The Lady's Trim

Rat Belly

Yep, I've been away for awhile. I told Court that I'll be vacationing until I get all of this Grad School bullshit over with. But, I'm still an attention whore. I've worked on a little comedy story for your enjoyment. Let me know what you think.

Rat Belly

Hatter decides that he cannot register the motel room this time. "I had to pay a lot back in March, remember?"

Bates says, "I know. I had June."

Sundance says he‘ll register the room then. Whatever.

A long, furry pen appears in the hand of the stocky fruit behind the motel's counter. "I'm glad somebody has made up his mind." The pen's top looks like the pink, feathered hat of a Go-Go dancer. Sundance grabs it indignantly, quickly marks an X on the paperwork and slides it back across the counter. He says to the fruit, "You're one simple stereotype, huh?"

The fruit's calculator feeds a strip of paper through its gears like a typewriter, chomping and clicking. "Hah! Yeah. Whatever you say, darling." A receipt is ripped from the calculator and handed to Sundance. The fruit says that he has given a triple markdown on an already discounted room; he says he only charges for single occupancy. The fruit then says that he does not mean to stereotype but that if, by chance, they smoke any grass to be sure to get rid of evidence because the day-time lady is a bitch. "If I were you," he says, "I would just take any roaches I found for my own self. But the day-time lady? No way Jose. She would definitely call the cops... so be careful."

Sundance says, "So you're cool?" It's half thankful, half ironic.

Bates and Hatter laugh.

"Yeah. I may join you later. Room 20." The fruit hands Sundance the key. It's attached to an orange little buoy that reads INN.

"Ah. We don't smoke grass," Bates says. "We'll just be drinking and maybe jammin a little."

"Jam-min?"

"Rat belly jammin," he nods, ibid , "like Pappy always asked for."

The fruit shakes his head and laughs, "Ah you beatnik types. Always the same. Just keep it down, wouldya?"

The men arrive at Room 20 and wait for Jackson and Lee by playing the fire-tissue game two times through. The joint is finished quickly and the men become very stoned. They sit on the motel's bed for awhile and look around. Soon, they're confused as to how to toss out the roach because its cardboard tip still remains. Bates puts in that for grass, one needn't worry because throwing away a roach is one thing but throwing away cardboard is just that, throw-ing a-way a card-board tip. No difference between that and the business end of a tampon. "Right? And what about flushing it?"

Hatter is reinvigorated. Whatever he was worried about before--with signing his name for the room or letting the fruit know about the grass--seems lifted from him. He giggles, "Fuck it. It doesn't matter that the cardboard be on the ground." He grabs the filter from Sundance's fingers, spikes it down and rubs it in the carpet with the tip of his penny loafer.

The men wax on childhood.

"My father," Sundance says, "used to take us to Pittsburgh when I was a kid. We would go to the zoo there and look at all the bald eagles. Hip birds. Wish I could tickle those... mythical... beasts of prey man. Get some jazz, you better believe it."

Hatter sits in the room's bucket chair and giggles at everything now. His eyes are pink slits that make him look Chinese. "Yeah, yeah, yeah." He says, giggling like a schoolgirl on good mescaline.

"Tiramisu," Bates says. "Hong Kong Rickshaw. Oriental-flavored irises, man!"

"What the fuck does that even mean?" Sundance reclines in the bed, places his hands behind his head, "I'm trying to tell a story here Batey-boy, you mind?"

"Ah, fuck. Go."

"Anyways. Where was I?"

Hatter giggles again and bobbles his knees. "I don't know."

Later, Bates spills the bottle of Old Crow in the bathroom. The three men walk to a big, dirty window covering the lobby and wait around for awhile. Sundance finally goes inside, tries to slyly open an interior door--labeled SUPPLY CLOSET--to find a mop. The fruit yells at him, "Alas, that door is locked!"

"Can you unlock it, kind sir?"

"I'm busy filing my nails. Right? Because I'm a stereotype. Hah!"

"Doesn't mean you can't unlock a door, fruit."

"Fuck off!"

Hatter giggles his ass off; the three men return to the room and look at the puddle of gut-rot whiskey. The bathroom's linoleum is varnished with it.

