red — a modern short story in eight sections

All he noticed were the extremely dilated pupils. He had read somewhere that it could mean a high level of attraction. He told the driver to wait nearby…”


by julio peralta-paulino



I. Carpet

Bright rain like some lost immigrant came down with thundery accent and unsettled lightning, as the city prepared for the event. The imagined wheels rolled on despite the falling water. Cameras and umbrellas tableclothed the sidelines. Pouty and perfect cars breathed in along the entrance to exhale and empty the beautiful people.

The carpet took on a sexy rust color. Flash bulbs kissed at the very substance of the event. Interviews which lasted mere seconds were granted and recorded. It was easy to picture the several programs which would air later devoted to the chaotic clothing and polished hairstyles of certain celebrities.

After everyone of note seemed to be inside, fans and onlookers were still gathered as if to catch yet another glimpse of how different life is for some. The desperation of it all was enough to make one blush.

Inside, it was just a bunch of people that had gathered to greet a new film. Champagne instead of popcorn, but in the end a movie is a movie.

The film was The Great Gatsby all over again without Nick Carraway. The script fished where the novel flourished.

An extravaganza of tennis and lust and ballroom scenes that would have made Stanley Kubrick uneasy where the green light was now a pink-curtained window.

Outside, the carpet was regaining its natural color as the opera of rain and clouds allowed the moonlight aria to silver the evening for a while from the sky.

II. Light

A few blocks south, a casual fog was conceding itself to the breeze, in the city night. To avoid suspected traffic, the driver had turned in that direction. The star with the mustard colored hair had been approached there. He thought it was fan. It was a call girl. “I have something special for you and anything else you might want,” She said when the backseat window came down smoothly to reveal another world. He looked at her trying hard to see if there was any hint of recognition on her part. All he noticed were the extremely dilated pupils. He had read somewhere that it could mean a high level of attraction. He told the driver to wait nearby.

He would not make it to the film. Excited by the prospect of a real human experience, he entered a hotel room which featured a condom vending machine. The sex came slow. He was nervous and she was high on something that was not attraction. When the sex finally came, he did not want to leave.

The driver waited precisely till midnight and then took off.

By then, the star with the sea colored eyes was fast asleep after pretending to be a tall Napoleon cheating on Josephine. The call girl kept wondering if Napoleon was not a cartoon cat. It didn’t matter as long as she got her money in the end.

III. Handed

It was nearly one. The photographer, after stopping for a snack at the Greek diner, made his way home. He disliked walking down the very avenue which led to his apartment but he had little choice. The actor and the call girl were walking up that same avenue. Dropping a bagged cheesecake which he would share with an old television rerun before finding sleep, the photographer began wildly going through the taking picture motions . The actor must have spaced out for a few moments because he continued to saunter easily with an arm draped around his mistress. Of course, it hit him. He stopped. He turned. He would have to explain things to her. He would have to explain things to a lot of people if…If those pictures ever saw the light of day. He ran after the photographer with pleading in his voice.

IV. Head

“Mostly he wanted me to give him head. I didn’t know who he was, but I was curious as soon as I saw his pubic hair was tinted bright red.”

The interview with the call girl seemed devastating. His agent at IGN assured him that the publicity might actually do him good in the long run.

“Think of Lowe and Sheen and Grant. Forget about it.”

Rob, Charlie, and Hugh. The names turned over in his mind with little comfort.

V. Herring

In between commercials for laundry detergent and genital herpes treatment, he confessed his sins to the available public on a television show. The ratings were good enough but not as high as his handlers had hoped. There was after all another escaped animal from the city zoo that week and that always caused publicity and politics to re-scramble their forces for any intended message. Two days of an Amazon Jaguar in the basement of an abandoned building uptown. Too much. The star made another appearance on another show.

“As an actor I am forced to confront and find life wherever I can. It’s an obligation. I owe it to the public.”

VI. Tape

Things were, for a few days, going smoothly. Then the bottom fell out. The call girl was really a boy, a very feminine boy who only wanted to be a girl but was a boy nonetheless. The brakes were hit. The wheels kept rolling.

VII. Hot

The film was greeted warmly by the public. The obligated actor had a small but important part in the picture. The scandal helped more than it hurt. Or so the producers and studio heads thought. At the very least, it kept the movie in the gossip columns for weeks. The owe it to the public actor was contracted for four films the following year.

Red pubic hair became a hot fashion statement among certain metrosexuals, transvestites, homosexuals, transsexuals, and some of the star’s more ardent followers.

VIII. Letter

Some nights in the golden cathedral of slumbers he thinks about that call girl. She would never be a boy to him. Especially in dreams. His lower lip still illuminated by a trace of gin, he turns in bed. And when the morning finally curls into noon and he awakes, those thoughts are forgot. A cigarette followed by a telephone call. Then in front of the mirror, as he is about to brush, those eyes return to him. Outside the sun is anxiously burning. He will wear Prada this time. The car will be out front at five.

Originally published:
Issue Forty-Four
August 2006



Julio Peralta-Paulino is a writer currently at work on several projects. Some of his recent work is featured at City Writers Review and Jack Magazine. He is thrilled to be once again included in the eclectic and hip publication known as Smokebox. More stories from Julio Peralta-Paulino can be found in the Vault of Smoke.


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