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11.26.08

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Phaedra

EXQUISITE JIVE: We started the silly story and you finished it.

Jive Turkey

Tales from our 15th annual Jive writing contest


They embraced and then started swapping spit at an alarming level. Like two dueling shop vacs desperately trying to suck a dime from behind a car seat, so was their passion."

Sentences like the above are why we do our annual writing contest, always thrilled to draw from our readers their best, most outrageous, smartest, funniest, most thoughtful responses to our yearly prompts. This year, we imagined a grainy scene of disarray, fancy cocktails, sensual music, badly performed dance, lipstick markings and, being as how it's well on to the fourth Thursday in November, a turkey.

Difficult as it was, we chose five winners from the many responses tendered. We fete our winners  with a reading on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 6pm. It's held this year at a private residence, so RSVP to this free public event (pssst: fresh cake) by writing editor@bohemian.com and we'll give you details.

—Gretchen Giles

Vipers

The turkey hit the floor with a wet thud. Three year's worth of dust settled ashily down around it. Unperturbed, Hector and Nanette continued to tango poorly, inhibited by the many packing cases around them. Breaking briefly, Nanette took a small sip of her pisco sour, leaving a lipstick ring that caught Hector's attention. Guests were due in hours, but Hector was sanguine. After all, Nanette was sure to . . .

. . . be dead by then.

It would be too embarrassing to introduce her to his amigos here in Buenos Aires. The way she tangoed was patético. Hector sipped his martini and swallowed the olive with a gulp as she grabbed his arms again, arching back her torso like a slowly falling ombú tree in the Pampas. Her abrazo, the tango embrace, supposed to be close and intimate, was a gaping gulp of cultural differences. Hector' smooth caminadas, elegantly improvised, were countered by her awkward goose-stepping, and she upset his stylish cadencias with her leathery stomping and beehive hairdo, as if she were a bearskin sentry guarding Buckingham Palace.

Yes, her dancing would kill his reputation as a caballero.

Another reason, even closer to his heart, was hidden in the packing cases: her jewelry and the password to a Swiss bank account.

"Gotta cook that bird now," Nanette said, picking up the turkey. "Rise from the ashes, Phoenix." She smirked, and it struck Hector again how irreconcilable the differences were between her flippant simplicity and the deliberately purple prose that he used even in his most secret thoughts like these, or when he was trying with all his might for three long years to make it in the adult-movie business in the San Fernando Valley where Nanette was one of the studio executives who attended the tango lessons he gave when he was short of money, which meant, in all honesty, that when, in spite of eggs for breakfast and plenty of rest, his phoenix, so to speak, refused to rise, the rakish Raul from Bakersfield was called to stand in for him.

It had been surprisingly easy to smuggle the turkey by the counter-terrorist guards at the airports, first in L.A. and then here in Buenos Aires, and anyway their excuse would have been that they needed to eat him for patriotic reasons. It was Thanksgiving, after all.

"How long would it take," he had asked Raul on the phone, "and wouldn't she taste the snake poison?"

"Not in a pisco sour," Raul had assured him.

He looked at the Timex that he had won at slots in Reno. Soon it would be a Rolex. And a Mercedes. And a Tango Nuevo studio, directed by Hector Malone.

Suddenly he felt the bite of the pit viper's poison, and he knew instantly that it was the olive in his martini. He hit the floor with a thud, as the door from the kitchen opened and Nanette appeared, Raul at her side. "I called off the party," she said as Hector's legs cramped and one leg wound itself around the other as in a tango move known as the gancho. Hector grimaced and then his face turned sanguine again. Raul and Nanette smiled at each other and said, each in their own language, "El tango no está en los pies. Está en el corazón. "

"Tango ain't in the feet. It's in the heart."

