Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dude Looks like a Lady

Here's my entry into Patti Abbott's Sweet Dreams Challenge. Here's what we were given--Eurythmics Sweet Dreams is playing in a restaurant of some kind when a red-headed woman wearing an electric blue dress walks in. Under 1000 words.

Check out her blog to see the other entries which will be posted Monday, May 3, 2010. If you don't know her blog, you should.

Let me know what you think of Dude--

Dude Looks Like a Lady

I was deep into my second plate of Chilaquiles Verdes, hoping the cheese and fried tortillas would soak up some of the alcohol in my stomach before I had to go on duty. I hadn’t had much sleep and I’d been up early to run some errands and I was in a foul mood to start with so the 80s music pumping at ear-bleed levels didn’t help.

I wasn’t the only one who winced when Sweet Dreams replaced Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. With its throbbing backbeat and Annie Lennox’s orgiastic wailing, the song was a musical root canal exposing every nerve in my head. I signaled Yadira to refill my coffee as Annie whispered, “Hold your head up” and drained it almost before she’d turned away.

The headache was kicking my ass. I was thinking about getting a Red Bull to go when Zelda came through the door.

Staggered was more like it. Her long red wig was askew, revealing about three inches of smooth, shaven skull. It looked like she’d been scalped. “Oh my god,” shouted the assclown in the corner booth, shrinking back as far away as possible. Frozen by the sight of the blood soaking her electric blue dress.

Blue was Zelda’s favorite color because it brought out the color of her eyes. “I’m a Technicolor woman in a black and white world,” she’d told me once, and it just about broke my heart.

I keyed my radio and called for a bus but by the looks of her, Zelda would be dead before the ambulance arrived. As I moved toward her I saw the busboy take a picture with his phone. I grabbed the phone and stomped on it. Crushed that plastic clamshell like an oversized roach. The kid said something to me in Spanish that made Yadira gasp. I told him in English to get back in the kitchen or I’d do the same thing to his scrawny illegal ass. He understood that and stood aside, pouting. I’d spoiled his chance to make points with his FaceBook friends by posting the picture.

Yadira gave me her apron and I balled it up and stuffed it into the hole in Zelda’s gut, putting pressure on it to stop the bleeding. “You’re hurting her,” the guy in the corner booth said. “You’re making it worse.”

What is it with civilians? Seriously. This guy hadn’t even bothered to dial 911 and now he’s telling me what to do? Like he’s a doctor and not a bottom-feeder lawyer who has to scrounge for court-appointed cases. I’ve seen him hanging around the court house in Van Nuys, mooching cigarettes from pissed-off potential jurors taking a smoke break after hours of waiting around to see if they’re going to get called.

“You’re hurting her,” the guy said again because lawyers never know when to keep their mouths shut. I stood up and walked over to his booth. Crowded him a little as I leaned in to him. “Shut up,” I suggested.

I’m a big guy and in uniform, I rarely have to ask twice. The guy looked like he was going to make me ask twice, so I knocked everything off his table—dishes, napkins, paper placemats, the little pitcher of maple syrup for his pancakes. He got wide-eyed then and he shut up quick. Yadira moved to clean it all up. “Leave it,” I growled and she backed away. I could tell I was scaring her.

I went back to see how Zelda was doing. Not good. She was barely conscious. I could hear the siren of the approaching ambulance but knew it would arrive too late. I told Zelda to hold on. I’m not sure she heard me.


She was a sweet lost soul wobbling through life in size 14 four-inch heels. She’d been born Bobby Zelda but reversed the order of her name as she worked on reversing her gender. She was in the final stages of pre-op, trying to raise money for her last operation one blow job at a time. If she’d gone to Vegas she could have been pulling down $200 a pop minus whatever cut her pimp took, but she didn’t want to leave her mother.

I gave her money sometimes and we both pretended it wasn’t charity. A girl like Zelda can be an asset to a cop. These street girls see everything. I told her to be careful. Some things you see can get you killed.

Zelda was a good girl but she should never have been in that alley this morning. She never should have seen me taking that money. I’d warned her what could happen if she saw the wrong thing. I’d told her. But she hadn’t listened. She had just laughed, with no concern for self-preservation at all. It was a self-esteem thing. She didn’t have much.

I had thought she was dead in the alley. I made sure she was by the time the ambulance arrived. Yadira was weeping as the EMTs took Zelda away.

Everyone was starting to mill around when the detectives arrived. They found the murder weapon wrapped in a napkin on the floor by the corner booth. Right where I’d left it when I’d swept everything off the table.

The lawyer was wide-eyed as he saw the knife and said the first thing that came into his head, which was… “I didn’t kill it.” Everyone in the room gasped. He fumbled around for something more PC to say but the damage was done.

That’s lawyers for you. Never know when to keep their mouths shut.

I gave my statement to the detective and managed to make it to work in time for roll call, the chilaquiles sitting in my stomach like a ticking cheese bomb. After work, I’d go by and say hello to Zelda’s mother. See if she needed anything. It was the least I could do.


  1. Perfect for cinco de mayo. A kick in the head! Thanks.

  2. Nice writing Katherine. Really enjoyed it.

  3. 一個人的快樂,不是因為他擁有的多,而是他計較的少。..................................................

  4. Nicely done! Loved the twist at the end.

  5. Nice solid piece of LA Noir. An intense read.

  6. Really vivid. Exceptional storytelling.

  7. Nice atmosphere, and all the language/terms were down pat. An even better ending, well done.

  8. Difficult to have sympathy for a lawyer ... great stuff

  9. Surprisingly few redheads were offed in the making of this flash challenge. You handled this one quite nicely.

  10. Thank you all--and Rob--my brother is an attorney and wonders why I'm always picking on lawyers in my stories. It isn't personal...

  11. Zelda, Zelda. Femme fatality. Splendid story. Loved the ending.

  12. You got me...I didn't have a clue. Snappy writing and story. Thanks for your comment on mine and BTW you're pretty damn good yourself.

  13. It all came together, potent atmosphere, sharp dialogue, good characterization, and a perfect ending. Hot stuff.

  14. A whip of a story -- very nice tone and characterization.