Telling herself not every woman can juggle three voices in her head, four if she counted her own, Kim Phillips got ready for work. Selling luxury condos was getting to be a drag. She wondered if she could sell boats instead. Hawking yachts could be fun. But she hated rich people more and more each day, especially Russian billionaire Borys Popov whose days really should be numbered.
Becky’s voice came out of nowhere.
“Put your dancing shoes on,” the voice in Kim’s head said. “We’re going out.”
This third female presence that shaped Kim’s psyche arrived decades ago as Kim’s first childhood auditory hallucination. Becky promised to always defend her host in the fight to save Kim from herself. Until Becky showed up unannounced a few months ago, Kim hadn’t heard from her in almost 11 years when Becky just disappeared.
“I came back to rescue you for good,” Becky said.
So Kim went to her closet and pulled out the long red wig with bangs, a rainbow glitter halter top, pink bell bottoms and red high-heeled sandals, all items that clashed with her normally modest fashion taste and easygoing personality.
“Hot Mama,” as Becky now called her, got ready to party.
Taking over through the sheer force of her existence, as soon as Becky walked into RayRay’s Elbow Room the regulars at the bar who knew, loved and recognized Kim despite her makeover stopped mid-sip, gulp or guzzle to stare. Becky sashayed to the jukebox and punched in a few tunes. RayRay recognized the potential for trouble and easily handled the most public and severe display of Kim’s mental illness he ever saw.
“Your new look becomes you,” RayRay said smooth in his ability to handle a crisis yet hoping Kim wouldn’t blow their cover as brother and sister living the good life in a secret government witness protection program.
The last time Becky took over Kim missed work and got so riled she made an appointment with a psychiatrist who reassured her she was sane. A consulting neurologist said Becky’s influence was as real to Kim as Tara and Shannon, the evil Irish twin banshees who also lived in Kim’s head. The doctors wanted to know if Becky had met the demonic duo.
“What’s it to you?” Becky asked.
“Yeah, what’s it to you?” echoed Shannon.
“Quack, quack,” Tara said to the doctors.
Ultimately the specialists agreed Kim and her extended family posed no discernable danger to herself or others and suggested she try living with the illusive roommates, however real they might be to her. Reassuring herself that the experts had clearly diagnosed her malady, Kim tried her best to ride the brainwaves, hoping and failing more often than not to contain Tara and Shannon.
Becky could change Kim’s mind permanently.
Somebody could die.
Kim hoped she wasn’t the target.
As always Kim remained scared trying to cover terror with bravado that exhausted her. She clearly remembered when Becky made Deirdre the cheerleader disappear when they were teenagers and Becky simply had enough of that terribly mean girl. Becky might have spared Deirdre back then but chose otherwise. This time maybe Becky would save Kim once and for all.
Maybe Becky would kill the twins.
Sitting at the end of the bar in his reserved seat by the server’s station Sam Bennett seemed especially distressed by his friend’s appearance.
“Where’s your nice Hawaiian shirt with the seagulls on it, Kim?”
Turning on Sam with fire in her eyes, Becky pointed a long red fingernail.
“My name is Becky, birdbrain,” she said.
Before Becky could really open up on Sam with another snide retort, Ruby stepped from the kitchen and spoke in a voice as soothing as a warm bubble bath.
“Your hair is great,” Ruby said.
You could almost feel the brain cells dancing the hula in Becky’s head.
“You, too, can be a sexpot,” Becky said. “You want a wig? Yellow is your color.”
“Actually, no,” Ruby said. “Purple defines my moods, my essence, my being.”
“So what’s up with purple?” Becky asked.
Gently drawing Becky into her power circle, Ruby Arenas worked the soft magic of the ancients.
“Let me show you,” Ruby said.
Before turning to return to the kitchen she said to RayRay, “Buy all our friends at the bar a drink on me until I get back. Buy Becky two.”
“I’ll have two double flaming shots of Fireball whisky,” Becky said.
“Coming right up,” RayRay said.
The jukebox kicked into Becky’s first selection, “Psychedelic Shack” by the Temptations.
“Man, I hate that song,” Randall Lark said.
“I think it’s cool,” Durkin said.
“You would,” Randall said. “I’ll bet a white dude wrote it. Black people didn’t talk like that. Listen to the lame lyrics, ‘People walking around reciting poetry.’ Shit. You want poetry, read some LeRoi Jones.”
Durkin struggled for a comeback.
“So you don’t like Jimi Hendrix, either?”
“Jimi’s a trip, man,” Randall said. “Jimi felt the walls coming down. Jimi knew Black people would never be equals in America. So he beat you honkies at your own game.”
“What game is that, Randall?”
Randall stared into Durkin’s eyes.
RayRay set up the drinks.
“C’mon, you two,” he said. “Let’s not reignite the Civil War.”
Glaring at Durkin, Randall said, “The Civil War never stopped. Ask Dirty Harry here.”
Ruby re-emerged from the kitchen resplendent in a sparkling purple wig that hung to her elbows and would make Cher envious. Gliding into the bar on deep plum spike heels that made your feet hurt just looking at them, her mauve dress clung to her taut, muscled frame like lavender snakeskin. Mulberry gloss glistened wet on her lips. Eyeshadow dark as a blossoming lilac bush at midnight provided the finishing touch that rivaled the brilliance of fresh violets. An amethyst necklace and matching earrings rounded out her ensemble. Ruby’s aura shined purple.
Earlier that evening as she got ready for work, Rudy looked out the sliding glass door and saw Kim standing on her balcony. Becky had already taken over and was smoking a cigarette before putting on the finishing touches to go out for the evening. Calling on Santa Muerte Ruby asked for guidance.
“A cloak,” Santa Muerte said. “Disguise the power. Imitate the imposter. Only do it better.”
Ruby kept the dress and shoes from her senior prom. Until now why she held onto them was anybody’s guess. Santa Muerte must have seen Becky coming. The costume jewelry came with a collection she bought at a yard sale and she wore the wig on Halloween years ago. The makeup she bought when she made a quick run down to the drug store on the corner. Yes, Santa Muerte saw Becky coming.
“You are smoking,” Becky said.
Facing Ruby caught Becky by surprise.
“I think I might call it a night,” Becky said. “I’m feeling a little woozy.”
Ruby’s power bore into and neutralized Becky’s power.
“C’mon,” Ruby said. “I’ll walk you home.”
“Take the rest of the night off, Ruby,” RayRay said. “Maybe you and Kim, I mean Becky, I mean Kim, can have a heart-to-heart talk.”
Everybody at the bar sat stunned.
“Hey Randall,” Sam Bennett said. “‘Purple Haze’ even pales in comparison to Ruby.”
“Jimi would be proud,” Randall said. “I think.”
From his perch behind the bar Dillon whistled at the two women as they left arm in arm.
“Scuse me while I kiss the sky,” the bird said.
Sam and Randall both gawked at the parrot.
“The damn bird memorized Jimi Hendrix lyrics?” Randall said.
RayRay threw back a double shot of Fireball whiskey.
“At the Elbow Room any damn thing is possible,” he said.