Angela Still is an ex-Los Angeleno now living in her home state of Georgia. She is currently an MFA student working in
cross-genre literature. She's revising her first novel, a tale of love, revenge and magic, as well as working on a short story
about Jim Morrison's ghost.
Looking for Shay
"She still hasn't got that heel fixed, I see," Punk Rock Dave said.
He lit another cigarette. His face showed cadaver white for a second, spiked blue hair black in the flash of the lighter's flame. The
Santa Anas blew around them, strong gusts of hot air that felt like some stranger breathing down your neck as he fucked you
bent over the sink in the crowded bathroom of a dark, throbbing nightclub. Dave and Angel stared out the passenger window
that was permanently stuck at the halfway mark. There were only two prostitutes tonight.
One was that crazy black chick with the long blonde wig and big distended gut that hung out of her midi-top. She hobbled
towards oncoming traffic on a broken heel, stumbling through the trash that danced around her feet, waving enthusiastically
each time a driver honked. The other was a boy, a hustler, hiding a little way up the alley, arms crossed over his chest, leaning
his back against the side of a brick building tagged in overlapping, exploding fireworks of color.
"Maybe we should get her some new shoes. I wonder what size she wears. And what the fuck is he doing here?" Angel asked,
pointing at the hustler.
The air smelled of the burgers and dogs grilling in the old fashioned wooden cart parked on the corner. The "Sunset Grille,"
according to the airbrushed sign. Smoke from the grill floated in a spiraling helix, caught in the red beam of the twelve-foot
neon guitar on the front of the music store. Angel watched the smoke with greedy eyes. Every few seconds the swooshing of a
passing car meshed with the ever present whipping of the Santa Anas to drown out the distant gunshots and car horns.
"I ain't got enough money to buy some fucking smacked out hooker a new pair of shoes," Dave said. His mohawk teetered as
he shook his head. He leaned over Angel and cupped his hands around his mouth. Angel pressed back against the seat as hard
as she could.
"Hey! Cocksucker! You'd make more money down on Santa Monica," Dave yelled to the hustler. He leaned back in the driver's
seat and flicked his ash out the window. "I don't see Shay."
The boy, wearing a white t-shirt, ripped jeans and a pair of Cons with the soles masking-taped to the tops, looked about
fourteen. He was HIV skinny, all sunken eyes with delicate doe wrists, long blond bangs covering part of his face. He was still
pretty despite the pinched look of sickness, the pronounced bones that screamed impending death if you were listening. Maybe
he was pretty because of these things. Angel jerked her eyes away from his face, hoping he only looked fourteen. She thought
the hustler hadn't heard Dave until he unfurled his middle finger in their direction. Angel snickered into her palm. The kid had
guts. She wondered briefly how he ended up out here, and why no one was looking for him.
Dave shrugged and took a drag off his cigarette. "Just trying to help," he said to the universe.
Shay wasn't much older than the hustler. Angel met her at the house on DeLongpre last year, a fifteen-year-old waif with red
hair that fell in fairy tale ringlets to her waist. She had just moved to Hollywood from Apple Valley to live with her sister, a
refugee of her mother's home. Some dark story about the mother's boyfriend was whispered whenever Shay left a room, a
story never fully told. Or maybe Angel hadn't wanted to hear it, even then. Shay still wore colors when Angel first met her.
"Maybe she could blow you," Angel said, fingers pinching her bottom lip. She pulled her legs up to her chin. Her eyes were huge,
sunken back into her thin face, as she stared out the window.
"Her. For the shoes." The white fingers twitched towards the prostitute again.
"I wouldn't let her wrap her lips around my cock for all the gold in Tijuana."
"There's no gold in Tijuana."
