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**PRINT: MIXTAPE: THE2NDHAND’s 29th issue builds on a concept we introduced to the Chicago reading/performance scene in July 2007 -- the Mixtape reading, wherein several writers cast short-short stories inspired by pop songs. The concept evolved after several incarnations of its live component to include a published series here at the2ndhand.com and, now, a broadsheet. This latest includes 2008 Birmingham Artwalk contest winners Nadria Tucker and Emily Self, both past contributors to THE2NDHAND and both writing from Birmingham, and a story by Zach Plague, author of the art-school satire/adventure novel Boring boring boring..., out now from Chicago’s Featherproof Books. Tracklist: Leaving Batesville, Night Moves, Carousel...

**WEB: HERMAN: Part 2 Stanley Holditch

Stanley Holditch

Here find the dramatic conclusion of Holditch's short. In the first section, Herman finished up a night at the casino flirting idly with Carlie, a cocktail waitress, and rolled toward the inevitable conclusion to his Vegas night: "Then he discovered knife play...."


He slid his card-key into the door of his room and waited for the click. He walked past his bed under the soft lighting and toward the window, which faced Treasure Island and its beached pirate ship. They were doing the final show of the evening, accompanying cannon blasts with fireworks, the 20 or so hopeful actors running about in costumes that seemed more Disney World than Vegas. He wondered if people from the street could see him watching the show. Suddenly he became embarrassed and walked away from the window.

He withdrew his bottle of Makers' from the mini-fridge and poured himself a drink. Reggie was usually pretty good about timing -- he knew it wouldn't be too long before the girl arrived -- so he took a deep draw from the glass and sauntered over to the safe. After the electronic click his hand ventured inside and emerged with the knife, its blade and handle ornate and shimmering in the overhead light, wicked in its curves and points. He had chosen this one because it reminded him of the weapons that fascinated him as a child. It conjured visions visited in the books of Tolkein and Lewis. He turned it over in his hands, transfixed for a moment, then embarrassed again, before returning to his drink.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

He slid the knife under the middle cushion of the couch. He had started hiding it there instead of under the pillows when he came to realize that a lot of whores, especially those new to the work, had a tendency to jump into the bed. One such eager beaver managed to lodge the knife between her collarbones and throat, expiring with a gurgling sound facedown on the sheets before Herman even knew what happened or saw the blood. That night marked the beginning of his "arrangement" with the night manager, whom he now paid a monthly fee for his silence and other services as needed. He shivered at the memory but also let slip a slight laugh, remembering his panic and the fumbling about with the girl's limp mass, slipping in and cursing the copious blood. He and Ronaldo, after much intense negotiation followed by clumsy mechanics, managed to confine her to a large room-service tray and wheel her out in the wee hours. He never found out what happened to the body. There's a lot of desert out there.

So deep into the memory he was that the knock on the door caused him to spill his drink on the arm of the couch. He shouted acknowledgment and ran to get a towel from the bathroom, then returned to the couch to clean the spill, wondering why he cared. Only after did he go to the door and gaze through the peephole, from which he sharply recoiled. He took another look and then bent his head so that his ear was closer to the door, his left hand on the handle.

"I think you got the wrong room," he said.

"Your doorman buddy said 1723, and this is 1723," she said.

Herman moved a step away from the door, trying to slow his rapid heartbeat with deep, yet soft, breaths. This was completely against the rules. He felt absolutely trapped. The silence lengthened. He silently begged for her to be gone.

"So you gonna let me in or what?"

It was Carlie from the Wynn. She sounded seductive and drunk.

Letting her in would stain him. Herman had frequented the table long enough for Carlie to get his general back story, if not his name. He felt this following him.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Right room, wrong girl. Sorry."

"Look, the agency said you wanted a new girl and I'm the newest they've got. Plus I had to spend fifteen on a cab. Lemme in, I'll be nice, OK...you shy?"

Herman sighed. He could continue this holdout but the simple fact was he needed it. A new table, a new casino. He sighed again.

"Mark," she said as she half fell into the room, having leaned on the door as Herman opened it. This was what she had called him since his fifth night at the money table. It seemed incredibly out of place. "No wonder you didn't want to let me in." She placed the flat of her palm in the square of his chest, bending her elbow and slowly drawing herself into him as she came through the door.

She turned away from him and looked into the room, spying the bottle on the table.

"Looks like you started the party without me."

"I didn't know you did this." This didn't sound nearly as stupid in his head as it did when it came out of his mouth.

"Well, I don't exactly advertise it. I've only been doing it for a few weeks. I guess that's why you got me." She was clearly drunk. "What do you do, Mark?"

"That's not my name."

"I know. It's your drink," pointing to the bottle, then lolling over to the glass in his hand.

"Do the other girls at the casino know you do this?" he said.

"A few," she said, from the couch she had lighted on, her hands depressing the cushions as she leaned forward, showing ample cleavage. "Why the concern? Don't want the girls to giggle behind their fans?"

This was exactly the concern.

"And shouldn't you be offering me a drink? I thought you were a Yale Man." As she said this she flipped her hand upward and rolled her eyes comically, drunkenly. Herman felt like he had been punched in the gut. It was the unholy marriage of his greatest fears and his painful heritage, spoken to him by a drunken whore cocktail waitress. The worst part was that he was beginning to like her.

He smiled and walked over to the counter and emptied some ice into the other glass, followed by whiskey.

