Sweet Dreams Flash #1 - Jimmy Callaway
Everybody’s Looking for Elisa Ortiz
by Jimmy Callaway
Mal parked near the manager’s office, the spot with the sign that read: “Reserved for Future Renters!”
“Three-oh-eight, right?” Mal said, pitching his cigarette butt.
Bronson looked at the ink scribbles on his hand. “Three-oh-eight,” he said and spat out his gum.
Mal led them into the open-air lobby and hit the elevator call button.
“Know who I heard lives up here now?” Bronson said.
“Elisa Ortiz. ‘Member her?”
“Heard she’s got three kids now, a fourth on the way. Crazy, huh?”
“Mm,” Mal said.
The elevator dinged open. An all-strings version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” floated out.
“Man,” Bronson said, “She was kinda chubby, but I always wanted to nail her.”
“Sure you did.” Mal punched the button for the third floor.
Bronson removed his sunglasses and hooked them onto the collar of his faded Young Ones T-shirt. “What’s that s’posed to mean?”
“It means I can’t think of a week that’s gone by, not a week since graduation, where you haven’t reminisced about some girl you wanted to nail in high school.” He pushed his glasses up on his nose, tugged at the sleeves of his suit jacket. “We’re in our thirties, man. Who gives a shit about high school.”
Bronson stared at him for a minute. Then he snorted. “Whatever. You’re just still pissed ‘cause you cried at her party that time.”
“You cried at Elisa Ortiz’s party.”
“That was in fifth fuckin’ grade!”
Bronson shrugged. “That’s what happened. Hey, I’d be pissed, too, man, I was you,” he said, smirking.
Mal pulled at his own nose with his thumb and forefinger. “I did not cry.”
“Fuck you, I’ll make you cry. Asshole.”
Bronson shook his fingers and bugged his eyes. “Oooh, I’m so scared.”
The elevator dinged open.
“I did not cry,” Mal said.
Mal knocked on the door of 308 and straightened his tie. A blonde kid answered the door. In his mid to late twenties, he had his hair in his eyes and no shirt on. “Yeah?”
“Hi there,” Bronson said and beamed at him, “We’re looking for a...” Bronson checked his hand, “a Matt Sherlock?”
The blonde kid looked at him. “Yeah, that’s me.” He looked at Mal and then looked away, back at Bronson.
“Oh, great, my name’s Bobby,” Bronson said, “and this is Andy. We just need a moment of your time.”
“Look, I’m not interested—”
“No, see, we’re not selling anything,” Bronson said, “We just need to ask—”
“Not interested,” the blonde kid said and began to shut the door.
Mal jammed his foot in the way. “We’re not selling anything,” he said.
“Hey, what’re you—”
“Matt,” Bronson said, “were you at the T.G.I. Friday’s over off the 163 last week?”
“What does that—”
“Answer him,” Mal said.
The blonde kid shook the hair out of his eyes. He took one hand off the door and put it on his hip. “Yeah, what’s that—”
Bronson said, “And did you meet a young lady there named Vicki Romano?”
“Look, I,” the blonde kid said and looked at Mal, “I—I dunno. I didn’t get her last name.”
“So you did meet her there?” Bronson said.
“Yeah,” the blonde kid said, straightening his shoulders as he turned back to Bronson, “I met her there and then I brought her back here and fucked her, so what! You her fuckin’ boyfriend or something?”
“Me?” Bronson said and laughed, “Oh, no. No, we work for her uncle.”
“Yeah, Mr. Bob Romano,” Bronson said.
“You know him?” Mal said.
“What? No, I don’t know no Bob Romano!”
“Huh. That’s weird,” Bronson said, “Cause he knows you.”
# # #
Elisa Ortiz’s first boy-girl party was pretty much everybody’s first boy-girl party from Mr. Trimmer’s class. Except maybe Janice Carr, who had an older sister already in junior high. But it was definitely little Malcolm Lienhardt’s first boy-girl party, and it was equal amounts of tremendously exciting and mind-crushingly boring.
