3 min read

Lip, Throat, Armpit

Eating lunch on a pier is nothing but a series of angry standoffs with a seagull.

Previously: The sisters go shake down a shipbuilder for the money he owes to a bookie. Hes resistant to the idea, and also naked, and also flings a knife at Mina. Batya is irritated by all this and proceeds to break his fingers. Seems excessive!

— 25 —

Batya and Mina take a lunch break at the end of Thrill Pier. There, the ocean gleams in the October light like a majestic jewel-encrusted flagon, to quote unrepentant prick E. L. Wohnungen, author of a series of hack potboilers about Fort Hook.

(Meantime, the denizens of the Hook—generally pretty haggard, let’s be honest, the unforgiving glare not doing their irregular stubble or bloodshot eyes any favors, looking like they just hauled themselves out of their own graves—slow their pace and turn their faces upward, enjoying the breeze with its tiny cold bite, that hint of the brutal winter that will arrive soon enough, but for now feels like something pretty they could cradle and crush in their hands.)

Mina is halfway through the crab PB&J that Sal made for them. “This should be horrific but it’s so good.”

Bat nods, fiddles with her rings.

“You’re not eating. And that’s…I almost can’t think of anything more disturbing.”

“I just feel a little pukey.”

“Why for?”

“I dunno. That shipbuilder.”

“Because of the sound his fingers made?”

Bat watches the green waves slosh against the pier’s pilings. “Because how much I liked the sound they made.”

Mina roughly pats her hand the way their mother does. “Maybe you should give yourself permission to enjoy the work. Or at least enjoy the money.”

Bat ignores that and instead does what she does, which is methodically catalogue all her various scars, remembering how she got each one. Lip, throat, armpit. What will probably be a new one on her elbow. A worry stone rubbed smooth. Then she tries to separate the grim circumstances of those scars from the feelings of pleasure they gave her. But she can’t.

She says, “You see how he looked at me?”

“Sure,” Mina says, chewing.

“This summer I decided I didn’t want to see that look anymore. Every day, every job, ain’t nobody glad to see me. What if someone ever in my whole life opened a door and saw me and was like oh hello who is this, what a pleasant surprise, I can’t wait to find out what she’s all about.”

“I thought you liked being a threatening presence. You always loved making people uncomfortable without even having to say anything. That was your favorite activity as a kid.”

“Yeah well I’m not a creepy kid anymore.”

Mina laughs. “Right. Listen, what I’ve learned from Cha-Cha is there’s the thing you are and the thing you want to be, and life is just navigating between those two poles.”

“Is this your way of asking what he told me?”

“No! I forbid you to tell me.”

“I asked him—”

“Shut up,” Mina says, unwrapping Bat’s sandwich and handing it to her. “Eat this.”

Bat takes a bite. “Fuckin yum.”

“I know, it doesn’t make any sense.”

“This,” Bat says, gesturing at the sandwich, “was my idea this summer.”

“Crab peanut butter and crab jelly?”

“You were gone. I was done with you forever. I was done with the life. And I decided I was gonna make food for people. Like Sal. So they’d be happy to see me.”

“What, a soup kitchen?”

“No. My own deal.” Bat swats at a seagull that’s getting too close. “I don’t want to tell you because you’ll make fun of me.”

“So? You can take it.”

Bat gives her sister a long look. Then: “You ever heard of mulitas?”


This has been Chapter 25 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next up: Oh Yeah Mulitas!