Though there was a bit of trash talking yesterday, Mark Finn continues to press on in the Clockwork Storybook 30 Days Writing Challenge, with the fifth chapter of Con-Dorks: One in a Million.
NOTE: If you are not up to date on the story, the first two novels have been run in their entirety at revolutionsf.com.
The Transformation of Lawrence Croft: http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=1827
Chance of a Lifetime: http://www.revolutionsf.com/fiction2/condorks2/condorks2_00.html
One in a Million – Chapter 5
The Regular Castro Dish-Fest
Leslie Liebolt and Rhonda Halsey had been meeting at El Lago Cantina once a week for longer than they could remember. The bedrock of their friendship was cheap margaritas, tortilla chips and salsa, and fish tacos. When Leslie and Rhonda were both attending school but at different campuses, El Lago was at the halfway point between them. When the girls got different jobs (Bachman’s Books and Hot Topic, respectively), El Lago was again the halfway point. And while the two women realized they would be terrible roommates, they both chose apartments in the Castro, as close as they could get to El Lago and still afford to eat there.
In all their years of friendship, the weekly covenant had only been broken a handful of times, and for the most serious of reasons, like a death in the family or one of the parties being out of town. Under normal, and even strenuous conditions, there was simply no way to not find at least an hour in a busy week to take a break and catch up.
When Leslie Lieboldt breezed through the door, she smiled as she bypassed Ashleigh at the greet station with a familiar wave of her hand and made a beeline for their regular table. Rhonda was already there. She was dressed in vintage Rhonda today: bell bottom hip huggers, an off-kilter belt made out of shiny metal plates, a baby doll tee that managed to simultaneously show off her midriff and accentuate her breasts, a faded denim jacket thrown over that in the name of decency, and on her newly-colored fire-engine-red hair was a purple newsboy cap. She was vibrating in her seat.
Leslie slid in opposite Rhonda. “Oh. My. God. You are freaking out, I can tell.”
Rhonda let out a strained squeal. “Rhonda has scoop!”
“Me too, and I think we have the same news!” Leslie said.
“No way,” said Rhonda. “This is exclusive.”
“Okay,” said Leslie, “at the count of three, we’ll say it together.”
“Okay,” said Rhonda. “One…Two…Three!”
Leslie said, “Holly is moving in with Larry!”
Rhonda started her sentence: “I started talking to…” and then she let it die. “What?”
Leslie made an “Oh” face. “You didn’t know?”
“No, I didn’t fucking know.”
Leslie swallowed and immediately switched to defense. “Well, it just happened, and if I hadn’t been talking to Linda last night, I wouldn’t have heard either.”
Rhonda was unmoved. “How’d Linda know?”
“Apparently, there was some double date with her and Burt Vaughn, and Holly and Larry.” Leslie paused and then added: “You seem really upset, Rhon. Is everything all right?”
“Oh, sure, everything is swell,” said Rhonda. She practically chomped into her margarita, smacked her lips, and said, “Rhonda is as right as rain.”
Linda knew better. “I’m sure that we’re not being frozen out or anything like that.”
Rhonda held up her hand, indicating quiet. “No, that’s not it. I’m just tired of hearing about Holly’s on-again off-again drama monopolizing every single conversation. We’ve all got lives, too, but we don’t get to bring any of that up when Holly is pulling her Queen Bee act.”
It was an old complaint, and one tendered by the most self-conscious, egomaniacal person Leslie knew. Like any true friend, she merely kept mum and nodded in sympathy. “Well, look, forget all of that. What were you saying you starting a talk with…?”
In spite of her irritation, Rhonda smiled. “Oh, well, I was chatting with someone on my site the other day…”
“Oh, yuck, not one of those pervs that pay you money?” Linda exclaimed. “Rhon, no, don’t do it!”
Rhonda blinked. “What?”
“Rhon, those guys are all probably sex offenders or something. You know I really don’t like that you even have a, a, what do you call it, a ‘pay-per-view’ site up in the first place, but now you want to get involved with one of them?”
Rhonda closed her open mouth and pursed her lips together. Leslie was her best friend. And the problem with that was, she knew Leslie was for all intents and purposes the most conservative of the Sisters. She claimed to not agree with nor understand anything surrounding Rhonda’s cyber-income generator. The one person she most wanted to tell about her little flirtation with Fred Terkington was the one person who would never “get it.”
