Spring 2008, Volume 4

Fiction by Jon Boilard

La Playa

It is that funny time of day when the sun and the moon are in the sky at once. He smokes a joint and watches some kids burn an old tire on Ocean Beach at the end of Rivera Street. It smells like rain and dark clouds accumulate over the Cliff House and wind pushes waves sideways against Seal Rock and the blind buffoons bark at everything and nothing. On the horizon a cargo ship inches its way seaward. The Farrallon Islands are a fucking mirage twenty-six miles out. Chapo thinks of sharks. He closes his eyes.

Then it is just the round white moon and the air is filled with rubber on fire. A night fog from nowhere drops hard on the Sunset District. Chapo’s bones get cold. He hugs himself and leans back against the concrete wall and closes his eyes again but only for a minute. He is tired. The next thing he knows somebody close is saying his name.


There is a hand on his shoulder. He wakes up and leaves a dream for later.

Wake up.

He opens his eyes. Jenny Two Drinks sits in the sand next to him.

Thought you weren’t supposed to smoke.

I’m not supposed to do a lot of things.

His voice cracks because he hasn’t used it for hours. He coughs into his hand.

I can smell it on you.

He is on probation. He is supposedly living in a halfway house. There are rules and regulations. He has never been much for that kind of thing. Jenny brings her knees to her chest and leans against him. She has a certain scent. He puts his nose in her hair.

Can I get a ride.

Jenny Two Drinks dances at New Century where dancing isn’t the only thing she does. He isn’t in a position to judge. She makes good money and doesn’t seem to mind the work. She doesn’t complain much anyhow. Other than the occasional scumbag.


They stand up and climb the stairs and cross the Great Highway to her apartment. They hold hands like a normal couple. There is glitter on his shoulder from the makeup she wears. He warms up his bike and she runs upstairs to get her helmet and her green duffle bag. Chapo drives a 1967 Triumph that he calls Harvey. He likes to name things. He calls his sickness Jack because that’s what it tastes like going down. When she gets back she seems giddy. He blows smoke and stamps his cigarette out on the pavement.

Will I see you when I’m done.

He hates the losers at the halfway house so he sneaks out most nights. If they catch him he’ll have to do real time. The other option is the broken down RV in the garage of his father’s house on the corner of Judah. That’s where he likes to lay his head when he can. He doesn’t mind sleeping with somebody but he prefers to wake up alone.

I don’t know. Probably not.

It is a real buzz kill. She likes playing house with him. Jenny holds on tight and Chapo opens up the throttle and the Korean lady upstairs makes a face out the window.


Then the place is dimly lit and everything is a different shade of red. Jenny Two Drinks works the room with a dozen other girls. An older guy with bad skin and worse shoes is chewing ice cubes and standing against the wall near the soda machine, watching Ginger on center stage. Jenny recognizes him. He is a regular. He isn’t wearing a wedding ring but she is sure it’s in his pocket. She walks over and gets him to make eye contact.

Want to play.

How’s that work.

Jenny sighs. Everybody knows how it works. Everybody acts like they don’t know.

You come with me and we play.

She takes his hand and leads him around the perimeter and to the stairs. They go up just as Ginger finishes her last song and some of the men applaud and others cat call. There is a curtained room labeled “paradise” at the end of the maze-like hall.

What’s your name.


That isn’t always his name. He likes to change it up.

Tom. That’s a nice name. Mine’s Jaguar.

She’s always wanted to own a Jaguar. She used to bang a guy who drove a blue one with black leather that smelled like the Cubans he imported. That was before she fell hard for Chapo. Jenny closes the curtain. Tom stands there and fumbles in his pockets.

So um how’s this work.

Sit down and relax, Tom.

Tom sits down but he doesn’t relax. Not really. Not yet.

You been here before?


He is a lying sack of shit. They all are. That’s okay. She can play the game.

It works like this. I treat you real good and then you treat me real good.

She moves slow to the music that is playing downstairs and she gets closer to him. He is focused now. He puts his hands on her hips. She puts her knee in his crotch.

You a cop, Tom.

They have to ask everybody. There have been more than a few raids lately. The new DA is coming down hard on the industry. Bitch just needs to get laid.

Um no.

Okay. Sixty for the first song then twenty after that.

Jesus. Sixty.

She pushes her knee against him exactly enough. A girl has to make a living.

I know. Management gets that. I don’t see any of it.

She can lie, too.

Well. That seems a bit much.

You saying I ain’t worth sixty, sugar.

It’s not that.

What then. You scared. Don’t be scared of little old me.

Jenny reaches down and takes hold of him and puts her tongue in his ear and gives a soft moan. It is her signature move. Stealing candy from a baby. She whispers.

Got to pay up front. Better you are to me, better I’ll be to you.

She gives him space and he stands up and reaches in his pocket and hands her ten twenty-dollar bills fresh from the ATM. She counts them quickly and folds them and puts them in her purse and smiles her teeth at him. She spits bubble gum into the trashcan.

Take it out for me, Tom.

Tom knows the drill. He is already undoing his fly. He takes it out and she gets on her knees and puts a rubber on him and uses her mouth until he is finished. It isn’t even a sex act to her anymore. It is just a thing she does. Then she cleans him up with a moist towelette and he thanks her. He is very polite. Not like some of these other clowns. He leaves and Jenny Two Drinks goes to the dressing room to freshen up as she calls it.


His father is dying up there. Hooked up to machines and shitting his pants constantly and basically wasting away in his bed that they can wheel around the flat. Chapo sits on the edge of the table in the RV. He doesn’t feel like he is drunk enough to sleep yet. Dirty dishes and fast food containers are stacked up in and around the kitchenette sink. The cat that lives in the shrubs of the empty lot adjacent mews and scratches at the garage door. Sometimes Chapo will open up and toss him a French fry or two. Sometimes he puts a bowl down with milk and Jack Daniels. He thinks he sees a kindred soul in that mangy stray. He closes his eyes. He gets sick in the sink and cleans it with his shirt.

Then there is a soft knock and a woman’s voice.


It is Jenny Two Drinks coming by after her shift. She is a good girl. He lets her in and she is high and he can smell death from the carcass of a whale that had washed up on the beach on Wednesday. Flies and gulls and the braver pipers had picked at its eyeballs and guts and a crow had stretched its yellow spleen across the sand like a banner advertising mortality. It is a sharp scent and he rubs his nose with the back of his hand. That and coffee grinds from the cafe. The dog bark of a Harley on La Playa. He stands in the doorway and she takes his hand and they lean on each other against the west wind.


BIO:  Jon Boilard was born and raised in Western New England. He has been living and writing in the San Francisco area since 1986. His highly acclaimed stories have been published extensively in literary journals in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. One was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, another won the Sean O'Faolain Award and several others have earned individual small press honors. Jon was recently invited to read his work at the Frank O'Connor Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland.