Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Sunday, January 9, 2011

NoHo Noir--And it's really Noir this week

This week's adventures of the residents of North Hollywood and Toluca Lake, California continue with "Lucky Lady." Here our luckless wannabe screenwriter Christo and his roommate Ash stumble into the path of a crazy homeless woman and veer into disaster.

The illustration is by Mark Satchwill, who as always, manages to capture the characters and the heart of the story. Here's the beginning of the story:

Vardan hated the homeless people who used his gas station as a rest stop. If they bought something, he couldn’t refuse them the right to use the bathroom, but if he saw one coming, he could usually head them off by hanging an “out of order” sign he kept under the counter just for that purpose.

The old lady, though, she was sly. She’d approach from his blind side, slipping through the entrance behind someone coming in to pay for gas. She always seemed to have enough pennies to buy a pack of gum or a roll of mints, and then she would ask for the bathroom key. She’d usually ask in front of someone, as if daring him to deny her permission in front of witnesses.

She’d snatch the key with her filthy hands and then disappear for a long time. When she emerged, the whole interior of the station smelled like a stable for hours, no matter how much Lysol he sprayed.

Vardan’s Unocal

10xxx Magnolia Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601

4:53 p.m.

Today the old lady had been in the crapper so long Vardan thought she might have died in there. He was thinking about banging on the door to roust her when the two boys came in.

They weren’t really boys he saw as the shorter one started foraging for junk food. They just had that formless look that so many Americans had. What was the expression? Half-cooked? Half-baked. They looked half-baked, doughy and soft.

The nerd headed for the lottery ticket machine in the back of the store. He took a long time deciding which game to choose. Vardan didn’t understand gambling. He worked too hard for his money to throw any of it away. But that was Americans for you, he thought. Always looking for the easy way.

Vardan had come to California with a stolen Visa card, the address of his cousin in Glendale and ten words of English, all but one of them profane. He was big and strong and mean and his cousin always needed guys like him. Vardan had done okay for himself but nothing had been handed to him.

The guy with the junk food piled it all on the counter and then did a last recon of the candy display to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. Over by the lotto machine, the nerd was staring at the ticket it had just spit out.

“Oh my God, Christo,” he said. “I won …”

He held out the ticket for his friend to see and that’s when the old lady finally came out of the bathroom, trailed by a stench so potent Vardan could taste it. She took one look at the nerd with the lottery ticket in his hand and went off.

“Give me that,” she yelled, grabbing for it. The nerd recoiled and put up his arms to defend himself. “I put money in the machine and that’s my ticket,” the old lady screeched. She flailed at the nerd with her small, bony fists.

The guy at the counter looked at Vardan. “Aren’t you going to do anything?”

Read the rest of it here.

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