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#1183698 01/14/23 02:23 AM
Joined: Dec 2006
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The adventure begins! I started writing this in January 2023 on a Storyline time frame starting May 13, 2023!
Could it come true?
It will change as I continue to edit, but the story is complete and perhaps a satisfying read as of Winter Earth Day, January 22, 2023. Love is. It just is.

"Baby, Get To Me", copyright January 22, 2023, by Gary E. Andrews.

1. Another Saturday Night...And I Ain't Got Nobody. May 13, 2023.
2. Working Pains...Six Dollar Ice Cream. Saturday, May 20, 2023.
3. The Price Of Being Pretty...Showdown At Grimy Gulch. Saturday, June 3, 2023.
4. House Guest..."Come On, Baby!" The Elder. Saturday, June 10, 2023.
5. Mrs. No. The Barricades. Saturday June 17, 2023.
6. Ill-At-Ease...The Exploding Phone.
7. And Your Little Dog Too! Sunday, June 18, 2023.
8. Midnight Slammer...Rounder.
9. Church...SBJ Revisited.
10. Ain't It Gonna Be Wonderful When We All Get To Heaven...Biscuits And Crazy.
11. Biscuits And Crazy...Parent Two-Fer Blue Plate Special Free-For-All.
12. Table Manners...Table Matters.
13. Buy-In's Remorse. Monday, June 19, 2023.
14. Getting Over Poison Ivy...True Confessions.
15. Hidden Talents, Has Our Ileace. Saturday, June 24, 2023.

"BABY, GET TO ME", copyright, January 14, 2023, by Gary E. Andrews


"Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody..."

I can't remember anything else in that song. It's an old one. It keeps popping into my head, coming out of my mouth as I walk along. It keeps popping; I keep singing.

It's warm tonight. I didn't need this trench coat. The National Weather Service weatherman out of Wilmington said it might be cool, and rain late. Ohio spring in 2023 is a weather smorgasbord! I figure I can cover my guitar case with the raincoat if it does. I could get wet but it's not far between the open mic and my house. That's why I'm heading home. It's only 8:30.

He said, "Rain late." Eight-thirty on a Saturday night, and all I want to do is go home, eat some soup, read a book, go to bed. I don't have television. I do have a DVD player, single unit with a small screen, and a bunch of dollar discs I bought, used, pig in a poke. I didn't know what most of the movies were, who the actors are, just bought them on spec, speculation that they might fill a couple hours. Dollar discs. I don't have a smart-aleck phone. Nobody calls me. I don't call nobody. I have a land-line. It's 2023 and I have a land-line. My internet comes through that line. So that's who's walking down the street tonight.

The open mic was fun enough. Some talented kids, older folks; others, not so. I couldn't understand the words to their songs. I don't know if it was them not enunciating, or me losing my hearing. It doesn't matter. Did I understand the cover songs because I already knew them? Or had the producers and singers already worked out the enunciation and the cover singers sang them just like the record? I don't know. People applauded like they thought they were good.

I like to think I got more than the polite applause some of them got, a more spontaneous clapping. I get a little...wired when I play. Maybe I'm reading into it something that's not there. A couple people took the initiative to tell me they liked my songs. I think about dressing better if I go again. I just wore a pullover shirt and my cat hat tonight. Old blue jeans. Old blues jeans. I'm gonna put on my raincoat. I'm tired of carrying it draped over my arm. I lean my guitar case on my groin, accomplish my task, walk on. "Another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody..."

I worried about bringing a guitar out in the weather, possible rain. I brought this old Yamaha I...inherited.

The sky is clear. If not for the streetlights I could see more stars. No moon. It was out late last night. Not up yet tonight. I'll check it out from the back yard before I go to bed. I like the moon. It's...singular, remote and perfect. I like to see it, miss it when I don't. Some overcast weather this winter, and into spring blocked it out. But when it came back it was so rewarding I suddenly appreciated the times I didn't get to see it. Funny. Ya like what you can't have.

A car, fancy-smancy car, silver, full-sized, four-door, but sporty, pulls in at the parking area by the street, in front of the strip mall stores down the block ahead. They're all closed. Only the street lights cast that other-worldly dim yellow night light on everything, wooded area across the street, dark shadows, and the light from the convenience store over there. I see the litter, the sidewalk, parking curbs, parking lot. It doesn't look as dirty in the evening orange twilight and streetlights as it did when I walked down through here earlier. I keep walking.

A girl gets out of the driver's seat, sits up on the fender. She looks small, young. 'Daddy's car,' I think. She puts her hands on the fender beside her, pulls herself up to sit on the hood, spins around, cross-legged, practically on the windshield. I don't think Daddy would like that!

I can't see much detail about her yet. Blue jeans, black top, off the shoulders, bare belly, short dark hair. A kid that young, a car that sporty. Maybe she's not young. Maybe she's some guy's wife, bored and out looking for something to do. I can be something to do. I'm a dirty old man. To escape the guilt of imagining adultery I go back to 'Daddy's car' in my imagining.

I'm getting closer. She's looking my way, looking away, another look, and away. I keep walking. Close enough now to speak, so I do.

"Good evening." I keep walking. She's pretty! She's young.

"Play me a song," she says. Quiet voice. Nice voice. Unemotional...voice. 'Okay if you do; okay if you don't,' voice.

"Why, darlin', every song I play is for you," I say, setting my case down and snapping it open.

"Don't be rude," she says, quietly. I'm a little insulted but figure I'll still play. I raise up, take off my cat hat, hang it on the head of the guitar, slip the strap around my neck, put my hat back on. I usually get my hat back on crooked, feel like a jackass when I see myself in the mirror behind the bar after standing up in front of all those people to play. It looked okay after I played tonight. I wonder if I had it on right while I was playing. I'm careful about putting it on now, try to center it on my forehead. She's pretty!

"I'm sorry," I apologize. "I didn't mean for that to be rude."

"What did you mean it to be?" she challenges. She sounds bitchy. I figure she's just not happy. Lots of young people aren't. I wasn't sometimes when I was young. It's got less to do with me than her. I'm searching for an answer.

"I meant it to be clever," I say, "and flirtatious. That's how old men flirt."

She doesn't smile. Looks away. I'm gonna play anyway, little witch.
"You don't sound like you're from around here," she interrupts.

"I was born here," I tell her, "lived here all my life. But I just got out of the Air Force last April. Four years away from here, ya probably start to talk differently." I watch her face. She looks away. I figure she's done talking. I play a song. She doesn't talk while I'm playing.

"I never heard that song before. Did you write that?" she asks.

"Yes. I'm not much into cover songs," I tell her. "Now I've got so many of my own, I seldom play anybody else's. Just at the house for my own pleasure. I never did really, play other people's songs, I mean. I had a repertoire of cover songs, but when I play out with other people listening, I figure I'm wasting my time playing other peoples' songs when I should be promoting my own."

"I've just wrote a song," she says. "It's not finished. I'm writing it." I think about how she said, 'I've wrote...', decide not to play Grammar Police tonight.

"Do you play guitar?" I ask.

"A little. Just enough to...", she searches for a word, finds it, "accompany my words," she explains.

"Me too," I say. I ain't lyin'! She says,

"No, you've been playing a long time. You're good at it."

"Well, thank you. Yeah, I started when I was about fourteen, about your age," I tease.

"I'm not fourteen!" she says, a little more defensively than she needs to be. Kids don't get jokes any more.

"I know," I tell her. "That's me flirting again."

