❯ Living in Gotham – Encounter 2 ( Chapter 3 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Once I took shots with Harley Quinn.
It’s a tedious series of events that resulted with me standing at the mouth of a dirty, dark brick alley. Surrounded by four other young women, I stood in a halo supplied by a street lamp. The plan was to eventually walk down it, although no one seemed eager to be the first. If I squinted, I could see at the end of the alleyway was door with a barely lit neon sign above it. From my distance it was illegible.
“I not going down there.” I declared.
“We all agreed! We’re going!” one of the other women strongly reminded me.
I stuffed my hands into my favorite Ed Hardy hoodie.
“I just want to go on record saying that this is really stupid idea.” Furthering my cause.
“Shut up. We’re here. Lets go.” The same women ordered as she took off down the narrow passage. After a frustrated exhalation, I rubbed the toe of my Jack Purcells into a particularly dirty part of the sidewalk. I watch as the other girls followed one by one, until I was left alone in my small circle of light.
“Shit.” I muttered under my breath as I took my first step out of the light and down the dark, damp lane.
It was quiet in that small space. All you could hear was our feet carefully stepping on the concrete. The air smelled like vomit and piss, forcing me to hold my breath. Slumped on the ground with half his face pressed against the brick was a drunk. It looked as though he had been leaving, bracing himself against the wall when he went unconscious. I walked around him, finally arriving at the door.
The door was steel, rusted at the hinges and handle. Above it was the sign that I couldn’t read from the street. Now it was in full focus and I could read it. In dull pink neon it glowed, The Gutter. The “r” in gutter blinked on and off erratically. Fury swept over my body.
“The Gutter seriously. We are going to a bar named The Gutter. Really. Seriously.” I said exasperated.
No one responded. Instead they all turned away and our leader knocked on the door. Nothing happened right way, but after a few seconds the entrance cracked slightly open. Slowly a large man stepped halfway out. He looked each girl up and down and then grinned. He was missing a tooth. Greasy hair spilled over the shoulders of his leather jacket. With out saying a word he opened the door, revealing a glimmer of the bar.
“Excuse me.” Our leader said timidly as she squeezed past the gatekeeper. He had only opened the door enough so that each girl had to slowly slide her slender form between the cold rusty steal and his thick sweaty body. He pinched one girl’s ass when she had managed to get through with out touching him. When it was my turn, I took a deep breath and made myself as thin as possible. I slip through the door with success, and then jogged to the back of the room to avoid an ass pinching or worse.
At the back of the room was the bar counter. It had about fifteen leather-upholstered stools under it. I pulled one out and sat on it then turned around to examine the room.
It could not be described as clean place. The floor was black and white checker tile, but after years of neglect, muddy boots, patrons who can’t hold their liquor, the occasional bloody bar fight, and that one guy that can find the bathroom, the tile was more black and brown than its original black and white. The walls at one point must have been a tope. Now they had faded into a grimy yellowish brown. At random spots you could see stains were someone had thrown a bottle against the wall.
Lining each wall were five plush leather booths. At one, a group of men were attentively gambling. The table was strewn with beer bottles, cards, and chips. Once in awhile something exciting would happen in their game, and flurry of expletives would flood the bar from their corner of the room. At other booths there just one or two people sitting, not paying much attention to anything but the drinks in front of them.
In the middle of the room were two badly lit pool tables. They seemed to have had the same treatment the floor and walls had received over the years. A man and a woman were occupying one of the tables. They were both your typical seedy characters, however when compared to the establishment I was in, they looked pretty unremarkable. The only memorable thing about them was that the woman’s breasts were spilling out of her top, and the man busy staring at them.
This place was a den of self-medication. People did come here to socialize, or have a night out; they came to quickly plunge into nothingness. Every person looked like life had been unkind from the very start, as though it had been an unfair race from the moment they came out of the gate.
I swiveled back towards the counter. Two of the women I had come with were now speaking with the men gambling. The other two were in conversation with the bar tender. I looked up at the wall behind the counter. It was lined all the way to the ceiling with different shapes, sizes, and colors of bottles.
“What do you want?” asked the bar tender, as he stirred me from my daze.
“Oh. I guess… gin and tonic please.”
He smiled and shook his.
“What do you normally drink?” he chuckled.
“Martini straight up, two olives.” I rattled off without hesitation.
“Did you think I couldn’t make that? Look at all that alcohol.” He said grinning for ear-to-ear and pointing to the wall behind him.
“I guess I was thinking that you wouldn’t have martini glasses, so you wouldn’t make martinis.” I reasoned.
“Your right. I don’t have the glasses. But does it need the pretty glass to be a martini?”
“I don’t know.” I spoke softly.
“Ok. You tell me after you drink it.”
“Ok.” I said as he set off to start to work on my drink and continue his previous conversation with the two girls.
