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Harpies, Part 1

This guy’s not who he says he is, but she’s just not sure who he’s trying to be.

Story by GKD - GKDscribe@gmail.com Photos by Muge Karamanci
 Photo ©  Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Cheryl feels like throwing up. A thick unpleasant paste covers the inside of her mouth. Maybe she shouldn’t drink so much. She rolls over and bumps into a wall of flesh, a man’s back. What was his name again? Bill, James, Dan? Leaning on her elbow she focuses on the alarm clock. Ten am! Fuck, she’s got to go.

“Hey, wake up.”
She taps Bill-James-Dan’s shoulder. He sits up. “What the… time is it?” “Time to go, sunshine.”
Slumping back onto the bed, he gazes at her—last night’s sparkling blue eyes, now red-rimmed and watery. “Aren’t you gonna give me an encore?”
“Next time we play in town, I’ll call you. Promise.”

Cheryl stumbles out of the elevator, pulling her bag behind her into the Motel 6 orange vinyl furniture and bright green fern foyer. Mandy sits on a battered suitcase, pulling her red curls up into a ponytail.

 Photo ©  Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

“You’re late. Katrina’s on the war path.” “Where is she?”
“In the van, steaming.” Cheryl holds the door open for Mandy who winks at her. “He was cute.” “Remember his name?” Mandy stops and thinks. “Damon, wasn’t it?” “Damon, yeah that’s it.”

Katrina accelerates onto the highway, combing her black silky hair behind her ears. Mandy sits in the front seat as Cheryl rests her head against the glass window in the back. Katrina and Mandy’s voices fade into the swish, swish of cars whizzing by them on the highway. The traffic sounds like waves crashing on a beach and she imagines herself standing on a vast rugged shoreline.

“Watch out!”
Katrina swerves around a blue Mazda that pulls out on the highway in front of them. “Mother fucker.”
Honking horns blare back and forth. “Man, what an asshole!”
She rubs her breast. Mandy stares at Katrina. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing? Rubbing my boob. It gets itchy when I freak out.” Cheryl laughs and sings in her rich, low bluesy voice…
“When I get a twitchy, my boob gets itchy, and that’s just the way it goes.” On the horizon, Cheryl recognizes a familiar truck stop. “Hey, pull up in up there—let’s eat.”

 Photo ©  Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

Café Del Sol. Once she’d hitch-hiked from here to Los Angeles, picked up by a fundamentalist preacher in his rusty, red flatbed Ford. He chanted the scriptures loudly for the first two hundred twenty-five miles and masturbated the last ten. A reward for his piety.

Inside the café, they scrape chairs around a window table. “Coffee?” A chubby waitress asks, note pad poised. “Eggs, sunny-side up.” “Spinach omelet for me.” “Blueberry waffle with extra syrup and whipped cream.” Cheryl winks at the others.
“I need my strength.”

Cheryl remembers the first time Harpies played together at a real concert rather than in the back of barrooms. They were the warm-up band for Mission Possible, by default. The original group got lost in a snow drift, or were their tires slashed? Something like that.

 Photo ©  Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

It was a July fourth bash, five years ago now. Red, white and blue spotlights swept the room catching individual facial expressions like a roll of film. Cheryl’s bass felt like a cow yoke around her neck. She can’t remember much of what happened from the time they start playing to the shots of tequila in the dressing room later. The lead guitarist from Mission Possible wanted to fuck her so bad she had to hide under a table to get away from him.

“One waffle.” Clunk. ”One omelet.” Clunk. “One Eggs.” Cheryl winces. “I hope you’re going to be cool to play tonight.”
Katrina asks through a mouthful of omelet. Mandy tap, tap, taps tomato sauce onto her eggs. It splatters over the table. Cheryl stares down at the mound of blueberries oozing over the cream. “Yeah, I’ll be just dandy.”

Outside after breakfast, Cheryl breathes in the warm dry desert air. Heat shimmers across the vast scrub wasteland. They all pile into the van, Katrina turns the key. Nothing. “What the…? Battery’s dead.”
Katrina swings her door open, and crunches around to the front of the van, skewering the hood open. Mandy nudges Cheryl.

 Photo ©  Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

“See the guy over there? He’s been watching us through breakfast.”
Cheryl glances across the gravelly stretch that meets the edge of the desert. A rodeo guy? Nope, although he dresses like one he’s too clean. Boots aren’t broken in. His new tan cowboy hat shades his eyes.

“Did we pay the bill?” “Yeah.”
“Then don’t worry about it.”
Cheryl watches the fake rodeo dude approach Katrina. “Can I help, ma’am?” Katrina slams the hood down. “Not unless you’re a mechanic?”
“Norm’s the mechanic in town. I’ll give you tow.”

 Photo ©  Muge Karamanci

Photo © Muge Karamanci

“I gotta place. You’re all welcome to stay.” Cheryl looks at Katrina, Mandy shrugs. “Is there a motel around here?” Norm closes and locks his office door. “No one usually stops. And you can’t sleep outside neither, scorpions.” Katrina kicks the van. “Piece of shit.”
The mechanic glares at her. “Don’t cuss girl, she’ll be ready in the mornin’.” Katrina grabs her bag.

“OK, mister…” “It’s Gabe.” “Gabe.” Cheryl shakes Gabe’s hand.
“Guess we’ll be staying. Thanks” He ain’t no cowboy, his hand’s way too soft. Gabe drives like a maniac, blaring Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend.” Cheryl harmonizes with CCR – “Catch a ride to the end of the highway” – while holding on for dear life in the back of the grey Toyota pickup. She grabs Mandy’s arm as Mandy rolls toward the tailgate.

“Hey, you hold on like this.”
She shows Mandy how to grab the sides and wedge into a corner. In the distance, there’s a two-story flat-board farmhouse rising from a bed of dying roses, and scraggy, brown cacti. An image for a sad song.

Dust swirls as Gabe skids to a halt and they all jump out, brush off and grab their gear. When she walks up to the house, Cheryl senses trouble. This guy’s not who he says he is, but she’s just not sure who he’s trying to be. She feels for her hunting knife in her bag.

To be continued…

Read part two here.

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