“A Blond Joke” – Fiction by Addy Evenson

A young woman experiences some dark and stormy times during a Florida hurricane in “A Blond Joke,” Addy Evenson‘s hauntingly surreal short story from our Summer 2018 issue.

{ X }

SHELBY, HONEY, YOU’RE THE WORST WAITRESS IN THE WHOLE WORLD, Dad told me. He said, A monkey could do better. So I’m sending you away to visit your Gramma Kay.

That was up in Key Largo. Gramma Kay lived in a three-story blue house under palm trees, and next to a canal. It smelled like seawater, sawdust and stone. I hadn’t been there since I was seven. My mom had taken me out of there one night.

She said, No more drunk-madness.

Gramma Kay, like a lot of stewardesses, loved her margaritas by the pink sunset. When I was little, Gramma Kay used to take me for rides in her convertible car. She was bottled blond, like me.

So I wrote Gramma Kay a letter. It said,

 

Dear Gramma Kay, I know it’s been years, but I’d like to visit. Well, I don’t really have much choice. Dad is sending me there in less than a week because he doesn’t know what to do with me. He says that I’m flighty and a drunk like you. I promise that’s not all there is to me. I think that you’ll find if you take the time to get to know me that I have a lot of your good traits in me.

 

Love,

Shelby

 

So I headed out to see her. I took economy class. I didn’t have enough cash to check both of my bags, so I kept my favorite one. When I got to the curb, the yellow-cab driver looked at the address and said, You’re really going right in it, aren’t you? I said, How do you mean? And he said, The hurricane. He looked at me like he thought I was dumb but truly I didn’t have cable because cable makes people slow. So I just didn’t hear anything about it.

He stopped by the gravel road, and then got in a big hurry to drive off. I guess it was pretty windy there. And empty. I stood there on the cement, with my aquamarine suitcase. I wore flamingo-pink heels. I walked.

I knocked on the door.

Gramma Kay, I called. It’s me. It’s Shelby.

I heard music come down from the kitchen. Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville…

I went upstairs.

A man sliced a lime on the counter.

Oh, I said. Am I in the wrong place?

Are you Shelby, he said.

That’s me!

I’m Keif.

He was kind of handsome, but looked a little bit like leather. He was pale and had pale hair.

I’ll be here, at your service, he said. I’m the housekeeper. I’m here to watch Enchilada while your Gramma and Grampa are out for the hurricane.

What’s that you’re making, I said.

It’s a key lime pie.

A key lime pie! Oh, God, I love it!

Good. It’s for you.

How sweet. So, they knew I was coming?

Yes.

I’ll just put my things down in the guest room.

I came out again.

Oh my god, nothing has changed. Nothing at all, I said.

The lights flickered.

It’s horrible weather, I said.

That’s Maria, Keif said. It’s the worst of its kind.

Are we safe here, I asked.

Well, someone has to babysit Enchilada, he said.

Enchilada, my darling, my darling!

I ran to his cage and opened the door.

Oh, I cried. What is wrong with him? He’s not moving.

Oh, no, Keif said.

Oh no. He’s dead!

Oh no, Keif said. I’m so sorry.

I don’t understand. It looks like you’ve been feeding him.

I have.

But Gramma Kay got him because she said he would live longer than she would, I said.

We ate the key lime pie. It was real good, with home-made whipped cream and graham cracker pie crust. Keif took out the rum then, and I gave him a look that my ex said makes me seem up to no good at all.

Oh, I want some of that, I said.

We drank. 

{ X }

I woke up in the basement. I wore my bra and underwear. My lipstick was smeared. And my tummy hurt.

Keif, I called. Keif?

I went upstairs. The house was empty. I heard something rustle near the drapes.

Keif, I called.

Enchilada flew past my face. I screamed.

I picked him up.

Enchilada, I said. Little guy. You’re alive.

He bit my nose. I put him in the cage again. He sat on his perch and looked at me.

I went into the bathroom and threw up.

The house was empty. The lights still flickered. I ran the shower.

The first day after that, I lay myself down there not saying or doing anything. I just didn’t want to. The second day, I thought, and thought, and thought hard about everything that had led to this point. I decided to phone Gramma Kay. The cell number was on the fridge door. I called her.

