by Kevin Koch
edited by Mia Forney and Tara Rogers
Light flared on the dark street corner. Yellow, orange, red, and a bit of blue twisted around the head of a match. Frank held the flame up to a cigarette. As the paper caught and the smell of tobacco filled the air, he flicked the match into a puddle with a hiss. A moment later the cigarette followed without ever having made it to his lips.
He thought he’d fallen asleep at the picture show instead of stepping out for a smoke. The woman could’ve walked out of the silver screen and onto the darkened street. Her bob cut hair was the exact color of her raven black flapper dress. Her skin was incredibly pale. It wasn’t until he moved close enough to see her deep red lips that he knew for sure she wasn’t only in black and white.
The whine of an automobile horn pulled his gaze off her and he had to jump back to avoid getting run over. Freezing water splashed over his shoes and the driver shook his fist out the window. The 1925 Model T rumbled past, looking like some kind of bug with wheels instead of legs.
“You got a name?” he asked when he finally made it across the street.
“That depends on whether a gentleman’s asking.”
“Too bad,” the woman said. “You can call me Ruth.”
He shifted his feet, looking for the moon but not finding it. Maybe it was lost somewhere in the clouds.
“It’s a new moon.”
Ruth didn’t reply. She was a statue, the faint light from the theater shining on her skin.
“So, what’s there to do in this town besides catch a show?”
Ruth’s head turned slowly towards him. Her eyes flashed and his heartbeat picked up.
“What do you do Frank?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“No need to be touchy. I only ask because I haven’t seen you around. I’m not one of those girls.”
“Of course not Ruth, I didn’t mean…”
“I’m one of those girls who need to be properly entertained first.”
“I take it you’re a little thirsty,” Frank said, leaning close.
“Very. I know a place, but they’re particular about their guest list.”
“Maybe you could make an introduction.”
“They try to make sure all their guests have the resources to properly enjoy themselves.”
“Ah. Money’s not an issue. I do alright.”
“Hmm, then it’s an even greater tragedy I haven’t seen you there. If you enjoy yourself, maybe you could become a regular.”
“I’m only in town for a couple days on business. I’m in sales.”
Frank didn’t see the need to be specific. Vacuum sales might not be the most glamorous, but it paid the bills and then some.
“You poor thing,” Ruth purred, taking his arm. “You must be working so hard. You deserve a chance to relax.”
The pair started down the mostly deserted street. Cars grumbled by as Frank guided Ruth around puddles. He’d been splashed by too many drivers already. He stayed back from the road. Ruth was content with him leading the way until they reached a damp alley lined with mossy bricks.
“Are you sure this is the place?”