Sunday, August 8, 2010


Beatrix Slaughter, originally uploaded by Jenn Platt.
This week's story has nothing (sadly) to do with this picture taken at the Gotham Girls Roller Derby match. If it did I would have had to come up with puns at least as good as the derby names and I wasn't sure I could top Beatrix Slaughter and Hyper Lynx (#404).

Instead I present a story about a character who has become very good at making excuses for people when what she really wants to do is hip check them into the stands. Maybe it does have a little bit to do with roller derby after all.

And just for fun, here's a clip from the Bronx Gridlock vs The Queens of Pain.


The waiter passed their table again. He didn't even glance at them or their empty plates. Helen did her best to ignore him.

It shouldn't be a challenge to do his job. She wished he would- but no. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There could be a hundred reasons he kept missing them. It was a busy Friday night, he had twenty other tables, they were short staffed, he forgot they were part of his section, he was preoccupied with something, or Carrie's flirting made him nervous. Any of those excuses would do, but the every time he passed them it was like a little itch she couldn't scratch.

It would be so much easier to be understanding if he had brought the third glass of wine she'd ordered.

Helen shook her head slightly and looked across the table at her friend. Carrie had her blonde head bent, peering at something under the tablecloth. She’d been doing it every time Helen looked away. And looked guilty every time she was caught. Helen cleared her throat and held out her hand.

Carrie looked up and frowned, trying to tuck her phone back in her pocket without being obvious. They had agreed years ago that dinner meant no phones. Not even business calls. "It's nothing."

"And I'm turning into my control freak mom, I know. Just give me the damn phone," Helen said pleasantly, her hand still out.

There was a brittle tension in her voice and Carrie clearly heard it. She slid the phone across the table though her hand was still on it. "Gary's doing some work for me at home, he was just checking in."

Helen reached for the phone and her eye was caught by movement at the table beside them. She looked and saw a man staring disapprovingly at her. When she met his eye he looked away and leaned close to his companion to say something, making him frown too. Helen looked at her table and saw her hand over Carrie's. She took the phone and put it in her purse. She didn't look back at the next table. Maybe they didn't see women hold hands where they came from. Maybe they went to a strict church. Maybe they were rednecks in cheap suits who thought any woman with short hair had to be a lesbian. After thirty-six days of control it would be so satisfying to wish-

She made a fist under the table and released it slowly, concentrating on the movement of each finger, blocking out the other table. It would have been much easier to fight the urge with a little more wine. Her skin was beginning to itch with the strain.

"So what's Gary fixing?" she asked with forced calm.

Carrie was watching her, her mouth curved in a sympathetic frown. She knew how Helen struggled. "Just some handyman stuff. He only does it so mom doesn't rag him for eating all my food when he comes over."

The phone buzzed, rattling against the lighter in Helen's bag.

Carrie's hands clenched around her water glass but she didn't look at the bag or ask for the phone. Instead her hand shot out as a waitress passed their table. "We've lost our waiter. We both need another glass of Chardonnay and the check," she told the confused but compliant girl.

"You know you have to tell me now," Helen said seriously. Carrie was a good friend, she tried to keep things from upsetting Helen, not realizing that Helen found it so much easier to excuse and make excuses for people she liked. Carrie checked her phone constantly because she was a technophile. She was terrible at returning emails because of her schedule. She spent too much money on clothes because they were tied to her self esteem. Helen had never wanted to wish Carrie away.

Carrie shrugged too casually. Her mouth was compressed into a thin line. "Gary's just replacing the locks," she said, looking off after the retreating waitress.

"Why did you need them changed?" Helen asked when the phone buzzed again.

Carrie couldn't help looking at the phone this time. The tip of her tongue protruded for a second, and then she held her hand out. "Sorry."

Helen's eyebrows rose but she handed the phone over.

Carrie read the messages, her eyes darting over the little screen. She sighed and fell back in her seat. The waitress returned with the wine and Carrie drank half of her glass before the woman had set the check down.

Helen took a sip of hers and waited.

"It was stupid," Carrie said with another shrug, her eyes flicking to Helen’s face and away again.

Helen put her credit card in the folder with the bill and moved it to the edge of the table.

Carrie took another sip of wine. "I forgot Jackson still had my spare keys," she said very quietly, her knuckles white against the stem of her wine glass.

Helen's hand was a fist the moment Carrie said the name. "He came to the apartment again?" she asked, her voice high through her tight throat.

Carrie nodded, not meeting her eye. "He didn't break anything this time. He was just there when I got home," she swiped absently at her dry eyes, "he surprised me."

"He wouldn't be able to if you got a restraining order," Helen said, trying to force her hand flat and failing, her skin itched like ants were burrowing beneath it.

Carrie sighed and drank the rest of her wine. "You know what that would do to his career. I just wish-" she cut herself off looking stricken. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say it like that," she said in a horrified whisper.

Helen waved the comment off, hoping she looked calmer than she felt. There were a hundred things she wanted to wished on Jackson. "I don't care about his career Carrie, you've got to promise me you'll go to the cops. He's dangerous if he's still stalking you."

"He just showed up, he wasn't following me or anything. He wanted to work things out," she shook her head at Helen's outraged look, "I said no," she sighed, "I think he's lonely."

Jackson. Who swept the much younger Carrie off her feet. So sophisticated and mature and who knew all the right people. And knew the right people for Carrie to see and the ones she should drop. And when she should go out and what she should wear. Who was lonely now. Who had never meant to hit her that one time. And of course she'd never go back after that. But maybe he was just lonely.

"...and Gary said these locks are the best. I mean you can't even make copies of the keys." Carrie said, nodding as though new locks were the answer to everything.

Helen wished they were. Helen wished Jackson would drop off the face of the earth.

The tension and the energy left her body in a rush. Her shoulders felt light, muscles in her back released their knots, the subtle headache behind her eyes vanished and her skin felt cool and smooth. "Those are good locks, I should get Gary to do mine," she said, taking another sip of her wine though she didn't need it now. The terrible pressure was gone and she was so loose with relief she was afraid she'd fall to the floor.

Carrie's head tilted slightly to the left as she regarded Helen across the table. Her eyebrows rose in question but she didn't ask. Instead she said, "He owes me, I won't even let him charge you for the extra key." Her eyes were still searching Helen's face.

Helen shrugged, looking down. She hadn't meant to do it but she couldn't pretend she was sorry and she couldn't take it back. Jackson might be floating in space right now, bumping into satellites. She had to clench her jaw not to laugh.

Their waiter approached with a frown, finally deigning to pick up the credit card. Helen smiled brightly because she couldn't help herself, ignoring him and twirling her glass against the tablecloth. "Still want to head to the club?" she asked, checking the time on her phone.

Carrie closed her eyes, took a deep breath and finished her wine. She banged the glass on the table. "Let's do it," she said too loudly.

Helen saluted her with her own glass.

They would never say it, but they both knew they'd already done it. No one would ever hear from Jackson again.


  1. Fun stuff, i like the idea presented here.

    A nitpick: the last two sentences are in a black font against a dark gray background, very hard to read.

  2. Fixed. Thanks for pointing that out. Blogger and Word hate each other for some reason.


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