When Pete met Jeanne in the alley in the back of the bar, she was dressed in a skin-tight black leather jacket and soft suede boots that rose to the back of her knees, Jeanne was doubled over behind the blue steel dumpster, retching her guts out, her handbag laid on the wet cobblestone. It was love at first sight.
Pete rubbed her back. “It’s okay,” he coaxed. “Get it all out of your system, you will feel better.”
Jeanne was a young woman in her mid-twenties but her eyes were old. She vomited again. And then looked up at Pete through the long black hair that covered her face. “Who . . .who are you?” she slurred.
“I’m Pete. I’m here to help you. “
She passed out, falling to the ground, her cell phone, clattering on the cobblestone. Pete carried Jeanne into his used BMV, wiped her mouth and face with a tissue and cleaned the vomit from her hair with an old gym towel.
He drove to a cheap hotel by the pier. An old Japanese couple checked him in.
“My sister had a little too much to drink,” he said sheepishly.
The old man looked down at his desk.
“Room 205,” his wife said in her ancient voice.
Pete carried Jeanne to the room in the mostly vacant hotel, like a groom carrying his new wife over the threshold. After wiping her mouth and laying her in her bed, he cleaned the outside of her red handbag. Taking a pillow from the bed, he fell asleep in the armchair.
“Who the fuck are you?” she said angrily, pointing a small silver pistol in his face.
“Wha – what?” Pete said, opening his eyes. It was still dark. Where was he? Last night.
The drunk lady. The cheap hotel. He was still dressed in his gray flannel suit.
“I said who the fuck are you?” the woman said, her dark brown eyes flashing. She brushed her hair back with her hand.
“What are you doing in my room?” she said.
“I found you in an alley last night so I brought you here.”
The woman walked over to the nightstand, and opened her handbag. She quickly counted her money.
“I didn’t touch you,” he said. “It was not safe to leave you here alone.”
She took a pack of cigarettes from her handbag. She put a cigarette in her mouth and then lit it. After exhaling smoke, her eyes softened. “Want one?”
Pete shook his head. “No, I don’t smoke.”
“Good, it’s terrible for your health,” she said. “What was your name again?”
“Pete . . . Pete Smith.”
“I’m Jeanne. How about some breakfast?”
Pete rubbed his eyes.
“Did you pay for the hotel room?” she asked.
“Then I’m buying,” she said.
Even without makeup, Jeanne looked stunning, her tight leather outfit hugged her hour- glass figure. She was a former fashion model.
She grabbed a menu in the booth with large vinyl red seats. “Oh, look,” she said. “You get a choice: an omelet, omelet or omelet. You can get a Denver omelet, a Greek omelet, a spinach omelet or a cheese omelet with a side of fried potatoes.”
The waitress - dressed in a blue and white dress with a Doris Day haircut - smiled.
“What do you want?” Pete asked Jeanne.
“I’ll have scrambled eggs,” she said.
“We don’t have scrambled eggs,” the waitress said.
“You have omelets here, don’t you, Doris?”
“My name is Billie,” the waitress said, touching her name tag.
“If you serve omelets here, you must have eggs?”
“Not on the menu.”
“What the fuck kind of diner do you have here if you don’t have scrambled eggs?”
The manager walked over. He was a short fat balding man with stubby fingers. “What seems to be the problem here?”
“I was telling Doris here, that I want scrambled eggs.”
“Lady, we just serve omelets here,” the manager said.
“Are the omelets made to order?” Pete asked.
“Yes,” the manager said.
“Will you please bring the lady, a cheese omelet and hold the cheese?” Pete smiled.
The manager nodded to the waitress.
“I’ll have a Denver omelet, a side of fried potatoes, and a coffee,” Pete said. “You can catch more flies with honey” he said to Jeanne.
“You can catch even more flies with shit,” Jeanne said. “I like my potatoes baked.”
Pete drove Jeanne home, a nice ranch-style house in the suburbs. However, unlike the green manicured lawns of her neighbors, her lawn was over grown with tall knee-high yellow weeds. Jeanne used to be married to an entrepreneur but her ex ran over a little boy while drunk driving. They were soon after divorced but Jeanne retained custody of their two young children and lived in the house.
Pete and Jeanne exchanged telephone numbers but did not call each other for more than a month. One day, Jeanne called Pete upset.
“Can you believe that damned judge awarded the house and full custody of my children to that drunkard Harold. He hired a damn private investigator to follow me around. Bastard. I’m so fucked. Can we meet up?”
