THE LAST DOMINO, chpt 6
He dabbed the end of the pillowcase into a glass of soda water and checked his blouse and pants for any othersigns of barbecue sauce.
“Thank god, I wore Navy blue today,” Cindy said while he blotted at the smudge of sauce above the pocket, “Plus it gave some military heft to my speech when I introduced Marvin Mockingdale.”
Lissa carried the last aluminum serving dish of ribs and chicken across the room and stacked it on top of the dresser. There were a lot more leftovers than she thought there would be. Maybe she’d bring them home to JD. He could have some guys over from the office to watch a pre-season game, warm up some of this barbecue sauce and have a little living room tailgate party. She made a mental note to remember the leftovers and then quickly forgot it when Cindy kept talking.
“I suppose it isn’t that bad. I think I got to it before it had time to set in,” Cindy said holding the jacket against his body in the mirror and did a little curtsy in front of his reflection.
“Well we have loads of barbecue left,” Lissa said, “and a ton of bourbon, thanks to the weather.”
“Well you know Iowa: boiling one minute, Antarctica the next. There’s nobody to blame but Canada.” He said sliding his slow dancing mules off his feet and flopping down in the chair by the table, “but don’t worry the caucus season drives on. You can’t plan around the unplannable. We just have to wait out this little bit of rain and then you’ll see, we’ll be back at it.”
Cindy grabbed the glass of soda water and spooned a tablespoon of barbecue sauce out of the pan of ribs into the bottom. He held the glass up to the light while pouring in enough bourbon to fill it just below the rim. Then more as a garnish, he added a splash of Tabasco sauce from the tiny bottle he pulled out of a jacket pocket.
“Cocktail?” He asked lifting the glass.
Lissa shook her head and sat on the end of the bed. She slid her own shoes off with her toes. She felt cold and pulled back the sheets and burrowed in under the covers. Cindy sipped on his Drink and they both watched the news.
“Former Governor and Independent Senator, Mitch Bryant, announced that he would endorse Senator Barbara Linn’s run for the presidential nomination, officially ending his own run for the White House.”
“Did anyone even know he was running?” Cindy asked. “How do you step aside when no one knows you’re there? It’s probably because he had had family problems, anyway.”
“Senator Bryant cited family difficulties and a desire to unify fragmented voters as they face down enthusiastic challengers from both parties next November for control of the future.”
“See, I told you he had family problems.”
“Our viewers may recall a recent made for television mini-series highlighting the Senator’s own struggle with teenage obesity and his daughter’s efforts to explain it to him. Political analysts have hinted that his withdrawal may be in response to the estimated seventy point drop in the polls among the crucial tween demographic.”
Cindy looked at Lissa and then back at the television.
“Fucking tween demographic? Are you kidding me? Well, one down, two to go,” Cindy cheered, taking another drink from his glass.
He kept the cup upended when he finished and waited for the barbecue sauce to slide down the inside and into his waiting mouth.
“What’s a matter Pumpkin? Didn’t you hear? We won one for the good guys.”
“Yeah, I heard. It just all feels too convenient. Do you ever think that this whole thing is scripted? That all of this is just the laying of hands by shyster faith healers?”
Cindy walked over to the bed and rested the back of his hand on Lissa’s forehead. Lissa could feel the hard, knobby cut of the emerald and diamond ring he wore on his middle finger. It was as cold as frozen peas to her.
“Well my dear, it’s official. You’ve been saved, my darling. Now I’m going to fix you something, you feel a little feverish.”
Cindy ran a half glass of bourbon through the room’s complimentary coffee maker. He splashed some hot sauce into the bottom of another cup and poured the warmed, steaming bourbon from the decanter on top of that before handing it to Lissa.
“Now sip that down until it’s finished. I’ll be back in a flash with some Nyquil, chocolate and Ramen noodles.”
Lissa let herself be doted over. She pulled her self up in bed and tucked the comforter and sheets around her. The bourbon warmed her as she drank and the heat from her body became trapped in the layers of clothing, sheets and the comforter.
“I have to call JD later,” Lissa said to Cindy as he walked out the door, “he’ll worry if I don’t.”
The door closed behind him. Lissa was alone with the metabolic hum of her body and the occasional clank of the HVAC wall unit. Her organs and tissues quivered in an imperceptible vibration and her core temperature rose while the arterioles dilated along her skin. Lissa Shivered under the covers. A sudden jerk, a convulsion ran the length of her body.
It was like a reset button had been pushed somewhere inside her. Her Grandmother use to say that you only got chills like that when someone walked over your grave. Lissa pictured a gravestone and dark freshly turned earth. She wondered who it was that stepped over her. The fever pushed her body temperature up past 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
She felt cold and sipped more bourbon. Her mind wandered along and she stumbled to keep up with the constant kaleidoscope of images from the TV. The cable news looked like a Japanese game show. She was being fed three different streams of information from the one screen.
Lissa tried to make as much sense of the text, sound and flashing graphics as she could. The main story was a press conference at some elementary school cafetorium. A small podium was pushed against the accordion doors that separated the two halves of the room floor. A banner hung across the top of the partition, behind the podium. It read “Real Experience for Real Change: Linn 2K12.”
Lissa didn’t know where they were, but she recognized some of the people on stage. The Senator stood out among everyone, as she leaned over the short podium in a nice jacket, to her right was a short skinny man. His ears were slightly peaked like a German Sheppard trying to catch the sounds of foot steps in the distance. He wore a “Linn2K12” pin on his lapel, just below a small American flag, and a great beaming smile.
