Straight Crooked

There’s a knock on the door. I stare at the handle suspiciously.
“Who is it?”
“It’s me. Let me in.”
It’s her. After all this time.
“Give me one good reason why I should let you in.”
“I was a fool to leave you. You’re the best, better than all….”
“Hey, keep your voice down. That’s between me and you. I don’t want every helpless, wide-eyed, foxy dame in the apartment block chasing after me. I got enough problems”
I walk toward the door and open it. She steps into the room looking like a ghost. A ghost that’s wearing too much make-up and not enough clothes.
“You left me hanging for months. I didn’t know what had happened to you. I thought maybe you were dead or something. The nights grew cold. The days were filled with darkness. Then I got to thinking; Who needs a dame when you got a city full of bars, and bars full of bourbon.”
“What’s bourbon gotta do with it?”
“Sorry dollface. It’s over. Here’s some money for a cab.”

I get woken up by a knock on the door. It’s three in the morning.
“Who’s there?”
“Kitty.”
“And the Snake?”
“No snake”
“No snake?”
“Just Kitty.”
“How come just Kitty?”
“Are you gonna let me in or am I gonna have to wake up every low-life punk in your apartment block with stories about how you’re not really a private det……”
I swing the door open wide and she slides on in.
“Didn’t you and The Snake go to Casablanca to open up a hotel? What happened?”
“You got any drink?”
I pour her a gin, straight. She knocks it back without even saying thanks.
“Where’s The Snake?”
“You got any more drink?” I pour her another one and do a quick stock check..
“You come back alone?”
“Yeah that’s right. The Snake met some toots over there and brought her back to………….Daventry.”
Her head drops as she speaks the word.
“Daventry?”
“Don’t make me say it again. Give me another goddamn drink.”
“That’s pretty low even for The Snake. Say, why don’t we head down to Max’s Bar. I most likely don’t have enough hootch here for this story.”
I pick up my hat, put it on my head, and follow her out through the door. Then I walk back in. I guess I should put on a jacket too. And maybe a shirt.

I’m walking along the street with Kitty to Max’s All Night Bar. I tell her about the dream I’m having before she turns up uninvited.
“What is the deal with you and Tina Turner!? It’s not even jazz!
I stop dead in my tracks.
“I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear you say that” I tell her.

We keep walking. She starts filling me in on non-jazz music. There’s a hundred and eighty five paving slabs and forty nine street lamps between my apartment and Max’s bar. Some things in life just don’t make any kind of sense.

We’re sitting at the counter drinking cocktails. It doesn’t take a whole lot of persuasion to get Kitty to tell me what happened with her and The Snake.

“They got a cabaret at the hotel, every Friday night. Same folk show up week after week. Same performers, same routines. There’s one band that always ends their show with the trumpet player singing a song about the lead singer. Turns out the lead singer is none too happy about this circumstance and he shoots him cold, right there on the stage. Then the next act comes on while the guy who’s pretending to be dead is still lying on the stage…….and still dead. I guess if you hadn’t seen them do the same stunt the week before you might believe he really kills the guy. Thing is, nobody in the audience cares one way or the other. Tough crowd. But it’s the next act that comes on that’s the reason I’m sitting here drinking with you in the middle of the night in some back street gin joint.”

“And here’s me tryin’ to figure out whether it’s my looks or my money.”
She keeps talking.

“Her names Consuela. She’s a jazz singer. Can’t speak a word of English. The Snake tells her he can make her a big star. Tells her he’s got contacts. Says he can spot raw talent from a thousand miles away and then some. Ok, no big deal so far. But he seems to be taking a shine to her. Something’s going on here. This isn’t some regular kinda showbiz racket. Sure enough, one day ………he’s gone. No goodbye, no nothing. Except… he leaves me the title to the hotel. Oh, I forget to mention. The hotels in debt. Deep debt. I guess you don’t need me to tell you I don’t stick around too long after this.”

Right about now we get interrupted by some drunk guy. He seems to appear outta nowhere.

“Say. You sure are one fine looking broad. You look like you should be in a movie. On some desert island some place sipping daiquiris from a coconut shell and painting your toenails just for the hell of it all.”

Then he notices me sitting there.
“Is this your fella?” he says.
Both me and Kitty say “What!” at exactly the same time and at exactly the same pitch. B flat I think. I’ll check later.
“Do I look blind to you?” Kitty yells at him.
“Now hold on a minute. You drag me out of a dream in the middle of the night to insult me?”
“I figure you’re the only guy I know who’s awake at this hour and has liquor. I guess I’m wrong.”

The drunk guy thinks he sees an opportunity and moves in closer to Kitty. Tells her he digs her hair, real retro, like Liza Minnelli in that movie with the other cat. Kitty smiles at him and uses a crooked finger to beckon him closer. Then she takes hold of his beer-stained shirt collar and looks him straight in the eye. She speaks slowly and spits out every word.

“Listen Toots. There Ain’t Enough Liquor In The Whole Damn Festering Universe. Now Beat It!”

Things get a little blurry after that. Kitty’s gone and there’s another dame sitting in her place. Big hair, long legs, smeared lipstick. It seems she was seeing some guy who got killed in some kinda hunting incident. Just another brokenhearted, desolate soul in the night looking for some schmuck to tell her story to. I guess she found him.

“He wanted to prove his manliness. Said he felt like the whole weight of the modern world was bearing down on him, crushing his natural instinct. Always rattling on about how buffalo don’t give any mind to paying rent or treating buffalo dames with any kinda respect. So he went off on a hunting vacation with a couple other deluded jokers from the office. They headed off into the wilderness, up some mountain in Colorado. Naturally, they all took their phones with them. He was taking pictures of himself every day trying to look wild and mean. This went on for a few weeks. Then some moonshine-guzzling grizzly came down from the mountain and knocked him on out into the river. The river was deep and the mountain was high…………. and he couldn’t swim.”

I open my eyes. Kitty’s walking toward me shaking her wrist and looking pleased with herself about something.

“So you woke up, huh?” she says.

I guess I’d been dreaming again. I notice the drunk guy is laying flat out on the door mat.

“What happened to him?” I ask her.
“Oh that jive turkey? Let’s just say he won’t be using any big fancy words for a spell.”