Last tine on Jane Crow, Jane received a mystical communication from her handler at the Invisible Coven, Mrs. Vassey, telling her to seek magical help on the case of the stolen fortunes… said help to come from Jane’s own hated step-sister, Charissa!
I needed a drink. I headed down the hall and got into the open elevator. After checking to make sure there wasn’t a security camera there (there wasn’t) I closed my eyes and summoned up the image of a short-haired redhead punkette I used to go clubbing.
“Be me as I wish, see me as I will, the glamour upon me in every eye,” I said, invoking the one spell I was able to cast. As the elevator descended, my long blonde hair shortened, darkened, spiking upwards in a bright flourescent red. My leaner features cheeked out and several piercings appeared, like gold sprouting from the pores of my skin. The white shirt and black slacks I wore flickered and were replaced with a leather jacket, Coldplay tank top and tight jeans. The boots were modeled after a set of New Rock Boots I saw at Shoes and Chocolate, and while I could never afford them, I could at least cast an illusion of them.
The hotel bar was too pathetic, so I took to the streets, wandering aimlessly until I heard the sounds of drunken revelry. Sadly, it was a sports bar, but hey, any port in a storm. Not that they served port. Beer would have to do.
The game on the eighteen screens was basketball. Good. I liked ignoring basketball. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a draft Sam Adams.
“Hey there,” the preppy next to me said, leaning in close enough that I could smell his beer breath. “Who’s your team?”
“Baltimore,” I said, hoping that Baltimore had a basketball team.
“Baltimore doesn’t have a basketball team,” the blonde guy with the implied sweater over his shoulders said. “But I’ll give you points for trying. I’m Thed.”
“Nice to meet you, Ted, but–”
“Thed. Not Ted.”
Well, that was new.
“What’s ‘Thed’ short for?”
“Thedwick. The big hearted moose.”
“That’s Thidwick. And no.”
Damned if he wasn’t right. The man knew his Dr. Seuss, and that was a point in his favor. Best to piss him off before I started liking him.
I took a sip of my beer and wiped my lips. “Is this really your come-on? ‘Can you guess what my embarrassing prep school nickname is short for’?”
Thed smiled. It wasn’t actually that bad a smile, despite its oatmealy blandness.
“Why?” he asked. “Is it working?”
“No. I’m just here for alcohol.”
“Cool with me,” Thed said, and just sat there.
“I’m not going to ask.”
“I really don’t care.”
He sat there some more, not turning away, still smiling at me like he liked talking with me or something. I was obviously not being bitchy enough. I think I might even have been smiling. Oh god, I thought, stop smiling. Stop smiling!
“Shit,” I muttered. “What is it short for?”
“Breathed.” He pronounced it “Breh-thed.”
“Is that even a name?”
“Yep. It’s mine.”
Stop. Smiling. Must. Stop. Smiling.
“Like… the cartoonist?” he finally offered as a lifeline.
“Berkeley Breathed. He wrote Bloom County.”
“The thing with the penguin?”
“Your parents named you after the last name of a penguin cartoonist who couldn’t even pronounce ‘breathed’ properly?”
I put one hand up to my face. It was still smiling. I pretended I was itching my nose.
“And as you grew up, you decided that the best way to abridge a difficult-to-idiotic name like Breathed was to shorten it to ‘Thed?'”
“I got tired of people calling me ‘Breh,'” he said. “So how about you? What’s your name?”
“Amy,” I improvised. “Amy Garumi.”
“Nice to meet you, Amy,” he said.
“How about a last name? It’s got to be better than ‘Thed.'”
“I’m starting to think you don’t like my name,” Thed said with an expression of mock injury.
“Dude, your name is ‘Thed.'”
“I actually knew that,” he said. “But at least it’s a real name, Miss ‘Amy Garumi.’ My last girlfriend was a knitter.”
Crap. I’m usually a much better liar. I think it was his horrible charming smile or maybe the really nice hair that was putting me off my game. It wasn’t my beer because I had been too busy trying not to flirt successfully to drink any of it.
“Okay,” I said, preparing to lie, “here’s the truth. I’m just here to have a few drinks and take out my bad mood by being passively-aggressively mean to people who hit on me like jerks. I don’t want to meet anyone because my life is confusing enough, especially someone like you who seems nice despite having the stupidest nickname I’ve ever heard of.”
He didn’t stop smiling. I went back over what I said, parsing it for anything friendly. After a moment’s introspection, I realized that I had not only called him nice, but I didn’t lie about anything.
“So what’s your real name, then?” he asked. “So I know what to wail to the heavens when you crush me with your cruel wit.”
“Jane,” I said.
“Nice to meet you, Jane,” he said.
I drank a very large portion of my beer. Thank the goddess I didn’t live in San Francisco. I’d be gone in a few days.
I was scrambling to come up with something to say when he pulled his phone from his pocket. Looking at the message, he frowned, then looked up at me with his blue preppy-dog eyes.
“Um, shoot,” he said. “I have to go.”
“Wait, I haven’t broken your heart yet,” I said, honestly surprised at how annoyed I was at whomever had just sent him a text. I was about to figure out how to look at it without seeming incredibly rude (normal everyday rude would have been fine) when he slipped it back into his pocket.
“Can I take a rain check on the verbal offensive?” he asked. He made an expression that would have put a dozen kitten memes to shame, and I decided that maybe, just maybe, a night out with a nice guy wouldn’t be the worst thing I could do.
“Fine,” I said. “Let me give you my cell number.” I reached into my purse for something to write my phone number on. It wouldn’t do to give him Jane Crow’s FBI special agent business card. I grabbed the first scrap of paper my fingers found and took it out.
“COUNT AUGUR SAYS: You will find true love…” stared up at me.
Crap, I thought. Crap in a bucket.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.