|ZOMBIES, VAMPIRES, AND YE OLD WOMEN OF THE KNIGHT|
By Phoenix DeSimone On Mondays, Wilbur would skip feeding the cats and making dinner. He’d punch off at his job making Xerox copies five days a week, get in his car, and head for the bar. He’d grab the paperback he kept in the car out of the glovebox and try to remember where he was last Monday; the bookmark had been left at the bar one night and he never had the guts to ask about it. The book was one by Susie Sullivan, a young aspiring authoress who had never been traditionally published, but Wilbur had followed her YA career ever since its infancy on Tumblr and figured the least he could do was by a copy of her new novel she self-published.
Wilbur pulled the car around back this particular Monday and listened to the NPR speaking-head go on about the new research that found 25% of men in their twenties reported having no sex in the last year. I am about to be thirty, Wilbur thought to himself smirking. He pulled the key out of the ignition and headed into the bar. Going in through the back of Frank’s Sports Lounge ment he’d have to go through the stale, thick fog of cigarette smoke and walk on the sticky, beer stained floor before heading upstairs. A bouncer stood at the foot of the stairs as Wilbur approached, arms crossed, scanning around the nearly empty bar hall – I say bar hall because they had intended the downstairs to be a pool-hall, but had forgot to measure for shit, so there was only one pool table – for anyone causing a disturbance. The bouncer pivoted his head to Wilbur as he stopped in front of him.
“Can’t let you up there, sorry.”
“Is Sasha up there? I’m a Monday regular.” Wilbur said adjusting his glasses.
“No one’s up there. Top of Frank’s is closed tonight.”
“Fire this morning. And no, I don’t know what caused it.”
“Could you at least tell me if Sasha is here, I –“
“Dude. You can go sit at a table somewhere down here or get the fuck out. It’s that simple.”
“Fair enough.” Wilbur said walking away.
Sasha was one of Wilbur’s only friends. They had dated once, way back in their freshmen year of high school, when she was too shy to talk to anyone. None of this mattered to him now. What really seemed to bug him was that he never had a chance to fuck her and there was a part of him that really wanted to now. Well, not just a part, it was a more like a quarter, maybe even a half. See he had read this free Kindle eBook collection of short stories by Susie Sullivan. Every single short story in that collection was about a boy and a girl who had dated in high school, gone their separate ways, only to find out years later (and by years later I mean both characters were 20 years old) they were meant to be together. Wilbur was convinced this was now the story of he and Sasha.
The thing about a bar on a Monday in a college town is that they’re slow – really slow. The students are all home recovering from their weekend bender and the employees don’t even want to be there. So much so that apparently a kitchen staff-member would accidentally catch the grease pit on fire. At that is what Walter figured walking to an empty table in the center of the foggy room. Wilbur pulled out the chair, placed the novel on the table, and rubbed his glasses on his shirt. He was on chapter 12: Déjà Vu. This was in many ways a sequel to those series of e-books and Wilbur was sucking it in.
Wilbur never knew how much time had passed while he was reading. Unless it was something for work, or one of those works of literary greatness that he referred to as the “so-called-classics” – then he was acutely aware of how much time had transpired. The only thing he knew now was that it seemed as though our protagonist wouldn’t win back its (I said it) high school sweetheart. Sasha, he remembered Sasha too. By now she at least would have come to the table to ask him how the reading was going, or something to that effect. That and the thick fog drying out his saliva made him finish the chapter, fold the corner of the page, and head for the bar.
As an asthmatic who never smoked, Wilbur’s restricted lungs found it hard to traverse through the fog of carcinogens. The bartender was a heavy-set man, much more so than Wilbur, and wore a black leather jacket with the sleeves cut off. There were some tattoos on his hair arms, one of which was a rat with a knife in its belly with the words snitches get stitches circling around the pest. He stood at the other end of the bar, talking to a group of three girls dressed in tight skirts and high heels.
Wilbur looked over at the group of young girls, their stilettos digging into the linoleum floor, while trying to remember what he drank. Was it a stout or an IPA? Maybe some micro-brew shit? I can’t even remember what it was these days. The college kids always seemed to want something light – Bud light, Miller light, Coors light – so he thought it must be half way decent. He raised his hand and the bartender rolled his eyes and started. One of the girls, a blonde with blue eyes, an ass that refused to fit into her dress and heels that made her at least five inches taller than Wilbur, looked over at our friend standing alone at the other end of the bar. Wilbur made eye contact, quickly looking away after he realized that she was smiling at him.
