Posts Tagged ‘The Lake’

Baby Girl–Chapter 15–Home

May 25, 2011


“Get the fuck out!”  Dawn stared at me, “you’ve got to be kidding me.  Hold on, wait, jesus fuck,” she fumbled in her purse and pulled out her pack of Moores.  “I gotta have a cigarette if I’m gonna hear anymore of this.”  She shook one out from her pack and I did the same.  We both lit up and inhaled.  “Ok, shoot,”  she said, “but quickly, we have to get on the bus soon and I got a lot of questions I still want to ask you before we get to Pittsburgh.”

I flicked my cigarette, paused dramatically and said, “the short cut really was a short cut.”

“What!?”  Dawn shook her head incredulously.  “Jesus, I was having some sort of out-of-body experience there, you are so, so, so, lucky.”

“I am, it was the worst ride of my life, the longest too,” I said, “bar none, the longest ride of my life.”

I breathed long and deeply when the Grey Hound pulled out of the station at Elizabeth City.  The man in the navy Chevelle was still sitting at the edge of the parking lot; perhaps he was still hoping I would change my mind, leap off the bus and give him a blow job before I headed back to Wisconsin.  He had gotten us to the station with ten minutes to spare.  I purchased the ticket that was being held for me, made a quick visit to the bathroom, and chain-smoked two cigarettes before boarding the bus.

Maybe the short cut was really a short cut, maybe he had been planning on trying something and lost the nerve, I do not know.  I will probably never know.  I just remember how the trees were a matte black and draped in moss, the roots exposed above the water, which were also black, but shiny; there was the occasional flick of yellow eyes that would pop in and out of the darkness.  I did not appreciate the view, but kept my face pressed to the window, engrossed in the scenery in my attempt to avoid conversation with the man.  My body was as far away as possible from the thick white hand furred with coarse looking black hair laying casually on the seat divider.

I will never fucking hitchhike again, I will never fucking hitchhike again, I will never, ever, ever hitch hike again, I prayed feverishly.  Thank you God, for getting me to the bust station, I will never hitch hike again, please God, just get me out of North Carolina, please.  My Greyhound turned a corner and I nestled further into the nubby grey seat with its burgundy stripe running through the center, a mock racing stripe for the paradoxically named bus.  I sat my black canvas bag on the seat next to me, leaned my head back and closed my eyes.  I was up front near the driver, his presence bestowing a semblance of security.  I fitfully slept.

The bus smelt faintly sweet with the cloying scent that all institutions seem to use while cleaning to mask the smell of urine.  I had $48; six packs of cigarettes, Camel Light 100s in a box, some Pringles, beef jerky, and an orange the clerk at the Greyhound station had handed me when I purchased my one-way ticket back home.  I had taken the orange silently with the ticket, not questioning why I had been given one.  I had six and one half days to look forward to riding the bus.  First, it would trundle slowly up the coast to Washington DC, than across to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, where it would then head to Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and finally end its long journey at the Badger/Greyhound station in Madison, on the corner of West Washington and John Nolan Drive.

I wanted a cigarette, I wanted a cigarette badly. I tried to sleep instead.  I figured the only way to make it on a long bus ride was to sleep as much as humanely possible.  When I awoke we were not in North Carolina any longer.  I did not know what state it was, except that for it being a state that celebrated fireworks; they were many advertisements lining the highway, they were legal to buy.  It was after midnight and I was not in North Carolina and I was alive.  I was alive and going home.

I ate the orange.  I really wanted a Hardee’s Frisco Burger.  Hours later, in the early morning the bus pulled into a freeway stop.  It was my first chance in thirteen hours to stretch and work out the shape of the seat ingrained into my back and thighs.  I had a cigarette out and perched at my lips before my feet even got off the rubber tread steps and onto the asphalt of the parking lot.  We were somewhere in the mountains, which were more like hills, old worn down nubs covered with trees shrouded in grey fog and mist.  The sun was tucked tightly behind the clouds.  I burnt my finger a little in my eagerness to fire up, my hand shaking slightly in the chill morning air.

The rest stop was at some sort of cafeteria that appeared to be affiliated with Greyhound, as there were little whippet dogs running around the wall paper, greyhounds dancing on duffel bags and wrist bands.  Everything seemed washed down to the same flat dull grey color of the bus.  I could see a Hardee’s beckoning across the overpass, I looked longingly at it.

“Excuse me,” I said to the bus driver who was chatting up the cashier in the cafeteria, “could we possibly stop over at the Hardee’s across the way?”

“No, sorry kid, not in the contract, we stop here and here only,” the driver said brusquely.

“Oh,” I said a little crestfallen.  “You can’t make one little exception?”

“Nope, and you better get some food if you want it here, because the bus isn’t stopping again until we get to DC.”  The driver dismissed me and turned back to flirt with the cashier, who was providing the only flash of color in the cafeteria, her grey uniform was edged with neon orange at the sleeves and on the hem of the dress, her lipstick matched as did her eye shadow.

I ordered and ate a bowl of tapioca pudding that was the cheapest thing available for purchase at four dollars a serving and stared out the tinted windows to the over pass.  French fries and a Coke, a big burger dripping with grease, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and mayonnaise on sourdough bread.  I wanted comfort food.  I needed comfort. I put my head down on the table next to my bowl of tapioca and tried to cry, but nothing came out.  The bus suddenly honked out loudly.

I startled up and quickly ran to the bathroom and washed in a sink, that although cracked, was at least porcelain and had hot running water.  I lifted my hair up and rinsed off the back of my neck, washing away some of the fine sand of the Outer Banks.  I wanted a hot shower; I wanted to scrub and scrub and scrub my body raw. I did not want a single particle of North Carolina on me ever again.   I splashed more water on my face and rubbed my pointer finger across my teeth.  The bus honked again more insistently as I scurried out of the bathroom.

Outside the door to the bus four of us gathered grimly together, hunched up to the side smoking furiously.  The next stop in DC was a long eighteen hours away, this was our only chance to get nicotine into our systems.  I slept most of the way there. I  occasionally awoke to stare unthinking out at the wan hills and trees rolling along outside the window.  It was a long dreary desolate drive.  Upon arrival in Washington, DC we had to transfer buses, most of the people I had ridden with from Elizabeth City headed out of the terminal into the rest of their lives, I had not spoken to any of them aside from the surly bus driver.

I was too afraid to leave the terminal, even to explore the capital mall, too uncertain that I would be able to find my way back, even with six hours to kill before my bus left.  I found a Hardee’s in the food court of the station, but it was too early to buy lunch so I settled on two cinnamon raisin biscuits with white icing and a large hot chocolate.  They reminded me of sneaking off Junior year in high school to get biscuits at the Hardees in Windsor by Highway 51.

“And that’s when I found you!”  Exclaimed Dawn.

“That’s when you found me,”  I repeated with a smile.

“Wow, girl, who would have known that you had that kind of story going on!  I just wanted some company while I waited for the bus!”  Dawn smiled brightly at me.  My new friend leaned in and hugged me.

We both laughed, then Dawn leaned back and exhaled a long plume of smoke.  One last cigarette before boarding.

“How can you smoke menthols?” I asked, “aren’t they like, super bad for you?”  I said with some irony, realizing that I had just regaled some strange girl with my tales of crack smoking in southern Florida for the last five hours.

“No, they’re refreshing,” she said inhaling again and exhaling through her nose.

“Ugh, doesn’t that hurt,” I asked.

“No.  Hey watch this, I just learned how to do this recently.”  She exhaled through her mouth than inhaled the same smoke through her nose, finally exhaling g the smoke out of her mouth again.

“What the hell was that?” I asked very impressed.

“French inhale, my mom taught me how, easy peasy.”

“I’ll pass,” I said with a laugh, “I don’t think I need to learn how to smoke anything new anytime soon.”

We were both turned so that our backs where against the wall where we could see the buses boarding.  It was just about that time and I was antsy to get moving.  A security guard walked past and eyed us up.

“Hey girls,” he said, “time to move on, no loitering.”

“Fucking pig,” murmured Dawn under her breath, but she grabbed her bag.  “Come on, we might as well get in line, we can pick out the best seats.”

And then we are on the bus.  The bus is headed toward Pittsburgh.  Dawn and I are as thick as thieves.  We had chosen to sit directly behind the driver, both of us figured there would be little chance of being hassled then.  We regaled the entire bus with our adventures, roaring with laughter and loudly snapping our gum, since we could not smoke.

“So what happened next?”  Asked Dawn.

I looked out the window and smiled, it was dark we were somewhere in Pennsylvania, rolling slowly down the freeway in the slow lane, a car or two passed by on the left side of the bus, their ghostly outlines briefly illumined by the running lights on the side of the bus before the red flash of their tail lights sped past and disappeared.

“Oh, my god,” I said my mouth full of Big League Chew bubble gum, my jaw full and achy from chewing it so long.  Dawn had whipped it out of her purse earlier when I had been jonesing for a smoke,  “I couldn’t, like have sex for three days.”

“Oh shit,” said Dawn, “Billy must’ve been livid.”

“Yeah, he was not pleased,”  I said nodding my head vigorously.   “It took awhile to finally convince him that I was really ill.  It felt like some one had shoved a hot poker inside me, and when I peed, ugh, it was horrid.  After the third day of refusing sex, Billy was ready to take me to Planned Parenthood to figure out what was wrong.”

“Damn, what was wrong?”  Dawn grimaced in sympathy.

“Well, let’s just say I discovered something unpleasant in my panties right before he was going to take me into a clinic.”

Dawn’s eyes widened.  “Bugs?”  She whispered in a low conspiratorial voice.

“Worse.”  I said, dropping my voice down low too.

“What,” she asked leaning into me, the whites of her eyes shining from the overhead dome light.

“A strawberry.”

“A what?”  Dawn asked in even greater hushed tones.  “I don’t think I heard what you said.”

I dropped my head and whispered into her ear.  “A strawberry,” I said and I could not help but to smile and giggle just a little bit.  “A grey, shriveled, desiccated strawberry, it was so washed out from color I didn’t even know what it was at first, man I freaked out in the bathroom, like some gigantic bug had laid eggs on me.  I thought I was going to get hysterical, then I realized it was just a little strawberry laying there.”

“Oh, my gawd!”  Dawn said crumpling with laughter against my shoulder. “Leftovers!”  She shrieked, “from when you guys had sex with all the fruit and whipped cream!”

“Shhhh!” I nodded affirmatively.  “I had to agree with Billy when we were finished, it was a bad idea.  Awful mess to clean up.  So sticky, whipped cream is not sexy.”

“This was a bad, bad, bad, fucking idea,” said Billy, trying to rub off the tacky whip cream from his body.

I was high and laughed.  Billy had decided to play out a fantasy of his and had picked up a pint of strawberries and a can of whip cream.  I had decorated his cock with the whip cream and taken pictures of it with a disposable camera we had picked up.  I giggled trying to focus the camera.

“Shit girl, this is not fucking funny,” Billy shoved up and away from me, “this shit is too gross, I need a fucking bath.”

“Get your ass over here,” he said, propping himself up on the bed.

I crawled over to him.

“Clean me up,” he said pushing my face into his crotch.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll think twice before playing 9 1/2 Weeks again.”  Dawn said with a smile and snapped her gum loudly.  I saw the driver wince at the sound and look up at us in the rear view mirror, but he said nothing.

Lodi, Wisconsin, November 1977

“No Papa, no Papa, no.”  I sobbed wrapping my arms around his knees.  He was all I had.  We had fled California, Mama, and baby Cissy were still there.  My grandpa was no more, but I still had horrible nightmares.  And I missed my Mama too.  When would we all be together again?

“Please, please, pretty please, don’t go.”  I wailed.  The floor felt cold on my feet, I missed the warmth of California and the greenness of it.  Everything here was sullen and washed out grey and dark and wet.  Icky, it was an icky place to be.

“Shhh, baby, it’s alright,”  my Papa’s voice tried to assure me.  But his voice, it was too loud, too boomy, his breath smelled too, like sweet smoke and beer.

“I’ll only be gone for a teensy, tiny, little bit.”  My father continued, stroking my hair.  “You’re a big girl, you can be alone for a little while.”  He patted my head and tried to push me back to bed.

“No!”  I stomped down on his foot with my bare one.

“Baby girl,”  he said.

“I can’t fucking leave you alone, can I?”  Billy screamed at me.  “You fucking whore?  Who the hell has been over here?”  I had just come up from the Lake where I had been washing out my hair.  I had worked all day long hauling roofing shingles up and down a metal extension ladder propped against a coral colored house in a suburb of Miami.  Eight long hours of picking up a stack of shingles, heaving them up to my shoulder, climbing the ladder while balancing the shingles, then walking them carefully over to the middle of the roof.  After which I would climb down and repeat the process.  It was hard labor and I had to stop quite a few times and close my eyes and will myself to go on.

“Billy, what’s going on?”  I was quiet and tried to be calm.

“What do you mean, ‘what’s going on?’”  Billy hollered at me.  “Answer my fucking question, who the hell have you been with?”

