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Night Flight Mike
A novelette from Cheeseburger Brown
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Night Flight Mike, a novelette by Cheeseburger Brown, illustration by Matthew Hemming

CHAPTER 9

Six seconds later Mike heard the washroom door whine open and flap closed. Footfalls shuffled across the floor and a sink came on. Someone was snuffling, breathing raggedly. "Jesus, Jocelyn," said a woman.

"I know," said Jocelyn.

"Are you okay?" asked the first woman.

"Damn," mumbled Jocelyn. She was crying.

With a terrible sinking sensation Mike realized that he had climbed from the basement directly into the ladies' room. Somehow this seemed to compound his crime geometrically, as if it were somehow possible to explain his underage presence in a nightclub but it defied all defense to justify why or how he would have the temerity to penetrate the sanctity of a ladies' room. He didn't want his mom to think he was a pervert.

Mike began to sweat. He locked the stall door.

"You can't take this crap from him. I mean, damn. You just can't."

"I know," repeated Jocelyn wearily.

Mike jumped as the washroom door sang again and then banged as it smacked into the opposite wall, the music briefly blaring and then muffled again as the door swung shut. A deep voice bellowed, "Jocelyn what the hell?"

"Jesus Christ!"

The women gasped. "Get out of here!" screeched Jocelyn, the imploring quaver in her voice making the hairs on Mike's arms stand on end.

"What the hell, Jocelyn?" repeated the man, and then came the sound of scrambling feet, grunting, and the tearing of cloth.

"I'm going to get help," said the first woman, and the door swung open and closed again.

"Don't leave me!" cried Jocelyn.

"For once in your life why don't you shut the hell up?" demanded the interloper. Jocelyn gasped again and there were more wildly shuffling feet. Mike felt the familiar knot harden in the pit of his stomach that developed whenever Father lost his temper and tried to start wrestling with somebody.

"Let go of me, Nick! I swear --"

There came a harsh, organic sound like a steak slapped down on a butcher's counter, then a few seconds of silence. Jocelyn was crying again. Nick was breathing like a bull. Mike was shivering like a leaf.

"Now," pronounced Nick at last, "maybe you're starting to understand how far you crossed over the line this time. It's time to goddamn listen instead of talking, you got that, Jocelyn?"

"Please don't hit me again," whimpered Jocelyn.

But he did. Mike jumped as a weight crashed into the side of the stall he was hiding inside, the thin metal walls rattling and raining grains of rust from the brackets. Jocelyn slumped down to the floor, and in the gap beneath the wall Mike saw her pale leg and pointy shoe. He was sure Nick was going to kill Jocelyn, and then probably kill Mike for witnessing it. He had never been so scared in his life. He tasted bile as his belly hiccoughed.

"Get up," said Nick quietly.

"Damn, Nick..." mumbled Jocelyn blearily.

"I said get the hell up, dog!"

This roar of rage spoke to something primordial inside of Mike, and he could no longer contain his fear. In a blind blast of frenetic energy Mike clawed at the stall door, forgetting that he had locked it. This kindled his fear into fully realized panic. Without thinking, he leaned back on the toilet and used both his legs to savagely kick out the door.

The lock snapped in two. The door flew opened with terrifying speed and then stopped dead at ninety degrees with a concussive bang.

Nick, whom had received the full force of the flying door with his forehead, tottered slowly backward on his heels and then tumbled into a garbage can of lipstick-blotted tissues and tampon packaging. An empty box of Tic Tacs spun across the tiles and came to rest under the still running sink.

Mike was frozen in the stall, staring at Nick's crumpled form. Jocelyn was frozen on the floor, red-rimmed eyes locked on Mike. They both took a moment to breathe.

"We should turn off the faucet," Mike said stupidly.

"Holy crap, kid," whispered Jocelyn.

"Is he dead?"

"I don't think so."

Mike thought about helping Jocelyn to her feet but was unable to will himself to move from the mouth of the stall. She was nearly as terrifying an apparition as Nick, her face pinched and white and moist, a rivulet of blood running freely from one nostril and dripping on her shoulder from which one green spaghetti-strap hung loosely. The other side was torn, her brassiere exposed.

They stared at one another.

The washroom door slammed open again and was pinned against the wall by a small crowd, framed by the throbbing bass and a speckling of multicoloured light. A slim black girl with obnoxious green boots was at the head of the posse, and it was she who ran to Jocelyn's side as the others filed in more cautiously, eyeing Nick's prone form. "What the hell happened?" she asked Jocelyn.

Jocelyn wiped her bloody muzzle on her forearm. "He happened," she said, pointing to Mike. "This kid is a goddamn ninja."

A man with an orange mohawk scratched the stubbly side of his head and adjusted his patched khaki skirt. "You're a ninja?" he asked Mike.

Mike didn't say anything.

"He saved me," explained Jocelyn.

"Jesus hell," said the girl with green boots.

The man with the mohawk bowed gracefully to Mike who, in automatic response, bowed gracefully in turn. It was the most Asian Mike had ever felt. The mohawk man put his hand on Mike's shoulder and gave it a friendly squeeze. "My name's Duff," he said. "Let me be the first to buy you a drink, Little Ninja."


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