A Bud Light was slammed on the bar and Wilbur handed the man four-fifty before returning to his table. The paperback was opened, and Wilbur adjusted his glasses. Wilbur could read pretty fast – I think about three pages a minute or something is what he told me – and he was deep into chapter 13 by the time he’d pick up the pilsner without even lifting his gaze. It tasted like beer flavored water he would later say. He put the glass down in front of him and realized that the blonde who had been at the other end of the bar was now sitting directly across from him, running her fingers through her hair and smiling with her pearly whites. A piece of tide gum rested between her teeth.
“How are you doing, handsome?”
I bet you figured this, but Wilbur had never been to good with the girls. Other than Sasha, and a girl who he’d never name from college, Wilbur didn’t spend too much time around the ladies. He definitely like girls, (he told me that he figured that out in college, but that’s a story for a different time) but he never had the gusto to go talk to them. Sasha and that girl from college, if she even exists, must have come up and talked to Wilbur first.
She sat there, still playing with her hair and smiling as Wilbur occasionally looked up from the paperback. Sweat began to form as he flipped from page to page. He was hoping somewhere in this work of fiction he could find a scene where the guy picks up the girl, but no such luck. This was a novel written by a woman for a young adult audience, and despite the heavy use of every trope from every romantic comedy movie Wilbur had ever seen, the guy she was falling for was definitely a punk. There wasn’t a damn thing this caricature of a man did for himself, and it started to make Wilbur question if a nineteen-year-old author knew anything of love in the first place.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” The blonde said putting her hand against Wilbur’s.
Wilbur closed the paperback, placed his glasses on the table and took a drink from the Bud Light.
“My name is Cynthia, what’s yours?”
“Wilbur.” He said, placing the glass back down.
“That’s a nice name.”
“Tell me, Wilbur.” She said as Wilbur gazed into her blue eyes and wondered what Sasha would think if she saw this. “Why does a man come to a bar on Monday to read?”
Wilbur didn’t respond – he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to. What could he tell her? That he’d gone to VCU for creative writing? That he was shot down by anyone he asked to read his stories, and ridiculed for wanting to write young-adult fiction by his professors and peers? Oh, he most certainly could not tell her that. He couldn’t tell her that he gave up that dream to major in Business like the rest of the heard. He couldn’t tell her that every month or so he’d open up Microsoft Word and type out a few thousand words before saving it in a folder named To Be Continued, never to be seen again. He most certainly couldn’t explain that he was living his dream vicariously through some nineteen-year-old-nobody who sold her eBook on amazon and paperbacks on her website. He simply couldn’t, so he didn’t.
“Earth to Wilbur.” She said waving her hand in front of her face.
“Sorry,” he said wiping his eyelids. “got lost there for a second. I just enjoy reading.”
“A bar is an interesting place to pick, I’ll tell you that much.” She said stroking her hair again. “It’s cute though.”
“Most men can’t even read.”
Wilbur covered his face as he felt the beer-flavored water start to shoot up his nostrils from laughter. He smiled at her when he removed his hand and she smiled back. He noticed the lack of a drink in her hand, noticed how she played with her streaks of blonde hair methodically, like keeping time to a song – never missing a beat as her index and thumb would go up and down what seemed like the same collection of strands. He looked back at her friends, the ones being wooed by the bartender and wondered if Cynthia was just lonely. He didn’t have on nice clothes, his glasses looked like they were from the 50’s, and he had a gut that looked like it was being supported by his belt buckle.
“What is it you do in the real world?”
“Is this not the real world?”
“Most nights other than Monday this place is fit for a movie about college students and their indulgence.”
“Thanks.” Wilbur said taking another sip to hide the redness in his cheeks.
“I sell cars. Over-priced Ford pickup trucks to be exact.”
“That sounds fun.” Wilbur said wishing he said anything else.
“It’s not. You have to deal with shitty customers, a boss who inherited the dealership from his daddy that has no idea what he’s doing, and I haven’t been able to sell one of those red-neck-mobiles in over a month.”
“It pays the bills.”
“You sound like you could use a drink,” he said looking down at her empty hand and bare ring finger. “Can I buy you one?”
Like every woman ever, she nodded her head in agreement. They walked over to the bar and Cynthia asked for two coronas and two shots of bourbon. Never having spent much time at a Mexican restaurant or on vacation, Wilbur had never had a corona before. He handed the bartender a twenty and waved him off when he brought back the change. Tears formed in Wilbur’s eyes as the Kentucky Bourbon slid down the back of his throat.