"You sure you need this?" He caught himself flirting with her. He was better than this. He knew that whores were about business. "And what makes you think I went to Yale anyway," harsher, more accusatory.

"That's the word," she said, taking her drink. "So you not gonna tell me what you do?"

"What you see is what I do, for the most part."

"Well, I've seen enough to know you don't make your money gambling," taking a sip, then with a watery mouth: "I guess you're 'independently wealthy'," drink secured between the thumb and ring finger.

"Yeah, but without the quotes," which meant blood money. The room sat silent for about 20 seconds. She lowered her head, causing her hair to disguise her face, and ran her finger around the rim of her glass. She then raised her head and looked square at Herman.

"Well, it's a thousand up front," and with that the situation sank into normalcy. Herman was already exposed so there was no sense turning back now. It was simply business again, and sex. All else disappeared.

They started on the couch, she kneeling between his legs. He squirmed at the thighs as she worked. His hand instinctively went in between the cushions to his right, sliding silently between and under, serpentine, reaching its goal of the cool metal handle. He hesitated before drawing it out from his hiding place. But again he knew that he was already sunk, so why deprive himself. Maybe she would be scared into silence. He withdrew it with his left hand on her head.

She must have caught sight of the glint of the metal from the lights, as her head shot back and she put both hands in front of her.

"No it's just..."

Catching her breath: "No, it's OK. They told me you were into that," breathless. "Just don't let it touch my skin or get it anywhere near my tits or my cunt."


Then, "You're pretty fucked-up for a Yale guy."

He loathed her, suddenly and purely. Any thoughts of his embarrassment at her hands was instantly erased. He smiled. "No problem."

On the bed Herman had her hair in his left fist, pinning her head to the mattress. In his right, the knife, to this point by the rules. Her head lolled back but she gave little sound, drawing sharp, small breaths and the occasional grunt of pain. He brought the knife above her chest, switching its position in his hand so that the blade ran parallel with his forearm. He saw her eyes dart to the blade. His hate boiled.

Slowly he began to bring the blade down, his arm straight and outstretched, his hips pumping furiously. She grasped at his left hand trying to pry the fingers off his grip, and her breaths became faster, her neck cringing and pressing her head deep into the mattress. With her right she grabbed his right wrist, sliding her fingers under the blade. As he brought the blade closer to her neck, she resisted, pushing away. Then he saw it, tattooed on her eyes. The fear. Control.

Herman felt his body begin to climax. He drank in her fear. It mingled with his hate and became intoxicating. This was better than any of the others.

Then, slowly, her fear was swallowed by something else. Her eyes changed as she seemed to leave the room, departing for a wider avenue of pain than anything Herman could visit upon her. He stared into her eyes and had the sensation of falling inward, tumbling headforth, following her into the abyss he had opened. Tears began to collect in the corners of her eyes.

Suddenly Herman found himself resisting her, trying to keep the knife a safe distance from her neck, she pulling it closer, her neck no longer cringing but craning outward. Her words were almost inaudible.

"Do it."

She pulled at the knife again, bringing the blade to her neck, Herman's arm shaking slightly in her grip with backward pressure, as her skin ballooned on either side of the blade. He was being overpowered.

"Do it," she whispered again, voice bobbing in pitch. "This is what you want."

"No," he said, knowing it wasn't completely true. He couldn't keep pity from creeping into his eyes.

Her sorrow dwarfed him. He stopped midthrust and stared at her, diving into a cauldron of pain that he had never known.

"Do it you fucker! You fucking coward! DO IT!!"

She pulled the blade closer. Her body began to convulse with sobs, tears streaming down her face. Herman managed to yank his wrist free as he went absolutely limp inside of her, unable to do anything other than lean over her panting, jaw limp as his cock. "Do it," choked through her sobs, her hand now covering her face, her body writhing under him. "Do it," softer each time, "do it."

Herman backed off the bed, staring at her in amazement. She disintegrated into a pool of tears, her legs splayed ungainly above her. He stood crouched and limp with his arms at his side, facing the bed watching her sob, the knife now hanging from his hand, ridiculous and pathetic. He had nothing to say, so he mutely watched as her body convulsed.

Suddenly, still crying, she jumped out of bed and went to gather her clothes and money, brushing by Herman in a blur toward the coffee table where they lay. As he turned he caught his ghost in the window and shivered at the sight of himself. He tossed the blade under the bed table. She dressed quickly without ever looking at him.

"Carlie," he stammered, completely lost and helpless, more vulnerable than he had ever been, "I'm sorry...I..."

"Don't!" she yelled, fortified by her anger. "Don't fucking apologize to a whore!" Her voice shook. He broke a bit inside, because he knew she meant it.

With her jacket clutched under her arm she approached him changed again -- frightened, desperate, melting. She leaned close, jaw dancing.

"You don't belong here," she said. "This isn't Yale. Go back to wherever the fuck you came from. Go home."

Herman wished that he could. There was nothing to do now. As he tried to keep his pity from his eyes, he wondered which of the two of them deserved it more. She was no victim, and he was no monster, no matter how hard he might try to be.

"Don't," she said as she looked with disgust at his heaving, naked form. Her loathing boiled into hate. Her sobs returned, almost choking out the words. "Don't pity me just because that's all you have the balls to do. You spoiled, rich-boy fucking freak."

Herman burned as she brushed past him to the door, rejected, homeless everywhere. He turned to her as she fumbled with the door knob, and glanced at the discarded knife under the table. He had to belong somewhere.