I spun back around to watch the train-wrecks. The large sleaze who had partially opened the door for me earlier had walked over to a booth. I had thought that it was empty, but apparently it was not, because he began to talk to someone who I could not see. Forearm bracing himself against the backrest while the other hand palmed the table, he leaned in closer to who ever he was talking to. As he spoke, spit sprayed out of his mouth. It was obvious the conversation was not going well for him. The more he talked, the more spit flew out of his mouth. His face morphed in anger, different lines and shadows appeared that had not been there before. Finally he shifted like he was going to reach into booth, but before he could even move, his body shot backward into a table across the room with such force that he broke the table and ended up in a heap against the wall.
My eyes were as wide as they could get. I was trying to assimilate what had just happened. I looked around the room, no one had even budged. The men were still gambling, the woman who was playing pool still had her breasts flopping everywhere, and the bar tender was still making my drink. What hell had just happened? I looked over to booth where the sleaze had been standing only moments before. It looked the same as it did before except for a petite, perfectly shaped leg being held parallel to the floor.
“Here is your maybe martini.” A voice said. I turned around quickly to find that it was the bar tender.
“What… Oh, my drink… your table… it’s broken… that guy got kicked into it.” I sputtered.
“I thought I heard something. Don’t worry bout it, it’s not my table. You going to try your drink?”
“Ummm… yes.” I answered and with shaking hands I reached for the highball glass he just put in front of me. I took a sip, “This is very good, thank you.”
“So imagine that, the pretty glass doesn’t make a difference.” He commented as he walked away.
Still shaking, I looked back to the table with the little leg. It wasn’t there any more. I shook my head. How could such a small person produce enough force to kick a large man across a room, and on top of that, break a table? Who was in that booth? Against all good sense, I had to find out.
“This is a stupid idea.” I whispered to myself. I got off the barstool and walked over to the booth in question.
After what seemed like an eternity, I passed the booth where I had seen the slender leg, but before I could complete my best nonchalant turn-and-look, a small squeaky voice slurred, “Hey waitress!”
I turned around in confusion. Slumped over the table and surrounded by empty shot glasses was a tiny blond haired pixy dressed in a pink tank top and jeans. Her hair was disheveled, eyes puffy from crying, and she had a red mark on her cheek from the table. She looked up at me.
“Hey quit bringin me the little glasses, just get me the bottle.” She ordered.
“Excuse me?” I kindly questioned.
“Just bring the bottle.” She managed to get out before her forehead hit the table again.
I went back to the counter, and got the bar tender’s attention.
“What has that woman been drinking?” I questioned as I pointed to where the pixy sat.
“You decided that the pretty glass is important?”
“No, it’s just that she wants a bottle of it.”
“So you work here now?” he quipped with a smile.
“No, she just asked… so I thought…”
“Ok…ok…ok. What are you girls doing here?” it was rhetorical; he didn’t really want an answer. He grabbed a bottle of Patron Silver Tequila, a little bowl of limes and saltshaker. “I think she’s got enough glasses over there for the both of you.”
I walked back with the goods in hand, cleared a little space among the shot glasses and put everything down on the table.
“Here you go.” I started to walk away, when a tiny little hand grabbed my wrist. I looked down as the little pixy looked up at me.
“Where you goin?”
“Back to the bar where my drink is. I don’t work here.”
“Oh.” She looked slightly embarrassed.
“But do you need anything else?” I asked. She looked so sad.
“No. Thanks… You wanna to sit for a bit?” She looked up at me as brightly as she could.
The inebriated pixy looked so pathetic, I could not say no, and before I knew it I was saying, “Sure. Let me get my drink.”
“No, I got some right here!” the pixy said exuberantly and she flung me into the seat across the table. “Here!” she shouted as she poured two shot glasses full of Patron. She pushed one glass in my hand and then my hand into my face.
“Cheers.” She chirped as she threw back her shot.
“Ummm…cheers.” I took a sip. The alcohol evaporated off my tongue before I could even swallow it. The pixy examined me from across the table.
“I like your sweater.”
“I like the art, reminds me of a tattoo.’
“Yea, that because the guy who drew it is a tattoo artist. Guess I’m too afraid to wear the art right on my skin so I wear the clothes with the art on it. You have any tattoos?”
“Yup. Look!” she exclaimed as she jumped to stand on the seat, pulled up her shirt and exposed her hip. On her flesh was a small tattoo of a jester and harlequin girl standing on tiptoes, holding both hands, and kissing. Little pink hearts floated above their heads.
“That’s cute.” I replied. Truthfully, I thought it was a little strange.
“Yeah… I got it for my boyfriend.” she said as she returned to her seat.
“ Oh.” A red flag when up in my mind. “Does he like it?”
“Yeah, pretty much. He doesn’t talk about his feelings a lot. But I think he likes it.” As she spoke, she sniffled and tears filled her eyes.
“Are you ok?
“No” she cooed and choked back her tears the best she could. “My puddin’s mad at me. He kicked me out.”
“He kicked you out? Why?”
