Just Another Night on Telegraph
By Karl Dandenell
She called him Harry. Actually, his name was Henry, but she was beautiful, and he was more than a little drunk, so he let her get away with it.
“You are Harry. You know, hairy. All men are, but you….” She touched his bare chest, which was exposed by his homemade wizard costume.
“Yeah, I’m like Robin Williams,” he said, looking down. He’d inherited his hirsute nature from his father, a Greek immigrant. At least he could grow a decent beard, unlike most of the other freshman at the Halloween party.
“Robin who?” she said, looking confused. She was holding a bright red plastic cup of rum and Coke.
He laughed. Everything she said made him laugh. He desperately wanted to keep this conversation going. Almost every guy at the party had hit on her. And three women. What the hell, it was Berkeley. Lust was lust.
Henry swigged some of his beer. “Halloween brings out one’s true nature, don’t you think… ah. Sorry. Forgot your name.”
Her costume was a cross between Summer of ‘66 Flower Child and Fairy Goth. Filmy blue dress, loose leggings and tabi. Fingernails painted bright red. Eye shadow of fuchsia, blue, and yellow. She had long, glossy black hair, piercing black eyes, and hips that made his mouth dry.
“It fits you,” he said. “Great outfit, by the way. Very Composia fidelissima.”
“‘Faithful beauty.’ It’s a moth.” He smiled. “I’m majoring in entomology. You?”
“I do not look like a moth.” She said, ignoring his question. “And this isn’t a costume.”
Oh. He tried a different tack. “Kind of hard to ride a bike in those sock things.”
“I walk everywhere,” Honeysuckle said.
“Low carbon footprint, uh, no pun intended.” She probably shopped at the farmer’s market for organic local food and essential oils. Her perfume reminded him of his dad’s second wife, who always wore patchouli and cooked with lots of Indian spices.
“Hey,” he said. “I really like your accent. Is your family from India?”
She shook her head. “Further away than that.” She looked at her cup. “I need a refill. I’ll be back. Maybe.” But she winked on the last word, giving him hope.
Then she leaned forward and kissed him quickly, leaving behind a sweet taste of her cocktail. Then she wandered off, pausing briefly at knots of people, like a Lepidoptera sampling flowers.
For a few minutes, Henry watched her flitter around the room, exchanging a few words with other men. All of them were endomorphic, or what his friends at the Botanical Garden called “pear-shaped white boys.”
All the better for me, Henry thought, making his way to the buffet table. The nachos looked particularly good tonight.
Three athletic men manned the table, eating raw vegetables and complaining about their Bikram yoga teachers. Their only concessions to the holiday were cheesy tee shirts that looked like last-minute purchases from a pop-up costume store. Henry immediately classified them as Archimantis latistyla, stick mantises. Useful in the garden, but ugly.
He turned and found her standing really close.
“Want to go for a walk?”
She led him out of the crowded apartment into refreshingly cool air. She headed down Telegraph Avenue.
“So where are we going?” he asked.
“Oh, I know a place. It’s a little bit of a hike, though.” She glanced at him, as if weighing possibilities. “You think you can keep up?”
Hell, he’d crawl after her if he had to. “Sure. Lead on, MacDuff.”
Again, she gave him that confused look. “Who?”
They walked for a time through gentrifying neighborhoods, skirting the edge of the university. Half an hour later, they reached the entrance of a big park. The gate was locked; Honeysuckle simply slipped between the bars. Henry had to climb over, nearly dropping his plastic staff when his belt caught on the wire mesh.
She led him deeper into the park. Many of the street lights weren’t working, making it pleasantly dark. It had gotten colder, too. Henry was glad he’d worn his cloak. He looked around, trying to remember the way they came. Then he bumped into her. Her back was really solid, like a swimmer’s.
He looked around. The trees and bushes had grown together, forming a naturally enclosed space. A thick layer of duff covered the ground. Honeysuckle knelt down and padded the earth. When she looked up and smiled, Henry quickly unclasped his cloak and spread it on the ground.
As soon as he sat down, Honeysuckle straddled him and pushed him onto his back. Then she trailed her fingers down his chest to his wide leather belt.
Henry smiled and said, “Ladies first.” He closed his eyes, and felt her yank off his belt, tossing the staff and coin pouch to one side. When she pulled down his shorts, he let his brain go offline, focusing on the amazing sensations happening down there. Now that’s an incantation.
At one point she bit him, but he was too far along to care.
A long time later, Henry opened his eyes. He’d fallen asleep, and now his nauseous stomach and stiff limbs told him he was hung over, or maybe coming down with the flu. He tried to roll onto his side and failed. Something heavy and sticky lay on his belly.
“Go to sleep,” Honeysuckle said. “It will be over soon.” She leaned over and touched the white mass attached to his love handles. It rippled under her hand. “Take care of my daughter.”
He watched her pull on her clothes, covering those impossibly thin legs and too-wide hips.
“You’re right, Harry. Halloween does bring out one’s true nature.”
He heard her pulling branches over the space, and it grew darker. In the quiet, Harry felt the thing on his belly squirm.
Then he realized his mistake. She wasn’t Composia fidelissima.
She was Pepsis formosa.