by Kyle Hemmings

Mr. Munch is leaving Bar-None, a club that serves paper girls with all the right creases and men with forgettable faces. The men try to cover themselves with washable tattoos. His date is Lola, or at least that’s what she says her name is, a paper girl who changed her gender from green to blue. She made a joke back at the bar that in this way it would be harder for her to be traced. She told Mr. Munch that most of her johns love to be tickled and teased until they excrete liquid white-out. It always makes her giggle. 

Outside, it is near twelve degrees with pulverizing gusts. Lola and Mr. Munch are looking for a hotel to spend the night, to at least get out of the cold. Lola keeps her chin buried in her scarf and says the brutal wind could blow her away, could rip a paper girl apart. Mr. Munch takes her by the arm and guides her across a side street where an old hotel is situated between a closed porn shop and a dark-faced tenement house. In the hotel lobby, after Mr. Munch signs two false names and is handed the keys, he notes some paper girls from Bar None and their johns, haphazardly arranged on couches, trying to work off the cold as if a kind of trauma. Lola herself is still shivering, an intense kind of shivering that only a paper girl can know in her private parts.

They take the elevator to the tenth floor. In the room’s doorway, he stands aghast and Lola almost screams. The room is a ruin, as if a terrorist had just vacated with his remaining bombs. The walls are faded blue with peeling paint, there are dark stains and cigarette butts on the floor. The bed is leaking springs and coils and the mattress is curled and torn.

“No way,” she says, standing behind Munch in the doorway, “I’m not sleeping here! I’d rather die.”

Munch tries to come up with some advantage about staying there–like the room being cheap. Lola says no.

“But at least it will get us out of the cold for a couple of hours, honey. That wind will kill us. And neither of us are really dressed for this kind of cold. “

Lola shakes her head, forms a long thin oval with her lips, looks as if about to cry.

“I can’t stay here. It reminds me of the room my grandmother use to keep me in when I was a paper boy and she found out I couldn’t play football or swing a bat. When she found out that I was wearing skirts and make-up and giving head to Juicy Brucy. When the boys wanted me for my slim-jim figure and the way I could touch them without leaving fingerprints. No! I’m not sleeping in this hole.”

Mr. Munch reluctantly agrees and asks for a refund down at the clerk’s station. They’re back on the street again. It’s about two-thirty in the morning and everything is black and stripped-down. Nothing is alive behind windows.

They lumber down street after street. They spot the same paper girls who worked out of Bar-None. Raggedy and down-at-the-heels. Their eyes, as they stare out from some unsafe corner, look like cut-outs and sucking holes.

“I can’t go on,” says Lola, now out of breath. “It’s all killing me.”

Mr. Munch remembers how Lola once told him that when a john found out that Lola was a paper girl, a flyaway after the act of surface love, he tried to shoot holes through her. He chased her into the night.

“Just a little further, Honey. You see that big hotel?”

A ferocious wind rips past them, tears a hole in Lola’s shoulder.

“Shit! My fucking shoulder is loose-and-leafed!” Lola yells.

Mr. Munch cradles his arms around her, kisses her on her creased nose, and says she will be alright.

They struggle up the steps. Mr. Munch is handed a set of keys to room 505, a single bed. In the elevator, he asks her about the shredded shoulder. She says nothing hurts anymore. Nothing.

Exhausted, they fall on the bed. The warmth of the room opens them up. And because he has paid for her time, they will still have surface love. Gathering whatever paperweight strength she has, she tries working him up with cutting-edge foreplay.

She then gets down on elbows and knees, enticing him to do doggy-style with her paper girl giggle. He enters her and feels a void, and his force almost tears her in half.

He holds her and says, he’s sorry sorry sorry. He forgot she was a paper girl.

Turning her head towards him, she says “Grant me my dying wish. Carry me out the window and let me go. I am that light. I always wanted to fly, to float. This world was never for me.”

She tries to work up a smile that reminds Mr. Munch of some tragic comic book heroine.

“I can’t, Lola. It’s murder. “

She speaks between her gasps and death-rattles, her painful crinkles.

“No. No one will miss me. They never miss a paper girl. They won’t trace anything.  Do it for me because I have nothing.”

Mr. Munch mulls it over, looks exhausted, opens the window, and finally gathers Lola into his arms and lets her go.

He tries to sleep for a few hours but keeps tossing and turning.

Around six a.m., Mr. Munch hustles toward the subway when he looks up and sees Lola floating above a line of commuters. She keeps sinking lower and lower, almost grazing their heads. He yells out, “Lola!”, then berates himself because she is now nothing but a flimsy girl floating dead-weight. He wonders why nobody notices Lola. He wonders why no one will bring her down.

It doesn’t hit him at first. But on the train home, he begins to cry. Everyone turns around.

***

Kyle Hemmings lives and works in New Jersey. He has been published in Elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, This Zine Will Change Your Life, Blaze Vox, Matchbook, and elsewhere. His latest collections of poetry/prose are Split Brain on Amazon Kindle and Scream at Scars.tv. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies,  manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s.

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