DECONSCRIPTION-Writings of Curtis Cottrell


Home | 2010s Poems | 2000s Poems | 1990s Poems | 1980s Poems | 1970s Poems | Beastar | Carsonogenic | Comics Trip | Crow's Nest | Epigrams | Evangeline | Hollow Fame | Hunter's Epitaph | Icaries | Incubation | Menstruation | Napoleona Bicentennial | Nympholepsy | Osmosis of Elvis | Paddy Gonne | Record Reviews | Shock Trouper | Sonnets | Tanka | USAROKA | Xenossey | About Curtis

"As for Art--where's decorum?"  Browning

Bourbon Street is streaked with neon squiggles mirrored in the oily iridescent sheen framing its slick slate banquettes. High heels click and loafers shuffle in syncopated counterpoint to wraithlike dregs of faintly familiar Dixieland dirges drifting from almost every other door.

Famous Door--Absinthe House--Preservation Hall.

Cynical barkers smirk offering peeps into each clip joint, "See the show of your life! Put some hair on your chest!" Snake-eyed strippers loosely wrapped in wrinkled robes of faded satin slouch on barstools slowly smoking, sipping slowly often brushing fallen ashes down past the tarnished glitter of G-strings tightly girding their groins and pallid thighs' tell-tale tracks of periodic punctures to sprinkle soot into the dingy pastel fuzz of run-down slippers.

French Casino--Gunga Den--Cancan Cabaret.

Around the corner, a slender brunette in a white angora sweater and tight designer jeans with no visible panty line emerges from an alleyway onto the trashcan-cluttered sidewalk shrouded in an amorphous mist of early morning fog. She clangs close the iron gate wrought with grinning gargoyles leering among the interlaced acanthus leaves, then she turns toward the river to hoove away from the crowd.

Silky sable tresses sway across her shoulders obliquely oscillating to the swift swing of her swank svelte swagger. The scents of stale French bread and briny oyster shells are wafted along by the brisk predawn breeze with a lingering whiff of Mississippi mud. Above the wharves and riverfront warehouses, the twin spans of the Crescent City Connection's inverted arches twinkle in the twilight's luminous crepuscular haze.

Reaching the Doubleshot, a late night locals only rendezvous at the corner of Customhouse and Exchange, she taps her foot impatiently as she presses the breastlike button beckoning beside the deadbolted door. The bartender nods instantaneous recognition and reaches under the counter to buzz the street door open. Raucous rhythm'n'blues from a flickering Fifties jukebox greets her as she enters the off-duty haven of barkeeps, waitresses, and hotel clerks. 4:30 a.m. in the Vieux Carre, and their days are finally at an end.

Hunched over a beer at the end of the bar, a young man with a close-cropped beard is stuffing a snap-on bow tie into the pocket of his once crisp white linen shirt. As the door swings shut, he looks up to notice a familiar form reflected in the pier glass standing in back of the double line of liqueurs ranked behind the bar. As she starts to walk past him, he turns and clasps her by the crook of her arm.

"Hi, little lady, nice to see you."

"Oh, hello, Fred," she slowly says prying loose his fingers and inching back out of his reach.

A tic in his upper lip notes her standoffishness, but he continues his advance with an undaunted facade. "How's it going, Tiffany? It surely didn't take you very long to slip out of your bunny suit tonight."

"I was in a hurry." She bites her lower lip. "I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could." She looks around trying to find someone else with whom to sit. "That place was giving me the shakes."

"It doesn't bother me that much."

She glares back at him as if to say, "No, it wouldn't bother you so much," and reaches into her purse for a Virginia Slim. Fred flips out his crosshatched gold Dunhill lighter, torching it up with professional reflexes. She lights the cigarette with a match of her own an wearily sighs, "I've been on my feet all night."

"All right, Tiff. Would you like something to drink?"

"Yes, Fred, I certainly would, as a matter of fact. I guess that I could use one after all that I've served."

"You surely look nervous. What'll it be?"


"OK, Scotch it is."

"Yeah, a double Johnny Walker Black in a tall glass with plenty of rocks--and two straws."