Shay attached herself to Angel at once, mainly because, unlike Toni, Angel tolerated her, even though it just wasn't cool to let
fresh from the farm teens hang out at DeLongpre. Especially if you were Angel or Toni. Toni was a trustifarian from the
Northwest, a daddy's girl with a huge trust fund waiting for her to grow up. Toni had opened doors for Angel all over Hollywood,
but Angel kept herself in the room. Now, Angel pushed open the doors — Ira was a close, personal friend, one of the few guys
Angel hung out with that she hadn't fucked. She was always on the list at his clubs, which were most of the cool ones in
Hollywood. The Banana Twister, Madame Yu's, Club Garter. Shay's eyes bugged like she'd seen Santa Claus each time they
strolled through the doors, past the long lines waiting down the blocks of Hollywood streets. The other clubs, Brothel and The
Bunny Farm, were Cal's, but Angel was on the list there too, though Cal's generosity wasn't as innocent as Ira's. It didn't
matter. Shay thought Angel was the coolest, and under the fawning gaze of the broken fifteen-year-old, Angel shook off a hard
layer of calcified boredom. She had long ago grown jaded about the soon-to-be famous boys who crashed on her floor or spent
the night between her thighs, but to Shay, it was a whole new glamorous, disco ball of a world.
Shay wasn't the most lost person Angel had ever met, but something about Shay stuck into Angel, made her feel motherly.
Something about Shay's pale blue eyes that never quite met yours and her just a little too eager laughter. The way she was still
naïve and kind in a manner only a genuine reject can master. And if Angel was honest with herself, it was the look that sparkled
in Shay's eyes when she watched Angel put on her thick black eyeliner, draw on her dark lips, the way Shay started dressing like
her in black velvets and fake furs. That was what really hooked Angel. That look was one of the only things you couldn't find in
Los Angeles just by knowing someone or spreading your legs.
Hardly a month passed before Angel came home one afternoon from a delivery with Dave to find Shay sitting on the front stoop
of DeLongpre, crying and scared. Her face was buried in her hands and a backpack was stuffed to bursting at her side; her
sister had kicked her out for spending too many nights out with the big kids. Angel offered Shay a place amongst the other
orphans who regularly called the living room floor of DeLongpre their home. Two nights later, Shay was sleeping on Angel's
bedroom floor, curled up in a nest of ratty blankets, a look of tranquility and peace lounging on her face.
By this time, Angel and Toni were starting to split, become two separate entities instead of the Terror Twins of Tinseltown. It
was almost out of spite that Angel first starting hanging out with Shay, some weird, blurry attempt to make Toni jealous.
Instead of hitting the clubs with Toni, Angel took Shay, after hooking her up with a fake ID. Toni was probably too far gone in a
cloud of her own meth smoke to even notice.
"No. Goddamit!" Angel yelled suddenly, jumping forward in her seat, banging her hands against the dash. The Santa Anas blew
again, ruffling her long, ink black hair. Punk Rock Dave tore his eyes away from the hustler, looked forward and groaned.
"Son of a bitch," he muttered.
Angel flopped back in the seat, uncoiled her legs and kicked the rusty dash of the Datsun, sending refrigerator magnets, bearing
Marilyn Monroe's face when she was just Norma Jean, to the floor.
"What the fuck, Angel?"
"It's nearly two o'clock in the fucking morning! Why the fuck is traffic stopping now?"
Dave lunged forward and sifted through the empty baggies that littered the balding floorboard to retrieve the Norma-Marilyns.
"I can't find the other one," he mumbled from the floor.
"Well it's not like it jumped out the fucking window." Angel's eyes followed a four-door Mercedes sedan pulling to the curb in
front of them. "Look."
She grabbed the back of Dave's creaky leather jacket and hauled him upright. The Mercedes was black, windows tinted as dark
as the body paint. It sat still, a crouched panther surveying the plain. The hooker limped over to the window and knocked.
Nothing. The hustler came up, pushed her aside with his shoulder. Seconds later, he was leaning in the open window. Seconds
later, he was getting in the car.
"What the fuck do I know about Santa Monica?" Punk Rock Dave said, his eyebrows raised, as the car pulled away. He handed
the magnets over to Angel.
"You know it's where to go to get boys. Fuck. I was hoping that would be Shay." She slapped Norma-Marilyn back in place. She
recoiled into the seat again, studying the magnets. She kicked off a shoe and used her big toe to reposition them.
"Right. Like she'd be smart enough to cruise a Mercedes. She's probably on her knees in some fucking alley, sucking off a dirty
Mexican for some brown. Anyway, she's not here."
