Mike Zone is the author of Fellow Passengers: Pubic Transit Poetry, Meditations & Musings and Better than the Movies: 4 Screenplays. His poetry and stories have been featured in: Because Eileen, Horror Sleaze Trash, In Between Hangovers, Sick Lit Magazine, Three Line Poetry, Triadae Magazine and The Voices Project. He scrapes by in Grand Rapids, MI
By Mike Zone
Eileen obsessively eyed the diner’s entrance. When she couldn’t glue her eyes on the unmoving door, she kept an ear open for the “ding” of a bell and his soft melodious voice (which in reality was really quite squeaky) to signal either a fanciful reprieve or a return to purgatory.
Maybe there pending marriage could work. After a month, there might even be the chance for actual love to grow between them. Depending on the nature of it all that is, she even wondered if he was real and not a figment of desperate imagination or even a nightmare fever getting ready to claim her.
She was sick of her feet hurting, the touches of gray beginning to streak through her copper red hair, and the small belly starting to develop. When would her tits begin to sag? Would they be as bad as the bags underneath her eyes? The result from lack of sleep wrought from anxiety born of cut hours and declining tips.
Most of all though, she was o sick of the smug looking old men at table nine, who grinned and nodded at each other; knowing they had, had her in her prime; she was young, desperate and in need of quick cash.
Almost three decades later, she was still desperate and in need of quick cash, in fact if he didn’t show up within the next hour, she would be accompanying the heavy set truck-driver to the back of his trailer. She loathed the vision of staring up at his pink muscle-shirt and white cowboy hat as he unzipped himself. The thought of nauseating onion saturated tuna melt breath blowing on her face, churned her stomach.
He smirked and winked at her, as she brought him his lunch. She looked away toward the door. Grabbed the coffeepot for table nine, where the same men traded the same grins and same nods, and informed lonely strangers who were just passing through, what Eileen could and would do to make the long haul a touch more bearable.
It kept her kids fed and her husband happy enough to entertain himself with one of his barely legal girlfriends. He was going to be a country music star, over two decades in the making.
“It’s the music of the people.” He would tout.
“Eileen, meet Beth, she gonna be my back-up vocalist and fiddler, even though she can’t play, she’s got heart…” He’d wink at the jittery and nubile girl, placing an arm around each woman to ease whatever tension or nervousness could arise. Bill still looked like a 1950’s movie star despite all the rotgut wine and crank. The girls aged faster than he did, as if he drained the youth from them.
“James Dean ain’t got nothin’ on me.”
He could never deplete her though, and that’s why he never left.
“You an’ me…we’re in a dying contest, honey and I gonna be gettin’ my kicks until the whole shithouse goes up in flames…and still outlive your worn out ass…maybe.” He’d get off her and strut away but his head would be downcast in defeat.
“One day, I’ll break you…you’ll tell me, you wish I was dead, then I’ll leave and fuck everything up beyond repair…then, only then can I die a happy man.”
The immaculate white SUV- limousine with perpetual motion chrome rims pulled up. Her heart skipped a beat, perhaps more. Could she really be worth this much? It wasn’t so much her perceived value of being that caused Eileen’s heart to flutter so, but that the floppy headed scarecrow in the mushroom print dress shirt, hemp jacket and dungarees took notice of her. Maybe everything he had insinuated before he left, wasn’t true.
The hour before, the way he leaned back in the booth, nodding and smirking at her figure below the waist, as she rapidly sauntered over.
“Afternoon hon’, what can I start you out with?”
He clicked his tongue, chin resting on his hand as he examined her nametag. He cleared his throat and focused on her neckline and snorted.
“Coffee and water, Nancy.”
She could have dropped her pen and pad, ran to the bathroom and locked herself in. Instead, she snapped her gum and stroked her nametag, slowly running her hand along her breast in a mock absent-minded way, giving him the widest smile.
“Eileen sweetie, my name’s Eileen.”
“You look more like a Nancy to me.” He flicked his own wavy red locks.
