Being a Woman

Being a Woman


Rick told her he’d pick her up at six in the lot of dirt and weeds across the street from the Coffee Bean. Jordan never knew where he came from or went home to but she was sure she was in love. He was fancy and had nice cuticles and big pearly teeth. She’d never been with a white man before, or any other kind, but he said he had to have her because she was exotic, a goddess, and he couldn’t help his hungry heart.

            She was mostly black but partly Cherokee; he found her where she worked, the Coffee Bean, and wooed her as he lingered reading Business Week. He said women were wisest when young and needed an older man to appreciate them. He was thirty, though the deep creases in his brow made her think he might’ve been a few years older; his wife was in a mental home but he couldn’t bring himself to leave her. When she was gone, which would be soon--her health was rapidly declining--he’d take his new queen out of Long Beach and bring her back east somewhere where they could start their new life together.

            She gave herself to him the third week she knew him; his kisses were deep and his embraces were bruising. He’d take her to palatial hotels perched by the sea in places ruled by white men bronzed by the sun. When the blood didn’t flow from her womb one month, he assured her he’d take care of the problem. He told her he’d pick her up at six in the lot of dirt and weeds across the street from the Coffee Bean, but it was now dusk, nearly seven, and she knew she’d been abandoned.

            Weighed down by the heavy anchor of her wounded heart, Jordan languidly crossed the darkening street like a blasted galleon lurching over black water. When she returned to the Coffee Bean, she saw the owner’s son, Rueben, standing alone behind the counter reading a magazine. “Hey Jordan. What’s up?” Rueben said as Jordan came in.          

“Not much.” Jordan said.

            Rueben was an acne-spackled ectomorph with stringy black hair and a mangy goatee. “I thought you were done working,” he said lifting his gaze from the magazine and observing her as she lugubriously sauntered up to the counter. “What’s wrong? Depressed?”

            “Rick stood me up. I’d like to chop his dick off, but I don’t know where he lives, and his number’s always restricted.”

            “I know where he lives,” Rueben said tossing the magazine aside. “He’s old friends with my dad and uncle.”

            “Really?” said Jordan.

            “He lives up in Palos Verdes, really nice place, with his arm candy wife and two or three kids,”


            “I’m off soon. Want to go up there? I could show it to you.”

“Yeah, Rueben, I want to see it.” Jordan said. “Can you be there by eight?”           

“Yeah,” Rueben said as Jordan departed. “I’ll swing by then.”

When Jordan made it the few blocks to the Rise N’ Shine Senior Apartments she entered her flat and saw her grandma, as plump and wrinkly as a raisin, plunked on her Lazy-Boy watching MacGyver and embroidering a cushion.

“What’s MacGyver doing?” said Jordan.

“A man wants MacGyver to help find his son,” said the mesmerized old woman. “But it’s a trick. The man’s a hit man and wants MacGyver to find his target for him.”

“Have you had your medicine?’

“Not yet.”

“I’ll get it,” Jordan said crossing the cramped space to the bathroom where she laid out the medications in a neat row before carrying the tray of pastel-colored pharmaceuticals out to her grandma. Laying aside the crimson cushion she was embroidering a gold flower on, the old woman popped the polychromatic pills one after the other into her abysmal maw. She downed the pink one, the Metformin, for her diabetes; the sky blue one, the Epinephrine, for her heart condition; the lemon yellow one, the Niacin, for her liver affliction; and finally, the white one, the valium, to perk up her spirits and help her go on.

“What do you want for dinner, Grandma?” Jordan asked as the corpulent septuagenarian stared at the flickering screen.

“Hungry Man fried chicken, baby, go make me some.”

Jordan went to the kitchen and tossed one of the half dozen boxes of Hungry Man fried chicken entrees into the microwave. As the potatoes, poultry, and buttered corn quickly warmed, Jordan thought of Rick, and how she’d wreak her vengeance on him. Maybe she should just pound on his door this very night and expose his adultery to his wife. She would’ve liked to involve the cops, get him for statutory rape, at least, but she knew she was eighteen when he first fucked her at the Duke in Newport Beach.

After she brought her grandma the Hungry Man fried chicken, and watched the end of the show, she went to the parking lot to wait for Rueben.

When the ectomorph arrived in his black Ford truck, she hopped in and they took off.

“How long have you known Rick?” Rueben asked slipping Jordan a business card. It had Richard Ryan Owens etched in charcoal on the egg white face and Vice President/Wells Fargo written below it.

“Not long, but long enough; and too long. I wish I never met him,” Jordan said taking the card. “What’s this?”

“Rick’s card. It has his address on the back. I stole it from my dad.”