Fred rolls his eyes to the bartender, "I hope you got all of that. She surely is a finicky cat."

Too tired to quibble, she ignores his insinuation and takes a long pull on her coffin nail, its lurid glow redoubled in the dark depths of her eyes. "I need to find an ashtray," blowing out the smoke. "I see a table over there," peering to the rear. "Bring some napkins, too."

"Well, Tiff, I hope I get an extra special tip."

"Oh, you will: lay off, Freddie boy."

She strolls back to the table, sets down her purse, and sits there pensively puffing up a tempest as Fred eyes her from across the room in admiration mixed with a pinch of apprehension. "Hey, barkeep, make that Scotch good and strong; she really needs it."

Dabbing mascara from her eye with a tissue, she hums along with the low throbbing moan of a slowly pulsing blues about a mean old man who done somebody wrong. Is the tear that etches a warm jagged streak at a skew across the fine down of her cheek the result of a flake of misplaced make-up?

Fred reaches for his wallet when the drinks arrive, but the bartender subtly tosses back his head to indicate that they are on the house. "See you later, Crackers," Fred winks as he takes the two glasses in one hand and the napkins in the other leaving two slight beaded crescents of condensation to eventually dissipate on the burnished brass bar. Dodging a gauntlet of greetings, he weaves his way through the crowd to a dimly lighted corner in back. As he approaches the table, she makes a moue and purses her lips into a bobbin.

"Say, Sulky, we've got to relax after work. I thought you were just distracted when you passed me up at first, but you definitely seem to be in a m o o d. You shouldn't be so uptight; it'll be all right tonight."

"You are such a fright, bright boy. I hope someone else shows up soon. This place can be a drag at times. It can seem totally empty with even fifty people in here."

Fred slides a chair to her side and tries to put his arm around her as he seats himself, but she lifts his hand back over her head and sets it on the tabletop. "Keep your hands on the road and your eyes on the wheel."

"Or something like that, huh? I've got my eyes on the wheel of fortune tonight, and you are my lucky number. I mean, what's the lowest common denominator?"

"I think that yours is a big zero, so cool it, buster."

"It doesn't hurt to be a little friendly."

"Yeah, but you're too friendly, if you know what I mean. I just don't trust you, fast Freddie, and anyhow, where are my straws?"

"I don't know what the hell you could be talking about!" Straightening his collar, "Who, me?"

"Oh, you're a wolf in cheap clothing, all right."

"Owoo! The moon is--"

"Now it's really gone to the dogs."

Fred sips his beer, "What's wrong with you?"

"Don't get your hackles up."


"I swear, you're like one of those bug-eyed tourists we have to put up with at work all night. I don't know how I do it at times."

"But you look so cute in you wabbit suit."

"Huh! I'd like to see you with some dumb ears and a powder puff on your butt. Sometimes I feel so Looney Tunes that I cold serve that 'Penis Colossus" with a swizzle stick of dynamite. Some of those guys are so vegged out that they may as well have their stupid heads stuck in the mud."

"So what if the rubes are out of it! The regulars are OK. They're just business men who know what their customers like, and that's the best way to cinch a deal."

"Sounds like monkey business to me."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, real swingers, if you catch my drift."

"Say, Tiff, lighten up. We can come here and have a good time, so leave it all behind. Don't let it haunt you after hours. It's only a job."

"I know that, but whenever I wear that costume or uniform or whatever you want to call it, I feel I'm not myself--like someone else possesses me. Can't you see that?

Fred tugs his bow tie from its starched white stash, wraps it thrice around his wrist, and snaps it snug. Then he clasps his ring finger and pinkie with his thumb as he waggishly wiggles his middle and index digits. "You see this tie; its just like yours." With a shrug, she concedes a begrudging agreement as he unsnaps the tie to put it away. "You think I wear this monkey suit on my day off? Not on your life. And what's worse, I've got to walk home in black and white, a sure target for muggers."

"Yeah, yeah, I know."

"At least, it's better than the army where I couldn't grow a beard," stroking his growth. "Would you be more comfortable in a skirt suit with a cameo at your throat commemorating the quaint Victorian values upon which our straightlaced society lies?"