"You're not very good at it," she says.

"Playing guitar?" I ask.

"Flirting," she says. "Have you been drinking?"

"Yes, ma'am," I confess. "I had a margarita at 6:30, and another one at 7:15. I never drink more than two of anything, mixed drink, or beer. I don't drink very often at all. Alcohol is dope, just like any other dope." She interrupts or I'd give her my whole spiel about how alcohol devalues everything we value about being human.

"How do you know what time you drank them?" she challenges. She seems to doubt the sincerity of everything I say, picks up on details, challenges. I like her. At least she's listening.

"Because I pay attention," I tell her. "If I have to drive I make sure I know when I drank what, and have some idea of how much time I need to spend before I drive. I'll leave a bar and go for a walk to make sure I'm kind of recovered before I drive. If you drink, knowing you have to drive, you're inviting whatever trouble comes after it. I don't like trouble. Got enough trouble in my life. Don't we all? I knew I wanted to enjoy a margarita tonight so I walked down to Cubby's Hole." I point back down in that direction. It's off on a side street. "They have an open mic. Bunch of people played tonight. They do Karaoke after the live stuff. I didn't stay for that."

"I don't like drunk people," she says.

"Me neither, baby," I say.

She says,"Don't call me baby," kind of quiet like she's not really talking to me. Strike two! I play another song.

"Do you wanna play your song?" I ask her, lifting my hat, starting to take the guitar off.

"No," she says. "It's not finished."

"I'd like to hear it," I tell her. "Put me on your list to hear your song..." She looks sideways at me. "...when it's done," I add.

No response. I say, "I don't like to play a song for anyone else until it's done. Seems like the song tends to freeze up there and never get completed if I play it for other people before it's done."

Another car pulls in one space down beyond hers. It's a couple. They get out, lean on the front of the hood. I start playing another song. The couple moves around to the left front fender, watch me closely. They're not talking to each other while I play. When I finish the girl does a handclap, kind of miming it rather than actual applause. I take hold of the bill of my hat with my right index finger and thumb, give a little bow, mouth, "Thank you!" She mouths, "You're welcome." The girl on the fancy-smancy hood sees me, looks in time to see the other girl.

"How long have you been playing?" Miss No asks, turning back to me. I've named her; Miss No. 'Don't be rude.' 'Don't drink'. 'Don't call me baby.' Yeah, that's all 'No.'

"About five minutes," I joke, or try to. She looks like she doesn't like the joke.

"Since I was fourteen," I tell her, remembering I'd already told her. Too late; attitudinal tone,

"I mean how many years!"

"Uh, that makes it fourteen," I tell her. "Half a lifetime." I don't tell her I just turned twenty-eight Wednesday, May 10th. And I suppress the urge to say, 'A whole lifetime in your case!' She didn't like the joke about her being fourteen the first time. I pat myself on the proverbial back for not trying it a second time. I may grow up after all!

There's silence. I play another song. The couple get in their car toward the end. He waits until the song's over to start it up. He waves, yells, "Thanks, man!" His girlfriend waves.

I yell, "Open mic at Cubby's Hole!" jerking my thumb back down the street. "Saturdays, six-thirty!"

They both wave, drive away, down to the exit, cross the street to the convenience mart. I watch them get out and go in. Fancy smancy car girl's quiet.

Here's the next song I play;

"Baby, Get To Me" copyright January 5, 2023 by Gary E. Andrews
G 32OOO3

(Verse I)
Come on, baby!
(Chorus Refrain)
Get To Me!
Don't, keep me waiting, any long-er!
Come on, baby! Let it be!
I'm waiting here, waiting to hear your song.
Come on baby! Baby, Get To Me!

(Verse II)
Come on, baby! Get To Me!
Girl I'm not, getting any, younger!
Come on, baby! Can't you see?
I'm wanting you, wanting you, so hurry!
Come on baby! Baby, Get to Me!

Get me by my hand! Get me by myself!
Come on, baby! Baby, Get To Me!

(Verse III)
Come on, baby! Get To Me.
The stars are yours! Come, give me the moon!
Come on, baby! Get To Me.
You're the one, who laid the spell I'm un-der.
Come on, baby! Baby, Get To Me.

Come on, baby! Get To Me.
Come on, baby! Baby, Get To Me.

"Did you just make that up?" she says.

"No, not just," I tell her. "I wrote it back in January." I know because I just looked at the Lyric on paper earlier this evening. Despite the repetition it's sometimes hard to remember. It's...poetry, a bit...obscure. It's not typical in Rhyme-Scheme. I think the repetition makes it work.

"It's a...a second song I wrote with that same, 'Come on, baby' line, same chords. The first one's got a little more tempo but..."

I don't know what I was going to say. "I usually play them together in a medley and..."

A loud car with a carload of loud boys, men, loud music comes under the trees up the hill, roars louder as it comes down. We can hear the raucous chaos of their voices over the music and the motor, at a distance. Passing here the driver blows the horn. They yell stuff. I don't know what. They keep going. Down toward Twelfth Street I hear a can hit the pavement. I turn, look down that way, hope they keep going. They do. I turn back to her.

She's so pretty. She's wearing jeans, and this elastic-y bunched black top that comes down almost to her waist, is off her shoulders, sleevetops in line with the straight neckline across her chest, down past her elbows. Two half-inch wide straps go from little silver rings up and over her shoulder, close to her neck. It is open in a short v down her chest. Very becoming. Tasteful. Down to a certain level is cleavage; beyond that is...titties. She just shows cleavage. Tasteful.

I feel a drop of rain! The stars are gone! I see little spots hitting the neck of my guitar. I turn my left palm up, feel more.

"Starting to rain," I say. "What kind of car is that?" I ask. I don't see any emblems.

"Why do you wanna know?" she says.

Well, that's about enough of this, Miss Attitudinal No. I take off my hat, take the strap from around my neck, put my hat on and bend to put my guitar back in the case. Snapping it closed, I stand up, say,

"No reason. I thought maybe you'd take me for a ride in it some time."

I'm not sincere in that, just the first words that pop in my head and fall out of my mouth, crash on the space between me and her, shatter like winter ice on the littered concrete.

"I'm busy," she says. "I stay busy. I've got a whole list of things to do."

"Well, put me on your list," I say. I turn to walk away. "Nice talkin' to ya!" I say, feeling like it wasn't nice talking to her.

"Is that you flirting again?" she calls after me.

I turn, push my hat back on my head, keep walking, backward, stumble, catch myself before I fall, say, "Only if it's working!," turn and keep walking.

She doesn't say anything. I'm across the exit and down to the corner of the last exit from the parking lot when I hear the car start up. I look across Offnere Street at the convenience mart. I see the car moving, out of the corner of my eye. It's quiet. Internal combustion. For some reason I thought it might be electric. Nice car. Daddy must make good money. I didn't hear it when she pulled in. She must be going the other way. I don't hear it any more. I keep walking. I don't look back. My apartment's near, up the hill, in the wooded area. There are houses and apartment buildings among the trees, real comfortable neighborhood. I smell the trees. Dogwoods, redbuds are in bloom, but fading now. The air's cooler, still warm. Nice breeze. It's been cold and hot this spring; it's warming up. The trees are getting full of leaves. My car's in the lot. It's good to get home, isn't it?

Opening the door I step in, set the guitar in the corner behind the door, by the stairwell, pull my keys out of the lock, close the door and double lock it, doorknob, deadbolt.

