Saturday, October 17, 2009

THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY text & photos by Walt Cessna

Sally Seaschell squats on a fire hydrant outside the OTB at 54th Street and Second Avenue, clumsily rolling her second fat joint of the day. The first one, smoked immediately upon waking, was two hours ago. As she grows increasingly impatient waiting for her Uncle Morty to show up, Sally decides to kill time by numbing the few brain cells left in her fierce yet fragile looking body.

“Hey Sammy, you gots some papers?” Sally calls out to the pizza delivery boy from Ray’s next door.

“No baby, but you’se got some pussy for me?” Sally licks the glue on her E-Z Wider Ultra Lite and stares the young dude down.

“Why don’t you go suck your own dick, you stupid-ass motherfucka!” Sally bursts out laughing and proceeds to take a deep drag on the joint. As she blows the smoke out into the chilly December air, the shadow of a large man engulfs her petite frame. As if in slow motion, a hand reaches out and grabs the joint out of Sally’s fingers.

“Couldn’t wait for me, huh?” He raises it to his lips and takes a long toke. He is about 50 years old but looks 70. His hair sticks up in three directions and is colored fright-white. A large beer belly protrudes over a straining red-leather belt buckle hooked into its last hole. Tacky plaid pants race down his legs stopping short at a spanking brand-new pair of white leather Belgian loafers (a stoned purchase after a good day at the track).

“Sorry Uncle Morty, but that’s life. Now could you quit bogarting the joint?” Sally slaps her uncle on the ass and makes her way into the now open OTB. “Get yer ass in here, ya old fart. You owe me 250 bucks from yesterday, and with your luck I could be here all fuckin’ day!”

Sally and her Uncle Morty spend the winters doing the OTB scene until the spring, when he runs a pretzel stand at Aqueduct Raceway. Sally had dropped out of school and started dating a small-time dope dealer. After spending three months doing nothing but getting high and arguing with her mother, Sally decided to take her summer pretzel-selling job and make it her daily grind. Uncle Morty was thrilled to discover that his niece was not only a good worker but a pot-hound as well. Sally thought she had hidden her habit, but one day, as she took a drag behind the stand, Uncle Morty surprised her and demanded she hand over the joint. To her chagrin, he proceeded to smoke the whole thing. From then on, the two of them have steadfastly split their time between selling snacks and sneaking tokes.

Sally is on line at window C waiting to put down $50 on Tenderfoot, a favorite in the first race of the day. Uncle Morty watches yesterday’s returns on the TelePrompTer while sizing up a way-out-of-his league blonde with a visibly snotty disposition. Sally stands out in the crowd. Except for the few true horseracing aficionados, the majority of the crowd is made up of over-40 losers in varying degrees of physical and mental disarray.

Standing 5 feet 7 inches with severely dyed blonde hair usually parted down the middle and worn in pigtails, Sally has the unusual habit of wearing her pretzel-stand uniform even when off-duty. The uniform, day-glow blue piped in chrome yellow, resembles a 60’s airline hostess outfit that seems to be saying, “…coffee, tea or me?” Over it she wears a suede coat with a huge fake fur collar that she bought at Domsey’s Vintage Warehouse. Her mother hated that she wore vintage clothing, saying it made people think the family was too poor to go out and buy a new coat at J.C. Penney. Sally wouldn’t touch anything from J.C. Penney with a twelve ft. pole.

She is constantly reapplying frosted pink lipstick, purchased weekly at Woolworth’s, three tubes at a time for about five bucks. “Give me fifty on Tenderfoot to place in the first,” Sally says, as she pulls out a lipstick and starts smearing it all over her lips, occasionally pausing to catch her reflection in the window in front of her. Grabbing her ticket, Sally winds at the teller and slowly spins toward Uncle Morty. Unfortunately, Morty is standing next to the Bain of her existence; her cousin and ex-true love Skip.

“Wha’s up baby?” Skip says, as he reaches out to envelop Sally in a big bear hug. “Nothing but the usual shit,” Sally answers, struggling to escape his grip.

As a teen, Skip was a complete and utter outsider—fat, nerdy, often beat up before, during and after class. When he couldn’t take it anymore, Skip transformed himself into a lean, mean machine with a little help from the local gym and the willpower to avoid Twinkies. Skip’s nose was broken four times in high school, but instead of disfiguring him, it made him look like an eccentric character from Greek or Roman mythology. He balances his big frame with an effortless grace and gives off an air of sullen sexuality.

Sally was in love with him and considered him visual masturbation. The cousins had a brief affair on her Sweet Sixteenth birthday. Skip had begged her to fuck him, and Sally had been doing a pretty good job resisting, until he inevitably said “…but I love you.” Sally, thinking she might not hear those sacred words again and desperate for love, any love, succumbed to his pressing advances and had the worst deflowering in the history of sex. Skip came too soon and Sally didn’t even come close to a climax at all. Afterward Skip rolled off of her, got dressed and walked out of her life for the next year. This is the first time she’s seen him since then and to make matters worse he’s just gotten married to her ex-best friend Nikki!

“Where is she?” Sally asks Skip as she re-applies her lipstick for the two hundred and second time that day.

“She’s at the bank machine,” Skip answers.

“Typical, I didn’t think you’d be spending your own money!”

“It’s just a loan, bitch! I always pay her back!” Skip’s face is getting redder as his fists quickly grow white. He storms away from Sally who is still screaming at him and his steps turn to leaps.

“How you payin’ her back fucker? Like you paid me back? With a $300 trip all alone to the abortion clinic? You wouldn’t even take my fucking phone calls and I had to borrow the money from my best friend’s mother, who is now your mother-in-law! I fuckin’ hate you Skip!” Sally starts to cry and as the tears roll down her face, all she can do is shake and hope to God that lightning strikes him dead one day, but even that isn’t good enough.

