Baby Girl–Chapter 11–Drop Out


Drop Out

“The next time Jake has to go to the vet, you’re taking him,” said Billy dropping the black lab puppy into my lap.  Billy had gotten Jake for me as a going away present when we moved off the Lake and into the vacant house we were working on.  Jake was not the name I would have chosen, but Billy loved the song Feed Jake, so there it was.

“Why, what’s wrong,” I asked.  Jake curled up in a trembling ball of charcoal soft puppy fur between my knees.  I stroked his floppy ears and bent my forehead to his.  Jake promptly bathed my face in puppy kisses.  I giggled, “he seems fine.”

“Watch this,” he said approaching me.  Jake suddenly began to whimper and cringe, trying to dig himself further into my lap.  He cowered and stuffed his wet nose into the crook of my knee.  His little body shook and trembled.

“He won’t let me near him without crying like a big fucking baby!”  Billy whined like a petulant child, then stomped around the room searching for the roach clip he stashed earlier.  “That fucking vet made me hold him down while he shoved a thermometer up his poor little ass.”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m sure he’ll forget soon.”  I stifled a smile, I did not mind at all the I was fast becoming Jake’s favorite.

“Last time I take him to the vet, fucking fuck up my dog!  From now on, he has to go to the vet, you’re taking him.” Billy demanded adamantly.

“Of course, honey, I totally agree.”  I replied, keeping my voice calm and even.

Billy grunted mollified and flopped down alongside me.  The roach slid out from underneath Billy’s pillow.  He scooped it up gleefully and lit it right up.  He sucked down on it until there was nothing let but a small curl of paper.  He exhaled blowing the smoke into Jake’s face.  Jake blinked, then slowly relaxed.  Billy scooped him up out of my lap and leaned back further into the blow up mattress we had received courtesy of FEMA’s disaster relief fund.

The storm had been a bit intense to me, but as far as I was concerned it did not seem any worse than some of the thunderstorms I had seen in Wisconsin.  And it certainly had been no tornado.  However it had been declared a natural disaster to those occupying Dade County.  Most likely because there was so little left to destroy after Hurricane Andrew had done its work.  Billy had driven us out to a school that was filled with people standing in line waiting to receive relief.  It had taken most of the day standing in line, but it had been well worth the wait.

The big score had been a queen size blow up mattress.  We had also gotten vouchers for JC Penney for clothes, a box of flatware, an eight piece set of white china dishes with clusters of yellow daisies rimming the edges, a $100 voucher to Food Lion supermarkets, a package of men’s athletic tube socks, a four man tent, a set of navy blue polyester sheets and two hard foam pillows.

I was extremely uncomfortable with the amount of stuff they had given us.  After all, neither Billy or I had actually lived in Florida when Hurricane Andrew had struck, but there was as always no arguing with Billy once his mind was set.  We took all the loot and moved into the house we were working on.  The house had been a swampy disaster two weeks ago, but was now dry and bare.  I had smashed down the walls with a rubber headed sledgehammer, doing demolition in every room, knocking down the soaked drywall shoveling it up and hauling it out to the curbside one wheelbarrow load at a time.  Then I had gone around pulling all the nails from the studs, sweeping the floors, and hauling away the roofing shingles that had been torn off the roof.   I also managed to unclog the toilet; which although did not have running water, we could at least squat on instead of wandering about in the back yard.

It was not the most private space as there were no doors, nor windows, but as there was also not much foot or car traffic, it was the most privacy I had experienced since moving to Florida.  Most of the houses on this street still stood empty but for the flocks of wild parakeets that nested in the windows and the occasional stray dog that wandered through looking for garbage to eat.

There was no electricity in the house, but we had a car battery that Billy rigged to a lamp and a radio.  We had each other and Jake, an air mattress, and fairly clean sheets.  I lit a cigarette and rolled onto my belly, nestling closer to Jake.  I believe it is safe to say I was content.  It was certainly the best living I had experienced since leaving Wisconsin for Florida two months prior.

