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The Short Form

“What the Matter Is”

Todd Grimson


Harlow got dressed, quickly packed her bag, went downstairs to pay her bill and checked out, leaving the Biltmore Hotel in Seattle as her forwarding address. She’d heard of it sometime. She took a cab to the train station, then walked a few blocks and took the trolley-car someplace else.

By now she was calming down some, gathering her wits. She checked into the Hampstead Arms on Geary Street under the name of Rosemary Carpenter. For dinner she had chops and a baked potato, sliced tomatoes, and two cups of pretty good coffee with cream and two spoonfuls of sugar. She didn’t feel like having dessert. She didn’t want to get fat like Mama Jean.

Wearing a robin’s egg blue print dress and beige high heels, blue hat with a pink carnation, seamed stockings, fur coat, pearls, a new application of makeup, she went out for the evening, asking the taxi driver to take her someplace where she could play blackjack and get something to drink.

“Honey, nothing comes easy in this world, you must know that by now.”

“Here you go,” she said, holding out a five dollar bill folded lengthwise, much more than she needed to pay.

The narrow streets were lined with parked cars and signs that said NO PARKING AT ANY TIME. The taxi driver passed a street-car out on the left, giving Jean an exhilarating but not exactly pleasant feeling that gravity itself might be defied—and then the cab bounced, ending the illusion, continuing its way down the hill at top speed.

“I seem to remember a place where you can lose all the money you want,” he said, unlit cigar clenched between yellow teeth. “But a woman like you going in by yourself, you know what they might think. They don’t like stray cats pawing their guests.”

We read it in Stabs at Happiness.

Originally published in Spork.