“Nobody, honey, I went to work with Elliot and now I’m back, and here’s the money from the job.”  I handed him $70.  He ripped it out of my hands.

“Where is the rest of it?”  He demanded rifling through it quickly.  “There should be more.”

“There is no rest of it, that’s it.”  I said meekly, “well, there was five more, but I spent that on getting lunch.”

Billy quickly counted on his fingers.  “What kind of happy horse shit is this?  You’re worth more.  I thought you were making $15 an hour?”

I shook my head negatively.

Billy stopped fiddling with the money and reached into his pocket.  “I know you made more than that and I can prove it.”  He pulled out a small plastic baggie and threw it at me.

“What is this?”  I asked mystified.  It looked like a tiny bag meant for the smallest   peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever.

Billy glared at me, “it means you’re fucking around on me.”  He whirled around, climbed into the Honda, and roared off.

I was exasperated.  “What the hell was that?”

Elliot poked his head out from the hooch.  “It was a crack bag, Carmen.”

“How the hell do you know that?”  I asked him shooting him a dark look.  We were not exactly on the friendlies of terms.

“Well, Billy parties a lot, it’s probably one of his, or maybe it’s Leon’s.  They come and go with a lot of scum bags you know.”

“No, I don’t know.”  I stated.  I looked at him standing in the door way to the hooch with his sailor’s cap cocked low on his head.  Being at the Lake had changed him. He was still quiet, but when he spoke it was edged with a hardness that had not been there when we had left Wisconsin.  It was like the Florida sun had burned out all the boy from him, he was now a man.

“Are you doing that shit too?”  He asked me coolly.  “Do you smoke up too?  You do, Carmen, don’t you.”

I could not nod yes or no.  Tears pooled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks.

“Baby Girl.”  My father leaned over and looked at my tear-stained face.  “That is no way to treat your Papa.”  He picked me up and swung me into his arms.  “Now, say you’re sorry.”

“I’m sorry.”  I sniffled.

“Please.”  Said Elliot.  “Enough with the crocodile tears, Martines.”  He snorted through his nose.  “I don’t even know why I bothered asking.”  He grimaced at me, the turned and went back into the dark mouth of his hooch.

“Don’t go.”  I said.  “Please, don’t go.”

“Baby girl, it is no place for a little lady to be.”  My father cradled me in his arms.  “I won’t be gone for long and you’ll be asleep and before you know it, it will be morning and I will make you pancakes for breakfast!”

“Take me with you,” I whispered.

“Was that really the last thing Elliot said to you?”  Dawn looked over at me.

I nodded my head, tears falling down into my lap.  “Yup. Yes, it was. The absolute last thing he said to me, the last time I saw him.  I don’t think I will ever, ever forget it.”  I broke out into quiet sobs.  “I really miss him.”

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry.  That really blows.”  Dawn patted my hand.  “Sounds like that was probably one of your worst days.  Billy takes all your money and then Elliot makes you cry.”

“It wasn’t my best.”  I snorted through my tears.

“What was? You have to tell me quick, we’re almost in Pittsburgh,” Dawn shifted in her seat and looked out the window, “yeah, maybe ten, fifteen miles til we’re there.”

Coming back to the Lake the last time before we left for North Carolina.  Just knowing that we were leaving all the messiness behind.  Billy was in high spirits and ordered me off to the dock to wash up.  When I came back I could see that Billy had set up a chair, a blue plastic bowl, a towel, and a can of shaving cream, Barbasol Menthol, on a card table.  I padded up the dock leaving wet footprints that almost sizzled off the wood on contact, evaporating in the hot sun.  Billy was sitting perched in the chair, rocked back on two legs.

“Come here, Baby Girl,” he said and smiled crookedly at me.  “It’s time you learn how to shave my face.”


“You heard me, come here.”  He patted the seat in between his legs.

I approached him slowly.  My dress was almost dry and the wind snickered in between my legs, pulling it up and off my body with a slight sighing sound.  My hair lifted off my neck drying in a corona of curls around my face; I pushed the damp ends behind my ears and then settled my hands behind my back.

“Watch,” he said taking the can of foam and shaking it vigorously, he sprayed a handful of blue gel on to his fingertips, and then rubbed it into a white foamy circle on the left side of his face.

“Now you,” he said, reaching for my hand.  “Hold out your hand.”

I held out my right hand and he sprayed the foam into it; it felt warm and soft, heavier than I expected.

“Rub it on my face.”  He said patting the cheek without foam on it.

I did so.  Billy’s hand rose to mine, guiding it across the plains of his face.

“Leave the mustache alone, I’ll show you how to trim that later.”

I foamed his face, careful to avoid the mustache.

“Now take the razor and gently pull it down my cheek, like this,” he demonstrated the stroke to me.

I hesitated when he handed me the razor.  I was standing between his legs, the hem of my dress drifting across his knees.  The sun was straight overhead.  I was nervous and did not know exactly how to begin.

“Stop,” he said firmly.

I stopped and looked down into his blue eyes, they twinkled at me.  He smiled.  “You’re not gonna hurt me, I trust you.”

I smiled brightly at him.  “C’mon Papa, take me with you.”  I bounced in his arms.

“Baby Girl, you need your sleep.”  My father admonished me.

“No I don’t.”  I shook my head.  “I’m wide awake.”

My father chuckled and rubbed his nose against mine.  “Carmen, it’ll be boring.  You’ll have more fun here.”

I got sullen.  “No I won’t.  Bad things happen when you leave me alone.”

“I ain’t gonna leave you if you cut my face, but I might think about it.”  Billy said in a growly voice.

I drew in a breath.

“Baby Girl!  I am teasin‘ you.”  Billy squeezed his legs together and put his arms around my waist.  “I ain’t ever gonna leave you.”

I smiled and started shaving his face.

“Ok, well, forgive me for interrupting, but how is that like the best day?”  Dawn stared at me.  “I don’t get it, Elliot doesn’t talk to you again and you’re shaving Billy?  What gives?”

“Because Layla said good-bye to me.”  I said softly and looked out the window into the dawning day, we were just exiting the freeway into Pittsburgh.  “And I knew it was Elliot saying good-bye the only way he knew how, saying I was forgiven, at least that’s what I tell myself.”

“She said good-bye, how?  I was wondering about that, I mean, like, what happened to her, you know, like you suddenly have Jake and don’t mention Layla again.”

“I left her with Elliot.  I couldn’t keep her, she wasn’t mine to keep.  I never would have adopted her, and he needed her more than I did.”

Billy was clean-shaven, I was washed, Jake was snuggled down at my feet.  We were finally leaving.  Leaving Florida, leaving the Lake, leaving the crack and all the problems inherent with it.  We were going to North Carolina, where Billy had family friends, job connections.  We would start our new life together.

As we pulled around a pothole I looked out the window to take in one last look of the Lake.  I saw a black and white blur in the passenger side mirror and my heart leapt into my mouth.

“What the fuck is that?‘  Billy said suddenly, looking up and into the rear view mirror.  He turned to look over his shoulder.   I sat silently.

“Hey, look at that shit, Baby Girl, do you know what that is?”  He asked, swiveled around in his seat.

My father was silent.  “Ok, you can come.”  He gave in with a sigh.

“Yay!”  I said.  “Where are we going?”

“Down to the Lake.  There’s a bonfire tonight and some friends of your mom’s are gonna be there.  I said I would swing by.”  He set me down onto the floor.  “We’ll c’mon, sweet pea, if we’re gonna go, let’s go.”  He took my hand.

I knew what it was, but I remained silent.

“God damn, it’s Layla!  We should take her with us.”  Billy said.

“No!”  I said loudly,  turning around to look at Layla running behind the car.  “No.”  I said again, softer.  “She’s not mine to take.”

“That’s bullshit, that dog loves you more than she loves Elliot.  That dog is your dog.”  Billy started to slow the car.

“No.”  I said again and touched Billy on the knee.  “She belongs to Elliot.  I’ve got you and Jake.”

I looked down at my knees, watched the wet spots on my blue jeans blossoming.

“Wow, you left her for Elliot? Aw, honey.”  Dawn hugged me fiercely.  We were in the terminal at the Greyhound station in Pittsburgh.  Dawn stifled a yawn and stretched her arms over her head.

“I think Elliot loved you too.”  She said, after a moment.

I just nodded.  I did not have a lot of words left in me to say anything.

“Wow, holy moley, I can’t believe we’re actually here.”  Dawn gathered up her bag and hopped up from the seat.  “C’mon let’s get off this bus.”  She bounded down the steps of the bus and into the bright Pittsburgh day.  I followed her off the bus.  I blinked my eyes, and rubbed them briskly.  It was morning, the nightmare seemed to be ending.

“Carmen, I have got to fly.  But you are amazing.  I’m so glad we got to hang out.  You sure made the time go quick! Thank you so much for telling me your story, you’re just like, totally awesome!  Make sure you write me.”  Dawn said and thrust a piece of paper into my hand.  “Really, we could be great pen pals.”

I smiled at her, “OK.”

“I’m gonna jet, I don’t mean to leave you high and dry, but you’re bus is gonna be here soon and I so want to go take a hot shower.  But I’m really serious, write me.”   We hugged one last time and then she walked toward the road, turning once briefly to smile and wave back at me.  I returned the wave, then headed into the bus station terminal.  I had a few minutes before  I had to get on the next bus headed home.  I wanted to pee in a real toilet. I located the bathroom in the huge terminal and bee lined it over to the door.

I was finally next in line.  I think every one on the bus must have held it until they could use a real bathroom.  I walked up to the stall and pulled it, the door stuck.  I yanked it again, then looked down, it was a pay to piss stall. I laughed out loud.  One quarter needed to be deposited to be admitted.  There was no one else in the bathroom.  I caught my eye in the mirror.  And smiled.

“Let’s go then,” my father side and shifted me onto his hip.

“Alright, if that’s what you want, Baby Girl, let’s get the fuck out of here,” said Billy and he spun the steering wheel to the left and we exited The Lake for the last time.

“Go home Baby Girl.“ I said to my reflection in the mirror.

I looked around the empty bathroom with the sunlight slanting through the high windows, sighed deeply and dropped down onto the floor and crawled underneath the toilet stall.

 The End

Baby Girl–Chapter 11–Drop Out

May 21, 2011

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.

Baby Girl–Chapter Ten–The Keys

May 19, 2011

The Keys

“How much money do we have,” asked Billy.  His sky blue eyes flashed over to me briefly and then back again to the road we were driving along.

“I’d say about $170 or so, give or take a silver dollar,” I said smiling, rolling the silver dollar he’d given me for good luck around my fingers.  The dollar winked sun spots of light onto the ceiling of the car.

Billy chuckled, leaned over the gearbox of the Honda and buried his face in my breasts.  “Oh, we’re gonna have a good time tonight, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

“Billy,” I screeched, “watch the road!”  I reached for the steering wheel, straightening it out before we careened off the side and into a canal to become alligator bait.

“Where’d you wanna go, sugar puss?”  Billy asked me.  He really was in a good mood, I was not often consulted on what or where or even when we would be doing anything.

“Surprise me.” I said beaming at him.

“All right,” he said grinning, “that’s just what I want to hear.”  Billy turned the wheel and steered the car to the South, out of Miami proper, past Homestead, past the Lake, and toward the Keys.

I leaned my torso out the open window feeling the warm air wash over me, not minding how it ruffled my hair and blew it around my face.  The sky bluer than it ought to have any right to be.  I then I thought about Elliot and I on Christmas Eve, just a few short weeks ago.  It felt like aeons ago.  I suddenly flashed on to the memory of Elliot sitting shirtless on the hood of his maroon Datsun 280 Z bent over playing his bass guitar.  I had sat inside with my feet up on the dashboard stunned to be in the Keys with Elliot.  While just seven days before that moment I had been walking down the grey slush soaked  streets of Madison, Wisconsin where I had been gloomily trying to feel some of the delirious Christmas spirit from the people doing their holiday shopping on State Street.

There I had been inundated with black ice and road salt whereas here was the smell of sea salt and the raspy tang of oysters in my nose.  A child like laugh bloomed deep in my chest, I spread wide my arms awed at my inability to discern where the air ended and my skin began.  My hand dropped into my lap dancing along the wind ruffled dress hem pulled up over my thighs.

“Whatcha doin’?”  Billy asked turning and looking at me with lust in his eyes.

“I, uh, nothing, Billy,” I said fumbling with my dress, re-arranging myself in the seat to get a better view of Seven Mile Bridge.  The longest bridge in the world, chains of pylons and pelicans floating over aqua blue and green velvet seas and white sand shoals.

“Oh, I dunno.  That didn’t look like nothin’ to me,” Billy said turning again toward me cat faced with his cheshire grin, “kind of like watching you do that.  The whole of his eyes smeared with the blue light reflecting from the sun and water and sky.  “Maybe we better get a room, Baby Girl, before you get too carried away over there.”

“Sure Billy, whatever you want to do,”  I said not looking at him but blankly forward to the horizon which seemed to have suddenly lost its color.

