Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dark Angel

Bass booms through my feet. I push through the bar where the hets hang until midnight when the more sexually adventurous take over. Donna Summers wails. I will survive, I will survive… I squeeze past the pulsing bodies, to the back staircase leading to the second floor where the white collars eat outlandish Maki rolls at low tables. Up the spiral staircase to the loft overlooking the action. Here, it’s cooler and quieter, the smoke less thick. I drape my jacket over the back of the stool at the zinc bar. Images of tonight’s gunshot vics fade.

“Regular?” Mick asks from behind the counter.

I nod. He slides me a martini with three fat olives. The vermouth cools my throat. I’d prefer to hang out at my place, with Ben, and watch some tube, maybe get high, though maybe not; he seems pretty Puritanical these days. He’s probably asleep; he looked wrecked, like a stray mutt, when I picked him up. But I’m way too wound up to crash. Out of habit, I pat my side for the Vicodin, but my white coat’s in the locker. I remember the locked box. Jesus, how am I going to get my stuff? Nurse Ratchet’s on to me. Maybe Doreen. Hell, maybe they’re undercover. I bet there’s cameras in the can. Maybe the Chapel’s wired.

I look up. My drink’s sucked dry.

“Need another before I go off?”

“Why not?”

Mick smiles his toothy grin. He scoops the two twenties and shakes me a fresh one. Downstairs fills up. Mick makes room for his replacement, some kid with a ponytail I haven’t seen before. The kid nods as Mick points out bottles running low, then squats and slides open a cabinet. A tattoo plasters his lower back, a glory of greens and blues. My phone vibrates. I reach for it, then figure what the fuck, I’ll fall off the stool answering the damn thing. Probably Phoebe, it’s her bedtime. She has no clue I spend my weekends in this dive. I rationalize, telling myself I’m only looking at the candy, not sampling.

“Hey. Doc.”

The new keep leans over the counter. I admire his soul patch.

“Do I know you?” I ask. I hope I do.

“You treated me,” he says. “I skidded on my motorcycle in a freak t-storm. Wrecked my back.”

This rings no bells. I ask him how long ago and he says last August.

“And how is your back now?" I ask.

“Still twinges at times,” he says. “Need a refill?”

I shrug. I’m pretty loaded. Getting home will be interesting.

“How about my specialty?”

“Depends on what it is.”

He points to the bottle of Jaegermeister. “Dark Angel.”

Mick wipes the bar with a damp towel and snorts. “That’ll knock you off your keister.”

“That it will.” The kid laughs and measures shots of Black Vodka and Jaegermeister, then pops a Red Bull into the shaker. He pours the beige beverage into a highball glass. It’s sweeter than I tend to like.

“How can you drink that stuff?” Mick shakes his head. The kid just laughs, low and guttural, and sprays himself a coke from the fountain. Mick gives a peace sign salute, and bounds down the spiral staircase. The Dark Angel numbs my face.

“Exactly where does your back twinge?”

The kid turns and pulls up his black leather jacket. The top of his tattoo, a bird or a butterfly, something with a wing, swoops below his low slung jeans.

“Here.” He thumps above the tat. “Especially when I’m on my back.”

“On your back?”

He lets the shirt and jacket fall over his pants. He comes around the bar and sits on the stool beside me. “Yeah. When I’m on my back.”

“So what do you do?”

“I stand, or fuck in a chair,” he says.

“I mean about the pain.”

“Hey, doing it I forget about pain. But those pills you gave me helped – a lot.”

“Talk to your physician,” I say. “Get another prescription.”

“Don’t have a doc,” he says. “Don’t have health insurance. I’m an artist, blow glass.” His tongue works a cube of ice around his mouth. “Among other things.”

His words hang in the air like smoke. The Pet Shop Boys blast from below. His knee falls against mine. I swivel towards him, not losing contact.

“What did I prescribe?”

“Oxy something,” he says. “I could function, could spin my glass, plunge my pieces into the glory hole.”

“Glory hole?”

“The stove, man, where we melt our glass. You should come see my studio. Me and another blower rent space in an old warehouse by Fort McHenry.”

“I’d like to see your… glory hole,” I say. His knee presses harder. “Look, you were my patient, I could write a prescription for you. To help with the pain, you know.”

“That would be super,” he says.

“I could write you a script for twenty OxyContin,” I say.

“Why not eighty?”

If I didn’t realize before he was duping me, I know it now. But I don’t care, I’m thinking about that tattoo spreading over his ass, him sweating in front of his kiln, thrusting the fiery ball of glass into shape.

“Let’s start with forty,” I say softly. “For a hundred dollars.”

“A hundred bucks for a lousy prescription?”

“Cheaper than an office visit,” I say.

He frowns. “I don’t have that kind of dough.”

“How ‘bout we barter?”

His hand drops on top of my thigh. He squeezes, oh so gently. “For what?”

“I’m thinking you bring me half the prescription,” I say.

