The International Writers Magazine
:Dreamscapes Story about Temptation

The Devil You Know and the Devil You Don't
Ryan Moore

Two things can come between friends: women and money. Prior to meeting the Kid, neither Jake nor I had either. We were two blue collar dreamers. It had been a rough night; Jake was blackout-drunk. He said I owed him at least $500 from black jack. My reply, which was also under the duress of the bottle, was a decisive fuck-off-I-paid.

That was the last time his living room had intact furniture. He threw me against the wall, knocking over the bookcase that doubled as an empty beer can holder and landing on the couch. It cracked in half when we slammed down on it. I whacked him over the head with the kitchen chair. A few more blows and that's the extent of the memory.

I woke up inside the bathtub. I came to, thinking what the fuck? At least I had all my teeth, I thought after seeing the bruises in the mirror. My head throbbed. Pain radiated all over my body. The medicine cabinet only had some Tums and a half-empty bottle of toothpaste. Nothing to kill the aches... S.O.L.
The living room looked like Bosnia. Jake was nowhere to be seen. I stopped yelling for him, because it only aggravated my head. My cell went off...
"Hey, it's Jake, I'm at this 24-hour strip joint. That money I won off you sure came in handy."
"Thought you said I stiffed you, you prick."
"I forget I was stashing the winnings in the sock drawer in between trips to the pisser."
"Asshole," I said about to hang up. My lip was swelling badly.
"Hey, don't go... I've sent a cab for you. I scored some more cash at this all night poker game. I'm sitting on a smooth couple grand. I figure I owe you... Plus, there's a guy here who can really hook things up with these strippers."

I stood on the street corner, my clothes in tatters and my face recently donated to the Muhammad Ali school of boxing. Two guys from the private, over-priced college walked by, appearing frumpier than me. Jeans pre-ripped, shirts pre-stained, hair purposely unkempt and toe-jam, stinky feet in $175-dollar sandals. What kind of asshole looks this way intentionally? If I hadn't just played the stunt double in Rocky film I would have taunted them for a go. My court-ordered anger-management classes weren't helping me much.

Standing there, I dreamed of a warm, soft bed and something to eat. Finally the cab arrived. The dude who picked me up was from Somalia. He gleefully informed me he has only been driving for two months. I asked, in America? No, in his whole life. Perfect, a toss-me-back-and-forth ride. My stomach deserved a better protector.

The Silver Horse Saloon, an over-priced titty bar, operated 24/7. It was its own universe. A guy went in with wallet stuffed with cash amd left scented with expensive perfume. Oh and did I mention broke, too? Real players with lots of cash went there. Sin city, champagne, lap dances, and private rooms where the not-supposed-to was more than just supposed for thousands of dollars. I had no business going in.
Jake was sitting at this round table, a blonde in each arm. Both flat out gorgeous, fake tits and Russian accents. A guy with sunglasses and frumpy black hair was there, too; I didn't know him.
"Jake, what's up?"
"Sit down friend, enjoy life's pleasures," he said, waving his hand, proud of his current position. He was dressed sharply, free of bruises. I wondered how come I was the only one to have taken a beating?
"Hey, Kid, fix up my friend here like you did me... Put it on my tab," Jake said confidently. He pulled the girls close to his chest and they giggled.
Before I could protest I was in an Armani suite and all my pain evaporated. At that point I needed a drink to handle anything metaphysical.
"What do you do for a living Kid?" I asked the new guy and waved over the cute Asian waitress over, asking for a double shot of whatever.
"I'm into quality assurance... it's a family business, really," he said trying to downplay things. "I'm doing this gig now but I want to do something other than the family business. I want to step out on my own. I'd like to play jazz saxophone... wild nights at a night club in Paris. Saxophone melodies wrapping around the beat like a snake, slithering in and out of time... then suddenly heading off anew, shedding skin... I love music like that... I really do."

Kid was a true artist, and that was impressive. I liked his not-give-a-shit attitude about money – art for art's sake. He wasn't easily distracted by a good-looking piece of ass like Jake or I. That was respectable. How many hours did I piss away in mental masturbation over a broad who never noticed my ass?
"What sort of quality are you assuring?" Jake piped in.
"Souls..." he spoke coolly.
His eyes glowed red after he removed his shades. He wasn't kidding. The son of old Lucifier himself was sitting with us at topless joint. I felt honored. A peaceful melody landed in my ears like snowflake. My attention quickly turned away for good reason.

Maritza took the stage, it was more like she owned it. She was absolutely lovely from first sight. Her skin was olive-complicated. Her breasts were large, firm: real. She had on a tight-fitting, red sequenced dress. When she spun in time to the music, it was magnetic. Those calves and thighs - how I wished they would open up to me. Jake was thinking the same way. The two blonde Ruskies didn't faze him. He wanted this Italian beauty like I did.

Bent over, she was paradise. Maritza had an ass that would have had Van Gogh painting more inspirationally. She wasn't like all the others who made conversation to just get to a guy's wallet. Sitting next to her, I always felt like a mogul or a movie star. It's a shame she was dancing here. Hell, I didn't have the means for a woman like that. How could I dare of dream of rescuing her?
I walked up to the stage, one of a dozen guys, all surrounding her, waving dollar bills. I couldn't imagine what that sort of attention would be like. Jake, being the big shot, paid for drinks for all of them, asking them to clear out so that he could have her to himself. But I wasn't going anywhere.

We started to stare each other down. Kid ambled over.
"You dumbasses are about to go fisticuffs over this stripper... She doesn't even know you..."
"Yeah, but can't I like make a deal to have her?" Jake asked.
"That's something my father would have jumped at, and I guess that's why he is disappointed with me... See, I have a bit a of a heart. I'm not going to take a soul so a guy can have a night with a stripper."
Jake's face turned red and he got indignant: "It's my soul, Kid... Set it up."
I on the other hand, was ignoring this interplay. My world was about a dance: Maritza didn't move across the stage, she glided. She kneeled down before me. Her perfume filled my nostrils. So sweet. She put her hand on my cheek and pulled me to her breasts.
"Do you want a little bit of heaven, or a little bit hell," she whispered to me. A nimbus enveloped her.
I looked back at Jake and the Kid; they were drafting a contract. My eyes returned to Maritza. I touched her hand and she hugged me. I was in a daze.

I stumbled out into the daylight. There were millions of cracks along the concrete sidewalk. Shattered glass, cigarette butts, litter and even a child's chalk drawing of an angel. My clothes were again in tatters, the Armani suite vanished. I had 5 bucks in my pocket - enough for eggs and coffee. I took a deep breath: oh my, the sweet smell of Maritza, very divine.

Time passed and I never saw Jake again. Must have been one hell of a contract. I dreamed of vacationing in Paris with Maritza. Holding her close and the sultry timbre of the saxophone stealing our souls -- just for the moment...

Maybe that dream came true for Jake? What else would he have traded for eternity? OK, make it a night with two women...

Back at the apartment, I stood around, eyeing the disaster. I went into Jake's room, checking out the sock drawer. It was filled with money. A little note said: See you in Paris. This should help out. - Kid.
But I wasn't going anywhere.

© Ryan Moore November 2005

Dreamscapes Stories

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