“Let’s talk,” said Billy.  He began to roll another joint up in the white frisbee by his side of the bed.

I looked up at him surprised and raised my eyebrows.

“I want out of this fucking dump, this godforsaken state is sucking me dry,” said Billy angrily, flicking the bit of paper left from the roach onto the floor.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked as I set Jake down next to Billy and shook a cigarette out from my pack.  I tapped it hard on the back of the box and lit up.  It was exquisite to not be smoking generic cigarettes.

“Back to North Carolina, somewhere outside Raleigh, maybe, get a place, get you back into school,” said Billy looking directly at me.

I was startled and tried not to choke on the smoke I was exhaling.  “I don’t want to go back to school Billy.”  I said softly.

“Well, why the fuck not?  You’re too goddamn smart to not be in school,” said Billy.  “What’s your fucking problem?”

I sat picking at a mosquito bite on my knee, “I hated it, it was all just one big game.”

“Whaddya mean, it was a game?” Asked Billy, “school is school, you go, you get smarter, you make a lot of money.”

“I, I don’t know how to explain it.  It was just bullshit, that’s all.”  I said turning away from him.  “Take this course, do this paper, it didn’t mean anything, it was just another way to get bossed around for four more years.”

“You need to go to school, you need to learn stuff, school is important,” said Billy.

“Fuck stuff, Billy,” I said quietly, but firmly turning back to face him, “that’s just a load.”  I continued, “listen, I wasn’t learning, for Christ’s sake I’d already read all the books in my advanced English class, Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Finn, fuck, what ever I read those books before I was in fifth grade.”  I did not mention that I had also tested out of 12th grade English by the time I was in fourth grade.  By fifth grade I had read just about everything that I ended up reading in high school.  Reading was my escape and boy did I escape.

“I ain’t never read them,” Billy said looking down at Jake.

“Really?”  Who hasn’t read Huckleberry Finn?

“Yeah, really,” Billy said pausing, he looked over at me.  He lit another joint and drew a long pull from it, then expertly exhaled with no coughing.  “I can’t really read that well, I don’t know that I ever even got through a whole book.  Everything gets all swimmy on the page, I don’t know, it kinda gives me a head ache to sort it all out.”

“That sounds like dyslexia, my sister has it pretty bad, she always struggled with reading, at least that’s what my mom told her.”

“I can read, mind you!” Billy said glaring at me.

“Billy. That’s not what I meant,” I said quietly.  “Dyslexia is just a learning disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t read.”

“Yeah, well, whatever. I don’t have no disabilities either.  And I don’t see what’s the point of worrying about it, I’m a man of my hands, I just want to build houses.  That’s my gift, I’m a carpenter, that’s about all that God gave me.”  Billy said, and raised his hands to me.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,”  I said with a grin,  “you’re not so bad in the sack either.”

Billy shoved me with his foot.  I shoved him back.  “Have you ever thought about maybe doing architectural stuff?  The way you talk about houses I could imagine you designing them real easy.” I said rocking back onto my side of the mattress.

“No, what the fuck for, to pay to have somebody else tell me how to build houses, fuck that shit.  I already know how to build a house.  Besides, this ain’t about me, this is about you going to school, stop trying to change the subject.”

“Billy, really, I don’t want to go back to school, it was so boring.  I just don’t care about it, besides I flunked out, getting back in would be really hard,” I said a little sheepishly.

“You what?”  Billy said, incredulous.

“I said I flunked out, I failed, I got “F”’s.”  I replied with some flippancy.

“How the hell did you flunk out if you already read all them books, you should have gotten straight A’s?”  Billy asked, “that don’t make no fuckin’ sense.”

“I just, well, I just never went, it was so boring, like I said, and I just didn’t care, none of it interested me.  It was a waste of time, it was futile.  Besides, I said continuing, I wanted life experience, not more book knowledge.”

“You mean you wanted this shit,” said Billy, gesturing at the barren room, “whatever, that’s bullshit.”