"No, I guess not."

"We still live with the notion that we're not supposed to enjoy either sex or work. They're both just means to an end."

She takes out another cigarette, but this time lets him light it as he resumes his hectoring harangue.

"You get harassed at any type of job. The Club is just more open and honest about the sexual aspect, and you can't complain that you are not more than fairly compensated. At least, you're not as economically exploited as any other waitress in the Quarter. You knew what you were getting into when you applied for the job. Anyhow, most girls get into the glamour game." A sip and a wipe. "So if you keep that thinking up, do you suppose that you'll have the ghost of a chance today, tomorrow or any time? That's just the way of the world. Those who don't accept it don't survive."

"Well, I've got to be myself and not pretend to be something I'm not."

"That's only obvious."

"If it were, I'd be in better spirits." A deep drink and a slight sigh. "And you're no help."

"You've been spooked ever since you walked in here. Relax."

"I'm really trying to do that, but I can't get out of my mind what Lily was saying earlier this evening."

"Is that kooky kid still going on? I was wondering when he was going to give up. Is she still raving about the two times last week when she found her clothes thrown around the dressing room?"

"You mean you havent heard?

"No, about what?"

"It happened again when we were getting dressed for work tonight."

"Ha, that crazy Hal! I thought he was going to cut that out."

"What are you talking about? Is there something going on?"

"Oh, no, no, nothing. Go ahead and tell me what happened."

"Well, I wasn't there when it happened, but when I was getting ready to leave, I heard Lily talking about how she was going to resign now that it's the third time it's happened."

"What happened?"

"Well, you ought to know. She'd complained to Hal about it twice before, and all he did was laugh. Some manager!"

"Oh, he's OK. It takes a sense of humor to work with the likes of you and Lily."

"Look, Lily didn't think it was so funny when she was putting her stuff back in her locker. I mean, it was a mess. The first time, it was her shoes, and I must admit that her underwear the second was really a scream, even though it got all stretched out of shape, but this time it was everything everywhere, all over the place."

Fred stifles a guffaw. "Oh, no; oh, no. That is really something else."

"Yeah, but that isn't what shook her up so much."


"Oh, no. I mean, there was stuff all over the place, high and low. But the most ominous thing about it was that her compact mirror was up on the ceiling wedged in by the electric pipes."


"Yeah, conduits, whatever. It's really weird how it could've gotten there."

"Do you think that maybe the--the ghost might have put it there?"

"Who knows how it got there? I had just taken my sweater off and was straightening the straps on my bra as she finished picking her things up off the floor. Then she stood up with her arms full of stuff and was checking for anything else she might have missed. I had just started brushing my hair when she looked up, screamed, and threw everything all over."

"That must've been hysterical to see her jump at her own reflection!"

"Well, it wasn't funny. I'm lucky I didn't lose an eye from the spike heel that hit me in the face. I'm still sore, and there'd better not be a bruise tomorrow. You see, right here. Is it starting to show?"

"I'll kiss it to make it better."

"Oh, no, you won't!"

"Suit yourself."

"I will."

She lights another cigarette before he can get his lighter out and tilts her head back to blow a column of smoke that rises toward the rafters, breaks against the ceiling, and fades as it spreads into the darkness.

Fred chuckles nervously, sips his beer, then clears his throat. "I don't know why women get startled so easily over any sudden thing. Ha! A mirror on the ceiling!"

"Well, it wasn't just that. It even upset me when Lily said it was Lilith's face she had seen."

"Oh, yeah?

"Yeah, She said it looked like Lilith's face in the rearview mirror of a crashing car with the bridge lights behind her."

"Now you really must be kidding me! You can't possibly be serious. It's amazing what the power of suggestion can do."

I thought it was just an accident the first time and a prank the next, but now I don't know whom to blame for what."

"That Lily has been nutty ever since Lilith sped into the toll booth across the river last year."

"But she was her best friend."

"Dont let it get to you, Tiffany. I know that we've given her a hard time, but we thought it would do her some good. She has to get that business out of her system."

