It’s one of those too-warm August nights. A stick-to-the-sheets warm – so you can’t sleep none. You get up; walk outside. Big, full moon behind a single cloud. Otherwise, sky’s clear – August clear, ‘cept for that cloud. Maybe it’s that cloud ‘keeps you awake. ‘Can’t be the booze or the cigarettes, so ‘gotta be the cloud. Or maybe the dogs next door. Effing’ dogs just won’t stop barking.

It’s the middle of the night. You should be sleeping – give that tired body of yours a rest. You abuse it all day long. But you can’t – sleep, that is. It’s August. And besides, you don’t know whose bed your best friend is in right now.

Hindsight’s not always a good thing – even when it’s twenty-twenty. Maybe, especially when it’s twenty-twenty. Hindsight on a too-warm August night keeps a guy awake, looking at the moon from his back door, smoking and drinking straight shots when his body’s just looking to rest. ‘Can’t be staring at the moon or at a single cloud. Thinking or wondering – where his best friend is at this hour. Where his wife – she’s still his wife – is at this hour. Whose bed is whose. And who’s in it.

When he asked you three months ago, you’d both been drinking. And so you don’t know that he knew what he was really asking.

A guy turns fifty? – you ask. A guy turns fifty every hour – unless he lives in Sierra Leone – he answers. He turns fifty in Sierra fucking Leone, they make him chief. A guy loses his job? Big goddamned deal – guys lose their jobs every day. A guy loses both parents in the same year? Parents die – deal with it. Savings go – and then the 401K. So freaking-what. Savings are for kids; 401Ks, for accountants. Planes and trains and buildings get mangled? Shoulda driven – or taken the bus. What about the people in ‘em? Too bad fucking luck. OK. So the wife ups and takes the kids with her? Sell the house, sucker – you’re lucky you had one to begin with. But the kids? The kids have a mommy; they’ll do just fine without a daddy. And fair-weather friends? They go with the house, the mommie and the kids, buster; get new ones. But get a job first. No job, no friends. No friends, no “Mon plaisir, Pappy.” No plaisir, no coochie-coo. Get it? And what about a best friend? What about it?

Like you said, you’d both been drinking. You’re kicking shit around. Shit that don’t stick – like a job, for you; a promotion to Hong fucking Kong for him. Back in the good ole’, you might both have been talking about Hong Kong promotions. Right now, he’s the only one with futures in Asia. Your future – if there is a future for you – oughta be behind the counter at Blockbuster Video – his suggestion.

You’re just kicking shit around. He’s still dropping fifty a month into your kid’s savings account. Your kid – your daughter – his godchild. Ain’t even got tits yet, so fifty a month is preemo. You don’t wanna do nothin’ to stop that flow. Especially when your own sources run dry.

Then he pops the question. You blink. You wonder if there’s a fly in the ointment. Or maybe just in the booze. He pops it again. You take another swig – the fucking fly sticks in your throat. The question he popped demands an answer. So give it.

“Do you mind if I make a play for the V?”

‘Make a play’ is what players do, you think. You’re not a player. You stopped being a player months ago. The V? She’s your wife, asshole. Well, legally anyway.

“Gopher it,” you answer. She’s still your wife. He’s still your best friend – and your little girl’s godfather. What could be more natural? you wonder.

You suddenly get this vision – crazy fucking thing. Musta picked it up on the Discovery Channel. ‘Cept you don’t have a TV. So musta been on someone else’s antenna. Someone else’s satellite.

You see this young lion. Lions don’t live where you live – that’s how you know it’s satellite. He’s circling. What he’s circling, you can’t see – you ain’t holding the fucking camera. And whoever this jerk-off cameraman is, he’s just showing you the young lion – the one circling. Like Barnum & Bailey Brothers – or whatever they’re called – who bring their act through town once every four or five years. You’d take the kids, ‘cept they ain’t with you any more. ‘Let your wife and best friend take ‘em.

You’re digressing – as they say on satellite and in the big cité. ‘Bout time you stopped. Digressing is what Hong fucking Kong-bound best friends do. They can afford to digress. They’re getting’ paid to digress. You ain’t getting paid jack, Jack.

So this young lion’s circling. And then the jerk-off cameraman finally shows you what he’s circling. He’s circling this old lion. And this old lion ain’t moving. He’s growling like a sonuvabitch, but he ain’t moving. In the background – the same cameraman now gives you what he calls “the wide angle” with on-site commentary – you see a lady lion, a lioness. She’s just watching. How do you know she’s a lioness? ‘Cause this one has got titties on ‘er. And her tail’s going all hippity-hop.

Anyway, that old lion’s growling. The young lion? He’s just circling. And the jerk-off cameraman’s talking. You’re about to switch channels to something a little less cream puff so as you can get your eyes – if not your hands – ‘round some of your own hippity-hop.

You look up. That moon and that single cloud are still hanging – ain’t going nowhere fast. So you figure maybe you, too, will hang on just a bit.

That young lion suddenly jumps up and sinks his teeth into the older lion’s throat. The old guy just growls one last time – lonesome-like. And then he don’t growl no more.

The tail of that lioness stops twitching. She just kinda shudders one time – lioness-like.

The cunt of a cameraman decides to commentary. You decide it’s time to switch satellites.
You’ve had about enough of this lion shit.

Russell is a Brooklyn-based fetishist whose favorite pair of heels is a thing called poetry. What he does late at night "behind locked doors and with the lights dimmed" has been published on paper by: The American Dissident; The Blind Man's Rainbow; The Lyric; The Barbaric Yawp; The International Journal of Erotica; and Wicked Hollow. On-line, his poems can be found at: ken*again.com; ink-mag.com; erotica-readers.com; quintessence-encouraginggreatwriting.com; edificewrecked.com and finally at spillwayreview.com.. His prose is more severely defined at: Satin Slippers.com; ink-mag.com; DeadMule.com and GirlsWithInsurance.com. An additional short story will appear at GirlsWithInsurance.com in October, 2004. He has just completed (September, 2004) his first novel, Trompe-l'oeil.

© 2004 Underground Voices