needed to restock his personal office fridge. No time for these sorts of dalliances in troubleshooting water coolers.
“He’s big, sir, real big. He’s lying on the surface, spread, dead I think. I can’t drink from the water cooler.”
Willie Costello shivered, his shoulder muscles tensing, almost sandwiching his neck in the spasm-like motion. “You can’t?” Sweat rolled out of his hair, matting it, giving a crawly feeling of cool to the sides of his face. A spider in the water cooler. He won’t have time to change shirts before the party.
“You have to, sir, I really need a drink.”
Willie Costello blinked back tears as he rose from his desk, nostrils flared. He stepped outside his office, Kristy Bain behind him, checking no one else was watching. The water cooler stood at the end of the hall, unassuming in its white porcelain, its giant head filled with colourless liquid and blending with the surroundings.
Before he knew it, Willie Costello was at the end of the hall, next to the gargantuan petrie dish. He peered into the depths. A spider sat near the top, spinning slowly, limply, slightly obscured with the bend of the plastic.
“Right there.” Kristy pointed at the obvious.
Willie Costello pulled back his sleeve, readying himself for the worst. His arm snaked over the bowl, fingers slowly unscrewing the lid.
“Do you need space?” Kristy asked.
“I’ll be fine.” The lid fell off, bouncing on the dusty floor. Willie moved in closer, putting himself next to the cooler facing the wall. In one fluid movement, he plunged lifted and plunged his arm into the cooler up to the armpit. He realised the misstep, as his arm didn’t have room to bend upwards to reach the spider.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the worst part of the sorry tale. The spider, sadly, wasn’t dead, but very much alive. It had been treading water for the past day, using the sides as places to latch onto, the ebbing strength being put to moving its body up against the plastic, letting its skin bask in air, before collapsing back to the waterline. But here was a way out. A foreign object, clearly ready to move back out of the water cooler at any moment.
The spider, using its last reserves of energy, leapt. The body squished against Willie Costello’s hairy armpit, nestling itself, using the sweat as a malleable glue. Willie Costello, being rather dim, missed this. He peered down to arm-level, and seeing nothing, began to pull his arm out.
The armpit moving, the chest meeting the arm with the plastic cooler closing in quickly, frightened the spider. It knew moments of life and death. It had seen its mother and father lose their lives to a dog, burrowing for a bone. His cousin, moving for a slice of cheese, being cleaved in two at the hands of The Courier-Mail. This was one so moment in history, and the spider wasn’t quite finished. There was skin. And the spider had fangs. For dear life, it bit into that sweaty, insipid skin, and bit hard.
Willie Costello at first shrieked, then did what could only be described as a hiccupy cry. His hand jerked upwards, his arm bringing the cooler head off its hinges with the force. The water splashed out across the floor, saturating Kristy Bain’s shoes. Willie Costello fell, cooler tub following, onto the carpet. The spider managed to escape, spreading its legs in the freefall as a makeshift parachute, getting clear of Willie’s speeding frame just in time.
Kristy dropped down in seconds, not to help Willie Costello, but to pick up the cooler, wrenching it out from his arm.
She left, leaving Willie Costello to blubber. The sound of a tap running. Then she was back, the tub filled and placed back on the cooler.
Willie wiped tears from his face, his right hand scratching at his armpit, trying to relieve the pain. “Are you going to drink from that? I think I got the spider.” He managed with the tone of an emasculated choir boy.
“No way. Your hand’s been there, sir, that’s just ew.”
Willie Costello did not stop crying until the prostitutes came, which for them wasn’t an issue, as that was usually how they found him.
Pulled an all-nighter to complete this for university. Twitter contributed the ABBA quote.
Since grade one, my creative writing has defined me. I remember watching one of my father’s taped movies from the night before, The War of the Worlds, and believing that the story were so thrilling, so gloriously action-packed and gory, that it should be written down in class the next day. I scribbled out the half-page plagiarised story, resembling the 1953 film in all but character names. As an added bonus, I felt compelled to scrawl in an abstracted version of the R18+ insignia, complete with a rambunctious written warning of the levels of sci-fi violence in the story.
Eventually, I moved on from shamelessly copying off movies I’d seen the night before. However, what still drives my writing is the want to entertain people. I’ve passed the one hundred and fifty short story mark, and all through school I had a system of writing a story and using an online messenger service to pass it on to my friends, who were always looking forward to reading my next story. I marketed myself as a storyteller before I even knew what marketing meant.
Now I am at the junction Stephen King referred to in On Writing, of whether I can finish a novel. I’ve attempted it four times and gave up on each try, although, I have a good feeling about this fifth trial and half the novel written to prove it.
