Ainsley Morse



There were about five girls aged sixteen or seventeen working at the café and they were all in love with Anthony or Philippe. But mostly Anthony because Philippe was so tall and foreign, his face was so brutally jolie-laide and he was probably having a liaison with Annie, the elegant little woman with thick witchy eyebrows who made the rugelach no one ever bought. Anthony was thirty-six, he would inform them mournfully, and seriously down on his luck; but he was boyishly good-looking, rangy and with stick-up hair and acne scars they could all relate to. Anthony and Philippe never worked together -- like two ancient deities, they mutually excluded one another, represented two fundamentally different cosmologies. When they happened to both show up at the same time the air would crackle with dangerous electricity.

One slow day Anthony slid in on one side of the booth where most of the girls were sitting drinking coffee. He sat brown elbows on the pink tabletop, surrounded on all sides by tentative teen femininity; under the table, all those nubile legs twitching from by the proximity of his tanned calves rising boldly out of white athletic socks. This one time, Anthony told them, he had gotten really close to fucking a dog. This was in the late eighties, he was young then but had already mostly gotten over punk and was in a kind of black-leather purple-velvet state of transition. Unemployed, he had developed a serious smack problem and was living in a trailer in his aunt's backyard in Los Angeles, think Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge." The girls nodded seriously. His aunt had this pretty little dog, like a miniature collie or something, that also lived in the backyard. So then the aunt went out of town, leaving Anthony in charge of the dog, and Anthony went on a major binge, didn't eat or leave the trailer for a week, was alternating cocaine with the heroin just to keep things interesting. At some point in the middle of it he dragged himself to the door of the trailer and leaned there surveying the yard, wild-eyed and delirious. The collie came bounding over like she was happy to see him. She started nuzzling Anthony's feet and he thought, what a nice-looking dog, and the next thought that came to him along with an erection was: no one would ever know. There were lemon trees in the backyard and as he stroked the dog he stared at the half-rotten lemons lying on the ground. They, too, seemed plump with erotic significance. But I didn't do it, concluded Anthony, I got paranoid or something, like afraid the dog would bite me maybe. He sat back against the springy plastic upholstery, crossed both arms over his chest and grinned rakishly through his chipped incisor.

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