 Flipping the card over, Jordan saw “1272 Mermaid Drive, Palos Verdes,” scrawled in blue felt tip marker.

“You should take pics of Rick’s house, make it clear you know where he lives, and blackmail him.”  Rueben said maneuvering the truck nimbly down Ocean toward the 47. “He just used you. You know that, right? Rick’s been pulling this shit on you Coffee Bean chicks for ages. He used to be a part-owner with my dad but he sold his half. He still hangs around though cuz he has a taste for hot young ass. You’re not the first chick who’s worked for my dad that Rick fucked, and you won’t be the last.”

Rueben pulled on to the Seaside Freeway and the F-150 roared and hummed as it accelerated over the dimly glistening asphalt.

“Son of a bitch,” Jordan said.

“But he’s really rich,” Rueben continued, “I think I know what you should do. Take a pic of his address when we get to his house, and send him a letter with the picture as proof you know where he lives. Blackmail him. Tell him you need money for rent or food or tuition. Tell him if he doesn’t give it to you, you’ll tell his wife what he’s been up to.”

“I’d rather just tell her tonight.”

“But then you’d lose your leverage over him; and besides, if he finds out I took you to his house and got him busted he’ll tell my dad.”

When the F-150 ascended to the zenith of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, Jordan looked down at the inky sea. “Maybe you’re right, Rueben,” she said. “Maybe I should just try to get some money out of him.”

“That’s what Denise did. She worked for my dad a few years back. Rick gave her like five grand.”

Rueben pulled off the Seaside Freeway and took Gaffey to 25th street. When 25th changed to Palos Verdes the houses became increasingly nice and Rueben turned on Mermaid Drive and pulled the truck quietly up to the curb and pointed across the street to a tan Spanish ranch with a red tile roof and a well-manicured garden. The lights were on and a blonde, busty woman was leaning over the sink in the kitchen.

“That’s his wife. Kind of fine, eh?” said Rueben.

“Son of a bitch,” said Jordan.

A brunette man appeared behind the blonde woman and wrapped his arms around her waist.  The man softly kissed the woman’s neck and Jordan saw he was Rick.

“You gonna take pics? Blackmail him?” Rueben said turning to Jordan as the couple in the window disappeared from view.

“He told me that his wife was in a nuthouse, that she was nearly dead!” Jordan said.

“Oh, is he still saying that?” Rueben said with a laugh. “Well, at least judging by her tits, I’d say she’s in pretty good health.”  

With a sudden burst three small children came tumbling out the front door, playfully grappling with each other as they scurried over to a black S-Class Mercedes sedan parked on the smooth stone driveway. There were two blonde girls in pigtails of perhaps ten and eleven, and a brunette boy of no more than seven. The car beeped and its lights flashed and Rick and his busty wife bounded out the front door and hurried to the kids at the car.

“Get down!” Rueben said slumping in his seat. Jordan slowly slouched beneath the dashboard as Rick and his family climbed into his car. Oblivious to the snoops across the street, Rick backed out of the driveway to within about thirty feet of the hiding spies, and drove down Mermaid into the night.

“Son of a bitch!” Jordan said as she and Rueben sat up. 

“Are you gonna take some pics of his house, prove you know where he lives, and blackmail him?” Rueben said.

Jordan took out her cell phone and leapt from the truck. She crossed the street and came to the porch where she snapped a few pictures of the sky blue 1272 stretching across the scarlet door. Just below the cobalt 7, a mail slot got Jordan’s attention. To her left, not three yards off, she peripherally glimpsed a lime green hose coiled on a small hook protruding from the stucco wall, and she hurried to it and carried the spout to the mail slot and put it up to it. Rueben, noticing her movements from the truck, waved his arms frantically to get her to stop. Ignoring Rueben, Jordan removed the nozzle from the hose to maximize the flow of water, threaded the slim tube through the mail slot so that it went far into the house, returned to the spigot on the wall, and turned the water up to full blast.    

Rueben swiveled his head like a sprinkler, terrified that someone was a witness to Jordan’s crime, but not a soul was on the street and the fast-flowing water made scarcely a sound as it surged through the hose into Rick’s stately quarters. Rueben spastically gesticulated to Jordan to hurry back to the truck, but she strolled to it leisurely with a wide, bright smile.

“Jesus Christ, Jordan. What the fuck?” Rueben grunted trying to be quiet when Jordan swung open the black door and climbed into the cabin. “You know how much damage you’ve done? Probably a million bucks.”

Jordan threw back her head and laughed as Rueben turned on the ignition and sped from the crime scene with his wheels screeching.

“I hope nobody saw me parked on the street.” Rueben cried turning sharply on Palos Verdes. “What if somebody got my license plate?”