“Yeah,” he said nodding and licking his lips, “let’s get a room, we can just call in sick tomorrow, Mike won’t care.  Leon and Elliot can handle a day without us.  And Mike will really appreciate me better when he sees how little the guys get done without me.”

“Are you sure?  I kinda thought Mike was counting on us finishing the roof of the house off the avenue.”  I drew in my breath as Billy’s hand settled on to my thigh and his fingers dug into it; the next day there would be a welter of small bruises on my thigh like dark wilted violet petals.

“Fuck ‘em, Mike ain’t doin’shit  without his foreman.”

“Ok, ok.”  I forced a smile to my face.   “Let’s get a room, play some hooky, yeah, sure, that sounds good,” I said with forced enthusiasm.  And then I realized that I would definitely enjoy a hot shower, some clean sheets on a real bed,  a little cable TV, an ice machine even,  ah luxurious ice.  We crossed  another bridge and turned off the freeway at just after Deer Key stopping briefly at a K-Mart for supplies.

“I’ll be right back, you want anything?”

“Pack of Camel Light 100s in a box,” I replied not knowing that it was the last time in weeks I would smoke brand name cigarettes.

“Sure thing, Baby Girl.”  Billy mashed his face against mine, rubbing his thick brush of a mustache on my mouth for a good-bye kiss.   Then he sauntered away through the parking lot, his tight butt twitching in his overalls.  He didn’t have a shirt on underneath his bibs and he pulled up the front and buckled them up before disappearing into the store.  After I saw him go in I fiddled with the radio dial.  My eyes unexpectedly welled up as a Jethro Tull song floated out of the speakers, a band Elliot had introduced me too.  I closed my eyes and remembered the last talk about music I had with Elliot before becoming Billy’s old lady.

“Quit messing with the radio,” said Elliot leaning into the car window.  I was sitting in the parked car at the Lake reading through the worst heat of the day.

“What,” I teased, “you know I love that song.”

“Well I’ll just have to get you the new Whitney Houston for your birthday next year.”

“Ick, you will not.”  I grimaced and stuck my tongue out at him.

“I’m going to put in an album now.”  Elliot rifled through the tapes and put in Aqua Lung.

“Not bad, I suppose.”

“Well, if it bothers you, you can get out of the car.”




“You always gotta have the last word, eh, Martines?”


“Ugh,” Elliot grunted.  Then he closed the door.

He walked away, disappearing behind the car and into the burn of sun.  I dropped the visors down in the car trying to angle away the glare of the sun and picked my book back up.  I read for a few pages then set the book down again.  I leaned my left elbow out the window of the Datsun and lit a cigarette.  I slid my feet out of my flip-flops and pulled my knees up onto the steering wheel and stared at the sky meandering by.  The straps of my dress fell off my shoulders and I ignored them to drag slowly on my cigarette.  I did not hear Elliot sneaking up behind me.

I felt a warm, soft, breath on my arm and turned just as Elliot leaned over and kissed my elbow.

I was startled and turned toward him.  Elliot was now crouched down along side the car at face level with me.  He looked into my eyes and opened his mouth, nothing came out.  His pupils dilated.  I heard the squeak of coral underneath his boots as his weight shifted.  He leaned into the open window, then suddenly he stood up.   He wiped his hands down on the thighs of his jeans and walked silently away as I sat and savored the sensation of his mouth still warm on my skin.

“Quit your daydreaming!” Said Billy slapping my arm as it hung out the passenger’s side working a farmer’s tan.  “Jaysus, Baby Girl, somebody could have come and fucking stolen the car and you wouldn’t have even noticed, where’d you go?”

“Nowhere,” I said rubbing my elbow.  I sighed and then lit a cigarette from the pack Billy tossed in my lap and brought my attention back to the present moment.

We drove down to Key West.  Billy showed me the sights, the bars he used to hang out in when he did construction there, the concrete curb he poured for the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in the islands. I nodded my head dumbly through the story wishing we would actually stop and look at Key West rather than drive around it.  But we stopped nowhere, Billy deemed the Key too expensive for us to play on.  I could have sat for days on one of the open-air verandas lining the streets, just sat and watched people walk on by.  Billy circumnavigated the key and we headed back toward Key Largo looking for a cheap place to spend the night.

“This looks good,” Billy said pulling into a dilapidated pink stucco lodge on the back edge of Key Largo.   We got out of the car and walked into the dim hotel.  I spun the wire rack of postcards on the counter while Billy checked us in.  I pocketed a postcard on the hotel back in its obvious heyday, circa 1965 or so, when the clerk was distracted counting out the bills Billy laid out for the room.  The lobby was covered with cracked flagstones and the wrought iron stair rail that appeared to be tethered very loosely to the steps.

Our room was dingy yellow with the smoke of cigarettes and moldy smelling from the recent rains.  Billy peeled off his overalls and draped himself across one of the beds. I went to explore the bathroom.  It too was small and pinched, drab with yellow and brown water stains bleeding down the walls.  It was no Ritz Carlton, but it had running water.  I rinsed off my arms and hands and then peeled open the white paper wrapped mini bar of soap next to the plastic covered drinking cups.  I washed my face and scrubbed the grime off.  I was about to strip down and take a shower.  When Billy called for me.

“Baby Girl, come here!”

I looked longingly at the bath tub then snapped off the light in the bathroom and padded barefoot out into the room.  Billy was lying on the bed naked, his body shaking with laughter and the vibrations coming from the bed.

“Hot damn, check it out, they vibrate!”

“What,” I said, playing dumb, the entire room seemed to be shaking from the hokey bed.

“Come here,” said Billy patting the bed.

“Make me.”

“Girl,” he growled flipping over onto his stomach and getting up on his hands and knees, “don’t make me make you.”  His cock was suddenly erect and dangerous.

“Make me,” I replied stood at the end of the bed eyes downcast and defiant.

Billy growled and leaped off the bed, I whooped and ran giggling around the room.  Billy bounded after me, leaping from one bed to the other, howling in the back of his throat.

“Oh shit,” I said gasping with laughter.  We were stymied on opposites sides of one of the beds.  The bed stopped vibrating.

“Quick, Baby Girl, get a quarter out of my jeans pocket.”  His jeans lay in a crumpled heap on the floor at the foot of the bed.

“Truce!” I called, looking up at him from underneath the fall of hair in my eyes.

“Truce,” he said waving the white flag his underwear.

I slowly edged to the foot of the bed, easing down to reach for his jeans, not taking my eyes off him and his wide grin.

“What?”  He said, eyes crinkled with laugh wrinkles.

“I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.”

“I ain’t doin’ nothin’.”  But his grin grew larger and the dimples in his cheeks deepened.

I reached out with my toe and grabbed onto a belt loop, dragging the pants toward me.  I heard the tinkle of change splashing out of the pockets; saw the river of silver roll under the bed.

“Oh, shit,” I said leaning down to grab the quarters.

Billy pounced.

“No fair!”  I squealed and dove under the bed.  Billy grabbed my ankles and dragged me out.  He flipped me over and crushed his mouth on mine.  He covered me with his body and ground his hip into mine.  I ground right back, my skirt rising up my legs, the carpet Indian burning my skin.  Billy’s hands reached up into my hair pulling my head back and pinning it against the foot of the bed.

“Now go plug the bed,” he said.

“Nope.”  I said with a crooked grin of my own.

“Ohh, does somebody want it bad?”

I suppressed a smile and bit his mouth very softly, just barely sinking my teeth into his lower lip.  Then I shook my head back and forth.  It was as aggressive with Billy as I had ever been.

Billy sucked in his breath and raised his right hand drawing my head up, all my hair caught in his fist.

“Go on now,” he mouthed into me directing my body toward the mouth of the coin slot mounted to the vibrating frame.

I back pedaled up the bed; Billy crawled with me, his other hand fumbling under my dress, pulling down my panties, as he pushed me up the bed.  The box was screwed into the headboard just left of the brass lamp protruding from the wall.

“Put in all the change, you’re gonna get it, bad.”

Three hours later I asked for a potty break.

“Make it quick,” he said rolling off me.

I went to the bathroom.  I squatted, avoiding my reflection in the mirror over the sink.  My knees creaked, I could already feel the bruises blooming, and the tops were a bright raw red, even in the low light.  My shoulders ached and I tasted blood in my mouth; I tongued the coppery spot of it away from the inside of my cheek.

“Hurry up in there, Baby Girl!”

I wiped myself and winced.  I washed my hands again and wet down my face.  I did not bother with a towel, letting the water sluice down my shoulders, feeling it sting along the scratch marks on my back.

“Damn, you took long enough.  Come here, I want to finish you up.”  Billy was sitting on the edge of the bed stroking himself.

I crawled up on the bed and buried my face in a pillow.  I dug my fingers into the edge of the mattress where the bed sheet had pulled away revealing a sky blue faux satin quilted top with frayed and unraveling plastic threads.  Billy caressed my back, my ass, my thighs, stroking them, raining his fingers along the inside perimeter, trailing his hand along the outside palming the small of my back.  Taking measurement.

“You ready to take it like a woman?”

I nodded my head into the pillow.

He slapped my ass, “I asked you a question.”

“Yes.”  I raised my face out of the pillow just high enough to clear my mouth so that he could hear my affirmation.


An hour later I sat in the bathtub, tears rolling down my face.

“Why are you crying,” asked Billy walking in on me to use the toilet.

I wiped off my face and breathed in my nose, out my mouth before answering.

“You can’t use shampoo as lube, Billy, it has alcohol in it, it stings.”

“Oh shit, Baby Girl, I didn’t know, you were just so damn tight, I didn’t want to tear you up.  I’m sorry honey; I just thought I was helping.  I don’t want to hurt you, baby, not you.”

“Ok Billy, alright.”  I sighed softly.  “I know.”

I leaned my forehead against the cool porcelain lip.  Billy sat down on the toilet nest to the tub and massaged the back of my neck.  I closed my eyes.

“You’re so beautiful,” he said stroking my arm, “I got the best looking old lady there is, I ain’t gonna hurt that.”

“Shush Billy.”

A momentarily contrite Billy suggested we go out to a bar that he knew.  The bar from the road looked like a Corona ad, but as we got closer, it appeared dilapidated and dusty. It was still hung with Christmas lights that had yet to come down and cob-webbed nautical gear.  It opened up onto a wooden deck that redeemed its cheap tourist allure by overlooking the beach and the full moon riding the waves.  The bar was more than half empty, the suddenly silent jukebox made the room appear even emptier.

“I’m gonna plug the jukebox,” said Billy, after ordering himself a beer and me a wine cooler,  “whaddya wanna hear?”

Dance, Dance, Dance, by the Steve Miller Band.”

“What is it with you and the Steve Miller Band?”

“Nothing, “  I could not tell him that it reminded me of Elliot, talking about Elliot was always a way for me to get into trouble with Billy.  “I just want to hear it that’s all.  Play whatever you want.”

“No, no, I’ll play what my old lady wants to hear.”  Billy scooped up the change on the bar and left me sipping my Bartles and Jaymes.  The jukebox suddenly roared to life, Merle Haggard, spilling out into the room.

I sighed and played with the label on my wine cooler, peeling it slowly off the bottle.  A few men sidled by eyeballing me.  I ignored them and lit another cigarette. The label was a shredded pile on the bar as I nursed the final few drops of my pink lemonade cooler down.  I finally went looking for Billy.  The bar was lined with local bikers and women whose skin attested to the fact that they never left the Keys, leathery and wrinkled with time.  They were sparsely dressed in short cutoffs and fluorescent neon Ron Jon bikini tops.  Their hair done up in bleached blonde pony tails and spiky bangs trying to hide the crows feet at least until the last call lights came up.

“Billy,” I said pushing myself between a woman too drunk to notice that Billy wasn’t paying attention to her and the man to her left he was in a conversation with.


“Baby Girl,” he said, snaking his arm around me, burning my eyes with the fumes tumbling out his mouth.  He must have had a few shots while I was waiting for him to come back.

“Oh man, you weren’t shittin’ me,” said the large man in black leathers sitting next to him.  He looked me up and down twice.  “You’ve got one helluva old lady.”

He smacked my ass.

“Hey!”  I startled back.

“Baby Girl, meet Bear,” Billy introduced us, ignoring the spanking I had just gotten from his new acquaintance.

“Pleasure, I’m sure.”  I leaned into Billy’s opened legs, settling myself against his crotch, protecting my backside.

Bear kissed my hand with a hot mouth juicy with spit.  I blushed and tried to not wipe my hand off immediately.

“Check it out,” said Billy gesturing toward the bar.  Spread between the two men were various assorted metal roach clips twisted into names, palm trees, beer bottles.  Billy pointed at the one that had caught his eye, “whaddya think?”

“Definitely that one,” I concurred with his choice, a roach clip twisted into the shape of a motorcycle. Billy frequently talked about getting enough money together to get a hog.

“She’s got taste, too,” said Bear, “but taste comes at a high price, my friend, that one there is twenty.”

