by Tantra Bensko
Chapter 2: Helpful
Lady Lucky is uniquely entangled with the man named Lucky’s Lavaggio, in this reality in which everything exists within Planck’s dot the size of a newly conceived zygote. Lucky’s first job is stocking cans in a grocery store. He notices a chick wearing the kind of blue jeans he likes, low cut, tight legs, and a shirt that doesn’t reach the jeans. He looks at her with the best subtly tender look he can muster, giving off the vibe of “Helpful,” in case she wants to ask him something. She’s slightly franticly looking around for something.
She’s looking at the aspirin, and he figures she wouldn’t ask him anything about cramps if he approached her at that moment. So he waits until she moves on toward the caramel corn and chocolate-covered almonds before he walks past her. An old woman comes around the corner riding the cart for disabled folks, honking.
He makes a face, making fun of himself, looking at the girl. It works.
She comes over to him and asks him about a public bathroom in the store. He shows her how great a guy he is by doing a chore purely for the sake of being helpful. He also picks up some litter along the way. He looks at her out of the corner of his eye to check on how he’s doing. But she has a big flower behind her ear that obscures the vision of her face. He hopes he isn’t being too boring, too sweet.
As he walks her across the big store to show it to her, through double doors, down a long concrete hallway, he reconsiders, thinking maybe showing her a hint of his appetite for her would give him a little edge. “I know the people who painted that mural,” he says, pointing flirtatiously to the picture of food around the world, and people looking super happy, with eagles in flight overhead. She nods a little too seriously for his taste.
She thanks him, tries the door, which is apparently locked, and waits in front of the women’s restroom. He takes off toward the condiments aisle, and as he walks away, realizes that there is no light coming out from under the door of the restroom. He turns around to check out his observational memory. He’s right. She’ll be standing there all day if he doesn’t tell her. She’s squirming.
He decides not to mention it to her and see what she does. Who knows, she might find a corner and take down her pants. He goes through the door with the strips of thick clear plastic, but doesn’t keep going. He pulls off to the side, peers through. She looks back and forth, and slowly opens the door and peers inside, goes into the men’s restroom, and locks the door behind her.
No one has bothered to fix the lock, which required a huge amount of force to open. His face breaks out in a grin, as he imagines the pranks he could pull.
He rehearses them. It’s not long before he hears her fight with the lock. He has a hard time holding back his laugh. He finally decides to run toward it and cover the sides of his mouth so no one else is likely to hear. And in the direction of the bathroom, yell FIRE!
And run away.
To hell with them if they can’t take a joke.
* * *
And lady Lucky had also, that evening, peeked in the bathroom when she tracked down the tenant named Narwhal, a young delicate-featured woman, with fringe and bells on the hems of her skirts. Her shining blond hairs always stay just where they should. Lucky’s hair is heavy, oily, Italian, and the bangs should stay down in a draft more easily than hers. Her hair is light, flyaway, but the bangs rarely move.
Demons. Hair Demons is what it is.
“Obviously,” Lucky had said. “Your hair has been clogging up the drains. And you know why, don’t you? You’ve seen them in mirrors, haven’t you, in the mirrors? You’re going to have to move out if you don’t get rid of them. Turn the mirror in your room facing outward along the walls, and that should make them leave. It’s an old trick, but it works. Listen, if the drains overflow, I’m going to leave you to your own devices. I wash my hands of it.”
Lucky has been thinking about how she might fall out of the window of the plane and fly like a bird. Windows are only liquid, after all. Stranger things have happened, and to people far less strange than she.
Lucky watches her housekeeper hurrying about the house, her hyperdontian surreal teeth eating the air, the housekeeper’s molecules line up in little rows like iron shavings around a magnet. Lucky says, “Why are you always so busy. Busy busy busy, never want to talk. You’re just dusting up molecules that have fallen off our own body while you rush around so.” She feels smug about how normally the housekeeper has referred, in their conversations, to her molecules as belonging to hers if they are in her body. But since she’s been having the lovely supernumerary toothy talks with Lucky, and learning about the continuum, she has this week begun calling them hers even if they are in the space around her within the length her breath reaches.
Today, the housekeeper says, “Part of me will go with you in the suitcase I packed. Maybe because they are dark, they won’t blend with your whiteness... Keep your secrets to yourselves,” she whispers to her molecules. Lucky’s housekeeper’s surreal teeth coming out through her skin all over her head chatter slightly with the coolness of the air, sloughing off some of their molecules of plaque. The housekeeper’s inner ears drooped like cardboard soaked in awkwardness. “You didn’t call me Sweetie today,” she said to Lucky, to no response, “or thank me for your special suitcase,” she whispered.
Lucky prepares to travel over oceans, over deserts, over everything she can look down on from a distance and feel glad she is not that, not that. To reconcile: 1. the joy of not being those things with 2. she is those things. She has watched the beginnings of lots of travel documentaries. She can make it through a few minutes, but the idea of other people horrifies her too much to finish, when she imagines so burningly intensely their lives, and what it must be like to be them, moment by moment, ruthlessly, endlessly.
Ever since she fell on her tailbone on secret concrete years before, and her Kundalini rose up the right side of her spine rather than sticking to the center, making everything cry brightness, she hasn’t been able to fully get off the continuum.
Readying for her trip while the sun rises, she polishes her suitcase with grease, to make it fall out of anyone’s hand that might pick it up. She holds it up, and it slides down her arm. She dabs at the grease stains with the underside of her black nylon dress, and checks to see that it barely shows from the front.
Sniffing the air, she runs out into the hallway and yells to her tenants: “I smell Desert Rose deodorant! OK, who’s wearing it? You know I’ve told each and every one of you I’m the only one supposed to wear that. It’s my signature scent!” She waits a while and slams the door.
Lucky keeps an under-tenant in the oubliette. A housekeepee.
But the housekeepee, Dungeonella, knows to stay quiet in the dank and musty oubliette. That room with the only entrance being a hidden trap door. The sudden quiet in the boarding house is accented by a slight bang from the oubliette. Lucky thinks fast. She falls down on the floor, to confuse people’s ears and sense of cause and effect.
Glad as she is that no one figured out someone they don’t know lives there just made a sound under them, she wishes she hadn’t landed once again on her butt. She winces as she stands up, but once she makes herself stop wincing, she realizes it doesn’t actually hurt. She just remembers clearly falling on the cold concrete floor down below in the oubliette. She landed on her tailbone, prematurely raising her fiery Kundalini. That transformative life-force the yogis return life after life of rigorous exercises and guru fests in the imposing mountains to coax from the coccyx didn’t sit well for this opera singer.
The oubliette’s decaying pale vines along the walls make thin layers of black rich dirt. Lucky knows them well, considering she was stuck there for three days before she was able to get out. Spiders crawled across her face. She had to pee her pants. She never tells anyone, but she has not been alone in the house since. Sometimes, she wants to crawl in bed with someone when she thinks about that fall. But that particular someone isn’t there anymore. That someone only comes to drive her places cause she pays him, and to visit the surreal housekeeper for free.
Copyright © 2014 by Tantra Bensko