Wednesday, October 3, 2012


There was the city and the pulse and Natalie Bloom and Matthew Ballantino taking Natalie out of that pulse.

Natalie matched her footsteps to the beat and tilted her head towards the streetlights. Nothing Natalie loved more than sliding into the thump thump of her beloved city’s heart. Nothing Natalie hated more than something that disturbed the thump thump.

“What that jungle booty doing on a white girl?”

The young man’s friends stopped their heeing and hawing real quick when Natalie Bloom’s ballet flat ground his throat against the pavement and the muzzle of her Glock licked the bottom of his chin.

“Say that again,” said Natalie.

The young man’s eyes bulged out of his head and he wheezed. “I’m sorry.”

“I didn’t tell you to apologize,” said Natalie. She flicked off the safety of the Glock. All but one of his friends ran off. “Say that again.”

“What that jungle booty doing on a white girl.” The statement was no longer a rhetorical question but a plea.

Natalie eased her foot off his throat like easing off a gas pedal. “Okay.”

The jungle booty detector and his friend stumbled off, like a Romeo and Juliet that lived. Natalie had no idea why she thought that. She figured the song of the city demanded it and she liked that reason. Just as the syncopated beats demanded she take care of the Matthew Ballantino tugging at her heart and tugging her out of the city’s song.

The city’s rhythm moved her hips and dictated the tempo of her feet. She knew stars laid above her even if no one could see them, an invisible metronome on high.

Natalie skipped up onto the porch of an old house and peered through the filmy curtains.

“Tick tock,” Natalie said.

Nothing. Like the stars and their metronome influence, there was something beyond the curtains, in the darkness, disrupting the mood. Breaking up the harmonies and throwing off the back beat. A heckler’s interrupting taunts. This just won’t do.

Natalie jimmied the lock and slipped through the door like oil. She could not see him, but she could smell him. Hear his atonal sounds. Flat against her ear.

“Matthew Ballantino,” Natalie said. “Tick tock.”

Crash above.

“The lights,” Matthew said. “She’s here. The lights.”

“They’re not turning on, Matt.” A woman’s voice. Tinny on the ear. Affected on the ear.

As Natalie went up the stairs, she felt the rhythm fall back into place.

“Tick tock,” Natalie said.

Cursing. The woman’s voice crescendoed to a high pitched whine. A shadow built like a brick on the top of the stairs.

“Tick Tock, Matthew Ballantino,” said Natalie.

A shot in the dark. The bullet sailed over Natalie’s head. Crash of glass.

“Matt. Matt,” said the woman as if chanting his name was going to make Natalie go away.

What Matthew Ballantino’s brown eyes could not pick out in the dark, Natalie’s subtle greys could see as if there was the light of the day.

“Tick tock, Matthew Ballantino,” said Natalie. The syllables were punctuated by shots from Natalie’s Glock.

“Oh God,” chanted the woman. She was a wraith floating to and fro. The gauzy fabric of her red bathrobe billowed in the darkness.

One bullet to the shoulder, another to the hip. One through the hand, the other in the shin.

“Agh,” cried Matthew.

“Oh God,” said the woman.

“Tick tock, Matthew Ballantino,” said Natalie. She settled on top of him and nudged the mouth of the gun to his forehead. “Why am I here?”

“Suck it, dyke,” said Matthew.

“Oh God,” said the woman.

“Why am I here?” said Natalie. She tapped the trigger with every word.

“Go to hell,” said Matthew.

“Oh God,” said the woman.

“I’m here because your extortion and your stealing and your raping and your killing is messing with my city’s groove. Tick tock, Matthew Ballantino.”


The woman screamed. Natalie left. For a short while, the city and the pulse and Natalie were back.