“Bullshit,” said Billy, spraying spittle from his mouth with vehemence.

Bear calmly wipe the spit off his forearms, shining up the tattooed mermaid leaping and dancing on the waves of muscle.

“Ten.” Billy countered.

“Hell no.”

“Fifteen then.”

“Fifteen it is.”

Billy slapped down a ten and a five, the last of our money, as I found out later.

“Come back and do business again anytime,” said Bear, scooping up the money, “y’all enjoy that now hear.”

“Let’s go, Baby Girl.”  Billy shook hands with Bear and led me off.

We drove around Key Largo, blasting the stereo, howling at the moon, running with the wind.  Billy pulled over alongside one of the black brackish canals that lined the roads and dug out his sack of weed from the glove box.  He rolled up two fat joints and sucked them down just as fast.  I climbed out and fished a six-pack of Bud out of the cooler in the trunk and two bottles of Boones Strawberry Fields.  Billy had stocked up the cooler before we had left the KMart.  We killed it all.

We sat with the windows wide open, the moonlight and mosquitoes streaming in.  I randomly slapped at the mosquitoes, but slowly my hands fell to my sides as the sweet wine sunk further and further into my system.  I slumped down in my seat and soon fell asleep.  Billy woke me up slapping a mosquito on my arm.


“Damn, Baby Girl, you’re crawling with bugs, we got to get you outta here.”

“‘Kay.”  I nodded slowly, rolling my head back against the head rest.

He wheeled out, kicking up dust, which settled thickly in my mouth with the hot sugary strawberry flavor of the wine.  I hiccupped.

“Billy, I don’t feel so good.”  He reached over and pushed my head out the open window without slowing the car.  I vomited along the car, moaning, I passed out with my head hanging out the window doing what must have been 65 miles an hour.

Later in bed, Billy rolled me over and tried to have sex with me from behind.

“No.”  I mumbled thickly.  I could not handle another round of sex.  I would throw up again.

“Whaddya mean no?”

“I mean no, Billy, I’m sick,”  I stumbled to the bathroom.  I splashed water on my face and sank down onto the cool tile.  Every part of my body itched.  I had mosquito bites on the bottoms of my feet, behind my knees, in the whorls of my ears, in my scalp, between my fingers, underneath the crease of my thighs, even on my eyelids.  I cried while I rubbed my shoulder blades against the sink cabinet trying to relieve the itchiness on my back.

The next day we drove back silent, except for the rasp of my nails scratching at the 128 bites on my body; I had counted.  We pulled up to the Lake late afternoon on Monday, just bare moments after Leon and Elliot drove in.

“Where the fuck you been, man?”  Leon asked Billy as he climbed out of the passenger’s side of Elliot’s Datsun.

“Went down to the Keys, had a little party,” said Billy reaching for the six-pack of Bud Leon held in his hand.

“Uh, huh, man, this shit’s mine, I worked long and fucking hard for this shit, no thanks to you two assholes.”

“Whatever, I’ll catch you back tomorrow, you know I’m good for it,” Billy said again reaching for the beer.

“Ain’t no tomorrow, motherfucker,” said Leon cracking the pull tab loudly on one of the beers.  He drank a long pull of the foamy beer, then wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand.  He belched loudly then looked over at Billy while handing him a beer,  “Mike done fired your asses.”

Baby Girl–Chapter Eight–Rock Candy

May 17, 2011

Rock Candy

“How was it”?  I asked in a breathy, girlish giggle.  I was curled up in one of the fawn recliner chairs by the fire, on my third can of Budweiser, lit cigarette dangling from my hand.

Elliot waved me off without saying a word and ducked into our hooch.

“It was fan-fucking-tastic,” crowed Leon.  He leapt and danced around the fire. “Titties, man, sweet, sweet titties, little titties, big titties, floppy titties, perky titties, ah titties,” he said sighing happily while reaching for a can of beer out of the cooler by my side.

“And man, oh man, I tried to get Elliot a lap dance, but he kept wavin’ ‘em off,” said Leon cracking open the beer.  It hissed with foam, he lapped it up and grinned.

“Which was alright with me,” he said, “I got three ‘cuz he didn’t accept ‘em when I sent ‘em over.”

Billy high fived Leon; they both crowed with laughter.

“So, Elliot, didn’t like the titty bar,” said Billy wryly, “sounds like Elliot’s not man enough for a lot of things, eh Baby Girl?”  He turned toward me and winked.

My eyes widened, but I laughed a high wavering laugh none-the-less.  Elliot was silent in the hooch.

“Hey, Elliot, you want a beer,” I called from the fire.  There was no response.

“Elliot?”  I called out again, beginning to rise out of my chair.

“Ah, fuck him,” said Billy.  “The spoil sport was supposed to have fun.”

I got up from the armchair and headed toward the hooch.  I could feel Billy’s eyes crawling over my back.

“Elliot,” I asked quietly under my breath upon entering the hooch.  Billy and Leon’s voices which were rapidly bantering back and forth by the fire accompanied me inside.  Elliot was already in bed.  He was rolled as close to the far wall of the hooch as possible.  He’d taken off his shirt, his sailor’s cap, and his glasses, but he still had on his jeans and boots.

I sat down on the side of the bed closest to the door.  The occasional laugh and hoot came from outside.  I touched Elliot’s bronzed shoulder.  He shrugged off my hand without saying anything or turning over.

“Hey,” I said slightly startled.  “What’s wrong?’

“It was degrading,” he said in a muffled voice.  He did not turn to face me.  “It was like watching meat parade around on stage, it was awful, I don’t want to talk about it.  It was, it was really gross.”

He edged even closer to the wall.  My hand reached out, hovering just above the caramel skin of his back.  I drew my hand back to my lap.  I could not tell if I was still high, but the room seemed to expand with his breath.  I sat there wordlessly watching the rise and fall of his breath until slowly his body relaxed and he slept.  I quietly got up, pulled off my sun dress and traded it for a t-shirt and a pair of ragged cut off shorts.  I slid  quietly into bed.

I did not touch him.  I turned and faced the door, feeling the warmth of his back just inches away from mine.  Once during the night I woke and went to the bathroom.  I slipped out of the hooch and walked away from camp toward the port-o-potty.  Its chemical stench attempt to cover over heated raw sewage greeted me long before I saw it.

I sat on the plastic toilet seat grateful that there where still a few scraps of toilet paper left in the dispenser.  I breathed through my mouth and quickly finished my business.

Walking back from the port-o-potty I heard the roll and click of a lighter flaring into life.  My mouth began to water.  I ran the back of my hand absentmindedly across my lips; I hesitated between the hooch and the camper trailer.  I heard the pull and suck of breath furtive in the night air, then the low timbre of Leon and Billy’s voices whispering to each other.  I stood there for a moment with my rapidly beating heart drowning out the gist of the conversation.

I veered suddenly turned toward the hooch, time to get back to bed.  Elliot rolled over and cracked an eye at me, lifting his eyebrow at me.  I smiled, relieved that he seemed to be in better spirits.  I lay down again on my side facing the door, inches closer to his body than before.  He put his arm over my shoulder and buried his face in my hair.  I fell asleep with his warm breath on my neck.

“Let’s go”!  “Rise and shine, it’s a beautiful day,” Billy’s voice rang out–loudly, just outside the door to the hooch.  The flat of his hand slapping at the plywood caused the entire hooch to shake on its wobbly foundations.   “Wake up!”

“C’mon Elliot, let’s go, Baby Girl, get your sweet young asses up!  We got us a party to go to.” Billy said and rattled the door again before crunching away over the coral rock.

“Shit,” said Elliot, “I’m still tired.”  He reached for his glasses that lay alongside the bed.

Rocks pinged off the outside of the hooch.

“Get up, get up, get up, you lazy bums!”  Billy yelled again, walking back toward the hooch and throwing rocks hard at the door frame.

“Ugh,” Elliot said, sighing and rolling over.

“Shut up, Billy!”  He hollered,  “just shut the fuck up,” he said again quieter, easing his body upright and stretching his hands above him.

“What?”  Billy’s voice rang out, “What did you say?” He snarled just outside the door.

“Shut the fuck up,” cried Elliot, “shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!”

Billy slammed his body against the door.  I screamed and sat bolt straight up in bed.  The entire hooch slid back a couple of inches.  Billy walked away from the door and began pawing the ground like a bull beginning its charge.

“Ok! Ok!” I screeched.  “We’re up!  Knock it off, Billy.”

“Heh, heh, heh,” Billy chuckled.  “Baby Girl, did I wake you up?”

“Heh, heh, heh, Baby Girl,” mocked Elliot.  “What is the deal with him, he got a hard- on for you or what?”

I shrugged my shoulders, and did not voice an answer.  Elliot swung out of bed and opened the door.  The sun brightly burned through the doorway, outlining Elliot’s body and the ginger colored hair underneath his arms as he stretched his arms again above his head, while cracking the knuckles on his hands.

“What’s the rush,” he asked.  “It’s our day off, don’t we have the right to sleep in?”

“No,” said Billy emphatically.  I could see him cutting his eyes around Elliot’s torso looking in at me on the bed.  His face creased up into a grin and he gave me a quick satisfied nod.

“We gotta help Mike get ready for the party,” said Billy.

“Isn’t the party for us?” Asked Elliot.

“Yeah, well, it’s also for his family, since they’re finally moving back into the house,” said Billy.  “He wants us there early to make sure everything is ship shape before his family comes over for the party.”

“Hey, Elliot, close the door, please,” I said interjecting myself into the conversation and doing my best to avoid Billy’s obvious stare.

He stepped out and pushed the door closed,  shutting me into the warm gloom of the hooch.  I had more than enough light to see by, as the walls were not true and great gaps of light edged in through the cracks.  I shucked off the shorts and shirt and slipped back into the sun dress and put on a pair of black flip-flops.  I flipped my head over in front of myself and ran my fingers rapidly through the curls trying to fluff away the bed head.

Billy wolf whistled under his breath when he saw me come out.  I curbed both the urge to preen and strut and to flip him off and instead walked down to the Lake to clean up.  The sun was high and lancingly bright, it would be an extremely hot day. When I returned the boys where ready to go.  Billy and Leon were riding together in Billy’s silver Honda and Elliot sat idling the engine in the Datsun Z-280X waiting for me.

Elliot was abnormally quiet the ride over to Mike’s; he kept his eyes completely on the rode and smoked silently.  I picked out the Best of Steve Miller from the stack of tapes in the console and popped it in the cassette deck.  I slipped off my flip-flops and put my bare feet up on the dash and lit a cigarette.  My dress slid down my thighs and whipped in the wind streaming in from the open windows.

Elliot downshifted; his hand just grazed my knee before returning to the steering wheel.  “What did you do to your knee?”  He asked me looking from my red abraded knee to my blushing face.

“I, I don’t know,” I stammered, “I must have knelt down some time on the coral when I was cleaning up the camp yesterday.”  I flipped the edge of the dress over my knees and lowered my feet back onto the floor.  I turned up the stereo loudly and watched the palm trees whisk by.

Billy and Leon roared past us on the highway about five miles outside of Coral Gables where Mike and his family lived.  The four of us had been working for Mike rebuilding his house.  Billy was the foreman, Leon his number one man and Elliot and I were the grunts of the team.  We performed all the dirty manual labor of the various jobs around the house.  Eventually Elliot moved onto roofing and I broaden my skills to include house painting.  But at the first it was primarily demolition and clean up-crew for me.

Mike’s house had not been flattened by Hurricane Andrew, but had none-the-less undergone extensive water damage.  Billy and Leon had done quite a bit of the big clean up before Elliot and I joined their team.  But there was still weeks of labor that we put in before it was ready to be moved back into.  We had finished the gutting, cleaned it out, re-hung drywall, and painted both the exterior and interior.  Billy, Leon, and Elliot had replaced the roofing tiles.  The party was to celebrate the end of the construction and it was also a house warming party for Mike and his family.  Mike was ecstatic as his wife was close to term with their second child and they had been cooped up in the trailer for a couple of months with their two year old boy.

Elliot and I thumped over the speed bumps nestled between the gates to the condominium community and looked for a place to park close to the house.  Mike’s house looked fantastic, a deep peach coral color with white trim and aqua accents; I had hand painted the shutters myself.  By the time we entered in Billy and Leon were well into their first beers and shooting a game of pool on Mike’s newly re-felted billiards table in the remodeled basement.  I suspected it was this pool table and the free booze, not Mike’s desire to have us check over the work, that had Billy getting us up and out so early.

“Dibs on the winner, “said Elliot hopping up onto a stool by the newly outfitted bar.

I grabbed a Bartles and James Pink Lemonade wine cooler and left the guys to their pool game.  I wandered around the house admiring the handiwork we had put into the it.  I was secretly happiest with the paint job.  I had painted the very corners of the thirty foot ceilings in the front foyer as the rest of the boys were to scared to climb onto the extension ladder that high.  I will always remember how the ladder felt braced under my feet and how I just kept looking up rather than down the well of the stair way.