“I’ll get you, your coffee and water. Do you take cream?”
He barely nodded. Something wasn’t quite right, as if he knew everything that wasn’t there.
When she returned, the menu was placed at the edge of the table and the clean shaven man who looked between seventeen and twenty-five, was fixated on a golden hued spinning top.
She placed the drinks before him and snapped her gum to signify she was ready to take his order.
“You sure look like a Nancy.”
“What can I get you? We serve breakfast all day.”
“I’m not paid to sit.”
“I’m a paying customer, you might appreciate what I have to say, maybe even offer…Nancy.”
She sighed “My name’s Eileen…look, if you’re not going to get anything or want another waitress-“
“I will partake of the ham and eggs, over easy with wheat toast and olive oil but I’ll take the imitation butter shit if the olive oil is too sophisticated for this roadside hellhole. It’s quaint though, I like it, totally comfortable with its own sense of being, a place mom would take you…wouldn’t you agree…Eileen?”
He motioned to the other side of the booth never averting his eyes from the spinning top. “What if, everyone knew, everything you knew? Would your kids, miss you? Do you think, you would ever be able to rebuild? Do you believe that dastardly husband of yours would actually be able to outlive you? Does the truth keep you up late at night as much as I would like to believe it does?”
Eileen shuddered, felt weak and slid down into the booth. She gazed at the spinning top. The young man’s hand, whipped out and slammed it to a halt. He glanced up to glare into her tired and frightened eyes. His eyes a piercing blue steel cutting through her own ocean reflected eyes.
“You ever feel like, you were born someone else? I know, I have…you can put that order in now.”
“Who are you?” She was shaken to the core, words barely audible.
He drummed the table in a gesture of triumph “Just a stranger passing through in the most familiar way possible, offering the deal of a lifetime. A chance at redemption or full-blown damnation…take your pick.”
“Who are you…really?”
“Put that order in, warm the coffee up I’m about to drink and I’ll tell you a story.”
A strange daze pervaded her being, like an automation; Eileen got up and did exactly as she was told. The stranger leaned back with a smile, slugging back his coffee and eyeing her body up and down. Goosebumps appeared on her skin even as she grabbed the pot of scalding coffee near the kitchen inferno. She felt an electrical pendulum swinging over her head, getting closer and closer, all that was, could be and would have been was heading towards a brutal conclusion.
She was back in the booth, sitting across from him as if she had never left in the first place but there he was; meticulously carving his ham in equal proportion to sectioned yoke soaked egg whites. He jabbed a slice of ham and egg without spilling a drop of yellow and plopped it into his mouth. , followed by a single swallow, as if he never chewed. He leaned forward and she leaned back not quite fully sprawled out but utterly exhausted by his penetrating mischievous grin and stare.
Eileen suddenly noticed the black box with the square diamond ring in it or maybe she had forgotten all about it.
“What a shocker, huh? Let’s rewind a moment, collect your thoughts.” He continued to eat, humming a song she had heard before but couldn’t quite place.
A few minutes before the food was ready, there was the box and he popped the question. “Eileen Alvinston, will you do me the honor of being my wife?” She sat down stunned. He opened the box to reveal the ring.
“I’m old enough to be your mother, kid.” She nervously spitted and left to get his food, hoping to return to the same booth with a different customer, no box, no ring nor dramatic quandary of a severely consequential nature. She brought him his order and just as she began to turn around to leave, he spoke.
“I want to take you to bed but not like the rest of these guys, you deserve a little more dignity…even if you are old enough to be my mother, in fact even if you were my own mother I would still take you to bed with me…which may very well be the case.”
Something shattered inside her, someone/something she lost long ago.
“Why so horrified Nancy? Or would you still prefer, ‘Eileen’?”
“GET OUT. Get out. Get out.”
He placed his napkin in his lap “If I were the mild mannered civil type I would, but I’m not, I’m capitalist…I own this place, I bought it over an hour ago, ergo I own you this is the ownership society.” He slid the ring toward her side of the booth and raised his eyebrows.
