We previously met the beautiful Black Widow Salome, whose paramours have died in a series of unfortunate events. She usually visits Stenny’s only in the immediate aftermath of one of those deaths, and as such has not been in since October, nearly four months ago.

But she’s here tonight, on this early February Tuesday evening. And she’s with a guy.

“This is new,” Long Haul says to Joanna. “Salome here with a man who’s still alive.”

Joanna knows what Long Haul means, and doesn’t bother to say something jerky like When was she in here with a dead man? Instead she says, “I know, right?”

“Melissa will know what’s going on,” Long Haul says. Melissa is at the other end of the bar, tending to some of the Solaris crowd.

“Hey Melissa,” she yells. Melissa raises her index finger to signal she’ll be with Long Haul in a minute, and she is.

“Tina, I just gave you a Miller Lite,” Melissa says when she arrives. “I’m not going to double you up.”

“No, it’s not that. Joanna and I want to know the scoop on the guy Salome’s with.”

“We’re wondering how long he has to live,” Joanna adds. “This is a really good Bloody Mary, by the way. Love the horseradish.”

“Glad you like it,” Melissa says. “I know you like spicy. I’m trying to get a fix on who he is. I’ll let you know.”

Matt is busy talking to Big Mouth Ralph a few stools away; Joanna doesn’t hear yelling so she assumes, with a large dollop of relief, that it’s not about politics. So she stays put next to Long Haul. She knows she only has to ask one simple question to get a virtual soliloquy in response; it’s a good way to pass the time.

“So, what’s new with you?” is the question she asks.

“Not too much,” Long Haul says.

This doesn’t fool Joanna, and she just waits.

“Business is good,” Long Haul says. She owns a cleaning service called Tina’s Sparkling Surfaces; she periodically employs a small staff, but likes to do most of the work herself. “So I brought on a cleaner to help me out, but I’m not sure it was a good idea.”

“Why not?” Joanna asks and settles down for what she assumes, correctly, will be a long answer.

“She was recommended by my cousin. Said she was a hard worker. Name of Angie. I worked one job with her and she couldn’t keep up with me, but no one can, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt on that. But I think she may steal things, which isn’t good for my reputation. She lives right down the street from me, so I went to her house to pay her for the job once the client paid me. She was getting ready to have a garage sale and was putting price tags on the shit she was selling. I saw a wooden statue that I recognized from the house she worked with me. At least I’m pretty sure it was the same statue. She had it priced at 4 dollars. My client is really rich and I know she has expensive stuff. I don’t know how much that statue’s worth, but it’s way more than 4 dollars. So I said to Angie, ‘Angie, that statue looks familiar. Where’d you get it?’ She said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, I’ve had it a long time.’ I think she was lying, she couldn’t look at me. But I let it go, because I don’t know for sure it’s the same statue. I’ll look for it next month when I go back to that client’s house.”

“Hmm,” Joanna says. “Are you going to let her work more jobs in the meantime?”

“Not sure. If I do, I’m not going to let her out of my sight. We’ll clean the same room at the same time.”

Joanna refrains from telling her that that plan sounds inefficient; Tina is, after all, the professional cleaner and Joanna can barely run a vacuum.

They both see Melissa heading toward them at a quick trot. “I have the scoop,” she says.

“First, can I have another beer now?” Long Haul asks.

“And another Bloody Mary, please,” Joanna says.

Melissa prepares and presents the drinks, then says, “He’s her boss at the insurance agency.”

“So it’s a business thing?” Joanna asks.

“I didn’t say that. She has her hand on his thigh. High on his thigh.”

“Where are his hands?” Long Haul asks.

“One of them is resting on the small of her back. The other one, the one with the wedding ring, is holding his drink.”

“Oh shit,” Joanna says. “This time she’ll kill her own boyfriend and another woman’s husband.”

They all know that Salome doesn’t actually kill the men she sleeps with, but it’s a small distinction, not worthy of mention.

“Yeah,” Melissa says.

“Should we warn him?” Long Haul says. “If we don’t, and he dies, I’m going to have to do about a million Hail Marys. More than I do for one of my DUIs.”

Joanna says, “I don’t think there’s any way we can do that without looking like idiots. What are we going to say? Hey mister whose name I don’t know, you better go home and stay home before you die.

“Being uncomfortable won’t get us off God’s hook if he’s trampled by horses,” Long Haul says.

Melissa says, “They’re my customers, so it’s my call. We’re not going to say anything. Maybe it’s just a one-night stand and he doesn’t qualify for the death pool. Let’s see if he comes back again. Then we’ll talk about it.”

“Makes sense,” Joanna says, as she hears raised voices. “Oh shit, Matt and Ralph are fighting. Let me know if it get bad,” she says to Melissa.

“You know I will,” Melissa says.


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If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”



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