Everyone was strangely drawn to Shay. Everyone wanted to be the first — the first to get her high, the first to fuck her, the
first to poison and defile. Angel would not have it. Angel put a buffer between Shay and all the junkies, band members, and
predators that had been trying to get into Shay's Day of the Week panties since the second she walked through the door of
DeLongpre. Seth, who had fucked everybody on the Strip twice and then asked for their mother's phone number, started
following after Shay like a stray dog. Shay glowed her special glow, set her sparkle-eyed look on him. She started wearing
Seth's band jacket and making a point to hover in front of the sad fangirls, too ugly for even the band boys to fuck, that came
down from the Valley every show to fawn over Seth. Angel understood all too well that in a competition with a bleached blond
femmeboy wearing badly applied eyeliner, she would not win. She finally let Shay smoke up one night under her watchful eye,
just so the kid could see what she was missing. Angel didn't want some vulture getting Shay all fucked up on mustard-colored
crank and fucking her senseless while she choked on the drip.
Meth turned out not to be Shay's thing. Angel still didn't know who started her on the junk, (she suspected Seth, though he
only played with the stuff — strictly a sniffer, not a shooter) but once it began, there was no stopping it. By the time Shay
turned sixteen, she was wearing long sleeved shirts on hundred degree days, sleeping all the time, forgetting to get up to brush
her teeth or piss. Angel sat her down and had The Talk, but hearing it from someone with a delicate haze of chemical smoke
perpetually floating around her mouth didn't have much effect. Shay idolized Angel, and if Angel was going to get high, Shay
was going to get higher. If Angel was going to fuck guys, Shay was going to fuck more. If Angel was going to burn out instead
of fade away, Shay was going to explode.
Dave turned on his signal and wedged between two other Mercedes, a silver one and another black one. Everyone had a fucking
Mercedes these days. It was like that with the BMWs last year. Even fucking Ira had a Mercedes, even joked about it, calling it
his crematorium on wheels. Said he tried to get the model with the Jew-skin seat covers, but they sold out back in 1943.
Normally, that kind of thing would have pissed Angel off, but as Ira was Jewish, there wasn't a whole lot you could say about it.
They inched forward, a 1977 once-upon-a-time-blue Datsun with a donut on the back passenger side rim, floating like a dead fly
in the cocktail of Porsches, Mercedes and Beamers with just a dash of Ferraris, shaken, not stirred. It was Saturday night and
the rich Valley Girls and Boys were headed towards the Strip, wanting to see the freak show. She and Dave were headed that
way hoping for a glimpse of Shay. She had disappeared about week ago, and since she had been out of H and no one had seen
her at the usual haunts, Angel figured she was tricking again. Fucking idiot. Angel wondered if Shay was even bothering to use
condoms when she gave blowjobs these days and figured probably not. She had always bitched about the taste and the cost.
"Los Angeles, California. The only place on earth where you can get caught in a traffic jam at two fucking AM," Dave said. His
hand hung limply over the steering wheel.
"The cops probably put up a road block. If we get stuck for too long, she might be in for the night."
Dave rolled his head towards her.
"Where the fuck is she going to go, Angel?"
Angel's stomach lurched and she pulled on her bottom lip. She did this so often the lip was eternally swollen and sore, giving a
pouty look to the caricature of her Gothic Kewpie Doll features.
They rounded the sharp curve at the bottom of the hill and could see far enough ahead to know there wasn't a roadblock. The
clubs were closing, that was the problem. The streets were flooded with beat-up hemorrhages like Dave's leaving the clubs and
the flawless luxury trophies going towards them. The streets were flooded with people, too, pretty freaks, carnies in a private
show, Dave and Angel's folks. Boys who looked like girls who looked like boys who looked like hookers who looked like vampires
walked the streets under the heavy glow of the streetlamps. Tight black clothes framing cat tail thin bodies and sparkly, matte,
rouged, white faces all along the Strip. Dave and Angel had missed the clubs tonight because Dave had to deliver to some
clients down in Redondo. Angel wanted to make one of the after-parties, hopefully the one at Duff's place up in the hills, but
knowing Dave, he'd pull some last minute shit and they'd miss it. Fuck. Angel wouldn't even bother to hang out with him if it
weren't for the free glass.
"What happened with you and Shay?" Dave asked out of the blue. He tossed out his smoked to the filter butt.