I look in the refrigerator. There's my homemade vegetable soup. I need to eat that last bowl or two before it gets away from me. Cold fried chicken. I keep chocolate in the freezer door. Nothing appeals. I'm tired. I pick up my guitar and head upstairs for bed.

It was hot in Cubby's Hole. I worked up a sweat walking there, waiting there, playing there, walking back. They let me play three songs. I told the Master of Ceremonies some of them were short, hoping to get to play a couple more. I was the last act. He said it was a 'workingman's open mic', for working people who needed to get home so they could get up tomorrow. It was a nice little workout. I liked playing for her, better, out on the street, fresh air. She let me play more than they did.
I get in the shower, feel like a brand new man, crawl into bed. The brand new man finds sleep is easy to get to.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 05/01/23 01:29 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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2: WORKING PAINS; Six Dollar Ice-Cream. May 20, 2023

Work's a pain all week. Problems pop up several times a day. Instead of just solving the problem the supervisors and some co-workers get emotional, angry, yell words that are not usual for polite company, especially in a business setting. After it happened several times I saw it as their pattern of coping with problems, predictable, consistent, daily almost. I have to make eye contact with customers sitting in the waiting room, sometimes at my desk, and other workers' desks.

Then I have to solve the problem. Eliminate the middle man. Don't bother with getting mad. Just fix the damned problem! I've learned not to wait for them to fix it, not to 'take the problem to them'. Their fixes only fix it as far as they're concerned as supervisors; not for the people who have to do the work. I haven't worked here long but I see other people starting to keep problems to themselves, fix it themselves. They consult with me, each other.

By Wednesday I'm wondering why the hell some of these people work here. By Thursday I'm wondering why some of them still work here. By Friday I'm wondering why I work here.

Walking to Cubby's Hole I sing, "Saturday night and I ain't got nobody,", spontaneously. "I got some money 'cause I just got paid."
Hey! I remembered another line! I think. Can't remember anything else.

The open mic is full. I get a slot for 7:50. It's not even 6:30. I don't want to sit here for two hours. But I walked down again. I wonder if I should go get my car, drive around, hang out at the house, do anything but sit here for hours to play three songs. Maybe my neighbor, Patreaca, pah-tree-cah, the barmaid, would keep my guitar. No. I don't want to bother her. And I already sweated a bit walking down here, trying to get here for an early signup time. Did I put on deodorant? I can't remember. I got out of the shower and got in a hurry, thinking I'd get here early, do my bit and leave without listening to the other acts. Everyone else had the same idea.

I like the barmaid. She's my neighbor. I saw her when I came in through the other section, the long, antique bar, and now she's running meals to tables in this section, where they hold the open mic. She's too busy to smile back here. She's just helping the waitress, goes back to the bar after serving. I see her make a couple runs like that, helping the waitress. The food looks good, smells good.

I go out in the other section and sit at the bar. She's slim and pretty, dark haired. She has a two-year old daughter, looks at her picture in a locket every chance she gets. I asked about it. Yeah, that's how old men flirt.

I order a chicken pecan salad. When it comes it is huge! I pig out, trying to get my money's worth. Eat every piece of everything in the bowl, think about ordering a pizza! Just kidding. Six-forty-five. Damn! I move down the bar closer to the television. There's a tractor-trailer rig hanging off an overpass. The blonde telling the story looks like she's really enjoying telling it. I don't have television at home. "Fifty-seven channels, and nothin' on!" I find myself paying attention to commercials now. I'm watching and I don't know what they're selling. I don't need any of whatever it is, but I sit, engaged, letting them pump light into my eyes, concepts into my brain. I realize my mouth is hanging open. I hope I wasn't drooling! LOL! They make food gigantic on television, and look so good. "We have the meats!" I went there a month ago and asked for three of the steak-burgers they advertised on the marquee. I thought I'd take my neighbor and her daughter one.

"I don't think we have three of them!" the guy said over the intercom. "Wait a minute. Let me check!"

I laugh, say, "We have the meats!" He came back and only had one.

"I'll take it," I said. A couple weeks later they had a fish something on the marquees at those restaurants. Roast beef is their specialty. I went into the drive through...it was a different restaurant...and ordered the fish thing.

"We're out," the kid said. 'We don't have the meats.' I ordered their classic roast beef. They had it. ' I got home and there wasn't much meat on the sandwich. 'We have the meats!'

"Put it on the sandwich!" I said out loud. I ate some fried chicken, cold.

I look out the window. The music store across the street is closing, turning off the lights, locking the door. People are coming out, customers I think, and coming across the street. They go out of sight, in the door to the other section I figure. I thought about going over earlier and buying guitar picks. I don't need guitar picks. I keep buying them, just to make sure I've got plenty. I use the nylon .88 millimeter. After I play with it a while it gets thinner, perfect, on the contact point, stays thick in the handling end. I usually drop one in the sound hole, by accident, but leave it there, so I'll always have one with the guitar, 'cause I'm always going out without a gig bag with spares, strings, picks, stuff. I didn't maintain the system, got the pick out when I forgot to bring one, and didn't put it back. Next time I wanted to play I had to just fake it with my fingers. I did okay. The musicians in the crowd probably didn't think so. I just kept going when I flubbed the strum. I just play enough to let me sing.

Some girl is singing a pretty good song. I can't understand the words, but she's hitting the notes. The melody is good, and she sings the notes well; just doesn't pronounce the words well. Good structure, reporting back to a hook that works melodically, if I only knew what the words were. She kind of hangs onto notes, slurs from one note to the next, obscuring what the words are. Her voice drops off in volume in the openings of some lines, the middle of others, at the ends of lines. I miss those words too. When she stops I realize I stopped paying attention at some point, was thinking about those horse's asses at work.

Seven-seventeen. I'm so tired. Maybe I'll just erase my name from the board, head on home. I'm too tired to do that. I sit there, wilting on my stool.

Finally I get to play. There's not much oomph in my performance. I run through my three songs. I think it's polite applause tonight, not the spontaneous feel I got last week. Oh well. Sometimes you get the bear; sometimes the bear gets you.

The sound guy says, "Play some more." I finish out that last couple minutes with a short song. The karaoke girl comes up and starts setting up.

I pack up, head home. When I get close to the strip mall, I see her. She's sitting in her car. I cross the street, walk by the wooded area. When I get across from where she's parked I can't see her for the streetlight glare on the windshield. I thought I'd wave but, not seeing her, I don't. I go into the convenience store. Yellow light, bright colors, big blocks of chocolate and vanilla fudge. Beer. I don't want anything from here. I pick up a pint of ice cream. Damn! Six dollars! The clerk asks if I have their card. I call them Mark-Of-The-Beast-Cards. If you have it you get the discount. $4.95. If you don't, and I don't, $6.66. I buy it anyway. I know I won't buy it again.

I come out and she's not over there. Stores are dark. Parking lot's empty. Broken glass glitters on the ground. I go on up the hill, cross back over the street and go home.

May 27, 2023: "Another Saturday night and..." I don't feel like going to Cubby's. What's my goal? Hit it rich? Make friends? Get the girl? I'm in bed by 10:00. I'm dreaming. It's a winter day, snow blowing, hard wind. Then...the wind stops, the snowflakes fall, big snowflakes. I know this place! It's South Korea. Big snowflakes crash on tall dry grass, make a sound. I stand, marvel at the quiet. It's...okay. Everything's...okay...going to be...okay.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 05/01/23 01:38 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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3. THE PRICE OF BEING PRETTY; Showdown At Grimy Gulch.