She felt depleted, sulked back in and sighed “What do you want?”
“Why, what every man wants to secretly and shamefully do…at least according to Freud…I want to fuck my mother. Chances are I’ll never find her. She abandoned me as a newborn in a dumpster but there’s that one in a million chance I may find her, fuck her and marry her…not sure if I’m going to gouge out my own eyes…until then I’m like Oedipus out to remove the nemesis king and take what is rightfully mine, though only if a certain deal can be made.” He slid the ring closer.
“I’m not your mother.”
“You don’t know for sure.”
“Attack equals intrigue. Nancy James are you related to Jesse James? What exactly made you become Eileen Alvinston?
“I don’t have time for this.” She began to get up.
He sipped his coffee “Your trucker appointment? On the contrary, you have all the time in the world, it’s the time of your life that keeps slipping away.”
Back right down again and into the present, she watched in silence as he joyfully finished his meal. Did they lie to her?
“My name is Elijah October. My birth name…is probably something along the lines of Abandoned Alleyway Dumpster Baby. I was adopted by a well-meaning, well off, well-educated folks who did everything right but couldn’t grasp my grasp on technology. Eventually there was a fire, a freak electrical occurrence which resulted in quite the inheritance and foundation of my company, in which my job is to mostly keep my patents and innovations to myself. I’m twenty-six years old and the head of a multibillion dollar officially non-existent tech company.”
He pointed to the window where the SUV-limousine was parked outside “I’ve done quite well for myself, haven’t I?”
Could Elijah October be her son? Had he come back to haunt her? Torment her? He placed his napkin over the plate and cleared his throat.
“Ever since, I’ve been old enough to get a hard-on, I’ve dreamed of fucking a mystery woman, in my heart of hearts I know she is my mother and that this is why it feels so perfect. Her face draped in shadow but with long flowing red hair, her skin tone varies from dream to dream but her breasts are always the same almost perfect circles one amore lopsided than the other with abnormally dark and oversized nipples; we’re on a bed of grass in the forest between night and dawn and just before that first streak of sunlight creeps in to reveal her face, she moans and I climax…ultimately I wake up frustrated with a handful of cum.”
“Maybe you just miss your mother.”
“I have seen my share of therapists, witchdoctors, and gypsy fortunetellers and even cried on the rectums of prostitutes about that dream: ‘Maybe you miss your mother’, ‘perhaps you are struggling with your intimacy and abandonment issues’, or ‘you want to control the world, manipulate the nature of it all.’ Yadda-yadda…you know what the best response was?”
She shook her head.
“It was from a no nonsense type of gal, a real white trash meth-head with a snaggle-tooth and pepperoni blotched skin. She lived in backwoods Kentucky. About your age too. She hit the nail on the head ‘Maybe you had a dream about fucking your mother, because you just want to fuck your mother.’ Obviously, she couldn’t have been my mother because the notion of incest would totally have prevented us from doing the deed, no matter how much money or enticing terms I offered…or maybe she could have very well have been my mother with our matching hair and eyes. Only I actually know for sure, with my vast amount of resources.”
Eileen looked down at her quivering legs underneath the table. She remembered him: purple, tangled within meat-cord without a name and silent as the grave…or is that how she chose to remember it?
“I thought life would be so simple.” She whispered.
“Nancy? Eileen? Which one would you rather have it be?”
She leaned in, staring him down, her mouth hardened. “My name is Eileen Alvinston and you are no son of mine.”
The man still very much a boy, shrunk for a moment, only to immediately stiffen and stretch his neck out, coiling like a serpent over the table and around Eileen’s person. “You don’t love your children Eileen. You have been living a lie this entire time, an empty husk waiting for some grand opportunity that has yet to happen but never will, because all you are is one more stop for the roadside truckers to pull into.”
“I’m not afraid of you little man or your money. I’ve taken on far worse than you and I’m used to emptiness, so why bother fighting and accept my lot?
Elijah October chuckled “Twelve brides in twelve months.” He pulled from his back pocket a gleaming onyx triangle. “This is Life-Hack. It’s the direct opposite of Life-Lock, instead of an intangible service designed to protect, this little device undresses you, decodes you; from scent, thermal imaging, voice analyzation, brain wave patterns. It maps out your DNA, runs it through a database of psychological profiles generated through a quantum computer database. The so-called “junk” DNA we have is really just a network of receptors linked with the electromagnetic field triggered by genetic traits which ultimately influence our consciousness in order to prolong or eradicate genetic and memetic preservation. We’re all just electrically charged mechanical meat-puppets…”
Elijah seemed lost for a moment, he looked around in a slight panic, then forced a smile.
“Shit…ultimately the point is…anyone, everyone can be found out; whoever I choose, no matter how random the encounter.” He knocked on the table twice. “If at all.” He snatched the top from the table. “Topsy-turvy world.” He found her staring at the ring.
Eileen speculated: Why her? What was this actually about? Could it be? How could something of this nature be happening? Why the god she didn’t believe in didn’t, just let her die?
“Here’s my plan for the year…I’m going to marry one woman each month, one of whom could be my own mother, none of them will actually know if they are or not but I will; you, they, whoever, will have to live with the allegedly disgusting uncertainty of engaging in matrimonial fornication with their supposed son….in return I completely renovate lives: relocation, new identities, records expunged and cherry on top… ten million dollars at month’s end. Start the new life right”
Eileen fidgeted with an uncomfortable wetness between her thighs.
“Could you live with that uncertainty?” He put the top back on table and let it spin. “A clean slate, millions of dollars?”
She ran her finger along the box, making way to the ring, as she stared at the top. He began to pull the box away.
“I know who your husband is, what he really does and how only one of those kids is biologically yours. Do you really have what it takes to play penance for the rest of your life?”
She grabbed his wrist. He let go of the box. “Tell me about the princess, the vagabond and the oil baron’s son.”
She continued to fixate on the top as tears welled up in her eyes and he told her the story from Nancy the ghetto girl with stars in her eyes born in Honor, Indiana whose heels knew many a vehicles back windows of those “just passing through”; how she eventually made it to Pilgrim’s Creek, Alaska where there were devils and dues, to which she was rebranded “Eileen” and sentenced to Faustino, California which had been her prison for the last twenty-six years.
The top abruptly stopped without the force of an intervening agent. The wetness between her legs increased. Eileen took the ring and held it up to the light outside.
“I’ll give you one hour. There’s a lettuce farm I’m going to buy and convert to a smart-drug club and moisture bar.” He giggled”
We get married, fuck, I send you on your merry way with a host of uncomfortable questions.” He left, sliding out the diner seemingly unseen by others, simultaneously a ghost of what could never be and what ultimately could be.
She dropped her order, when she saw the immaculate white SUV-limousine pull up. The hour had passed. She ran outside, fingering the ring in her apron, knowing what her answer would be. The driver got out, a behemoth in black whose designer tailor cut suit rendered his form more humorous than menacing. The brutishness off-set by white neo-retro popstar sunglasses, a Neanderthal fashion model designed to hunt, kill and make you swoon with a belly laugh.
Eileen clutching the ring in her hand, approached the man in black. He held out a larger black box and repeatedly turned a crank. A jack in the box, clunking out a familiar song. The melody came back to her; the same tune Elijah had been humming, it was one of Bill’s abandoned songs based on her absentmindedly whistling for no apparent reason on a day she felt good for some odd reason, a sliver of illusionary hope “See my baby can make music when she wants to.” Bill’s hands around her waist, kissing her neck as things went right for a single night.
The music stopped. Eileen stopped. The lid burst open. She dropped the ring. A malicious jester with a skull face holding a baby rattle popped out laughing “Gotcha! You’re a bad mommy.” Elijah October’s voice was unmistakable.
Eileen collapsed to the ground.
The man in black nodded. He got back in the SUV-limousine and drove away.