Angel ripped off her thumbnail with one savage pull of her front teeth. A quarter moon of blood appeared, shimmering like
motor oil under the glare of the streetlights. All ten of her nails were down to the quick, the chipped black fingernail polish
checker boarding what was left.
"Fuck off, Dave."
"You fuck off. I'm asking a legitimate fucking question, considering I'm wasting my time and gas looking for the whore."
Angel whipped her head towards him, eyes blazing under her glittered brow.
"Don't you call her that, don't you dare." Angel turned back to the road ahead. She took a beat to calm down. "I told her she
couldn't stay at DeLongpre if she was going to be smacked out and fucking hooking all the time. It was bad enough when Toni
started selling for you, we certainly didn't need a fucking 16-year-old junkie lying around the house all day. Delinquency of a
fucking minor, dude, not to mention that they'd probably fucking fry you for possession of meth and H. I can't see why she
likes that shit anyway. Christ. Now, I need a fucking hit."
Angel dug in her shiny vinyl bag for her Insta-Hit kit. She flitted through several layers of tin foil cut into little squares and
enough jaggedly halved straws that the bottom of her purse looked like a game of pick up sticks. There were three lighters, two
books of matches, her fake ID and a tube of bruise purple lipstick. She discarded three charred pieces of foil to the floor, found
a clean piece, and formed the square into a small cup that curled along the edges like a blossom. She stuck one of the cut off
straws into her mouth, holding it clenched between her front teeth, and pulled out a tiny Ziploc of sparkling adrenaline.
"Look, between all the drugs I gave you and Toni, I was practically losing money. I told Toni she could sell for me or do it your
way. She chose to sell. Sorry if I fucked up your domestic arrangements. As for Shay… what can I say? Girl came to us
damaged. How many days have you been awake now?"
Angel pulled the straw out of her mouth, holding it between her index and middle finger like a cigarette.
"You don't even know Shay, so shut the fuck up. And Toni's a fucking idiot, that's all I have to say. She'll be wishing she went
my way when she gets busted."
"Aww, I knew you liked me." Dave fluttered his eyelashes at Angel.
Angel curled her lip in disgust. "I think you're a fucking dildo, but the last time I checked you didn't get ten years in jail for giving
your drug dealer a blow job now and then."
Dave chuckled and patted her knee. Angel gnashed her teeth.
"It all works for me. Too bad Shay's an H-queen. I'd be more than happy to take multiple chicks on the payroll," he said.
"Yeah, you would let a 16-year-old girl suck your dick. Fucking pedophile."
Dave chuckled. Angel's body seared with a hatred so intense she shuddered. She knew Dave had others like her, that she
wasn't the only one "on the payroll," as Dave said. But, for the time being at least, she was his favorite. Angel never thought
about their arrangement, never looked in mirrors when Dave was around. She got the best of his drugs, which were the best in
town, and even made a little extra money helping him out with deliveries. Every job had its pitfalls. The only thing that kept her
going, that enabled her to look in a mirror ever, was that Dave thought he could trust her. He really believed she thought he
was the shit, but she knew if she ever got caught, she would scream his name first thing, scream it over and over again until
her throat bled.
She tapped a pearl of meth into the dip of the foil and laid the poison blossom in the pile of her coat. She closed the baggie and
placed it carefully in her purse, inside the tattered velvet pouch, tucked in the inside zip pocket. She grabbed one of the lighters.
She preferred matches, but the fucking Santa Anas were howling and you couldn't roll up the window on Dave's piece of shit, so
a lighter would have to do. She held on to the corner of the tin foil and raised it to her chin, one pinkie extended like she was
taking high tea. Her lips parted and closed around the straw again, catching it slightly to the left. She deftly moved the straw
front and center by rolling it like a toothpick, resting it right on the sore spot. She leaned forward over the piece of foil and fired
up the lighter. The winds blew it out twice, but on the third time, the flame held.
The smell of burning plastic filled the car as the little mound of meth started to boil and bubble. A small, swirling stream of
smoke danced upward, blood red from the glare of Mercedes taillights. Angel sucked expertly, drawing the little stream into her
lungs. A small trail escaped, and she followed it upward with her straw, inhaling in frantic little spurts until it was gone. She went
back to the foil, hit the lighter again, and smoked until the taste of burnt tin replaced the sweet chemical velvet that had been
coating her mouth.
