The Angel of Zero City: Part 14

The Angel of Zero City: Part 14

A Story by Andrew Colunga
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An urban-fantasy novella. It is an untold story between the chapters of its parent book: The Gauntlet of Maltese.

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The Thorn

 

 

The night was cool, and Buster’s Block was packed with folks checking out comedy clubs, or eating from carts and hole in the wall restaurants.


“So what happened to your car?” Esmeralda asked, as they walked down the block.


“It was … stolen.”


“Stolen? Someone stole a detective’s car? A detective’s car?”


“Yes, I know!” Joseph said. “It’s really embarrassing, but I got it back.… I found it in the middle of Azure Park … up a tree … down a hill … covered in bees … and it was wet.”


Across the street from Funny Bones, a crowd gathered around the source of an irresistible smell. Joseph and Esmeralda approached, and they saw an unusual-looking restaurant, like an airstream diner that had been cut in half and stuffed down an alley. About twenty-five people sat at a long counter, slurping noodles with chopsticks, and the rising steam glowed like fire around white paper lanterns.


Joseph and Esmeralda got in line and continued to talk, while up ahead the chef and owner, Mr. Chong, spoke to a young man in a dark suit while pouring hot broth over bundles of ramen. His wife stood by, seating guests, and as other guests left they waved at Mr. Chong. His cheery round face looked as happy as a man could be.


The man in the dark suit smiled, and turned toward the line and gestured at Joseph and Esmeralda. “Madam, sir, please take my seat!” The two walked over, surprised but grateful, and the man in the dark suit moved off his stool. “Welcome to Mr. Chongs!” he said. “Trust me, everything this man cooks is magic.”


“Why, thank you very much,” Joseph said, shaking the young man’s hand.


Mr. Chong beamed proudly. “Mr. Vincent is very generous with his praise. Please, welcome!” His wife came by and handed menus to Joseph and Esmeralda, and Mr. Vincent smiled.


“Have a good night, Mr. Chong,” he said.


“Wonderful to see you again! Good night Mr. Vincent! Enjoy your show!” Mr. Chong called.


The bowls of hot ramen that came out were gleaming, liquid gold. Slices of pork were fanned over wavy noodles, and each slurp was a dive into ginger, garlic, miso and soy sauce. Scallions, bamboo shoots, and soft-boiled eggs were eaten up, and Joseph added hot sauce to his ramen. From the very first slurp he was glad he let Esmeralda choose the restaurant.


After eating, much of the street was moving toward Funny Bones, and Joseph and Esmeralda found a table inside. It was a comedy club which tried very hard to preserve its early 60’s roots, with signatures from past comedians on the pillars and walls, while at the same time having new black leather booths and glossy tables.


Joseph went to the bar to order drinks for him and Esmeralda, and while there her spotted Mr. Vincent sitting at the end with a shockingly full glass of brown liquor. The two men locked eyes, and Mr. Vincent gave Joseph a polite raise of his glass.


Suddenly the house lights dimmed and the speakers kicked on. “Good evening Zero City! I’m Barto Chiklis, your M.C. tonight. Welcome to the world famous Funny Bones Amateur Night!” The crowd whooped and whistled, and Joseph got back to his seat.


“Many greats have been discovered during these nights. As I’ve been reminded: Marten Dip, Snap Peach, Artie Maul, and Scott Goldsmith, just to name a few. This is a tough town, and I’ll say it again: a tough town. It crushes you, puts you under pressure, until finally producing pure diamonds of comedy. Let’s see some tonight! Now, please, welcome to the stage, John Lin!”


John started strong and got the crowd moving. “As an Asian, my car insurance is higher than others. I know, it’s terrible! But I can’t really blame them. I tried to fool the insurance company though. Right before the DMV took my picture I hit three lines of coke to widen my eyes. It didn’t work, but when the cops see my license they think I just ate a powdered doughnut, and I tell them I’m working undercover in a street racing gang"upside-down while my car is on fire, but that just proves to them my dedication.”


The crowd applauds at the end, and Barto takes the microphone and pats John on the back. “Now welcome this new comer, but she’s already made a big splash in New York. Please welcome, Katie Brown!”


Katie liked to move around on stage and the crowd came to really like her. “I see a lot of young couples out here tonight. A lot of hopes, a lot of fear, probably too much fear. On a scale of My Little Pony to Evil Dead if you’re on Exorcist run girl, run! I was on a bad date once. Sure he dressed nice, and it was a nice restaurant, but he kept diverting his attention away and kept leaving the table. When I asked him if he wanted to go back to my place for coffee he said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll get you some.’ Then I realized he was the waiter.”


Katie waved goodnight, and Barto came back onstage, applauding with the audience. “This next guy is no stranger to the F.B.A.N., and he’s as homegrown as you can get. Please give a warm welcome to, Cavan DeMeco!” Barto stepped out of the spotlight, and the keen eye could see his head shake.


