I arrived at the hotel bar just as things were picking up, slid onto a barstool and swiveled to peek up at the big guy next to me. Well, I tried to, anyway, but looking up through my new mink eyelashes, I could only barely see the outline of his head and his cowboy hat.
Tilting my head back suggestively, I went for it.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” I asked, adding a little twang of Europe to my voice. Men seem to like that. I wasn’t looking for a lifer, just a nighter, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping up the act for long.
“Nu-uh,” he said, and popped a pretzel in his mouth. Lucky pretzel.
I’ve always had a thing for strangers. They seem, I don’t know, more mysterious than locals. Stranger. In a good way. And this one? I could climb him like a tree.
I stared down at his name badge, on a string so long, it was lying provocatively in his lap.
“What kind of name is that? ‘Joe Bill’.” I asked.
“Joe Bill!” he snapped. “American!”
“Enchanté, Joe Bill. I’m Angelique. And I really love your name. It’s sexy.” I followed his eyes to the game on TV behind me. “Sexy like baseball. You like baseball?”
His nod was absorbed by his body as he jumped up and yelled, “RUN, YOU THREE-LEGGED POSSUM HUMPER, RUN!”
I took the opportunity to shake out my hair and quickly tilted my head to the side so my hoop lay on my exposed shoulder. It kinda hurt, but then my earlobe always did, ever since that time my feather earring caught on my sleeve while I was grabbing for dollars in the Blizzard of Cash game at the fair.
I turned my wince into a sexy shudder for Joe Bill.
“Y’allright?” he asked, wonderingly.
“Oui,” I said. “I am now, now that you’re here.”
“Been here all damn day. This conference is a sumbitch.”
I laughed and winced again as the hoop bounced off my shoulder, which was bouncing from laughter.
“Looks like you was having a conniption,” Joe Bill said, kind of concerned-like.
Ooooh! A ‘conniption’! He was smart, too!
“Ooooh! A ‘conniption’! You’re smart, too!”
“‘You’re smart, too.’ ‘Too’, what?”
“Too smart for what?”
We sat there for a couple of minutes, enjoying the silence.
I broke the ice by giggling. “You’re hilari—”
“WE NEED MORE PRETZELS OVER HERE!”
Joe Bill was a man who knew what he wanted, and he wanted some more pretzels from the waitress.
“Good thinking,” I murmured.
I was almost staring deep into his eyes, which were staring up and over my right shoulder, but my gaze kept being drawn away toward his name badge, sitting so far lower than it was supposed to. That badge told me all I needed to know, that Joe Bill was here for a Truckers’ conference. That explained all the trucks in the parking lot. I impulsively leaned forward and reached out to shorten his lanyard. At the same time, he leaped off his barstool.
“GO, YOU DRUNK-ASS TURTLE, GO!”
Our bodies rushed toward each other, and then he touched my cheekbone. Well, his name badge did, as it swung up and sliced through my cheek like a grapefruit knife.
I gasped and grasped my face.
“SHIT!” he exclaimed, sweetly.
“It’s fine. Really, it’s fine.” I said.
“Sumbitch runs like he’s in MOLASSES.”
A single drop of blood fell from my chin, turning my vodka soda the color of a Cape Cod and reminding me of sunnier days.
“If you’ll excuse me, Joe Bill, I’m going to run to the ladies’.”
But Joe Bill only had eyes for the pretzels.
Beelining to the bathroom, I kept pressure on my cheek. After twelve or so minutes, the bleeding had stopped. I shook out my hair and was feeling pretty good about my chances, until I stepped back and focused. My gash looked a little worse than I thought, and my loose powder didn’t stand a chance.
I came out of the ladies’ room and checked the scene. The seat next to Joe Bill was taken by some young thing. Honey, you can keep him. Probably too dumb to find his way to the elevator, much less to anywhere I need him to find.
The rest of the bar was looking tired. Truth be told, I was tired too, and always preferred to do the actual sleeping part alone. Time to call it a night.
I headed out to the hotel lobby, stopping to check the board for the next day’s schedule. The lineup included both a pharmaceutical sales meeting and a plumbing convention. Twofer. Yes and yes. Double my odds.
Oh, I’d be back. Tomorrow was a new day.
Leigh Lewis is an Ohio-based children’s writer who often writes things definitely not intended for children.