We eat your words

SHORT STORIES: Boots

Chyna and Elliegh had come out to the city from the Midwest.  Pretty, vapid girls who wished to trade their looks for a chance at partying and playing with the glitterati of the town.  Musicians were their first choice but actors would do.  They had taken all of their savings, said goodbye to their respective families, changed the spelling of their names to something so much cooler and, sadly, much more pretentious, and had put the center of the country behind them.  Now, two years later and not much wiser, they traded their nice apartment in a good neighborhood for a pay-by-the-day flat and spent their days and nights hooking and wondering what had happened to their bright future.

One day, as Chyna and Elliegh posed on the pavement in their shoes that had seen better days, Elliegh’s eye was caught by a city bus that had stopped before them.

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“Hey, look, Chyna,” she said, “Cody Prince is playing right around the corner from us.”  Chyna, who was as blind as a mole without her glasses, squinted at the vehicle.

“Yeah, how about that?” she said wonderingly.  “Too bad we don’t have the money to go.”  She put a ragged fingernail in the corner of her mouth and chewed

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“Well, we could work really hard today and tomorrow.  We might make the money.”  Elliegh was the hopeful one.

“No way,” Chyna said, “We got to pay our rent.  We don’t want to be kicked out of this place.”

“We can offer him a two-fer,” Elliegh said.  “Like last time.”

“Maybe,” Chyna said, doubtfully.

“Look,” Elliegh stopped and turned to Chyna, “When’s the last time we even got close to a star?  And look, this is Cody Prince.  Cody Prince!  How often are we going to have that opportunity?  He’s so fine and he always has the best clothes and his boots…  handmade, I hear, from the finest leather.”  She sighed longingly.  Elliegh loved shoes.

“Ok,” Chyna said, “maybe we can do it.  But I get to wear the good shoes.  You promised last time.”  Chyna loved shoes only slightly less then Elliegh.

“Ok,” Elliegh said with a sigh.

But along with most of the activities the girls planned, things didn’t work out as the girls had thought.  Business was bad, they made no money, and, of course, it started to rain.

Elliegh was in a foul mood.  She hadn’t eaten breakfast, lunch, or dinner, saving her money for the concert door.  They found out, however, that they had mistaken the amount needed; they could not both get in.  In fact, not even one could gain entrance.  They stood outside the venue in dismay, wearing their tattered finery in an effort to be alluring.  It didn’t work.

“How could you forget a one in the price?” Elliegh grumbled.  “Twenty-five dollars for Cody Prince.  Are you kidding?  One hundred twenty-five dollars.  Dolt.”

Chyna, in her best shoes that now were not even second-best, having been waterlogged in the rain that just would not stop, seemed near tears, but it might have been rain on her cheek instead.

“Well, I’m sorry.  I didn’t see the one.”  She sniffed, which could have been sorrow but it could also have been rain on the end of her nose.  “I didn’t have my glasses.” She moaned.

“You are so stupid!” Elliegh screamed, finally at the end of her patience and the end of her blood sugar.  “You don’t do anything right.  You’re an idiot; you’ve got no brains at all!  And,” she said haughtily, with rain running down her collar, “you’re ugly.”

Chyna stared at Elliegh.  She took a step forward, ruining forever the best shoe as she submerged it in a puddle, “I’m not ugly.  You are, with your ratty hair and big hips and you’re one to talk,” she sputtered, “You’re the one who wanted to leave home, you’ve the one who couldn’t pay rent; you’re the one…”

“You were half of those decisions,” shrieked Elliegh, reaching out and grabbing the shoulder of Chyna’s dress.  “You couldn’t even make half the rent because you were so ugly.  No one wanted you.  I’m the one with the good skin!  I’m the one with the big boobs! And you couldn’t wait to leave home!”  She ripped Chyna’s sleeve and it made a soggy tearing noise.

“That’s because you stole my boyfriend!  How do you think that felt?  And my skin is just as good as yours and…and… I’ve got better hair!”  Chyna aimed and landed a kick on Elliegh’s shin.