Her hands fell flaccid into her lap. The smoldering leaf of foil seesawed to the floor, the straw rolled along the side of her face
and caught in her collar. She closed her eyes against the roaring in her ears. It was a 747 taking off in her face, a tsunami
hitting land. Yeah, that was it. A rising twenty-foot wave, building from her toes, swelling up her thighs, cresting at her
stomach, peaking at her chest and finally breaking with an earth-quaking thud against her skull.
"Fuck," she panted, gripping the edges of her seat so tight that her battered fingernails disappeared into the cushion.
Dave watched her, his eyes gleaming like a lion's watching a herd of broken legged gazelles.
"Is that good shit or fucking what?"
Angel couldn't answer. Her tongue was too busy flicking over her lips to form words, the blood too loud as it stampeded
through her veins. She wasn't sure if it was the winds blowing her hair back or the rush. Her stomach contracted involuntarily,
pushing her breath out in sharp puffs and drawing in the hot air of the Santa Anas.
Dave reached over and patted her knee again. "Hold on, baby," he said.
Angel held on. Tightly. And all too soon, it was over.
But there was the aftermath to behold. Angel opened her eyes slowly, a newborn in a new world. The taillights and headlights
were now a creeping sheet of diamond and ruby crusted lava, flowing over the street at a crawl. The streetlights, the neon lights
of the club signs — anything that shone — left trails of comet dust in their wake. Everything was sharp, clear, breathtakingly
vivid. The Whiskey, painted demon black with carnage red lettering for Oliver Stone's next movie, was the butler, standing stiff
and staid on the corner that strung out into the Strip. Tall and narrow, facing the street at a side angle which suggested it could
slide off the curb and into the netherworld without warning, the door looked like the mouth of hell. Further up, the colors on the
Rainbow's sign weren't just gauzy primary colors melting into one another, but liquid acid, burning into the nicotine yellow night
air. Gazarri's garish pink façade pulsed like a big fake tit, swollen by a hardened silicone bag stuffed behind a scarred nipple. The
tiny store that sold fur coats was the odd man out in a long line of clubs, its window showcasing a lone mannequin wearing a
speckled cat of some sort, shoulders wrapped in pain and torture under the glare of a single miniature Klieg light. Angel barked
laughter, remembering her other life when she had been a student at Fairfax High, and how she and her friends had Super-
Soaked that same storefront with red paint.
She remembered Shay, the first time she had ever seen her. A tiny fairy shoved into a world where they got off on pulling out
the wings of flying things. Preferably before they ever left the ground. The laughter died in Angel's throat.
The howl of the Santa Anas was the voice of a legion of demons, racing over the crowd of lost angels shimmying up and down
the strip, blowing the delicious heat of hell into their starving souls. Drunks yelled incoherently, boys in bands spewed candy-
coated insults at giggling, glittery girls, their voices a cacophony of seduction. Horns honked and chicks flashed their breasts,
cars pulled over, the low hum of electric windows, and bills and baggies exchanged hands. Angel heard the low thumps of music
that shook the clubs, out of time and battling with one another, suddenly syncopate and mesh, a complex jazz number that
could have come straight from Coltrane's sax. Angel smiled. Shay, inexplicably, loved Coltrane.
Angel saw several people she knew. Mikki, her old roommate and amazing fuck, his bass guitar swung over his back, being
followed by two too-young-to-be-there girls. And there was Mandy, wearing that same fucking skirt again, so short his balls
nearly hung below the hem. Joe Tango, holding court in front of Gazarri's, no doubt telling the blonde girl in the halter-top that
she looked like some movie star or another, trying to get her into bed. He pulled that trick on Angel before, too. It worked
surprisingly well. And there, just slipping around the corner and into the liquor store, was a waifish girl, short and wispy,
dressed all in black, stop sign red hair swinging just below her waist. Angel leaned forward, nose pressed against the windshield.
She blinked. The red head was gone.
"Dave! Pull up to Gil Turner's! I just saw Shay!"
"What? I'm surrounded by cars."
Angel threw her purse in the floor and jumped into the street. She ran up the sidewalk, pressed on all sides by hellos from
people she didn't even remember knowing. The sidewalk glittered below her, reminding her of moonlight on the ocean. She
laughed out loud and ran on, thinking that in Los Angeles, everything sparkled.
