Sadie kept walking. Past McArthur blvd up 21st street and left towards the city museum. Although not really a slum part of the city, trash still lined the gutters and storm drains, the acrid smell of it wafted in the air. A spring in her step, the cooler day was welcome on her already lightly sunburned shoulders and neck.
Sadie sank into her own thoughts, remembering a melody she danced to the previous year. It had been a simple piano melody with violins. She hummed the theme, recalling the steps. She wished she knew the title and resolved to find the music.
How tempting it was to walk right past the museum onto a freeway onramp, cross the Bay Bridge and stroll right out of New Los Angeles. The thought unnerved her some. She had never considered leaving the city. Was she truly this unhappy?
"Hey you got any spare change?" A man asked her as she passed. He was slumped against a building, youthful face, cutting eyes and petulant mouth glared at her from underneath the brim of a baseball cap.
"No." She replied and kept walking. She waited until a few steps past before she exhaled.
Up ahead, she spied a bundle of blankets rested underneath the canopy of a local restaurant. As she came up on it, the blanket moved. Sadie bent assuming somebody had left their puppy in the shade while they went and got food. As least leave a water dish. She thought perturbed.
Then the bundle began to cry. A tiny wail as from a newborn. Sadie leaned over the crocheted blanket, her hands deftly uncovering the top of a baby's head. She looked further and big brown eyes stared up at her.
"Hi there." Sadie said.
She looked up and down the wide street then through the restaurant window, placing her face right to the glass. Unable to see through the glare, she again fixed on the baby.
"Who do you belong to?" She asked.
The little boy squawked, kicked his legs out and began to cry harder.
"Alright." Sadie cooed.
She sat down, her back against the building and picked up the bundle, cradling it in her lap. She bent and kissed the little boy on his forehead. Her long arms around the baby, her fingers gripped the blanket tightly, securing the child from rolling out of her grasp.
"I'll stay with you until your mom shows up." She said.
Sadie had never held a baby before. She wasn't sure if she was doing it right. She had heard that a baby's neck has to be held secure so angled the boy in the crook between her forearm and bicep, brushing his soft, silky hairs onto his forehead.
"What is your name?" She asked.
The boy cried harder, clearly becoming more annoyed with the situation. Sadie looked around for some clue as to the mother, squinting into the restaurant window.
The baby's pudgy arms waved around as he bawled harder. Sadie shuddered. A feeling of exasperation creeping into her.
"Are you hungry?"
She sighed as the baby responded by screaming. She looked again inside the restaurant. The traffic on the sidewalk having changed. More people were around, bustling past her from both directions, as if just going to or leaving work.
Sadie could not understand why any mother would just leave her hungry baby unattended on a busy goddamn sidewalk. It was galling.
Sadie looked down at the face of the child, his deep set somber eyes stared back at her. Then, without knowing why she was doing it, she reached around, pulling her tank top to the side. She deftly slid her engorged breast out of the cup of her bra. Sadie shifted the baby higher up to her chest and angled his mouth onto her nipple.
The sensation was strange, even stranger the fact that there was milk to be had. As she suckled the child, Sadie reflected on what was happening. Not only was she sitting on a dirty sidewalk in the middle of the day, her fresh clothes getting contaminated, but she was breast feeding a fucking baby.
I'm losing my mind. She thought.
The child's legs kicked happily as he stared up at her. A woman approached from beside the glass door. "Oh, how cute." She exclaimed. 'How old is he?"
"How should I know?" Sadie responded. "I assume this isn't your baby?"
The woman gasped. "Oh my."
Sadie nodded towards the door and angled her face towards the window. "Can you find out who's kid this is? He's about to bite off my nipple."
Just then a cook appeared. His short cropped brown hair tucked under a hair net. The man was cleanly shaved and smelled of too much cologne. "You can't sit here at the door." He began. "Are you feeding that baby?"
"Perceptive one aren't we?" Sadie shot back.
"You can't feed your baby here."
"I can see your breast right now."
"I mean he's not my baby douchebag. Go find his mom."
The man's eyes widened and he stepped back into the establishment. Just then, a shrieking woman with graying hair pushed him aside. A single braid down her back, frantic eyes welled up with tears. To Sadie, she appeared to be Indian, a single dot adorned her forehead. Her feet stumbling out of one of her flip flops as she lunged forward, she wore an azure blue dress that matched the blanket of the boy.
"My baby!" She screamed.
Sadie looked up suddenly, a jolt as if awoken to a loud bang. "Here!" She screamed back.
The baby continued about his business making strange little utterances as he ate. As Sadie pulled away from him, he waved his arms frantically and began to scream. Sadie wondered what the scene must look like to the frightened bystanders standing nearby. All three of them screeching and a baby being handed off like it was a diseased little football.