The first Saturday in June, 2023, June 3rd, is open mic night. I go, get an early slot, don't hang out to hear other people play. I'm just not in the mood.

I'm coming down the street. She's not there. Just about the time disappointment registers, she rolls by, pulls in, turns back toward me, parks about where she did before. She gets out, stands by the driver's side door, arms crossed. I keep walking. I don't want another six dollar sixty-six cent devil's pint of ice cream so I don't cross the street. I figure, 'Howdy', tip of the hat, keep on truckin'.

As I get close I'm ready to execute that plan, but she says, loud enough for me to hear at a distance,

"You crossed the street to avoid me!"

I did, yeah. But I ain't gonna tell you that.

I say,

"What? I didn't...Oh. You mean last week? No. I just wanted to get some ice cream to take home. They've got..." I was going to list some ice creams but she's not having it.

"That hurt my feelings," she says. If it wasn't for her tone I'd apologize. I apologize anyway.

"Oh. I'm...sorry. I didn't intend...I just wanted some ice cream."

"No you didn't." She looks at a passing car. "Play me a song," she says, without looking at me. Her face is pretty, even when she's sullen. She pisses me off!

I'm emotionally drained. Work. The dissatisfaction with the open mic. I forgot a line in a song that is strategic to the whole story. I mumbled through the melody and probably nobody was paying attention anyway. But I knew.

Rather than play words with Witchy Woman, Miss No, I just set my case down, snap it open, off my hat, put the strap around my neck, hat back on. I don't care if it's crooked. I play the song I forgot the line in, a song called, "Of Young Louise". It's a ballad of two old people, one an old woman who has the Singer-Character come and take care of her yard, and her telling everyone that, "There is no truth to the rumor going around, that a lover took the heart Of Young Louise. A lover took the heart Of Young Louise." I get it right this time.

She doesn't say she likes it. She doesn't say she doesn't. I really don't give her time to say anything. I play another song. She listens, puts her butt up on the fender, lifts with her arms, takes her lotus position on the hood. I play another song. I don't wait to talk between songs. I'm sure she would if I didn't keep starting another song. She's not watching me. I get to look at her. She has a nice blouse on, a white, shiny fabric thing, no collar, sleeves down past her elbows. She looks very nice in it.

Finally, she slips off the hood, says, "I have to go."

Gotta get Daddy's car home.

"Okay," I say. "Good seeing you."

'Nice not talkin' to ya', I think. Being a man, a species who never leaves well enough alone, I ask, "Am I coming up on that list any?"

"What... list?" she asks, maybe remembers, says, "I...didn't put you on my list."

"Well don't let my banana get brown," I say.

"Don't be nasty!" she says, kind of serious and sharp.

"That ain't nasty!" I argue. "It's a metaphor for letting time elapse between one event and another. In time a banana turns brown. It might still be good on the inside, but the outside turns brown. If you leave it too long..."

I look at her.

"Is this the world you live in?" I ask, "Where everything's an innuendo? Every comment has hidden meaning? A lewd comment? I don't live in that world," I tell her. "Yeah, I can see you probably do. It's part of the price of being pretty. Men do say lewd things to you, don't they? They're artless, like they think it's going to work one of these times and you'll go off with them somewhere. Well, I might think something like that...of course I do... you're a pretty little girl...but I wouldn't say it. The banana thing is just a metaphor for time passing. You don't ever have to take me for a ride in your fancy-smancy car! You don't have to worry about...the...demise of my bananas. You're busy. You don't have to put me on your list let alone get to me on it!"

She grins. She doesn't want to grin. She hides it, turns away, opens the car door. She steps behind the door and turns back to me.
"Where would you want to go...if I took you for a ride?"

I can't find words to say. I want to say, 'I don't want to go anywhere in your fancy-smancy car Miss No!'

"Anywhere," I say, "as long as it's with you." That's how old men flirt. I can't help but grin at her. I regret it, imagine myself, from her point of view, a typical leering horse's ass!

She doesn't say anything. I see a grin start as she turns away. She gets in, starts it up, puts it in Reverse, backs out. She stops to shift into Drive. I'm putting my guitar away. I'm not looking at her when she yells,

"That's how old men flirt!"

By the time I stand up she's rolling slowly down to the exit, waits for traffic to clear. I think she grins at me from there, a little flash of teeth, a 'bye-bye' drum-wiggle of fingers on the door. She pulls out and goes up the hill, fast, shifting gears, four-on-the-floor! I didn't hear her do that last time when she left the other way! I watch the taillights all the way up the hill, until they disappear, under the trees, over the hill. I listen, think I hear the car a little longer.

"Bitch could'a give me a ride home!" I say out loud. I regret saying that too.

Well, I had a better gig here than at Cubby's Hole! Again! Good set! I'm refreshed! And she was less of a b...witch. I didn't let her be one. She said I hurt her feelings. That was interesting. Like it mattered to her that I crossed the street to avoid her. I start fantasizing about what might have happened that time if she wanted to see me enough to be hurt that I crossed the street. I stifle that. Fantasies can confuse reality. I wonder how old she is. Nah! I couldn't get a girl like that in a million years!

I walk down Wednesday night and get another six dollar pint of ice cream. I look at the strip mall parking lot. Stores closed. Lot empty. I walk back up, put the ice cream in the freezer.

I lay in bed thinking about that grin. I even think about the wiggle of her fingers, think that was a 'wave', intended to communicate 'See ya!', something you'd say to a friend you want to see again. I want to see her again.

I'm looking forward to Saturday night.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/28/23 11:32 AM.

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4. HOUSEGUEST: Come On, Baby! The Elder. Saturday, June 10, 2023.

I'm at Cubby's Hole at 6:30. I could have a 7:00 slot. I go for 7:50. Let me close the show. I'll enjoy the walk home about that time. I do; close the show, enjoy the walk.

She's there! I keep walking. Seems like a long way. She's getting out, leaning on the door. Finally I'm there.

"Hey!" I say.

"Hey!" she says.

I set my case on its narrow end, lean lightly on the butt end. She smiles! Damn! I get a smile from Miss No!

"How are you tonight?" I ask.

"Fine," she says.

"I agree," I say, grinning to myself, not looking at her, as I lay my guitar down, unsnap the case. Before I can take it out to play, the noisy car with the noisy boys pulls in, stops over by the storefronts, behind her fancy-smancy car. They all bail out, all four doors left standing open. Love an old Chevrolet! A glass bottle rattles on the concrete! Three are talking and laughing, grab-assing, on the other side of the car. Three are on this side, two leaning on the car, front fender, back fender. Driver's just standing there in between the open doors. Their drunken leer is ugly. I don't care for drunk people.

"Play us a song man!" one guy says.

"Can't!" I say. "it's fixin' to rain. I hold out my left hand, palm up, like I'm feeling for raindrops. I look up. There are stars in the sky.

I snap my case shut, pick it up.

"I'm gonna go before the rain starts," I tell her. "You... should go too. I...don't want to leave you here, with..." I don't finish the sentence.

She pulls her key fob from her waistband, pops the trunk, walks back there.

"Put your guitar back here," she commands. I do. Kind of in a daze, maybe I"m dreaming. I see her purse in the trunk. There's some gear there. I don't get a good look at what it is. Zippered D-bags, like luggage. Maybe she's going on a trip. Maybe workout clothes. She looks like maybe she goes to a gym. She closes it.

