CHATTER • by Rachel Gurevich

Old Edith, Carolina, Ralph, and I decide to go downtown to Flash Mash, dance club slash well-stocked bar. Old Edith and I aren’t sure it’s a great idea, but Ralph wants to drink and Carolina is dying to party. Anyway, Jeannette’s been encouraging us to do more together, said it’s good for us, so we go.

Carolina leads us into the club, and though it’s a snowy January night, she’s wearing fishnet stockings, silver high heels, and a leather mini plus halter top, adorned with dead end zippers and crystal studs. Techno beats rattle my ribs, while strobe lights reflect off zipper teeth and faux gems. Men and women gyrate together and apart on the dance floor; clouds of cigarette smoke and fake fog drift like spirits between swaying bodies. Cheap perfume, pheromone heavy sweat, and alcohol infused breath linger in the air.

Old Edith wants to find a nice spot to sit, nice not being a word I associate with a place like this, but she’s trying to take care of everyone, as she always does.  Ralph wants a drink and strong arms his way to the bar. Carolina wants to dance, but Ralph holds her back. He always gets what he wants.

When Ralph starts his fourth Southern Screw, a 20-something hunk with greased back hair, one ruby earing, and oversized arms sits on the stool next to us. Though Ralph is right there, the hunk only sees Carolina, and in an instant, Carolina is in action; she slides her hands over Hunk’s thick thighs and sways her back, pushing out her chest.

Hunk playfully yanks Carolina onto the dance floor, then grabs her by the waist and grinds his pelvis into the leather mini. Old Edith wants Carolina to sit back down and find a nice boy. Ralph enjoys the rough moves but remains alert. Carolina is aching with want, and I’ve lost control over everyone, probably three drinks ago.

Carolina and Hunk mash their bodies to Dragonette’s Hello and then, delivered by an electrified and stuttering Lady Gaga, to beat of Bad Romance. The DJ switches to a base-heavy, heart-bursting techno track and pumps up the volume; my ear drums throb from the auditory beating. The strobe lights transition from blues and yellows to dimmer reds and greens, and that’s when Hunk leads Carolina to the opposite end of the club and into an old coat room with wire hangers and metal racks.

Against yellow peeling paint, Hunk smashes his lips into Carolina’s. He starts pulling down the mini skirt. Carolina pushes Hunk’s hands away; she doesn’t want this. That’s when Hunk grabs her by the upper arms, turns her around, and slams her chest first into the wall. He grabs a metal hanger and threatens to strangle her if she doesn’t shut the fuck up. Hunk turns Carolina back around and reaches down to unbutton his pants, but before he can unzip, Ralph’s there in an instant. With one, two, three sharp knees to the balls, Hunk is on the floor, and we’re running — out of the coat room, down a darkened hallway, and away from the haunting, pulsating club.

We toss Carolina’s silver high heels into a snowbank, then run several blocks through icy, empty city streets; slipping and sliding, yet not falling, almost skating away. Finally, we wave down a taxi. As the cabbie maneuvers slick downtown alleyways, followed by intercity highways, the street lamps bend towards the car, their aura blurred, shaming.

Once home, I’m shivering at the dining room table. Old Edith is reviewing what went wrong. She blames me. Ralph agrees. Carolina is gone, and after a half hour of rocking back and forth on a chair, it’s just me and Ralph. He’s angry, talking about knives and sleeping pills. I try to ignore him, but he won’t shut up, so despite the late hour of four in the morning, I dial Jeannette.

She’s not picking up, so I dial again and again, until her groggy voice answers. I tell her everything — about the club, about Carolina’s dancing, about Ralph’s drinking. I tell her about Hunk, the near assault, and running through the wintry downtown. Then, I tell her about Ralph’s instability.

She asks for Ralph. I blink, and I fade, and Ralph speaks. He and she talk about staying safe and make a deal to talk more tomorrow at the mental health clinic. Jeannette then asks for me, I blink, and I’m back. She guides me through therapeutic imagery, as I picture turning down a mental volume control. Ralph fades away, until his chattering is no louder than the nearby refrigerator’s hum.

We hang up.

It is quiet.

I throw a fleece blanket into the dryer. Take off the damp and torn fishnet stockings, the leather mini, and the beaded halter top. Wrap the now warmed blanket tightly around my bare body.

