New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample story from Meeting on the Steps to Hades

SHE WALKED THROUGH the Casa de Campo to the area where the adolescent boys worked their scarlet capes and measured steps. Little bullfighters. Future bleeders. These were the apprentice toreros of the Escuela Taurina de Madrid. This had impressed Liesbet Grendel enough to purchase her own cape, something in white cotton. She’d worn capes in the past, yes, even white ones, but nothing so glamorous. It draped across her shoulders and had a silver hook and chain at the collar. “White reflects sunlight, you know. Keeps the body cool in the summer.” She would say that to people who gave her the “So What Are You Supposed to be?” look. The tourist crowd, mainly – Mr. and Mrs. Puto-Puta. Waddlers too ass fat for their shorts. Have they taken an inventory of themselves lately? Mrs. Grendel thought. What does it take to understand the value of self-improvement? Obesity wasn’t the only issue, either. Every day was laundry day for the Puto-Putas. They seemed to dress in whatever was left at the bottom of their bureau drawer. Clothing you’d wear if you had absolutely nothing else to wear. Maroon stretch pants and a chartreuse t-shirt, whatever. You know the type, out of it but still f-ing smug. This never happened with Spaniards. Oh Spaniards have their faults. Who doesn’t? But they understand capes. Spain has always appreciated the glamour and drama of the cape.
Last week Mrs. Grendel had gone to El Corte Ingles, an enormous tan brick department store in central Madrid. Lots of glass and oddly beautiful, the upper part resembled the tiered decks of a cruise ship, the lower part a sand dune.
“How elegant, Senora,” the salesman had told her. “The cape, it’s always a daring touch, yes?” The man had slicked back dark hair and a thin mustache that ended at the corners of his mouth. His slender hands were pressed together as he talked, his English accented only slightly. “If you’ll forgive a personal observation, the senora wears it so perfectly.”
“You don’t think it’s too much?”
“On you? Not at all.”
Mrs. Grendel studied herself in the full-length mirror.
Yes, definitely her. It allowed a girl have her clever secrets, didn’t it? The things one could hide! Men loved their mystery women. Look at Greta Garbo, rest her soul. Or the movie Laura where Dana Andrews puts together a dead Gene Tierney’s life and falls in love with her.
Capes conceal their owners. Mrs. Grendel’s compact presence, the muscular arms and legs, her obsession with free weights and exercise, the cape hid it all. She could have been in her late-forties or early fifties; on a particularly bad day, maybe sixty-one or two. But the day would have to be pretty f-ing bad. Suicidally bad. Now there were days she would, say, test herself. Go into iffy neighborhoods with a plump handbag and a fragile attitude. Come on, sweetmeats, rob me. Try it. Here kitty, kitties. Mrs. Grendel did not think of this as suicidal. She thought of it as training. Training with faggy bullies who wanted it in the butt so bad they’d spend their time smacking around gays and old folks. Kissy, kissy, bitch boys. Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. East LA. Humbolt Park, Chicago. She’d trained in each of them – more, really, cities in other countries, many cities. Boris de Boulonge Park in Paris. Ghitorni Metro Station in Delhi. The West End in London. Hey here I am, an old lady with a handbag. Come and get me, hurry, hurry.