Leigh Byrne's preferred form of communication is through writing--email, text messages, short stories, and poetry. Sometimes
she'll talk to someone face to face, but never on the phone. She has phone phobia (seriously), so bad that before she could
order takeout online, she'd never had a pizza delivered. Some of her recent communication has appeared, or is forthcoming in
the following print and online publications: 34thParalell, The Foliate Oak, Glassfire Anthology, Pocket Change, Shine Journal, Short
Story Library, and Thieves Jargon.
I can make out only fragments of what Freda's saying through the grinding of the blender. "Pond scum... pig... remarried", but it's
enough to know she's talking about her ex. I've already heard the story once, this morning when she called for an emergency
margarita meeting, but like the good friend that I am, I nod in support.
I push the blender's "off" button, and as it stutters to a stop, I hear Freda saying, "Then, I get to work and the new girl..."
"The one with the tongue piercing?" I ask, dipping my finger into the margarita for a taste. "Hair like Posh Beckham's?"
She nods. "Taylor's her name. She told me I reminded her of her grandmother. Called me wise."
"Bitch," I hiss, and put extra shot of tequila into the blender.
"Wise is for old Chinese men. I'd gladly be dumb as a bucket of mud if I could have breasts that enter a room before I do, and a
butt you could sit a bowl of soup on."
"I know, sweetie. Salt?"
I hand Freda her drink. She quickly takes a hearty gulp, and then sits back in her chair, pressing her forefinger to her temple.
"Let's see," she says, when her brain freeze passes, "where did we leave off last time?"
It's been almost a year since we first had the conversation we're about to have. We were at our favorite Mexican restaurant where
the margarita pitchers are $12.99. From the start we knew it was going to be a two pitcher night. Freda's husband had run off to
Venezuela with a seventeen-year-old. We'd just given him a royal trashing, and moved on to me, and the woes of being an old,
balding queen, when, from out of nowhere, the tequila said, "Instead of crying into our drinks about our miserable lives, why don't
we do something?"
I laughed. "Like what, get lobotomies and face lifts?"
"What do we do if we get lousy service at a restaurant, or if we're at a bad party?"
"We slip out the back."
"Right. Our lives suck. Let's leave."
"You mean leave leave?"
"It's the obvious solution, really. Came to me the other day while I was watching Sylvia Browne on The Montel Show."
"Me too. Anyway, you know how she's always talking to dead people about what it's like on the other side? Well, on the show she
was saying that after we die we're all thirty years old. Thirty! Do you remember what your thighs looked like when you were
thirty? And she said we'll have jobs and hobbies, just like when we were alive. We can even have sex; she called it melding."
"No sweetie, melding was on Star Trek," I corrected. "Remember, it's when Spock put his hand on an alien's head to read its
"Whatever. The point is what if Sylvia's right? What if dying isn't something to fear? What if it really is a better place?"
"Not that it matters in my case--I'm sure God's already made reservations for me and my kind--but don't you go to hell for
"I don't think so. There was a lady in Montel's audience whose son had overdosed--you know, intentionally--and Sylvia said he
made it to the other side anyway. Gays even make it. Sylvia said so."
"Well, then count me in!"
"Look," she said, "I'm serious. You don't have to do this, but I've already decided I'm not hanging around until I'm tripping over
"Pa-leeese! I spray paint my scalp, for sobbing in the night. Then I sprinkle it with hair fibers. You're not leaving me here alone,
bald and shriveled, while you're at Sylvia's big party in the sky. Oh, I'm going with you all right. It's just that it may take us a while
to come up with something that suits us both. And we should make it look like an accident, for our families' sake."
Since then the subject has come up a handful of times, always at our low points--when I found my former partner in bed with the
UPS man, when Freda started growing a menopause mustache, and now, with the news that her ex husband is remarrying--and
always over a pitcher of margaritas.
I sit down across from Freda with my drink. "I believe we eliminated drowning because of your fear of water. And we both agreed
anything to do with profuse bleeding is out."
"We also ruled out jumping from a building." she adds. "Our luck we'd survive and end up like Christopher Reeve, blowing through
a tube to get around."
"Actually, I think I had the best idea last summer."
"You mean when you suggested we jump into the bottomless pit at Mammoth Cave?"
"There wouldn't have been any bodies for people to gawk at." I lick some salt from the rim of my glass and smile. "And it would've
been so Thelma and Louise."
"C'mon, Victor. Two people don't accidentally fall into a bottomless pit together. We're not co-joined twins. Besides, I told you I
had on shabby underwear that day."
"Well, I'm out of ideas, then. You realize that we've eliminated practically every known way to off yourself, don't you?"
"Not every one. There's carbon monoxide. They say it's the easiest way to go."
"Carbon monoxide, as in a garden-hose-duck-taped-to-a-car-exhaust-and-routed-through the-window?"
"I saw it in a movie once."
"I was thinking more along the lines of a blocked fireplace flue."
"Neither of us have fireplaces."
"Or a faulty gas heater."
"We're both all electric."
"Or," she leans in "I can pull my Buick into your garage, like I sometimes do when I drink too much and have to sleep over. Only
this time I'll leave the motor running. It'll look as if I changed my mind and started the car to go home."
"And when you come back in to wait for your car to heat up you can leave the door cracked ever so slightly."
"The perfect accident. Just think, by morning we could both be thirty again. Remember the Eric Estrada hair you had?"
Freda is down to the last of her margarita. She lifts her glass to finish it off, the sweet froth seeping into the deep lines jutting
into her pale, slit of a mouth. She used to smoke back before it was a slutty thing for a woman to do, back when you could still
light up without someone giving you that, you're-killing-my-kids-you-scum-of-the-earth look. Even without lips, she's still a
handsome old dame, in a Judi Dench sort of way.
"Nah," I say, shooing away the idea like you shoo a gnat from your face. "Carbon monoxide poisoning makes you puke. And you
know we're both pukers. Not to mention I had clam chowder for dinner. You?"
Freda turns up her glass again and pats the bottom until the last glob of margarita plops into her mouth. "Yea, guess you're
right," she concedes. "Well, if we're going to be hanging around for a while, at least make us another pitcher.
I sweep our glasses from the table. "Coming right up."
Just as I'm starting the blender I hear Freda ask if I have any chips and salsa.