Apparently, Mexicans didn’t like the taste of beer too much either, but the lime was definitely helping. Wilbur had no idea what to do now. He didn’t know whether it was better to return to his table and find out if the girl ends up with that loser or keep talking to the first girl he could recall talking to in a long time. Not just any long time, four years to be exact. The last woman he talked to, at least one around his own age, was a thin, tall, black lady who had come into the Xerox store to make some copies. She was holding a copy of Twilight and had beautifully white teeth. All Wilbur had managed to ask her was if he could be her vampire and buy her some coffee. She told him he wasn’t her type, which Wilbur took to mean that she would have preferred the werewolf, but that advance didn’t work either. She had to tell him she didn’t find him attractive and then he got it. He never spoke to a female customer again. He always finds some excuse as to why I should do it.
Luckily, Wilbur didn’t have to deal with thinking of something to say to Cynthia. She leaned in close to Wilbur and whispered in his ear. Wilbur raised his eyebrows and looked around the nearly empty bar still covered in a fog of cigarette smoke. He’s never told me what she said to him, but I know that what happened next is Wilbur collected his belongings, left a nice tip on the bar for the bartender and the two of them travelled outside. Cynthia lit a cigarette, Wilbur didn’t even say anything, and got into his BMW that had never allotted him one pretty lady until right now. She turned on the radio and began dancing in her seat to the classic rock songs playing over the radio.
Wilbur wasn’t quite too sure of what was going on, but he was just thankful that he had paid the extra for the leather. Wilbur, being the Wilbur that he is, didn’t realize that if a woman gets into your car, she’s probably willing to go home with you. Wilbur went to open his mouth to speak when Cynthia rolled down her window, tossed out the cigarette, and leaned in close to him. Wilbur watched the smoke glide out the window. Then she did it. She kissed him.
“I’ve got to get going, Wilbur.” She said.
Wilbur said nothing. Cynthia smiled at him and touched his face as his eyes adjusted back to reality.
“I have to go,” she said pulling a pen out of her purse. “You wouldn’t happen to have a piece of paper, would you?”
Wilbur used to keep a pack of sticky notes in the glove compartment, but I asked to borrow them once with no intention of giving them back. I like to do things like that to Wilbur – it really gets him going. He picked up Susie’s novel and turned to a blank page. He ripped out the page and handed it to Cynthia who pushed the plunger down on her pen, wrote out her number in huge letters and handed it back to Wilbur.
“Call me sometime.”
“I, I, will.” He said as she leaned in and kissed him again before opening her door.
She stepped out of the BMW and shut the door.
“Bye.” He said with an extremely awkward wave.
To hear Wilbur tell it, that was the most memorable drive home ever. The air was pure-er, the stars were brighter, the drivers were nicer, and all sorts of other bullshit. He picked up one of the cats when he got home and danced around the room with it. Holding it high in the sky while it looked at him disappointingly with the lack of any 80s music to back this up. Wilbur put the cat down after he started yelling and scratching. If I had to guess, Wilbur threw Susie’s Novel off his night stand for once in his life and rubbed out a good one.
The next Monday Wilbur left the Xerox office and headed straight for the bar, per usual. He had spent the whole week texting back and forth with Cynthia – exchanging life stories, winking faces and even semi-nude photos. He felt his heart pounding as he pulled into the parking lot. Wilbur grabbed Susie Sullivan’s novel out of his glovebox and headed for the bar.
He took a seat at the bar, placed the paperback on the stool next him and waited for the bartender to approach. It was the biker dude again. Before Wilbur could get the words out of his mouth, the bartender turned around and poured him a Bud Light. Wilbur went to take out his wallet, but the bartender shook his head: “This one’s on me, Willy.” He didn’t pay much mind to the fact the bartender now knew his name. They saw Ids, credit cards, faces, who knows, maybe Sasha had event mentioned that there was this guy named Willy she was into before.
Wilbur had never sat in a bar and not read from a book before. The way he figured it, he must had finished ten full novels, three books of short stories, and four chap-books over the years of sitting at the bar on Mondays. He looked at the sports highlight show on the screens hanging above the bar and tried to pretend he knew the first thing about sports.
“Hi there, Willy.” Cynthia said sitting in an open seat.
“Fancy seeing you here.”
“Not like I’d told you I’d be or anything.”
She put her hand on his leg.
“Could I interest you in a drink?”
“How about I buy us both one?”
They sat there for an hour or so, chit-chatting back and forth, exchange glances, and luckily for Wilbur – sipping slowly on the whiskey and cokes Cynthia had bought them. Cynthia put her head on Wilbur’s shoulder as the bartender cleaned the pint glasses while looking at the tv. Wilbur’s breath stopped. Sasha had walked out of the kitchen and was staring at him as if she had seen a ghost. She walked in his direction and hovered over the barstool occupied by Susie Sullivan.“Can I talk to you for a minute, Willy?”