“No, I did want this Billy, I wanted to experience stuff, get away from home, see the world, and this isn’t so bad, is it?  I wanted adventure, this is an adventure!”

“You are crazy, we barely got two dimes to rub together, there ain’t running water in this house, this house ain’t ours, there ain’t no electricity flowing through the walls, we don’t got cable, this is not my idea of an adventure, girl.”  Billy looked at me, “maybe you’re just too smart for your own britches.”

“Maybe,” I said with a shrug.  “Maybe I am crazy,” I said slowly smiling, “but I’m sure as shit not bored Billy, boredom is my anathema, my Waterloo, my death.”  And I was not around my family who was busy with their own special dramas.  Florida was pretty far away from Wisconsin.

“Your what, what was that word?”  Billy asked.

“Never mind, listen, I got all the school I needed by high school, I took everything available, every single course, every English class, every history class, I took every science class the school offered by Junior year, I could have graduated early if I wanted to.  Come to think of it, I should have, my senior year was a complete joke.  I audited typing, I had three study halls, I took Art 100, creative writing.”

“What’s creative writing?”  Asked Billy, “you draw pictures or something?”

I smiled, “oh, it was mostly about writing poetry, some essay stuff too, I think, my teacher was a complete schmuck.  A total asshole. I used to sit in the back of the class and draw caricatures of him day dreaming about going out with Vanna White.”

Billy laughed.  Jake raised his head at the sound, snuffled the air, wiggled his little butt, then went back to sleep.

“God, I remember this one time,” I chuckled, ” it was maybe the second week of class, third tops, and he was bitching about this continuing education class he was taking in creative writing and how they had this really hard assignment and how he was struggling with doing it.”

I paused, patted Jake’s head, he softly tongued my hand and I absent-mindedly wiped it off on the side of the mattress.  Billy stretched back, propping himself up on the pillows, he had kicked off his shoes.  I pulled off his socks and began massaging his feet.  He flexed his toes and sighed languorous.

“Anyway,” I continued, “he was just fucking whining on and on about this thing called a ‘sestina’ and how hard it was to write and how he was having all this difficulty doing it.  He was perched up behind the podium droning about the poem, blah, blah, blah, and he caught me mimicking him in back.”  I always sat in the back, it was easier to read what I wanted to.  I always finished the assignment the day of and then would bring Stephen King novels in to read, to my teachers vast annoyance.

“Ms. Martines, do you have something to add to class?” said Mr. McGinley, interrupting himself.  The classroom tittered.

“How hard can it be,” I asked flippantly, twirling my pencil rapidly around my fingers.

“Well, class,” he said drawing himself up, “this poem is so hard to write that I will personally give anyone in class an ‘A’ for the entire course who can write one before the bell rings.”

“Fine,” I said, “how do you write it?”

Mr. McGinley eyed me coolly. “It’s just not as easy as you think it is.  A sestina is a French syllabic form consisting of six stanzas and a final three-line stanza called an envoy.  Each stanza ends on the repetition of an elaborate established order of six terminal words.  The standard arrangement of the end words in the sestets is abcdef faebdc cfdabe echfad deacfb bdfeca,” he turned to write this down on the board, chalk squeaking fiercely as he marked out the corresponding rhyme scheme.

“Lastly,” he continued, “the end envoy has one end-word that is buried in each line and one that concludes each line; the last envoi’s pattern is be dc fa.  The lines can be of any length, but they have to follow that pattern.”  He set down the chalk in the metal tray below the board, turned, and stared at the class. “Well what are you waiting for?  Write it.”  He sat back down behind the podium, flipped open a grade book and smiled to himself.

“So what happened? ” Asked Billy.

“I finished it with about five minutes to spare,” I said smugly, remembering the look on his face when I handed it to him.  “I gathered up my books, dropped the poem on his lectern and walked out.  I’d already written an ‘A‘  at the top of the paper.”

Billy laughed, “That’s my Baby Girl!  And that’s exactly why you should be in school, you are way too smart to be doin’ construction work and shit.”

