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2023.06.07 14:50 kiplet1 [City of Roses] no. 27.2: “The first order of Business” – at This table – antique Punk bullshit – the Basics of Security
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tends to crumble
“The first order of business,” says the man at the head of the table, “in any face time we take with potential occupancy partners, we need to assess how the anticipated anchor’s gonna impact their appraisal and availability approach.” It’s a long table, a slab of wood the color of pale flesh, polished to a striking gleam that’s broken here and there by a phone or a computer tablet laid before this person or that, until down at the very other end of it, a couple of comb-bound reports bristling with post-it flags, a spill of colorful diagrams, a worn redweld holding a couple of file folders upright, a small black notebook splayed open, the wispy scratch of a fountain pen, APPRAISAL written in ruddy black ink, AVAILABILITY , then three sharp underscores. “It’s not,” the man at the head of the table is saying, “that we anticipate an antagonism toward the anchor, on the part of any potential partners?” His flat grey suit’s a touch too big, the collar of his soft blue shirt’s undone, his sparse beard neatly trimmed. “But by anticipating,” he says, “their respective stances vis-à-vis their individualized brand engagement profiles which, let me assure you, we will be reviewing in a thorough manner before we, we take up any,” he’s trailing off, “tête-à-têtes,” blinking quizzically. The room about them’s walled in cool sheets of green-tinged glass on all four sides and more beyond refracting, reflecting, shimmering desk lamps and fluorescents, computer screens, heads popping up over cubicle walls, turning, following the figure swimming up through them, one glass door after another opening before her, “I,” says the man at the head of the table, “excuse me,” as the final glass door swings open, she’s sweeping into the room, Ysabel in her long white coat. “I tried to tell her,” someone’s saying, a receptionist maybe, bobbing in her wake, and “Do you mind,” says an older man, halfway down the table, a hand on his phone on the wood, but she’s glaring at the very other end of the table. “How dare you,” she says.
“Sorry, folks,” says Lymond, screwing the cap onto his fountain pen. “Think we might have the room a minute?”
“I, um,” says the man at the head of the table, “we just got started?”
“And we’ll get right back into it,” says Lymond. “I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this brand engagement. Now,” pushing back his chair, “if you don’t mind,” but already they’re filing out, shirts and blouses of dull green, milky blue, an intrepid puce, awkwardly around past Ysabel all in white. “Um,” says the man who’d been at the head of the table, in his flat grey suit.
“Thanks,” says Lymond, cheerfully. The green glass door swings shut. “How dare I?” he says, to Ysabel. “I’m the King. A certain latitude’s expected.”
“You could’ve gotten her killed,” says Ysabel.
“They’re watching, you know,” he says, tucking a report into the redweld. “Go on. Lean over the table. Slap me. That should be enough to undo all his sacrifice secured.”
She blinks at that, draws back. “Sacrifice,” she says.
“He thought of it as such,” says Lymond, stacking up those diagrams, tapping their edges against the wood. “Now. Slap me, or turn about, and go home.”
“Not until you explain yourself, brother.”
“Oh, Ys,” he says. “If you would play at this table,” he’s tucking the diagrams into a file folder, “you must pay attention.” A wince, as he sets the folder aside. “We find ourselves upon a crux: the duel between the Devil and the Huntsman redounded to our favor, yet the wound’s but freshly healed. Any sudden shift might tear it right back open.” His hands, folded together before him, a thumb pressed tight against a knuckle. “Is that what you would have?”
“I’ve seen the wound,” she says. “He nearly cut her through. The owr does what it can,” and she looks up from the tabletop to meet his eyes, one brown, one blue, both cold. “She sleeps. She’s been asleep since the Mason brought her home.” Leaning down now, both hands planted on the glossy wood. “I’m doing you a courtesy, by answering a question I assume you would eventually have asked?”
A bitter something of a smile. “How is Jo,” he says, “how Jo is, I know how is our Gallowglas: loyal, and effective. I trusted her to do what needed doing, and she went and got it done. Now,” over her sharp intake of breath, “I ask, once more. You know what is at stake. Do you mean to stand against any particular point of our plan?” Leaning in close. “Slap me,” he says. “Or go home.”
She steps back, she turns away. Before she can open the green glass door he says, “Take care, sister, where and when you might vent any further displeasures?” Looking down, at his folded hands. “Our tantrums are expensive.”
“You’ve no idea,” she says, “what could’ve spilled from her heart, had his stroke been a whit more true.”
