N.T. Brown

Stanco y Nudo

Rose—long, lanky brunette with babydoll haircut and grey eyes—sits at a typewriter crying. Her mascara runs. She can’t see the words on her page through the tears. All she knows is her title, typed in caps at the top of the page: STANCO Y NUDO. She punches keys madly, blindly, hoping that her heart will supply the words her brain cannot.

Not five minutes before, Juan Carlos was inside her. His seed drips down her thighs at this very moment. But then something happened, a phone call, a woman’s voice on the other end, Juan Carlos’s panicked eyes, and he rushed downstairs and hopped on his scooter and was gone.

Balmy, sleepy day. On the street, two old men sit at a café and play chess.

Rose paces the apartment. The other woman was Juan Carlos’s lover, and now Rose sees the hierarchy of their relationship. She comes second. Maybe even third. And she’s seen pictures of this other bitch, this whore—the one who wears glasses and looks like a fat librarian.

In a flash, Rose knows what to do: call Nicolas. The emaciated painter, the destitute artist. He answers on the first ring. Come over immediately.

Now she goes downstairs, past the two old men, into a store for cheese and eggs and a case of beer. It’s not even noon yet, but she downs one of the beers going back up the stairs. In the kitchen she stirs the entire dozen eggs into a giant omelet. She adds broccoli, mushrooms. Yolk runs over the stove. Her tears flow into the pan. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.

Sporadically she returns to the typewriter and hammers out words—maybe they will make sense later.

The door buzzer rings. Standing there is a bosomy blonde—not the librarian. Is Juan Carlos here? she asks.

Who are you?

I am his wife.

Rose snorts. He went to see his mistress.

I thought you were his mistress.

Rose leaves the door open and goes back to the stove. The blonde keeps her trench coat buttoned as she walks around the apartment. It smells like him here, she says. She leans over the typewriter for a moment. You’re the playwright, she says. I saw your play last year—in fact, Juan Carlos and I went together.

And what did you think of it? Rose says, without turning around.

It was like something written by a crazy person.

Rose guzzles another beer, burps, throws the can across the room. It almost hits Nicolas as he enters. He has a mohawk now, and big insect shades. Rows of hoops in each ear. Hey, he says, what are you trying to do, kill me?

Rose kisses him on both cheeks. He smokes a cigarette by the stove as she ladles eggs onto plates. What is this? he asks. Brunch? Should I have brought something?

I don’t know why I called you, Rose says.

Well, Nicolas says. I thought we would sleep together.

No, no. Another man’s seed is swimming in me right now.

I should go, the blonde woman says.

Stay and have some eggs, Rose says. I can’t eat all this. Have a beer.

It’s too early for that, the woman says, but accepts the can regardless.

Rose splashes water on her face, glances at her reflection in the stainless steel toaster. She looks awful.

You look beautiful, Nicolas says.

So that’s your game? Tell train-wreck women they’re beautiful?

If I had a game, Nicolas says, then I’d have a benefactress, and I wouldn’t be so skinny. I haven’t eaten since Tuesday.

What day is this? the blonde asks.

I don’t know.

They sit at the table together and Rose feels an urge to pray. Our Father, she begins, but then a loud crash comes from downstairs. They all rush to the window. In front of the café, Juan Carlos’s scooter lies on its side, surrounded by overturned garbage cans. The fat librarian picks herself up from the pavement. A banana peel sticks to her hair. Juan Carlos himself sprints up the stairs, his footfalls growing louder and louder until he bursts into the room. He stops in the doorway.

What are you doing here? he says to the blonde.

I came to tell you that your son is very ill and wants to see you.

Is that true? Juan Carlos asks.

No, the blonde says. But it’s what I came to tell you.

Rose starts crying again, uncontrollably, and wipes her eyes with her napkin. Just sit down and have some eggs, she says.

I can’t stay, Juan Carlos says. I only forgot something. He strides across the room and retrieves his watch from the sofa.

Just one bite, Rose says.

Juan Carlos approaches the table with his mouth open, like a baby bird. Rose stabs a piece of egg with her fork and holds it up, quivering, but before Juan Carlos can take a bite, she pulls back and eats it herself. Let your wife feed you, she says through a full mouth.

The blonde obliges and Juan Carlos stands there chewing.

Salty, he says. Why’d you add so much salt?

Let me get this straight, Nicolas says. He points at Juan Carlos. You sleep with all three of these women regularly, and I don’t sleep with anyone, ever. How is that fair?

Juan Carlos shrugs. It’s not, he says. Then he is out the door, clattering downstairs, removing the banana peel from the librarian’s hair—she didn’t notice it as she watched the old men’s chess game. Rose, with egg yolk and spilt beer and cigarette ash all over her blouse, leans out the window and shrieks: Motherfucker! Son of a bitch!

Juan Carlos smiles and waves as he rides away.

Does he really have children? Rose asks.

Oh yes, the blonde says. Two boys. Just like him.

Is this really the ending? Rose says.

There’s no such thing as an ending, Nicolas says. Does emotional turmoil end our lives? When this brief episode concludes, will we cease to exist? No, Rosie, you will write your play, and I will make my paintings, and we will keep charging along like electrons in a—

What about me? the blonde says. What will I do?

Everyone is quiet for a moment. Take care of your boys, Rose says.

They hold up their beer cans in a toast.

Below, on the street, one of the old men says in a raspy voice, Checkmate.


N. T. Brown lives and writes in Orlando, FL. He has a dog named Seven and a cat named Mrs. Mia Wallace.

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