(excerpt from the chapter “American Woman 1999″ from the debut novel “Tramp” by Joey Cloudy)
“Don’t come hangin’ ’round my door
I don’t wanna see your face no more
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin’ old with you”
~ Lenny Kravitz
Monika’ Elisabeth Whittaker didn’t have any female friends but that day she tried to set her best friend, Aaron Rainer Moore, up with Jacqueline “Thumper” Anderson, one of Nathan, her fiancé’s, Dungeons & Dragons gamer geek friends. The two women were driving west down Forest Lane, shimmering undulating waves of heat hovered in the searing 103-degree air scorching the gray stretch of cement as they rolled on towards Aaron’s apartments. The neon yellow Mini with its midnight purple racing stripe whipped and weaved in and out of the light Saturday afternoon traffic easily as Jaqueline nimbly maneuvered the tiny car with the ease of a motorcycle working the four-speed gear shift clutch and brake with all the skill and finesse of an Indy racer. While she was only five-foot-five, Jaqueline was leanly muscular with angular yet delicate features that made her look almost Elfin. Her skin held a healthy bronze tan of her Egyptian father in all seasons; it contrasted deeply to the ivory pallor of Mona’s. Mona never wore makeup, but she always wore sunblock. Jaqueline wore her platinum hair short bobbed and spiky. Today both wore long black lacy layered skirts and half-sleeved wide loose cuffed flowing shirts tied to show off their midriffs. The side of one of Mona’s arms was already burnt and would peel soon.
She adjusted the black scarf over her shoulder length ebony ringlets.
Oh, I love this song! Jaqueline cooed with a softened Eastender accent as Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” blasted out of the stereo’s speakers and reverberated within the Mini Cooper.
Jaqueline parked and leaned across the gear shift to give Mona a quick kiss on the cheek, her emerald eyes erupted with the light of the magic hour as she stared into Mona’s dark gray eyes.
Don’t cha’ go worrying about those guys, Mona. I didn’t drive all the way to Dallas from Arkansas to play D&D. I came to hang out with you, she said smiling.
Mona kissed her back; this time she was ready. She tasted just like the cinnamon gum she always chewed. There was no gum now, just its ghost on the tip of her tongue.
Jaqueline looked into her eyes as she spoke. The only reason I’m not playing now is because I fancy you. I see those moppets every day on campus and I’m not sure that I would be friends with any of them if we weren’t trapped in that Podunk college town.
Thanks for driving me to Aaron’s, Mona, you can relax, she spoke into her ear, caressing her jawline lightly with her fingertips as she spoke. For the next 72 hours I am all yours, luv. Jacqueline grinned then climbed out of the car. Now, let’s meet bachelor number 1 you’ve been waggin’ ya’ chin about the entire day we’re at the fair.
Mona’s heart was still racing, and she wasn’t sure if it was the drive or her driver.
Before they were halfway upstairs, they could hear Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” blasting. Mona knocked, they barely heard Aaron shout over the music.
It’s open! Mona opened the door into the cool living room air. Thumper takes in the view with an appreciative eye on everything from the professionally framed original art and prints, to the lush cool plants in brightly colored ceramic pots, to the perfectly organized multiple bookshelves along every available section of wall, neat rows of books were lined up on nearly every horizontal surface. He didn’t expect Mona to bring anyone, so he is only wearing paint splattered baggy khakis and steel toed boots. After a moment he puts the paper he’s holding back on his drafting table and takes a few wild slashes at it with what they both think is water until he stops, lights a match, tosses it onto the clear liquid. It ignites.
What the hell? Jaqueline exclaimed.
Aaron turns around pissed at first believing Mona has brought some loser she uses to chauffeur her around town into his apartment, his face calms immediately the moment he lays eyes on Jacqueline. The chiseled, dread locked, black man laughs while he pointed to the glass bottle on the corner of the table, and they notice the liter of Everclear next to the paints, brushes, sponges, can of Lysol aerosol spray and a shoe box with the word texture scrawled on the lid with a large black Sharpie. He goes back to work using the aerosol and his Zippo lighter as a makeshift flamethrower. The blaze sped the drying time.
Hi, said Aaron as he eyed Jacqueline with an uncharacteristically expansive smile. I’d shake your hand but I’m filthy. Jacqueline takes his paint-splattered hand and shakes it with both of her small hands. They stare into each other’s eyes for a long moment while Mona looks on, a triumphant smirk spread across her face.
Hi, ya, I’m Jacqueline, pleased to meet cha’! She shouts over the soundtrack. Aaron picks up the universal remote and turns down the volume on the TV. Jacqueline is fascinated by his painting process as well as his results.
Sorry, I didn’t realize Mona was bringing a guest.
How can you watch the telly and paint at the same time? she asked, standing too close to be ignored.
Oh, that, I’m not watching. I wanted to listen to Pink Floyd while I was painting but I don’t have any of their albums anymore. Then I remembered that there’s always videotape…