Toni goes out

Electown flashed and strobed like a particularly hokey rave party. The vibrant neon cut through the rapidly congealing dusk. The city was a pulsating, almost organic creature that consumed human beings and exuded light, sound, and oppressive smog.

It was Friday night, and the town was jumping. The whole thing was really starting to piss Antoinette off.

She simply didn't fit into the iridescent chaos through which she strode. Her dark coat and hat and hair and soul were like black holes into which the frivolity was drawn and ultimately consumed. She dodged around clumps of laughing, shouting people and fought the urge to spit.

Something inside her coat chirped. Antoinette made an impatient huffing sound and pulled her PET out from an interior pocket.


"You suck," Beatnik whined. Antoinette responded by snapping the PET shut. It immediately started chirping maddeningly again until the Operator caved and reopened it.

"Deal with it, Beatnik."

"First ya turn me into a fridge, and now you're draggin' me out to this borefest!"

"I can just put you into hibernation." Antoinette's face drew itself into a deep grimace, and she added in a low voice, "If that will shut you up."

"Heard that."

"I don't care."

"Hib sucks, too. We could, y'know, go do something...I dunno, fun? An arcade!"

"I hate arcades."

"Jomon Electric? I think they gotta sale on."

"I hate Jomon."

Beatnik groaned. "Is there anythin' you don't hate these days?"

"Poetry slams."

Beat's hand made a good solid whack as it impacted with her forehead. "You're beyond help, know that? Ain't no way that I can help you outta it now. You're too far gone."

Antoinette closed up the PET and stowed it back inside her coat. This time she had the presence of mind to turn off that infernal beeping sound.

She followed a path that was becoming increasingly familiar with each Friday. That path led down a poorly illuminated side alley and up a very steep staircase. It terminated on the step of a door set way back into a three-story brownstone just off the main thoroughfare. Musical beats, as slow and deep as molasses, rumbled from within and reverberated through the top step. Antoinette punched the buzzer a couple of times. Presently, she was greeted and waved in by a guy who was dressed just as depressingly as she was.

The unit next door to the poetry club just so happened to be an electronics repair shop. To Beatnik's delight, this place had a wifi network. It was a stupidly easy job to tear through the pitiful barriers that their doofus of an IT dude had put up -- hey, working in the NetMafia definitely imparted a couple of useful skills -- and it was a laugh to get herself connected.

Maybe she'd be able to make something out of tonight after all.
Antoinette strode across the crowded little club. Her hands were deep in her coat pockets. The emcee turned the mike over to her. She messed with the stand a little to get it to the exact height she wanted (five feet, four and three-quarter inches, microphone itself on a thirty-seven degree slant). She tugged down the brim of her cap to block the industrial flashlight taped to the ceiling that served as stage lighting. The audience sat back and watched expectantly. She gave her collar a jerk. It wasn't nerves; it was ritual.

"Show me the season:
Rain seeks far brighter pastures.
A lone farmer sighs."

Lukewarm snaps from the audience. Antoinette's brow creased ever so slightly under the elastic of her cap.

"Ten men in dugout;
Trench brooms look into sunset.
Banzai charge — swift end."

The resulting snaps were only a little more heated. She balled her fists in her pockets. These hacks wouldn't know a good haiku if it mugged them on their way home. One more try.

"A scarred mystery
Darkens the moon's face.
It's a matter of time."

The emcee jerked his head. Antoinette moodily got off the stage. She went back to her seat and resolved to take it out on Beatnik later.
Toni realized just how little fun she was actually having. These fools weren't even in her league. Their poetry was weak, halting, and uninspired.

She slipped out the door and into the cool evening. Home.