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Give the People What They Want.

Thrifting is a beautiful thing.

After three weeks of alternating between scuffed hardwood and lumpy futon and back again, I’ve finally found it. The perfect bed, only 49.95 and in all places, Circus Thrift. Dark cedar, nicked in three places, but still a hundred times better than anything I’d hoped to find.

Weekends in thrift shops are always pure chaos so I hang my jacket from the bedpost to mark my territory and hop into line before some lady with a cartload of some of the loudest, stickiest arguments for the use of contraceptives I’ve ever seen has a chance to beat me to it.

The girl working behind the counter has olive skin and golden eyes, head shaved on one side and braided on the other. She’s heavy in the grunge thing, short plaid skirt over ripped fishnets held together with safety pins, bright white Martens, red suspenders and a black crop top,

I know her.

This is apartment 2B.

This is apartment 2B of a different man a date, a date three times a week.

This is apartment 2B who once lured our landlord out of hiding with claims of a busted pipe under the kitchen sink, then engaged him in a thirty minute screaming match on the front stop because It’s freezing in this tin can crud excuse of a building – you got old people and babies in here and if you don’t do something about it, I’m gonna call the cops and maybe they will!

He didn’t do anything.

The cops never showed.

2B wrote a petition to mail to the BHB and BBB, then tossed it once she realized the majority of our neighbors would never sign. Everyone knows that home in an igloo is far better than no home at all.

She jabs at the register, “That’s 51.95.”

I pass her a c-note, the last money I own.

“That’s a really good find. You lucked out big time.” She counts my change, then leans forward with her elbows resting on the countertop, chin in hands, “Now, how you gonna get it home? I mean, you are 3A, right?”

I blink, surprised that she should know this, surprised to have been noticed without noticing, “Oh, yeah. Sam.” I quickly extend a hand, “Samantha Sydnor.”

She flashes a lopsided grin, “Rachel Diaz. No way you’re getting that thing back to our building on transit.”

“I didn’t think of that.”

I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

“You guys don’t happen to deliver, by any chance?”

“This dump?”” She arches her brows to her edges, “Fraid not.”

“Huh.” I stare blankly at two senior ladies in velour jogging suits digging through a bin of yarn.

Rachel drums rainbow polished nails on the countertop, eyes shrouded in thought.

“Excuse me.”

“What?” She frowns at the man trying to purchase a pair of gently loved work boots, then dismisses him just as quickly, “Hang on a minute, okay?” She turns on her heels and shouts towards the back of the shop, “Hey, Miles, send Aris to cover the front ! I’m gonna take five! Someone’s gonna be with you in just a minute, okay, sir?”

“Actually, I’m in kind of a hurry. Couldn’t you just…?”

“No sir, I’m afraid I could not; but thanks so very much for asking.”

She flashes him a Kodak moment grin before hoisting herself over the countertop and racing around to one end of the bed frame. She frowns expectantly in my direction.

“You’re serious?”

“Does this look like a face that’d tell you a lie?”

I hurry to join her and somehow we manage, huff-puffing our way past mismatched dining sets and racks of clothes left over from the disco era. Out on the sidewalk, the September sun’s up to its old tricks. We can see it, but feeling it? That’s another story.

We rest the bed on its legs and I shrug into my jacket before plopping beside it, can’t help groaning when Rachel pulls me right back to my feet.

 “What we need…” She balances on the toes of her sneakers as she scans the parking lot, “is a dude with a truck.”

“You mean like that one?”

“Exactamundo.”

She starts to take off.

I grab her wrist, “On second thought, maybe we better wait for someone who isn’t wearing a giant Confederate flag stamped across his chest.”

“Beggars, choosers.”

“Horse whips, nooses.”

“Okay. Fine. What about…that guy?” She links her elbow through mine before I have a chance to answer and I find myself galloping toward as opposed to running from NeckTattoo-ChinSpike-PonyTail-Guy. He is in a Carhart jumpsuit and muddy work boots, rushing home to unwind with a six pack of Millers in his hand.

