Day for Night
There’s a beer in my hand that feels like an aspirin
There’s a beer in my hand that feels like a weapon
There’s a beer in my hand that feels like an aspirin
Lines from "Love Poem" by Jim Mason
The world came to an end on a balmy Tuesday evening while I was doing
laundry in my Glendale apartment building. Not on a Monday so I could
start off the week fresh with the apocalypse, knowing just where I
stood. Or a Friday so I could say, “Thank God it’s the weekend. I
need to de-stress from the End of Days.” It was a Tuesday. Four weeks
to the day that I had been voted off one of the most popular reality
shows running: Muscle Beach Midlife: Sand in your Face. I guess it
didn’t matter that Muscle Midlife had no voting. Details, schmetails.
They did it anyway, and it made for good TV. If ratings were sharks, I
was the bloody, mashed up chum.
I was multitasking. For me this involved doing laundry while I mused
about regret. What better time to muse on the nature of regret than when
the world was about to end? Of course, I had no idea such was the case
as I made my way deeper into Single White Female territory—my
building’s dank basement—gripping my basket tight and my rage
tighter. I shouldn’t even be here. Forced out of escrow on my dream
condo in Hermosa Beach, bad timing left me scrambling and I’d ended up
here, surrounded by elderly Armenian gentlemen who seemed to disapprove
of women wearing pants. Parents? They lived out of state. Sister
Margarite? Not an option in this life or the next. You found out fast
who your real friends were when you got kicked off a TV show. When
anything went wrong in this town, Los Angeles, especially if even
remotely connected to The Biz, you’d blink twice and find yourself in
the middle of a boiling, empty desert with nothing but the cacti and a
lizard doing pushups on a rock. Two handfuls of “friends” condensed
overnight down to just Hama and Rex.
So back to regret, back to the end of the world. An overall discontent,
kick-started by Sand in your Face, had Bogarded the borders, routed the
castle walls. The castle being the state of denial I lived in,
discontent being reality. It was funny that I was thinking of reality as
I neared the laundry room, basket on my hip, because I was expecting a
certain series of things ahead of me. I was expecting the machines to
all be occupied, except for one, which wouldn’t be enough to
accommodate my load. I was expecting the light bulb to be stuttering in
its usual migraine-inducing pattern. Even before I arrived, I could hear
them all busily humming. All the machines, all being used. The one
poster on the wall would be there, Truffaut’s Day for Night, dusty,
the plastic cover cracked in one corner. I even expected my right
shoulder to jackknife with pain when I hitched the basket up on my hip.
It had become injured almost a year ago after a failed pap smear
What I wasn’t expecting was to turn the corner and find my
thirty-something neighbor Annie, eyes open, silent, encased by a cone of
light and suspended in midair just inside the doorway. Nope. Wasn’t
expecting that at all. Floating beside her was the small, big-headed
creature I’d seen a million times on TV and in the movies, so
hilariously clichéd that I laughed out loud. There were some young
filmmakers in the building. It must be an experiment, a joke. But then
the creature turned, and it just wasn’t funny anymore.
I stopped breathing. Because I forgot how to. If I had been older, I
probably would have collapsed, dead before I hit the floor. The
creature’s eyes moved, found me, and froze. It was a monster, but I
had startled it. The laundry basket tumbled from my hands. Bras and
socks and panties and jeans spilled out onto the floor, bleached of
color under the buzzing lights. The being glanced at the laundry (was
that disgust I saw? Or was I projecting?) and then something happened.
My laundry basket was sailing through the air, aimed directly at the
creature. Without thinking, I had retrieved it and launched it,
Olympian-style. Mistake. Shoulder. Agony.
The basket bounced off the thing’s torso while a yellow bra pinwheeled
through the air and fell onto its head. The being/creature/monster
visibly jerked, and triumph spiked behind my terror. It was a familiar
feeling from my surfing days. From being battered and strangled by the
surf, then caressed and buoyed high moments after. The sea was like an
abusive lover, harboring beauty and terror within, including sharp teeth
that came up out of nowhere to claim parts of your body as if it was a
A deep-seated scream corkscrewed upward from the center of my
intestines. It poured out, brittle and clawing.
“GAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” It was like a thousand times louder than a
rape whistle. And it must have worked because the next thing I knew the
light was gone, the creature and my yellow bra were gone, and Annie was
flopping down on top of me as I pitched backward to the floor. For such
a tiny thing, she was really heavy. Or maybe it was just the impact from
falling. I thought, “I wonder if Annie’s the one hogging all these
machines.” And then I blacked out. Just a little.
Okay, not the end of the world in the traditional sense. But the end in
every other sense. The end of my world. As I knew it. The end of my
reality. Of everyone’s reality, I might add. I wasn’t alone in this.
When I came to seconds later, I was thinking of the show again.
Suddenly, getting kicked off Sand in your Face wasn’t the worst thing
that had ever happened as it had been moments ago. Correction--voted
off. Illegally voted off. No, having Annie blink her already-open eyes,
roll off me, then sit up and ask blankly, “What happened?” was worse
than getting voted off the TV show I’d been counting on to help me buy
my future, my dreams.
“Holy shit, did I pass out again?” She was a petite brunette and it
was always weird to hear her swearing. It was like listening to a
filthy-mouthed ten-year-old. The name didn’t help either, as it
conjured up images of Little Orphan Annie unloading a raunchy diatribe
at Daddy Warbucks who stood, speechless, while his left arm slowly went
I helped her to her feet. The stubs of my missing fingers ached
horribly. I hadn’t been in this building that long, as I mentioned
before. I only knew Annie’s name because her boyfriend was always
bellowing it from somewhere in the building. Or, unfortunately, from the
apartment next door to me where they lived.
“You don’t remember what happened?” I asked.
“What happened?” she said, now with some suspicion. She glanced
around the room quickly, then back, as if Hannibal Lecter might step out
from behind me.
“You…fainted,” I suggested. It wasn’t exactly a lie.
Annie sighed. “God.” She sounded genuinely weary and sagged a
little. “I quit drinking four months ago. WTF?”
Note to self: do laundry somewhere else.
Excerpted from "Day For Night" by Stacey E. Bryan. Copyright © 2016 by Stacey E. Bryan. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.