She launched herself off the corner towards Gil Turner's Fine Liquors without even looking and almost got herself roadkilled.
From the side street, a sleek gold Jaguar with some starlet Angel almost recognized in the driver's seat blared the horn,
probably coming from a party at one of the five-million-dollar mansions that littered the Hills behind the Strip. Angel banged her
palm flat against the hood of the car and careened on.
Gil Turner's was closed, the door latched and solid. Angel banged her palm flat against it, too. A disgusting troll of a man came
to the door, wife-beater stretched over his stomach as thinly as the greasy comb-over stretched across his bald pate. The white
hairs stuck out of his nose like a cluster of coke boogers. His dried plum lips stretched back over teeth browned the color of
snuff. He looked out at Angel. She was panting from the drugs and the run and her cheeks were high with color. She gave him a
Norma Jean smile.
"Can I come in? My friend is in there!" she yelled through the bulletproof glass.
"There's no one in here. We're closed. It's after two."
"I saw her! Just now! Please! I'll only be a minute!" Angel was bouncing in place as if she had to pee.
Being pretty and young and willing to beg opened many doors in this town and it worked beautifully on the troll. Angel listened
as three locks clacked open, loudly enough to be heard over the police chopper that thwacked overhead. She stepped inside.
Quiet fell on them like a spider.
She gave him a slow smile. "I'll just be a sec."
"There's no one in here," the troll repeated, eyes crawling up and down her body.
The liquor bottles gleamed hospital clean under the fluorescents. Stars flared at the corners of the clear ones and the dark ones
glowed with inner warmth. The store felt dirty because of its age and the desiccated 8x10s on the dark paneled walls, but there
was not a speck of dust on the merchandise. Angel clipped up and down the aisles, craning her head this way and that, but
Shay was not there.
"Didn't you see a girl, short, with long red hair come in? Just a second ago?"
"I told you, there's no one in here."
"Is there a bathroom or something?"
The troll came out from behind the counter, his hairy arms wobbling as he shook his key ring.
"No, there's no john. Now go on. I've got to count the drawer and get home."
Angel's eyes filled with tears, multiplying the stars in orbit around the bottles.
"Sorry," she whispered. The troll opened the door to let her out.
"Hey, darling. You're still hot, you know. Why don't you come home with me and let me take care of you?"
The hustler back at the music rose in Angel's memory, once again unfurling his middle finger, a pretty smirk on his angular face.
Shay, a needle hanging from the crook of her elbow and her head lolling along the back of the couch, her pixie face delicate and
free, cried an echo in her heart. In Los Angeles, all that mattered was that you were still pretty. In Los Angeles, everything
She unfurled her very own middle finger salute, thinking that if it worked for the sweet boy hustler spreading death up and
down Sunset in the backseats of cars and in the beds of cheap motel rooms, it worked for her, too. "Fuck you, asshole," she
"You little fucking bitch!"
The troll pushed her into the night.
Flashes of velvet, spandex and lamé masquerading as people spoke as she passed, but she carried on as if they weren't there,
walking in a slow, funeral rhythm. Through the blur of Angel's tears, their faces looked like lumps of melted wax. The music had
stopped and the dying sounds of the crowd swirled around her head on the winds. Loud, clumsy laughter and somewhere,
singing. She stumbled forward, not knowing where she was going, not remembering Dave. She felt like a husk, an emptied
snakeskin rustling on the floor of a dank and dying wood.
"Angel! Angel!" Dave yelled from the car as she neared.
Angel's eyes fluttered and she looked around. She spotted the Datsun, Dave's head sticking out of the sunroof.
"Where is she?" Dave yelled. He pushed open the rusty door. The creak of the hinges was swallowed by the winds.
Angel plunked down in the passenger seat and pulled her knees to her chest.
"She wasn't there."
Dave studied her, his face ugly with tenderness.
"How many days have you been awake, Angel?"
Angel chewed on her raw thumbnail and did not answer.
"We can go check down on St. Andrews, if you want. But seriously, baby, I think this is a waste of time."