"Get in," she says, beeps the fob to unlock the passenger door. I go to that door, open it, and start to get in. I thought she was getting in, but she's walking over to the boys, the men. I stand back up. She's talking to the driver. I start to go over with her but she turns back toward her car. They all turn and get in the car. There's some loud chatter, and it seems, one by one, they quiet down. The driver turns the radio down. I can barely hear it. They leave, quietly, driving slow like respectable citizens. What the hell? Miss No got skills to soothe the drunken beast!

She gets in. I get in. Nice interior, bright blue dash lights. Very clean. It smells good. She backs out, pushes in the clutch, shifts, goes to the exit, out onto the street, up the hill. I start to tell her to turn right to the parking lot at my place, but she's already got her turn signal on.

"Go down to the end," I tell her. There's an empty space next to my...that's my gray Malibu." Two spaces are assigned to my apartment. Sometimes visitors will take this one, usually after the person they're visiting knocks on my door and okays it. Back in," I tell her, so your headlights don't shine on everyone's apartment. All the cars are backed in. She stops, backs in, parks. I figure she's just going to turn around and go. She turns it off, pops the trunk, gets out. I get out. She locks the doors.

"Can I come in?" she asks, without looking at me.

"I...I...," I stutter. "I guess. You're...older than fourteen aren't you?"

She laughs out loud! It's a good laugh!

It almost startles me! I first perceive it as Miss No with a loud beginning with mean-assed, defensive words to come! It's not! She's laughing. She regains her composure.

"I'm twenty-five," she says.

"No way!" I say. "No way! I'm gonna need to see some I.D.!" I'm sincere. I guessed she could be anywhere from a low of sixteen, driver's license, to maybe nineteen, twenty tops.

She's laughing again, not so burst-out boisterously, but laughing or...a little, cute little, three syllable chuckle. I'm waiting for I. D. I don't even know her name. I really wish she'd show me I. D. She doesn't.

"Uh...right here, 137," I say and lead the way up the walk. "I thought you were just a young kid," I say. "You're a..." She cuts me off,says,

"If you say 'old lady' there might be violence!" Now I'm the one busting out laughing. I look at her. She's not grinning, eyes on the door.

I tell her, "I was going to say...a... mature young woman, capable of making her own decisions!" I was going to say, 'old lady'.

We go in. I'm embarrassed. The place looks like a man's apartment, junk, old man's apartment, newspapers, ugly stuff next to cutsie knick-knacks, books everywhere. Experience tells me no one is coming so I don't worry about what it looks like. Then, someone comes. I made a fresh batch of vegetable-beef soup today. That smell might drown out anything else. The vacuum cleaner's sitting there in the middle of the floor. She notices, says,

"I like how you have the vacuum cleaner out, like you might jump in and start cleaning at any minute!"

"Don't be rude," I tell her. "Remember, I'm just a man. We can't help it."

"Are you hungry?" I ask.

"A little," she says. "I ate at home before I came out."

"When was that?" I ask.

"About five-thirty," she tells me.

"I made soup today," I tell her. She follows me into the kitchen. I did most of the dishes earlier. It looks halfway clean in here. Junk, boxes of books though. Box on the table.

She stands next to me, looks in when I take the lid off the crock pot.

"I want some potatoes," she says. I reach for a bowl. I wash my hands at the sink, dry with a paper towel. I start selecting potatoes. It's still hot. I turned it off when I went to Cubby's. "I want some carrots," she says, looking in. I'm fishing out potatoes with the spoon. When I have a layer in the bottom of the bowl I fish out carrots, make another layer. She says, "Is that cabbage?" I tell her it is. She nods. I add a layer. There's celery and onions in with the cabbage. I've stopped being selective and just spooning in whatever gets in the spoon when I put it in the pot.

"There is celery, carrots and cabbage, the three C's," I advise her, "potatoes, onions. I cooked the beef roast overnight, fished out the beef, shredded it, put it in the fridge, chilled the stock in the fridge, skimmed off the animal fat, used the beef broth and tomato juice for a stock, put the beef back in, and cooked it again with the vegetables today."

I don't tell her about the steak rub and crushed red peppers and minced garlic.

"I can fish out some of the beef and you can eat it like a sandwich," I say. "I have dark rye bread."

She says, "Okay, Chef!" I decide she's a smart-ass, but a pretty one.

I lay a single slice of bread on a plate, fish out some beef to make a half sandwich. She takes it, sits at the table. I wonder when the last time I wiped off the table was. I set the box of books off in the other chair. I only have three. Number four went the way of the buffalo when the electrician used it to stand on.

"This better not be gross!" she says, bites into the sandwich. I laugh! I hope it's not gross. Sometimes a batch goes awry! One time I took my first bite and it tasted like plastic. A plastic fork had fallen in at some point and cooked. I had to throw away the crock pot! How could that happen, you might ask. I have no idea.

"I want some of the soup too, the tomato soup," she says, talking with her mouth full. I get a coffee mug out of the drainer and dip out some, pour it over just enough to cover the rest of the ingredients I'd selectively put in her bowl. I wouldn't expect her to take it any other way. Miss High Maintenance No. Get her a spoon, look it over to make sure it's clean. I'm not...used to having a house-guest. I give the contents one stir with the spoon, set the bowl on the table. I open the fridge, look in. "I have milk, two percent. I have almond milk. I have ginger ale. I have water."

"Is that wine any good?" she asks. There's a little chardonnay in a bottle. I had a glass with Petreace Thursday night when she got home from Cubby's and I was still up writing a song.

"Yeah, it should still be good," I tell her. "Is that what you want?"

"I want some water, and that wine," she says.

"You can't drink and drive," I tell her. "It's not much, as long as you don't leave too soon. Uh...if...you eat all that, and wait an hour after you take the last drink," you might be okay."

"Okay," she says. "Are you going to eat?" she asks.

"Oh yeah!" I tell her. "I love my fresh-made soup!"

I use the coffee mug to half fill my bowl, not selecting in or out anything. I usually eat a full bowl. I put a tablespoon it it and set it on the table. I pour a mug of milk for myself. I give her a bottle of water. I sit down and she begins to eat the soup. No comment. She's eating. I eat. She 'mmms' at another bite of the beef on rye.

I tell her, "The crock pot makes the beef tender and tasty. Ya gotta watch the vegetables. They can overcook, get mushy. I like them a little al dente, still almost crunchy. About a tablespoon of steak rub when I cook the vegetables, a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic, about the size of a hen's egg, and it is...monster! Monster good! I keep it made all the time. I salt and pepper it lightly, the beef and the vegetables when they're cooking. A little chemistry."

We finish about the same time.

"I ate it all," she says. "Can I have my wine now?"

I get the bottle out, pour it into a coffee mug. It fills it about two thirds of the way. I look at my watch, say, "Eight-thirty-nine." She gets up, puts her bowl and plate in the sink, runs water in the bowl. She looks around at stuff in the kitchen, goes out to the back door by the laundry room, comes back. I follow her to the living room. She makes a circuit around the room, looking at stuff, stumbles on a box of books, sips from the mug, goes to the couch and sits at the left end, my right. I turn on the lamp at her left elbow. I can see dust on the table.

"This place is like a museum," she says.

"Yeah, or a flea market," I tell her.

"Turn on your laptop," she commands.

"Okay," I say, move to the chair, turn it on. It boots up.

"Get up," she commands. I laugh, say, quietly as I get up and pass close to her,

"You're not the boss of me!"

