In a forgotten corner of the city, squeezed between flyover and tired scrubland, a disused foundry admitted a small fraction of milky winter light through tall, soot-blackened windows. Inside, the peaks and troughs of minimal Chicago House surged languorously over a buoyant dance floor. The hypnotic, interlocking patterns seemed to directly control his motor responses, leaving him free to float in blissful introspection. As the next track was deftly teased into the mix to a raucous welcome of raised hands and whooping, he quietly decoded the intricate counterpoint of sixteenths over triplets with unaccustomed clarity.

His mind felt sharp, his body fluid; these speckled doves were certainly worth Cheeky Brian’s premium price. He patted the thin pocket of his linen trousers and ascertained that he had two left, with luck still safely ensconced in the clammy embrace of cling-film.

Christ, it was hot. Water drained from exposed brick, some drops catching the light to explode in rainbows or leave jagged, translucent trails that faded like… “What was the word? Ambition.”  He chuckled to himself ruefully, forgetting the intrusion of reality in an instant.

Emerging unsteadily from the roiling miasma of sweat and dry ice, she was momentarily distracted by an Evian bottle lurching across her path. As she tried to determine its direction, they met in a damp collision of limbs. A dishevelled snapshot of charcoal bangs and smoky eyes, accented with bold feline flicks that she’d learned from a girl half her age on YouTube. Her apology was muted like her lipstick, the curve of mouth haughty, but her flickering gaze clearly contrite. He caught a whisper of citrus.

“I haven’t a chance”, he thought, as his half-constructed joint disintegrated over her cropped T-shirt, on which Hello Kitty appeared to be defecating.

Without pausing to brush off the clinging strands, she touched a finger to her lips, sank onto rounded haunches and rootled around in a nondescript bag. After a few seconds she produced a red and white badge, on which was inscribed in a jaunty font, “Hi, I’m Alissa-Beth”. Above this sat a smiling cartoon chicken of questionable sanity. He was briefly haunted by the image of this chicken stamped on thousands of pills and almost laughed out loud.

“No ordinary waitress,” he surmised, acknowledging her inventive greeting with a matching grin. The situation suddenly looked promising. The last girl he’d dared to engage had been one of those thrusting perfectionists from HR or marketing, who shouted a lot and ran on coffee, heels and bitching. Attractive packaging with a distinctly limited shelf-life.

Besides, he’d always been enamoured of a double-barrelled first name. Many people thought them trashy but for him they exuded a quaint, wholesome charm. He mouthed “Alissa-Beth” to himself, savouring the soft, romantic cadence, then — noticing her puzzled look — pointed bashfully towards a cosy nook that promised shelter from the thundering bass.

To his surprise, she nodded, took his hand and led him briskly off the dance floor, swaying in time to a shuffling beat over which a tortured synth gleefully crackled. Her nails were neat and unpolished, her glance to camera imperceptible.

[Originally appeared on Fiction Crowd and to be continued (if I ever learn to write)]

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