I have to write a piece for my writing class, and it’s worth kind of a lot, and I need to have a final draft for tomorrow (actually I needed it for yesterday but go figure). So I’m gonna put it here and hope that people comment on it in the hours between now (12:30) and 7:30. Feel free to comment on it anyways. The only requirements is that it has to make reference to an adulterer, synchronized swimming, a house of cards, and include a phobia of some sort.
It’s called Be Mine.
After hours, when Patti Green isn’t waiting on tables, she writes stories. In the back of the diner, nearly a hundred thin yellow notebooks sprawl over rows of empty shelves. She feels like a detective, taking notes on how people look, what they say, while she notes down their orders. She likes to think her face betrays no hint of what she’s doing. Everybody knows her little secret, but nobody has ever brought it up with her. Everyone (and when I say everyone, I mean all the regular visitors of Cozy’s All-night Diner) respected her, because she had done nothing worth their disrespect.
Patti’s eye twitches. It always twitched right before an interesting person came in. She wrote a story about it once, where the heroine’s eye twitched when she saw a man who had committed murder. Soon, though, it began to twitch all the time, and the story is about her journey to discover why. It ends ambiguously, and we are left, as she says to anyone who will listen, with a sense of mystery and foreboding. She is over forty years old and harbors dreams of writing the next great American novel.
Stories can be found anywhere, she always says. Even at Cozy’s. For instance, at this moment a girl peeks in through the front door. Patti sizes her up.
Enter Katrina. At this precise moment, she is exactly eighteen years, three months, five days, and six hours old. And she is deathly afraid. She shivers, but she knows that if she stops to scream, the roaches will get her. And they will rend her flesh with a million tiny feet and claws and teeth; they’ll suffocate her with insect pheromones. Something huge skitters over my boot. She has good reason to be afraid.
“Not to worry, dearie,” Patti tries to soothe Katrina, whose eyes are shut tight. “This place hasn’t had a bug problem in probably ten, fifteen years, right?” Nearby regulars mumble assent, half-paying attention. Katrina just sobs like an actress on speed. She sobs like a scrawny serial rapist when he drops the soap. She sobs like an adulteress right before her throat is cut. She sobs like death. They’re all around me, she whispers into Patti’s ear, clutching at her face. When I open my eyes they’ll do awful things. You have to help me. Her sobs attract the attention of the other patrons of the diner. In the dim fluorescent light their faces appear gaunt. Soulless eyes watch Katrina’s descent into madness. Her sobs turn to wails, which drown out the clicks and whirrs of my typewriter, not used to the rapidity of my strokes. They move like zombies toward her, empty eyes reflect Katrina’s fear. She cannot see them. She does not want to open her eyes. She is afraid the cockroaches will get her. Meanwhile, Patti Green the aspiring author is beside herself with glee. She rubs her meaty hands together and is jotting down every moment of this. She laughs, rolls of fat jiggle at her side, and for some reason this seems to soothe Katrina. Patti is giddy with excitement, caught up in a private craze. Her laughter is high and wheezy, like cartoon chipmunks, little peals of laughter slowly replace Katrina’s shrieks. Nobody else moves a muscle. They find Katrina far too interesting. To their credit, Katrina is a very interesting character. For one, she is breathtakingly beautiful. Long white hair glistens like spidersilk and flames burn in green, green eyes. She has curves like a Greek architect’s wet dream. When she grins, she's a straight-up goddess. This grin indicates that she is, at that moment, completely insane. Her mad shrieks from before were founded in sanity. As I said before, she had reason to be afraid.
She is grinning now – she had calmed down and opened her eyes. There were no bugs anywhere, nor had there ever been any. She laughs. “This happens all the time,” she says. “Roaches appear in my eyeballs and I’m really scared and then they disappear. I don’t know what’s weirder, bugs in your eyeballs or spice in your coffee.” She sprinkles hot spices into her coffee and looks up, that same Erisian grin plastered on her face. They love her for it. Patti jots down her notebook, “drinks coffee with sugar and spice (and everything nice).” She asks the question on everybody’s mind. “Are you single?” “No,” Katrina replies. “I’m double. I’ve got a twin sister.” She winks at Patti and flashes a smile at the rest as they titter like schoolgirls on a date and all crowd eagerly around her. I, too, move my typewriter closer, so I can get a better look at her. She really is beautiful, I sigh. She’s telling them stories of giant pumpkins where she used to live. Even her voice is beautiful. It makes me feel young again just to listen. I shake my head and keep writing. Soon.
Patti and Katrina are falling in love. It is two in the morning, and they’re the only ones left in Cozy’s. Besides me, of course. Patti the artist and Katrina the incredible piece of art; it only makes sense. They talk of future ambitions together, speaking quieter and quieter. Katrina is not grinning, and Patti is not giggling. But they are both exhiliarated. This happiness does not stem from insanity. Patti has put her notebook away. They hold hands and kiss, while I glare. I count myself a better writer than that hack Patti Green. Than fatty McWaddy Patti Green. That’s what they used to call her in grade school. I should be the one falling in love with Katrina. She belonged to me. Something heavy skitters across my boot. “What was that?!” Katrina shrieks, breaking the mood. Dread rises to her face. She suffocates Patti’s hand. “What was what?” Patti tries to soothe the beautiful girl she loves so much, squeezing Katrina’s hand in what she hopes is a reassuring manner. “THAT!” She wheels around and points at the floor beneath me. She sees hundreds upon hundreds of them, streaming out of holes in the wall and cracks in the floorboards. They are singleminded in their purpose: retrieve Katrina and bring her back to her rightful keeper. “Stay away, I beg you!” The roaches beat her to the door, encroaching on her fetally curled up body. “Who are you talking to? KATRINA!” Patti’s voice breaks and her eyes tear up. She rushes to Katrina’s side and holds her, whispering that everything would be alright, asking if she wouldn’t like to read some of her stories? If she wouldn’t like some coffee? But she is wrong. “Patti…” Katrina whispers through her tears, “I love you, please…” She buries her beautiful face in Patti’s bosom. “Please don’t let them take me…” Patti is on the verge of having a breakdown herself, because she doesn’t know what’s going on. She only just met this girl a few hours ago; having never even been attracted in that way to girls, this experience was beautiful and new and eye-opening and she was afraid for Katrina in a way that she had never been afraid before. “Come home, my princess,” I whisper. With the grace and timing of a thousand synchronized swimmers, they jump, crawling all over Katrina’s beautiful body. She tries to scream, but it is too late. They have already crawled inside her mouth. Her teeth crunch down on chitinous underbelly; gagging, she tries to get to her feet. It is too late. The door flies open, and the screen door flaps like a house of cards. Voices whisper sweet nothings on the winds, which rattle the entire diner. Come home to me.
And then it is over. I pack up my typewriter and put on my jacket. Patti is back at the counter, and I slip her a few bucks tip on my way to the door. She is busy writing feverishly in her notebook, perhaps about the events which transpired here. Good girl, I grin. I’ll make sure to bring her success. She deserves it. With a skip in my stride I make my way to the door.