Sasha and Wilbur walked away from the bar.
“You didn’t want to come upstairs?” Sasha said peeking over Wilbur’s shoulder.
“I decided to enjoy some company tonight.” Wilbur said raising his eyebrows. “This is my knew friend Cynth –“
“I know who that is.”
“Are you jealous?”
“I am not. God forbid I actually like someone, Sasha.”
“I’m trying to tell you –“
“I don’t need this. See ya later.”
Wilbur turned and headed back for the bar. He told the bartender they would like the check, and he told Wilbur Cynthia had already paid. Wilbur could feel his palms sweating as they walked out the bar. Unlocking the BMW, they both sat inside, and Cynthia did it again – she kissed him. Her moist lips pressed up against his, her lip balm barely covering the smell of whiskey. She cracked the window and lit a cigarette again.
“Whatchya say we gets outta here?”
“I don’t know if I should be driving, home is far away.”
Cynthia put her cigarette to Wilbur’s lips, he inhaled and immediately let out a large fume of smoke, coughing hard.
“That might sober you up some.”
“I’m not so sure that’s how it works.”
“There’s a motel across the street.” She said laughing.
Wilbur let out a few more coughs, opened his door and let all the phlegm come pouring out before looking back at Cynthia.
“Would you mind walking?”
The door to the motel room looked like it had never been replaced. Wilbur jiggled the key into the lock and turned. The door opened to a room that looked like it had not been occupied since nineteen-seventy-five. There was still shitty wallpaper, a mattress that could have passed for a waterbed, and a boob-tube sat across from the oversized down-pillows. Cynthia placed the six-pack they had stopped for oon the nightstand and jumped up and down on the bed. It wasn’t a waterbed. Just a mattress that had the cushioning of every other comfort in this room – none.
The Filipino behind the counter told them that it would be an extra five-dolla for every item taken out of the mini-fridge. Wilbur saw nothing of particular value – airplane bottles of brown and white, a few packs of peanuts, and small water bottles that were a complete waste of plastic. Wilbur closed the fridge and remembered what the man behind the counter had said – “she real niiice – yous have good timez.” He clicked on the boob-tube. The nightly news was on, something about how the president and China were going back and forth on a trade deal. Wilbur was never one for politics, so he turned around to the bed where Cynthia was sprawled out, clothes off, and beckoning Wilbur with her pointer finger. Wilbur laid down on the bed beside her and looked over at her. She rubbed her hands up and down his fat belly as she began kissing him all over. Cynthia unbuttoned his shirt, letting her hands run between the curly hair that covered his torso. Just as the nightly news was teasing the morning news, Cynthia stuck her tongue down his throat and climbed on top of him. Wilbur put his hands all over her now, and they tumbled back and forth until Cynthia’s hands were ripping off his belt and pulling down his pants. She placed her hand on his crotch and smiled before jumping up from the bed.
“Let’s have a drink.” She said grabbing a bottle of liquor from her purse.
“More whiskey?” Wilbur asked paying more attention to her still-jiggling breasts.
Cynthia went over to the small coffee maker located by the boob-tube and grabbed two plastic cups. She placed the two cups down in front of the television, turned her back to Wilbur and began pouring as he stared at her ass. The news anchor seemed to be staring at her breast. She walked over to the side of the bed opposite him and sat down, handing Wilbur the plastic cup. He drank from it as Cynthia put her hands back on his crotch and the anchor signed off.
The phone on nightstand rang and rang – Wilbur had told the man behind the counter he needed a wake-up call by eight-thirty at the latest. The alarm clock on the nightstand read eight-thirty-two. Wilbur picked up the still-corded telephone and said he was up and would be down in a minute. He stretched and rolled over. Cynthia’s side of the bed was unmade, covers thrown about, sheets kicked towards him, and an imprint in the pillow where her head used to lay.
Wilbur opened the blinds and let the sun come into the hotel room. Light particles passed through still lingering puffs of cigarette smoke. He grabbed his shirt from the chair located by the window and began refastening the buttons. His jeans were folded neatly at the foot of the bed. He picked them up, pulled them over his large thighs, and felt around in his pockets. The sun hit the television stand as Wilbur stood up and scanned around the room. A note lay next to the television that still played the news, albeit now muted.
Sorry I had to leave while ur asleep. I had a lot of fun last night, handsome. We should definitely do it again sometime.
found your wallet in your jeans and neatly folded them. I took the money I was owed and nothing more, I swear
Call me soon!
