The rumbling from the loft below was entering its ninth hour when Lubo, antsy as hell, decided to visit what he thought was a child's birthday party, nevermind that he just ate two tabs of LSD.
William opened the door, a gloomy, square-jawed man who wore fat shades. He was gnawing on a white root, a tumbler of gin in his other hand. A battery of low-lying bass lines slid into Lubo's legs.
"I wanted to bring your child a gift. If you don't mind."
"Lubo." William eyed the record. "Come in."
When Lubo entered he first noticed the ten or eleven pre-teen girls lying around three tall speakers.
"That has been what has been shaking the ground?"
"Yeah. It's our new record."
"Yes. My kids and I--William the Seed, Bulb and Root--we put out dance records. That's Root's voice."
"Queer," Lubo said, "my lower back is warm."
"And now my shoulders."
"Si. That's the kind of effect her voice has. It's all about the vice, Lubo. You should know about that."
"What do you mean?" But William was gone. A girl bleeding into a shard of carpet looked up at him. He waved. She only turned away, her face smearing. William was back.
"Uh, organic green beans?"
Lubo shook his head no.
"All that's left." William was munching a green bean spear, wistfully.
The voice sang in a half-baked fashion: "Do you want to make pie / then try this exercise / stir and kick / stir and kick / do it real quick."
"May not be your cup of tea, Lubo. . .were you leaving?"
"No. I'd like to know it."
"A man like you, Lubo?"
"Si. You lay bricks."
Lubo was feeling faulty: he thought about his personal space, felt William was too far inside it. Lubo looked down at his boots. They had to be four sizes too big. He liked his trip to emerge slowly, softly. But the gin and the bass and that voice. Lubo, after only twenty-two minutes, was tripping heavily.
"William," Lubo said, "May I sit?"
"A man like you needs to sit," William said with cynicism.
Lubo showed his shoulder to William. And that's when Lubo spotted a pale Hispanic girl hunched over the turntables, earphones latching her afro down. She lifted her head. Lubo noted a blue vein across the bridge of her nose. "Lord love a duck," he said. It was possible there had never been another as beautiful in the whole world as she.
"Root," William nodded towards the girl.
"She doesn't look seventeen."
William just smirked, slurped his gin.
Through William's legs Lubo heard a train whistle. Shortly a little girl of nine ran up to William, collided with his leg.
"Bulb, birthday babe." He bent down to her. To Lubo: "Don't go anywhere." They disappeared.
Lubo returned to Root. She looked shy, as if she'd inhabit a discarded shell like a hermit crab if she could. He needed to find some way to talk to her though, to break the silence between them but his boots were four sizes too big. Then she took off her headphones and picked her hair out while she walked away. Lubo galumphed after her.
She had no rear and slinky shoulders, like a jellyfish. She passed through a door that turned out to be a bathroom containing four other girls. Lubo waited. When he walked in the girl was pulling her jeans up.
"Wait." Lubo was looking out the door. Root froze, midcrouch, and grinning. "I just wanted to--," Lubo said. He did not feel in full control of his will.
She dropped her pants to her ankles and saluted Lubo. Staring at her panties, bulby knees, off white shins, he felt three hundred years removed from his head, body.
Then something a tad nightmarish: any minute William could walk in. But there she was. Four feet away. Lubo thought lots of things: was he really so depraved that he would stand in the bathroom with a girl seventeen only in speculation, her father dithering in the kitchen or bedroom, just a step away? At thirty-nine, was he not ashamed? With a cold hand on her shoulder he guided her into the stall. The door wouldn't close. He looked down at the chocolate birthmark in the shape of a moth on her forehead, just above eyebrow, and the thousand ladybugs floating up from her barrettes and wondered how generals and senators did it, got away with whoring jailbait without remorse. How would he explain this to her father. How would he explain this to his own mother, the boys at the Kuhlmann site, the judge, a lawyer. He futzed with the stall door, clanging it without result. Root never let up her grin, arms a slack. She could be my daughter in Cheyenne, or my daughter in Rutherford, yet she trusts me.
"You're a child."
"I'm seventeen," he thought he heard her say.
He sighed. He didn't believe it. "Help me off with my boots." Lubo didn't know what to do with Root, didn't know what to do with himself. He imagined crawling into her, balling up. Could have. Would have. Only William was standing at the door.
"Oh shit," he muttered.
Lubo didn't know what to do, bought time by sinking his face into her afro. How long would he yell? He tried to silence William by patting the stall door, almost in rage. Then Lubo laid his head on her shoulder with his eyes fixed on the concrete floor imagining a thousand times how he wanted to run out the front door and up the steps to his loft on the third floor and throw himself in bed, with or without Root, he couldn't decide.
About the author:
Demian Farnworth lives in Fairview Heights, IL, with his wife and two children. He finished his undergraduate studies in English Literature, May 2000, Southern Illinois University, after a promising but poor existence as a rock climber. He's a recovering poet who splits his writing time between short stories, a novel and advertising.