Melody Plays a Tune
A party at Spud’s place. I would’ve been fifteen. Spud was a dealer who lived on the first floor of a beat-up house. He was older, kind of an asshole. He had a girl named Melody. Melody was a little scary, dirty around the edges but beautiful like she meant it. The rumor went that Spud and Melody liked to get with girls, the younger the better, all in a little group. Spud and Melody should have known better. They were both around 25, bona-fide fuck-ups but everyone pretended they were okay because of their parties and their free drugs. Melody called drugs candy, which made me embarrassed for her.
One night Spud was out of town so Melody was mistress of ceremonies. She stalked around and licked her lips, her gaze heavy on the girls. It was September but still warm. I stumbled out onto the porch. There was a ratty couch piled high with people. Everyone was smoking something, joints, cigarettes, tips like drunk fireflies. I lurched over to the front stairs, drunker than I realized. People were being loud and dumb. The cops would probably come soon; they always did. Spud and Melody lived in kind of a ratty part of town but most people had jobs and didn’t like a ruckus. If noise bloomed after midnight, they got spiteful.
I sat on the steps and minded my own business when I felt something. It was Melody. She slunk down. She smelled a little like urine. She had snuck up from behind because if I had seen her coming, I would have beaten it out of there. She grinned like a cat, her eyes slits of liner with yellow insides. That’s what she was—a cat full of yellow goo. Everyone knew it was better to get away before she gushed.
But here we were. When she lit a smoke and handed it to me, I forced my hands not to shake.
“You having a good time, Jessica?” Her voice sounded like a cat as it scratches itself.
“Oh, little Jessica, my kitten, we’re going to have fun. Do you want to play?” She was all cat, all business.
I calmed the squeak in my throat, shook my head no. “I’ve got to get home.” Home sounded like a question. It was a question. My parents were getting sick of my shenanigans. I came home drunk. I sassed back. My dad was probably passed out in the den, my mom upstairs. My brother Ellis was likely stoned sitting by his window fan staring out at something no one else could see.
Melody shook her head. “Home is where the heart is.” Melody the cat could make a cliché sound like a threat. She took my hand and placed it on her chest. I couldn’t feel her heart and for a moment, I wondered if she was actually a vampire. Vampire cat sent here to scare girls like me.
She held my hand a beat too long. Then she laughed and let me go.
“I want to show you some candy, kitty. It won’t hurt. OK maybe it’ll hurt a little but you’ll forgive me.”
She stood and pulled me up and led me down the steps and out into the night. I turned back but no one had noticed the great vampire cat snatching me up, whisking me off to her coffin. It wouldn’t help to scream. Plus that might excite her more.
It wasn’t far to Spud’s car. It was an old Mustang convertible, top on, its body dusty red, its tail a worn out muffler. It was a car all the kids coveted as it screeched around. Melody tossed her smoke away, opened the back door and ushered me in.
I had always imagined the car to smell sharp like an animal but it was all sweet tang. As she pushed in next to me, I reached to open the other door but she caught me. Her fingernails were long and dark.
“Don’t be scared.”
Fear prickled through me. Who the fuck did she think she was? She was Melody the tomcat, sent to keep all the little alley cats in line.
She pulled a pouch from under the seat. I thought maybe I’d get away while she got out a baggy and a set of works and got things ready but curiosity began to creep through me. It rubbed its fur along my bones, let me know it was there, crouched and waiting, all whiskers and tongue. Curiosity kills the cat but satisfaction brings it back and all that.
I shuddered when she pressed her arm against mine.
“Can you be a good kitty while I get the candy ready?” she said.
I nodded. Maybe I could still reach the door although it felt yards and yards away, a mirage of darkness. Plus, that cat in me was getting a little crazy, caterwauling its curled tip claws. Even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t move.
She ran a finger up my elbow, pushed my t-shirt up onto the shelf of my shoulder and tied a rubber tube around my arm right at the muscle. Everything tightened. She sprinkled brown powder on a spoon and waved a lighter underneath it. It sizzled as it cooked.
“Here, sweet kitty, hold this.” She handed me the spoon, its end hot. She dipped a syringe into the junk and sucked it up with the needle. She giggled a little girl giggle and took the spoon from me like we were at some tea party. She slapped at the crook of my arm and pulled it close and felt around for a good vein. Her fingers found a good bump and as she grinned, I noticed a splash of lipstick on one of her fangs.
This was the point to say no. It was still possible to say no. But curiosity won out.
She braced my arm and slipped the needle in. It was all rush, hot and sleek and I lay back. I began to ride something big, like a horse. We bulleted—tore the wind open and rode and leapt and soared so fast so fast and breathless rode and rode until the horse melted and was silk I rode silk wrapped up like skin. I curled and curled in a sea womb of silk and curled and curled and nothing else except peace like suffer the little children peace Jesus made peace.
I woke to a cackle. Melody had a hand on me. Melody so ready to play a song.
“Don’t worry, kitty. Candy has a price, but for you we’ll keep it cheap. You’ll see. You’ll see.”
Erica Kent is currently finishing her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has been featured in StoryQuarterly. She lives in Portland, Maine.