An Odd Configuration – Novel Excerpt

I’m waiting to see whether a certain person comes out of that club across the street.

I can say the club’s across the street because I am, in effect, sitting in my car in a parking lot across the street from the Purple Spider Club. But really two streets separate me from the club. The street immediately in front of the lot where I’m parked, like a feeder road along a highway, is parallel to the main street, separated from it by a narrow grassy divider. It enables people from the neighborhood behind me to get to the strip of businesses strung out to my left without entering the main road. It’s an odd configuration. A lit-up freeway overpass strides the atmosphere a few hundred yards to my right. The harsh, pillared enormity is softened by its nighttime lighting. Even a garbage dump can look good when well-photographed. But the freeway just won’t shut up. It exudes the subtle jittery scream of a diabolical creature spreading its poison across the big city. The main street passes beneath it.

I’ve been sitting here in my car trying to pay attention since six-thirty p.m., when it was still light.

An orangish beige brick seven-story office building stands nondescriptly to the left of the club. It bears an honorable mien. The Purple Spider Club itself is a single-story, light purple cinder block building. Two giant spiders in darker shades of purple have been painted on it to look like they’re crawling over it. The club’s paint job isn’t new. The area shows its age without seeming sadly rundown; it’s not seedy. Everything wears. Unless you’re rich, the wear will show some time.

At either corner of the club, a light, atop a roof-high pole, drops a suggestion of illumination. The glimmering, mauvish summer sky, purple building, two grey metal light poles, and two unassuming circles of light, one on the brown ground below one pole, and one, a broken circle, on the heaved slab of black asphalt below the opposite pole. A larger, barely brighter, bulb on the end of a metal arm under a circular, ruffled metal shade dips towards the front door of the club and–a redundancy–points its light at the spidery, red neon sign above the door. The open space in front of the club is the parking lot. Club patrons angle-park nosed against the building. The lot’s mostly dirt. Lanceolate-bladed weeds create spiky shadows where they’ve grown up through the cracks of the remaining asphalt. Two cars parked side-by-side point rightward (from my point of view) towards the door. One angled in on the other side of the door points leftward. From the point of view of someone who’s been sitting here for three hours (but don’t doubt that I’m here because I want to be), the cars create an interesting “V” design. In fact, the whole view is a tableau worthy of a painting. I’m counting on this guy having arrived at the club before me. I’ve waited all these hours based on that assumption. I know something of his habits. I want badly to see him. I don’t have anything planned. I want to see how he looks and how he acts in his unguarded life. I’m not sure I’ll recognize him. I light a cigarette.

I can see a lighted bank clock beyond the island of habitable land the office building and club claim amidst the streets stabbing in every direction from this insignificant hub, probably made insignificant by that freeway. It’s just about nine forty-five, and nobody has come and nobody has left the club. Suddenly the door slams open and a young-looking woman wearing shorts, a halter top and tennis shoes bursts out of the club, pauses, looking rapidly to her right and to her left, and then races down the street in the direction of the freeway. She runs as though someone were chasing her but no one is. I lose sight of her when she’s swallowed up by the shadow of the freeway. I know that she must be afraid, and I’m sorry for her. I take a drag on my cigarette, sucking in hot, dry fear with the smoke.

I’ve never been in the Purple Spider Club. I think it’s just a bar, unless it’s a strip club, but I don’t know. There aren’t any real nightclubs around anymore. None like those I see in old forties movies, anyway, and those are my idea of a nightclub. Coat check and a canary. I watched my guy leave that night with two other men at about two-thirty a.m. That was a little more than a year ago. I had no doubt it was he. Now that man is watching me.


Susan Plant has been published in Review Americana (drama), (the) Squawk Back (poetry), and Full of Crow (fiction), among other publications.