Angel dove for her purse, gritting her teeth against the tears flaring in her eyes. She dug, pulled out The Kit again and prepped
"Angel, that's enough, I think." Dave snatched the Kit from her hands as the car lurched forward.
Angel put teeth marks on the straw before she spit it in her lap. Her eyes flickered from the Kit in Dave's hands up to Dave's
"Don't you fucking tell me when it's enough! What the fuck do you care, anyway?"
Dave threw the Kit back at her.
"Fine, do whatever you want. The sooner you smoke all that up, the sooner I get my dick sucked. You are the best, you know.
Where do you think Shay learned her moves?"
Angel flew at him, clawed hands wind-milling in front of her. Her nubby nails did no harm, but her teeth found their mark on the
side of Dave's face.
Dave roared and threw her across the small car. She kicked feebly at him, but the thud against the door knocked all the fight
out of her. She crumbled into a ball of blackness among the baggies and foil in the floorboard. Stuck to a patch of bare metal,
just below the vent that blew air onto your feet, was the other Norma-Marilyn magnet. Norma Jean's yet to be lightened locks
streamed out behind her, her unlined eyes were clear. Her smile, framed by natural pink lips, seemed real.
"You fucking psycho," Dave shouted. He tapped a cigarette out of the pack and lit it up, hands shaking with the effort.
Angel scooted back up into the seat, sniffing and wiping her nose. She gathered the pieces of her Kit and started again. Dave
made no protest this time. The foil, the powder, the straw, the flame. The tsunami swelled again, crashed and shook. Angel
couldn't ride it this time, couldn't take the rush. She wiped out, body slammed against the earth, folded over and retching.
"Goddammit!" Dave pounded his fist against the dash. "This is getting boring, Angel. It's like this with you all the time now."
"Shut up, Dave," she croaked between heaves.
Still bitching under his breath, Dave whipped the car down Doheny, away from the traffic. He turned up a little side street and
pulled over to the curb.
"Look, Angel. I'm sorry that Shay wasn't in there. You're fucking hallucinating, man, fucking losing it. You bit my face, baby.
How long you been up?"
Dave continued. "I think we need to go home, put that shit down for a few days, and get you some sleep and something to eat.
When was the last time you ate something? Huh, Angel? Do you even remember?"
"We need to find Shay."
"Baby, we ain't going to find Shay unless Shay wants to be found. It's a big world. She's probably not even in Hollywood
anymore. The guys who deal that shit are downtown, East. Give it up."
Angel lowered her head to her knees and cried.
Dave jammed the car in reverse.
"We're going home."
Dave jerked the car around, barely avoiding a rich old hag out walking her pocket pooch, and signaled to turn onto Doheny
"No, Dave, wait. I don't want to go back to the Valley yet. Please? Can we go to the beach? I need to walk, get some air. It'll
help. I'm sorry I bit you." The words tumbled out of her mouth, riding the wave that was still pounding through her.
Dave sighed, his face softened, and he turned the signal on the Datsun from the right to the left. The Strip was dark now, only
a few silhouettes still straggling along.
"Fine. But you're going to owe me extra for this."
Angel closed her eyes and swallowed down another dry heave.
"Fine," she managed to say at last.
Dave pulled the car onto the shoulder while Angel's eyes roved over the water. The ocean was black, a twinkling saliva-covered
tongue protruding from the mouth of the earth, ready to swallow all of them whole. She kicked off her shoes, and not waiting
for Dave, pushed open the door. She hopped the rail and carefully picked her way down the rocky slope to the shore.
As soon as her feet hit the soft pack, she ran. Her pounding heart picked up treble; she could barely breathe. But she was
moving, and finally her body could keep up with her mind, stuck on spin cycle from the drugs. Finally, she couldn't hear the
grinding of her teeth, the sound scraping against her skull like the fingers of someone buried alive as they struggled to dig free.
She spread her arms, ran further, faster, gasping for breath. She looked over her shoulder, the paranoid gaze of prey, only to
see Dave, gaining, gaining, his mouth gaping with words torn away by the winds. She tripped, her emaciated legs too weak to
navigate the shifting sand with any real aplomb. The sand tore at her knees in the spaces between her fishnets, scraped a
barcode along her jaw line, but she did not notice, could not feel. She rolled onto her back in the sand, hands over her pumping
"Angel!" Dave screamed over the wind. He was gaining, gaining.
