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This afternoon Shirley Temple found me in the Mark Twain Casino, flipping off the colors of the penny slots.

She said BUM LUCK, BABY. YOU REMIND ME OF MY GRANDSON. BUY ME A DRINK. She was wildly smoking in the non-smoking section and carrying a glass with a wet maraschino cherry in it. Turns out she drinks herself with all her tame parts (ginger ale, grenadine) removed and replaced by her spirit (vodka).

She gummed ice in between sips and told me how nobody around here believed she was Shirley Temple. She pointed at each one individually, knocking them down and saying, NOT THAT ONE, OR THAT ONE, OR… She scratched my knee with her other hand. Her fingers had pharmacy purple fingernails and she told me how nowadays nobody anywhere had any class.

Shirley Temple knew a lot more about the ponies than she let on. Her eyes kept drifting to where the harness races were happening. I mean the races were over in Australia. Obviously. They don’t harness race horses in Lewis County. Especially not indoors.  

The bartender made us leave after she dropped the second glass, and I drove her Mercury Sable two-handed up the highway to Canton. The wind was the radio. And Shirley Temple bought all the maraschino cherries that Steak ‘n Shake had.

They just did it. No problem. 

There were Styrofoam cups all over the car. I tried to watch the road but I kept peeking at the cherries, which looked like the blood vessels of elephants through the plastic lids. I knew there would be no whipped cream ivory tusks to trade them for once we got to where we were supposed to.

The car made it back to the casino with us in it. Somebody carried the cherries. Shirley Temple went to FRESHEN UP and handed me the bucket for ice. She had the bathroom door open screaming COME WATCH ME PUT THE YEARS ON. I went to the end and got the ice. I thumbed a fresh cube from the top but it was soft, and vanished quickly.

I put the bucket down by the alarm clock and some of the cups of cherries and laid down on the floor. It looked like the only place not yet lived in. Even the night stand was shot. I used my shoe as a pillow. It smelled like loose mushrooms lost eternally in the back of a refrigerator.

The channel guide channel was on the TV, so I watched all the channels and didn’t have to do any of the work. The mirror lights leaked to the end of the bed and she was shower-singing SEE THE SUGAR BOWL DO THE TOOTSIE ROLL. I was most afraid that she was going to walk over and try and pull my toes. I really, really dislike that.

Eventually Shirley Temple came out through the dark and she was naked and I watched her naked shadow move across the ceiling. AND THERE YOU ARE she said, maybe to me, but she also saw the ice bucket at the same time. So I guess it could have been that.