—Wulf Rehder

Circus Circus

The turkey hit the floor with a wet thud. Three year's worth of dust settled ashily down around it. Unperturbed, Hector and Nanette continued to tango poorly, inhibited by the many packing cases around them. Breaking briefly, Nanette took a small sip of her pisco sour, leaving a lipstick ring that caught Hector's attention. Guests were due in hours, but Hector was sanguine. After all, Nanette was sure to . . .

. . . take the lead eventually, tangoing them towards the cellar door, at which she would then point imperiously—Hector's cue to unlock it—releasing the circus troupe.

Although puzzled, ringmaster and clowns had earlier followed Nanette's pointing finger down to the cellar. Only the tiger cub resisted, until gently urged down the steep stairs by Hector's shiny patent leather toe. He'd had to stake the adolescent elephant in the backyard, where his thumping and trumpeting interfered with the beat of their music, causing them to dance poorly, despite their widespread fame as a tango duo.

It was during their recent Latin America tour that Nanette had insisted on kidnapping a tiny Bolivian circus. This was made possible by their friendship with a still-powerful ex-dictator, the owner of a Lear jet. Money having changed hands, they'd hustled the bemused troupe aboard under cover of darkness. This group would make their housewarming party unique, Nanette told Hector. Besides, the circus could always be returned later.

Anyway, who'd even notice the packing crates? They'd just be part of the ambiance. Indeed, Nanette had already bullied the ringmaster into stenciling on names of exotic south-of-the-border tourist traps. The clowns, glad to be upstairs, however briefly, had cheerfully affixed dozens of colorful travel stickers.

Stumbling against a crate, Hector winced as Nanette's stiletto heel grazed his instep. Thankfully, it wasn't they who'd perform tonight, but the animals, clowns and flea circus. (Hector hoped no one would step on the fleas. As a boy, he'd longed for one, actually searching his hirsute hairless Chihuahua Fritz-William for those tame enough to capture and train. Alas, all they did was bite Hector while playing leap-frog on their Fritzi-dog.)

The tango artistes danced clumsily for hours before Nanette finally steered Hector towards the cellar door. There, he quickly unlocked and opened it, only to be knocked flat by the ringmaster, clowns and cub, all scratching themselves madly. The fleas had apparently gone stir-crazy in the damp, dark basement. Helping Nanette to her feet, Hector sighed, certain her solution would be to use flea powder left over from their late dog, Fritz-Wm. III. So much for rekindled boyhood dreams.

Despite their itchy bites, the powdered performers soon took their places atop packing cases, the tiger gnawing happily on its turkey treat. Breathing a sigh of relief, Hector coughed a bit from the dust. Guests were due any minute. Maybe everything would go well after all.

Suddenly, the back of the house was rattled by fierce pounding, just as the front doorbell shrilled. Leaving Nanette to greet arriving guests, Hector tugged open the back door, only to be knocked flat yet again. The juvenile pachyderm, trumpeting loudly and blowing ancient dust in all directions, shoved his way between crates towards the front door. Shouldering Nanette aside, he headed for the street, easily mowing down the crowd of visitors in the process. Reaching for the pitcher of pisco sours, Nanette downed it in one gulp, lipstick smearing messily. Hector was no longer sanguine.

—Jennie F. Butler

Dancing Duo

The turkey hit the floor with a wet thud. Three year's worth of dust settled ashily down around it. Unperturbed, Hector and Nanette continued to tango poorly, inhibited by the many packing cases around them. Breaking briefly, Nanette took a small sip of her pisco sour, leaving a lipstick ring that caught Hector's attention. Guests were due in hours, but Hector was sanguine. After all, Nanette was sure to . . .

. . . wipe her lip prints from the glass, one of the 31 for guests, before the door rattled with knocking friends. None would know which glass of pisco sour had been kissed by Nanette's luscious lips.

Hector dipped deep, Nanette arched beneath him. Delicately, she twisted her long graceful neck and sidled her eyes up under a thicket of lashes to engage Hector's ardent gaze. The music went on without them.

