New Fiction: The Vocalist (Part 3)
November 23, 2001
Continuing our tale of THE VOCALIST
The blue-gray Chevy Cavalier fishtailed on the rain-slick roadway at 8:32 p.m. It spun left, right, then left again. It hit the guardrail and tore through it as though the barrier were constructed of notebook paper. The car became airborne and plummeted approximately 50 yards before the hood impacted with the ground below. Nearly 30 yards behind the accident scene, Trevor brought his Honda Civic to a halt. He’d been behind the Cavalier and had watched, mystified, as its driver failed to negotiate what was clearly not a difficult turn. Trevor pulled his vehicle to the side of the road and depressed the hazard light-switch. As he stepped out of his car the heavy rain stung his face like 100 angry wasps. The rhythmic blinking of the yellow and orange hazard lights reflected on his features, creating a frightening dual persona as he glimpsed at his own reflection in the Honda’s rain-covered windshield. Trevor hurried to the broken railing and looked down the hillside at the wrecked Chevy. Its head- and taillights continued to shine, illuminating the otherwise black, rain-soaked slope.
Trevor raced down the muddy side of the hill, forgoing any thought of personal danger, and arrived near the vehicle in mere seconds. Inside, the driver lay unmoving. Trevor called out several times and received no response. The door would not open despite his efforts. The smell of oil and burning rubber indicated a possible fire had ignited beneath the car’s hood.
Trevor stood back several feet from the vehicle and cleared his mind. His vocal chords tensed and relaxed, tensed and relaxed. A low, nondescript sound became audible. Initially it was barely more than a whisper. It quickly grew and expanded, becoming louder and more focused. A singly, solitary, “I can name that tune in one note” icon of sound: B flat. It radiated in the surrounding area. Were it light, it would have blinded anyone in its path. As sound, it shattered the windows of the wrecked vehicle in a series of simultaneous, yet controlled, explosions.
And then: Silence, save for the driving rain, save for the sudden inhalation of air as Trevor refilled his spent lungs. He was able to gain access into the vehicle through the passenger-side door, and he carefully removed the driver from the wreckage.
Trevor covered the driver—a woman, who he’d guess to be approximately 50 years old—with his blazer, and cautiously carried her up the hillside as she began to regain consciousness. He helped her into the passenger side of his car and phoned 9-1-1. Trevor handed her a tissue and instructed her to keep it pressed to her forehead, which had sustained a four-inch gash and was bleeding steadily. He asked her several times if she was okay. She replied that she was.
“Agnes,” she managed.
“What happened, Agnes?” he asked.
“I—I fell asleep,” she replied.
Trevor examined the gash on her forehead.
“You’re going to need stitches, probably a dozen or so.”
“I know. But try to hang in there. The ambulance will be here in a few minutes.”
Shortly thereafter, the wail of sirens erupted in the night as an ambulance and patrol car arrived. The EMTs spoke with Agnes as they situated her on a gurney. As she was being placed into the ambulance, she took hold of Trevor’s hand and thanked him.
It was not until after he returned home, stripped off his soaking clothes, and stepped into the shower that Trevor discovered the cut on his left forearm. He realized the injury must have occurred when he was opening the passenger-side door of the Chevy. He washed the wound thoroughly. The shower’s hot water and steam was a pleasant alternative to the former mud and rain in which he’d stood. It was then he smelled a citrusy aroma in the air and heard the shower curtain open and close.
“Hello, love,” he said to Monica, and continued to rinse the shampoo from his hair. “How was class?”
“Fine. You should have seen the model they sent us. A cross between Phyllis Diller and Yono Oko.”
“I’ll have to look at your sketchbook.”
“I heard about what you did tonight.”
“What I did?”
“Yeah, it was on the radio. I mean, they didn’t say it was you, but the description of the unknown good Samaritan in a Honda Civic was pretty close so I figure it was you.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“Always the hero,” she said, smiling.
“More like, wrong place right time.”
“Anyway, you’re a good man.”
She stood in the shower, her front pressed against his back, and massaged his shoulders. He exhaled in gratification. Her hands moved from shoulders to chest, her fingers caressing his wet flesh.
“You staying in tonight?” she asked.
“I think so.”
“That’s nice,” she said, mischievously. “You know, you can always stay in and play the super-hero game with me.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, curiously.
Her slippery hands moved toward the middle of his body. “Up, up, and away,” she giggled.
Mr. Black & Blue pulled a slice of pie free from the cardboard pizza box and held it up in disgust.
“Will ya look at this? This is what’s wrong with this country!”
He held the pizza slice high in the air like Moses held his staff, but there was no sea to be parted, merely the audible ramblings of a mad man.
“You see that? Do you see that? Do you see how the cardboard from the box has merged with the cheese? How is a man expected to ear this? How can a man eat this I ask ya?”
The Scallion sat on a red-leather chaise across the room, trying to conceal an ever-increasing annoyance. “I really…don’t…know,” he replied, exasperated.