I see myself as going on to work in the industry of publishing. I need something to keep me afloat financially while I finish my novels. While the author cannot sustain him or herself purely through writing alone (at least to begin with), a job is required. My degree affords me an entrance into the publishing industry. I have already worked in a publishing house for three months and know how the market is going.
The future of publishing is moving online and ebooks are the fastest-growing medium for reading. This means that I conduct my own distribution and have a more involved role in the publishing. My first novel, Stolen: Accounting Can Be a B*tch Sometimes, will be published and distributed on my blog and on the e-bookstore Jaffa Books for free. I will use my talents in both Facebook and Twitter to cultivate a reader base and build buzz around my novel.
While economically this will not benefit me in the short term, in the long term it will build an authorial portfolio that I can use to propel me into the wider public sphere, and a formal contract with a big-time publisher. Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw, a famous Brisbane game reviewer and novelist, began as a small-time freelance writer. It was when he uploaded a few jaded video reviews to Youtube that a serious gaming website, and the public, noticed. After writing weekly columns on the aforementioned gaming website, the publishing house Dark Horse contacted Mr. Croshaw for a novel deal. Being his lifelong dream, he accepted. This is one of many case studies (another being guest lecturer John Birmingham) where this style of a deep internet presence for an author has been successful.
The more ‘traditional’ distribution of publishing has been widened substantially with e-publishing. It gives authors like myself a chance to communicate directly with our audiences. On Twitter I decided to outsource ideas for the direction of my novel. I posted a tweet to see if anyone were interested in reading a draft, and already I had three replies from people eager for a copy. I sent off what I had written so far, and got responses within three days, one of which in the form of a long e-mail critiquing various aspects of both characterisation and scene structure. Perhaps this is the new way novels are edited – through crowdsourcing?
As a result of blogging and social networking, I have been asked to guest post on a science blog, pitch to a gaming website and given a movie reviewing job on the QUTE Magazine website. This movie reviewing hobby has sustained me three years of continual writing and built up a user base independent of my fiction audience. Part of the reason I won an internship in a publishing company was so that I could be designated marketing manager, and bring the company more in line with digital strategies.
Many see my creative practice as failing due to this push for online publication, but I see it as a beginning. It cuts out the difficulty of getting noticed. If you have a product to contribute, you can share it online, and if it proves to be worthwhile, that product will be passed on, or at least read. Gone are the days of people idly passing a book, or a title being pushed back behind the ‘Top 10 Bestsellers’ section of a bookshop. Instead, there are Facebook feeds, Reddit threads and Twitter streams, which give everything an equal chance of being seen.
Things have not changed since school. I still share my stories with friends, except now instead of five readers, there’s over five hundred online who read them. My early years of rewriting Goldeneye, Star Wars Episode I, A Bug’s Life and The War of the Worlds as short stories have blossomed into long-form novels with unique themes, plot and characters.
People in the industry wonder if there is a darker side to Facebook, Twitter and the internet as a whole. Have we lost creativity in this crowdsourcing? Will these titles with minimal publisher involvement sell? Like the monstrous Martian Tripods of H.G. Wells’ novel, this digital age is mysterious and daunting. What sets us apart is the fact that it is not here to hurt our industry, only streamline it further. This is the biggest innovation since the printing press, and for once the old ways of the industry are the Martians, unable to handle the new atmosphere and dying out when inventions like the ebook take a stranglehold on their system. I say we enter that Martian Tripod. We upload our ebooks, update our Twitter accounts, and instead of viewing the online future of writing as an invasion, we welcome it as one of the great examples of human ingenuity.
As ABBA once sang, the winner takes it all. You have to be proactive to be published. You can’t win if you don’t try.
The airplane lazily circled the airport before settling in to land. Robert Rouse-Rodriguez had to hide his scotch from the air hostess as the seat-belt sign had come on.
He turned and asked me to hold it. I put it between my knees, feeling the ice chill my legs. I needed something to take me off the turgid veins criss-crossing his muscular arms. It had only been a two hour flight and already I had a lump in my throat, possibly heart-shaped, the cause definitely Robert-related.
“And it is sunny in Brisbane today, a cool twenty-two…” The plane captain’s voice droned overhead as the scotch spilled with the screeching of tyres.
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez didn’t notice. At first.
“What’s my scotch doing all across your pants?”
Reeling with shock, I stuttered out: “I didn’t mean to! I just felt it go.”
“I can’t drink my scotch. Do you know what happens when I don’t drink my scotch?”
I couldn’t tell if he was being serious. I didn’t want to find out. “I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to.”
His face was unreadable. Rich blue eyes, a luscious olive tan that did nothing except accentuate his gleaming teeth, an orthodontist’s wet dream. The whitened jewels were encased behind expansive, red velvet lining, lips the beauty of which I’ve never seen on a man before. It was like Robert Rouse-Rodriguez was from another planet. A planet of imposing good looks and quality heartthrobs.