Bates apologizes, "We could sop it up with a rag and wring it out into a cup?"

Sundance says, "I wouldn't even cook that liquor for drinking now."

Jackie and Lee are in the room now. They're arguing.

"Rolling is an art."

"It's a skill."

"Art."

"Skill. If a goddamned machine can do it, it's a skill."

"Can't a machine paint a picture?"

"No a machine cannot paint a picture. Not without human help it can‘t. There's no higher intent in a machine, dig? It needs human assistance."

"There's loving intent in my rollin."

"Don't be a difficult fuck."

"Hahaha. I‘m not an easy fuck, if that‘s what you mean."

"Can both of you two shut the fuck up?" Sundance says, "Enough already. The night is young and now we're all together. Time to jam, boys. Not argue like pricks."

"We're out of liquor." Hatter says. For the first time since they smoked, he doesn't giggle; he only looks at Bates. "No jammy-jam without liquor."

"Grab a rag or lick it off the floor," Bates says, "The stores are closed. It‘s Sunday. I‘m sorry alright?"

"Okay, okay. Jackie, you brought enough for all of us?"

"Yuh." Jackie displays a fat, well-rolled joint with two open palms. "What do you think? Art?"

"Skill!," Lee screams, "Skill! Can't you just fucking once agree with me about this? It's a skill! That's a complement! You're good--hell, great! Just not a fucking joint artiste!"

"Calm down. Hahaha."

"Let's not smoke right now," Hatter says, "I'm way too out of it."

"Okay. Then let's play for a bit, then smoke up, then eat. There's a diner around here."

Everyone agrees and briefcases are popped open on the flowery motel bed. Each man removes his chubby, white-furred, red-eyed rat from her case and places a tiny pair of sunglasses over her narrow snout.

"Hey Ms. Myles," Lee says, holding the white miss baritone close to his own snout, "You're looking quite blue tonight."

"Let‘s just jam," Bates says. "That'll perk up the old girl."

"What starts, then?"

"Let's try, ‘Arabian Splash.'"

"Yeah. ‘Arabain Splash.' That sounds good."

"How about ‘Climaxous?'" Jackson says, "that always warms me up."

"No. ‘Arabian Splash."

"Yeah Jackie," Lee says, "why you got to be so contentious all the time?"

"Okay, okay, okay. Okay. And fuck you Lee."

They sit on the floor around the bed and flip their rats on their backsides. Some of the rats are more inclined to do it than others--some have horribly cranky dispositions; however, once on their backs, the men know that the rats are much easier to manipulate.

Sundance's rat Dull Leather is a mezzo-soprano so he's charged with leading "Arabian Splash." He rubs his forefinger in a circle on Dull Leather's pink little paunch and the rat starts giggling. It's all very soft at first--a little squeak--but then the rat becomes happier and louder and soon, Room 20 is filled with rat decibel jazz. Sweak Swuak Sweak Swuak. Sweak Swuak Sweak Swuaaak Sweak.

"Oh yeah Sundance, that's the stuff. You haven‘t missed a step! Eeeee!"

Lee‘s next with his girl. "C'mon Ms. Myles." He twiddles his fingers under his rat's chin. A perfect counterpoint in falsetto begins. Tee-hee-hee-hee. Tee-hee-hee-hee.

"Whoa-oh-oh, boy! Jesus H. Chim-in-ee! That sure is ‘Arabian Splash!'"

Bates thumbs his girl Vegas Bat on her rectum. She hisses. Re-re-reeee. Re-rerere. Tickie. REEEEEE.

"Goddamnit boys you hear that sound? That's the sound of lethal doses of rat belly!"

Jackson and his girl East Side Rodin, then Hatter and his girl Civil play in.

"Uhn!"

"Owh!"

"Yes sir!"

Sweak-tee-he-uhn-uhn-re-Swuak. Sweak-hee-uhn-woo-reeree. Tickie.

"The night is eating it with a moon-spoon!"

"The night-owl is afraid of her own hoot!"

"The bat is envious in eardrum!"