He cocks his head at me, then nods, getting me. Understanding we have a lot more in common than glory holes.

I reach for the prescription pad inside my jacket pocket; you never know when it’ll come in handy. I click my pen.

“So tell me, what’s your name?”


Excerpted from PURE, a novel finally falling together. Read more about Kevin, my sexually-confused, pill-popping anesthesiologist.

Take a gander at my essay The Week Before My Father Died, an entry in the EDITOR UNLEASHED "Why I Write" contest. Essays are open to popular voting through February. You must be a registered member of the EDITOR UNLEASHED forums. Please take some time to read the other, often passionate pieces about the writing life.

Peace, Linda


  1. This is awesome! You had asked if it was too raw - not at all. A great story coming together here, Linda.

  2. Raw, yes. But life is raw when we are looking it square in the eyes. This is good stuff, Linda. Don't flinch!

  3. Love the raw!

    Really great piece. I must say I really like reading about Kevin. I am so pulled into the story and want to know so, so, so much.

    I also must say I really like reading that PURE is falling together - woo hoo! I cannot wait to read it all the way through.


  4. These excerpts continue to showcase the excellent writing and storyline.

    Great, great stuff!

  5. That was hot. Oooh Linda, you are so full of surprises. Great over coffee!!

  6. Definitely not too raw - loved it. Like Carrie said, your writing is HOT!

  7. Raw? I'd call it masterful. Your writing is like an ultra high-speed camera, capturing a car crash as it just gets worse and worse.

  8. Really great stuff. Nice work.

  9. Hi Linda, This is so daring and honest. Not too raw at all. The elements are brought about so easily, but clearly allowing me to experience them without it being forced ... the atmosphere in the bar, Kevin's careening emotions, the sexual tension. Wonderful. ~ Olivia

  10. Great way to start the morning - loved it!!

  11. Raw is good. I think that's why your writing stands out - the honesty. I hate coming to the end of your pieces. I just want to read and read...

  12. Linda, I feel like I'm getting to know you better! Excellent - strong, dark writing with just the right amount of information.
    Pure sounds fantastic; keep to it.

  13. I'm going to echo the others and say that raw it is, and that that is a good thing!

    I can practically SEE his hunger for the pills

  14. Started out a little slow for me, but picked up speed fast. Awesome tension, Linda. It pulled me along.

  15. With each excerpt you're making me want more, more, more Linda. Your voice is so clear and, as others have said, honest, which is so refreshing.

  16. Excellent, excellent, excellent. Raw? Honest.

  17. Linda, I found this a great tease. I want to read more. I love your take on the humans in white coats.

  18. Haven't had the pleasure of seeing this scene before. Well done. The dialog and pacing were spot on.


  19. Hey all, thank YOU for reading and commenting. This is a new section of PURE, born out of a NaNo slump, and what better way to get out of a slump than adding a new character? Meet Jeremy, my tattooed glassblower, who contributes to Kevin's undoing.

    I crack up with you guys and my 'honest' writing... thank you. Needed to hear that description more than you ever can know.

    Off to read YOURS! Spent most of the day in the lawyers' office... Peace, Linda

  20. Certainly not too raw. This porridge is just right. Thanks Linda.

  21. The first paragraph provides an excellent setup of location and atmosphere. It all rolls smoothly from there.

    This excerpt is full of attitude. It might be cliche to say it, but this is a case where you name your poison and administer it without holding back any punches. Fearless stuff.

    If there's any rawness, it's good rawness, the kind with edge.

  22. Ah-- that naughty Kevin.
    I see that he and Jeremy may become dark angels of the the glory hole!

    Super writing. This piece is compelling and provocative. I like it.

  23. Very realistic and compelling dialogue. Great job!

  24. Shannon's got it, don't flinch. You continue to inspire with your ability to write perfect tension. Also got a big smile with the Pet Shop Boys. Okay, bring on the next one.

  25. Yes, a raw nerve quivering, the only kind of writing that matters. Life's too short, go for it. Powerful writing.

  26. Thanks all. Busy weekend, I appreciate you taking time from yours to read. The next scene may get me censored ;^)

    Peace, Linda

  27. You are blowing me away. Gritty, raw, real.

    When I read these exerpts, I am so into the story I forget I'm at home reading on my computer.

    I think I'm becoming one of your biggest fans.

  28. Late to read this week but what a dark treat with this, Linda. You know my thoughts on Pure - it has verve. But what really struck me here was your language, starting with this kinetic intro: "Bass booms through my feet", followed swiftly by, "He slides me a martini with three fat olives," then the skidding, pressing, blowing and then to top this climatic layer cake, the 'Glory Holes'! How much lascivious movement you've generated from an encounter in a zinc and glass loft bar! Wonderful stuff.

  29. Thanks for reading Pegs and Simon! And aw shucks, Peggy; you know how your words make me sing!

    We really do call the kilns glory holes. The term's always seemed so... titillating. Glad you enjoyed, Skyman... Peace, Linda