by M. G. Tarquini

Tony dropped Darlene by the Corner Pocket in Jackelope Junction without so much as a goodbye, an adios, or a so long sucker. He took her cellphone with him. She had to call her friend, Cheryl, to come get her, which meant she had to edge past drunk cowboys and drunker businessmen, who were attending the tool and die convention, to get to the payphone in the back of the pool hall.

“Hey, sugar, got change for a twenty?” The patron tucked it into her blouse, caught her about the waist and pulled her close.

“Nothing so small as what you’re toting.” Darlene kicked him in the balls, retrieved the handset and continued dialing.

The patron regained his posture, nostrils flaring. He charged. Darlene sidestepped him, so he plowed into the guy behind her, a pug-faced fellow with a scar down his cheek, who was missing the pinky on his left hand. Pug-face shoved the guy back, catapulting him into one of the waitresses.

A nice gal with tiny boobs, Maribel was raising two kids on her own after her no-good husband tossed her over for the new checker at the Stop-n-Save in the center of town, a fact Maribel was keeping to herself. Maribel's tray of drinks toppled onto the breast of a businessman's wife.

The businessman's wife had accompanied her husband because she didn’t want him to bring her replacement, his sweet young thing on the side. It was the best the wife could figure until she came up with another way to save her marriage, fancy house in the suburbs, and revolving credit account at Adiposity, the upscale clothing store for large women she’d discovered two years previously when she first worked out her husband’s infidelity and started overeating.

The whiskey made the wife's white cotton blouse cling to her nylon bra cup. It exposed a clear outline of her size-D nipple to the businessman's colleagues in the tool and die trade. The cowboys blushed and looked away.

A drunk businessman poked the nipple. Mr. D-cup pretended not to notice. That got Mrs. D-cup mad. She smacked her husband and slapped the drunk businessman. The drunk businessman jerked his arm to block his face, but too late. He accidentally slugged the cowboy next to him who was stooping to help Maribel, the waitress, pick up the broken glass.

The cowboy's mama taught him to treat a lady nice. Jeb decided the nicest thing he could do was toss the drunk businessman over the bar and punch Mrs. D-cup’s husband in the nose.

The drunk tool and die guy landed on Chuck, the bartender. His tips had been lousy all night because tool and die guys are cheap and cowboys don’t have no money. Sick of putting up with the bullshit, he dialed 911 to report an incident, shouting to be heard over the din of barstools upending and Waylon Jones' wailing.

Somebody hollered a warning. The cowboys headed for the door. The cops weren’t going to take kindly to all the gambling going on in the backroom around the pool tables.

Frank, the bouncer, a man who took his job seriously, raced them. He worried the cowboys were really trying to run out on their tabs, which was probably true.

Darlene hung up the phone. She leaped over a table and under a railing to get out before Frank sealed the place.

Frank didn’t care. He knew Darlene didn’t have a tab.

Darlene waited under a streetlamp making sure she stayed in the circle of light because that was safest. The heat felt refreshing after the smoke and rum sweat inside. She stepped into the shadow to drag a tissue across her underarms, then under her shirt to swipe at the crevices beneath her breasts.

Timing is everything. At that moment, Jackelope Junction’s finest showed up to investigate the incident. They weren't certain what the incident was since Chuck didn’t get to finish his phone call before the drunk businessman came around and grabbed the cord to pull himself up, yanking the connection.

The cops thought Darlene might be the incident — her, a stranger, standing all by herself just outside the ring of light from a solitary streetlamp feeling up her breasts. They stopped.

“Can we help you with something, miss?” they asked, remembering the first rule of policing, which is to be polite until they arrested the perp.

“No officer. I’m fine. Waiting for my girlfriend.”

The officers looked at each other. Girlfriend was a new one.

“Must be a yoothfeminism for john,” Ned mumbled to Ted.

Since that qualified close enough to a confession for Jackelope Junction, both sprang out of the cop car, drew their weapons and trained them on the confused Darlene. It took her a while to explain that the incident was happening INSIDE the pool hall and not OUTSIDE. By the time she did, the cowboys had admitted to Chuck that they’d lost their beer money to Slim, a poolshark from Schenectady. Slim was in town visiting his cousin Ethel, the postmistress, she being the only one in the family with steady employment.