She pushed herself up and ran. She shook off her fake fur as if it were a second skin. Now she could really move, now she was
They were never going to find Shay. Shay might as well be one of the tiny fairy lights burning bright on the ocean's surface.
She reached the hard pack, cool and firm as a corpse under her feet. The ocean roared in time with the blood pounding through
her skull. Wave after wave hit the rocks, the spray exploding in the moonlight, a confetti of diamonds. The hard pack shook
under her, absorbing the force of the waves, silently trembling beneath the assault, taking their punishment.
This was it, this was the real rush. This is where she went every time she hit, every time she inhaled that magic smoke. The
stars glittering on the water became fiery streamers as she ran, long glowing tails streaking alongside. She was breaking the
sound barrier, warping the speed of light. Her hair whipped behind her, her lips pulled back in grimace, her teeth grinding against
an imaginary bit. If she could just stay here, stay here forever, stay in the moment of this rush, she wouldn't have to save
Shay, wouldn't have to sleep, fuck, suck, inhale, nothing. If she could just stay here forever, she could live, live in the wake of
the wave, riding it into eternity.
The hard pack shuddered again, sending tremors from the soles of her feet to the tip of her spine. Icy water splashed around
her ankles. A wave, strong, the tide coming in, crashed over her, pulling her down. She inhaled, she sucked expertly, drawing
the salt and the water and the end into her lungs. She would stay here forever, stay in these waves. They would cradle her and
rock her, take her back to the womb, to purity. She surfaced for a moment, eyes burning with salt. Another wave pounded her
back down, pounded her like some stranger fucking her bent over the sink in the crowded bathroom of the Whiskey while a
crowd of men watched. She inhaled, she sucked expertly. Another wave, another, she inhaled, the roaring was in her bones, the
million explosions of light were happening above her now –
"Angel! What the fuck are you doing?"
Dave plucked her from the waves, arms pushing into her abdomen, sending water back to its source in jets. She tried to
struggle, tried to get free, but she was too broken from the beating of the waves. She hadn't gone deep enough, never deep
Dave dragged her to the shore and threw her to the hard pack. His mouth descended over hers, breathing for her, blowing life
back into her lungs. He moved just in time to miss his own mouthful of water. Angel convulsed with cold, with emptiness. She
sobbed. She tore at her face, rolling side to side in the sand.
"You fucking psycho fucking bitch!" Dave screamed. He kicked her in the ribs, the steel toe of his boots crunching two of them,
making the stars on the ocean dance in her head.
"What the fuck, baby?" He paced beside her fetal-curled body, swearing under his breath. He was soaked to his chest, his
Mohawk wilted in several places from the waves. He dug for his cigarettes, only to find them drenched. He spiked them onto the
"Fuck!" he shouted again.
Deck lights blared like the sun. Dave stopped his pacing, eyes fixed on the lights.
"Time to go," he muttered to himself.
He snatched Angel from the sand and heaved her over his shoulder. She landed on her fractured ribs and screamed.
"Shut up, Angel!"
Angel's head lolled as he jogged up the beach towards the car. A man stepped out onto the deck of what was probably a $5000
a week summer rental. It was a two-bedroom shack, situated just over the property line that separated the public beach from
the private ones. Or didn't separate them, rather. Angel cackled and flipped the man off.
"What's so goddamn funny?" Dave shrieked. He threw her back onto the sand, soft and sifting now, but still jangling against
She flipped Dave off.
He dragged her up and marched her to the car.
Angel sat shivering in the seat, her ribs snarling in pain as she tried to catch her breath. Dave cranked the car, digging through
the glove box for cigs.
"Where's my coat?"
"You threw it on the fucking beach, you psycho fucking bitch!"
"Turn on the heat."
"Fuck you!" But Dave turned on the heat.
Dave pulled away from the curve and drove up the 1 towards Santa Monica. The long way home. Angel turned to look back at
the ocean, vast and eternal under the moon. Shay was gone. She was gone. And Angel had been close. But Dave. Always
fucking Dave. A shiver rocked her body, a wave beating the hard pack, the trembling the only response to the punishment. Her
eyes fixed on the glittering of the ocean, no longer fairy lights, but just the fractured reflection of the moon.