“Ugh, Billy, shut up,” I grabbed his feet hard, “don’t make me tickle you.”

“Don’t you fuckin’ do it,” he said flexing his foot in my hand.

“Then stop bothering me about school, I don’t want to go back to school, I want to be a writer,” I said returning to his foot massage.

“What you goin’ write about?”  He asked swapping out his other foot into my hands.

“I don’t know, about everything, about this,” I said, “about Florida, about whatever I do next, about where I go next.”

“Where you going?  You got some travel plans I ain’t know about,” Billy asked with a subtle note of anger.

“Yup,” I said, “I’m going everywhere, Billy, everywhere.”

“Are you going to write about this,” said Billy, cutting his eyes at me.

We were in the back of the Honda driving down to the Keys.  Elliot was riding shotgun, Leon was driving.  The day was like a hot steamed towel.  All the windows in the car were rolled down and the air rushed in drowning out our conversation.

“Maybe,” I said softly under my breath, squeezing his hard cock through the fabric of his jeans.

“Really,” Billy said, eyes opening wide.  “That’s pretty hot.”

“What’s hot?” asked Leon, eyes drifting to mine in the rear view mirror.

“The weather,” I said, smiling back at him.

“Yeah, right, what the fuck else is new?  Man, Billy your old lady makes some shit conversation.”  Leon stared at me for a moment longer and then brought his attention back to the road ahead.

“Who the hell said I was with her for the conversation,” shot back Billy.

“Watch it,” I said squeezing his balls, “you wanna keep your ability to have children?”  Not that I had any designs on bearing one with his.  Although we never had protected sex, Billy had assured me he was shooting blanks, something that I had taken on faith.  I did not let myself think too hard about the fact that he had fathered two children that I knew of.

“Shit, Baby Girl,” said Billy huskily, under his breath.  “I was just kidding, ease off.”

I slowly loosened my grip, but I kept my hand riding over the top of his crotch feeling the heat gathered there under my palm.

“Girl you are bold as brass,” said Billy grinning at me, his chin dimpled deeply and he squeezed my knee back hard.

Elliot sighed loudly.  “Ah, do you think you love birds can cool it off back there?”

“What the fuck do you care, Elliot?”  I stared hard at the back of his head when he did not turn or respond to my question.

“Yeah,” echoed Billy.

Elliot continued to stare out the window silently.

“Hey, man, where’s that turn off,”  interjected Leon.

“It’s comin’ up in a couple of miles, let’s make a quick pit stop though, ‘fore we get there.”

“Where are we going?” I asked Billy with some curiosity.

“Coral Rock Island.  Me and Leon discovered it one day when we were out fuckin’ around, it ain’t really an island, just a long spit of coral that runs out into the ocean.”

“Take this exit, Leon, there’s a gas station up ahead,” said Billy.

We picked up a case of Budweiser, a four pack of Bartles and James pink lemonade wine coolers for me, cigarettes, beef jerky, Doritos.  I used the bathroom while the boys paid for the loot.

“Holy shit,” said Billy and wolf whistled.

“Wow,” said Leon.

Elliot looked at me and turned away; lowering the bill of his navy sailor cap he shook his head and walked to the men’s room.  I had felt the need to be girly and I took advantage of the washroom.  First I’d washed myself off in the sink, then I pulled the bottom of my t-shirt up and underneath the collar, fashioning a bikini top; next I rolled down the waist band of my jeans so that they lay along my hip bones, and finished by slathering purple-red lipstick on my mouth.

“Ready boys?” I asked sauntering up to the car.

“Hot damn,” said Billy, he grabbed me and bent me back over the hood of the car, “I’m fucking ready.”  He ground his mouth on mine.  I pushed him off me, wiped the lipstick off his mustache and laughed.  He and I hopped in the back and Leon blared the horn for Elliot.

We drove up to the ‘island,’ turning off by a scenic overlook.  We piled out of the car and rescued the beer and wine out of the cooler in the trunk.  Halfway through the case Billy grabbed at my hand tugging me off the hood of the car.  I was engrossed with the view.

