by Julie Shapiro
'I have chosen to submit a story with the mystique of a few film genres namely the smoke easy 1930s, Westerns, the psychedelic 1970s movies mixed with elements of Wallstreet and modern times. It has a gritty edge to it with experimental tones.' JS
She with the bleached blonde buzz cut breezes past the Persian rugs on the walls of the café. He tips his black fedora.  Oblivious to his wanton glare she digs in her purse and retrieves a pack of black market cigarettes, Noir Moonshine. She lights up as he chews on tobacco and curses at the DOW. Their portfolio funds down to zero, he chews nicotine and she inhales big puffs of smoke. He takes off his fedora spinning it on the ground towards her. She picks it up, the reverse chivalry, and glances at the man and notices his holographic green eyes. They spin Marlboro commercials, circa 1950's, her favorite featuring a man on horseback.

She places the hat on his table and continues to watch the man's eyes, waiting for the blip in the commercial loop where she'll see the real shade of his orbs. But the horseman commercial blinks to an unknown camera, like the man before her. Synchronized, they acknowledge her and the fedora man says "thank you," with a whitened tongue, one looking so parched she wants to pour him water all day so he can drink from her at night.

But just as she waxes erotica - a dim far off whining sound causes her to look away from his eyes as the cowboy man's lasso fails to catch the wayward cow in the commercial. And she wonders why the poor calf never gets to roam free as she inhales on her cigarette and the man's hand reaches out towards her.  And there's a moment when each of their fingers touch the velvet tip of the fedora and the smoke in the café seems to turn to steam before the kiss and the fire alarm vibrates the hinges off the doors at the Little Noir café.  And they inhale the smoke, her heat, his, and saunter into a restroom stall. Names, a condom package, mutual woes over stocks - these are exchanged as underwear falls to the floor. And she puts on his hat and is about to straddle him over the rim of the toilet except he has no maleness and she is left gaping at the emptiness of his crotch and past it down to the base of the toilet where she sees water droplets dancing, they're glowing in the porcelain, that is, before it evaporates giving way to a school of minnows swimming by, and she hears the crashing of waves and she is at the sea side and notes, he is not there, a significant point she thinks, but she is with his fedora hat and she presses her crotch. It is chilled by the sea air and missing underwear. She pulls up her jeans and steps into the sand pulling the man's fedora down her forehead, not sure why she is here at the beach, just that she doesn't want to smoke. The cancer inside is gone. And she takes off her shoes and salivates at the feel of the wet sand on her toes.  And the DOW plays in her head. Only it's a song, something about a cow, how it is a kind of tomorrow, where numbers continue to crash, like raindrops, they keep falling.  But there is no counting, just because a man with no crotch opened up a world, a hole in the stratosphere where people sing of the DOW and of the Cow and this woman is of now….and she wonders what it was she smoked at the Little Noir Café.  But we won't tell.