Clickety click, she's searching my browser history, opening documents. She's a whiz! I go to the kitchen, run a little water, a little dish soap, wash up our bowls and spoons, the rest of the dishes I didn't do earlier today. I come back.

"Who's Petreace?" she asks, pronouncing it like it's spelled, 'puh-treece'. I teach her 'puh-tree-kah'. There was an icon on the desktop, labeled Petreace, a video of Petreace's daughter, singing.

I tell her who they are, "My neighbor. Her daughter. Two years old and she can carry a tune. Petreace is a barmaid at Cubby's. She heard me playing out back at the picnic table and told me about the open mic night there."

"I want to come to an open mic night," she says. She scoots the chair back, lays her forearms on the edge of the desk, lays her right temple on them. Oh man! If she only knew how pretty she looks to me right now! Her arms are lean, muscular, her shoulders brown, lovely, the nape of her neck...Oh man!

"Will you play your song?" I ask.

"No," she says. "I want to hear you play there. And the others. What do people wear?"

"You've seen me coming home," I tell her.

"What do women wear?" she says, just a tincture of exasperation in her tone.

"Some wear dresses, suits," I explain. "I think they come from work, meet people there, eat supper, hear a few acts, leave. Sign-up is at six-thirty and they usually start playing right away. They only go to eight o'clock."

"What do you want from me?"

I wasn't expecting that question. How could I. I don't have an answer. But...it strikes me as a legitimate one. I step to her, lean on my left hand on the desktop, my right hand on top of my left. I lean closer. I see her left eye come open.

"I want you to stop doubting me," I say, quietly. "I want you to trust that everything I say is sincere. Unless, of course, it's a joke. I want you to laugh at my jokes; not punch me in the face. I want you to know that if I say something about a banana getting brown it's not something lewd. I want you...to know me well enough to never think I would be rude or lewd. I want... everything...a man wants...from a woman...and probably more, because I'm unique." I'm being dangerous. I try to be funny, "I wanna dance with somebody!" I sing. I stand up, sing, "I wanna feel the heat with somebody!" I go off into the kitchen, come back. She turns her head so her forehead rests on her arms. I think about moving down, closing my lips down the rim of her left ear, just grazing it. I'm not brave enough to try it. I walk over and look out the front door.

"And...I wanna take a ride in your fancy-smancy car!"

I pick up my guitar from the corner by the door, lay it on the coffee table, take it out, tune it, play my original "Come On, Baby" song, the one I wrote before I wrote the one I played for her before.

"COME ON, BABY" copyright December 13, 2022, by Gary E. Andrews
D XXO232
G 32OOO3
A XO222O
Bm XO4432

Come On, Baby! Enough's enough! You know, what I want to kno-o-ow!
Come On, Baby! Start it up! Take me, where I wanna go-o-o!

(Verse I)
You're not a little girl, any more!
You get to come and go,
in and out your door!

Come On, Baby! Enough's enough! You know, what I want to kno-o-ow!
Come On, Baby! Start it up! Take me, where I wanna go-o-o!

(Verse II)
Show me how you shift four-on-the-floor!
Drive me to the mountain!
Take me to the sea!

Come On, Baby! Enough's enough! You know, what I want to kno-o-ow!
Come On, Baby! Start it up! Take me, where I wanna go-o-o!

You- need to think, a little longer!
You- need to know, where we are----!

Come On, Baby! Enough's enough! You know, what I want to kno-o-ow!
Come On, Baby! Start it up! Take me, where I wanna go-o-o!

Come on, Baby!

Now, I have since decided the line about, "You know, what I want to know" is about carnal knowledge, knowledge of sexual activities. The Singer-Character's not asking the Love-Interest Character to 'tell' him what she knows about the rainfall in Brazil. He's implying she can 'show' him what she knows about sex. I doubt anyone else would 'get' that but...that's what I'm thinking. I belatedly hope she doesn't 'get' that because she's really being nice and I don't want to to regress to Miss Mean No.

I wait for some reaction. She's asleep! I'm sure she's asleep. I put the guitar in the case on the coffee table, go to her. I lay my hand on her back, between her shoulder blades. She stirs a little, says, "Can I sleep here," and quickly adds, "on your couch?"

"Sure, baby," I say. "I'll...get you a blanket.

"She murmurs, "Don' call me baby." She says, "I have to go to church in the morning. Otherwise my mother calls the exorcist." I laugh. She doesn't.

I go upstairs, get my green fuzzy-wuzzy blanket off my bed, get her a t-shirt and some sweatpants in case she wants them to sleep in, come back down. She's still where she was at the computer desk. I put the blanket on the couch, over the seat, up over the back, so if she gets cold she can pull it down. I lift the near end of the coffee table, turn it out away from the couch.

"Here's a t-shirt and some sweats to sleep in," I tell her, "if you want them.? She doesn't move. I sit, strum some instrumental pieces. It's been ten minutes and she hasn't stirred.

I put my guitar away again, stand, go to her, run my left arm under her legs at the knee, put my right arm around her back. She comes up easily enough, but starts to squirm a little, lays back on my right arm. As I turn to the couch she says,
"Don't pick me up! I have Daddy issues!"

Oh my god! I laugh a little, set her on the couch. She lays down, pulls a couch pillow under her head, rolls onto her right side, away from me. I shut down the laptop, turn off the lamp, decide I'll leave the lamp over the sink on in the kitchen. I get a bottle of water out of the fridge, set it on the coffee table. Her cup of wine is there. I see it's about one-third full now. I take it to the kitchen, dump it, rinse the cup.

Upstairs in the bathroom I leave a new toothbrush, still in the package, on the sink. I wipe down the sink, wipe my toothpaste spatters off the mirror. I sanitize the toilet, scrub the inside, sanitize the seat. I take a quick 'rinso' shower. Feels funny to be naked with someone in the house. I put on my sweatpants on in the bathroom, so I don't walk out and run into her in the hall in just my underwear.

I wake during the night, hear her going downstairs. I had locked my bedroom door. I thought she might come up and get me during the night, sexually, or stab me in the throat with my own butcher knife. I decided sex would merit a knock on the door, demonstrate friendly intent, and I'd risk opening it, frisk her for butcher knives and let nature take its course. I think I hear guitar music. I pull my other guitar over on top of me, strum a few chords. I go back to sleep.

In the morning she's gone. The fuzzy blanket is folded. The sweatpants, t-shirt, folded on top of it. I don't know if she wore them or not. The guitar case is closed, not snapped. The bottle of water is half empty.

I get to go back to bed. I go to check Facebook later and see a Post-It note on the keyboard; "Open mic, Cubby's, next Saturday." Smiley face!.

On Messenger Petreace asks, "Who was that little girl I saw leaving your apartment this morning?" She adds, in a separate Messenger post, "You old Dawg!"

I reply, "Robber. Stole my fried chicken, a stick of butter, and all my rugs!"

Petreace gives me an "LOLOL". And I get to go back to bed again.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 05/01/23 11:24 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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5. MRS. NO; The Barricades.

Saturday night, June 17, 2023. Cubby's Hole! I get there early! The kids got there earlier. My slot is 7:15. Oh well. I'll treat...whatever in the hell her name is... to dinner, and play, and we can go. Unless...she wants to stay. Whatever. I really don't care. I fed her that line, "Anywhere, as long as it's with you." It was just... a line; just how old men flirt. But...now...I'm getting kind of...hungry for her. I like the way she looks. I like her in spite of her nasty attitude. It's...not real, really. She's...just a typical...damaged...soul, like all the rest of us. None of us trusts anyone, and rightly so, in this freaked out...Human Phenomenon. Politics and terrorist wars, Coronavirus Pandemic, and...life in the twenty-first century. If you haven't gotten a little crazy you haven't been paying attention. I like her. She's certainly made my life more...interesting. I've looked forward to seeing her all week.