Licking pisco sour from his lips, Hector pulled Nanette close. She wrapped a shapely bare leg around his. He lunged, she bent backward. He whirled her tight and light. Ashy dust rose and peppered the wet turkey.

Suddenly, boxes big and little thudded a drumbeat around Hector and Nanette, a' twirl in a swirl. Oblivious, they tangoed to the castanets of crashing crates until Nanette sidled her long dark eyes to the forlorn turkey lodged against boxes.

"Oh, Hector my hero," Nanette of the sidling eyes said, "the turkey pines for us. It must be the hour to tend to it."

"Mi amor," intoned Hector, "one more tango." They moved together as best they could, sidestepping tumbled crates and defrosting turkey.

"Look, Hector. Your Tio Galindo's packing case has fallen. He will be most upset."

"Tio Galindo will not care, not with pisco sour to drink." Hector tangoed Nanette away. They stumbled into Maria Castilla.

"Hector, we've knocked Maria Castilla off her feet. They're up in the air."

"Never mind. She's a seasoned old bird."

Hector clasped Nanette's supple waist. She paused a step to impart a perfect imprint on yet another of the 31. She tilted her chin, flashed a message from under thick lashes. The music went on without them.

Hector was sanguine. Nanette was sure to tend to the turkey. At last, Nanette cocked her head. Hector struck a heroic pose, hatchet in hand. Each eyed the other. They turned to the thawed turkey. It gobbled a greeting to the tango twosome. Surprise arrested Hector and Nanette.

The turkey rose on spurred feet, puffed neck feathers, tried one wing, then the other. Power surged, claw to crown. Stiff-legged, the turkey strutted onto the dance floor, skewered Hector with a baleful stare. Undone and hatchetless, Hector backed into boxes. The turkey dipped its beak into Nanette's pisco sour. With round eye fixed on Nanette's lissome neck, the roused turkey turned wattles blue, head white and dewlap redder in invitation. Nanette's luscious lips parted. Chortling, the turkey flared wide a banded fan, dragged wings to draw rings in three years' dust.

The message was clear. It takes two to tango.

—Lum Franco

Make-Up Sex

The turkey hit the floor with a wet thud. Three year's worth of dust settled ashily down around it. Unperturbed, Hector and Nanette continued to tango poorly, inhibited by the many packing cases around them. Breaking briefly, Nanette took a small sip of her pisco sour, leaving a lipstick ring that caught Hector's attention. Guests were due in hours, but Hector was sanguine. After all, Nanette was sure to . . .

. . . suggest make-up sex when the music ended. Or the pisco sour was gone.

Whichever came first.

His dalliance with Sissy Maine was old news. She meant nothing now. Hector grabbed Nanette's hand and allowed her to lead.

They hit the floor with an unmelodic thud. Three years of infidelity and badly cooked cuisine tangoed with them around her packing cases destined for Argentina.

Breaking briefly, Hector sipped his Black Bear Stout, leaving a tuft of foam on his goatee that caught Nanette's attention. Malia, Monique and Brock were on their way. But what did she care. She gave into no one. The sax man had been a passing fancy; Milagra but a fling. Nanette felt serene. After all, Hector was sure to deposit his trustafarian check before their guests arrived.

He was a man of urges.

She was a woman of urgency.

Their relationship hit the floor with a predictable thud. Every third day precisely. Three years of nasty bus-stop breakups, followed by reconciliations posted on YouTube, MySpace, YourSpace, WeAllSpace bounced with them around the room. They were running out of ways to do it. Once again, the lovebirds were blissfully, revoltingly back together.

Nanette flung Hector toward a case marked "FRAGILE" and sneered. Hector hit the baggage, and his head snapped forward. Anger vied with numbness for his attention, but it was the lipstick ring on her pisco sour glass that he kissed.

Neither could remember whose move it was.

Neither could recall the next step, or the last.