I walked passed the waterfall, I had carried out each large stone of the waterfall, cleaned it, and brought it back inside, basically building it from the ground up.  I stepped lightly over the new tiles, then down the steps sweeping my hand along the banister with the embellished wrought iron, and back to the poolroom.  Mike came into the pool room and gave us each an envelope.  Elliot and I each received $100, Leon, $200, and Billy $400 in cash.  He then went behind the bar and gave each of us a shot from a old cracked hand blown aqua blue glass bottle that had rock candy on the bottom of it and some sort of seaweed floating up from it.  It was a thick, syrupy, anise flavored liquor.  He then gave us each our own bottle of alcohol; Billy received a bottle of Jack Daniels, Leon one of Jim Beam, Elliot got a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Coconut Rum, and I got a bottle of champagne.

“Wow,” I said, “this is really nice champagne.  Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome kiddo,” said Mike.  “You guys enjoy the pool table, I’m going to get the grill going before my relatives descend.”

“Thanks Mike!”  Billy and Leon and Elliot, said almost in unison as they queued up to shake his hand.  He gave us a big thumbs up and disappeared out into the back yard to light up the charcoal.

Leon challenged Elliot to a game of pool.  Even though Billy had won the last round and should have been the one to play Elliot.  Instead he leaned next to me at the bar  and lit up a cigarette while Leon racked the balls.

“You wanna go for a ride?”  Billy asked me quietly, nonchalantly drawing on the cigarette and watching Leon break.

“Where,” I said stubbing out my cigarette in a heavy glass ashtray on the bar.

“Back to the Lake,” Billy said, “I forgot something at the trailer.”

I lowered my eyes and looked to see if Elliot or Leon were hearing the conversation.

“Baby Girl,” crooned Billy to me, his voice husky and compelling.

“What,” I asked,  I looked again at Elliot who was chalking his cue.

“Do you wanna keep me company or not,” asked Billy with a smoldering look at me.

I looked over at Elliot, he didn’t look up at me, he seemed to be ignoring me, he set down the chalk and lined up his next shot.

“Fine,” I said suddenly and I brusquely grabbed my bottle of champagne.  “Let’s go,” I walked out on Billy’s arm without turning back to say good-bye to either Elliot or Leon.

We drove back to the Lake, everything fast and blurring, the wind washing over me, the sun singing along with the sugar alcohol in my veins.  When we pulled into camp Billy jumped out and deftly plucked the bottle from my hands.  He ambled into the trailer.

I sat in the car waiting for him to get whatever it was that he had returned for.

“Baby Girl, come here, I need your help with something,” Billy’s voice called out to me.

I stepped out of the car, stumbling over my flip-flops that had gotten tangled on a stray piece of coral rock.  I kicked them off and picked my way over the coral rock bare foot.  I ran my tongue over my lips nervously.  I took a deep breath and entered into the dim sultry heat of the camper.  I blinked my eyes trying to adjust them to the drop in light and turned to see Billy standing in the back of the trailer naked, his hand stroking his cock, which rose up, straight and hard before him.

“Come here girl,” he said thickly to me, “I want to fuck you properly this time.”

I stood hesitantly in the doorway of the trailer.

“I said, come here!”

San Jose, CA, October 1976

“Shit, shit, shit!”  My father slammed down the hood of the old red Chevy truck.  “Fuck!”  He roared and slapped it hard again with the flat of his hand.  He heaved a huge sigh, then walked around to the driver side; he reached in through the open window and took the keys out of the ignition.

“Papa, what’s wrong?” I asked, but I wasn’t too worried, my papa could fix anything and the sky was blue and high and we were going to spend the whole day together.  Although, it was unusual for my Papa to swear around me.

He walked around to my side of the truck and reached in and ruffled my hair.  “It’s nothing, baby girl, the truck is being funny.”  He popped open the latch on the glove box and pawed through the papers in it.  He opened up a small book and looked through it and shook his head and sighed again.

“Baby girl, I need to go call your grandpa, I think we are stuck and I’m going to have to do some repairs to the truck before it will move again.  He’ll come and get you and take you and the groceries back to the house.

“I don’t want to go with grandpa,” I whimpered.  But my father was already off and striding to the pay phone outside the grocery store.

“I said, ‘come here!’” Billy said looking into my eyes, he had not taken his hand away from his cock.  “Now.”

I stepped through the entryway and into the gloomy trailer.  The light was thick yellow haze filtering through the mustard colored curtains.  Billy reached out for me and pulled me into his arms.  He kissed my mouth fiercely and pushed his tongue deep into my throat.  I gagged on the kiss, it tasted like stale tobacco and warm Budweiser.  Billy tugged down the straps of my dress and continued assaulting my mouth.  His hard penis pushed between my legs and he ground his hips into my pelvis.

“Carmen, now, let’s go, now, little girl!”  My grandpa sternly said to me through the glass of the rolled up window on my side of the door.  It was tremendously hot in the cab and I had squashed myself close to the driver’s side in between the door and the steering wheel. 

“I don’t want to go,” I said, shaking my head no.

“CARMEN,” my father’s voice belled out from underneath the hood of the truck, “go with your grandfather now, please.”

“No.”  I said it quietly, no one could hear.  I shook my head again.

“Michael George Martines, get your daughter out of this truck now, I do not have all day to play this game.”  He stepped away from the truck and crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me from underneath his dark furrowed brow.

“Turn around,” Billy said thickly in to my mouth while his hands rapidly spun me around.  He lifted my dress over my head then pushed me down onto the bare foam mattress on the bed platform.  I gasped, startled, and caught myself with my hands.  My feet were dangling over the edge of the bed and Billy grabbed my ankles and dragged me to him on my belly.  I slid rapidly backwards, my breath being stifled by the mattress.

“Baby girl, go with your grandpapa, you can’t stay here with me, it’s going to take me too long to get the truck running.”  My father had come over to the driver’s side door and was opening the door to fish me out.  His patience with me had ended.

“No, no, no,”  I started to cry.  “I want to stay with you, Papa.”

“Bring your ass up to me,” Billy demanded.

“What?” I said my voice muffled into the stale foam of the mattress.

“I said, bring your ass up,” he repeated, slapping me hard on my bottom.

“Hey! Ouch!” I said pushing his hands off my hips.

He grabbed my hands and tucked them into the small of my back, holding onto them with one hand.  With his other free hand he pulled my waist up high and toward him, forcing me onto my knees.  I struggled to balance myself without my hands and turned my head to flip the hair from out of my mouth to breathe.

My father opened the door and I leapt into his arms.  He was warm and smelled salty and vaguely of tangerines and motor oil.  I buried my face in his neck and snuffled his good Papa smell in.  I discovered a smudge of grease by his ear and regarded it.

“I don’t want to go.”  I whispered plaintively to him.

“C’mon kiddo,” he said, “you know I’ll be home before you know it and then we can watch The Waltons together.”

“Good,” he said, “good, girl, good Baby Girl, good.  Just like that.”  He rubbed the small of my back.  I relaxed for a moment.  Then I froze as he began pouring something onto my lower back, it slithered down the girdle of my hips and pooled between my legs, running in slow dribbles down the insides of my knees.  It was some cheap smelling baby oil.

His hand rested in the pool of oil in the small of my back.  “Are you going to take it like a woman?”  He asked me while sliding his hand down in between my legs.  “Are you?”  His fingers pulling me apart.  “Yes, like that.  Good.  Yeah, I think you are, I think you are going to take it like a woman.”

“Baby girl,” my grandfather started toward me from the other side of the truck.  His car door on the dark brown sedan was open.  There were three Hershey Chocolate bars on the passenger side seat.  The ends wrapped in foil flashed the sun in my eyes and I winced into my father’s shoulder.

“I have some candy for you,” my grandfather said in a wheedling voice.

“No.” I shrunk into my father, “I don’t want any.”

He pulled me closer his cock pushing against my perineum, my feet dangled off the bed and he slapped them further apart. Then he grabbed onto my hips and thrust into me.

I screamed.

I screamed.  “No! No! No! I don’t want any candy!”

My grandfather tried to peel me from my fathers arms and I wrapped my legs tightly around his middle.  “I don’t want to, Papa!  I don’t want to, don’t let him touch me, don’t make me do it.  No Papa, no!”  I was wailing and quivering in his arms.

My father’s body stiffened and he stepped back away from his father.  He pushed my grandfather’s hands off of me and swung me onto his hip.  He looked from his father to me, then back again to his father.  “Have you been touching her?”

“Michael,” my grandfather began.

“No!”  He whirled me away from his father.  “Carmen, baby, honey, has he touched you down there?”

I nodded yes and started sobbing into his shoulder as he backed away from his father.

“Oh god, oh Billy, no, no, please, no, you’re in the wrong place!  Oh god, oh please, Billy, please stop, no, oh god, oh god, oh god,” I cried out.  “No, no, no, please, it, it hurts.”

He pulled back and then out and I gasped trying to stifle my screams.   Then he yanked me back onto him thrusting forward even harder.  I screamed out again.  He pushed my face into the mattress.  There was nowhere to go, my hands curled into the foam tearing it and I tried to simultaneously spit out the mattress flaking off into my mouth and breathe through my teeth.   The entire camper shuddered as he slammed into my body and then he shouted out a mangled stream of groans.

“Nice, Baby Girl, nice.”  He patted my ass then walked out of the camper.  I could hear a stream of piss hitting the coral rock outside.  I curled up into a ball and covered myself with a pillow that had gotten mashed up against the canvas.  It smelled like old beer and mold.

Billy came back into the trailer, “get up.  Go clean yourself up, time to go back to the party.”

I spent a few minutes trying to put my dress back on then, I stumbled out into the blazing sun and looked for my flip-flops.  Billy was leaned against his silver Honda Accord drinking from a Budweiser tall boy and smoking a cigarette.  He grinned at me.

“You took it just like a woman, and I think you rather enjoyed that, didn’t you?”

I forced a smile on my face.  “I, uh, I’m just going to go to the bathroom and then I’ll be ready to go back.”

“I’ll be right here waitin’, Baby Girl.”  Billy grinned and swigged from the can.

The rest of the day was a blur.  Elliot played Billy in pool, Billy played Leon, and back and forth and to and fro.  I stood in the corner by the bar and drank wine coolers and smoked cigarettes.  Every once in a while Billy would look at me and grin wolfishly.  Once he whispered into Leon’s ear and they both whooped and high-fived.  Elliot looked at them, looked at me and then blushed a sharp brick-red.

“I think I’m done,”  Elliot said.  “I can’t drink anymore and be able to drive back to the Lake.”  He laid down his pool cue and picked up the bottle of Captain Morgan’s and headed up the steps.  I heard him thank Mike and I scurried to collect my things and chased him out the door.  I did not say anything and I did not look at Billy.

The drive back to the Lake was silent.  Elliot turned the ignition off to the Datsun and took his bottle of Captain Morgan’s inside the hooch.  He came out a few minutes later and stared at me as I climbed out of the car and started toward the doorway.  He stepped aside from me and walked down toward the water.  He was gone for a half hour or so.  I started up the fire and sat waiting for him to come back up from the pier.

“Don’t you dare fuck him in my bed,”  Elliot said when he came back.  He stood across the fire from me.  His voice was flat and cold, his eyes hidden behind the reflected fire on his glasses.

“Elliot, what?”  I said.  My mouth gaped open and tears sprung up into my eyes.

“I don’t really care what the hell you do with him, Carmen, that’s your fucking business, but if you sleep with him in my bed I will kill you both.”

“Elliot,” my voice breaking off plaintively.

“No,” he said cutting me off.  “I don’t want to hear what you have to say.  I don’t want to know any more.”

Tears rolled down my face.  I nodded dumbly.  “Ok.”

Elliot stood abruptly and disappeared into the hooch.  I sat by the fire and waited for Billy to come home.

Baby Girl–Chapter Seven–Billy’s Seduction

May 16, 2011

Billy’s Seduction

“Where are Elliot and Leon?” I asked Billy as he came sauntering into camp one Friday at dusk.  Billy and Leon had invited Elliot and I over to their camp on the opposite side of the Lake when the guy that had been staying in the hooch adjacent to their pop-up trailer moved out.  It was a step up from staying in the tent and Elliot and I were happy to relocate and be less conspicuous for being by ourselves.  There was safety in numbers and we could pool our resources.

I had spent the day at the camp making it more “livable.”  I  had cleaned up all the debris and garbage from amongst the cat tails surrounding the camp area.  We were located in a thicket of them, which provided a feeling of privacy.  Then I had raked all the loose coral rock up into piles so that we had a sort of flat common space around the fire pit.  Then I had dragged over two dusty faded out fawn colored recliners from a pile of what I deemed to be permissible to pillage illegal dumping.  In between them I flipped over a navy blue milk crate and voila, end table.  All and all quite homey.

“I sent ‘em to the strip joint,” replied Billy, a wicked grin creasing the corners of his pointy cat face.

