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Authors: Lila Veen

Killing Kate

BOOK: Killing Kate
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Killing Kate
By Lila Veen
Text Copyright © 2013 Lila Veen



All Rights Reserved
To Charlie.  You know why.

Cages aren’t for everyone.  Some
people enjoy their freedom, and my cage is only a 4x4x6 enclosed area.  Some
people don’t like to be put on display, but the metal bars around me are wide
enough to get a glimpse of everything the silver bikini I’m wearing doesn’t
cover up, which is almost everything.  I wear only that without shoes or
jewelry.  My hair is long and brown and cascades down my back in a sheer
curtain.  My makeup is dark so you don’t know it’s me.  In my cage I am safe
and ironically free.  Hands touch the sides and sometimes fingers make their
way in, but it’s not intended to be invasive.  I am merely a prop off to the
side of a concrete dance floor.  There are six others like me, two suspended
from the ceiling and four of us around the floor.  I am close to the DJ booth
where I feel the bass vibrating the metal in the cage.  At the end of the
night, the sound will still vibrate in my ears and pulse through my head even
though the music is long over.

I’m actually getting paid while I
do this, and while $400 a week isn’t anything that will buy me a race horse or
summer home anytime soon, it’s really all I aspire to do for now.  I’m not
hungry or homeless, so I can’t complain.  Obviously this isn’t something I can
do when I’m sixty years old, but long term plans really aren’t my way of living. 
That’s how I feel about things for now, despite people who are more responsible
than I am warning me of severe consequences, like my brother Devin.  I’m twenty
four years old, I smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and often a bottle of hard
alcohol fits into that equation.  Clearly I’m not thinking too deeply into my

The Appleseed, the club where I
dance, has no clocks anywhere since they don’t want you to realize what time it
is or how many drinks you’ve managed to purchase in the span of one hour.  Since
I have no idea what time it is, it’s always best to just lose myself in the
music and dance.  I can use my cage to veer my movements, as I hang, suspend,
climb, cling and feel the bars around me.  A pole in the center of the cage
helps me gravitate myself off the floor, around the pole, and slide down.  My
arm muscles have improved drastically in the four months since I’ve started
working here.  The floor manager, Alicia, says I’m good at what I do,
completely uninhibited.  That’s because no one is here in this cage but me, and
I let it show.  Other girls who do this are conscious of what’s going on around
them, from the sleazy guy who’s watching you with his dick bulging in his pants
as he verifies that you managed to wax your bikini line to Alicia’s husband, Carlos,
who works the bar and tries to fuck anyone except his own wife.  It can be
intimidating when you pay attention to that stuff, but I don’t think about or
notice my surroundings.  Then before I know it, its 4:00 am and I can get out
and go home.

I change in the back dressing room
into worn out skinny grey jeans and a black Saigon top with a loose black
summer sweater on top with holes in it.  When I found the sweater at Goodwill,
it had holes in it as the designer intended, but as I’ve made it mine, the
holes have gotten larger and more numerous.  I slip black flip flops on my feet
since I hate wearing constrictive shoes.  It was warm outside when I came in to
the club but the temperature drops in May in Chicago when the sun goes down.  I
want to go to the beach this morning.  I head for the red line stop at Clark
and Division and light a cigarette on the El platform, even though the signs
posted everywhere tell me not to.  I cup it in my hand and relax as I inhale
it.  The first smoke in six hours is always a relief.

On the train I stand, leaning on a
vertical bar that is intended to be held onto.  There are seats available on
the El, of course, at 4:16 am, but standing means I am not sitting in a puddle
of urine or semen.  The red line is disgusting, and every time I ride it, I vow
to move someplace closer to the brown line, but East Riverview is what I can
afford on a cage dancer’s salary, and its prime real estate that’s close to the
beach.  Never mind the countless crack houses and gang activity that
encapsulates the area.  There are a few other people on the train car.  One is
a woman wearing about fourteen layers of clothing who looks like she rides back
and forth professionally, having no other place to go.  She has one of those
mini shopping carts people who live in the city use for groceries and it’s full
of all sorts of junk, from a Bart Simpson doll to a painted portrait of David
Bowie, I think.  There are four very loud younger men wearing identical striped
collared shirts with jeans and loafers and a sickening wave of bad cologne that
get off at Fullerton, likely college kids coming home from a night out.  For
all I know they could have been at Appleseed, but I am unrecognizable and
usually don’t pay attention to the crowd.  They talk loudly during their short
ride and even make a few rude remarks in my direction, but I have headphones in
my ears and ignore them, despite the fact that I’m not listening to any actual music. 
I can’t deal with music after I dance for so long.  The silence and discernible
voices are a welcome change.

At Morris I get off the El, walk
down the stairs and head east toward Sheridan.  The beach is just a block away. 
May isn’t exactly swimming weather in Lake Michigan since the water is still
about thirty degree.  I’m not here to swim.  The sand is cold and grainy on my
bare feet as I kick off my shoes onto the sidewalk and leave them there to run
along the shore.  I don’t care about shoes or whether anyone takes them - my
apartment is three blocks south.  I run and run and run until I can’t breathe
and collapse on the cold sand.  It smells like dead fish and morning.  I can
smell coffee brewing at some café that’s close.  I lie still until my breathing
is normal again and get up and trot back as far as I came, taking my time at a
slow jog instead of a sprint.  After a night in a cage it’s good to be able to
move.  I let the lake wet the bottom of my jeans, knowing I will just peel them
off the minute I walk in the door.