“I swear, you go changin one little thing without askin him and that’s it! Game over! Do not pass go! Guess again! Fin! Look…” She requested, as she stood up once again and turned around. To my surprise there was about a size fourteen shoe print on her backside.
“Holy crap! He really kicked you out!” I said as the pixy once again returned to her seat.
“Just his way.” She sniffled.
“But he kicked you! He shouldn’t have kicked you!” I said angrily. Then I got a response I was not expecting. The little pixy got slightly belligerent.
“YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW! YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW MISTAH J!”
The next thing I knew I was staring down the barrel of an over sized gun. I was completely paralyzed with fear. My body couldn’t move, but that did not stop my mind from chastising myself over and over about how I shouldn’t even be in The Gutter and that this whole thing was a stupid idea. I closed my eyes and waited for my head to be blown off my shoulders, but it never happened. Instead I heard a soft click. When I opened my eyes a white flag with the word “bang” on it was sticking straight out of the barrel.
“Ahhh… that’s my puddin’s favorite joke.” the pixy sighed.
“That’s a pretty sick joke.” I whimpered as breath slowly returned to me. Then it dawned on me what she had just said… Mr. J! Crap! This was Harley Quinn. Plan B; do not talk badly about The Joker. I reached for the Patron and looked at her requestfully.
“Oh sure.” allowed Harley as I poured a shot and threw it down my throat, leaving no time for evaporation. She extended her arm and took the bottle, repeating my actions for herself. After slamming the shot glass upside down on the table she began to speak,
“Sooo, tell me about yourself…” and then militantly admonished, “No let me tell you about me. I am a woman! A WO… MAN. And I got needs and if he can’t fill `em… well screw him. Cause I go my own skills and talents. Yeah!”
“What?” I shook my head in mystification.
“And he gets mad and me for call him puddin’, but he calls me punkin’ pie. And… and… and you know what, out’a the two of us I’m the one with the degrees. He didn’t even go to college. I’ve got a bachelors, a masters, and an almost PhD.”
“Yeah. Most people don’t finish their doctorate work. It’s that last year… it’ll drive you crazy.” She took another shot. “It’s just, I was studyin all the time and at one point I was like `you know what you want go get it’. And I am happy. Ha-ppy. Except for when I’m so mad! You just remember that Sunny.”
“Yeah, you’re not from here. You got that look like nothin’s ever gone wrong for you. Probably from Metropolis. Just all full of sunshine.” She poured two more shots, and slid one in front of me. We both tossed them back.
“You’re the second person that’s said that.” I said a little disgruntled.
“Well look at you.”
“What do you mean?” I said as I looked down at myself.
“You look like you tell the truth is all.”
I hesitated for a moment, I had no desire to have a gun pulled on me again, but as the pixy called it, I do tell the truth and so I went on, “ If you think I tell the truth then please believe me when I say he should not have kicked you.”
“Naah, my fault, he’s the genius, I shouldn’t be so presumptuous to go shootin my mouth off.” I rolled my eyes, while Harley slumped back into the booth and banged her head on the edge of the table.
“What will you do now?”
“Red will find me. She always does, she a good friend.” She murmured to the floor.
I watched the little pixy whimper to herself. I felt bad for her, even though she had just scared me shitless. For some unfathomable reason I wanted to help her, even liked her. While I pondered if I ever could, I heard a deep voice grunt and then the shuffling of splintered wood. The large sleaze had come to and had started walking towards us.
“You bitch! I kill you!” He spat out.
Harley slowly tilted her head and peered her through bangs. He reached over and grabbed her by the hair lifting her straight off her seat. He began to shake her back and forth, but before he could swing his fist into her face she materialized a gigantic mallet, smashing it down in the middle of his forehead. His expression went blank, a small trickle of blood dripped down his face and off his chin before he collapsed to the floor. Harley tossed her mallet to the ground. This time everyone in the bar stopped and took notice of the bizarre altercation. She shot a quick look at her spectators.
“What are you lookin at!” she yelled.
“Seriously, where are you keeping these ridiculously large weapons?”
“Ahh, secret of the trade.” She giggled as she laid her finger on the side of her nose. “And now Sunny, I think its time for you to get out of The Gutter.”
The pixy leaned into my seat, took me by the hand pulling me out of the booth, over the sleaze, out the door and through the alley. When we reached the street she gave me a small push into the glow of the street lamp. I looked over at her, as she stayed out of the light’s reach. Harley brought her hands up to her mouth and whistled with what seemed like every muscle in her body, nearly lifting her off the ground. And while it just about made me deaf, a taxi came squealing around the corner. The pixy bounced over to the cab’s door and opened it.
“Alright Sunny, get in.”
I obeyed. Before she closed it behind me she ducked her head down to speak.
“I hope we don’t meet again.”
“Well… if we meet again it will be cause somethin bad has happened, and I want you to stay like you are. ”
“Ok.” I understood what she meant.
“Bye, Sunny.” And she closed the door, and I went home to Cherry Street and light.