Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Got Me a Date with an Uptown Girl by Douglas Hackle

After owning a beeper for decades and not receiving a single page on the damn thing, I concluded there must be something wrong with the number. So I called my service provider to change it. As a consequence, I also had to order a new batch of social calling cards, ones that displayed my new beeper number. I placed a bulk order online, got a pretty good deal for 5,000 cards. After the weighty box arrived in the mail a few days later, I got into my car and drove all over town to place the cards; to let people know I was out there in the world, that I existed, that I was a person in need of social interaction.

I left my calling cards on tables and chairs in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices, dental practices, psychiatry practices, and law firms. I left them on the sinks in public bathrooms—men’s and ladies’ rooms alike—in movie theaters, shopping malls, restaurants, and gas stations. On park benches, in bus stops, on the seats of subway cars. I tacked them to utility poles underneath garage sale fliers, above notices for missing cats and dogs. I left them strewn about on the floors and shelves at discount retail stores and supermarkets. I slipped them into the mailboxes of houses, apartments, businesses, and places of worship.

I left my calling cards all over downtown. I left them all over uptown. Three days it took me to get rid of them.

Several months passed before my beeper finally went BEEP, BEEP, BEEP… I was at home in my trailer when it happened, relaxing in my recliner, playing Atari 2600, and smoking a fat, clown tear-laced primo. That my beeper had finally beeped was exciting enough, but I also noticed the number flashing on the device had an uptown area code, which was cause for even more excitement. See, in depositing my calling cards all over my city and its environs, I sought acquaintanceship, friendship, romance, meaningless sex, and anything and everything in between. But the ultimate payoff of this practice was to land a date with an uptown girl. At least that had always been the dream of this downtown man.

“Hello,” a young woman’s voice picked up when I called the number.

“Uh, hi. I’m Kranlin Kristofferson VIII. Did you, like, just page me?”

“Yes. Hi, I’m Juliet. I found one of your calling cards in the tomato bin at the grocery store.”

“Oh, cool. So, are you like a real uptown girl?”

“Yes, I am. I’m beautiful, blonde, rich, classy, cultured—the whole nine yards. Did you just call me on your cell phone?”

“Yeah.”

“Then why didn’t you just put your cell phone number on your calling cards instead of your beeper number? I didn’t even know what a beeper was until I googled ‘beeper’ after I found your card. You’re probably like the last person on Earth who still uses one of those things.”

“I suppose I could’ve put my cell number on the cards instead.”

“And what’s with this whole calling card thing to begin with? Who even does that? It’s weird. And creepy. I mean, has anyone ever passed out social calling cards like this?”

“Uh, yeah. I mean, I think so. I think people did it back in the olden days sometimes.”

“Is it still the olden days?”

“Are you always this sarcastic?”

“Yes.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

“Hey, would you like to maybe—you know—go out on, like, a date with, uh, like, me sometime, maybe?”

“Pick me up at seven,” Juliet said before she hung up.

***

I used the last of my life savings to rent a stretch limo for the date. Unfortunately, I could only afford the limo and not a driver to drive it. Looks like I’d have to be my own chauffer. After I picked up the wheels, I purchased a James Bond costume from the bargain bin at the Halloween store. See, I wanted to impress Juliet by wearing a tuxedo, but I didn’t even own a suit, let alone a tux. I sure as shit couldn’t afford to rent one after shelling out the dough for the limo. The James Bond Halloween costume was essentially a fake tuxedo, so it would just have to do. Back at my trailer, I shat, showered, shaved, and doused myself in Axe body spray. On my way out the door I grabbed a CD I’d created earlier in the day that consisted solely of the song “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel played over and over again like a hundred times.

Somewhere along the highway during the ride from downtown to uptown, with “Uptown Girl” playing at a low, comfortable volume, I realized I didn’t know where the hell I was going. Juliet had never given me her address. So I called her on my cellie.

“Hello, Kristofferson,” my beeper’s unmistakable, tinny, babyish voice answered on the other end.

What the fuck! I thought as my right hand pulled off the steering wheel to grapple at my right hip, where my beeper should have been clipped to the elastic waistband of my fake tuxedo pants.