“Don’t!  Didn’t!  And he wasn’t your boyfriend.  He didn’t even like you…”  Elliegh took a handful of Chyna’s sodden hair and yanked for all she was worth.  Chyna did the same.  They were still yanking and arguing when the two hefty doormen,

with looks of disgust, took them and threw them into the alley.  Chyna picked herself up off the pavement, noting her torn dress with sorrow.  Elliegh, who had landed in a puddle, sat there with her legs sticking out in front of her.  She had a cut and a bruise on her knee and mud up to her breast.

“Hog,” Chyna spat.

“Slut.”  Elliegh retorted.

“Hey, listen,” Chyna said suddenly, “I can hear the show.”  She was up the short stairway to the back entrance in two leaps.  Putting her ear to the door, she beckoned for Elliegh to join her.  Elliegh, with a sniff, rose as gracefully as she could, tripping on the stairs on her way up.

“Shhh,” Chyna warned.  Elliegh put her own ear to the door.

“Oh, poop.  That’s the end of the first set.”  Chyna pouted and was about to start arguing again when a sound startled her.  Down the alley, a huge bus rumbled toward them.  Chyna looked at Elliegh and grinned.

“That’s the band bus.  Cool.”

Elliegh started pulling her hair back into its waves and curls.  Chyna tried to put the sleeve back on her dress and, failing, tore it and the other one off as well, achieving a kind of ’80’s feel to her torn shoulders.  Elliegh finished with her hair and started working on her face, wiping off rain and pinching her cheeks for color.

“Oh my God,” Elliegh enthused, “they’re going to be coming right out here.  Cody Prince, Cody Prince!”  She grinned at Chyna.

“And we,” Chyna said, “are right here.”  She giggled.  “Do you know what this means?  Finally.  Finally. Although…” she looked down at her mud-soaked and bedraggled dress.  She looked up at Elliegh with sudden realization.  “He’ll never want us.”  She whispered.  “We look awful.” And she began to cry in earnest.  Elliegh looked down at her not-even second-best shoes.  At that moment, her left heel broke off and threw her to the ground.  She looked up at Chyna in sorrow and bewilderment.

The bus drew up to them and squealed to a stop, chuffing smoke.  The door opened and out hopped a man in dark blue and a dazzling white shirt.  He stopped short and gazed at them. To the girls, he might just have appeared out of thin air.

“Well,” he drawled, “what have we here?”

Chyna and Elliegh were dumbstruck.

“You girls look like you’ve been through the ringer.  What happened to you?”

Chyna and Elliegh spoke at once but the man shushed them.  They shushed.

“So,” he said, eying Chyna as Elliegh climbed to her feet.  “Are you here to meet Cody Prince?”

Elliegh started to respond but Chyna shouldered her out of the way and said, “Look, mister, we came out from the Midwest solely to meet Cody Prince.  We’ve been following his tour,” she lied, “and just ran out of money.  We couldn’t get in and the bouncers threw us in the alley.”

Elliegh chimed in, “If we could only meet Cody Prince.  We’re his biggest fans.” She simpered, which, because she was wetter than a spaniel after bath-time, didn’t work as well as she had hoped.

The man laughed and then looked at them speculatively.

“You came out from the Midwest?  With your families?”

“Oh, no,” Elliegh breathed.  “We came out all on our own.”

“You have,” he said, “boyfriends, no doubt.”  He looked at his watch and picked a miniscule hair off of his shirt.

“Us?” Chyna said, “Oh no.  No one.  We’re just feathers in the wind.”  Chyna felt very literate.

“Well,” the man said, “Cody is from the Midwest too and he would be so pissed at me if I didn’t offer you girls some help.”

Chyna and Elliegh stared openmouthed.

“My name is Fred and I’m Cody’s — well, I take care of Cody.  His needs.  His wants.  You know.”  He grinned.

Chyna and Elliegh smiled back.

