by Salvadore Ritchie
“I really feel stupid about this,” I said.
Above Liz’s head was a partially rusted sign that leaned sideways from its corroded support cables sizzling “Live Sex Shows.” Behind her were the theater’s box office and a poster case containing a dozen photos of female actors wearing lingerie. Across the street was a billboard made of light bulbs blinking the word “Kings.” The letter “N” on the sign was mostly dark. The letter “K” had spotty dim patches that blinked every few seconds. The sidewalk stuck to the soles of our boots, as if they were coated with bubblegum. The gutters were clogged with cigarette butts and syringes.
“Perfect.” Liz indulged herself in one last attempt at putting up the collar on my cape. Half the lapel was missing a piece of plastic wiring meant to keep the collar erect. She shifted her efforts to tucking in my tuxedo T-shirt, by walking around me and shoving her hands down my baggy nylon pants with a rigorous determination. I assisted her in this proposition by lifting my cape up and smoking a cigarette as she circled.
“OK.” She kissed me on the neck and gave me a shoo motion one might dispense to ratty children or annoying pets.
“What’s this?” I copied her gesture.
“You know. “ She did it again.
I tried to convince myself this was not as hopeless a prospect as fighting a biker chick with an empty forty-ounce. I bravely took a deep drag, tossed my smoke and popped in my teeth.
Earlier, Liz had torn a piece of cardboard off of a box we found in the park. She then borrowed a green crayon from a bag lady and created a sign that read, “Photos $5.” I was now blessed enough to be carrying the sign.
At Squat 3BC:
Liz reasoned I couldn’t be a believable vampire unless I had the look of the undead. She helped me manifest this image by dying my hair pitch black and painting my face white and chalking black circles of doom around my eyes. She took out a tube of fake blood from a box of makeup we bought from the costume shop and smeared it all over my chin and painted my lips red.
“OK. Give me your hand.”
“I need to paint your nails black.”
I had the cheapie vampire teeth you normally would get from a bubblegum machine for twenty-five cents. They kept my mouth slightly ajar and made me wipe drool from my bottom lip every few minutes. I stood hunched back with my sign and prayed for the downpour of vampire aficionados she envisioned to appear, however I would have settled for an out of control Volvo to plow into the sidewalk and treat me to a bitter end. I looked back to Liz for salvation. She was now standing in front of the theater. Her thumbs up indicated to me indeed there was no salvation for the undead.
Salvadore Ritchie works as an IT professional at a hospital that handles large trauma and psych units. Shotgun wounds from beefs gone bad or naked maniacs high on bath salts, he sees it all. Sal picks up on stories in the lounge or by watching police sprint down the hall with stun guns ready.
His stories have appeared in Near to the Knuckle, Out of the Gutter, Pulp Metal Magazine,Yellow Mama and A Twist of Noir.
At home he lives with his wife’s cats.