“Hey! Hello! Mister!”

I don’t blame the guy for pretending he doesn’t hear her, fully understand why he gives up in the end.

There just isn’t any use when it comes to this chick.

“Yeah?”

“Hi, thanks so much for stopping.” She grins and bats her lashes. Just like that, he’s grinning all over himself, happily intrigued. “I’m Robbi and this is my friend, Sahar.”

He turns to me now, blue eyes sparkling. Rachel’s elbow is jabbing my ribcage so I force a smile, tilt my head, and offer a wide innocent stare. It’s enough.

“Robbi…Sahar.” He nods at each of us. “What can I do for you ladies?”

“Well, here’s the thing…”

“Will.”

“Will. Thing is, Sahar and I just bought this bed and now we’ve got no way to get it back to our place so we were wondering, you know, if it isn’t too much trouble…It’s like, we’re only a mile and a half from here and we could pay you if…”

“Aw man, no. No way. I wouldn’t ask you to pay me if it’s just up the road…”

“Oh yeah, it totally is. I mean, does this look like a face that’d tell you a lie?”

I slam a hand over my mouth to keep from laughing.

“No. I’m not calling you a liar or anything…”

“That’s really good to know, Will.”

“It’s just, what about your boyfriends? They couldn’t come out and…?”

“No.” Rachel shakes her head and throws an arm around my waist, trapping me into a claustrophobic side hug that squishes my cheek against hers and fills me with the urgent need to knock her to the ground and go screaming in the opposite direction. Human connection isn’t really my thing. I’m more of a poke your neighbor with a stick kind of girl. “It’s just the two of us.”

And the last part is so ridiculously exaggerated and dirty it’s like it was torpedoed straight out of one of those incredibly bad 1970s pornos. (Not that I’ve ever seen one or anything. I’ve just heard things. You know. From people who have.)

Anyway, Rachel’s clearly crackers and this guy (who is clearly a first class perv) is now drooling all over the place like we’re suddenly the playmates of the year, which is not remotely accurate even on my very best days.

He thinks he’s running the show, wants us to go stand on the sidewalk while he brings his truck around.

Rachel’s all thank yous and smiles til she’s sure he can’t see us anymore. Then she’s grabbing my arm and hissing in my ear, “Keep your knees together and you’ll be fine.”

“I am not riding alone with that guy. He could be some serial killer or the next Waco Wacko waiting to happen for all we know.”

“Oh, that’s poppycock! He’s a perfectly nice guy.”

“With naked girl mud flaps and a Honk if you Like Hooters bumper sticker?”

She cranes her neck as he pulls the truck alongside, then puckers her lips into a little ‘O’ and frowns, “Well, he could be alright.”

“Yes, and I could end up broken and bruised in a shallow grave with my Bra-tastic shoved down my throat.”

“Glass?”

“Half empty. Bed of roses?”

“Wilted and crawling with smelly white maggots.”

“Hah!”

“But that is not the point.”

“Openly hypocritical as well as grossly cynical. Double hah!”

It’s a fifteen second staredown. I’m not sure who wins; but somehow the bed ends up in the bed of Will’s truck while Rachel ends up squished between he and I in the cab. The Fugees are blaring on the tape deck and Rachel and Will are busy chatting about unrest in the Middle East. It’s kind of sad that he can’t read her because by law of all that is right and just in the world, he’s totally justified in assuming that the two of them are hitting it off. She’s just that good at wrapping a man around her finger – the laughs, the smiles, the way her hand somehow finds its way to the back of his neck. It’s all a scheme to get him to drop us safely outside the frosted double doors of 101 East Salem, help us lower the bed frame onto the sidewalk, and struggle the way up…the stairs.

How could we have forgotten the stairs?

“It’s gotta go where?” Will squints at Rachel, then scratches the back of his neck. It’s obvious that he’s thinking how he could be home this very moment, kicked back with a cold one and Dave Cupp going on about recession on the evening news instead of standing in a dimly lit foyer with the stench of 4C’s ganja and 1B’s boiled cabbage and hash. “Well…we’re gonna need a little help, don’t you think?”