Lissa thought he was the former Governor Mitch Bryant, but couldn’t be sure. Now she realized what this was, she was emailed about it earlier in the week, but it she thought it was just theory. The Senator was coming out for a third party candidate in Ohio. There was going to be a special election in the fall to replace a Senator who was being jailed on unrelated maters.
Lissa was on an insider mailing list. She followed the discussion concerning that very endorsement as it played out over five hours in intense email blasts. Eventually the discussion flittered away, but she thought the decision was not to go so far out on our own.
They’ve always got something going, Lissa thought, all the restless souls. She wondered how this fit in with Marco’s theory of public persuasion as her toes crept into the cool untouched foot of the bed. It was like a vacuum. The cool sheets pulled the warmth from her, draining it out through her feet. She began to shiver again and tucked her legs back up toward her.
Then all at once, sleep took her. She didn’t know she had fallen asleep or for how long, when suddenly she was shook awake by Cindy. His big hand draped across her shoulder. Lissa looked out the window. The world outside the motel had gone dark. Lissa fumbled with the plastic medicine cup filled with emerald green syrup that tasted of anise and buttermilk when she swallowed.
Lissa was hot under all the covers. Her bangs stuck to her forehead and she pushed them back behind her ear. She kicked the sheets down at her feet and then flipped over her pillow. The TV news was still on and Cindy tried to get her interested in it.
“That’s us, oh my god I look wonderful.”
Lissa stared at the TV and watched as the Barbarians performed their minstrel show and The Birdman rose to the platform and the microphone. All the news ran was a sound byte of his speech, which thank god was all they ran.
It blared out from the speakers, “the pillars of our movement are based on respect, respect for our heritage, our past and our future. We will no longer suffer louts, losers, criminals or illegals in our country. These lesser heathens who do not know their place will be dealt with decisively.”
The broadcast ended with Cindy and the Birdman raising their arms up in victory, while the Barbarians formed up in front of them, performed a counter column and marched away.
Lissa lay back down and just as quickly as before, when her face touched the cool underside of the pillow, she was deep into sleep.
The fever took her and she had the only truly lucid dream of her life. When she woke, Cindy sat in the chair next to the table crying. The make-up around his eyes and cheeks ran down the sides of his nose and spread out in an alluvial fan that followed the laugh lines and wrinkles. Lissa was scared. Cindy looked over at her on the bed and stopped crying.
“They found her,” he said. “They found Rachel, some kids in the park. They found Rachel in Hickory Hill Park this afternoon.”
“No.” Lissa said and silently asked god to spare her soul.
“The news won’t say if it’s her or not, they’re hinting that it might be another one. But I know it’s here. I know it.”
Cindy looked at Lissa and felt the truth of it sink in. There was a pile of Linn 2K12 poster stacked next to the dresser along with a pile of missing person’s posters. The thought that these 8 1/2” X 11” pieces of bond paper couldn’t keep Rachel safe, never entered his mind. But that was over now. This girl, this young woman that they prayed for was dead.
Lissa walked over to the table and put her hand out to Cindy’s head. The wig he wore showed through at the crown of his head. She slid her arm down his back and he looked up at her. His eyes glistened from the bottom of the dark holes of ran together mascara.
The chemo was really knocking the shit out of him. The skin where he wiped away the tears was tinted a jaundiced yellow and the whites of his eyes were the color of buttercream frosting. Lissa crouched down next to him.
She pushed back the bangs of the wig from his face. His arm went to hers and grabbed her wrist. He let go as she slid her fingers along the seam wig and pulled the wig back. Lissa placed it on the table next to them. Neither of them spoke.
The Television news went to commercial and Cindy cut it off with the remote. Lissa held his head between her hands for a moment, before she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. She kissed his eyelids. They felt warm to her lips. She put her cheek next to his and he put his arms around her shoulders. Lissa tilted her head back and kissed him on the side of the cheek. She kissed his cheek again, this time on the edge of his lips. He turned his face toward her and kissed her.
Lissa ran her fingers up the back of his neck, into his hair. It felt brittle, not sparse, even though it was, but delicate like old handspun silk. Cindy became self conscious and grabbed Lissa’s hand in his. They sat in that awkward embrace and for a moment it was innocent, two friends consoling each other.
Then it turned lascivious, Lissa slid her hand down the front of Cindy’s body and into the space between his thighs. Cindy grabbed Lissa’s hand reflexively and it pushed her off balance.
Cindy pulled back, “What are you doing, are you crazy?” he asked and pushed Lissa off him.
Lissa lost her balance and caught the corner of the table with the side of her head. A little line of red rose from the scratch.
“You asshole,” Lissa screamed putting her hand to the spot and spreading the blood with her fingers, “look what you did.”
“I’m going. I don’t know what your trip is, but I’m gone,” He told her, grabbed his purse and walked out the door that closed behind him.
Cindy heard a loud thunk against the door and the word faggot yelled by Lissa. He almost went back in the room, but thought better of it and tucked his purse up under his arm.
He walked down the concrete stairs to the parking lot. The lights of the low rise store fronts and the new Rite-Aid wavered with the hum of the county power grid and reflected off the wet haze and fog. He headed straight for the nearest payphone. It was at the Vine, the old name of a new strip mall bar, and was maybe a ten minute walk.
He wanted a cab to take him home. He had to feed the cat and get some sleep. The next morning he was facing the knife and needed all his energy to say good bye to his lumpy testicle, or he wouldn’t have the courage to go through with it. Halfway down the street he realized he’d left his wig in the room. He reached into his purse and pulled out a red and orange print scarf to wrap his head. He continued walking, leaning into the wind as it blew the rain into his face.