New Fiction by Kevin McIlvoy
A new story, “Ladies Room” by faculty Kevin McIlvoy appears online at The Huffington Post:
Len had spent eleven years cleaning the Mens rooms and the Ladies rooms in Mr. Prudowsky’s three Asheville bars. Fine, private places. Marvelous venues for live music. Uncanny acoustics. A lucky job. But time to retire.
As he knew they would, the three ghosts appeared again in the Ladies Room of The Pea Vine at 4:30 AM, the middle of his shift. It was May 7, his ninetieth birthday. Len’s checklist of tasks more or less done, he listened in.
They didn’t know he was there in their afterlife as they rehearsed the same song, the one song. Between takes they talked about their husbands because, after all, they were not done with them.
They did not talk about Len. He knew he did not qualify. He was neither man nor woman to them. He had been a kind of motherfather to the band they had formed that called itself “Lula Town” after Millie’s favorite Charley Patton song “Mind Reader’s Blues.” Millie, Dee, and Felice were musicians then, forty-some years ago, but they were in the nest and not yet flying.
He and his students had been music to each other: that flawed music with sweetness – and love – arriving in its flaws. His best students always outgrew him. Len was surprised how he missed them, missed their jarring phrasing, their improbable leaps to falsetto or gravelly inarticulateness or full-octave skid.
“Let’s find the head,” said Felice to Dee. Felice, who was the lead vocal and on rhythm guitar, had a thing about hating a stumbling start to a song.
Half an hour earlier, Millie had been the first to wind the spring of the talk about their husbands’ crying. “He would blubber over some lake or river he remembered,” she said.
And now she added, “Raisins. Raisins a special way in his oatmeal would make him cry. Or an untied shoe.
“Or steam on the window. You know: over the sink or in a store front.”
Millie had no grip on the dobrojo’s neck, so it simply hung, too high, on its strap. She should lower that. Len had told her many times.
Millie said, “You hear that?”
“Yep,” said Dee.
Felice tightened the seat of the microphone. She asked, “Rain?”
There was no mike on Millie or on Dee. Millie’s wooden stool was under the metal frame of a john door, and she had strung a wooden cowbell up. She liked to make a calucking sound with it for no good reason. Whenever she did, Dee hit the start button on the DryHands
machine behind them. Millie said, “If he saw somebody tear up. Well. It’s like somebody wet
and gooey would make him — you know: wet and gooey.”
Dee said, “Yep. It’s like a crybabyman doesn’t see it coming — and next thing happens is his noseholes are wet and he’s dribbling like mine –
” – mine mightcould fight the bawling – and not too good — or he might hide himself and lose it on the stairs or somewhere in the house, and you could hear him –
“–he’d make that garbage-disposal sound in his throat and try to turn it off, really try – and mine said, ‘Shit Dee, shit, I’m sorry’ if he was crying –
” – and he’d go right on with it and make a leaky, gummy mess of himself and not pull it together and -”
“They keep things,” Millie said.
“–and – yes they do. Mine did.”
Continue reading at The Huffington Post.