“Sure,” Pete said. “This week is pretty crazy at the office but I can meet you on Friday.”
Jeanne worked as a waitress at a strip club called the Man Cave. When Pete arrived that afternoon at the door, the bouncer checked his driver’s license before allowing him in.
A large bouncer met him inside the club and escorted him to a back table. It was so dark inside that Pete’s eyes had to adjust to see. A large breasted dancer named Cherry languidly danced on stage, slowly hugging the pole under the black lights of the club. At the end of her three-song set, everybody clapped and then the next stripper slipped a dollar into her black garter belt before mounting the stage.
“Is Jeanne here?” Pete asked.
“Who?” the bouncer asked.
“Jessica,” one of the strippers said.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “I will seat you at one of her tables.”
Pete’s eyes were still adjusting to the dark club, when he felt, someone sit down next to me.
“Hey, Pete. I’m Jessica here. Please call me Jessica.”
“What will you have?”
“I’ll have a diet coke.”
“That will be five dollars.”
“Well, then it better be good.”
“It’s mostly ice.”
“What will have you?”
“And to eat?”
“I’ll bring a menu.”
“You don’t serve omelets here, do you?”
“Scrambled eggs,” she laughed throwing her head back.
Cherry stopped by Pete’s table, leaning forward, practically laying her large breasts on the table.
Pete tipped her a five spot, slipping it into her garter belt, touching her skin.
“Oh, you are naughty,” Cherry said, snapping his fingers in her garter belt.
Pete smiled and shrugged.
After she moved to the next table, Jeanne said: “She is a terrible dancer.”
“I didn’t notice,” Pete said.
“I suppose it does not matter.”
“With her, no it doesn’t.”
Pete saw Jeanne off and on at the club for about three months. The pressure at the law firm was intense. Also, Pete’s relationship with his girlfriend Claudia was not going well. Pete was trying to think of a nice way to end it when Claudia announced she had a new boyfriend.
“You understand, don’t you?” Claudia told him. Pete pretended to be hurt but in truth he was quite relieved. He hated hurting old girlfriends.
He liked Jeanne. There was something refreshingly honest about her. She could drink any man under the table and curse like a sailor. At the same time, she loved to cook. When she was sober, she could be very kind.
One morning, Jeanne called Pete at home. She had gotten drunk and went home with a customer. In the morning, he kicked her out of his gated community. She called Pete to pick up and take her home.
“Please, don’t say anything to anyone,” she said.
“No worries,” Pete said. “I’m just glad you are safe.”
She kissed Pete’s cheek. “Thanks, Pete.”
One day she called Pete at work. “Are you coming to the club tonight after work?”
“Yes,” Pete said. “I’m getting off early today so I thought I would come by and hang out
“That twat muffin, Freddie, was always trying to get inside my pants. I finally told him to fuck off and so he cut my hours.”
“Sorry to hear.”
“Well, life isn’t fair, particularly at a strip club. I just don’t know how I can pay my rent now.”
“I can help you.”
“I didn’t ask for your help.”
“I did not say you did.”
“How much do you need?”
“A thousand bucks.”
“I’ll pay you back when I get another job.”
“I really mean it.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Jeanne said.
“What is it?”
“Someone is repossessing my car.”
When Pete came to her house, she was pacing in her apartment. “Here is your check,” Pete said.
“I never ask clients for money,” she said.
“I’m not a client,” Pete said. “I’m a friend.”
“Do you smoke pot?”
“No,” Pete said. “I’m a lawyer.”
“Marijuana is not illegal here.”
“I don’t smoke pot,” Pete said.
“Don’t get so uptight,” she said. “If you smoke a little pot now and again, you would not be so uptight.”
“I’m not uptight,” Pete said, teeth clenched.
“Suit yourself,” she said.
She rolled herself a joint and took a drag. “Sure you don’t want some,” she asked, holding her breath. “You are really missing out on some good shit.”
He waved his hand. Now, he would have to get his suit dry-cleaned. He could not wear a suit that smelled like cannabis to work
“You want to get a drink? Harold has the kids again.”
Jeanne kissed Pete. “I really appreciate your friendship.”
At the bar, Jeanne had too much to drink. She later passed out but not before vomiting all over the table.
A week later they made love for the first time. Pete wanted Jeanne more than any other woman in his life. In the morning, Pete kissed her goodbye first on her lips and then on her forehead.
“I love you,” she told Pete.
“I love you, too,” Pete said, choking on his words.
Pete called her in the afternoon and then the next two days. But she neither answered nor returned his calls. She then changed her phone number.