"Yeah, I've seen you all laughing at her, but I like her. I don't care if she sees things in a different light from you."

"Look, I'll clue you in, but you have to promise not to tell. Hal did it the first time, and I did it the second. I thought that Hall had enough for a while, but that mirror on the ceiling trick is really something else. I don't know where he got that one."

"Do you mean to say that this is some sort of practical joke that you and Hal thought up to get your sick jollies?"

"We have to do something to brighten up the place a bit."

"Yes, I know, but that is really uncalled for. It's really unkind. I don't see why you always want to be putting people on."

"I'd like to strap you on for size some time."

"I wish you'd zip up. You think you're hot stuff just because you tend bar at a fancy club, but you're just cold turkey, a leftover from the prehistoric period, no matter what your intellectual pretensions may be. I don't care that you get paid more than I do just because you can throw ice cubes into a glass behind your back. You're still a clown. I know who you are and what you are, so don't pull your act on me. You're only Freddie the Freeloader, not Superstud. You're not beyond good and evil in my book."

"You're really uptight tonight. What a fright!"

"You said that already."

"All right, already, just cool things down a bit and act like a lady."

"Listen, buddy, I punched out a long time ago."

"Somebody ought to--Well, I'd better cool it before you put out my lights. I don't see what you have to be so aggressive about."

"Oh, you don't. Well then, you ought to listen to yourself some time. That Hal is no better. He thinks he's some sort of harem master, but, let me tell you, he's no Valentino."

"I don't know who's more deluded, you or lily. She sees things that are not there, and you think you see people that no one else can see."

"What do you mean by that contradiction?"

"I mean that the Fred and Hal that you describe are not the people that we both know, and you could love if you wanted."

"Well, I don't, and I won't>"

"It's your specular image."


"The one that you see, not the me I happen to be."


"Do you know the fable of the blind men and the elephant?"

"What about it?"

"These blind men had never seen an elephant--"


"And the one standing near the trunk said that an elephant is like a snake, and the one standing by the leg said that an elephant is like a tree, and--"

"And you were standing behind the elephant and said that an elephant is a stinker, but the other blind men said, 'No, Fred, just because you're a stinker doesn't mean that everyone else is, too.'"

"Hm." A swig of swill. "Hal and I are just regular everyday people. I don't know what it is you see in us that is so bad."

"You don't do you?"


"Take what you did to Lily for a start."

"That was just an itsy bitsy teeny weeny little bitty joke."

"Some fun, huh?"

"I must admit that Hal did overdo it a bit. Still, the mirror on the ceiling bit is a riot. He must have been in high spirits to think that one up."

"High spirits indeed!"

"Oh, no. Look, it's Lily. Keep it down and to yourself."

"Hey, Lily! Come sit with us." She stands up to get her friend's attention. "Look, over her." She waves. "I have to talk to you."

Fred smiles in Lily's direction, but out of the other side of his mouth he cautions, "Don't let on that you know anything that I told you. Just play along, all right."

She registers no acknowledgement as the buxotic blonde in a white leather miniskirt with matching vest and slim chrome-studded belt slung loosely at a slant across her full, firm hips approaches the table in the back of the bar. "Lily, come sit down, I want a real person to talk to."

"Who, me?" She says as she sits crossing her legs so her skirt pulls taut against the triangle of thigh exposed above the tops of her white silk stockings, but Fred does not see her wink as she turns to hook her purse strap on the back of the chair. She turns back to greet him with a seemingly innocent smile, "So, how's it going, Freddie? Get any good tips tonight?

"None really to speak of."

He pauses to drain the last gulp of beer, and the women continue the conversation without him.

"Did you get all of your things up off the floor?"

"I put most of my stuff away, but I left the mirror up where it was. It was too far up for me to reach, even standing on top of a chair. I was scared that I would fall and break my neck, and no telling what kind of creepy crawlies are hiding in the shadows," Lily says with a glance at Fred, "It really wasn't worth it."

Fred squelches a belch with the back of his hand. "Lilith broke her neck in that accident, didn't she?"