I made the mistake of telling Patreaca. She's all excited, watching me, watching for 'that little girl' she saw leaving that morning.

Holy crap! There she is! She just pulled in across the street in front of the music store. She's getting out; phone to the hip pocket, look left, right, wait for traffic to pass. I step out the door on the restaurant section. She sees me, grins, hides it, can't, grins again, comes across the lanes and in between the parked cars and onto the sidewalk and...two kids yell something. She looks down the sidewalk to her right and her face registers confusion. I look to my left. The kids run up to her! They hug her. She hugs them.

"Where's your Mom?" she says.

The little boy and girl, nine or ten years old say, together,

"Gramma brought us!"

Now her face is really registering confusion, distress, something. She seems about to swoon as she turns her head enough to roll her eyes to look into mine.

"My... mother's... here," she says in a stuttering moan, repeats, "My...mother's here!"

Now my face must be registering something. She reaches with her left hand, touches my shirtfront. I'm bringing up my right hand to take hers, but she drops it to the kids again. I see a car door standing open, a woman locking the door and reclosing it. Up the sidewalk comes a woman, dark hair, cut like...whatever in the hell her name is's...nice dress, nice smile, nice shoes, nice purse. Her mother looks like her.

Before she can get near enough to hear it I hear...my friend...say, "Mom, what are you doing here?" Girls and their Moms; there's a psychology dynamic. Like I say, the question is asked, not so Mom can hear it, but rhetorically, of the night sky!

The kids have taken her two hands, spread her arms to left and right, ready for a hug.

"Gramma brought us to hear the music!" the little boy says. The little girl has crossed in front of...her...and is looking at the bar section, that recessed door on the right of the building.

"It looks like a bar!" she says. "It is! Gramma said it was a beer joint!" Beer joint? I haven't heard a bar called a beer joint in a while.

The older woman is here now and steps into the hug-arms, but they don't hug her back so much as just touch her.

"Mom, what are you doing here?" she asks.

"We came to hear the music," the older woman says, brightly, as if she's unaware of her daughter's distress. She can't be.

"Is this the singer you've told me so much about!" she says brightly, reaching to shake my hand. I take off my cat hat.

"Yes, ma'am," I say, gripping her hand gently. I'm assuming I am said singer. Patreaca is in the window of the bar, behind her, grinning at me.

"Well we came to hear you and to have supper," the woman says. "I asked people and they said the food was good here! Let's go in!"

With that she heads to the bar door. Patreaca scrambles away, out of the window.

"Uh, this entrance is to the tables, the...restaurant," I say.

My friend looks fourteen years old. She's not making eye contact with me. She looks a little in shock! The kids lead the way, pull her along, in. I hold the door for...her mother. All the tables toward the front are occupied. One right here by the door isn't. They start sitting down. Four people; four chairs. I stand. Soon I figure I can slip off into the crowd, maybe over to the bar, maybe hide in the men's room. Does this place have a back door?

"Oh, honey!" Mother says, "It's cold in here. Will you run and get my jacket out of the car?" She offers the car keys, busies herself with her chair, setting her purse on the table, invisible cookie crumbs on her dress front, as if to say, "Of course you will!". She doesn't look at...her daughter. Her daughter looks at me, mouths 'I didn't know'. I shrug, nod in affirmation. Surely this will be okay. She takes the keys, goes out.

"Well sit and tell me about this place!" her Mother says. The kids are looking at me with grins, expectation. This all makes perfect sense to them. I sit.

"So you're the legendary Gary E. Andrews," she says. She knows my name. It's stenciled on my guitar case. It's standing way at the other end of the room. How? Legendary? I don't know if she intended it as a ridicule or just a reference to the fact that her daughter has apparently told her 'so much about' me. Her daughter must have told her. "What kind of music do you play? It's not all in the key of G is it?" She grins. I'm starting to not like her. She sounds like Miss No's Mother, Mrs. No. I smile.

"I have many songs in the key of G," I tell her, "but I sing in the key I play in." I make eye contact with each of the children. "Some people only play in the key they sing in," I gesture, to emphasize 'play' and 'sing', "so all their songs are in that same key," I explain, to the children. "But I find I can get comfortable singing in several keys. I don't know why people can't. It's common that people can't, or don't."

"Gramma plays piano!" the little girl says, nodding at Gramma. Gramma grins.

"How did you meet my daughter?" Gramma asks. I smile at the kids.

"I was...walking home from here and," I start.

"Don't you have a car?" she asks. Mrs. No.

"I do, but I live near here and..." I don't want to tell her I like to have a margarita...or two... "so I walk down so I don't have to drive back. I like to walk. Don't you?" I say looking at the kids. Good kids! They take over the conversation, talking, asking questions. The ruse only works for a while.

"So you were walking and my daughter was...here, somewhere?" Gramma's back.

"Yes," I say. "She pulled into a parking lot down the street and when I passed by we...spoke to each other. She asked me to play her a song." I look at the kids, try one more time, "...and song-writers never miss a chance to show off!" I say. The kids laugh. The kids take over. A moment's respite.

Oh! Uh...her daughter...'Whats'er'name' is back. She's out of breath. She has a tan jean-jacket, nicely color-coordinated for the dress.

"Just put it on the back of my chair, Ileace," she says. Ileace? I'm spelling it how it sounds to me. 'Elise?' 'Ill-leace'. 'Il-lease' maybe. 'Il-eese'. I see Patreace coming to my right. I stand up, let...Ill-at-ease sit down. She looks exasperated, flops a bit into the chair. It tips a bit. I have hold of it with my left hand, catch her right shoulder with my right hand. She stays upright! Petreace has a pad, sets menus in front of everybody. She's ready to take the order, grins at me. Mrs. No picks up the menu. She's not ready to order.

"I'll give you a minute," Patreace says, looks at me, says, "Beer?" I think maybe I shouldn't drink but, I think twice.

"Yes," I say. Petreace grins, really big, like she's getting a kick out of whatever she can see in my face. I try to get control of my face. I step around a bit behind the little girl, where I can see Ill-at-ease's face. I smile. She grimaces. I think it's a smile, under duress. Petreace gets drink orders, touches me on the back as she turns to leave.

"How have you been?" I ask, don't wait for an answer, say, "Have you finished that song you were writing." The kids take over, 'You're writing a song? What's it about? Are you gonna play it tonight?' My children! I know I can count you when I need to.

"No," is all Ileace says. She glances up at me, goes on, "I...got a very...rhythmic first verse, but that makes it hard...to...write a second verse with the same...rhythm and rhyme."

"I've done that," I say, genuinely enthusiastic! "Finding another set of words to match both the rhythm and the rhyme-scheme...and the melody of Verse I in Verse II. It's a challenge. You can do it! Keep at it. It'll come to you! Then comes the Third Verse Curse!" I say, ominously, eyes on the kids. They take the bait.

"What's the Third Verse Curse?" they ask in unison. Their pretty little faces look like...Ileace.

