The Broken Purse
Some kind of a weird noir parody. Best read with a sleazy saxophone solo playing in the background, because that’s how it got written.
I can feel this seedy bar etching itself into the backs of my eyelids. Once you’ve been in a bar like this, you can never really leave. Smoke from the lungs of a hundred scumbags saturates your soul, and then it seeps out of your pores for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter how clean you get or how freshly pressed your suit; good honest folks can still smell it, and wrinkle their noses when you walk by.
She knew I was looking her way. Animals like her have a sixth sense for these things.
Well, I tried not to think about it. But then she sidles on over to me and starts purring like a kitten.
“Buy me a drink,” she says.
“Baby,” I says, “I’ll buy a dame like you a whole bottle.”
So we get to talking. Turns out she’s from Maine. Land of the lobsters, I say. She says nobody talks like that and I don’t know jack shit about Maine.
As we talk I get to studying her face. You can read some faces just like a book. Where they’ve been, what they’ve seen. Behind those velvet eyes lay a Pandora’s box of trouble. She’d seen more than most, lost more. She had a low speaking voice, the kind you had to really listen to hear. And a slow motion walk, like she carried in her hips the watery swells of the great lakes. Maine. Nobody ever leaves Maine. It’s too good there.
She tells me she’s been shopping, that she bought a new purse. That the strap broke today. She looks at me with those deep black eyes and my heart split into twenty pieces of silver.
“I’ll fix your purse, sweetheart,” I says to her. And I stretch out my hand.
She hands me the purse. Charming the way she tied it together. A perfect square knot, not a loose strap of leather anywhere. An organized woman.
Yeah, I offered to fix her purse. But I wasn’t playing straight with her. I didn’t know the first thing about sewing. But I knew something about knots. I knew about tight places. Ah, she had a dress on so tight, it could strangle a python.
I sneak myself a peek into her purse and I see a shiny wallet, a set of keys, lipstick, eyeshadow, mascara, and $300 in cold hard cash.
Yeah, I’m a lousy guy, and I love a beautiful woman with sad eyes, but I ain’t a sucker. I tell you she had a contact list in her phone that was a mile long, all of them Johns.
“Sweetheart,” I says. “It’s been a pleasure. I’ll fix this for you in a jiffy, just gotta run to the car.”
She looked kinda troubled when I said that. “Wait,” she says.
I get up and I move fast. She’s got too much of the Great Lakes in her, those rolly hips balanced on high heels couldn’t get any speed. She says something at my back, I think it was, “he’s got my purse! You son of a bitch!”
A couple of heroes try to stop me but I hit em right where their weight settled and knock em down.
Yeah. I am a son of a bitch. I’m a fast son of a bitch. And no one will ever catch up to me.
I made a choice that night. Sometimes, when I’m in bed, my thoughts come sneaking in through the crack of light under the door. I close my eyes and I see the bar again, and I see the girl from Maine with the velvet eyes. And when I look at the tattoo those three hundred dollars got me, I wonder if it was all worth it. A Woody Woodpecker caricature lasts a long time in ink. But a kiss from a woman like that, maybe that’s what forever tastes like.