staring from my place at the foot of a
hill marked by death and lies that
never would have been were it not for
some twisted sense of devotion

lowering my head, i gaze in awe at
the whimsical nature of a willow that
seems to have sprouted amongst a sea
of vengeance and hatred, it sways in a
soft, yet strikingly powerful w i n d 

an unrelenting breeze that serves as little
more than a reminder of times gone by
when there was not a moment to spare
to enjoy such trivial little pleasures

there was but one who would stop and
he would take in the day even when it
might have cost him life itself, because
without these things, he could find 
no reason to exist at all

Back to The Beginning: Every Beauty is a Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Back to Part Six: Beauty is in the Eye of the Beerholder

Part 7B of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
One of Three Possible Part Sevens

Someone's bad cover of Crimson and Clover was playing on the jukebox at the pancake house as Jerry led Don and I into the restaurant. Jerry immediately flipped off two old men at the counter and demanded that the hostess show him to his "favorite booth."

"Candy is the sweetest piece of ass this side of the Hudson River."

Don and I nodded as we took our seats. We agreed with what Jerry was saying, even as his phrasing made us nervous. It wasn't like we didn't say things like that around the guys. It was just that his tone of voice hit our eardrums like a grinding wheel being used to shorten the length of our toes. Beyond that, we really did not care for anyone talking about "this side of the Hudson River" like that. At all.

"Yeah, she is really hot.
Do you think I have a shot at her?"

With his latest question, Don convinced me that he was completely stupid. The way that Candy looked at him, and the way she proudly wore his Hartford Whalers' cap should have told him something. I immediately recommended that he shuffle off to the men's room and start cleaning himself up before Candy arrived. Realizing his face was dirty, his glasses were covered with a mucky film, and that the removal of his baseball cap had given him an incurable case of hat head, Don walked briskly into the pancake house restroom.

"Your buddy don't stand no chance.
Candy will tear his heart out and eat it.
She sure is a good ride though, I'll tell you that much."

I don't know what came over me at that moment. I just could not take Jerry any longer. I grabbed the glass salt shaker in my right hand, wrapped my fist around it tightly, and then punched Jerry in the face with all the strength I could muster. He was stunned, more by the concept of what I had done than by the actual punch. He slumped back against the booth, rolled his eyes, and then jumped forward suddenly and unexpectedly. He grabbed my jaw between in his big, greasy right paw and jerked it sideways before pulling me in closer.

"Think that was a good idea, fuckwad?"

Candy selected that particular moment to walk through the glass doors to the pancake house. She looked around in a dazed state of confusion, then spotted Jerry and I at Jerry's favorite back booth. Her jaw dropped. She yelped, or made some sound similar to a yelp, and then opened her purse, found her lipstick, and yelled to us that she needed a minute to freshen up. Foolish me, suspecting that she was concerned about the way Jerry was rattling my head around. She just wanted to look nice for Don and was surprised that he was not with us at the table.

Jerry looked back at me and grinned. He took me by the collars of my shirt and pulled me in closer. His tongue slithered out of his mouth and came treacherously close to licking my eyelid. It was not an attractive proposition, but I could see now that there was something definitely wrong with Jerry.

"Scared? Hmmm, sissy boy?"

The back door to the kitchen swung open. It was a big, heavy wooden door that swung like a wild west rodeo gate. From behind the door leaped some kind of human or animal that jumped on Jerry's back, plunged a knife into it, then raced back into the kitchen. Jerry fell forward onto the table, the bloody knife handle protruding from his back, soaking his policeman shirt with thick, bubbly blood.

"What the hell happened?"

Looking up from the scene of violence on the table in front of me, and still struggling to regain my composure after Jerry's physical attack on my person, I did not immediately recognize the voice. Once my eyes focused and I was able to regain some sense of the reality of things, my mind did a somersault. How did Kettles Johnson know where to find us? Beyond that, why was he smoking a Virginia Slims cigarette with a crumpled half a pack of them held tightly in his left hand?

"Do you have any idea what is happening?"

The question I decided to ask him was the most vague but also the most direct. It was the one Don and I had been dying to ask him ever since we last saw him crying in his room. Unfortunately, I neglected to pay attention to the fact that he had pretty much just asked me the same question, therefore negating each other's ability to answer.

Kettles slid Jerry's body along the table and let it slump in the corner. He grabbed a pile of napkins and briskly wiped the blood from the table. Then he directed me to order something. "Black coffee" was his suggestion as "it was going to be a long night." Besides, he warned me, they would throw us out if we did not order anything. Even though the place was hardly busy, it was store policy. Every customer had to order. Coffee alone was good enough for twenty minutes. After that we would have to order eggs or pancakes or what they claimed was a T-bone steak. It was the nature of the business and we were in no position to argue.

"Who else is here?
God, I really do love her."

The waitress showed up to take our orders at the same time Don emerged from the men's room. He came back to the table with a confident smile, thinking of nothing now but the image of Candy dancing nude in his Hartford Whalers cap. What a lucky purchase that had been. One can never tell when an impulse buy will turn out to be the magic token for winning the affection of a desired lover.

Wow, how did you know we were here?
Hey, I think I might get laid tonight.
Cool, huh?"

Don did not even notice Jerry's body at the end of the bench. Jerry's head was turned and he appeared to be looking out the window. I decided to ask the waitress for a wet towel, which I promptly tossed onto Jerry's arm to cover his tattoo. The waitress sneezed, wiped her nose on the sleeve of her pale blue uniform and again asked us what we wanted to order. We ordered five coffees. As Candy was returning from the ladies' room we figured she would need one. Even though Jerry definitely did not need a coffee, we figured putting a cup in front of him would help to deflect questions about him.

"We need to get back to the dorms, Kettles.
Can you help us out here?"

Kettles began talking very fast, tying so many concepts together than I wished Don would produce another joint so we could slow him down. He told us about the father of Jayne's son being willing to do anything to keep her from regaining custody. He told us Jayne's son had some rare form of autism that made him capable of reshaping reality as we knew it. He also told us, as something of a warning, that Candy was not the airhead she appeared to be.

Then the gunshots came through the restaurant window and everyone scattered. Once the smoke cleared, both Jerry and Kettles Johnson were lying dead on the floor and Candy was standing over us in her short skirt. We were too shaken to even think about trying to enjoy the view from our position on the floor. All we could do was whimper.

"My truck is parked outside.
We need to get out of here soon.
Trust me, guys.
I may be a stripper but I have a lot of dignity."

Candy dangled the keys impatiently as she waited for us to come to our feet. We apologized for our lack of experience in matters such as these and then followed her out into the parking lot with the sound of police sirens rapidly approaching.

Thus ends Part 7B of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
Part 8B: Pain and beauty, our constant bedfellows. Young as I was, I understood.

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