“You what?”  I coughed out a sharp laugh, that was not at all the answer I was expecting.   “How did you convince Elliot to go to a strip club?‘

“Ya know, it took some persuading, but I’m awfully persuasive when I wanna be,” Billy’s grin widened further underneath the bushy wings of his thick blonde mustache.

“Why didn’t you go?”

“Well,” he said pausing mock thoughtfully, his finger poised on his chin as if in deep thought.   “I just figured it was about time I got to know you a bit better, seems like we’ve got more in common than you seem to be letting on.”

“Oh, how so,” I asked, avoiding looking into his blue eyes.  I turned toward the fire and shrugged,  “you get what you see.”

“Well, then I get to spend the night with a very pretty lady, then don’t I?”

I struggled to not blush.  I failed.

The Lake was beginning to get rowdy. It always did on Fridays; folks were gearing up for the weekend.  The fires burning around the shoreline seemed brighter, you could see around the entire perimeter of the lake from our camp’s vantage.  The giant blue-black man-made hole in the middle of the abandoned Homestead Air force Base.  The whoops and hollers, certainly louder.  “Happy Hour” had begun to commence.  It would last all the way until early Monday morning.

I turned into the glowing sunset watching it burn down the fringe of palm trees on the western end of the campsite. I tried to do something with my hands.  Lit a cigarette, flipping the lighter over my thumb and forefinger like Iceman in Top Gun, then I abruptly set it down on the arm of the chair.  I re-adjusted my skirt which had been creeping up my thighs as I had self-consciously been crossing and re-crossing my legs.

“I’m headed down to the Lake to clean up, what about you?”  Billy asked as he headed into his camper to get his shower bag.  He returned having quickly shed his dirty work clothes, he was wearing navy blue bathing trunks that had a white draw string.  The shorts hung to his knees and emphasized his stocky build, and the white demarcation of skin that showed where his tan stopped at his waist.

“Well, you comin’ or not?”

“Yeah, I suppose I could use a bath too,” I replied.  The Lake not only stood in for recreational swimming, but as communal bath too, and toilet as well when the need called and the port-o-johns hadn’t been cleaned out.

“You do look a little dirty, girly, you do,” said Billy.

I glared at him, “stop it.”

“Stop what,” asked Billy, “I’m just making an honest observation.”

“Are you too shy to clean up with me,” he said, looking rather piercingly at me.

“Fuck, Billy, I don’t care, Christ, we work together now, you know what my sweat smells like”.  After much finagling, Billy had gotten me on his crew.  The man he sub-contracted for, Mike, did not want any women on the crew but after watching me help unload a trailer bed full of 80 pound concrete sacks, he had changed his mind.  I had overheard him telling Billy that I worked harder than Elliot did.  And I did.  I had a lot to prove being a woman on a construction team.

I had finished my portion at the job site early and as there was nothing left for me to do, had returned to the Lake by middle of the afternoon.  I had worked harder on cleaning up the camp then I had on doing the demolition at the house we were working on.  The camp had needed it more.

“Yup,” Billy nodded, “your sweat smells like peaches and cream,” he said.


“Nah, you smell way better than that,” he said grinning.

“Oh, fuck off, Billy, I smell like sweat and that’s all,” I got up from the chair and turned on my heel and walking away from him into the hooch that Elliot and I shared.

“Baby girl, you smell like kiwis ripe for the plucking,” and he snapped the end of his towel at my ass, “don’t you dare go changin’ the way you smell.”  Billy sniffed the air around me and flared his nostrils out, “yup, you smell ripe.”

“Enough Billy, “ I said over my shoulder.  I stomped away into the hooch.

Walking into the hooch was like entering a warm, yeasty, boy scented oven.  I breathed in Elliot and peeled off my dusty work clothes.  I slid into a black Speedo one-piece, grabbed my shampoo, my large wooden Aveda paddle brush, and a razor blade.  I wrapped the only towel I had around my waist, tucking in the end high on the leg underneath my swimsuit like I learned to do when I had life guarded in high school.

By the time I changed and came out of the hooch it was full on purple twilight and I could see that Billy had gone down without me.  There was a wobbly pier that jutted out from the reeds and cat tails at the shore that the previous tenant had built.  Billy was already in the water soaping his armpits down.  His hair was wet and slicked back from his face, further accentuating the leonine shape of it.

I walked slowly and gingerly down the dock, it felt as if at any moment it might simply collapse and dump you into the Lake.

“Come on in, the water’s fine,” said Billy as he rinsed the soap from his armpits.

I dropped the towel from my waist and set down my toiletries carefully next to it.  Billy wolf whistled at me, I blushed for the third and hopefully final time that evening.  I flipped him off.  He lunged through the water quickly to the pier.  I screamed and ran toward the end, diving off into the shallow water, I resurfaced about fifteen yards out.

“Jesus, fuck girl,” said Billy.  “You don’t mess around do you?  You could have smashed your head in like nothing, be paralyzed right now from the neck on down.”

I heard a mixture of awe and respect under the words of criticism but I did not know how to acknowledge it as I paddled around.  I swam back and treaded water a few yards away from him, I did not feel comfortable standing up in the water to be scrutinized by him.

“I was on swim team in high school for three years, I know how to dive,” I said in a matter of fact voice.

“Freaky,” said Billy, “I never got into high school sports so much, but I was a mean roller skater.”

I laughed, “You roller skated?”

“Yeah,” he said, preening, and literally puffing out his chest.  “I was damn good at it too, had trophies and stuff, shit’s all back at my folks place in North Carolina.”

I tried to imagine Billy roller disco boogying.  Then suddenly, I could picture it– Billy with his blonde hair feathered back, stocky body in white flared bell bottoms, his torso draped in some shiny, silky, baby blue shirt with a wide flared collar.  I grinned hearing the Bee Gees in my head and submerged myself to hide the giggling.

“Hey,” said Billy, when I came up for air, “you gonna wash up or swim?”

“Swim,” I replied and swam off.  I was too modest to wash in front of him and certainly did not want to shave my legs where he could see me doing it.  But I desperately wanted to shave, another habit from swim team.  I hated being in the water without shaving; I never felt completely clean unless I did so.

I didn’t swim too far though, the Lake’s creepy underwater contents were enough to keep me fairly close to shore.  It was dotted with the carcasses of cars, a porcelain bath tub near the south-west corner, that I’d actually once jokingly taken a bath in to amuse Elliot, floating cans, plywood with nails sticking out the ends, and the occasional fish bloated with mercury sluggishly swimming along the murky bottom.  I swam out another fifty yards or so and turned back around.  There was a dark ledge of color underneath the water where it dropped off steeply and I never could get myself to swim over it.  The water there was grim and haunted.

Billy had finished washing and was heaving his body out of the water.  I paused again treading water to stay in place and watched him get out.  It was a view I did not mind.  His shoulders were broad and heavily furred with blonde hair that was burned gold from working out in the sun, as was his chest and the thick treasure trail that weaved down his abdomen.  There again was the crisp line of white demarcating his hips and those soft tender lines that draw the eye to the groin.

“You gonna be a bit?” Billy asked.

“Yeah, just a bit more, don’t worry about waiting for me.”

“Alright, see you in a few,” he said and walked back up the dock.   He sauntered away and fished his wet bathing trunks out from the middle of his ass.   I swam into the dock, quickly washed my hair and shaved my legs using up the last of the dwindling light.  It had been a little while since I had shaved and although the water was cool and my skin was puckered, I made a go of it.

I rinsed my razor and tipped my head back into the water to rinse out the conditioner.   I stood up, letting the water rinse back out and picked up my brush to go at the tangles.  I abruptly shivered, it was too dark suddenly, the calls from the fires around the Lake seemed louder,  and the water had darkened from blue to brackish black.  I hauled myself out of the water; I knew it wasn’t reasonable, but the old childish fear of Jaws could overwhelm me at any moment.  I shivered violently again, I would brush my hair out at camp.  I felt as though something was going to come out from underneath the dock and grab my ankles as I pulled myself quickly out.

Walking up from the wobbly pier I was greeted by the warm glow of fire.

“I thought I’d get the fire stoked for you, so you wouldn’t get chilled,” said Billy.

“Thanks,” I replied, smiling shyly.  I stood shifting from foot to foot at the edge of the light the fire cast.  Billy had pulled the two reclining chairs closer together.  He had also placed two cans of the king of beers on top of the blue milk crate that stood in for our end table.

“Come on, join me,” he said gesturing to the empty chair next to him, he patted the seat cushion.

“Uh, sure,” I said.  But I did not sit down.  “Actually, um, just let me change into something more comfortable.”

Billy threw back his head and laughed harder than was necessary.  “That’s what I like about you baby girl, you make me laugh, you go slip into something comfortable and hurry back before I get too lonely and have to come looking for you.”

I quickly slid past him toward the dark mouth of my hooch.  Elliot and Leon were apparently still at the strip club, the hooch was empty.  I only had a few items of clothing to change into, the same clothes I’d been wearing to work or a black sun dress dotted with orange flowers that I had stolen from my mom’s closet.  I especially liked it because the cut of the bodice allowed me to get away with not wearing a bra.

I threw down my toiletries on the end of the eggshell foam that Elliot and I used for a bed.  The sleeping bag that covered it was rolled up into a pillow, as it’d been too hot recently to think about covering ourselves with it.  I put on the dress and sprayed myself down with a blast of the perfume that I had, Eternity by Calvin Klein, my last affectation from high school.

I walked out to the fire barefoot.

“Jesus girl, you’re getting crazy, walking around without shoes on—put something on your feet,” said Billy shaking his head at me.

I ignored him and cozied up to the fire in the other armchair.  I knew from my  afternoon raking the campsite free of stray rocks that it was ok; it was just the bare dusty rose coral underfoot.  It felt soft and warm to my feet and I felt more grounded in myself when I was barefoot.

“Ballsy thing ain’t you?”  Billy said, then nodded to the beer, “have a beer with me?”

“Sure,” I said.  He picked one up from the milk crate and tossed it  to me; I caught it, peeled back the metal tab and quickly sucked off the foam pouring over the edge of the can.  It had a cold flat metallic taste to it, which singed the corners of my mouth.

“You usually don’t drink, do you,” he asked.

“Nope, but t’s Friday, right?  A beer isn’t gonna hurt me, you got a light,” I said holding out my cigarette.

He flipped open a gold-plated Zippo and cupped his hand over mine holding it steady as I dipped the end of the cigarette down.  I inhaled the delicious smoke and settled into the chair next to him.  We both smoked silently for a moment.

“What’s with you kids, you and Elliot, y’all act more like brother and sister than boyfriend girlfriend”?  Billy suddenly asked out of nowhere.

I startled back into the chair, shrinking into the cushion. I drew off the cigarette too hard and began to cough.

“What,” I asked coughing and gasping for air.

“Gotcha!” Billy laughed, slapping his knee.  Then he quieted and said,  “seriously though, baby girl, you and the old man seem a little off kilter.  How’s it going with the two of you?  The stress of working together too much or somethin’?”

“Uh, no, we’re fine, Billy, just fine.”  I stood up hastily and headed back to the hooch, the heat from the fire was drying out my hair.  If I did not brush it before it dried I would have a huge snarled mess on my hands.

“Hey, where you goin’,” asked Billy raising up slightly from his chair, “am I pushin’ your buttons too hard?”

“I’m just getting my brush Billy, relax.   I’ll be back in a minute.  And no, you’re not pushing my buttons,” I said and ducked into the hooch.  Even if he was, I was not going to admit how disquieted I was by his questioning.  I grabbed my brush off the bed where I had forgotten it and headed back to the fire.  I looked up into the sky at a bowl of stars tipped out and scattered across God’s dinner table.  I looked for my favorite constellation, Orion, but did not see it to make a wish on.

I scoped out around the edges of the camp fire for Billy as I at sat back down in my armchair, but did not see him.  I began brushing out my hair, I really should have gotten out the tangles when I was down at the Lake, now they were impossible.  Music suddenly belled up over the campsite, Billy had gotten in to his Honda and started up the radio.  He left the door to the car open and then sweet, bellicose music drifted over me.

There where stars in the southern sky, southward as you go-o; there was a taste of time sweet and honey, down the seven bridges road-o.

I hummed along a few bars working through the snarls in my hair.  Good God, I should not have waited, my hair was a total wreck of snarls; I knew better.

“Here, let me do that,” said Billy.  He came up behind me and plucked the brush from my hand and then slid into the EZ chair behind me.  His legs clamped down on my hips and his chest settled against my back.  He felt ferociously hot and I startled forward.

“Uh, no really, you don’t have to, thanks, but I got it,” I tried to turn back and reach for the brush; he held it out of my reach.

Billy pulled his knees in, keeping me pinned to the chair, “Oh c’mon relax, Carmen, I don’t bite.”  His hand settled on to my shoulder.

I could feel all the heat of the day resting in that rough calloused hand.  My muscles knotted further. I was perfectly frozen on the edge of the chair; I could feel the edge of hard metal from the recliner’s footrest digging into my thigh.  Then the brush begun moving through my hair, gently tugging out the tangles, pulling through the snarls, while Billy’s other hand curry combed through after each pass of the brush, as though I was a horse that needed to be gentled, I suppose I was.  I broke out in goose bumps.