“No one saw shit.”

“If the cops find someone who saw my truck and blame me for it, you’ll have to own up. I didn’t know what you had planned. I was an unwitting accomplice.”

“No one saw shit, you little bitch.”

“What’s your fucking problem, Jordan?” Rueben exploded. “Now you can’t blackmail him. You know that, right? He’s gonna figure out it had to be you who flooded his house. He’s gonna want to know who the fuck gave you his address after he dumped your ass, and I’ll be the chief suspect!”

“He won’t do anything. If he does, I’ll say he started fucking me when I was sixteen.”

“Is that when he started fucking you, you filthy whore?” Rueben said.

“That’s what I’ll say.”

“He got sick of your black ass real fast, huh slut?”

“Fuck you, faggot.” Jordan said folding her arms.

“Oh I’m a faggot, eh bitch?” Rueben said reaching into the center console with his right hand and retrieving a black rectangular device a few inches long.

“Rueben? What the fuck?” Jordan cried when she realized it was a stun gun.

Lunging across the console, Rueben zapped her naked left thigh just below the cuff of her shorts. Jordan recoiled from the shock, unclicked her seat belt, and pressed herself against the passenger door panel as far from him as possible. She pulled on the handle but the door was locked. The F-150 purred like a kitty when Rueben accelerated on the Seaside Freeway. At the zenith of the Vincent Thomas Bridge he lunged across the consul and zapped Jordan’s left thigh again, and she screamed and spasmed in pain.

While threatening her with the zapper in his right hand, Rueben deftly captained the truck with his left one. He merged on to Ocean, turned on Long Beach and took E. Anaheim to an alley behind Cherry Street, where he parked his truck in the lot of dirt and weeds across the street from the Coffee Bean.

Though the lights went dark when he turned off the ignition, Jordan could still see through the bulge in his jeans that Rueben had an erection. The ectomorph lunged at her with the stun gun once more but she was able to karate chop his noodle arm with the side of her right palm, knocking the stun gun to the passenger seat where she snatched it with her left hand.

“I was just kidding! I was just kidding!” Rueben shrieked recoiling back to the driver seat.

“Open the fucking door, Rueben!” Jordan demanded turning on the stun gun and causing its neon volt to surge. “Open the fucking door or I’ll shock the shit out of you, motherfucker!”

He still had a boner. The purple helmet of his warrior was peeking out just above his waistband.   

“If you say anything about this, I’ll tell the cops what you did to Rick,” Rueben said turning on the ignition and pressing the driver power door lock switch to unlock the passenger door.

“Go fuck yourself, loser!” Jordan cried pushing open the door and leaping from the truck with the stun gun still clutched in her hand.

When she slammed the door behind her, Rueben lowered the passenger window, and yelled: “Go fuck yourself, too, you fucking whore!”

Jordan picked up a plum-sized rock and tried to throw it in the cabin at Rueben as he drove off down the alley, but she was still dazed and discombobulated by the stun gun attack, and missed wide to the left.

Leaving the abandoned lot, Jordan lumbered toward home through the dark night holding tightly to the stun gun like a talisman. Making it the few blocks to the Rise N Shine Senior Apartments, she went into her flat where she saw her grandma on her Lazy-Boy watching Matlock.

“What’s Matlock doing?” said Jordan.

“Defendin’ some bitch who says she killed a mobster in self-defense. But her story don’t make sense.”

Jordan put the stun gun in the drawer and sat on the sofa next to her grandma. “Did you take your Ambien, Grandma?” she said. “The doctor said to take it an hour before bed.”

“I haven’t taken it yet, baby. Go get it.”

Jordan crossed the few paces to the bathroom and grabbed the Ambien bottle, but when she twisted its top to open it, she felt a sudden pang in her midsection and a gush of blood rushed from between her legs. Pulling off her shorts in horror, she saw a great red spot on her white panties that reminded her of the flag of Japan. Taking off her undies and tossing them in the corner, she reached up to the cabinet for the valium bottle and swallowed several of the little white pills. With her fist perched on her chin like the Thinker, she sat on the toilet and spontaneously aborted. As the blood of her womb dripped ever so softly into the rosy water, she thought of Rick’s flooded house, and like Mona Lisa, she smiled a secret smile to herself.

Conor O’Brian Barnes

I have recently had work published or accepted by Mobius: A Journal of Social Thought, Datura, Down in the Dirt, and Bull: Men's Fiction. Conor O'Brian Barnes was born in Berkeley, California and raised in Denver, Colorado. He was educated at the University of California and St. Andrews University in Scotland. He currently lives in New Jersey where he teaches at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post