Bronson’s mom had dropped them off together, but it didn’t take long for Bronson to fill his dance card. First, Olivia Kim, then Lisa Marco, and now Nicole Kemme, whom little Bronson Goodale would eventually go around with for five whole days. Meanwhile, Mal sat there like a four-eyed bump on a log while one of Elisa’s teenage cousins attempted to draw him out some.
“So, Mal, what do you like to do?”
Mal shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Well, do you like...sports?”
Mal shrugged. “Basketball. I like basketball.”
Elisa’s teenage cousin’s eyes widened a little. “Really? You don’t seem tall enough.”
“Oh,” she said, “Oh, Mal, I didn’t mean to say it like that, I—”
“Hey!” boomed a voice from across the room, “What this is? Why don’t you dance, mijo?”
Elisa Ortiz’s mom was a lot shorter, fatter and Mexican-er than Mal’s mom, but about as drunk, and all in all, a lot more fun. But while Mal had giggled as she danced around with a bunch of ten-year-olds, a Bartles & Jaymes always in hand, he definitely did not want her direct attention.
The Eurhythmics pumped up the volume: “Some of them want to confuse you...”
Elisa Ortiz’s mom weaved over to little Mal and yanked him out of his chair, nearly popping his arms free of his shoulders. He went face first into her massive bosom, skewing his glasses. Roaring laughter, she spun him out and around like a confused, bespectacled top.
At the end of that spin, Mal saw her across the floor. The electric blue dress her Nana had bought her just for that party, the first skirt she’d ever worn above the knee. Her deep red hair worn long, a single braid swept back behind her ear. She smiled at him, as excited and as bored as he was, and her cheek dimpled in the baby fat she still had, that she’d have all the way through high school.
“Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused...”
“Look!” Eraina Williams shouted, “He’s crying!”
The truly horrible part was that he hadn’t been crying. A lot of times, whenever some unwanted-yet-still-kinda-wanted attention was lavished on Mal, his eyes would just slightly water. Being praised in class by the teacher, going for a free throw, being kissed by his Gramma. He had no idea why this was, and most times, nobody could tell anyways.
Maybe the lights in here were shining just right. Maybe Eraina couldn’t help having the biggest mouth in the whole school. But now that everybody was looking, Mal actually was crying. Not sobbing, but his eyes were more than watering.
“Shut up, Eraina,” Bronson said. But even he couldn’t look at Mal.
Elisa’s mom’s face fell. “Oh, mijo. Mijo, it’s okay.”
Mal shrugged and jammed his hands in his pockets. Elisa’s teenage cousin took him gently by the shoulders and led him back to his chair. She was kind enough to not give him a Kleenex in front of everybody.
The party picked right back up and sallied forth. Cake and ice cream were served, a piñata was beaten.
But Mal never said another word to Elisa Ortiz.
# # #
Mal socked the blonde kid right in the eye and laid him out like a game of Operation, legs splayed in the doorway.
Bronson leaned over him, hands on his knees. “Mr. Bob Romano doesn’t take kindly to douchebags like you nailing his family members. I mean, hell,” Bronson snorted, “Strictly between you and me? Vicki’s a total slut. But y’know, you just might wanna be more careful who you pick up in places like that, Matty, all’s I’m saying.”
“You—you hit me in my eye!”
“No,” Bronson said and pointed at Mal, “He hit you in your eye.”
“Fuckin’ asshole!” the blonde kid said and grabbed Bronson’s ankle.
“Whoa, there,” Bronson said.
Mal brought his foot back and kicked the blonde kid’s balls back up into his throat. He couldn’t even scream then. Just curled up into a ball and drooled on himself.
“Get a haircut, faggot,” Mal said.
In the elevator, Bronson said, “You enjoy your work, don’t you, Mal?”
Mal pulled at his nose. “I did not cry at Elisa Ortiz’s party,” he said, “There was just something in my eye.”
“Yeah,” Bronson said and smiled, “Yeah, I know.”
The elevator dinged open.
BIO: Jimmy Callaway lives and works in San Diego, CA. For more, please visit attentionchildren.blogspot.com. Big cigars to Cameron Ashley, Josh Converse, and Garnett Elliott for their help with this one.