Zoe and Claire

(From the forthcoming collection Chicken Coop & Other Stories)

“You are so boring,” Claire said, wrinkling her nose at “bo” and yawning out “ring.”

“I had to hire a private detective once,” said Zoe, eager to be helpful.

“Do tell, maybe your story will keep me from succumbing to acute existential ennui,” Claire huffed.

“Nevermind, if you’re not interested…” Zoe paused, waiting for an affirmation from Claire along the lines of “it’s fine,” or “please, Zoe, do go on.” Though they’d been best friends for the better part of 20 years, Claire was forever emotionally unavailable for Zoe, which suited them both just fine. In her normal life, Claire was known as warm and approachable, while Zoe was the reigning bareknuckle boxing champion on the underground carnival circuit. When together, they fed off each other’s energy symbiotically, Zoe being vulnerable and needy, and Claire being icy and flippant. They deeply cared for each other.

Zoe imagined squaring up with Claire, stepping to the right, and punching Claire in front of her ear, at the nexus of temple, cheekbone, and jaw. Just once. Claire often had destructive impulses, and often gave in to them. She ate a whole cheesecake the night before. New York cheesecake, so it was really a squat cylinder of cream cheese. She knew she’d shit weird for a week, at least weirder than usual.

Claire’s guts felt like cement, and she didn’t think she had the wherewithal to be combative. “So, a private detective?”

“Yeah, she was shifty, and always rubbed her hands together like she’d just put on lotion”, Zoe said.

The waiter showed up with a fresh round of mimosas. Zoe’s Rottweiler, Foreman, regarded the waiter for a moment, decided “nah, it ain’t worth the trouble,” and lay back down at Zoe’s espadrilled feet and athletic, mocha ankles.

“Are there a lot of lady private detectives?” inquired Claire, in pinched tones, which had the effect of seeming genuinely interested, but she was really just holding in cheesefarts. She was thankful to have Foreman as a scapegoat.

Zoe continued. “Yeah, I guess so. Marge was great. She didn’t have a badass private detective name, just Marge Miller. Tough old broad. Anyways, she found my niece. The little `shit had shacked up with a small-potatoes weed dealer on an Indian reservation.”

“I thought she was gay?”

“She did too, I guess. Chalk it up to experimentation.”

“Is she still training?”

“No, she hasn’t been by the gym in ages. She had a fight, and just didn’t show up after first day of camp. She’s still in decent shape, but she’s a weak person. She’s really in to drones now. She just bought a house in Utah”

“Hmm…that’s weird.”

“Yeah, I dunno. So what’s up with you?”, asked Zoe.

“I got a weird letter from a lady I worked at a mortuary with when I was in college. Anyway. I’ve been wanting to be alone a lot lately. I mean, not alone like you, not lonely, but you know, by choice. I feel like barfing all the time and I’m tired and talking to people makes me super tired.” Claire sputtered.

“You could have Lyme disease”, offered Zoe

“Like Kathleen Hanna?”

“Yes, like a Black Kathleen Hanna, but not married to a Beastie Boy.”

“Hm…that actually sounds kinda fabulous,” considered Claire.

“Or you could be an introvert,” stated Zoe.

“I think I like Lyme Disease better. Doesn’t Maculay Culkin have Lyme Disease?”

“No, he’s probably immune to everything, except look-like-a-goddamn-80-year-old-scarecrow-itis. Avril LaVigne has Lyme.”

“Maybe that’s why she’s with the Nickelback dude.”

“Gotta be. Cheers, bitch”, Zoe said, raising her glass before draining it.

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