“Can I buy you another when we get off the plane?” I offered. Anything. Anything at all to appease those crystalline eyes and get Robert Rouse-Rodriguez out for a date.
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez smiled that half-smile of his, half charming and half sexy, his eyebrows raised. “I’d love to, uh…?”
I hadn’t given him my name. I hadn’t given him my name! “Tash.”
He laughed for a moment. The awkwardness of the moment forced it out. “— Tash. But unfortunately I’ve got a connection to New Zealand to be on.”
“Oh?” Then I realised what he meant (it wasn’t just idle conversation) and how silly I was being. “Oh.”
“Yeah. Sorry.” He looked sincere. “Maybe another time?”
“Maybe.” I said, an automatic response sans thought.
“Glad to have met you, Tash.” He unbuckled his seat belt, and I realised that in getting so caught up in Robert Rouse-Rodriguez I had not noticed that the plane stopped. People were halfway to unlocking the overhead baggage compartments.
I was running out of time with Robert. Watching him get up, those slender legs pivoting, I wondered if he even found me attractive. We’d spoken a little during the flight, Robert Rouse-Rodriguez had even asked to read the New Idea I had been perusing. Attraction consumed me from the moment I’d sat down next to him. I’d told him I had been attending a business meeting in Los Angeles, and was returning for a welcome six weeks of long-service leave. He seemed interested, and told me his illustrious name and its strange origins, before turning back to his magazine only when I had run out of things to say. After that, he’d read his magazine and watched a TV show on the screen in front of him. Except for this whole scotch fiasco, but I was just meant to be a glass holder, or was he hoping for something more?
When I looked up Robert Rouse-Rodriguez had gone, and I scanned over the seats, looking for him, my seat belt weighing me down. He was almost into Business class! I jumped up and felt the belt dig in to my stomach, dragging me back into the seat. Unbuckling, I jumped two seats into the isle and nearly fell over, almost unbalancing an old man.
“Excuse me,” He murmured as I clamped a hand on the armrest to steady myself.
“Sorry!” I told him. “I’m in a hurry.”
“So are we.”
Unclipping the overhead baggage compartment, I became acquainted face-first with my roller bag, quickly followed by someone’s sports bag.
“Whoops!” said a rather hunky guy in a red tracksuit from behind the old man. “That one’s mine.”
“Here it is.” I handed him the sports bag, narrowing my eyes at him. “What do you have in there?”
“Cricket bats and balls.”
“So that’s what that was.” I turned from my staring down and realised I’d forgotten all about Robert Rouse-Rodriguez. I grabbed the roller bag —not by the handle— and surprised myself by being able to get one arm around the entire circumference of the bag as I rushed down the empty isle before me.
A flight attendant was waiting at the exit of Gate A4. “Thanks for flying with us.” The obligatory smile was somewhat blemished by the amount of makeup on her face.
I had an idea to get the man of my dreams back. “Do you know where my husband went?” I asked, dropping the roller bag with exhaustion. It clattered to the floor. Robert Rouse-Rodriguez would really find this funny if he were here right now. And not in a good way.
“Husband?” I heard a voice say. “You had a husband with you?”
I looked beyond the attendant and saw Robert Rouse-Rodriguez sitting in one of the waiting seats, coffee in hand, with The Guardian laid out in front of him. He had a look of perplexed amusement. The attendant was eyeing me off with some concern. “I, uh, no.” I stammered. “I meant Robert, you know, jokingly. He’s like a husband to me.”
“I am?” asked Robert Rouse-Rodriguez.
“You are. Yes.” I managed, rolling my luggage away before the attendant could take me off for additional screening.
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez folded up his paper. “Turns out my flight is delayed and you can take me up on that scotch offer.”
I stopped. Does he really think I’m worth it or is he just stringing me along? Perhaps he only wants company. Both ways, standing here and staring into those sparkling blue eyes won’t get me anywhere.
“Coming?” he asked. Robert Rouse-Rodriguez was already beginning to walk, his suitcase in hand, a jumper draped over one chiseled shoulder.
“I am!” I called after him, bumping my roller bag over all the linoleum as I rushed to catch up.
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez headed past the food court, the clothing stores and a duty-free bookstore, coming to rest outside a faux-Irish pub, O’Malley’s. He waited next to a life-size (or at least I thought) plastic leprechaun, his and the sprite’s grins looked similar in my eyes. A fact that somewhat unsettled, but in other ways attracted me further.