His wallet sat next to the note. He grabbed it, opened up the leather trifold and looked about it. The credit cards were still there, the debit cards, a Wendy’s coupon was untouched, the Barnes and Noble gift card unmoved, but the two-hundred-fifty-dollars that had been left in the back pocket was gone – all of it. Wilbur collapsed back onto the bed, his wallet falling from his hands, and stared up at the ceiling fan that was unmoved by the events that had just transpired. Money she was owed? Ur? Wilbur thought to himself, as the fan still sat there motionless. And where are my car keys? “what she was owed?” What she was owed? what does that even mean? Wilbur may have shouted those words at the ceiling fan. Maybe it was because he realized he now only had fifteen minutes to make it to the store on time, but Wilbur called me – told me he wouldn’t be making it in that day. Asked me if I could handle opening and running the store by myself – I told him I’d try, and he hung up the phone.
No one really knows how long Wilbur stared at that ceiling fan. The man himself would not have been able to tell you in an interrogation the next day. What he did know is when he got up from that bed, he did the only thing he knew he could do. Wilbur picked telephone and started dialing. The phone rang for what seemed like an eternity before Sasha picked up. She yelled – demanding an answer as to why a random number would call so early in the morning. Wilbur quickly shouted it was him before she could hang up. He explained to her what had happened, explained that he didn’t know where Cynthia had gone, or his money, or his car keys, or the entire ending of the night before. Sasha sighed as Wilbur began crying. She asked which hotel he was at, and Wilbur could hear her writing on a piece of paper as he told her. Wilbur turned off the news, made the sweaty sheets, and closed the blinds. He walked down the long hallway towards the elevator and told the only other occupant he was headed for the lobby. A man dressed in a clean-cut new suit and dark sunglasses depressed the button labeled L and the elevator doors closed slowly before it began its downward decent. Wilbur wondered if this man was going through a situation similar to him, or if he’d ever even been in one.
Wilbur handed his American express to the man behind the counter. “It ras weal noiiice wight, good buddy?” The Filipino said returning the piece of plastic. Sasha’s Honda Accord pulled up and she leaned over to open the passenger door. Wilbur pulled the seatbelt around his gut. Sasha put the Honda in drive and took off. Wilbur looked out the passenger window at the rising sun, the commuters walking to work, the cars passing by, the dogs letting things fly, the birds making them bark – anything other than Sasha and her innocence. “You look like you could use some breakfast.” Sasha said knowing that she wouldn’t get a reply. She pulled into the parking lot of a waffle house, put the Honda in park and opened her door. Wilbur removed the seatbelt, rolled his eyes, and stepped out.
Steam rose from the coffee as the waitress put down some creamers and brought packets of sugar. She handed Wilbur and Sasha menus and told them she’d be back in a few. Sasha looked over the two-sided menu. Wilbur stared at the coffee. Sasha pushed her feet against his legs from under the table. He lifted his head and smiled at her. She took a sip from her coffee. He picked up his cup and took a sip. He smiled in an approving manor, then decided to scan over the menu. It was all the same shit – waffles, eggs, sandwiches made out of waffles and eggs, and hash browns, and toast. Sasha put her hand over Wilbur’s as he went to reach for his coffee.
“Are you okay?”
He sat there for a moment, gripping the cup of joe and looking at the menu before looking at Sasha.
“I’m fine.” He said lifting the coffee cup.
“I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.”
“I should have listened.”
The Waitress returned and took their orders – Sasha got the sandwich made out of waffles and eggs and Wilbur got three waffles. She walked away and then Sasha and Wilbur were staring at one another again, hands stretched across the sorry excuse for a booth in a tight embrace.
“I do have some good news!” Sasha said removing her hands.
“I don’t know if I’m in the mood for a story right now.”
Sasha grabbed her phone out of her purse. “Is this your book?” She said showing Wilbur a picture of a paperback sitting on a barstool.
“Why, yes. Yes, it is.”
“I’ll bring it to you when I get off work today.”
Wilbur put his hand back over Sasha’s.
“I don’t think I’ll be needing it anymore.”
“You can throw it away or something.”
The waitress returned, topped off their coffee and smiled. Wilbur felt his palms begin to sweat as he felt Sasha grab tightly onto his. He looked out the window next to the booth, at the sun now high in the sky, a few workers waiting for the bus, the dogs panting, knowing they’d never have a care in the world, the birds picking bread-crumbs off the sidewalk, and knew he’d never want to read Susie Sullivan again as long as Sasha held his hand. About the Author:Phoenix DeSimone is a writer of prose and poetry from Virginia. He enjoys drinking, writing, and occasionally working on a car. He’s spent most of his adult life as a barfly and is now sharing his experiences with the world. He hopes to one day be a well-known author from here to Timbuktu.