“You have nice hair,” he said.  He leaned in further, I could feel the hair matted on his chest through the thin t-shirt he was wearing.  “Mmm mmm, smells like green apples.”  He said and twirled a curl of my hair through his hand, tugging it, feeling its resilience, testing the pull.  I flinched.

“What are you so nervous about,” he asked with a chuckle.  He pulled the brush quickly across my scalp and set it down on the armrest.

“You know you’re really awfully tense,” he said then he began massaging my shoulders.

“Christ, baby girl, doesn’t Elliot ever rub your shoulders, you got knots on top of knots.”  He pushed his thumbs hard into the muscles in my shoulders.

I gasped audibly, then I whispered under my breath, “Elliot’s not my boyfriend.”

“What”? Asked Billy.  He paused the rub, “I didn’t hear what you said.”

“Oh, uh, it was nothing,” I said.  “Do you mind if I smoke?”

“Not at all,” he said, “I’ll keep rubbing your shoulders here, you just get nice and relaxed.”

“No, no thanks, really,” I said, shrugging his hands off my shoulders.  I reached for my pack of cigarettes and slid quickly off the chair, away from the warm smolder of his thighs pinning me down.  I stood inches away from the fire, the hairs on my arms felt as though they might singe.

“Well ya know, I feel like a smoke myself,” Billy said standing up.  He drained the last drops of his beer, shook the can out into the fire, and then set it upside down on the milk crate.  He ambled over to his car, flipped the tape in the deck and then he popped the trunk on his Honda and rummaged around for a moment; he opened his tool box and picked through it quickly.  He slammed down the trunk and returned to the fire where he picked the can back up.  Not knowing what he was doing I leaned in curiously and saw that he had a small ten penny nail in his hand.

Billy picked up the Budweiser can, shook the last drops of beer from it and then slowly bent it in half so that it looked like a little tin boat.  Taking the nail he began punching holes into the crease of the can, making a small nest of pinpricks.  He then turned the can and on the end opposite from the mouth, punctured one hole, slightly larger than the holes he had punched in the middle.

Next he lit a cigarette and drew upon it very slowly and steadily.  He hot boxed the cigarette until it was one long pillar of ash.  When the ash looked as if it was about to drop off the end, he carefully tapped it into the middle of the can.

“What are you doing”?  I asked completely mystified.

“Shh,” he said, then he drew down again on the cigarette.  Another long ash formed.  He tapped this on top also, the two tails of ash looked like the snake fireworks my mother allowed my sister and I to light up when we were too young for the bottle rockets we really wanted on the Fourth of July.  He carefully set the can back down on the table and reached into the front pocket of his jeans.

He pulled out a folded up piece of crackling cellophane stripped from a cigarette pack out of the small front pocket on his jeans.  I had always wondered what sorts of things people kept in that little pocket.  He carefully unfolded the cellophane then fished into it gently with his thumb and forefinger and withdrew what looked like a small dingy piece of Ivory soap.

“Wanna blow some bubbles, baby girl,” Billy asked me.  Without looking at me or waiting for my answer he carefully dropping the dirty thing on to the heap of ashes formed in the aluminum valley of the beer can.

“Do I want to what?” I asked furrowing my eyebrows trying to figure out what he was doing.

“Do you want to get high, girlfriend,” said Billy.  He looked up from the can directly into my eyes.

“Ok,” I said quietly after a moment, almost under my breath.

“That’s my girl,” he reached out and stroked my knee, this time I did not shy away from his touch.

“Here you get first dibs,” he passed the can to me.

I gingerly took it from him.  “what do I do?”

“Put the mouth of the can to your mouth, put your finger over the little hole in the back and when I light the rock up you just draw in real slow, like you’re smoking a cigarette.  And whatever you do, don’t drop the can,” he said looking at me, eyes wide and lit up.

I nodded affirmatively.

He continued. “Then when I tell you, lift your finger away from the hole in back—that’s called the carburetor.  Keep inhaling until you can’t anymore, then hand me back the pipe.”

I brought the can to my mouth; it still smelled like Budweiser and was clammy cold to my fingers.  Billy pulled a pink Bic lighter from his other pocket.


I looked level into his eyes and slowly nodded my head up and down once.

Billy lit up the Bic and touched the flame to the area just above the rock; the air wavered, the rock began to glow reddish-orange, then blue, then orange again, a tiny wisp of smoke appeared above it.  He dipped the flame of the lighter down a fraction of a centimeter and the rock started to bubble and melt into the heap of ashes.  A longer curl of smoke bloomed from the rock.

“Inhale,” demanded Billy.

I inhaled.  The rock melted completely down against its bed of ashes and I pulled the smoke into my lungs; hot smoke that tasted faintly like the plastic coating on wire hangers was burning in a clothes closet full of old moth balls.

“Take your finger off the carb,” Billy directed me.

I did so and inhaled even more smoke as the air whooshed in and pushed the smoke in the chamber toward my lungs.  My hand started to shake and sweat popped off in quick beads above my upper lip.  Billy reversed the lighter and tapped out the wan wisp of orange flame dancing over the pool of rock with the bottom of the lighter.

“Let go of the can,” he said bringing his hands up to cover my trembling ones, “but don’t exhale yet.”

I gulped down the smoke rising in my throat, burning my nose.  I had the strong urge to wipe off the sweat gathering on my lip and I disregarded it to watch the tiny wisps of smoke were still rising from the can.  My eyes followed them glazed, as Billy took the can from me.  He placed his lips to the can and quickly sucked it a few times rapidly in succession.  He walked back to his car open the passenger side door and placed the can on the front car seat, carefully so that it was cradled against the back of the seat.

I stood swaying on my feet.  The world swung with me.  The stars loomed large.  My lungs burned incandescent.  I could suddenly see Orion rising and I fancied myself his Earth bound mistress.

Billy walked over to me, placed his hands on my shoulders and looked directly into my eyes, his pupils dilated although we stood so close to the edge of the fire.

“Elliot’s not your boyfriend, is he?” He said to me as his fingers slid up and underneath the straps to my dress.

I shook my head no.  My eyes were tearing up from holding in the smoke. Billy smiled.

“Exhale,” he said.

The smoke exploded out of my mouth.  Billy quickly leaned into me, his hands spread across the backs of my shoulders, he put his mouth on mine.  He sucked the last of my breath into him.  My eyes closed, as I shook, and shook, and shook.

“Nice,” he said.  “Very, very nice.”

Baby Girl–Chapter Four–Meet The Neighbors

May 12, 2011

Meet The Neighbors

It had been another hot, sweltering day on The Lake and neither Elliot or I had found work.  Granted, Elliot was the only one looking.  I would stay back and keep an eye on our camp and gear.  We had no money.  We had no food.  The burger satiation was long gone and the rations truck had not returned.

“What are we going to do?”  Asked Elliot.

“I don’t know, I am completely out of ideas, Elliot.” I said and sat contemplating the fire I had built up from scavenged ply wood.  It had a particular green chemical, almost chlorinated smell to it.  The wood had obviously been treated, but I figured as long as I was down wind from it, we would be alright.  The flames wicked over the wood and would frequently change colors.  It was almost like being on acid.

Elliot sighed, “I just have to find work.  I just do.  If I can find work then we can get the fuck out of here.  I’m beginning to get creeped out around this place.”

I nodded, but did not add anything to the conversation.  I was too busy enjoying the last draws of nicotine I assumed I was going to be getting in some time.  Maybe now was the time to quit.  I drew down on the cigarette, brushing off the stray crumbs of tobacco and saw a silver Honda Accord approaching our camp.  It slowed, and its occupants clearly took Elliot and I in, but I could not see what they looked like, all I saw was the carnival colored fire light reflected on the car.

The Honda eased into the “front yard” of the abandoned hooch next to our site and two men hopped out of the vehicle.  Their voices sounded rowdy and slightly intoxicated.  I could not hear what they were saying to each other, but they appeared to be in high spirits.  One of the men was stocky, about my height, with shaggy blonde hair and a thick brush of a mustache–it would have made Tom Selleck jealous.  The second man appeared about the same age, but much scrappier; his hair was dishwater brown mixed with dirty blonde and his profile was distinctly like that of a weasel.

“Hey there, neighbors,” called a voice from beyond the circle of fire light.  “How y’all doin’?  Care if my buddy and I join your fire?”

“Sure, said Elliot gesturing toward the fire, come on over.”

The two men ambled over, between the two of them they carried a red Coleman cooler with a white flip-top lid.  They set it down opposite Elliot and myself.

“My name’s Billy, and this here is Leon,” his eyes glittered a wild sapphire blue and his grin was wide and toothy undeneath the thick mustache.

“Hey there, I’m Elliot and this is Carmen.”

“Hi,” I said and smiled.  Billy’s smile widened and he looked me up and down appreciatively.  I felt a blush blowing over my skin.  I looked at Elliot and wished he would look at me the same way this strange man was.

“Y’all want anything to drink?”  Billy asked flipping open the top of the cooler.  He fished in it for a moment and came up with a Budweiser which he tossed to Leon.  Leon caught it, cracked it, slurped the foam off the top and sighed in contentment.

“That hit’s the god-damn spot,” Leon said as he took another pull off the beer and sat down on an over turned milk crate.

“Sure, I’ll take a beer,” I said and smiled.  Elliot looked at me and raised his eyebrows.

“You got any soda?”  He asked.

“Ah, yup, got some Sprite in here,” said Billy.  “But are you sure there sailor, nothing says Friday night like a Bud.”

Elliot paused and looked at me.  I shrugged, pulled back the tab and popped open the beer.  “What the fuck, yeah, I’ll have a Bud too,” Elliot said.

Billy chuckled, “there ya go big guy.”  He handed a beer off to Elliot.

I sipped from mine.  I did not really care for beer, but it was cold and it was not 7-Up.

“Where y’all from?”  Billy asked settling down on to the only empty milk crate left.  He stretched his feet toward the fire and sighed contentedly as he drank a long pull from the beer.

“Wisconsin,” said Elliot.

“Well, sheeeit, what the fuck you two babies doin’ down here,” asked Leon.

“We were looking for work with one of the cruise lines, but nothing’s been turning up,” replied Elliot.  He was very cautiously drinking the beer.

“Y’all too young to get work on them ships,” said Billy.

“Well, doesn’t matter, it turns out that we would have had to apply at the head offices which, for whatever reason, are located back in the Midwest,” Elliot said and drank a little deeper from the beer.  He wiped the back of his arm across his mouth and quietly belched.

“How old are you two?” Asked Billy.

“I’m nineteen,” I piped up.

“And a mighty fine nineteen at that,” Billy said and smiled across the fire at me.  I felt my blush coming back.

“You just turned nineteen,” said Elliot with some contempt.

“So, what of it, Elliot, you’re only seventeen.”  I said and tossed my hair and crossed and uncrossed my legs.

“Jaysus H. Christ on a raft!”  Leon exclaimed.  “You too are way too fuckin’ young to be down here, ain’t I just said that?”

“Damn straight,” said Billy.

“Well, we can take care of ourselves,” I said a little self-consciously.  I had finished my beer pretty quick, it was so cold it just sailed right down my throat, and was fiddling with the can.

“You want another beer?”  Billy asked me.

“Yo, pardner,” said Leon as he crumpled up his empty and tossed it toward the Lake.  “Don’t forget about me.”

“Sure, sure, here, Leon.” Billy chucked a beer to him and then turned back toward me.  “And for the lady?”

“Ok.”  I planned on drinking this one much slower.  The two men made me nervous and the beer was a riot in my empty stomach.  But the alcohol was fuzzing out the protestations of my gut and I felt sassy, it was something to be getting Billy’s attention.  He tossed me another and I deftly caught it.

“Nice catch!” Billy grinned at me then flicked his eyes to Elliot who was still nursing his beer.  “So you two boyfriend-girlfriend?”

I froze up.  The can of beer was half-way to my mouth and I almost dropped it.  I shot Elliot a look.

“Yeah, you could say that,” Elliot said after a brief pause.

“Hmmm, said Billy.  Y’all seem more like brother and sister to me, but that’s cool.  That’s cool.  You know, Elliot, you got one fine old lady sittin’ next too you, you better watch her close down here.  There’s lots of predators and the like who would be very interested in your woman.”

“Uh huh,” agreed Leon, “she’s a damn fine lookin’ girl.”

I was flattered by the compliments but uneasy about the amount of attention that was suddenly being paid to me, regardless that it was complimentary.

“I can handle myself,” I said.

“I’m sure you can, Baby Girl, I’m sure you can.”  Billy said.  His tongue poked out the corner of his mouth, flicking away a bit of foam couaght on the bottom edge of his mustache.  He smiled at me and winked.

“Hey kid, he said, looking over at Elliot, “you ready for another yet?”

Elliot tipped back the beer and I watched him drain the rest of it, a small trickle sloshed out the side of his mouth.