“Come on in.  I’ll bet I can scare up some new clothes for you girls.  You’re drenched to the bone.  In fact, there’s a shower in the back of the bus.  Why don’t you take advantage of it?”

Chyna and Elliegh didn’t have to be asked twice.

 

An hour later, Chyna and Elliegh were washed, slathered with very expensive lotion, and lying on Cody Prince’s comfy bed.  They had drinks in their hands and we waiting for Prince, as Fred had invited them to do.

Elliegh giggled and took another sip of her martini.  She didn’t really like the taste but when it was offered to her, looking all pure and blue-white like a huge crystal bauble, she couldn’t say no.  Chyna was drinking a double Jack Daniel’s and cola.  In fact, she thought contentedly, it could even be a triple.  No paying for drinks tonight, she thought archly.

Elliegh said, “I could get used to this.”  She lay down holding her martini above her and looking through it to the light fixture.  The result was like she was holding a glass full of jewels.

“So could I,” Chyna said, leaning against the wall.  She took a sip of her drink.  “Do you think he’ll like us?”

“Why wouldn’t he?” Elliegh said.  “We’re not wet and dirty anymore.

“Yeah.”

“Hey,” Elliegh sat up suddenly, looking fixedly across the room.  “Do you think that’s his closet?”

“One way to find out,” Chyna said, draining her drink and putting it on the table.

She bounced up from the bed and dragged the sliding door open. “It is.  It is!”

Elliegh had the sense to look out the bedroom door before she closed it quietly.  Fred was no where to be found. “I don’t think we’re supposed to be doing this.”

“Who cares?  You only live once.  Oooh, look at the fur!” Chyna buried her face in a full-length coat of sable.  “Mmmmmm.”

“Oh!  Look at the boots!” Chyna and Elliegh knelt down and pulled out boot after boot.  They were supple and soft as a baby’s cheek.  Smelled good, too.

“Ohhhh,” Elliegh breathed, “feel them.  They’re perfect.”  She gently rubbed her fingertips on a bark brown boot with insets of turquoise.

“I know,” Chyna responded, “they’re like…they’re like…”

She stopped.  The boots reminded her of something but she couldn’t figure out what exactly.  They were smooth, soft, supple, and very nice to the touch.  Very much like…what?  Chyna frowned, thinking, thinking.

“What?” Elliegh asked idly.

“I don’t know,” Chyna said.  “They remind me of something, something good, but also something not so good.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Well, feel them,” Chyna whispered.  “Don’t they feel like something you’ve felt before?”

Elliegh snorted.  “They feel like really good boots.”

“When have you felt really good boots?”  Chyna scoffed.  “No, they feel like something else.  Have you ever felt boots this soft?  Ever?”

Elliegh paused.

“No,” she said slowly, but a grin crept onto her face, “But I’ve never felt really expensive boots either.”

“No,” Chyna said, “it’s more than that.  These feel wrong in some way.  Really wrong.”  She leaned forward and put her hand on Elliegh’s forearm and a look of confusion replaced her usually vapid countenance, then a look of horror, and she felt the softness of Ellliegh’s arm.  She looked at the boot nestled in Elliegh’s arms.

“Put it down.” She whispered.

Elliegh, confused, looked at the boot again, squeezing the shaft of the boot softly, tentatively.

“You might be right at that,” she said.  A look of disgust crept over her face.  “It’s like, it’s like skin.  Not animal skin.”  She looked down at her hands, her arms, and with a grunt, threw the boot into the depths of the closet.  She looked at Chyna and Chyna looked at her.  A look of horror crept over their faces. “Let’s get out of here.” She said.

Before they could rise, the bedroom door opened and Fred was standing there, smiling smarmily.

“I told you girls I would introduce you to Cody Prince, didn’t I?  Well, he really wants to meet you two girls.”  He back-stepped against the wall and Cody Prince stepped into the room.  He seemed enormous and his fabled good looks suddenly appeared more sinister than handsome.

