A send-up of descriptive fiction
The red dagger tattooed through the flesh of his right biceps contrasted with the faded blue spider in the web on his left shoulder. His fingers jittered a nervous rhythm to the beat of the music, gray-streaked hair bobbing in synchrony, tattooed knuckles announcing L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E as he grasped his beer glass with both hands.
His vacant gaze fastened on the girl across the table. She raised one eyebrow. Someone fed the jukebox again, and the sound level escalated, blending a bass thump with the clink of glasses at the bar, the click of billiard balls, the shouts of the patrons, the slam of a door. Lights flashed and bells rang as one of the slot machine players finally struck it rich, followed by a jubilant “Yee-ee-EE-hah!” and the cheers of his buddies. Coins rattled into his plastic bucket, a few of them spilled over and rang on the cement floor. Men suddenly scraped their chairs back, diving under the tables in pursuit of the rolling discs. A jostled beer bottle toppled and shattered.
The tattooed man seated at the table slowly shook his head at the girl. She frowned, shot an irritated glance at the pin-striped-suited man seated next to her,who was twitching his thin mustache as he made a note on the pad on the table before him. He scowled at the tattooed man across from him, impatient for some response. The waiter paused at their table on his way back to the bar, saw the tattooed man still shaking his head, took it to mean no drinks needed, and continued his contorted progress between the closely packed tables.
The mustached man stubbed his cigarette in the ashtray, blew once at the column of smoke, looked at his watch, and assessed the man across the table. The other man ignored him, his eyes on the rotating ceiling fan now as he worked his shoulders out of the sleeveless black leather jacket that covered his black T-shirt, and dropped it on the fourth chair. His head traced small circles in time with the fan blades.
The girl brushed back a yellowed curl of hair, pushed a polyester shoulder toward him. She tried a tentative smile. No response. She touched the man’s hand–the H knuckle–jostled his cassette machine. She got no reaction beyond his brief glance at her hand.
The tattooed man stared into space as he pushed the plug of his head-set more firmly into his ear. Checked the wire with a gentle tug. Took another swallow of beer, smacked his lips once.
Mustached man’s eyes were stony now. He stood up, leaned his hands on the table and bent his head forward till his bared teeth looked capable of ripping the three gold rings from the other man’s ear. The tattooed man’s eyes were closed, oblivious. The girl laid a restraining hand on her partner’s arm and shouted at him over the barroom noise:“It’s no use, Harry,” she said. Harry’s glare remained on Tattoo Man.
“Harry. Let’s go.We’re not getting anywhere with him. C’mon.” She pushed Harry’s shoulder gently, to get some distance between Harry’s teeth and the man’s ear.
With one sweeping motion, Harry snatched the wire and cassette player away, pulling the ear plug out with a soft plik. You had to be listening for it to hear the sound at all. He pocketed the whole apparatus, angrily stalked toward the door, jerked it open, roughly shoved the girl through and let it slam behind them.
“Of course, I’m just a dumb blonde, right?” she said to his back as she tried to keep pace.
Harry muttered something inaudible.
“And what do I know? Right, Harry?”
“I said, shut up!”
“And you’ve been in the business twenny years, ‘n I’m just startin’, right? But I’ll tell you one thing, Harry, and lissen up good. You’ve made some dumb choices in your life, but I gotta tell ya, tryin’ to sell a hearing aid to a stoned junkie, and tryin’ to run the hearing test in that bar has gotta be the dumbest one yet.”
She tossed her head. “Find y’self another assistant. I quit.”