Homey Don't Play

Elise Glassman

He waggled his head. “You need to purchase anything?”

“No—”

“No? Well, I am making inventory. Have a good one.” Turning his back, he went back to work, as dismissive as the cop. As her boss. As Thomas.

Passing the rack of porn magazines, she swept a stack of Playboys to the floor. Same with Hustler, so vigorously that a cover tore. She kicked the stack of newspapers, watched as they slithered across the floor. Behind her, Vijay protested. Outside, she started to run.

Seeing Luci sprint across the parking lot, Marz ran away from the center doors so fast that she lost her gum on the hot sidewalk. “Marz! I swear to fucking God—” Luci stopped.

Dennis stood in the lobby among the B.O.D., his patrons, six jowly men in pressed shirts, their necks flushed from heat, exertion, Chardonnay. “Luci. In my office. Now.”

“She told me Durell was in jail,” Luci said, nearly sobbing. “I didn’t mean to swear.”

Over by the lunchroom door Marz stood with her posse, bleak-faced. “It was a joke, Gucci Luci,” she said softly. “Just trying to lighten you up.”

“Dennis, is this a community service partner?” one of the B.O.D.’s said.

Luci snapped, “Yeah, I’m a CSP. My ex took me to court over our divorce settlement and there’s no way in hell I’m paying for his girlfriend’s goddamn boob job—”

“Everyone, stay right where you are,” a voice barked, and Luci saw uniforms and a billy club and Flirty Cop’s outstretched cutout glove. “Ma’am, could you step over here please? Keep your hands where I can see them.”

She stared. They were all staring, the B.O.D.’s pale and silent, the After School Specials chomping their gum, the trio of cops standing with shoulders flexed, hands at their belts.

“Ma’am. I’m not gonna repeat myself,” the cop said.

“What’s going on?” she asked, coming around the counter. Then, “Oof,” as the nearest cop grabbed her arm and folded her down to the floor.

“Leave her alone!” Marz screeched. 

Luci lay with her face pressed to the sticky floor. The pressure from the cop’s hands, gripping her arms, his knee in her back, felt oddly reassuring, even calming. She hadn’t been touched in such a long time.

“Yes, officer, this is the woman who vandalized my store,” a voice said.

She opened one eye and saw dust-speckled shoes. “Vijay? You called the cops?”

“You vandalized my business. You intimidated me, Luci!”

“Let her up, Harrison. I’ll process her,” Flirty Cop said.

Luci got up slowly. Her knee hurt. Her face burned.

“Identification please, ma’am.”

“Stop calling me ma’am,” she said.

The cop stared at her. There was a gummy snap. Marz bobbed around in his face. “Some body got dead in Swifty’s car wash and you’re going SWAT on Luci’s ass. That’s wack!”

“Wack,” the After School Specials murmured, moving closer.

“Marz, Keysha, Dineen—go wait in the playroom,” Dennis said wearily.

Flirty Cop gave them a look. “The only person that ‘got dead’ was a bum who drank himself to death. And little girls should do as they’re told.”

Dealing him looks that could fry baloney, they shuffled off. The B.O.D.’s had departed but Dennis hovered, silent and anxious, like a waiter expecting a bad tip. The remaining cops stood at the front door, one looking at his phone, the other staring outside. Vijay was gone, but the powerful smell of his cologne lingered. Luci reached for her purse.

***

“Thought you might come up in here, Gooch.” Durell tipped his head in time with the beats coming through his headphones, one arm raised a little, leveling a hip-hop blessing.

“Yeah. It’s been a day.” She kicked a spot clean of debris and sat down, resting her back against a post.

Keeping an eye on her, Durell resumed:

            Dead guy in a car wash

            But the cops obsessed with porno

            Goochy Looch vee

            The SPD

            She gonna do hard time or no

            Shitcanned maybe

            No more Play-doh yo

            Sue their ass

            Goochy get some cash—

“Durrell,” she said.

He slid one headphone off his ear, raised his eyebrows.

She said, “Maybe you could use some original art, for your next show. For the poster.”

He shrugged, not giving her anything.

“I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t even show up on time for your show—”

“That’s right. You gotta show up, Gooch.”

Whatever. Fuck him, that hurt. And what was the point? The past was fading and the present hadn’t come into focus and the future—any future--seemed unimaginable. But—maybe. And if maybe, then painting was a kid in track pants and thick glasses, calling her out.


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