Lily stares down at the table, "If it was an accident," then looks up at Fred, "But what does this have to do with her?" He shrugs and avoids her scrutiny, so she turns to her friend at his side, "I thought that I told you not to say anything! How could you?"

"I don't know what you mean. What did I do?"

"I wanted this to be just between us, but now you're going to have everyone at work talking about it again."

Fred assumes a diplomatic demeanor, "Maybe the more people that know about it, then the mystery can be solved. You'll have to tell Hal about it when he comes in. Maybe then we can get to the bottom of this."

"Oh, what can he do?" Lily retorts. "He's only a manager of a business. Not even t h e manager, just the night manager. That doesn't mean that he has some sort of divine power or anything."

Fred continues his conciliatory stance, "Look, Lily, don't get yourself all upset about it. Gel out. What can I get for you to drink? These people are my pals. Everything is on the house for us tonight. They still owe me from when I used to work here. What'll it be, Lily?"

"I think I'd like a pink squirrel."

"That really fits you," he snidely quips.

"With a wild flower."

"I don't think that they have any of those around here."

"You might be surprised. I've been here before. You should always be prepared for the unexpected. Things turn up that you'd never dreamed."

"OK, I'll remember to bring a pocketful of posies with me next time. I'll keep my eyes peeled for them as I stroll down the Esplanade."

"You're a sweetie," purrs Lily.

But the brunette is less saccharine, "Go on, get out of here, Fred."

"Keep saying my name, and it may start to sound familiar."

"I want to talk to Lily for a while. Get me another double while you're at it, and don't forget the two straws."

"Yes, Ma'am. Next you'll accuse me of forgetting your name." With this parting shot, he takes their empty glasses to the bar.

Lily leans closer, "What do you need to talk to me about?"

"Oh, nothing in particular right now. I just wanted to get rid of Mr. Swave DeBoner. He's getting on my nerves."

"Yes, I know what you mean. But I thought you were going to ask me about the ghost."

"Well, we don't have to talk about that. It gives me goosebumps just to think about Lilith. She always was so nice. It's really a shame that she had to let some dork's inflated expectations of what a woman should be bring her so far down. No one could be as perfect as those guys wold want us to be."

"But that's not the worst of it. As nice as she was to him, he still had to fool around and ended up giving her a 'social' disease. And to top it all off, the jerk didn't even have the guts to face up and tell her about it, so when she found out on her own, it was so far gone that it had infected her ovaries, and the doctor said she'd have to have a hysterectomy."

"I really pity her, and I can't help but feel afraid."

"I don't let all that get to me. I just do my best and let the others take up the slack with their imaginations."

"Maybe his problem was that he had too much. Imagination, I mean."

"What do you mean? He seems to be a fairly down-to-earth person. He really seemed to have his feet on the ground."

"That was his problem. He never could see beyond all the things that he desired to the truth that lies behind mere object."

"I'm not sure that there is anything such as truth in this world."

"Well, there's got to be more than objects. We're not merely things. We're human. We have feelings and some sort of soul. Maybe ghosts are just the projections of feelings."

Lily discontinues her paranormal discourse when she notices her friend's look of disgust directed above her left shoulder. When she swivels to the to the side to see what it is, there is Fred holding in his left hand a pink squirrel with a wildflower between his thumb and index, while the other three fingers are wrapped around a Dixie longneck and in his right, a double Johnny Walker Black in a tall glass with plenty of rocks and two straws stuffed into his nostrils.

"Did I hear someone say soul? Hey, baby, let's dance. Now, here's one from the late great Otis Redding, 'All I want is a little Re-spect.' How about that, Tiffany? Do you know how to do the LA Hustle?"

"Obviously, you don't! How do you expect me to drink that?"

"Say, that's not my problem, but I always like a good short of Scotch."

"Yeah, and I bet you can speak Flemish through you nose. Give me a sip of your beer, and I'll tell you a secret."

"OK," he says as he pushes the bottle toward her, "What is it?"

She beckons with her finger for him to come closer while she sips some of his beer. He leans to the left craning his neck to offer his ear into which she suddenly spits the beer.

"Hey, what's going on?"

