IN THE INSTANT OF NIGHT when a bar-hopping bachelor detects a lapse in autumn’s wind, the odds shift against his favor. Alexander Hambone had yet to discover a suitable prey for his intention. Nor an unsuitable one.
On the bar’s right end, a sparkling, youthful blonde in a tight, slinky dress stirred on her stool. His peripherals didn’t discern her all that well, so he had to shark his head toward her.
It was a pleasant sharking, although he did not like conspicuous blondes and this disapproval looped through his mind as ancient forces seized control of his arms, his legs: Here. We. Go!
He sat upon the available stool next to her while continuing to chat up his friend, Benny.
“My friend is sitting there,” she spoke quickly, flatly—as if to ward off a stray cat.
“I’m sorry,” said Hambone. He jumped up off her stool. “I didn’t see him there.” He wouldn’t look at her. “Is he invisible?”
She didn’t answer.
Hambone stepped to his left. “I can’t take it anymore, Benny. I must have escape from this!”
“Patience, Hambone. All is working according to the plan.”
“Plan nothing!” Hambone said. He clenched a fist below Benny’s mug. “I’m thirty-three, Benny. I’ve had flashes of success with women. Never once had a really serious girlfriend. Never really wanted one except for the times I really wanted one. The world keeps on passing me by. I want adventure. I want excitement. I want ecstasy and fulfillment. And what keeps happening to me? Why do we keep coming to these places? Didn’t you see what just happened to me—?”
“My legs forced me to mindlessly sit next to that pretty girl and then she told me I couldn’t sit there and I got up and walked away like a four-year old obeying his mother. I’m nothing, Benny. I’m nothing!”
“Hambone, if you take it easy and follow the nine step plan we learned on the internet.”
“Nuts to that! I can’t take it anymore. I need more power.” Hambone slipped his hand beneath the lapel of his suede blazer.
“Don’t even think about that. Don’t you even think it. The Inventor warned us only to use it in cases of emergency.”
“What do you think this is, Benny? I don’t care.” Hambone fingered something inside his lapel pocket. “I understand women of her type. She loves attention. Her boyfriend’s probably in some shitty band. She loves to be in the limelight. So I’m—I’m gonna give it to her.” From out his blazer he produced a small, lime flashlight.
“But the Inventor! The Inventor, he sees everything somehow. If he finds out, he’ll…he’ll…”
“Be cool, Benny. I need this,” said Hambone. “You do this for me and I’ll tell you where I hid those five years of your childhood—”
“You son of a—you said I was twenty-six!”
“You are, Benny—you are—in a—in a roundabout sorta way. Is it a deal?”
“Just gimmie this thing,” Bennie said and snatched the limelight. “Where do you want me to point the beam?”
“Aim it right at my forehead,”—he pointed—“Right here. That’ll make it look like the limelight is associated with my mind, somehow. Stand over there and bounce the beam off the bar’s mirror.”
“I know how to do it. Just go sit next to her.”
Hambone sat down next to her: “We meet again, my bleachy bombshell.”
“My friends will be back any minute now. They’re gonna be pissed and I can’t be responsible for… One of them plays football. One of them lifts weights with a UFC fighter from—from Topeka…ahhh—Kansas!”
Hambone swallowed. He looked nervously toward the bathroom door and leaned back on his stool. “Well, my, that is an incredibly—an incredibly detailed threat—”
“I gotta go.”
“Hands off!” she said and pulled away from a clumsy swipe.
“Wait. Just let me ask you: Are any of these protectors of yours…”—he pointed to his forehead—“Famous?”
“Ohhhh my!” she said. She scooted around on her stool; she tried to get comfortable. Her hands fidgeted. “It’s soooo wonderful. I feel like I should tell everyone. Or should I keep it for myself? Should we keep it for ourselves? Ohhhh my! What is it?” She reached out toward the dot on his forehead. “It feels like it might be a connection to everything in the whole, wide world. It feels like it might be the hand of God, Himself! My! Who are you? What is it?”
“I’m Alexander Hambone, baby.” He winked. “It’s the limelight.”
“Ohhhhh.” (She looked wobbly; her eyes rolled back). “Ohhhh. I’m Cindy—Ha—Haa!—HAA!—Ham-bone!
“I think I like the limelight. I think I like the limelight a whole lot.”
Hambone stood up quickly and her dizzy eyes jittered to keep up with the green dot trailing over his face. Cindy stood also and moved a little closer. He leered over at Benny and pointed to the dirty, cement floor.
Benny hesitated. He cringed; he shook his head, ‘no.’
Hambone gesticulated wildly again to the dirty floor.
Benny’s eyes pleaded. “No,” he said. “I won’t do it! You’re sick, Hambone. This isn’t what the Inventor had in mind.”
“The Inventor’s a punk kid,” Hambone hollered and a couple patrons turned up to look at him, quizzically. “He smokes bowls; he eats Captain Crunch and gives us his tidbits. Point it at the floor or you’ll never know how old you really are, Benny.”
“Where’d it go?!” Cindy shrieked. “Where’d it go?!” She stomped her heeled foot.
“It couldn’t have gone far,” Hambone said, glancing up at the ceiling. “Look around on that floor. Sometimes the limelight falls all the way down there.”
“Oh, there it is,” she said (on her knees now), “I found you.” She licked after the green spot on the wet, dark cement floor like a kitten chasing a laser pointer. “It’s so important and—and wet, and filthy. FAMOUS! Like spilled beer and pocket lint are famous. Mmmmm! Where are you going, my well known green dot? Over the floor, huh—”
“Stop this, Hambone!” Benny shrieked.
“No. No. Benny we’re so close. Yeah, there you go, my baby. This’ll teach you to pressure me into buying a forty-dollar bottle of wine at some she-she wine bar on third street and then having the nerve to ask me in front of everyone why I didn’t want to buy it. Because you can get the same bottle for $12.50 at HEB! That’s why. Now lick. Lick you—!”
“Hambone… you’re projecting, again.”
“I’m what? Oh, yes… Right. Yes; you’re right. I believe I lost myself for a moment there.” He pointed back up to his forehead.
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