“So,” he said and smiled, “I hear you girls came all the way out to see me but couldn’t get in.  Sorry,” he smiled, “but here I am.” He threw his arms out expecting the girls to rush in.  They didn’t.

Chyna rose first, and Elliegh followed, after hesitating just a moment.

“Hello, Mr. Prince,” Chyna said, “Thank you for your…hospitality.”

“Yes, thank you,” Elliegh echoed.  “We really like your…” she looked around for inspiration.  “…your…boots.”

Elliegh shot her a quick and startled look.

“Oh,” Cody Prince said, “Yeah.  They’re soft, aren’t they?”  Slowly he entered the room and Fred followed, shutting the door quietly behind him.

“Yes,” Chyna said, “I don’t know how you get boots that soft.  You must rub them down every day with cream or something.”  She giggled nervously.

“They do take some effort to stay that soft,” Cody said.  “We do spend a lot of time on them, don’t we, Fred?”  He shot a quick look his aide. “After all, I am famous for my boots.”  He paused.  “Of course,” he said, “the right materials make all the difference.”

Elliegh gulped.  “Yeah, well, it was nice to meet you but we gotta go,” she said, inching toward the door.

Chyna continued, “Yeah, we’re meeting some people…”

“No, you’re not,” Fred said quietly, “you’ve been in here since I found you earlier today and you said you don’t know anybody.  Why would you lie to Mr. Prince, here?  After all he’s done for you?”

“Look, mister, Fred,” Elliegh said, “we made a mistake.  We just want to go.”

“Thank you, Mr. Prince, but…”

At a nod from Prince, Fred stepped out of the room and closed and locked the door.  Cody Prince seemed suddenly very, very large in the small room.  His eyes glinted, his teeth seemed huge, and he licked his lips.

“So, girls,” he whispered, “are you hungry?”

“N-no,” Chynna stammered.

“I am.” Cody Prince smiled showing incredibly sharp teeth.

Chyna and Elliegh huddled together, their eyes big as the moon.

***

Outside the room, Fred sat down with his noise-canceling headphones on. He knew better than to interfere.  He was the procurer; that’s all.  He was paid well and the benefits were great.  He had been with Prince for a long time. Although, he really preferred AC/DC to Cody Prince anyway.  He stretched out for a long night and turned the volume up high.

***

The flashbulbs popped like fireworks and the crowed shouted, “Prince, Prince, Prince,” as Cody Prince stepped out of the limousine to the red carpet.  He waved to his fans with a big grin on his face.  Almost invisible, Fred stepped out of the limo and stood waiting silently a few steps away, scanning the crowd.  The bleached-blonde woman with the microphone hurried to Prince’s side.

“Cody Prince,” she said gaily, “how are you this wonderful night?  Congratulations on your nomination.”

“Thank you, Mary Jane, thank you,” Prince said. “Of course, it’s thrilling every time I get a nomination.  It’s always like the first time.  Very exciting.” He smiled and waved to his fans.

“What are you wearing tonight, Cody,” Mary Jane questioned.  “It looks like that trendy new designer, MacTavish.”

“You know your styles, Mary Jane,” Prince said, anxious to start his evening.  He turned to go up the ramp but Mary Jane would not be ignored.

“And new boots,” she crowed.  “You know,” she said confidingly, “no one has ever found out where you purchase your boots and they are all so yummy!  These,” she continued, “look so soft.  They’re flawless, and such an interesting color.  Now, these have a “C” on one boot and an “E” on the other.  Are these a clue to the designer?”

Cody Prince paused before turning back.  He smiled his most brilliant smile at Mary Jane.  “Well,” he said, “you have to let me have some little secrets.  Besides,” he continued and his eyes lost their warmth, but just for a second.  “Besides, if I told you, then I’d have to kill you,” but his smile was huge.

Cody Prince gave a final wave before turning and striding up the red carpet with Fred in his wake.  Mary Jane, after a dissatisfied sniff, turned to the next star with the same delighted smile.

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