“Come on, I want to show you something,” said Billy as he grabbed another beer from the cooler.

“What?”  I asked, I was pretty damn content sitting on the hood of the car.

“Just follow me,” said Billy.  “Y’all keep an eye on the car,” he said to Elliot and Leon.  “We’ll be back in a little while.”

“Yah, sure you will,” snickered Leon, “wonder what they’re gonna do.”

“Fuck if I care,” said Elliot, jumping on to the car hood, “pass me another beer.”

“Where are we going,” I asked Billy again tugging on his hand.

“I just want to show you the view,” he said mysteriously.

“Mmm hmm, yeah sure, the view,” I smiled.

“Yeah, it’s pretty spectacular,” he said picking his way along the thin path.

“That’s a pretty big word, Billy.”  I teased, he was in a rare good mood.

“Baby Girl you best watch what you say, don’t make me spank you,” he said without pausing, but slowly his pace momentarily letting me walk ahead of him.

“Whatever,” I said passing ahead of him and around the edge of a large hill of pink coral.

“Oh.”  I sighed, stopping up quickly.  “Oh, Billy, it’s so beautiful.”

The world was spread before me in a myriad of blues and greens, bright melted sapphires and searing emeralds, rippling and kissing on one another.  There was no delineation between the sky and the edge of the sea.  There was no other land in sight and the sound of the highway had dissolved into the song of pelican wings skimming past.

“Told you so.”  Billy said leaning into me and kissing the back of my neck.

“Oh, it’s too fucking glorious,” I said turning to him.  I saw my face reflected back in the sea-salted blue of his yes.  I was pretty!  My brown eyes dilated black, curls framing my face, lips pushed up in a smile.  I gasped looking at my reflection framed by the ocean behind me.

Billy looked at me with a cocked head.

“Make love to me,” I said pressing my mouth quickly to his, “make love to me right here, right now.”  It may well have been the only time I had ever asked Billy for sex.

His mustache burned my mouth, his hands roughly pushed up my shirt, freeing my breasts.  My nipples hardened stung by the salt air, his mouth fell upon them.  He brusquely turned me around, hands lowering my jeans at the same time.  I braced myself against the wall of rosy coral, standing up on my tiptoes, hands chalked with the skeletal dust of desire.

“Hee, hee, hee,” laughed Leon, slapping his legs when he saw Billy and me walking back to the car a little while later.

“What are you laughing at motherfucker?”  Asked Billy as we approached.

Leon turned and pointed.  We pivoted to look behind the way we had come.  A kayaker was just passing to the left of the island of coral, face pasted with a wide silly grin; he lifted his paddle and waved.  I turned away blushing hotly to see Elliot staring at me sullenly surrounded by a circle of empty beer cans.

“You spend too much time with Elliot,” said Billy out of the blue.

We were sitting on a corner of the Lake smoking a rock.  It was supposed to be a quick, mid-morning break from work that had since become an entire afternoon session.  Even though we were no longer living at the Lake Billy and I would occasionally drop by , mostly to hang out with Leon.  Or Billy would leave me by the old hooch while he was working if he could not get me a job where he was.  I had spent an afternoon working a roofing site with Elliot recently and Billy had been extremely pissed off about it.  Although he promptly took the seventy dollars I made and spent it on crack.

The two hot dogs that Billy and I had gotten for lunch from the Circle K lay wilting on the dash-board of the car.  Billy nor I were hungry at the moment, however.  Having already smoked about twenty dollars worth of rock.   I did not respond to Billy and stared at the white box with red piping that held the two hot dogs.  The chili and white onions that Billy had drowned is with were malodorous, while mine under it’s ketchup and dill pickle relish looked sad and small.

“Did you hear me girl,” Billy said angrily.  He passed over the bent Mountain Dew can we were using as a pipe.

“Yes Billy.”  I said very softly, meekly accepting the can.

