Sunday, April 18, 2010

Squamous Woman

The limp-wristed son comes in, a rumpled cocktail napkin sketch of himself. His face is stained with dust, his hair clings as a greasy wreath on his scalp. The comb-over is immediately unconvincing to the point of atrocity: thin salt-and-pepper strips that stretch over an otherwise bare and unfertile scalp. But it's not his purpose to impress, only to serve. And this, he does well, with a sort of curiously capable invertebrate grace.
This grace clearly fails above the neck. With a flutter of his flat lips, a piteous fart comes awkwardly out, "She will see you now." Jason and Stanley follow, after exchanging a glance.
The room is deliberately ornate, but has seen better days. It's the Rome that has long forgotten it once had an emperor, an emperor who made the great and terrible armies of the world rise and fall with mere monosyllabic utterance. The Matriarch sits alone on an equivalently aged high-back chair. Its upholstry is torn in places, and its once-white has become a permenantly nicotine yellow. The air is thick with smoke of an almost incense quality.
She sneers at them, extending her curled talons to beckon the pair over.
"Who are these, Alfred?" She asks, sibilance cutting through the fumes.
"This is Shaver and his associate, ah..." The son looks over at Jason, a trifling detail. "...and his associate." Jason doesn't bother to correct him.
The Matriarch lets her eyes wander over their forms, and not kindly. Jason can make this out despite the haze of tobacco. The woman is a bitter immortal from a past that left little room for error, trust, or compassion. Cold-blooded, but seldom out long enough to let herself be warmed by the sun. She is a perpetual leer that only pauses in expression to take a drag from the pearl-handled cigarette holder.
"Opprobrious little shit." comes the hiss. "You waste my time with your presence."
"With respect," starts Stan--
"Respect? What do you know about respect? You earn respect. You show up on my doorstep, you'd better not be some little two-bit pusher trying to get my favour. You're a frotteurist, a jaywalker, a loiterer. Why, if they caught you tomorrow, which they would do easily, you'd be nothing more than an effortless misdemeanor."
"About as well as I'd hoped." mutters Stan. "'Opprobrious', my aching ass. Wonder which orifice of her word-a-day calendar she pulled that one out of."
"What was that?" She snaps. Jason twitches. Barely looking at him, "Your 'associate' of a delicate disposition, hmm Shaver? If you really are relying on the frangible types, I have to bother why you're in this line of business in the first place." Another twitch.
"Alfred, be a dear, show these little entrepreneurial miscarriages to the door."
"...Like glass." says Jason.
"Like what?"
"Frangible. You think we're fucking glass, don't you. A little cubic zirconia."
Raised eyebrows, or in her case, the reptile analogue. "You esoteric little junkie--"
"Glass, you said. Useless, fragile paperweights, and sure you can break it. But if you try, you don't realize how fucking dangerous it becomes-- a thousand little fragments, invisible little pieces of ugly glass waiting to find their way into your skin."
"You assume you've got glass, little knock-offs from the street-side vendors. Can you tell it from the real thing, though?"
"Experience doesn't lie, little man. I did more to pass the time than just get old."
"Compare it to your collection, and you realize you've got to dust off and polish the old rocks you left in the dust ages ago. The pieces that have grown old without getting value. You're an expert, maybe, but you're going to turn down a new piece without major investment, a shining young addition, without thinking that it could be worth more than you imagined?"
"Fucking idiot." Stan mutters- "You'll forgive me m'am. My associate--"
"Wasn't properly introduced." she purrs, the sound of which is matched by a spreading cut of what might be a smile. "Now that I've seen the stones, I think they might be worth holding on to."
"Mother, you're certain?"
"Don't mind my little Alfred. He's been simpering ever since the pre-emptive coat hanger missed him." No response from the son other than the minutest of pouts. She silences the unutterable complaint with a bat of her eyelashes. "Gentlemen... You were going to tell me about business, if I recall."
Jason shivered again, his body hitting the end of its codeine as hard as her lingering gaze at the-- prized stones. Start of a beautiful friendship, I'm sure.

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