She backed away and tucked her breast back into her bra. As the mother cried for police, Sadie put her hands on her hips and glowered down at her. "You should be ashamed of yourself. Anything could have happened to that kid. Fucking idiot."
She walked off at a leisurely pace ignoring the strange looks that seemed to be coming from all directions. Sadie turned town down 35th avenue and nearly ran into a working girl standing outside the city theater. The woman hardly seemed to notice. She wasn’t the only one though. All around her, people just seemed off. She had the distinct impression that something had changed following the murder of Jesus Christ. As if a little fire in their souls had been snuffed out. She could still smell the delicious corn dogs sold at the corner food truck. The Farmers Market set up on two adjacent parking lots was still selling ripe fruits and vegetables. But something seemed wrong.
She knew she needed to get back to normal. To carry on with her daily activities. I need to pay rent. She thought absently. But it was hard. She didn’t want to do anything but walk the streets, to share in the solace of the anonymous. Because that’s what it was. Nobody was talking about it but everybody just wanted to be together in sorrow. An unspoken sharing of grief for the Descended Christ.
Turning the corner onto Main street, she saw the bright pink sign of the Sin Eater just up ahead. A Gentleman’s Club she worked at part time, The Eater was a mixture of scantily clad dancers and watered down alcohol.
Upon entering, the first thing one noticed was the darkened room. It usually took a full minute before Sadie’s eyes adjusted to the dimmed lighting. The smell was a mixture of stale cigarette smoke and sweat. Luckily, Reggie had invested in state of the art central air conditioning that kept the place at a tolerable temperature in the summer.
She had started working at the club immediately after leaving home. Taking dance classes, she had worked her way through school. But the fear of auditioning and the phobias she carried with her made it a struggle. She still danced but not at the Club. It wasn’t that she felt too righteous to dance at a Gentleman’s Club. The dancers at the Sin Eater were talented and many could audition for work outside but she didn’t like the looks she got from the men in the crowd. Being appreciated for your craft is one thing. Getting leered at by drunken middle aged men is something else entirely.
As she held up a middle finger and smiled at the doorman, she habitually counted the number of dancers strutting on the main and side stages. Only four. Slow night. Glancing up, a bikini clad blond woman dipped in glitter and glowing on the main stage winked and waved at her. Freya had been a friend to Sadie from the beginning. She had helped her get the part time job and show her the ropes. Freya was also descended. The only deity Sadie had met prior to Dionysus, the Nordic goddess was somebody she trusted. Her golden mane and come hither smiles always airy, always bright.
Sadie grinned and pointed to Reggie’s office at the back of the club. Freya nodded and shook her perfectly rounded rear end in that direction. Sadie stepped to the door and turned the knob. Finding it locked, she knocked three times and waited. Nothing. Knocking again, this time more forcefully, she gave it a kick just for good measure. Abruptly, she heard a click and slowly entered the room. Reggie stood there scowling. A brunette dancer, probably new, was straightening her top and trying to evaporate from the room.
“Dammit Sadie.” Reggie said with a slight edge. “What is with you and your timing?” He blew his nose and coughed. A short, pot bellied man who resembled a weasel, the contours of his face were always lost to the jowls that seemed to be his whole face. Sadie smirked.
“Did I interrupt something?” As the girl scurried from the room like a frightened rabbit, Reggie buttoned up his silk purple shirt and ran a hand through his salt and pepper checkered hair. They looked at each other for a few seconds.
“What are you doing dummy?”
“Conducting a job interview.” Reggie answered and motioned for her to sit. “You’ve been gone awhile. Everything alright?”
Sadie lowered her eyes. “Yeah, things are OK.”
Reggie pulled out a small keyring and opened up a cabinet in the corner of the office. He pulled out a small file with her name on it and sat down. “So it’s been five weeks since we last saw you. How much work do you want?”
Sadie leaned forward showing him a bit of her bosom and arched an eyebrow. “I need a couple of weeks.”
Reggie shook his head. “It’s been really slow Sadie. I don’t need extra help to be honest.”
Sadie folded her hands on her lap and looked into his eyes. “I need money.” Her voice cracked on the last word.
Reggie nodded. “Will you dance?” She cringed. “I’m your waitress all weekend.”
Reggie looking bemused, closed his eyes. “You’re always such a pain.”
“That’s why you love me.” Sadie chirped. Just then the door burst open and in came Freya beaming and covered in sweat.
Sadie laughed. “You lost all your glitter.”
Freya winked and put her hands on her hips. “Some guy in the front row said he wanted to lick it off.”
Sadie placed her hands on either side of Freya’s face and brought her in close enough to kiss. “Ew.” She said grinning. Freya slapped Sadie on her behind
“Are you back then? This place really needs some lady girl action!”
Sadie glanced at Reggie and shrugged. “He says it’s too slow.”
Freya scoffed. “It’s fine. Reggie you’re a bullshitter. She stays.” Glaring, she slammed the office door as she left.