“You’re probably right,” she finally said. “It was just one of those things. Let’s change the subject.”
“Gladly,” said Leslie.
As her friend nattered on about the latest tidbits at the bookstore, Rhonda thought back on her outburst. Despite her protestations, Holly (and Linda, and Leslie) didn’t have bad luck with men. Not really. Rhonda, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to keep a man interested in her for more than 3 months, like her last relationship. His name was Jeff, he was tall, had great hair, and was in a band. And yet, when it all exploded, and her friends gathered together with coffee and ice cream to find out what had happened, all Rhonda could come up with was, “Well, basically, he’s a Leo.”
It suddenly occurred to Rhonda that what she was jealous of in her friends wasn’t their man-catching skills, but rather their man-keeping skills. It wasn’t their relationships; it was their relationships’ stability.
Rhonda absently commented throughout the rest of Leslie’s weekly download, but in her mind, she was secretly trying to figure out what to say to get Fred to reply to her tonight.
Leslie walked into Comix Comix Comix at five minutes to closing time. D.J. turned, his face a mask of dark portents, but all of it vanished when he saw her. “Hey, Les!” he said. He reached under the counter and produced a paper sack. “Got your stuff here. Good week. New Terry Moore.”
“Whoop!” she said. “Anything else I need to pick up? I know you’re about to close.”
“You’re a doll,” he said. “No, I think you’re all right this week.”
“Cool,” she said, reaching into her purse and extracting a wallet. As she fished around for the right credit card, she said, “I wouldn’t have stopped by so late but I got your message.”
“Oh, yeah,” D.J. said. “Listen, the move is happening this weekend.”
She smiled. “Congrats, Deej. You’re finally becoming a real fucking citizen!”
“Yeah, yeah, so anyway…” D.J. looked around, but aside from the staff, who knew Leslie anyway, the store was empty. Too bad, he thought. Even though he and Leslie were just friends, following a couple of brief dates that went nowhere, he never got tired of having her bound into the store as if he were the greatest thing in the world. It was strange to D.J. that he could like someone so pretty as Leslie but not want to date her. Casual sex? Sure. But D.J. didn’t know the first thing about women and didn’t pretend to try. Leslie was more than willing to work with his social limitations.
“Listen,” he continued, “I could really use some help with the moving. Larry’s bringing his van, which means probably Holly will come too, and so I thought if you and Linda and Rhonda weren’t busy, maybe we could make short work of it?”
“A whole day of hot sweaty moving and lifting? You mad, impetuous thing, you!”
Leslie spoke like that a lot. D.J. was pretty sure it was some sort of literary character he was supposed to know. He smiled, as if acknowledging the reference, and said, “What if I threw beer and pizza into the mix?”
Leslie brightened. “Shit, Negro. That’s all you had to say.”
“That was the worst Sam Jackson impression ever,” he said.
“But I’m way cuter.”
“That you are. So, will you ask the Sisters?”
Leslie nodded, her eyes doing social calculations. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Linda will be there if Holly goes, and I’ll be there, because you need someone to help you pack dishes. I don’t know about Rhonda, though.”
“Oh?” said D.J. “What’s up? You guys fighting?”
“No. Well, no, but she may not feel like hanging around Larry and Holly. Especially if they are going to be all lovey-dovey and stuff.”
“Well, who can blame her?” D.J. said. “No one wants to see Larry kiss anyone.” Leslie snickered and he added, “Ask her as a special favor for me, okay? Turk will be there and he’s been on a tear lately. Maybe she can distract him.”
“Hey,” Leslie said, “maybe we should try to set them up…” the idea died even as she said it.
D.J. was right there with, “No. Absolutely not. Those two? Get together? I can’t even imagine a world where that would work out.”
“You’re right,” Leslie said. “Terrible idea.” She tucked her comics under her arm and said, “I’m assuming at your parent’s house? What time on Saturday?”
“Eleven o’clock. Eat a big breakfast. Wear old clothes.”
“You’re not selling me on the fun-ness of the event,” she said, skipping out the door. “See you, Deej.”