I was thirty-five the year I started drinking gin. It’s not a pretty story and I don’t come off smelling like a rose, but it’s time to tell it. With a story like this, gin is the only thing astringent enough to clean the dirt from my mouth. Gin is snappy and crisp and washes away my sins, at least for the night. I love everything about gin, but maybe that’s because my love affair with it is new. The smell of it is a cold wintry tang in the nose; the look of it is hard and clear like liquid diamonds and that’s sort of deceptive because the taste of it is smooth and sweet yet sharp too like a beautiful woman with a knife. Gin slides down my throat like an ice snake. It’s bitter and oily, wavering in the glass like a silver mirror, and when it is a mirror is when I drink most. I’ll take it any way-neat, a shot, on the rocks, in a martini, in a Tom Collins or a fizz, with stupid fruit draped all over the glass, I don’t care. But my favorite way to drink it is with tonic because it reminds me of Her. I got the idea that gin is a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide and if I drink enough, it will boil out the infection, which is this story I must tell.
I found I’m a woman of excesses. I love cigarettes, I love gin, I love women and I love winning, all to a fault. I was born for trouble without knowing it and that is the worst kind. Suddenly, I’ve found that sometimes, a woman must drink alone.
So I was forty-five the year I started drinking gin. It all started one day with a call from my ex.
The ringing was insistent, urgent. Nora let herself into her apartment as quickly as she could because nobody calls at 4 am with good news. She flicked on a light and ran for the phone, a heavy, corded black dial phone that Nora loved for its old-fashioned rebelliousness.
“Yeah?” Nora’s voice was hoarse from lack of sleep. Karen’s appetite for Nora was insatiable. Nora shrugged off the sweaty t-shirt and damp cotton shorts she wore to and from Karen’s house. She never needed regular clothes there and felt it was too much bother to dress up just to go to her and come home. Underneath, she was nude.
“Nora?” the voice was crackly and scared and chillingly familiar. Michelle.
“What the hell do you want?
“Nora, I’m sorry to call so late…to call at all-“ static blocked her voice.
“Yeah, you have some nerve.” Nora wanted a cigarette badly. She needed to suck one to ash in two seconds flat. She made it out of Karen’s clutch without one and now, Nora had to have that dry hot taste to return her to herself. Sex took it out of her in a way that only cigarettes could restore. Plus, she needed to be soothed for this conversation. She spied a pack across the room. “Hold on!” she barked as she put the phone down and dove for the pack. She crumpled it and moaned. Empty. She smelled her hands with Karen’s ripeness coating them. She licked her lips. She picked up her wadded shorts, now a wilted pile of color and checked the pockets. Nothing. After years without, Nora needed a shot. A shot of something. Maybe tequila. She also needed a shower and some sleep. She needed a wife to come in and clean up this place and maybe do some laundry and ironing. She padded back to the phone wearily.
“-need you!” Michelle pleaded when Nora returned.
“I can’t help you no matter what you need,” Nora told her recent ex acidly. Nora found some wooden matches, her preferred method of lighting cigarettes and flicked one after another with her thumbnail. She felt the tiny fire was comforting, as if she were about to have a cigarette. Like the promise of foreplay. The flaming match told her that there would be eventual satisfaction. Was it possible to get a sudden ulcer? Maybe she should go back to Karen’s where there was beer to smooth this sudden craving, plenty of hot water, clean towels and sheets, all the cigarettes she could smoke, and of course, Karen. Karen’s cool, cocoa arms around her all night.
Static. “-please!” Static. Nora angrily banged the receiver against the table, taking mean pleasure in possibly hurting Michelle’s ears. She flicked more matches, savoring the smell.
“After these few months, don’t you have someone else to call?” Nora demanded.
“It has to be you. Only you can help. I need you to—“ static.
“What? What do you need?” Nora scraped one calf with her other big toe.
Crackling and hissing. “—trouble. Bad.”
“What sort of trouble?” Nora was perversely enjoying this drama, so it never occurred to her to get Michelle to call back for a clearer connection. The more inconvenienced Michelle was, the better Nora felt. After all, Michelle was with someone else and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Nora was in Los Angeles, completely free and not obligated to lift a finger to save Michelle from her persistent destructive foolishness.
“I was thirty-six when I left the big city for the Big Easy. They say New Orleans is like a woman, beautiful, deceitful and deadly. All I know is, I had to leave Los Angeles on the run and The Crescent City beckoned like a broad on her back.” In the sequel to Femme Noir, Nora Delaney has returned to her job as a college basketball coach in Los Angeles and due to a series of lost games and constant drinking, Nora beats up a rival coach on national television and is fired. She flees to a tiny town outside New Orleans where her cousin Ellis Delaney and his wife live. They take her in and put her to work in Ellis’ pawn shop and Nora meets Cleo Sweetleaf, who becomes a mentor and a second father. While Nora takes stock of her life, her everlasting hunger for strange causes trouble from sunup to sundown. When Cleo is murdered, Nora is drawn into solving the crime to get revenge. But Nora, left beaten and bleeding in an alley, may not solve the mystery alive.
Clara Nipper writes fiction and blogs-www.claranipper.org. When not writing, she makes desserts, http://www.andyscandies.biz and enlarges her certified wildlife habitat gardens. Her two murder mysteries (Femme Noir and Kiss of Noir) have been published by Bold Strokes Books and are available at their website: www.boldstrokesbooks.com and on Amazon.com. She is a contributor to local publications: This Land Press www.thilsandpress.com and the Tulsa Voice. Clara also skates for Tulsa Derby League under the derby name Cat Owta Hell. With two Rollercons, countless clinics and boot camps under her jamming belt, it is safe to say it’s derby until death for this Jammer Assassin. Outside the rink, she has had roller derby articles published in Five on Five Magazine-www.fiveonfivemag.com, Hit and Miss Magazine-www.hitandmissmagazine.com.au/, USARS Magazine, Lead Jammer Magazine- http://www.leadjammermag.com, Blood and Thunder and Derbylife.com. Currently, her works in progress are two coming of age novels and another Tulsa-based murder mystery entitled, Murder on the Rocks. Find Clara at her website, on Facebook, Twitter (@mindybendy), Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Linked In, Amazon Author Pages, Good Reads, Derby Social, Word Press and at the farmer’s market.
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