Latest Flash

Drama Queen

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

If you get tired on the way, you can stop and rest at a motel in the Gutter.

Drama Queen by Chris McGinley

The Cherokee was a roadside motel that offered hourly rates in Industry City.  Outside the office hung a fluorescent sign, a stereotyped image of the noble Indian chief in profile.  Feather headdress and war paint.  A red neon light read “vacancy.”  There were about twenty units that ran the length of the mostly vacant lot, here and there a car belonging to a salesman, somebody’s husband, maybe a high school kid and his girl.

It surely wasn’t the garish lights of Broadway, and hardly where Minerva “Minni” Puglisi expected to be at this point in her life.  Just over six months ago she hooked up with Mickey Flynn, a low level thug in the Irish syndicate.  He told her he had connections in show business.  He knew people, he said.  The connections, it turned out, were a couple of union guys who worked on sound sets and delivered protection money to Mickey’s boss.  This he never mentioned.  The couple was holed up in the Cherokee, on the lam from the cops for over a week now.

Minni stood at the foot of an unmade, dingy Murphy bed.  “Six months I been schleppin’ around with you.  Six months I been gettin’ dolled up everyday, even though you haven’t taken me out in forever. Broadway, you said.  Pictures, you said.  Yeah, right.  Some life I got.”  She drew on a cigarette and blew the smoke toward the ceiling. 

Mickey didn’t rise to the bait and she tapped her foot with studied impatience.  If she wasn’t going to be in movies, at least she could at least pretend.

“Gotta think.  Gotta think fast.” Mickey said, rising from a little chair at a glorified card table full of empty beer cans and an ashtray stacked high with cigarette butts and mutilated cigar tips.

“Well think faster, Socrates, cause I’m not doing this anymore. You promised me a meeting with an agent.  A photo shoot. A head shot.  Where is it, wiseguy?”

“Stow it, Minni. I got bigger problems than you’re goddamn pipe dreams.”  He lit another cigar and moved the curtains just enough to get a peak into the parking lot. 

“Who the hell do you know in show business anyway?  All I ever seen come around are shanty Irish.  Dumb cafones.  Even your boss talks like he fell off the spud wagon.”

“Don’t you say nuthin’ against the boss, now, Minni.” 

“Boss schmoss.  About the only thing I can say for him is that he smokes cigars that cost ten cents more than yours.  And that ain’t saying much.”  She waved away the foul smoke and forced a cough.

Mickey spun from the window and backhanded her across the face, hard.  It hurt, but Minni snorted and stared him down.  She resisted the urge to rub her face, to cry, to show him anything.  She reached into her purse on the bed, walked over to a cracked mirror in the tiny room and applied some lipstick, dabbing off the excess with a tissue.  Through the mirror, she kept her eyes fixed on Mickey.

“You know, Minni,” he said, “it’s like you’re always playing a role.  The gangster’s girl. The wise cracking dame.  The tough broad. Christ, I’d be better off without you.”

They were strong words.  She looked at his reflection in the mirror, behind her.  The tears began to well up, but she tried to pass it off as an eyeliner problem.  In a far away voice she said, “All I ever wanted to do was act.”

It was unexpected, and Mickey suddenly felt a twinge of pity for her. “Minni, look . . .”

“All I ever wanted to do was act. Be on the stage, on Broadway, in pictures.  Whatever. Just act. My father was goddamn beat cop, Mickey.  You know that?  He wanted a boy, a cop to follow in his footsteps.  But he got a girl instead.  ‘Find a nice Italian boy,’ he’d say to me. ‘Get married, have kids.’  We didn’t have any money.  We didn’t have any connections.” 
“Minni, listen  . . . please don’t cry.”

“I ain’t cryin’!” she snapped. But she was.

“It’s all gonna work out.”

“Oh yeah?”  She turned to face him, her eyes wet and red.  “How’s that?”  But her tone was defeated now. No longer the tough dame.

Mickey gnawed hard on the cigar. He mopped his forehead with a handkerchief and paced. “Once we do this one last job.  Then we’ll be on easy street and we can see about getting you some auditions, or whatever.”

“What job?”

Mickey turned to look out the window again.  He said nothing for a little while and Minni decided not to push him.  Finally, he said, “Metropolitan Bank, in the city.  We’re gonna knock it off next week.  It’s all been planned, for months.  We just gotta avoid the heat.”

The cheap doorframe snapped like a twig. Two uniformed cops drew down on Mickey.

“Grab air, punk,” one of them said.  Mickey lifted his arms.

Minni let out a little laugh.  “There’s your heat, wiseguy.  You want I should visit you in the pen?”

“You ok, Minni?” one of the cops asked her as he patted down Mickey.

“Yeah, I’m ok. Just get the palooka outta here. Six months of acting like his girl.  I can’t take another minute of it.  This undercover stuff is for the birds . . . It’s the Metropolitan Bank downtown, Rollins. Next week. That’s the score you been looking for.”

A hot flash rose up in Mickey.  He grabbed the cop’s gun and wheeled on Minni.  Two shots.  Blam Blam. She fell.  The other cop emptied his revolver into Mickey.  The couple hit the floor together.

Silence and cordite hung in the air.

“Goddamnit. I took my eyes off of him. Check on her, Rollins.”

The cop took her pulse. “Minni! Minni!” He slapped her face. “She’s fading fast.”

Minni’s eyes opened partly.  “Tell the crime scene photographer to get my good side,” she whispered. 

Chris McGinley is a middle school teacher from Lexington, Kentucky