“I tell ya what we oughta do. We go down to that pizza joint and we waste the lot of ‘em.”
“Yes, that would certainly eradicate the problem in its entirety,” the Scallion replied, dryly.
He’d been here the better part of the evening chewing on stale pretzels and sipping warm beer, and his patience was nearly at an end. However, so self-absorbed in his anger at Domino’s was Mr. Black & blue that the Scallion’s sarcasm had gone unnoticed.
“I’m tellin’ ya, we ought to quit yappin’ about it and just go down and plug a couple of them dough boys.”
“Your plan has all the elegance of a mob trying to enact vengeance on a deaf murderer by screaming at him to death.”
“Damn straight,” Mr. B&B replied, oblivious.
The Scallion took another sip of the warm lite-beer (which was everything he’d never wanted in a beer, and less) and spit it onto the red-leather chaise. The coals of battle had been stoked, and the Scallion intended to add some gasoline. He tipped over the antique-glass serving dish upon which sat the stale pretzel rods. The plate shattered on the ceramic tiled floor as the Scallion erupted from his seat like an onion in a deep fryer. It had been coming to this. The burn in the cape and the broken TV had merely been warning signs of what was to follow.
“Hey! Watch what you’re doin’ with my stuff why don’t you!”
“Listen to me and listen to me good you oversized, ignominious, self-involved prat.”
Expecting a rebuttal, he paused. However, there was no replyl, which created yet another pause. His timing was clearly being thrown off its mark, and the Scallion stumbled to regain the momentum he’d been trying to establish.
“As—as I was saying. I have been most patient, but even my patience is not without limitations. I have sat and “dined” on your “wares.” I have listened to you chatter on about topics so abstract they’d bore Salvador Dali and baffle Stephen Hawking. I have tried to admonish my thirst on this so-called refreshment to no avail. Now I say to you—enough!”
Mr. B&B stared in amazement at the Scallion, who was standing over the colorful mobster.
“We are in a most advantageous position my big-on-muscle-short-on-gray-mattered ally, and you seem intent to squander that advantage by pontificating about the availability of oranges in Florida.”
“What the hell are you talkin’ about? I ain’t said nothin’ about any oranges,” B&B interrupted.
“It’s a metaphor, you moron!” The Scallion exploded, and shoved his would-be partner with both arms. B&B, who was considerably larger and younger than his onion-based companion, barely moved.
“What are sayin’, runt?” Mr. Black & Blue asked, his anger beginning to increase inversely with his IQ.
“I’m talking about plans—grand plans. Schemes. Ideas. Ways that we can show our superiority on the insignificant beer-drinking and pretzel-eating masses of the world. Is your brain to infantile to grasp the grandeur, the magnificence, of what I’m proposing? Well, is it?”
With motion as precise as the second hand of a Swiss-made watch, B&B struck at the Scallion with a single right hand, which he brought down upon the Scallion’s head. Arnie tumbled like a house made of Lincoln Logs, tripping twice in the tapestry of his elaborate cape before hitting the floor face first.
“Look,” he said, fingers pressed against a bloody lower lip, “perhaps I was a bit too over zealous—too intense. Can we just, therefore, begin our association anew?”
“Yeah. I guess so. But watch with the smart talk already.”
The Scallion started to stand, then he reached toward his lower spine and cried out: “Arrgh! The pain. Must have…twisted…back…”
“Serves ya right,” B&B replied, indifferent to the Scallion’s pain. “C’mon,” he said, and reached out a helping hand to the struggling Scallion who proceed to: 1. grasp B&B’s hand, 2. pull the large man toward him, and 3. knee him squarely in the jaw. As B&B doubled over in pain, the Scallion leaped upon him, toppling him fully to the floor. B&B was busily holding his own jaw as the Scallion quickly removed an object from his breast pocket.
“I think you’ll find this most agreeable,” the Scallion said, “and a tasty alternative to the pizza upon which you so frequently gorge.” He broke open the tiny onion and pushed it into the face of B&B who bean to gag and choke.
“There, there, my ape-like companion. You’ve nothing to fear from my hypno-onion. Just breathe deep like a good little monkey.”
As B&B continued to inhale the hypnotic fumes, his resistance--all movement in fact—began to cease.
“Yes, yes, excellent. Listen to my voice. It is the only voice whose instructions you will follow. Do you understand?”
“Excellent. Now, what I have in mind will require a lot of capital. You will need to call in markers, to borrow from your mob superiors, and to cancel any upcoming bets. We are going to alter the status quo—you and I—well, me actually. You, a mere monkey of a man, would not be able to alter the length of a board if you were given every type of saw known to man.”
B&B nodded in hypnotic agreement.
“Enough idle chatter. There is work to be done and done it shall be. You have your orders. I am going to retrieve various belongs, but shall return here in due time my somnambulistic lummox. I think this dwelling suits me much more than my dreaded apartment, though we’re really going to have to do something about the pink and black motif in the dining room—simply dreadful.”
NEXT: THE VOCALIST continues
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