She opens the door. He shifts his thumb. The thin line of a neat straight cut along the edge of his forefinger, sewn with tiny beads of dark red blood. He lifts it to his lips. “Um,” says someone, the man in the flat grey suit a touch too big, peering into the room. “Everything good?”
“Paper cut,” says Lymond, waving him in. “C’mon, let’s go. Take it from the top.”
Well and I don’t know, dim voices floating up through floorboards loosely laid across the joists, not what we discussed, poets and junkies, epic, like some, there’s a mirror, there’s no one in the mirror, there’s a crack in the glass of it jagged, chased and dappled, splotched with gold, a spangled haze, such a history, working together, that didn’t work, a drip-drip trickle from the faucet, puddles on gold-streaked marble about the sink, but there, it’s gonna be epic, dust gone dark to grey, to black, a lump of it mucked up under the mirror, with the shreds of a burst plastic baggie, this, or this, or this. There’s music, too, loud but languid, strummed guitars, a melodeon, but she’s sitting up in the dark, her head in her hands, and there is no mirror, no light, no sinks or water, no marble countertop, but there is the dust, spangled, glimmering in the milky cloud of her hair, and still the music.
“Well if we have to have a name,” says Gloria Monday.
“It’s something to put on a poster,” says the woman sitting on the nubbled pea-green couch, one hand braced on the curled handle of an orthopædic cane, a big brown scaley purse in her lap.
“Well if that’s all we want,” says Gloria, wrestling to one side a great stretched canvas, a twirling figure calligraphed in slashes of black, to reveal another propped behind it, the next wild scribble of dance. She steps back, behind a tiny silver camera atop a stolid tripod, stoops to peer through it. “We could call it the Lawn,” she says, snapping a picture. Straightening, she looks back and forth, from the painting, to the image of it, now on the enormous white-framed monitor behind her there on the worktable.
“As in get off the?” says the woman standing off to one side, her long black coat done up with brightly silver buttons, and a little grey snap-brim hat on her head.
“That’s not what we discussed,” says Anna in her houndstooth trousers, narrow black-rimmed glasses glaring in the light.
“The house,” says Gloria, taking hold of the canvas. “Run-down and falling apart and poets and junkies and twenty bedrooms to one bathroom and full of,” lifting, “epic,” hoisting it aside, “legend, and, and art,” to reveal the next. “The Lawn,” says Gloria Monday. Her feet are bare, laddered tights printed with overlapping gears, her vast white T-shirt says Robot Fightin’ Boots.
“I liked Weatherall’s,” says Anna. “If we’re going to change it.”
“Yeah, well,” says Gloria, stooping behind the camera again.
“Sounds like some Harry Potter shit,” says the woman in the long black coat.
“Jilting of,” says Gloria, snapping another picture. “Granny Weatherall? Been a while, since you been in high school?” The woman on the couch snorts up a laugh, sits up, hefting her cane. “How about,” she says, pointing the wide rubber foot of it out, toward the cavernous space beyond, “this building,” the boxes, equipment, the bulks of whatever it is under tarps shoved off to either side, stacked in the stalls that one by one march down the long high walls, “the history,” soaked in soft grey light depending from up under the rafters, the windows there scrubbed clean of filth, scraped clear of paint, “a name should honor that.”
“It was a warehouse for vegetables,” says Gloria.
“A farmers’ market,” says the woman on the couch, “built by Italian immigrants, working together. Cooperatively.”
“Snot Market,” says Gloria, “Grime Market, that didn’t work,” grabbing the next canvas, “Pus Market has a certain punch,” hauling it aside, “but Anna didn’t like any of those, and anyway it’s antique punk bullshit. Effluvial Plane I kinda liked, but that’s too, much, y’know?”
“How old are you?” says the woman all in black.
“Fuck you,” says Gloria. “That’s how old I am.”
“Gloria,” says Anna.
“No, fuck this,” snarls Gloria. “We got the space. We’re doing the thing. It’s gonna be epic. And you can either get on board, get your, people, involved,” the woman on the couch, clutching her purse, “you can write about it like you know what’s gonna happen,” the woman all in black, hands in her pockets, smirking, “or you can scramble to catch up after, like everyone else.”
“Ms. Thorpe, we must apologize,” says Anna, after a moment, but “No, no,” says the woman all in black, “tempers run hot and you let them out and that’s fine, and then you stop and you take a deep breath and you think. Maybe you do this, or maybe tomorrow you’re kicked out for squatting. You don’t – ”
“Hey, Anna!” says Gloria. “What’s the owner got to say, about us being here?”
