It’s about ten o’clock at night. I’m sitting on a pink beach chair on a small second-story balcony lit up with cubed lights. Outside of the bars imprisoning this balcony I-364 hums softly in the mild pre-autumn air. I’m not alone. Accompanying me in the dark balcony of prison-bar shadows is a praying mantis. It prays for more light by going into one of the cubicles of luminosity. I kick my feet up on the table as Praying Manty projects a shadow of his stick figure across the white table. Like a contemporaneous gesture of friendship, I gesticulate cheers to Praying Manty and the hums of I-364. I sip some suds and ask figures of the lonely night, “What should we do tonight?”

Manty responds by flickering in his cubical of luminosity, thus making the stick-figure shadow dance tenderly on the white table.

“Not sure I’m up for dancing tonight,” I say to Manty. “Besides, it sounds like Glen just got out of the shower so it’s almost time to go. For your sake, I hope Mrs. Manty shows up and you two can share in some cubical fornication.”

“Who you talking to?” Glen asks from inside the apartment.

“Uh . . . No one,” I realize how absurd conversing with an insect might sound.

“Where you wanna go tonight?” Glen asks.

“Definitely not dancing,” I respond.

“It’s nice out. We should sit on a patio somewhere, drink some beers, and listen to music.”

“I’m game.”

After cruising down I-364, we take an exit that leads us to the little town of Cottleville, Missouri and come across a trio of middle-aged men with acoustic guitars playing at the local wine cellar.

“Flat Bottom Girls you make the rockin’ world go round,” the trio attempts to harmonize. The procured sound is flatter than that time in Middle School when Suzie-What’s-Her-Name butchered the “Star Spangled Banner” during the Monday morning announcements.

“You know it’s nice sitting on the patio, but this is brutal,” I defame the middle-aged trio.

“Let’s bounce,” Glen concurs.

So we cruise a few blocks down the street and come across a venue called Babylon and enter a cubical of luminosity shining on New Crime Theatre.

“Shut up and dance,” New Crime Theatre’s lead singer, Michelle Ralston, invites a dismal crowd to fill blank space on the dance floor. Right now a flamboyant man in skinny jeans is caressing a woman with jet-black hair; she’s wearing black leather jeans too tight for her protruding curves.

“Does she know he’s out of the closet?” I ask Glen.

“Yea, that’s probably why she feels safe dancing with him,” Glen responds.

The intoxicated, stick figure of a man and Mrs. Jet Black continue to rub tummies, like a praying mantis hugging a juicy beetle.

“So light em up up up, light em up up up,” Michelle does her best Fall Out Boy—or Girl—impression.

The band is solid: the drummer plays every note meticulously, as if he couldn’t make a mistake; the bass player slides his fingers up and down the neck of his guitar in mellifluous accompaniment; and the rotund guitarist taps pedals and wrings out chords as he squeezes the neck of his guitar, like Santa Claus wringing out a three-foot long spongy two-by-four while tapping out the rhythms of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

As I grab another beer form the bucket, I look up and see the lead singer and bass player eyeing Glen and I from the stage.

“Do they know us?” I ask Glen. “Why do they keep looking over here?”

“Not sure . . . Maybe they know we play in a local band too,” Glen suggests.

“I Shake it off, I Shake it off,” Michelle eyes Glen and I with vicarious eyes swift as Taylor.

“Maybe she’s got the hots for your man bun?” I jest.

“Oh boy,” Glen responds while perking his lips and sipping his bottle of boos, like an infant sticking a thumb in its mouth while shying away from Momma’s accusations. Did you eat all of the cookies in the cookie jar?

After closing the show out whit Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of,” Glen and I hit the head. On my way out I see Glen chatting it up with Michelle in excited gesticulations. The hell are they talking about? I wonder.

“Hey man she knows our band,” Glen speaks with his hands instead of his mouth.

“Really?” I say while shielding an excited finger from poking my eye out.

“Yea I went and saw you guys on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. The place was packed. I can’t remember the name of the place,” Michelle says.

“Ballyhoo,” I answer. “Yea we used to be the household band there a few years back. We had some good times there. Too bad the owner was too coked out of his mind to run a business. He often paid us too much.” We didn’t mind. I think and then say, “The place ended up getting shut down cuz too many people were fightin’ in the parking lot.”

“Oh my god I know!” Michelle says with big eyes. “That owner was a coke head. He used to own Stevie Ray’s down town.”

So we finish befriending all the members of New Crime Theatre. I start heading out of the bar and conclude that both scenarios suggested earlier are true: the members on stage eyeing us earlier did recognize Glen and I from a previous show; and, yes, Michelle was eyeing Glen with eyes of fornication. How do I know the latter part of the scenarios to be true? As I reach the exit of the bar, I turn around and see Michelle still talking to Glen, her eyes gleaming with prurience and mating implications, like a male praying mantis crawling its way to the female on the other end of the stick. In both cases, either someone is liable to get poked, or the female prepares for murderous activity—Devouring Her Prey.

 

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