Your house keeper let me in, I said.

I don’t have a house keeper, she said. We’ve been sending Peter Paletti to check on Enchilada. Do you remember him?

I think so.

No one named Keif. Honey, it seems like a squatter found his way into our house. I’d tell you to call the police but all the police have left town. The hurricane is coming. You better see if you can get Peter to come over and –

The phone disconnected. It got dark.

I went through the kitchen cabinets. Gramma Kay had a good survival instinct. She had flashlights and candles under the sink. I lit the candles.

A couple of days passed. The whole time, my chest and my tummy hurt like hell. I kept hearing sounds upstairs, and in the basement. I’d go through the house looking, and I couldn’t find anyone.

I ended up getting so goddamn drunk. I was scared out of my mind, and it started to make me a little crazy. I just had to do something. And Gramma Kay was known for having lots, and lots, and lots of bottles of white chardonnay. I just slept with the corkscrew by my bed. I’d wake up in the morning, drink, and then go out into the house and look around.

I found a lot of old pictures then. Polaroids of my mom when she was young. But I couldn’t find any pictures of me. A lot of them were missing. Some were even cut in half, like I had been torn out of the picture.

Then I would sleep. And I’d dream about my mother. I dreamed I’d see her walking in the Florida sunshine, in orange orchards. I’d never seen a Florida orange, outside of a juice carton, but I heard about them.

Sometimes I daydreamed about my ex. Freddy had left me, saying, Drop dead, ya bitch. It was because I spent all his money on manicures and shoes when he left his bank card on the counter. I didn’t mean any harm by it, but I figured I had worked for it by the amount of head he got.

My tummy wouldn’t feel better so I boiled some water to throw into the bath.

I got in there and shut my eyes and felt better.

There were footsteps then. They came up the stairs. I held very still, and got very quiet, and did not breathe. Someone opened the bathroom door, stood over the toilet, and pulled down their pants.

He started to take a pee. He looked down at me and screamed. I looked up at him and screamed. He screamed again. He was really hard, and still screaming. He ran out of the bathroom and covered himself.

I got out of the bath. I wrapped a coral pink towel around me. He looked at me then. The light was dim.

Peter Paletti, I asked.

In that light, he told me, you look like the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. You’re a regular Bridget Bardot. I – I – I’m sorry. Who are you?

I’m Shelby, I said.

Are you little Shelby-May?

I am.

Oh, God, look at me, he said. I’m such a jerk.

He turned away from me and went to Enchilada’s cage.

I’m just here to feed this guy, he said. Then I’ll be out of your way.

Please, stay, I said.

He looked at me again.

Make me a drink, I asked.

He mixed me a cocktail.

You know, I knew you when you were this tall, he said. You used to come over to my flat and eat jelly beans. You were a great kid.

I’m not a kid now, I said.

No. No, you’re not.

He drank across from me.

You really know how to knock ‘em back, he said.

I got up off the barstool then. I let the towel drop to my ankles.

He spilled his drink on the counter.

I don’t want you to do anything yet, I said. I just want you to look at me. I don’t want you to see me how young men see me. I want you to really see me. Now come with me.

He followed me. We went to the guest room. I lay down on the white blankets. The wind beat against the panes.

Make me a virgin cocktail, I whispered.

He went into the kitchen. He came back with a Shirley Temple. I put the little yellow umbrella in my hair.

When the power comes back, I’ll make you a strawberry daquiri, he said. Or anything you want, really.

I want someone to talk to, I said. Will you talk to me?

Forever.

You don’t think I’m too young and stupid?

No, no, no. You were always as sharp as a tack. Even when you were a kid.

I ended up a waitress. What do you think about that?

I’d say it’s an honest job, and one to be proud of.

Well, I got fired, ‘cause I wasn’t even smart enough for that.

He got on his knees and leaned over the bed. I don’t think he was listening much.

But it’s because of Tennessee Williams that I got fired, I said.

Who’s that, he asked. Your boyfriend?

In a way. He’s a playwright. He wrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Never heard of it.

Streetcar Called Desire.