“We got it this far, didn’t we?”

Crazy.

A stone cold looney-tune.

“I guess I could take it apart…”

“Really, Will? Wow, that’s great.”

“Yeah…” He squints at Rachel again, then goes to fetch his toolbox from the truck.

Rachel smiles and rocks on her toes, “Can I pick them or can I pick them?”

“This can not end well.”

“Oh, ninita, watch and learn.”

So I perch on the bottom step while Will removes nuts and bolts and Rachel offers assistance she knows he won’t accept.

“Three pieces. I guess that’s one for each of us.”

“No, I got it.” It’s an insult to his manhood, the suggestion that can-barely-reach-the-top-cabinet-on-tiptoe me or 115-pounds-soaking -wet Rachel could possibly help him with anything. “Just remind me where I’m going.”

“3C.”

I start to correct her but her elbow is in my ribcage again.

We follow him past the elevator with it’s perpetual Out Of Order sign and up the narrow stairwell.

“Home sweet home.” Rachel plants herself on 3C’s jute welcome mat, She searches her pockets, then blinks at me “You have the key?”

“What?”

“I think I locked mine in again. You have yours, right?”

“Oh…sure.” I finally catch on, make a show of lifting the flap of my sugar skull messenger bag, “Somewhere…”

Will leanes the metal side rail against the apartment door, “I’m heading back down.”

“I’ll come with you.” Rachel takes his hand and I twiddle with my phone til they reappear.

“I may have to take the thing off the hinges.” Will is in better spirits as he rests the second half of the bed alongside the first.

“No.” I dump the contents of my bag onto the hall carpet and kneel to rifle through. “I’ll find them.”

“Do you care if I help her look?”

“Nah.” Will gives Rachel the once over before heading down for the final time. “I got it.”

I immediately begin shoving my things back into my bag where they belong, “Now what?”

“The piece de resistance, of course.” She cop bangs on 3C’s door, “Hey, we need your help.”

3C isn’t happy to see us. She’s still in her curlers, bonnet, and housecoat. It’s clear we’ve called her from an afternoon snooze.

“Did you need my help remembering how to use the phone or find the way from your apartment to mine? It kills you to check in? You got one abuelita and it’s too much trouble to dial a phone or walk a flight of stairs. I could be dead for all you know.”

“Absences longer, hearts fonder.”

“Think you need to do a little better than that.”

She starts to shut the door.

Rachel’s foot is in the jamb, “Please? It’s an emergency.”

It’s no surprise that I find myself being yanked into 3C’s living room to cower with Rachel between a giant aquarium that is apparently home to twin tarantulas and a wall display of glass bongs in varying shapes, colors, and sizes.

A second knock at 3C’s door.

“Who is it?” She hisses at the aquarium.

“Stalker.” Rachel hisses back.

“Figures.” 3C shakes her head and opens the door, “Yeah?”

“Hey…” Will falters in his confusion. “I’m looking for Robbi and Sahar…”

“Who?”

“Rob…the girls who live here.”

“You see any girls here?”

“I gave them a ride and they asked me to bring this up for them…”

“So it’s up.”

Silence while Will struggles to look past 3C’s shoulder.

She rattles her walker, “I don’t want any problems, young man. Are we going to have problems?”

“No, ma’am.” Will’s voice is resign paired with sudden realization, “Just, if you do happen to see Robbie, tell her I said ‘well played.’”

“Can’t tell anything to someone who doesn’t exist, young man. And can’t trust any face that says it can’t tell you a lie.”

3C waits until Will’s gone without my bed before sliding her locks and bolts back into place and shuffling her way to the overstuffed sofa. She drapes an afghan across her knees and lights a cigarette, “Lover Boy’s gone. You heartbreakers can come out now.”

Author’s Note: Rachel and Sam are characters from Salem Rhaspody, an unfinished (and defunct) novel about a diverse group of friends living in the mid-90s.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Happy Read, Humor, Young Adult (YA)

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