The crowd clapped as they had before, and Cavan came out with one arm raised. “Please, please you’ll spoil me! Wow, hey if you’re all cheering so much what’s to keep me motivated? You’re making it too easy!”


The crowd then accordingly ceased, and Barto face-palmed.


“I mean uh, give it up for John Lin and Katie Brown! Woo.” The crowd applauded and Cavan slipped into his routine. “Hey, if someone drops money on the floor near me and I pick it up, does that just make me a really bad stripper? Sir, sir wait! You haven’t even let me take off my coat yet!” The crowd chuckled at first, but they didn’t laugh at the exaggerated ending. Already Cavan’s hands were clamming up. He tried to imagine his pain devices on every audience member and powered through.


“A friend of mine asked me what my comfort ice cream was, and I said anything but rocky road. She asked me why I didn’t like rocky road, and I said because life is a rocky road! I don’t need it when I’m trying to feel better!” Imaginary hammers busted everyone’s kneecaps and the crowd laughed. Cavan was confident in this joke, and it seemed to work well. He was ready to try more improvisation.


“What’s weird are those TV screens inside fast-food restaurants that play their own commercials. Like, what more do you want from me! I’m eating your s****y burger, now make them stop! Please, I hear your catchy jingle in my sleep, and I’ve already torn off my ears with a dangerous kid’s meal toy.” He mimed ripping off Alpha’s ear with pliers, and the crowd laughed better than expected.


Cavan was glad that he skipped the joke about driving in a parade. His knees were shaking badly, and he stared into the stage lights. He preferred blinding himself to looking the audience in the eyes.


Cavan got through the rest of his routine, but the ending began to fall flat. Barto was surprised, and he wagered a pat on Cavan’s shoulder as he was handed back the microphone. “Cavan DeMeco ladies and gentlemen! Alright, our next comic comes from Mason Coast. She’s been hitting the eastern circuit. Welcome to the stage, Tara Jackson!”


Cavan moved swiftly to the bar. His whole body felt cold but full of energy. “Two shots, whisky, please!” He ordered. His mind was still on the stage and the bright lights. He thought, I-I did it! My jokes, my writing, imagine what I could do if I added tear gas to the room!


The bartender slid two shots toward Cavan, and he wiped the sweat off his hands and face, and loosened his tie before slamming both of them.


“Nice routine,” spoke Mr. Vincent at the end of the bar.


“Oh, thank you!” Cavan beamed.


Mr. Vincent paid his tab and hurried away, while Cavan kept on thinking. He was excited, but there was still work to be done. By now he stopped diluting himself that Beta would ever wake up. While disposing of his body would need some planning, Cavan also needed a new test subject. Maybe one of the comedians? Surely one of them would make an excellent critic of his comedy.


The audience suddenly laughed at one of Tara Jackson’s jokes (something about armpits,) but Cavan had been too lost in thought to catch it.


By midnight the Funny Bones Amateur Night was over, and Joseph and Esmeralda walked out with the crowd, holding hands and retelling jokes like everyone else was. People filtered to local bars, other clubs, or late night places still open to eat.


Cavan found himself able to hang out with the other comedians on the curve, smoking cigarettes and talking shop. He kept his own unpopular opinions mostly to himself, and stayed on the brink of sober as they spent the afterhours at a bar. Tara Jackson sat across from him most of the night, but he maintained a careful distance from her gaze, or from her turns in the conversation. She was clearly the most popular comedian tonight, and her input would be of great value.


After a few more drinks, Joseph and Esmeralda began to feel very silly. At their table, they leaned toward each other and might’ve been just a little too obnoxious to their neighbors.


Thirty minutes before last call, they took a short taxi ride back to her neighborhood, but got off at the end of the block to enjoy a short walk to her door.


“Joseph?” Esmeralda asked. “You’re not from Zero City, so, why did you move here?”


He looked at her and said, “I guess I couldn’t find what I wanted where I was.”


“What did you want?”


Joseph smirked. “I want a Sunday kind of love.”


“What’s that?”


“The kind that lasts past Saturday night.”


Esmeralda said, “Ohh,” and Joseph pulled her in, and he hoped that wherever she was, Etta James was giving him a smile and a wink.


© 2014 Andrew Colunga



Author's Note

Andrew Colunga
This is a 19 part story. All of which are completed and are expected to be posted.

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Added on May 3, 2014
Last Updated on May 3, 2014
Tags: urban, fantasy, urban-fantasy

Author

Andrew Colunga
Andrew Colunga

Los Angeles, CA



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Artist and Writer from LA. http://wonderwig.deviantart.com/ http://wonderwig.tumblr.com/ https://www.facebook.com/GauntletOfMaltese https://www.facebook.com/andycolunga more..

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