"Can you hear the ocean?"

"Just bubbles bursting," he sputters and twists a napkin into a conical spiral to get the beer out of his ear.

"Serves you right," says Lily who licks the creamy liqueur off the stem of the wildflower and tucks it behind his other ear.

"I wasn't expecting a wet Willie, but I'll give you another chance. Do you want to dance, darling?"

Lily licks her lips savoring the lingering essence of clear creme de cacao with a nuance of almond tracing its slight cyanide aftertaste into the back of her throat. "Why don't you two go ahead and dance? I'd like to be alone. I don't feel like talking much now."

"If you aren't feeling good, I'll stay with you. I don't want to dance with this weasel, anyhow. No one else is dancing. Why make a spectacle of ourselves?"

"Weasel, huh!" A large gulp of beer. "Take a chance on romance; don't sit in a trance," says Fred with his head bobbing to the jukebox beat.

With a hint of a pout, Lily attempts to smile, "I know you're only trying to cheer me up because I don't seem to be myself lately. I don't know just what has come over me."

The brunette extends her hand across the table offering comfort to the blonde, "If you feel bad, honey, you can stay with me. I need someone to talk to anyhow, since everyone else around here is so b o r i n g. Just what is that thing you're drinking?"

"He's the bartender. Let him tell you what's in it."

"It's creme de cocoa, creme de noyau, and milk."

"With a wildflower."

"To match your pretty smile," says Fred, still bobbing his head.

"Why don't you sit still? You're going to spill my Scotch!"

"I'm still tying to get that beer out of my ear."

"Is creme de noyau for annoying people like you, Fred?"

"No, Tiff, it's not. It's got a nutty flavor like you, cuckoo." he says, rapping his knuckles twice on her head. "Let's see just how cracked you are."

"Ow, how kitsch! You are bad taste personified!"

"You're no class act either!"

"That is it! That is all I can take. You see everything as an act. I don't want to be like you." Looking to Lily, "I don't want to be a 'plastic robot' as Lilith used to say. And I won't be ruled by what Fred here calls someone's spectral image."

"Hm.... You look enough like the real thing to me."

"But you've forgotten how much is cotton. I'm tired of being a cellulose cutie."

"You're really starting to sound like Lilith now," Lily calmly observes, coolly cutting off any further fire from Fred.

"What do you mean? You were the one who was talking about her."

"But that was then; I'm trying to forget about her now."

"How can you? She was your best friend."

"Well, I guess that you're my best friend now that she is dead, and old so-and-so has gone his own way. I'm almost alone now."

"Hey I can take care of you for sure, little lady."

"Oh, shut up, Fred!" snaps the dark woman with vitriolic venom in her vengeful visage, "You can hardly take care of yourself. Wait until Hal gets here; you're going to get it."

"What's between him and Hal?" Lily quizzes with a wondering gaze, "I didn't know they were mad."

"It doesn't have anything to do with what you're thinking," grumbles the brunette. "I am tired of getting pushed around. I don't feel that when I work, someone owns me and has to tell me what to believe. I can think for myself and speak for myself."

"That's all well and fine," replies the blonde, "But do you think we'll get a raise?"

"Well," observes Fred, "You can ask the boss, because here he is now, live and in person."

The brunette looks up over the woman in white, "I don't think that he can do much good for us in the overall situation, but I want to get to the bottom of this right now."

"How are we all doing tonight?" Hal smile, "Is everybody happy?"

"Oh, sure boss," chirps Fred, "Can't you tell?"

"Oh, hi, Hal," greets Lily as she swivels around contrapostally hanging her elbow over the back of the chair pushing her bountiful bosom invitingly upward to reveal a tiny rose tattoo hovering over her heart, "How's everything with you?"

"Not so hot, but I'm sure glad to be off," giving her bare upper arm a slight squeeze and eyeing the cleavage amply accented by her white leather vest and the gap that has widened between her stocking tops and hemline before he pulls out a chair to sit at her side. She turns back to the table and straightens her skirt. Hal takes his billfold from the inside pocket of his midnight blue designer blazer and winks at Fred, "Say, buddy, why don't you get me a double Dewar's with a splash of effervescence?"

