AT CHARLIE’S • by Nancy Wilcox

I was at Charlie’s Saturday night. You know? On Twelfth across from the Greyhound Station? JimmyMac and Caroline were in early, and in good form too. You know the schtick, they play it all over town, she dumps the drink over him, he stomps out, and she cries while she sizes up the mark. No matter what you think of the roll-em-in-the-alley trade, JimmyMac and Caroline are tops at it. A lot of sore heads and empty wallets, but never a serious injury in the five or six years I’ve seen them around. So anyhow, I notice this new chick watching them, all attention. Not like she’s the wide-eyed babe in the jungle, but kinda like old Mr. Boydston watching the UIL one-act play back in high school. I almost expect her to scribble with a magic marker on a sheet of paper and hold up SELL IT!!!

So I sashay over and plant my rear on the stool next to her, and make with the usual pick-up. Kinda difficult with Jamie and Frank doing their big-talk-macho bit and throwing sideways glances to see if she’s impressed. They try hard, but the better they think they’re doing, the louder they get. They can’t seem to figure out that loud turns the ladies right off. I buy her a straight vodka, which seems kinda strong for a girl that looks that young, but she’s blond, so you have to factor that in I guess. So anyhow, I run a line about how I’m a doctor, like I try sometimes, and she gives me I’m new in town, don’t know anybody. I buy her another vodka and Charlie turns the game on, on the bar overhead screen. So it’s even noisier, though by that time Jamie and Frank have moved their little play over to the billiards room. I’m getting loopy on the peanuts, but I cannot keep up with the pretty blond in the drinks department. When I order her third I give up, and switch to Bud Lite. I know when I’m outclassed.

I think we’re getting along pretty good, though I miss about every third word for the game and the usual background noise. In a bar conversation, that never matters. But it seems she invites me home, or somewhere, and I say okay, because she gets up and drapes her sweater across her shoulders and says, come on. I blame the industrial strength peanuts, cause I’m off the stool and halfway to the door before I even think.

But then I do think, about Mr. Boydston, and I take a staggery left at the billiard room entrance and plant myself on a stool by the wall. She’s back in and looking at me with an eyebrow raised, and I shake my head like I just can’t make it out. Like I really want to get up but just can’t quite. So she diddlybops it on out, shaking her hips in a veeerrry nice way, and I’m cursing myself under my breath. Frank is out the door after her so quick I hardly see his ‘you snooze you lose’ grin at me.

Anyhow, hand me the bone saw, willya? Flip the recorder on. “April nineteen, two thousand ten, autopsy on white male found at 12th Avenue Greyhound Station, tentatively identified as Frank Rupert Jones, pending formal next-of-kin confirmation. Body exhibits marks of blunt force trauma to the anterior….”

Nancy Wilcox is the avatar of the Great Narratortellatale of Sybil III. Really. Just ask her and she’ll tell you.

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