Yeah, I did. Twice. And it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Now go get your own.
We’re backstage again. I don’t understand backstage food. Tiny sandwich triangles with crust cut off, water that fizzes. They say it’s more expensive. The world sure has changed since I was a girl. But our agent wants us to be polite seeing as how the sex questions are why we get insane money to do these TV shows.
It’s all because of that crazy cruise we took out of Tampa that went berserk. I’m just amazed at what people get hung up on. There’s a bunch more interesting parts to our story. I mean, everything happened on that cruise. People falling overboard, stampedes in the casino, fires, explosions, dead bodies, drunk tourists gouging eyes over life preservers, and the whole boat nearly sinking, not to mention the business with that secret agent named Foxtrot. I mean, a spy! What didn’t this story have? We still haven’t figured out who the agent was, but you probably already recognize everyone else involved. Even if you were buried in an avalanche and didn’t hear about the cruise, I’m sure you remember that big fiasco on Triggerfish Lane ten years ago. There’s me and my girlfriends, of course, and who could forget Serge, that lunatic back from who knows where? Then there’s Jim Davenport, the super-nice family man. Poor Jim Davenport. Everything fell on him again like a building. How much can one person take? We ended with not one, but two colliding horror shows: those nine mystery deaths traced to the smugglers, and the just-released ex-con on a murderous rampage of revenge, a plot so ridiculous, it could only be true! The only common denominator was Jim Davenport, who ended up smack in the middle of the trainwreck. Make that shipwreck. But all the talk shows want to hear about is boinking.
What I said before about the sharp stick? I’m not complaining. Tons of women my age would kill for a man, but the ratio is like fifty to one with life expectancy. And a lot of the guys who are left have to bring medical equipment. Nothing breaks the mood like getting tangled in the oxygen lines. My own Ambrose went in his sleep a few years back. Very peacefully. So I should count my blessings. And yes, there’s the sex, except there’s so much else to life. Viagra had its role in the beginning. But after a while, you know, enough. The entire country snickers at every mention of the V-word like it’s the most hilarious thing they ever heard. Let me tell give you the skinny from where the rubber meets the road: Whoever called them granny-abuse pills wins the cigar.
Granny. Something else that needles me. This attitude toward old people. We’re either the objects of kind pity or cruel wisecracks. Our hearing isn’t as bad as you think: Blue-hair, God’s waiting room, all those remarks about our driving. You know what we talk about when you’re not around? Getting in a Buick and plowing through a bunch of young people, then acting confused. So we lose our license. So what? Keep telling your little jokes.
They just gave us the signal backstage. We’re on in three. And here we are again, me and my girlfriends. Who’d have thought we’d get a second fifteen minutes? It all started back with our retiree investment club that outperformed most mutual funds. The press got a big kick out of our names -- Edith, Edna, Eunice, Ethel -- dubbed us the E-Team without even asking. So this time around it’s in our contracts, our new name. We’re turning that “granny” slur on its head.
There’s the ten-second signal. We can hear the applause. Show time.
They just opened the curtains.
“Please welcome the G-Unit! ...”
Six months earlier, middle of the night:
“Serge,” said Coleman. “I don’t think you should have any more coffee.”
“Get off my case.”
“But you know how you get–”
“Fuck it. If I feel like singing to the hostage, I’ll sing. He wants me to sing ...” Serge looked down. “You want me to sing, don’t you? ... See, Coleman?”
“Serge, he’s just screaming his head off.”
“I take that as an enthusiastic yes. ... Next song, with apologies to Johnny Cash. ... A one, and a two ...
I’ve been everywhere, man; the Keys without a care man;
Hialeah, Fernandina, Boca Chita, Panacea,
I’ve been everywhere, man! ...
“Okay,” said Coleman, “I got the next verse.”
“I’ve been like everywhere
“And more people came over, and we found a bag of marshmallows and made smores ...”
“... Then the liquor store opened–”
“But there’s more.”
“He’s getting heavy. I don’t know how much longer I can hold his ankle.”
“Only a few more minutes.” Serge looked over the railing of the interstate overpass at the man dangling upside-down. “How you doing down there?”
“Dear God! Don’t drop me! I swear I won’t do it again!”
“Serge,” said Coleman. “My wrists are tired.”
“Almost finished. Just need to let the moment build.”
Coleman freed one hand and wiped a sweaty palm on the front of his shirt, then grabbed the leg again. “But this isn’t like you. Dropping a guy doesn’t seem as ... what’s the word I’m looking for?”
“Oh, I’m not going to kill him.”
“Then what are we doing out here?”
“This is Serge’s Charm School. We’re teaching manners.”
A semi whizzed under the bridge. Whimpering below: “Please ...”
“Coleman, what do you think? Give him a second chance?”
“He seems sincere.”
“Okay, I guess we can hoist him back. Just let him hang one more minute for positive reinforcement ...”
Behind them on the isolated bridge sat their key-lime ’73 Mercury Comet with the doors open. Suddenly, loud cursing from the back seat.
“Uh-oh,” said Serge. “Must have regained consciousness.”
A six-foot-tall femme fatale leaped from the car. Breathing fire. And that’s not all that was hot: a knee-buckling vision from every guy’s deepest fantasy, innocently cute and sinfully sexual, all curves, freckles, wild blond hair flowing down over her black sports bra.
The kind of woman that makes men wake up dazed on the side of the road with mysterious welts and no wallet, and walk away happy. Serge had seen her type before. Very specifically, in fact, and he knew how to handle them. Like rattlesnakes. Never turn your back.
“Shit,” said Serge. “I turned my back. Quick, get him over the railing.”
Rachael had legs that wouldn’t quit, and now they were in full gallop.
“Motherfucker! You never slap me! You never put a fucking hand on me! ...” She reached the edge of the bridge and elbowed Serge hard in the ribs.
“Ooooffff.” Serge stumbled sideways, the wind knocked out.
She bent down and sunk her teeth into Coleman’s left hand.
“Ow!” He reeled backward and cradled the bloody paw to his chest.
Serge regained his breath and ran to the railing. He looked down. “Whoops.”
Coleman joined him and leaned over. “Where’d he go?”
“I don’t know.”
They spun and ran to the other side of the overpass. Still no sign. Serge sprinted to the end of the bridge and scampered down the embankment. Moments later, he returned at a casual pace. “See him?” asked Coleman.
Serge shook his head. “Like he vanished into thin air.” He turned to Rachael. “Jesus. Why’d you do that?”
“That motherfucker slapped me!”
“And you just kill him?”
“You never motherfuckin’ hit a woman!”
“How could he have missed your dedication of feminine virtue, especially when you keep saying motherfucker?”
Coleman stared down over the rail at three dark lanes leading north from Bradenton. “What do we do now?”
“I’m hungry.” Serge grabbed the car keys. “Let’s hit Jack’s.”