"I could tell you why, but I need another myself, so, OK."

"Get me another double," says the brunette, "And no funny business this time."

Fred pushes Hal's money aside and heads toward the bar.

"So, how's it going, girls?" Hal grins at the brunette and then the blonde, "Smooth, I hope."

"Oh, it's all right, but I think I'll be going soon," says Lily as she finishes her drink.

"What are you going to do, Lily?" asks the woman across the table.

"I think that I just need some rest to think things over."

"That would probably be good for all of us--a renewal."

Hal glances again from one woman to the other, "What are you talking about? The night is just beginning. There's still a lot of partying to do." They look at one another without meeting his gaze. "What's going on here?"

The brunette turns to look him in the eye, "I don't know what idea of fun you and Fred have, Mister, b you can have it, because I am fed up with it. Let's have it all out when Fred comes back."

"What are you talking about, Tiffany?"

"Don't use that name now that I'm off. My name is Irene. I don't like that bunny name. I think you picked it in the first place, so that's probably why."

"It doesn't sound so bad to me," Hal wryly replies.

"Oh, you think that you are so cool, don't you? You just sit there waiting for a little effervescence in life, but you can't see that you're just blowing bubbles. They only float away and pop," snapping her finger, "like that!"

"Calm down, Tiff. We will have to take care of this--whatever your gripe may be. You girls ought to get yourselves a union. Right, Fred?"

"Sure, Cap'n. Write Miss Lonely hearts." Fred sets down Hal's drink, then his own beer, and finally the double scotch in a tall glass with plenty of rocks and two straws.

Irene pushes him away as he nudges his chair closer to her side, "Don't sit her, Fred. Sit over there. I'm tired of your harassment." She takes a long drink of her Scotch, "I think that I might resign tomorrow. Maybe Lilith should have resigned and gotten herself a 'respectable' job, as she used to say. We used to laugh about it," she nods to Lily, "So I'm surprised to hear myself talking like this. It's like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else's face in it."

"Liliths, I suppose," chuckles Fred.

"Yeah, that's right. What do you think that I have been talking about all this time? Everyone needs a little respect. Is that such a futile cause? Maybe I'm just going to hit the ceiling for nothing at all. I think that I may as well be talking to some, some--dumb bunnies. That is all you think we are, anyhow."

"I've seen other girls go through this feminist phase," Hal smugly observes, "I don't see what you're so upset about."

"You'd be upset, too, if all your stuff was thrown about as Lily's has been these three times. It's as if someone's telling us to leave. At least, that's the message I get."

Lily takes Irene's hand, "Just what message are you talking about, honey?"

"I feel that somehow it is a message from myself to myself, from a self that is not the self that I used to think I was. I know that doesn't seem to make much sense, but then again, it really does. I am just a person who has feelings like anyone else."

Lily gently squeezes her hand, "Well, if someone hurt your feelings, Irene, you ought to let it out. I think that there are signs we should pay attention to."

Hal sets down the drink he had nursed throughout this heartfelt interchange, some sort of compromise, I'm the man to see."

Such is the spark that finally sets off Irene's smoldering resentment, "Well, that is really it! I am tired of being compromised. I really mean it. I think that I am ready to quit. First, I want you to tell Lily what has been going on. Fred told me about how you and he had thrown her things around the first two times. Go ahead and tell her what happened tonight. I want to know who threw all of Lily's things around this evening. Open the pod bay doors, Hal."

"Well, a joke can only go so far. Fred must have done it."

"Fred did what? Hold on, Hal. Don't try to pin this on me."

"Wait," says Irene, "If neither of you did it, then who did? Don't tell me. I have to see for myself." With that, she leaves.

Hal looks at Fred; Fred looks at Hal. Fred gets up to follow her, and so does Hal.

Lily goes to the bar and smiles into the pier glass, but whose face is it that smiles back at her? When the bartender walks her way, she coyly chuckles and slyly smirks, "How about another wildflower for my sister Lilith?"

"Still you stand, still you listen, still you smile!" Browning