“Damn, it’s fucking hot in here.”  He turned away and mopped his brow using the edge of his worn t-shirt.  The inside of the car had steamed up with the moisture of our bodies and clots of crack smoke, but neither of us made any move to open a window.  I actually enjoyed the heat, it made my high seem higher, sweeter, more intense, and tangibly evident.  Every time my body flushed involuntarily with my inhalations I knew I was sustaining the high.  I felt as though I could detect every nuance of shape in the clouds, every play of light on the Lake.

“Give me that,” said Billy reaching for the can, “you’ve had enough.”

I acquiesced.  I never argued, just accepted what I was given and did not ask for more.  And I never bought it.  Although I certainly did not turn it down when it was passed to me.  I let myself live under the misguided idea that I did not have a problem if I was not buying the stuff.

Billy suddenly shouted, “Ow! Goddamn it!” He had burnt his hand on the pipe and nearly dropped it.  “Fuck! What the fuck are we doing?”  He slammed his hand down on the dashboard.  His eyes were red, blood-shot, and blazing.  He turned and snarled at me.

“I asked you a question!  What the fuck are we doing?”  He demanded of me.

I shied back into the passenger side door.  “What do you mean?”  I asked very quietly.  My eyes slid off his and onto the pipe sitting on the dash.  It was shedding blue-white tendrils of smoke up into the air–smoke that could be in my lungs, in my body, in my heart instead of billowing in a useless cloud blanket against the windshield.  How could I scoop it up and get it into me without Billy shrieking at me?

“This, Carmen, this.  What the fuck are we doing this for?”  Billy repeated again, the edge of his anger had faded, but it was still sharp and present.  “This has ceased to be fun, what’s the point if it’s not fun?”

Billy never used my name; the sound of it issuing from his mouth startled me back to his face, his voice, his eyes, the very present moment.  I sat there silent and slack without words.  My eyes struggled to stay focused on his face and his needs, I needed to be paying attention here, but I could not keep myself together.  I tried to focus on the bridge of his nose to make it look like I was listening, but my eyes kept returning to the siren on the dash.

“I mean, for fuck’s sake, we’re supposed to be having a good time, what the fuck are we together for, doing this shit if we’re not having a good time.  Are you having any fun?”  He asked me and gestured to the can.

I shrugged slightly.  I could not speak.  I began to gauge how angry he would get if I took another hit?  There really was no point in this line of thinking, I could not bring myself to help myself.  I sat pinned to the seat.  Standing at the jumping off point but unable to take any action for myself.

“I want the fuck out of here, this place is killing me.  I’m so fucking sick of it all.  I came down here to square up enough money to get a hog.  Instead all I got was an old lady who wants to be a rock star,” Bill raged.

He continued, slapping the steering wheel in frustration.  “I’m fucking sick of you, and I’m fucking sick of Elliot mooning around you.  I’m sick of Leon droning on at me and I’m almost sick of fucking your ass too.”  He turned back to the Lake and contemplated it, flat and blue like a large coin of sky that had fallen to earth; a joking tithe from God.

Billy chuckled darkly.  “Nah, I take that back, I’m not sick of fucking your ass yet, a man can’t really get sick of that.”  He turned away from the wheel and grabbed my leg.

I thought about brushing it off me, pushing it away.  But I did not; instead I focused on the heat of his palm burning through my leg, imprinting itself into my blood.  The blue hotness of the car crowded against me and I allowed myself to be swallowed up in his lust.

“You got that lip balm on you?”  Billy asked slyly, stroking my thigh.

I finally found my words, “yes.”  I always carried lip balm on me.  Made me wonder if all the urban myths about it were true, it supposedly being addictive.  My mom had given me an assortment of Rachel Perry Lip Lovers in a stocking once when I was seventeen:  Tangerine Dream, Cantaloupe, Grape, and Mint Tingle.  Billy was referring to the Mint Tingle; it had that name for a very good reason.

“Go on, then, put some on.”  His hand crawled up my leg further.  I tried to shift my body weight without it seeming that I was trying to move away from him.

“Give me the can first,”  I said quietly.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: