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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

August 4, 2002
TWENTY-SECOND EDITION: OPEN LETTER TO THE U.N. or HANDBAGS AND SNAKES AND WHORES

DEAR United Nations:

We are in stitches, friends, humans all, over your latest machinations. We are laughing heartily, yes. However you look at it, the boys and girls in your fine body are rallying their grievances and putting next to none of them on the table. You're holding their tongues. Washington is, all the while, at its best (you notice I do not include the City and Monstrosity among the boys and girls, indeed no), working through each and every scene, it's sure, bribing and luring, and lord knows what kind of insanity shall result. As a plus, we can all count on the Saudi sheiks waiting in the wings.

That said, I have a short story for you:

Have you seen the Belle Angeles?: she is both Lady and whore, strides through the Chicago night with grins for your frowns and outrage at the serendipitous chance of your meeting, dear, in the Tacqueria bathroom where she operates. She's got a closet in the men's bathroom at the Gusto and she emerges only when the cash-flow is low and the messenger is hot. Men, take heed. She watches you through a hole just about chest-level above the urinal; wear your best.

She followed my pal Manny to one night at the end of our beer-stand at the Gusto's counter, followed poor Manny to a damned wedding once upon a time, acting the very respectable young lady, and then when the drinks came out forced my pal's poor drunk mind into accepting the idea of paying her for sex under the table and behind the hanging cloth on which scrambled remains of the wedding cake sat.

I've got it in for her because she got me kicked out of the Gusto, as she wouldn't suffer me to wait until we got outside before she took it all off, came striding through her little door there as I stood before the urinal still shaking the dew from the end of my thing, I say. You take the Gusto away from me and you take my life, I told her, but she just laughed because they can't kick her out. If it weren't for her, the place might go out of business, the burritos are so loose, indeed. Illiterates from all around flock to the place for a piece, it's true. Women, even. The Belle Angeles is not so very discriminating that she stays in the poor house. She makes a decent living, but I know where she's weak, I do.

I contrived to get into the Gusto care of a disguise. I borrowed a dress from my fat Aunt, a big blue-and-white polka-dotted thing, puffed up my chest with toilet paper and bra, which is a fucking pitiful and hairy fate, a man wearing a bra, but I buffed myself up in conversation with Manny, as he agreed the object of the contrivance to be completely worthwhile, the ruinance of the Lady and whore.

The Bell Angeles is deathly afraid of snakes. Her Chicago rota does not take her anywhere near anything evening remotely resembling one of the hairless ground crawlers. But once we were locked in heat in the back of a pet store on North, next to two empty aquariums when the dark insides of one of the fish-boxes begins to move. Her muffled screams at my thrusts became those of terror as she disengaged, pointing, eyes wide, behind me, where I looked to see the head of a black snake poised above the rim of one of the aquariums, tongue licking out into the air like it enjoyed our show. She got me kicked out of there, too, the bitch.

I pranced out of a torrential rain and into the Gusto with a striped king snake in an old handbag/purse I borrowed (stole, in this case) from my fat aunt. The long tails of my big polka-dotted dress blew around in the draft of the place as I casually ordered a taco from Eduardo, a man I'd ordered probably 100,000 beers from over the years. He blinked a little at my manly, made-up face like he couldn't quite believe it there in combination with the dress and bonnet I wore atop my head, but he was certainly fooled. This was going to work.

I sat at a small table in the front of the Gusto, my back to the window, ninety degrees to the door, and, as I ate, I eyed hard the entrance to the Men's. Men entered, exited. She waited for her pick, I saw, waited and couldn't quite resign herself just this cream of the crop, today, construction guys just off work on account of the rain. Maybe, I hoped, she waited for a woman.

I quietly riled up the snake in my handbag. I kicked at the bag, placed as it was against the front wall here and, by the time my taco was eaten, the vinyl thing appeared as if it were alive itself, the big bastard inside writhing and squirming so that it seemed to breath, bulging in slow rhythm from each side. The men behind the counter didn't even bat an eye as I gingerly picked my bag up and walked straight into the Men's.

"Belle Angeles," I called in a prissy, high whine of a voice to the hole above the urinal.

To no response.

"I've got a present for you, dear," I said.

Movement behind the wall in front of me. I held up the handbag and smiled darkly under my bonnet, held and twittered the handle with my thumb and index fingers like to say, hey ! here she is, dear. And the door to the closet of the Belle Angeles flung wide. There she stood, her front lit by the fluorescent lights against the blackness at her back. Leather. "What the fuck, chico," she said. She cased my identity immediately.

I removed my bonnet, moved from the urinal to place myself between her and the door into the greater Tacqueria, which I then locked.

"What the fuck," she repeated. I did not speak, simply bent low and zipped open the handbag. The snake slithered slowly by turns, its red stripes emerging one by one by one until all twelve showed there in the maybe ten feet of space between. "And what do you think," I said. Her breath was coming quicker, quicker there in the doorway, paralyzed with fright, I figured, but then I was a little scared myself there full in the face of the slithering thing. It moved steadily forward, and I did not take my eyes from it, tantalized, most certainly, when a sharp pain came across my forehead and I blacked completely out, not waking until the boys behind the counter carried me out into the rain again, the Belle Angeles directing traffic just behind them. "Get that motherfucker out of here! Get him out!" She'd hit me over the head with something big, something sharp. Screwing my eyes down -- to the tune of some of the most outrageous pain I've ever felt -- I could see blood beginning to dry up on my lips. People do not act as you expect them to, I know now, though maybe I did win a little victory there, as the Belle Angeles set up shop some other place, after all. The snake was never found, and the idea that it still lurked elsewhere in the place was enough impetus to keep the bitch away.

God Bless,

--
Todd Dills
THE2NDHAND publishes short fiction and nonfiction. Todd Dills edits the broadsheet and recently relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, after eight years of publishing from Chicago.

See other articles by Todd Dills.

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