As dawn starts to glow I
miraculously find my shoes exactly where I left them and head home to my cheap
one bedroom apartment on Sheridan road.  As soon as the door is closed behind
me I kick off my flip flops and strip out of my jeans and sweater so I’m left
wearing the black Saigon top and a pair of black bikini panties.  My apartment
is bare bones in décor and furnishings but the rent is decent for the space.  I
have a two person loveseat facing a television that’s never on and I’m actually
not sure it’s hooked up or plugged in, but it’s something to look at.  I have
an end table I occasionally use as a dinner table, and a plate, some cups,
three forks, a really good chef’s knife, one large ladle, a spatula and a
frying pan.  I wrap myself in a fleece blanket and sit on my mattress.  No
fancy bedframe for me.  I have a mirror in every room hanging on the wall
because I have a thing for mirrors, but there isn’t a single clock anywhere
except the one that’s already on my phone.  That’s literally everything I own. 
I guess you could say I’m a minimalist.  Oh, I have one other thing that’s
propped up against my bedroom wall, which is an oil painting by my brother
Devin of seagulls feeding during a Lake Michigan sunrise.  Its seven feet tall
and six feet across and it’s the only thing in the entire apartment with any
sort of color in it, which makes up for my institution white walls.  Devin
works for the railroad as a conductor, but paints during what little spare time
he has and has always been good at painting and drawing.  I’m good at nothing
except being crazy.

I’m not tired yet, even though it’s
likely that the rest of the early rising normal world is waking up for church or
some other such nonsense at this hour.  I contemplate breakfast and decide on a
bottle of whiskey and roll a joint with a tiny bit of pot I find at the bottom
of my dugout.  It’s just enough for eight good puffs, I estimate.

I get a glimpse of myself in the full-length
mirror.  I’m not sure why I need a mirror in every room.  Perhaps it makes it
easier for me to be alone.  I look small and shrunken on my bed.  Under my eyes
are dark circles, partially from the makeup that’s rubbed off and around my
eyes, mostly because the ones under my skin never go away.  My hair could use a
good brushing, but what’s the point if I’m ready to crash?  I’m too skinny,
probably because I never eat.  I’m too pale because I sleep all day like a
vampire.  Who knows if I’ll live to see thirty at the rate I’m going?  And
really, who cares?  Besides Devin, I have no family and no real friends to
speak of, and with my schedule and anti-social personality, it probably won’t
change anytime soon.

I finish my joint and half the
bottle and eventually pass out.  I have been asleep for an hour and I hear my
phone.  I’m pretty annoyed, since someone is called during normal waking hours
and everyone I know who has my number realizes that I wouldn’t be awake at 7:42

“Jenna,” I hear a husky voice say. 
It is Devin, my brother.  I can hear the loud engine noises in the background. 
He’s going to be deaf in a year, most likely, with all of the noise he has to
put up with at his job on the railroad.  Even with earplugs it’s too loud, he
tells me.

“Hi,” I reply.

He is silent, but I know we’re
still connected from the background.  We’re both horrible on the telephone,
preferring in person conversations or sometimes text messages.  “Jack is dead.”

I press my lips together in a hard
line.  I’m sure I am as pale as the institution white walls of my apartment. 
“Okay,” is my reply.  The emotion in my voice sums up my feelings for the
news.  Nothing.

“He drank himself to death, of
course.  Basically cut off all of the oxygen in his bloodstream.”  He is
silent, waiting for me to react.  I don’t.  “The funeral is tomorrow at 2:00.
It’s at Darnell Funeral Home in Oakdale.  It starts at 2:00 pm.”  There is yet
more silence.  Devin almost sounds out of breath.  “Will you go?”

“No,” I say.  “I can’t believe you
even asked me that.  Goodbye Devin.”  I hit the End Call button on the screen
of my iPhone, the one luxury I allow myself in place of furniture, a nice place
to live, a car and human contact.  He won’t call back.  I stay sitting up in
bed.  I feel like I’m slowly being strangled, and kick away the blanket.

When was the last time I talked to
Jack?  I wonder this, trying to think of the moment when I last saw my dad.  He
was always Jack to Devin and me.  I reach for my pack of cigarettes, never very
far, and take a long drink of warm whiskey.  It’s hot in my apartment.  I can’t
breathe.  Maybe I should trade my iPhone in for an air conditioner, I think,
but then I remind myself that summer in Chicago isn’t really very long.  I
stand up and start to pace slowly, and then my steps become faster and faster. 
I am smoking furiously, if it can even be done that way.  I tug on my hair and
my Saigon top which all seems to be sticking to me everywhere as the sweat
pours off of my skin.

I hear a knock on my front door and
know exactly who it will be.  I stop what I’m doing and feel a warm relief
shroud me.

It’s a few short steps from my
bedroom to the door, and I stare out through the peephole and see her.  She is
distorted, rounded out by the glass hole between her and me.  I open my door
and she comes in with a rush of cold, welcome air through the hallway.

Kate is composed with a mischievous
grin on her face.  She is simply dressed in a short white sundress that
flutters as she walks in immediately.  I notice her feet are bare, and her skin
is already tanned from the short amount of time it’s been warm outside.  I
wonder if she’s been out of town, it’s been so long since I’ve seen her, but
here she is when I need her most.  “I hear the bastard died,” she tells me.  I
don’t say anything.  I stand in complete awe of her.  She is here, and I needed
her.  “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

BOOK: Killing Kate
11.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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