The once audible buzz of voices — Ralph, Carolina, and Old Edith — are momentarily silent. Their chatter contained.

I am alone.


A creative writer and womb warrior, Rachel Gurevich’s poetry and fiction has appeared here and there. Rachel’s best known as the fertility expert at About.com, as the author of The Doula Advantage (Three Rivers Press, 2003) and as the coauthor of Birth Plans for Dummies (Wiley, 2012). She’d love to connect with you on Twitter @RachelGurevich, or have you visit her website at RachelGurevich.com.


Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Carl Steiger

    At first glance, this appeared to be not the sort of thing I usually read, but clearly something was weird (I do love weird), so I kept going, and was getting close to the end before it dawned on me what was really going on. Then I read it a second time to find that all the clues were right in front of me. Well done!

  • Carl Steiger

    At first glance, this appeared to be not the sort of thing I usually read, but clearly something was weird (I do love weird), so I kept going, and was getting close to the end before it dawned on me what was really going on. Then I read it a second time to find that all the clues were right in front of me. Well done!

  • Lyndi Alexander

    I agree with Carl. I thought I knew where I was,and then it became clear I wasn’t there. Two re-reads later, I saw how you did it. Clever indeed.

  • Lyndi Alexander

    I agree with Carl. I thought I knew where I was,and then it became clear I wasn’t there. Two re-reads later, I saw how you did it. Clever indeed.

  • DrSuzanne Conboy-Hill

    I was thrown too by ‘Old Edith’ but then I got it. A much-debated diagnostic category but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen genuine instances of it. Nicely fictionalised here.

  • I was thrown too by ‘Old Edith’ but then I got it. A much-debated diagnostic category but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen genuine instances of it. Nicely fictionalised here.

  • Kathy

    I love the story and marvel at your skill. Although other writers have tried to do what you have done here, few succeed. The only distracting bump along the way was “Ralph enjoys the rough moves…” – it sent me in another direction thinking Ralph was perhaps jealous of the Hunk’s attention and attracted to him as well (which I suppose, in a way, he was!) Well done!

  • Kathy

    I love the story and marvel at your skill. Although other writers have tried to do what you have done here, few succeed. The only distracting bump along the way was “Ralph enjoys the rough moves…” – it sent me in another direction thinking Ralph was perhaps jealous of the Hunk’s attention and attracted to him as well (which I suppose, in a way, he was!) Well done!

  • Sarah Russell

    So well done!! Of course that was the ending. Great job!

  • Sarah Russell

    So well done!! Of course that was the ending. Great job!

  • Chris Antenen

    Glad I’m not the only one who had to re-read. Three for me and that was after reading the other comments. I would really like to give this a five, but I don’t think I should have to read a story three times. So I’m thinking maybe the writer should give us a few more hints along the way — subtle now!!! Not too much.

  • Chris Antenen

    Glad I’m not the only one who had to re-read. Three for me and that was after reading the other comments. I would really like to give this a five, but I don’t think I should have to read a story three times. So I’m thinking maybe the writer should give us a few more hints along the way — subtle now!!! Not too much.

  • I liked the way this was written. “clouds of cigarette smoke and fake fog drift like spirits between swaying bodies” was particularly good, I thought.

    • Kathy

      I agree. Also, there is lovely rhythm in the way language is used and sentences constructed in this story.

  • I liked the way this was written. “clouds of cigarette smoke and fake fog drift like spirits between swaying bodies” was particularly good, I thought.

    • Kathy

      I agree. Also, there is lovely rhythm in the way language is used and sentences constructed in this story.

  • LEX

    I still don’t understand it.

  • LEX

    I still don’t understand it.

  • Jeff

    I liked this a lot and I didn’t mind the re-read. My only criticism was the line “make a deal to talk more tomorrow at the mental health clinic” I wish this point could have been made in a less-obvious way without “mental health clinic.”

  • I liked this a lot and I didn’t mind the re-read. My only criticism was the line “make a deal to talk more tomorrow at the mental health clinic” I wish this point could have been made in a less-obvious way without “mental health clinic.”

  • S Conroy

    The writing is fantastic even without understanding the story, and when that hits too, well what more could you ask for.