After Jeanne’s lease was up, Pete suggested that she move in with him in his townhouse.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I was sexually abused as a child. I have trust issues.” She returned to working at the strip club first as a waitress and then as a stripper.
Pete periodically came to see Jeanne at the club. He dated other women but they bored him. When Pete saw Jeanne at the club, she would go from man to man like a butterfly in a field of flowers.
Finally, one night Pete lost it. Pete went to the strip club to be with Jeanne and had too much to drink. Jeanne spent her time with other customers while Pete simmered.
Finally, Pete exploded. “I thought you loved me.”
One of the bouncers came over. “Sir, you’ve had too much to drink. You are going to have to leave.”
When a second bouncer came to his table, Pete decided he had embarrassed himself enough for one day and left.
For a time, the Man Club banned Pete from its premises.
After Pete had been thrown out of the club, he called Jeanne several times to apologize but she neither answered nor returned his calls. She changed her phone number again. Pete was certain he would never see her again. It was all for the better, he reasoned. She brought out the worst in him.
Pete immersed himself in his work. He had become his firm’s go to guy for difficult cases. Pete was feeling pretty good about himself. The jury awarded his client $300,000 after a difficult three-day trial in which his client had been permanently injured by a personal trainer. He appeared on television and was in the newspaper. There was talk at the firm of making Pete a partner.
After a week of pats on the back, Pete returned to the club to celebrate. He had hoped to see Jeanne but was told she no longer worked there. He met a new girl there named Brandy. She was beautiful but not bright.
Then one day out of the blue, Jeanne called Pete and asked to meet him. Jeanne had just broken up with her new Marine boyfriend who did not tell her he was married. “Fucking jarhead,” she said.
So Pete and Jeanne started going out together again. Sometimes she would not see him for a few weeks and she was always getting calls from men. Pete suspected she was seeing other men and finally confronted her.
After Jeanne threw a drink in his face, Pete slapped her in the face, knocking her to the ground.
“You hit me, you son of a bitch,” she said. “I can’t believe you fucking hit me.”
“I’m sorry,” Pete said.
“I’m out of here,” she said, pushing him with her shoulder. “Bastard.”
When Pete’s law firm closed, he struck out on his own: Pete Bradford, P.C. When he placed an advertisement on Craig’s list for a secretary, Jeanne called him.
“Hey, Pete,” she said. “I see you are looking for a secretary.”
“I need a legal secretary with experience,” Pete said.
“I am perfect for the job,” she said.
“What do you know about being a legal secretary,” Pete said.
“I am a quick study,” she said.
“How about I work there until you find someone more permanent?”
After she started, Pete pulled up a chair beside her.
“What are you doing?” Jeanne asked.
“I need to show you how to do this.”
“You are too close,” she said. “I do not want your face in my ass.”
“This is strictly professional here,” Pete said. “If you don’t trust me, then leave.”
Jeanne left that day and never returned.
Pete spent his days mostly working his cases, a kind of modern Sisyphus, perpetually trying to roll a giant rock up a hill, only to have it roll to the base of the hill to begin again.
For a while he made a lot of money and then very little. But even when he made a lot of
money, it never seemed like enough.
He knew at some point Jeanne would turn up again. He knew it could never work out
with her. But that is what he liked best about her.
Mark Kodama is a trial attorney and former newspaper reporter who lives in Washington, D.C.
with his wife and two sons. He is currently working on Las Vegas Tales, a work of philosophy,
sugar-coated with meter and rhyme and told through stories.
More than 150 of his short stories, poems and essays have been published in anthologies,
including those published by Black Hare Press, Clarendon Publishing House, Eerie River
Publishing, Escaped Ink Press and Devil’s Party Press.
His stories and poems have appeared in Writers and Readers Magazine, The Academy of Hearts
and Mind Magazine, Café Lit, Commuter Lit, Dastaan World Magazine, Dissident Voice,
Jakob’s Horror Box, Literary Yard, Magazine of History and Fiction, Mercurial Stories, Potato
Soup Journal, PPP Ezine, Spillwords, Tuck Magazine and World of Myths Magazine.
His stories and poems appear in Apocalypse, Blaze, Cadence, Unravel, Dragon Bone Soup,
Enigma, Hate, Tall Tales and Short Stories, Gleam, Fireburst, Latin Anthology, Maelstrom,
Pride, Tempest and What Sort of Fuckery Is This?
“Land of the Pharaohs” won Story of the Month at World of Myths and "The Summer Camp" will
appear in the Best of Potato Soup Journal.