“There are no objections,” says Anna, but Thorpe looks away, rolling her eyes. “I did my homework,” she says, lifting her little grey hat, “or I wouldn’t be here at all,” scratching her head, her dark hair short, swept back. “You’re Suzette Wilson, you’re Tom Wilson’s daughter, and I’m sorry for your loss, but the title to this pile is hardly as clear-cut as,” but Gloria’s saying, “This, this is my place,” as Thorpe says “that’s before we even get into the questions of insurance, and zoning, and inspections,” but Gloria’s shouting “S1! Last Thursday! The Teahouse! You think they waited around for fucking paperwork?”
Anna and the woman on the couch, watching them both, Gloria seething, Thorpe settling her hat on her head, “Well,” she’s saying, tucking her hands in the pockets of her coat, “S1 is street-legal now, yeah, and the Teahouse? That was in Sellwood? Long gone. And you have any idea how much the merchants on Alberta pay the city for extra cops?” A shrug, and that smirk warms to something more sympathetic. “You want to beg forgiveness instead of ask permission and I can respect that, but there’s this delicate balance. You gotta be big enough to get noticed, but you can’t be so big you get noticed, you know?” Looking out, over the cavernous space below. “And all this you want to do in a week.” Turning back, hands spread in a hapless shrug, a burble of sound, “I like you,” she says, “I do, I like the idea,” looking up. It sounds like someone’s singing up there.
Up there, up at the edge of the planks laid across the joists, up by the brief ladder bolted to the wall a couple of long bare legs kicked over and orange underpants, ee, ee-oh nor, the keening voice a grunt, doo da-da dee, doo da-da dee, down the ladder to the walkway up there, a wild mad cloud of white-gold hair, “and quickly was received, enthusiastically,” and Thorpe looks down, over at the paintings leaned, at the image on the enormous monitor. “Some say that it had more to do with her,” the singer’s making her way, hand on the railing, “improper sense of dress, than her talent, or her diligence,” opening a door up there, painted with letters that possibly once said Ranchers, or Gardeners, and closing it muffles her song. “I’m sorry,” says Anna, drawing back their attention. “It seems Marfisa forgot we were meeting this morning.”
“I’ve seen,” says Thorpe, “I’ve heard her, before.”
“Salt and Straw,” says the woman on the couch, but then, lifting a finger, “no, that’s the ice cream.”
“She kinda came with the place,” says Gloria. Up there a crash of water, flushing, that door opens, Marfisa’s stepping out, “Cartier Bresson!” she shouts. “Max Ernst, Paul Eluard, George Bataille,” as she’s making her way back along the wall above them. “Their misogyny really irritated her, but she wasn’t, she,” stopping, standing there, wavering a little, looking down at them. Absently scratching just beneath a breast, and sunlight flashing from the gold dust spangling her skin.
“I heard you play once,” says Thorpe, abruptly.
Her wide smile spreading, Marfisa tips back her white-gold head, “Lee, ee-oh nor!” she sings, reaching for the ladder. “Lee, ee-oh nor!” Climbing back up toward the makeshift floor above.
“Stone and Salt!” says the woman on the couch. “That was it.”
Ding the microwave, she opens the door of it, reaches in with a hot pad for a steaming pink mug that says Sophia & Dorothy & Blanche & Rose. In she dunks a purple octopus infuser, dandling its delicate chain a moment. Color blooms.
Out of the kitchen, across the living room, dark wood paneling, grey-green shag, shuff and snap of her slippers into a nook of a hall, too brightly lit. She nudges open a door left ajar, into a small dark room lit only by sunlight staining the edges of heavy curtains drawn, and almost entirely filled by a great wide bed. “I’ve brought tea,” she says, setting the mug on the nightstand in the corner. “Hey.” Sitting on the edge of the bed. “I called Reg,” she says, reaching along the margin of the thick dark comforter, and a gentle stroke for the blond head there, turned away. “Told him we’d need another week. He wasn’t happy, but hey. Fuck him.” Tucking a lock of her own hair, as blond, as straight, behind her ear. “Chrissie,” she says. “Chér.”
“I don’t want any tea.”
“Yeah, well,” says Ettie, and she gets to her feet with a sigh. “This would be why I stick with men. They can’t break your heart.”
The door swings open, for a moment all’s revealed, scarred floor and drifts of grit against the bar, peeling dimpled paint along the front of it and its cracked vinyl bumper, dust furring the bottles along the top shelf, the washed-out flyspecked neon lights, the bartender, spiky hair flared palely to a golden brown, hand up against the raw daylight, skinny arm festooned with shadowy tattoos, “Jacks?” says Jessie, blinking, but the light’s swallowed away as the door swings shut, and dimness closes about the warm neon, the sparkle of glass, the rattle of drums and a couple of jangled chords, bubbling bass, “Jackie?” says the bartender, his hair gone black. “Ah, naw. She ain’t here.”