The tango lessons had hit the floor with a thud. Last year's Christmas present now settled around them like fermented fruit. Luis Salinas' Argentina Tango was all the rage. They paso-dobled over packing cases, knocked over drinks, stumbling towards a clumsy crescendo that would amount to a new kind of dance.

Sissy and the sax man were in the past. The three-year-old turkey would have to wait. Ashes to ashes and dust to dew, they tangoed poorly across the industrial loft, dangerously close to the only door unopened: where both preened nightly in solo performance.

The bathroom drawer hit the floor with a thud. Three years of cosmetics settled rosily down on the tessellated floor. Unperturbed by cracked mirrors and broken compacts, Nanette and Hector sipped powdery drinks and looked on, as uninhibited Brush of Mascara passionately engaged Tube of Red Lipstick to her very foundation. This caught the attention of watchful Eye Shadow and made Rouge blush.

Hector and Nanette hit the floor with a passionate thud.

—Guy Biederman

Oh, What a Tangoed Web We Weave

The turkey hit the floor with a wet thud. Three year's worth of dust settled ashily down around it. Unperturbed, Hector and Nanette continued to tango poorly, inhibited by the many packing cases around them. Breaking briefly, Nanette took a small sip of her pisco sour, leaving a lipstick ring that caught Hector's attention. Guests were due in hours, but Hector was sanguine. After all, Nanette was sure to . . .

. . . liven up a bit once enough alcohol hit her bloodstream, being one of those persons who become more energetic the more they imbibe. However, whether this would inspire her to tidy seemed unlikely, if three years' worth of dust and dozens of still unpacked crates were any indication. Tossing the glass over her shoulder with what she imagined was an air of decadent abandon appropriate to the tango, Nanette reengaged Hector, and they once more began caroming off the crates like funhouse bumper cars. "One less glass to clean, eh what?!" Hector quipped fatuously. He'd long ago learned the hazards of criticizing Nanette's housekeeping.

Having recently obtained a large stack of old Pathé Marconi 78s recorded by Carlos Gardel and an equally ancient gramophone on which to play them at the Chelsea Flea Market, Nanette and Hector were this evening hosting a tango-themed party in the old Whitechapel warehouse they'd moved into three years ago with the intention of establishing his and hers painters studios. The hand-printed invitations read, "Tango on the Thames!" and they had been practicing dips all afternoon. The arrival of the wet bird had put a definite damper on things.

Nanette had become quite put out upon the bird's arrival, and then with Hector when he failed to eject this soggy scion of the genus meleagris from the premises when so ordered, offering up a pusillanimous, "But he does have an invitation, Sweetums." Just how and where the turkey had obtained an invite was anybody's guess.

As Hector watched over Nanette's perceptively frosty shoulder, the turkey (a tom, judging from its size and plumage), rightfully exhausted after its intrepid swim across the English Channel from Calais to Dover (148 hours, 26 minutes), and further struggle up the Thames (67 hours, 43 minutes), slowly rose to its feet and began nonchalantly pecking its way across the floor in time to the tango towards the hors d'oeuvres crate, displaying a natural sense of rhythm that Hector silently envied. Sober, Hector had two left feet; with several drinks in him, he developed an uncooperative third one.

  —Rich Jones  

Just then, the record they'd been dancing to came to an end, and the syncopated melody that had impelled them across the floor abruptly changed to a monotonous "click, scratch, click. " With a martyred sigh, Nanette disengaged from Hector and began threading her way among the crates to the one atop which the gramophone had been set. To her surprise, the turkey beat her to it, and, having adroitly flipped the record with nary a scratch, restarted the gramophone.

Hard on the heels of this, there came a loud knock at the warehouse door. "Ye gads!" the couple thought in unison—their guests were starting to arrive! "I'll get that, shall I?" the turkey said, moving towards the door.

Nanette tangoed back over to Hector, threw her arms around his neck and nestled her aquiline nose in his ear. "The turkey stays," she murmured.


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