“Who said? Who said I’m not on the list? I made a reservation! Where’s your manager—I wanna talk to him!” Collin blustered, jabbing his finger at the hostess’s collar bone, his thick, caterpillar eyebrows furrowing into an almost perfect V. The hostess, undeterred, slapped her book shut, and with the growl of a woman who sounded like she had tamed lions for a living, said, “No name. No reservation. I suggest you not let the door hit you on the way out, Sir.”
* * *
Back out on the curbside, under the streetlight, Collin threw himself a good fit.
He stomped, kicked a garbage can, and did that thing mad men always do; loosening his tie from his pulsing neck and chucking it to his left, it floating unremarkably to the ground like a small poof of string. Pointless. More angry than ever he charged down the street towards his car, only to find all his rims, and his several thousand dollar hubcaps, removed.
“God DAMMIT!” he hollered, waving himself around like an enraged chimpanzee and giving his left tire several swift kicks, before at last he stopped, his big toe throbbing.
He had been something once. Someone. He had been big stuff. Top notch. CEO. Mr. Wolf on Wall Street. He had shaken shoe shiners from his heels and had every beautiful women under the sun on his arm, and laid them flat. He had been ruthless. Crushed his competitors. He had achieved the capitalist dream. And now, everything was gone.
It was on this thought he realized he had lost his keys during his bear-like tantrum, and it was just then a clash of lightning and a rumble of thunder hit, and on cue within moments of the sudden downpour he was drenched. Dressed in his best standing like a limp zombie in the road, vacant in his thoughts he took a step backward, daunted by his life. When the squealing wheels of a truck screamed, breaking his reverie, he turned just in time to see a huge Ford truck barreling towards him.
“LOOK OUT -!”
He was slugged in the side by what felt like a linebacker, the car just narrowly wailing past him spraying a tsunami of gutter water over him and his savior as they both thump to the sidewalk in a tangled mess, the incessant honking of the horn blaring in the background as Collin barely made out, “Watch where you’re going, idiot!” as the truck blared away.
“Willies! Are you alright?”
Collin’s head whirled as he looked up and saw a woman kneeling over him, large and stupendously dressed as though she had just come from the circus; huge arcs of flaming orange eyeshadow and long fake lashes jumped out at him, her lipstick looking plastered on in a scarlet shade, and from her sequined brassiere she busted out. Overwhelmed by everything Collin allowed himself to be helped up, the woman aiding him with surprising ease, jingling in all her outlandish attire. Being helped to his feet he couldn’t help but notice she was barefoot, and blinking himself back to reality he found himself face to face with his rescuer.
“What the hell, lady!” he shouted, “Christ, you almost killed me! What do you weigh you almost crushed me to death!”
The woman, unshaken, with a hand on her voluptuous golden girdled hip, stated plainly and forcefully. “I weigh 210, pencil limbs, and here’s your chewing gum, and your damn keys. They fell out of your pocket when you were throwing yourself about like a mewling lemur back there by the restaurant.” and to his feet she dropped them with a splat, the rain still falling.
Collin stood bewildered, his once well combed hair suctioned to his head like a helmet. Gingerly plucking his items from off the ground, he digressed, his anger having been spent but apologies were not his norm. “That’s a…fancy getup you got there. Where do you work, at the cabaret, several blocks down?”
The woman smiled (a delicious smile) and extended her hand. “The name’s Anita, and I do work around here, but, probably nowhere you’ve heard of.”
Collin hesitated, “…Are you a…a…”
“A prostitute?” the woman larked, her laugh deep and rich, “Oh no! No, no, no. No not my business, however, I do know a few, so watch yourself now.”
This woman held a twinkle about her, and Collin cracked a smile, slightly enchanted. “Fair.” he said. He cocked his brows, good naturedly, “And well, I might have heard of it. I’ve been around. Try me.”
“The Citadel of the Jade Garden.”
Collin’s brows went higher, “No I, guess your right. No idea where or what that is.”
Anita laughed again. Collin felt comforted by her laugh. “Well, Collin.” she said, “If you ever get in trouble again, you give me a call.”
She handed him a card (the color of jade) and bemused Collin took it, looking at the near empty square with nothing but a thirteen numbered number on it.
“Is this a…phone number?” he asked, but looking up he realized Anita was gone. Spinning, he did an entire sweep, even ducking into the alleyway for a second to see if she had left that way. Astonished, he stood rooted, as the sidewalks weren’t all that crowded and by god the woman should have been easy to spot as she was 200 pounds of bedazzle. Confused, and sad, he looked down to the card he held in his hand.
The Citadel of the Jade Garden, he pondered. Wasn’t a citadel like a fortress? He thought he could scrounge up that much from his long departed school years. He suddenly recalled how strong the woman was. How she must have sprinted from across the street to save him. It all happened so fast, how had she moved fast enough? Thinking, fiddling with his keys in his pocket, holding the jade green card, having forgotten all about his snub at the restaurant and his wet clothes and himself nearly having gotten killed, in his mind sprang a realization.
She had called him Collin. He had never bothered to tell the woman his name.