“Whoa, easy there, said Billy.  You don’t fuck with the King of Beers, don’t be wasting any of that sweet nectar down your chin now.”

“Sorry,” said Elliot and belched again, this time not doing anything to disguise it.

Leon cackled, “boy ain’t nobody ever show you how to drink a beer?”

“Nope,” he replied in a serious flat toned voice.  “I’ve never drank a beer before.”

I looked at him dumb founded.  I had smoked pot with Elliot and my ex-boyfriend John.  How could some one have smoked pot and not drank a beer?  I failed to remember that I had tried LSD prior to having my first drink.

“You two really are babies,” said Billy in wonderment.  “Y’all should really go on back home.  Leon, these kids should go on back home.  They ain’t got no idea what kinda shit can go down around here, do they?”

“Nope,” Leon nodded his head sagely.  “All sorts of crazy ass shit go down here.  You kids don’t need to see it, it ain’t good.”

Billy went to the cooler and got himself another beer.  He stood contemplating the night sky.  “I know I’m gonna hear a bell ring when you two get home, and you know, that means an angel’s got its wings.”

“We’re not going home.”  I said defiantly.

“Dang,” said Leon, shaking his head.  “You are one stubborn girl, ain’t choo?”

“I’m not stubborn, I just know that we are supposed to be here.”

Billy, cocked his head at me, “that so?”

I nodded my head affirmatively.

“Now, let me get this straight, you’re supposed to be here, this Lake, here?”  Billy shook his head, “girl are you crazy?”

“No.”  I said quietly and drank my beer.

“She stubborn hoss,” said Leon.

“Shut up,” I said to Leon.

“Ooooh, you hear that, she ain’t stubborn, Leon, she’s sasssy!” Billy said and slapped his knee, “I like a girl that’s sassy.”

I stopped talking, what was I doing?

“Well, well, so you got everything here you need?”  Billy asked.  “I mean, I’m lookin’ around and I ain’t seein’ no kitchen, or bathroom, y’all had a shower any time in the last week?”

“No,” said Elliot.

“A shower, that would be nice,” I agreed.  “But a shower is not worth going back to Wisconsin for.”

“Well, you don’t have to go to Wisconsin to take a shower, we got access to a shower, y’all want a shower, eh?”  Billy looked up at Leon and Leon shook his head no.

“Yes,” said Elliot, “awfully good, but what we really need is a job, got one of those too?”

“Boy’s got bigger balls than I thought, Leon,” Billy said with a dark chuckle.

“I mean, I won’t turn down a shower, a shower would be nice, but a job, well, I really need to get a job.”  Elliot said, blushing deeply.  I could not see the color of his face in the firelight, but I could hear the blush in his voice.

“I could take ‘em back over to Mike’s place,” said Billy glancing again to Leon.

“Nope, uh uh, dude, I ain’t gonna go back over to Homestead, we just got done with work, man, it’s time to party!”

“You party,” said Billy.

“What, without my running mate, man, no way,” said Leon.

“Listen here, Leon, these kids’ way in over their heads.  I’m gonna take ‘em over to Mike’s place, get them a shower and see if I can convince them to go home.”  Billy said.  Then he tipped back his beer, drained it and tossed the empty toward the Lake.

“Come on, follow me,” Billy said getting up and going to his car.

“You ain’t really gonna leave me here are you?”  Asked Leon.

“Dude, I’ll leave the beers with you, you go holler atcha girl ‘cross the way and we’ll be back before you probably will.” Billy said.

I had gotten up quickly and felt all the blood rush to my head, I was definitely intoxicated.  It had only taken two beers, but those two beers were on an empty stomach.  Elliot followed my lead and also swayed a bit, but steadied himself quickly.  He had only one under his belt, I figured he could drive, or maybe we would be riding with Billy.  Although that was not perhaps the best idea.

“How far away is it?”  Elliot asked.  “I don’t have that much gas in my car.”

“Just around the corner from here, maybe a half mile down the road,” said Billy.

“I think we can make that,” Elliot said, but he sounded uncertain.

“No, I’ll drive y’all over,  Let’s go.”  Billy said and rambled over to the silver Honda next to the little grey hooch.

Elliot looked at me, I nodded affirmatively.  “Hang on a sec, let me get my bath stuff.”  I said and dashed toward the tent.

“Just like a girl,” said Billy grinning.  “They got to have their ‘bath stuff’.  You need anything there Elliot?”

“Nah, just running water and maybe some soap” said Elliot.

“We got that covered.”  Said Billy and he got into the Honda and started it up.

I ran quickly back, waved to Leon and Elliot and I climbed into the car.  The drive to the house was quick, less than five minutes and we were there.  Billy lit up a cigarette and had just finished it when we got to the house.  It was in a gated community.  The car slowed down to five miles an hour to navigate around the many speed bumps that were scattered throughout the housing units.

“Where are we?” Asked Elliot.

“This here is Coral Gables, this is where my boss Mike lives, but he ain’t livin’ in his house right yet, he’s living in an RV trailer out in front of his place.  His house got pretty damn wasted by the hurricane.  Leon and I been helpin’ him get it back together.” Billy said as he angled the Honda into a parking space next to a very large maroon rv who’s generator was humming loudly.  It was running air conditioning and the flicker of a television set could be seen through the blinds in the middle of the trailer.

“Come on, let’s go,” said Billy and he popped out of the car and headed up the steps to the large pink stucco house in front of the trailer.  It was dark, but there was a lot of moon light.

I grabbed my bag and followed Billy and Elliot up the stairs and into the house which was dark and smelled of water damage.

“Careful now, there ain’t no light that works in here yet.”  Billy said and opened the front door.

Elliot and I followed him into the maw of the house.  Billy walked briskly a head of us and rapidly climbed a staircase to the right of the front door.  He led us up the stairs, then down a long hall way, and into a room that must have been the master bedroom.

“Shower’s in there,” said Billy pointing to a door.

“Lady’s first,” said Elliot.

“Thanks,” I said and walked into the bathroom.  Fortunately there was a window there that let in the moon light.  I could see well enough to maneuver my way around.  I quickly stripped down, self-conscious, even with the door shut and grateful for the dark.  I could hear Billy and Elliot talking as I got into the large bathtub and reached for the water faucet.

“Ah, fuck!f”  I said under my breath.  It was cold.  There was no running hot water here.  Of course there wasn’t, there was no electricity, how could there be.  I was briefly mad at Billy for allowing us to believe that there would be hot running water here.  But I was grateful for running water and I braced myself and got in.  My goose bumps made it difficult to shave, but I did none the less.  Who knew when I would get access to a shower again.

I shivered mightily and climbed out once I had finished my legs.  I did not have a towel, nor did Elliot.  I shook as much water off my body as I could.  I brushed down the sides of my arms and my legs to get off the excess water.  Sighing I climbed back into my dress which clung to me.  Well, there was an upside, at least I looked sexy in my dress.

I opened the door and walked out into the room.  Billy and Elliot were sitting on a couple of wood chairs next to the window on the far wall.

“Well, that was mighty quick for a girl,” said Billy with a big grin.

“There wasn’t any hot water,” I said.  I tried to keep my voice as neutral as possible.  I did not want to look this gift horse in the mouth, but Elliot should at least get a head’s up.

“Well, shoot!”  Billy said, “I ain’t even thought about that, sorry Baby Girl.”

“It’s alright,” I said demurely.  I stood standing in the middle of the room.

“Come here, sit down, Elliot go on and hop in there, at least it’s running water.”

“Anything is better than washing up in that Lake,” Elliot said and went into the bathroom, handing off the half-finished cigarette that Billy must have given him.

Billy did not say anything as I sat down on the vacant chair Elliot had just been using.  He shook another smoke out from his pack and lit it from the one he was finishing.  I enjoyed the last few drags from the one Elliot had given me, then I pulled my brush out from my bag and started going through my hair.  It would snarl up really badly if I did not brush out the tangles before it dried.  Billy watched me do this and smiled.

“You have some pretty hair.”

“Thanks,” I said.  I could feel the blush creeping back in and I lowered my head to avoid looking at him watching me.

The sound of water came on and off quickly from the bathroom and Elliot emerged less than five minutes later.

“Damn, you both are quick,” said Billy getting up.

“Well, I figure you don’t want to be kept waiting on us,” Elliot said.  His hair hung in wet heavy ringlets around his face and his glasses had a few droplets of water on them.  He pulled them off and rubbed the lenses down with his t-shirt hem.

“Ain’t no skin off my nose, like I said to Leon, I wanted to help you kids out.  A shower and maybe some convincin’ talk about gettin’ you back home,” Billy said standing up and flicking the cigarette butt in his hand out the back window.

“We can’t go home, we don’t have any money to leave the Lake,” I said quietly and put my brush back into my bag.

“Ah ha.  Kinda what I thought,” Billy said.  “But you should get home anyway, angel’s be needed their wings, and I know an angel’s gonna get a pair when you guys get back to Wisconsin.”

“We need jobs,” said Elliot.

“Well, I’ll see what I can do about that,” Billy said.  “But for right now ain’t nothin’ happenin’ but us gettin’ back to my cooler and Leon at the Lake.  It’s Friday and it’s my weekend.”

“Thank you for the shower, Billy, it was really nice to clean up.” I said and caught myself about to curtsey.

“Ain’t nothin’, a lady’s got to bathe, ain’t she?”

Billy turned and walked out to the hallway.  Elliot and I quickly followed.

Leon was not at the camp when we got back.  And it had started to rain.  The fire had sizzled out and the site was dark.  Billy turned off the ignition to the car and hopped out.  He went over to the Coleman cooler that was sitting next to the fire and hauled it back to the car.

“Well, alright, you two, I’m gonna go catch up with Leon, here’s some beers for the road.”  He handed us each one as we got out of the car.

“Thanks, thanks for the beers and thanks for the shower, it was awesome, I really appreciated it.”  I said and smiled.  My smile disappeared when I turned back to our tent, it had blown over in the wind and rain.

“Shit, Elliot, look,” I said pointing out to the collapsed fabric.

“Ah, fuck, I so don’t want to deal with that right now,” Elliot said.

“You two get your asses out of the rain and sleep in my hooch,” Billy said pointing to the shack to the left of the Honda.

“We can’t do that,” I said.

“Baby girl, you can and you will.”  Bill said, “Now scoot in there before you get drenched.

“Thanks Billy,” Elliot said and ran toward the shelter.  I followed close on his heels, the icy beer can slipping through my fingers.  I dropped it and hastily bent full from the waist to pick it up.

Billy whistled softly under his breath, “night, night, Baby Girl, I’ll be sure to be seein’ you soon.”  He got in the Honda, revved it up and drove off.

“He say something to you,” Elliot asked as I ducked through the door.

“No, ah, good night, that’s all.”  I said and took a look around at the hooch.  It certainly was not the Hilton, but it was dry.  There was a bed platform made up of plywood raised up on milk crates and wood slats covered with some egg foam and a dirty looking plaid sleeping bag.

“Well, I guess this is it, nice to have had a shower, even if it was cold,” I said and cracked the beer open.  It foamed heavily and I licked it off the sides of the can.  Elliot cracked his and drank it down rather quickly.

“Whoa, hey there, Mister-I-Ain’t -Never-Had-A-Beer-Before, slow down, you’re gonna get the burps real bad from doing that.”

And on cue, Elliot belched.  “Ugh, I don’t feel so good.”  He stood suddenly and swerved toward the door.  He stumbled out into the rain and I could hear him vomiting alongside the hooch.   He came back in five minutes later, and it was hard to tell with the light, but I would say he looked pretty green.

“Here, I said, patting the dusty sleeping bag I was sitting on, lie down.”

Elliot sank down heavily and rolled up against the wall of the hooch and promptly passed out.  I finished my beer and placed the can on the floor of the shack.  The rain beat down and the wind picked up.  I had barely drifted off to sleep when I realized that the roof was beginning to leak.

“Ah fuck, really?”  I sat up and as I did the roof dropped in on us, drenching us completely.

“Shit!”  I hollered and stood up looking at the hole.  There was no way I could fix that.  I did not even know where to begin.  “Elliot, wake up, c’mon, we got to get out of here, we can sleep in the Datsun.”

Elliot groggily turned toward me and swung his legs over the side of the bed.  He stood up, swayed, grabbed my shoulder and steadied himself against me.  We staggered over to the Datsun in the down pour and climbed in.  Elliot curled up against the side of the driver’s door and fell right back into sleep.  I reached over and lowered down the seat so he was lying flat.  Then I grabbed a coat from the back seat and wrapped it around my body.  It had not seen any action since we had left northren Illinois.

I fell asleep to the wind shaking the Datsun and woke to the sun pouring through the windows.  The car windows were all steamed up from the heat we had generated through the night and the warmth of the tropical sun beaming through the windshield.  My head hurt, my body ached, my stomach was sour and empty.

“Oh my god, why do I feel so bad,” Elliot asked slowly sitting forward.

“Hang over, welcome to being a man,” I said and opened up the door to climb out of the steam box and into the bright unreality of another day on the Lake.

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