The cops crashed through the front door. They knocked Frank, the bouncer, into the mechanical bull, breaking his arm.

That quieted things down some. The drunk businessman who felt up Mrs. D-cup complained of chest pain. Chuck shouted at a dispatcher no longer on the end of a dead line that they needed an ambulance, dammit.

Ned and Ted both knew CPR. They started doing it on the drunk businessman. The drunk businessman's chest hurt because he'd cracked three ribs when he landed on Chuck the bartender, not because he was having a heart attack. Too drunk to notice the blue uniform, the silver badge, the walkie-talkie or the gun, the businessman popped Officer Ned.

Darlene wondered why she hadn't walked down the street to the all-night convenience store and had Cheryl meet her there.

“I’m stupid, okay?” she told Officer Ned later. “But I’m honest stupid, not dishonest stupid.” Then she said the words that changed her life forever. “Now Tony, he’s dishonest stupid.”

“Tony?” Officer Ned asked. He held an ice pack to his cheek and typed one-handed.

“My ex. He was my current until a few hours ago. Picked me up for dinner, screwed me in the backseat of his used Mercedes 520SEL, then screwed me for real when we got our clothes rearranged. Told me he was dumping me for the new checker at the Stop-n-Save in the center of town. The creep didn’t even buy me dinner.”

“Stupid’s a good word.” Officer Ned looked Darlene up and down. He wondered what that checker at the Stop-n-Save looked like. “But that don’t make him dishonest.”

“The cocaine in his trunk does. Twenty-five kilos. Part of a stash that came over the border this morning. I saw it when I threw my suitcase in.”

The cocaine in the back of Tony’s trunk was a lie. Darlene added the bit about the checker at the Stop-n-Save because by then she'd had a chance to talk to Maribel, the waitress whose husband had deserted her. Darlene noticed Officer Ted’s last name while Officer Ned took her statement. She figured it couldn’t be coincidence in a town this small.

Any cop worth his salt knew a drug dealer who could wander around with that kind of stash wouldn’t be driving a used anything. The cops ignored that because the new checker at the Stop-n-Save was Officer Ted’s only daughter. They arrested Tony, impounded his car, then got Judge Wallace out of bed to arraign him.

That didn’t put Judge Wallace in a good mood. He set Tony’s bond so high that Tony was impounded, just like his car, for a couple of days before a member of his family found the town and bailed him out.

Tony missed his meeting with Mr. D-cup, who didn’t know anything about Tony’s arrest, all that happening hours after the cops took everybody’s names and statements and released them. So Tony didn’t pass on the contact information.

The fishy paperwork came to the attention of the Interstate Commerce Commission who got nosy and found way more fissionable material than a tool and die guy from Bowling Green had business possessing in a warehouse in Hackensack. Mr. D-cup jointly owned that warehouse with the drunk businessman, a revelation which explained why Mr. D-cup didn’t do anything about the nipple-poking.

Mrs. D-cup turned state’s evidence. She got a reward for doing so. She also got a divorce, sole custody of the kids and cleaning lady as well as a very nice settlement. She used the settlement to pay for design school tuition and later made a living sewing custom clothing while offering a sympathetic ear for other well-heeled zaftig matrons in similar circumstances.

Because of his association with Officer’s Ted’s daughter, Maribel’s husband likewise received special attention. Turned out he had a number of bank accounts spread across the state and it didn’t take much more than a little persuasion and a broken knuckle or two to convince him to sign them over to Maribel.

Cheryl told Darlene all about it much later, she having gotten the information from the pug-faced man with the missing pinky. He turned out to be an injured and decorated war veteran name Ray, in need of a wife, and best friend to Jeb, the man whose Mama taught him to be nice to women.

Jeb turned out to be an ex-FBI agent who’d worked with the witness protection program. A fortuitous situation for it happened that Tony’s family had mob connections and were looking for Darlene.

Just as well. Darlene had always wondered what it would be like to be Jewish and live in Florida.


Raised in an Italian family on the mean streets of suburban Philadelphia, M.G. TARQUINI writes to escape a past peppered with normality. She lives in the desert, is married with children, and once possessed a pet scorpion inappropriately named 'Cuddles'.

M.G. Tarquini has also joined the SPINETINGLER Magazine editorial staff and will be serving as one of our revisions editor.

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