Bev Vines-Haines

For Stanwood Abshire, Rio was more than an escape destination.  It was rescue.  Regrouping. Perhaps even a launch pad for greatness.  He’d rented a small room on the eighth floor of an old hotel that had seen better days.  His window looked out on streets that had once been known as the pinnacle of fashion and fun.

Now they boasted seedy porn shops, taverns, liquor stores and secondhand establishments.  He spotted a hooker on the corner and felt a familiar cocktail of emotions: flames in his cheeks, neck and groin. Desire.  Rage.  Images of his mother tussling on a shaky bed in a cheap Southern California motel flashed through his mind.  He saw red.  Not just an expression for Stanwood; wrath became a gale swept across his reality. Sometimes for hours.  Maybe days.  When it ended he could rarely remember anything he’d done.

Women were soft, beautiful, all consuming, a cave of wonder he could fall into and drown. Their words were a caress, a promise never kept.  How he remembered the whispers of his mother, the groanings and cries that later would provide groceries and keep them one more day from disaster.

He’d slept in the closet on those days in a dog bed his mother found in a dumpster.  It fit the tiny space perfectly.  She would close the door so her visitors never knew he was there.  But he heard them.  He always heard them.

The hooker looked up and he thought she smiled.  Her clothes were ludicrous, bare midriff exposing tired skin. Short shorts.  He knew her type. Varicose veins. Crepe paper wrinkles on her neck, arms and limbs.  He checked for his wallet and hurried down to greet her.

Their eyes met and without speaking words she took his hand and led him around the corner to a dilapidated door.  It opened on a smelly hallway where he could see several closed doors.  She took him into the second room on the right.

Just an old metal bed.  No dresser.  No TV.  No promises of pleasure.  She undressed while he stared at a closet door, imagining the children, hers or some other whore’s, huddled in darkness waiting for the groceries and a smile.

By the time she stood naked before him he had the scarf in his hands.  He slipped it around her throat and covered her screams with a kiss.  When it was over he carried her gently to the bed and covered her with a sheet.

He turned and opened the closet door so the children could at last come out to play.

First published: February 2018
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