Oh! Hey Stella! Stella! That one. So, you watched too many movies?

No. I read The Collected Works. All day every day. When I was supposed to be making coffee. And I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Everybody told Dad, she’s slacking off, she doesn’t care. But I remember thinking, well, doesn’t it matter that I get my self educated?

That seems like a good thing to me.

But then I thought, and thought, and thought so hard that I couldn’t focus on anything. I dropped a fried egg on someone’s head.

You are so sweet.

Am I?

Please, can I look at you here?

Yes.

Did someone hurt you, he asked.

Why? Do you see something?

You’ve been burned…down there.

I did not talk at all. I only cried a little, very quietly, so he’d have to be looking really hard to see it.

Oh no, he said.

He got up from his knees and got into the bed with me. He held me there.

You don’t need to worry about anything like this anymore, he whispered. I’m going to take care of you. Boys, they don’t know how to handle you. You need a grown man. Tonight, I’ll put hurricane shutters on the windows. I’ll hold you close. And when it’s over, I’ll take you out on my boat. You can sit up front, in your bathing suit, with a pina-colada.

He sang, Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville 

I closed my eyes. I saw the turquoise gulf-of-Mexico. I saw myself there with Peter.

{ X }

That night, he got up to make the house hurricane proof.

In the morning, I woke up. The window was beating against the wall. I went into the living room.

Peter was out there on the floor.

I knelt down next to him. He was dead down there on the floor. So I took his body, and I dragged him out there on the balcony. I thought, Peter is an adventurer, and he will want to go in a big way. He can’t just rot in the house.

The wind shook the palm trees.

I had a hard time going back in without getting blown away.

I shut the doors and the shutters.

But then I heard it.

His goddamn feet. Moving, moving, around me, above me, below me. Creaking and moving all through the house. I thought I better make myself scarce. I went into my room and held so still, as still as I could. There was a bottle of wine there. I opened it and drank some. I thought at this point I needed to, to survive.

And then, the worst thing happened. The battery powered radio downstairs started to play. And it played, Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville…

No, I cried out. No, no, no, no.

I just couldn’t help myself.

And then the windows began to flap open again.

The hurricane was getting bad, real bad. I mean, water was rising all the way around the block. Everywhere I looked I could see water and trash. I wondered what happened to all the alligators and manatee when the water rose like this. Could they just swim way down below? Or would they get into the house, trapped in the woodwork?

I got so scared. I thought, this is it, baby-girl, this is the last day of your life. So I did what I thought was best. I decided to go up to the third story of the house and put on my Gramma’s favorite dress.

I got up out there. The water was rising up past the porch.

I went upstairs. I still had the corkscrew in my hand, so I put it in my bra. I went right to the closet at first and took out her dress. It was pale blue, with pink flamingoes, and a cinched waist. I put it on, with a strand of her pearls. She wore Jessica McClintok perfume, and I put that on, too.

And in her room, on the bed, there I saw it.

The letter I had sent. And all the pictures. All the pictures of me. All sprawled out on the water bed. And a stain on the blanket. I got so sick when I saw that.

I said,

“You son of a bitch,” at the top of my lungs. ‘Cause I wasn’t scared any more.

I went downstairs.

I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around. Keif was there. He was crying and laughing at once.

I – I – I – I love you, he said. I need to hold you. Please. I always knew I would die by the side of a beautiful woman with golden hair. I – I – I – he started to grope me then. I tried to get his hands off me but I just couldn’t. The water was rising.

It was all the way up to our waists.

There I was, about to drown next to this piece of work.

So I took the corkscrew out of my bra and I stabbed him with it right in the throat. He cried out. I pushed him down under the water. He flailed around there for a while. After he drowned, his body floated up into my arms.

I stood there in the water, holding him, with his blood all around us.

Enchilada got out of the cage and flew across the surface.

The water stopped rising. It went down again. In another day, the hurricane had gone.

{ X }

ADDY EVENSON works as a storyteller and entertainer. She’s lived all over North America, from Prince Edward Island to Los Angeles. Her fiction appears in various publications throughout the world, including Bourbon PennBlack Dandy, and The Comix Reader.

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