"Every street-rat within half a block is hearin this and jip-jabbin along, whooooooo!"

The sound in Room 20 mixes into an amalgam of discordant, soulful, human beat and squalor. It's all there, really. The men, their little rat-girls, rat-belly, rat-jazz and product called "Arabian Splash." Sweuk-hee-re-re-Swuak. Sweak-hee-reeree. Swe-tickie-eh!

"Let's change it up! Batey-boy, Hatter, Lee, you stick with me. Jackson, how about you melt ESR into a ‘Heartless Jester' in C?"

"You got it!" Lee rubs Ms. Myles' southern-most nipple counter-clockwise and slow. Au-au-auauauau-sweak-tee--

A knock on the door. Rat bellies are quickly released. Ms. Myles escapes Lee's clutch and runs under Room 20's bed. Her sunglasses lay up-turned by the radiator. Lee wicks rat milk from his fingers in frustration. "Who is it?" The rest of the men stuff their rats into their suitcases or front shirt pockets. "Who--"

"Can you goddamned beatniks keep it down in there?" The fruit from the front desk‘s voice is muffed by the door. "It's midnight, for Christ sake!"

"Uh...yeah, yeah." Lee sees Ms. Myles behind the motel‘s nightstand, grabs her. "Yeah man." He kisses his girl between her ears and replaces the sunglasses on her snout. "We cool."

"Cool? Good."

The men wait in silence for a few minutes. When the fruit is decidedly gone, Sundance suggests that everyone put their little ladies away for the time being.

"Yeah," Jackie says, "let's go down to that diner, man."

They walk through a light rain, across a wide, empty, inky road into a diner with an orange-glowing sign that flashes STINKY'S PETE'S. The men sit in the nearest booth--a big 50s style plush blue booth--and a haggard, kink-haired waitress finally shows up. Her eyes bubble out of their sockets; they're lined with mappy red road lines. She yawns. "Arrrrrwwwwwhhh. Drinks?"

The men all order coffee, black. The waitress leaves.

"How about that ‘Arabian Splash!'"

"That really sure was something!"

"I bet that'll be a hit."

"Definitely. And what about that yawn? I dig that too, man."

"Yeah yeah. Know it."

The waitress returns with the coffees and sits down five porcelain mugs on five separate saucers. "There."

"Hey lady," Bates says.

"Yeah?"

"I dig the name of this place. Stinky Pete‘s?"

"You do, do you? Yeah."

"You ever hear Coltrane? ‘Banana Pancakes?' in particular?"

"No breakfast until 6 AM," the waitress says. "Anything else?"

The men look at each other in confusion.

Hatter says, "Nope. That'll do."

The waitress wearily walks to the kitchen through a swinging door with a porthole window.

The men drink their coffee in silence.

"You guys," Jackie finally says, "I love you guys. You wanna head back and jam again?"

It's agreed. The men walk to the front of Stinky Pete's to pay the bill.

Behind the counter, a long metal shelf displays cans marked RAT MEAT with a little cartoon profile on the side.

"That looks like Civil," Sundance points. "Hey Hatter. That looks like your girl!"

The other men look.

"It really does!"

"Civil's belly meat! Oh can you dig that?"

"Ah-hah! Whoa!"

An old register lady appears from the kitchen‘s swinging door. She pushes a few buttons on an old puke-colored cash register, rings up the bill. The men focus their eyes on the cans of rat meat again.

"Boys?"

"Yes Ma'am?" Bates has a pronounced drawl when he talks to the old woman. It isn't a rude act, simply an unintentional one.

The old lady says, "Twenny cents, please."

Hatter jumps in front of Bates. He asks the lady, " Hey miss. Miss? Is that really rat meat in those cans? I‘ll take four cans of rat meat for sure, baby!" He giggles, keeps his eyes on the cans. "Is that really, really, really rat meat, baby? Rat belly? I can‘t get enough of that tasty stuff!"

"No, ain‘t rat meat." The old register lady smiles.

"Rat belly? You sure?"

"Nope. It ain't rat. Jussome gag. But I'm show glad you aks. Now if y‘all boys woonit mine me too terrible so...twenny cents please. He-he."



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