It wasn’t.

“Where the hell are you?” I barked.

“I’m at Juliet’s mansion. You know, uptown. I’m on a date with her. A fuck-first-eat-later kind of date, if you know what I mean. Heh-heh. Sorry, but I gotta go now.”

“Now just you hold on a minute you little shit. That’s MY uptown girl you’re with! You tell me where you are. Gimme her goddamn address—RIGHT NOW, ASSHOLE!”

“Sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t do that, Kristofferson. And by the way, I quit. Go find yourself a new beeper. Better yet, maybe it’s time you catch up to the twenty-first century and stop using beepers and those ridiculous calling cards and that terrible Axe body spray.”

“Why you motherfuck—”

“Don’t be cross, boss. Or ex-boss, I should say. Hey, I’m not such a bad beeper. In fact, I felt kinda bad about this whole business. So after I slipped away from you earlier today, I decided to hook you up, mofo! Press the button to lower the privacy partition in your limo, take a look in the back, and you’ll see just what I mean.”

Bristling with rage I pressed the button to lower the tinted sheet of glass that separated me from the passenger area. I glanced up at the rearview mirror to see a ripe corpse propped up all the way in the back. Despite the bloating and the liquefying stage of putrefaction, I recognized the body as belonging to a former neighbor of mine from the trailer park: Ol’ Man Jenkins, an elderly, morbidly obese man who had somehow managed to hang himself in his trailer not two weeks prior. Now this colossal stiff was in my limo, still wrapped up in his plus-size death-suit, only now he sported a wig of long, shiny platinum hair, and his thin, receding lips were all gooped-up with this garish, blood-red lipstick to create a grotesque, clownish effect. And that enormous belly of his looked like it might burst at any second under the mounting pressure of the corpse gases brewing within.

“Ta-da!” my beeper said. “I made you your very own uptown girl!”

“I’m gonna find you, you obsolete little shit,” I said, my voice shaky with angry. “You hear me, you sonofabitch? And when I do, I’m gonna spike you down at the ground and stomp you into a million bits and pieces!”

“Hey, good talk, bro, good talk. But I gotta go, yo. Juliet’s about to give me an A+, uptown blowjob.” To my chagrin, I heard Juliet giggling in the background. “Sorry you don’t appreciate the parting gift that took me so much trouble to acquire and prepare for you. So see ya never again, dickface. Ah-hahahaha…”

My former beeper then hung up on me.

I glanced back at the grisly thing in the backseat. Shuddering, I slapped the button to raise the tinted glass so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore. Not sure what to do next, I turned up the volume of “Uptown Girl” a few notches and just kept driving, eventually getting off the exit ramp to uptown. As I navigated the mansion-lined avenues of the uptown hills, I couldn’t help glancing in the rearview mirror at that tinted glass barrier, a pit of dread ballooning in my guts. At some point the intercom beeped, startling me.

“Taaaake meeee back to the cemeteeery,” Ol’ Man Jenkins croaked through the speaker. “Lower me back into my graaaaave. Then stay down there with meeeeeee. We can play Empire Strikes Back down there. You can be Luke Skywalker, and I’ll be that tauntaun that froze to death on Hoth. You can cut open my gas-filled belly and then climb inside. It will smell bad, but it’ll keep you warm and protect you from the frigid Hoth niiiiiiiiiiiiight.”

Fuck.

Shit.

But sadly enough, it appeared I didn’t have anything better to do.

“Okay, Ol’ Man Jenkins,” I said, defeated. “I guess we can go play Empire Strikes Back in your grave.” I paused. “Hey, you know what?”

“Whaaaaaat?” the horrifying, undead voice rasped through the intercom.

“You’re my uptown girl.”

“And youuuu, you are my downtown maaaaaaan.”

I smiled and frowned at the exact same time, blinked away boiling hot, chimpanzee-semen tears from my crispy tater tot eyes, and took a big, apple-like bite out of a Rubik’s cube that I’d brought along for a snack.

“That’s what I am,” I said, grinding colorful plastic between my molars.

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