“Oh,” says Jessie, in her puffy pink parka. “Sorry. I thought,” and she shakes her head, Americans were thus denied, someone’s singing, with the guitar and the drums, all right to travel to the other side. “She usually works mornings,” says Jessie. “Any idea when she’s in next?”
“No, see,” says the bartender, “I mean, she’s not here? Anymore?” Folding those skinny arms, leaning his elbows on the bar. “And we can’t be giving out people’s schedules, come on. Basic security.”
“I’m a friend,” says Jessie, and then, “I used to dance here? About a year, year and a half ago. Went by Rain?”
“If you’re a friend,” says the bartender, “I mean, she left, what, right after the holidays? Two, three months ago? So, I mean,” and he spreads his hands. “Want something to drink?”
“Where’d she go?” says Jessie.
“I don’t know, Eugene or something? But even if I did I couldn’t tell you, because, security, you know. Coffee? Anything?”
Betcha my life, there’d be no violence there, and she opens her mouth to speak but everything lights up again, washed out, as the door swings open, two women, raincoat, trench coat, gym bag and backpack, nodding to the bartender who waves hello as they head through empty tables past the empty little stage, toward the nondescript door back there. “How about Chilli,” says Jessie. “He back there?”
“He, naw, Chilli, we’re,” the bartender jumps as she walks away, “we’re under new management,” he calls after her, “so,” but there’s confusion by that nondescript door as it opens, those women stepping through around and past a man who’s stepping out, brown leather vest and rich red hair flopping from a widow’s peak, “I need you to,” the bartender’s saying. Jessie waves him off. “It’s Gaveston,” she says. “I know Gav.”
But Gaveston’s holding the door for someone else, a tall woman in a white track suit, short hair greenly yellow, and Jessie stops short, in the midst of the empty tables. “Chariot?” she says. The tall woman’s saying something to Gaveston, as she heads off past the little stage. “Iona?” says Jessie, and the tall woman looks over to see her there in pink. “Oh,” she says, stopped short. “Rain.”
“Is she here?” says Jessie. “The,” a cough, “the Princess? Uh, Queen? Ysabel?”
Iona’s shaking her head, “I’m merely here on her behalf,” she says, stepping away, but “Iona,” says Jessie, “Chariot, tell her, please,” and Iona stops, looks back. “Yes?” she says.
Jessie looks away. “Nothing,” she says. “Don’t tell her anything. Not even, that you saw me.”
“As you wish,” says Iona. Jessie’s still looking away, there among the empty tables. I’d want the giddy-up, the guitar jangles, I’d want to live it up, I’d want the pick-me-up, and the nondescript door back there’s now shut. The bartender isn’t behind the bar that flares, scoured once more by daylight as Iona opens the door outside. She steps through, the door swings shut, the darkness returns.
Nox Sea Raid say the letters punched in light across the screen. Choose Your Squad swooshes in below. A husky contralto says Set em up Sarge over the speakers, and the guy on the beanbag thumbs and clicks the controller in his lap, wheeling the view on the screen about a motley crew of centaurs, each stepping up to present arms as the focus settles fleetingly on them, uttering a catch-phrase, Rock an roll, rack em and pack em, they will fear my song, buzzbombs why’s it have to be buzzbombs, reportin for beauty! rock an rack em rock an pack em why’s it have to fear my rock an roll an reportin! “This is gonna suck,” says the guy on the beanbag, “I need more’n one tank for this.” Wrinkles about his eyes and gingery stubble along his jaw. “Whaddaya think,” he says, looking away from the screen, “would a Mixolydian,” but there’s nobody beside him, there’s a man headed away, over toward the grand dark staircase, dodging around a dark wood column, his sweater bulky, red, he’s looking up to the woman stopped there on the stairs, black trousers, a bowtie unclipped about her winged collar. “Long as he needs,” she’s saying, and “Oh,” says the guy on the beanbag, turning back to the screen, “Ellen’s home.” Clicking through the figures on the screen, rock an roll, reportin for beauty, they will fear, “The hell was he doing, wearing my shirt?” and the guy on the beanbag looks up again at that, the man in the red sweater a step or two up the stairs, and Ellen above him, maybe a shrug, “It looks better on him,” she’s saying, turning away. Why’s it have to be, says the centaur on the screen. Rack em!
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