When I arrived, Robert Rouse-Rodriguez strode into the pub, past the two Japanese tourists (I’d studied Japanese as a minor in university, so I knew from the discussion they were having), the three businessmen laughing over some Guinness and a rather lonely looking old lady, to the very back of the pub, where he promptly collapsed into a booth, waved for service and put his head in his hands.
I realised this wasn’t a positive. Approaching cautiously, my roller bag hissing along the carpet, I asked him what was wrong.
“I can’t.” He muttered. “I just can’t.”
“Can’t what?” I sat down opposite him.
A waitress, an attractive young girl clad in green with a plush clover leaf for a cap, appeared from behind the bar. “What can I get you both?” She looked from me to Robert Rouse-Rodriguez and frowned. “Has he been drinking? I don’t remember him being in here.”
“No. We’ve only just arrived. Scotch for us both.” I told her, smiling apologetically. “He’s had a rough flight.” I shrugged. “Fear of flying.”
“I understand.” The girl said quickly, knowingly. I’m sure she’d had to deal with a lot of those people. I didn’t know why I was covering for Robert Rouse-Rodriguez, for all I knew he could be a creep. A ridiculously good-looking creep, but a creep nonetheless.
“A scotch.” Robert Rouse-Rodriguez managed behind his fingers.
“And you?” asked the waitress.
“The same.” I answered.
The waitress left.
“What’s wrong?” I began, but he shook his perfectly toned hand at me before I could finish.
“I can’t bear it. I can’t. You look so much like her.”
I had a feeling this was not going to be a pleasant, flirtatious exchange. “Like who?”
He spread his fingers enough to peer through at me. “My wife. She has your eyes and she worked in business.”
We sat in silence. I focused on the menu wedged in a holder next to the napkin basket. I considered pushing the little basket towards Robert, but I decided against it, fearing he would take it as a patronising act.
“I’m very sorry to hear that.” I said, picking up on the implication. “How’d she die?”
The waitress came back with two scotches, slipping them on the table with a coaster on each. Robert Rouse-Rodriguez downed his in one gulp. “Suicide. She couldn’t handle the monotony of a 9-5 work schedule. Our marriage was having issues. I pushed her too hard, asked too much of her.”
“And you find me attractive because I have the same eyes as her?”
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez didn’t answer.
I took this as an opportunity to show compassion and hopefully as a way in. “That’s very sad and I feel terrible for you. But I’m not the same person as your wife, Robert. I might have the same eyes, however I want you to know I’m different.”
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez didn’t look convinced. I could tell by the way his eyes flicked away when I looked at him.
“When’s your flight?” I asked.
“I lied. There was no flight. I wanted to get away from you. Except I wanted you. So I couldn’t go. You even have the same hair too, now that I’ve noticed. I can’t take it…”
On impulse, I got up from my seat. I rounded the table, knelt down and kissed him. His supple lips connected with mine, laced with salty tears and I felt my face numb to the heat of love.
After a time I pulled away. “Am I still your wife?”
Robert Rouse-Rodriguez’s lips pulled away like red velvet curtains, revealing that shining smile of his as he wiped away tears. The only answer I needed.
A smiling, unfazed woman approached, the briefcase hanging down by her side. I lay against the brick, sunglasses digging into the bridge of my nose, sweat trickling out of my hair in thin creeks. In the glimpse at what was under her coat, I stifled a moan as I saw the posterior of a gun sticking out of a holster.
The woman waved as if we were friends from school. I’ve never seen her before, so I could only lift a hand in some strange stop gesture.
“Where’s the money?” I asked, my fingernails crunching a fruit box I’d been holding onto for support.
“Here.” She places the suitcase on a wooden box, flipping it open in one movement, revealing the wads of cash stacked neatly. “And the product?”
I turned away from her, and I could feel her get a little spooked. Her hand snaked into the coat.
“No, no.” I protested. “I’m just getting it.”
“Yeah. It’s a little awkward to reach. My coat is a tight fit.”
Five snipers were somewhere above us, their sights trained on her. Unfortunately they couldn’t arrest until some sort of faux-deal was made.
I felt the two bags of sherbert under my coat. I’d been told it was weighed prior to this meeting, but now I wasn’t so sure. It felt too light in my breast pockets.
“You’re taking a while.” She said, flatly.
I turned and found a pistol faced me.
I reached into the pockets, and she raised the pistol further, moving closer to my heart.
“Here we go.” I took out the two bags and set them down on the cash.
She snatched them up and brought them to her eye, trying to check them.
“What’s your name?” I asked her, trying to change the subject.
“Veronica.” The woman muttered. This was possibly a made-up name.
“Well, Veronica, I’m sad to say our time is over.” I said, as her hands were ripped behind her back, and handcuffs binded them.
I then hocked and spat on her scrunched, angered face, for no other reason than I hated people who peddle drugs.