Skip walks outside and finds his bride Nikki waiting for him at Ray’s. She’s eating a slice dripping with grease lubricated mushrooms and devours it as if each bite might be her last.

“Hi, baby!” Nikki eagerly offers as she kisses Skip hard on the mouth, leaving them both with pizza stained smiles.

“Did you get the money?” Skip asks suddenly, the smile on his face turning to a look of concern.

“Boy, do you have a one-track mind! Yes, I got the money. My last hundred dollars! You better not screw us up, Skip!” Nikki has finished her pizza and is wiping her mouth clean when she notices Skip going through her purse.

“Can’t you even wait for me to give it to you? How greedy are you?”

“Baby, there’s a sure horse in the second and I’ve only got five minutes to place my bet.” Skip holds Nikki’s hands now and stares her straight in the eye. “If I win, I promise we’ll do whatever you want and have the day all to ourselves. No betting, no nothin!”

“No coke?” Nikki starts to tremble slightly, but continues her questioning.

“Are you gonna go get high if you win? I don’t want you goin’ down to Avenue C and coppin’ no fuckin’ crack again! Cause if you do it’s over, I can’t take this shit anymore!”

“Listen baby, I promise you on the holy fucking Bible, nothing will ever come between you and me again. No horses, no coke, no nothin’!” As he finishes his sentence Skip grabs Nikki and holds her in a long embrace. He then pulls the five crisp $20 bills out of her purse along with her bankcard. “I’ll be back honey, just sit here and wait.”

Sally stands in front of the TelePrompTer nervously cheering on the horse she and Uncle Morty just bet on, when Skip walks back into the OTB.

“You chilled out yet, baby?” Skip is stroking Sally under the chin and crumples the five twenties in his sweaty palms.

“I’ll be chilled out when you get the fuck our of my face.” Sally replies, but Skip is already out of earshot and placing his bet. Sally follows him to the ticket window and taps him on the shoulder.

“Why are you here?” Sally is in Skip’s face and squeezes his arm so tight it leaves fingerprints in his skin. “You know, I loved you and you had to go and fuck it all up!”

“Listen, I came here today to say I’m sorry, not to mess with your head. Anyway, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me from now on ‘cause I owe the boys up on Broadway too much money,” Skip says as he pulls his arm free from Sally’s viselike grip. “Listen, if my horse comes in, I’m gonna give it all up for you, baby! I swear! No more betting, no more horses! No more fuckin’ nothin’!”

Sally knows better than to fall for that bullshit line again, but something about Skip’s beautiful blue eyes forces her to temporarily lose her senses. She falls into his arms as he gives her a deep and somewhat meaningful kiss. Sally clutches Skip as if in fear for her life. As the race begins, a crowd circles around the TelePrompTer. After a few minutes of heart-pounding excitement, Skip’s horse comes in first, but Sally and him are kissing so hard they don’t even realize the good news ‘til they come up for air.

“We won baby!” Skip dances around Sally and then lifts her up in the air. A crotchety old man in a beat-up blue corduroy coat mumbles “fuckin’ kids” as he tries to get out of their way, but Skip puts Sally down square on his foot.

“Get offa’ my foot ya fuckin’ kid,” he yells, but Sally and Skip are already rushing out the door and right into Nikki.

“What the fuck are you two doing?” Nikki is pissed and Skip is obviously shagged. Caught with the goods. In the doghouse. Dead on arrival.

“Listen Nikki, I just ran into her, I didn’t know she was gonna be here.”

“My bleedin’ ass you didn’t. You’ve been dying to get back in her pants ever since we got married!” Nikki is much smaller than Sally but her diminutive size doesn’t keep her from getting smack up in the other girl’s face. “He’s mine now, bitch, not yours. So move your tired, tacky ass along before I have to kick it straight across the motha-fuckin’ street!”

“You know what Nikki? You’re paranoid, and he’s not even worth it!” Sally spins around and heads back into the OTB toward Uncle Morty, who is busy with his bookie placing a side bet on the fifth race and motions her away. Tears start welling up in her eyes. All she wants to do is get away from there, but as she sinks her hands into her pockets to pull out her weed stash, she strangely comes up empty-handed. Digging deeper, she also realizes her wallet is gone.

“Shit!” She thinks. Maybe she dropped it by the ticket windows, but when she goes back to look, it’s nowhere to be found. Then she realizes where both the pot and the money have gone. Straight into Skip’s scum-sucking hands when he was bear hugging her, telling her how sorry he was.

She races out of the OTB, but Skip and Nikki are long gone. Sally pulls out the one thing left in her pocket, the pink frosted lipstick. She sits down on the fire hydrant where she started her day and for the next five minutes applies coat after coat of pink frost to her already frosted for the rest of eternity lips. She looks down on the street and spies the roach from her morning joint lying in the filthy gutter. Oblivious to the grotesque grit that lines Second Avenue, Sally lifts it to her mouth and pulls a purple Bic lighter out of her pretzel uniform.

“Fuck it!” she says as she lights the roach and takes a deep toke. A chill race’s down her spine and a heavy sigh seeps from her throat. Getting up she pulls down the hem of her impossibly short dress and stares down the block in search of Skip, Nikki, somebody. Anybody.

“Yo, baby! I’m still waiting for some of that pussy!” It’s the delivery boy from Ray’s again, only this time Sally doesn’t curse him out. Instead she smiles and whispers “thanks” as she heads back into the OTB to get Uncle Morty to drive her home. The thought of another day like today doesn’t hit her until she catches Morty’s eye and he gives her a lascivious stare. For some fucked up reason, it all seemed perfectly normal and for Sally Seaschell, that was enough.

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