by Martha Conway

I began my new life, a life where no one would cook for me or ask if I'd eaten. It was exhilarating and scary. There were a few things I knew to get right away: a library card, a driver's license, a dealer. As for the rest I wasn't sure, but I thought in time it would come to me.

I dialed a number I had been given by a guy who called himself Moat. A woman answered.

Moat gave me your number, I began.

Is this a phone, she said. Are you calling me on the phone? If so don't do it. Never call me on the phone.

Okay, I said. I sat on my mattress with the receiver in my hand, unsure what to do next. After a while the woman said, Do you know where I live?

It was a brown-shingle house by the hospital. I rode my bicycle there and locked it a few doors away as the woman instructed.

Her name was Gloria. She did not answer the door. No one did, but it was unlocked, and she knew I was coming, so I opened it and stuck my head in and whimpered hello.

Shut the door, someone said. Fucking freezing.

I came in and shut the door. Gloria came out from a back room.

Moat? she said to me.

Uh, right, I said.

She spread her legs and put her hands on her hips and looked at me. She was tall, broad, with massive thighs and a cowboy hat and large turquoise rings and she was also unseasonably tan. She could crush me with a hug. I felt suddenly disposable. A few other recently disposed bodies were lying in the room on Santa Fe couches watching Sesame Street on a big screen t.v. There were a couple of tiffany lamps lit and beautiful dark green plants stood before leaded glass windows. Gloria was like no dealer I had ever known: an unlocked door? harvestless plants? She had money, though, I could see that already.

Come on back here, then, Gloria said.

Just then someone knocked. No one moved or looked at the door. When the person came in and Gloria saw who it was she said, Well now, well, well, well. Hello, Raymond.

Hey Gloria, Raymond said. He was thin with tattoos all over his body.

Come to pay me?

Actually, I need to talk about that.

Gloria looked at him.

Can we go in the back? Raymond asked.

I've got a customer here, Gloria said. They both suddenly turned their attention to me. Raymond had fierce blue eyes and a long horselike face. His skin hung from his jaw and under his arms like an old stick of woman.

Oh, I'm ... all right, I said, though in truth I was hungry and I was a little afraid of Gloria, she was so very large and probably worked out with weights, and of Raymond, who was some kind of malnourished Love Canal zombie.

Please Gloria, Raymond said.

Gloria looked at him again. You have money?

No, but I ... I will, he said.

If you don't have money then I don't know what, she said. Come on, honey, she said to me.

Wait, Raymond said.

Gloria stopped.

I could, I don't know, do some work for you.


Around the house.

You want to work.

Or, I don't know, Raymond said. I need an advance.

You need an advance, Gloria said. You want to work for a little advance.

Yeah, that's right, Raymond said fiercely.

Okay Raymond, Gloria said. Sure. You can start work right now.

What, Raymond said.

You can do something for me, Gloria said.


...Right here, she said. She began to unzip her pants. It was a bit of a struggle, the fabric was shiny and tight.

I think I ..., I said, but no one was listening to me. Raymond watched Gloria with his mouth closed. I found myself looking at her purple underwear, with some kind of intricate stitching. One of the bodies on the couch shifted and yawned.

Right here, she said again. She held something in her hand. Come on, Raymond. Eat me, Gloria said.

I should, you know ..., I said. Get going.

Raymond moved toward her.

You can wait, Gloria told me.

Yeah, I said, oh there's Holly, I said, looking out the window, and I went for the door.

Itwas Holly. She was walking up the street carrying a small paper bag.

I'm so glad to see you! I said. I've had the most unreal day and also I'm starving.

What are you doing here, she asked.

Oh ... a little shopping.

What did you get?

I got tired of waiting in line, I said.

Copyright 1995
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