"That's when you're writing a song and you get a story started in Verse I, then you think of a clever place for the story to go in a Verse II, and you have a Chorus in there and its the main idea of the story, but then..." I raise my hands into claws...dramatically say, "You...can't...think...of a Third Verse to end the story with. It makes you crazy. So, keep an eye on Ileace for the next few days. If she starts to twitch..." I twitch my left eye, "and jerk," I kind of jerk my shoulders, "she might need to be locked in the garage until the dogcatcher comes! Or just until she thinks of a good Third Verse." The boy laughs; the girl doesn't. She turns to Ileace, says,

"I wanna hear your song!"

"I wanna hear it too!" the little boy says.

"It's a nice hobby," Mrs. No says, "but you end up playing in...places like this."

I look around. This place has a little class. There's nice art on the walls. The floor's clean. It smells good. It's not hoity toity fabulous but it's nice.

"Yes, I've played in some places that aren't THIS nice," I say.

Petreace is back with their drinks and my beer. I look at the label. It's not the brand I usually drink. I thought she must remember, the way she asked, 'Beer?'

Instead it's a brand we talked about one night, called, "Sweet Baby Jesus", I kid you not! Petreace is smiling beautifully and taking the order from Mrs. No, who has lots of questions, wants to know if she can get it this way, doesn't want it that way, wants it just the way the menu says. She orders for the children. Ileace orders a small salad. Petreace turns to go away, murmurs out the side of her mouth,

"Run! Run away!" I laugh, clear my throat to cover. The children are quizzing Ileace about how long it took her to learn to play. She says she's still learning. They ask more questions; Are my hands big enough? Does it hurt to push the strings down? Their friend's dad said it did. Does she like Glen and the Glendella's new song? Mrs. No is reading the story of Cubby's Hole, on the back of the menu. Ileace is lightening up, conversing with the children. The beauty of her smile is back.

Cookie's on the ball tonight. Churning out the meals. The waitress is back, delivering meals to tables. Petreace comes from behind the bar...I've noticed...to help bring the food out of the kitchen, take orders if she needs help. It's kind of nice when everybody at a table gets their food all at the same time. At about 7:05 they come to... our table. I stand out of the way, and while the waitress and Petreace are serving I touch Ileace on the back, throw my right thumb back over my shoulder, turn and walk down through the room. I go through the doorway to the bar. I had hung a shirt and my white hat, not a cowboy hat, just a white straw hat with a brim, by the cooler against the wall at the end of the bar. In the men's room, a good thing to do before you go on stage, I change into that hat and shirt, a bright, what the girl at the store called 'tangerine' orange, short sleeves, a collar. I'll only be up there about ten minutes, but still...I take off my 'cat' hat, put on my good guys white hat. I decided to give her a show tonight. I didn't know I was going to get one too. Mrs. No. She's...Ileace is kind of...her mother's daughter! Bitchy, witchy! I hope I'm wrong.

I come out just in time to hear the act before my slot finish. I walk on as he walks off, plug in and address the mic.
"Welcome!" I say, "To Cubby's Hole Open Mic Night!" like I'm an emcee, because nobody else did. I open with "I Can't Leave You Alone".
Applause is spontaneous! Genuine. Universal. I fake a grin, let them see my teeth from the back of the room. I look toward the back. Ileace has turned her chair to face my way. She's applauding, talking to the kids. They're applauding. Mrs. No is putting her hands together, taking them apart. Her face looks like she's being polite. Her face looks like she's annoyed at having to be polite. Her face...its saving grace...she looks like her beautiful daughter.

I play "Lovely Devil". The attention is genuine. The applause goes on a bit. I like it! Ileace has stood up, is walking down the aisle toward me. Every head turns to look at her as she comes past them. I can see the movement without taking my eyes off her. That black top she wore the night I met her; those eyes. She steps up to me says, "Are you gonna play, "Get To Me" for me?"

Her voice is on the mic, not loud, but, the crowd's quiet, and it comes across the sound system. I grin. I say,

"Darlin'," not 'baby', "every song I play is for you." That comes across the mic too, even though I'm not talking directly into it. She grins, turns, walks back. Every head, every man, every woman is watching. I'm watching. I think I'd better start before everyone notices I'm watching. Hell! They ain't watchin' me. Oh! Sound guy is!

"Come on, baby, Get To Me.."

I finish. Applause. The sound guy signals, 'One more.'

I play the second 'Come on, baby' song. Applause. I got a little into it, not paying attention to anything but my song. I go to tip my hat to get off the stage, and notice...Ileace...and the kids...are gone. Mrs. No is still at the table. Restroom? Maybe. Coming back? I pack my guitar. I go out through the bar. Petreace is grinning.

"Good show, boss!" she yells. I grin back, stop abruptly, lift my Sweet Baby Jesus bottle, look at the label, look at her. She hides her grin behind the fingertips of both hands. I go down the bar, set the bottle on the bar, go out the door and put my guitar in the trunk of my Malibu. Ileace's car is gone. I go back in the bar side, karaoke kicks off over in the restaurant side, get my beer, come out on the sidewalk and over to the door into the restaurant side. I smile at Mrs. No, turn the chair the little boy sat in toward the far corner of the table, the farthest from Mrs. No I can get.

"Well, that was interesting," she says. "You just make up those songs yourself?"

"Yes, I...", I start, but she folds her hands, her fingers pointing like sharpened trees in a frontier barricade fence, pointing both directions. "Are you having sex with my daughter?"

It's a stroke of luck for the two of us I'm able to swallow my Sweet Baby Jesus instead of spraying it across the table, up the windows to the ceiling! I sit up straight.

"No, Ma'am," I say, "I just met your daughter and..."

"Did she sleep at your house last Saturday?" she asks.

"Yes," I hesitate, "Ma'am. She..."

"But you didn't have sex?" she goes on. "Why would you sleep together and not have sex?"

"She asked if she could sleep... on my couch," I tell her. "She seemed very sleepy. She'd had a couple drinks of wine and..."

"YOU GAVE MY DAUGHTER WINE?" she belts, loud enough to where I don't want to look around to see who heard it. Some guy singing karaoke is rocking "Wooly Bully".

"She asked...I gave her about this much wine," I show my thumb and forefinger, "in a coffee mug. She fell asleep and I poured out about this much," showing again. "But she was sleepy. She asked if she could sleep on my couch. I said she could. She's...she's...not fourteen is she?"

"You thought she was fourteen?" she shouts!

A little louder; I don't think Cookie heard you back in the kitchen.

"I just teased her about being fourteen," I explain. "She looks very young. I...I see the resemblance between the two of you."

"No you don't!" she argues. "She's adopted!"

Oh. Point Mrs. No.

"Well it must be...the way you wear your hair," I stumble. "You look a lot alike."

She doesn't seem to have the next volley ready. I take a sip of Sweet Baby Jesus. Sweet Baby Jesus!

"Do you intend to have sex with my daughter?" she asks, sharpened barricade hands folded anew, fingers wriggling dangerously. What if she springs across the table like a cat, claws at my eyes? I show up to work on Monday with four claw marks above each eyebrow and down my cheeks! We're on the eleven o'clock news! Everyone wants to hear the story!

"That is a..." I start to say, 'very personal question', but the words that come out of my mouth are, "very distinct possibility." She's wriggling in her chair. "I'm a man so naturally I find a pretty girl desirable. She's a...How old is she?"

"She's twenty-five. She just had a birthday, May 10th," Mrs. No says.

Now you're effin' with me lady! May 10th is MY birthday! I look around. Is this a setup? Yeah, I don't know why anyone would go to the trouble of matching up our birthdays but... the damned CIA...Those guys...Ya never know!

"I teased her about being fourteen. She's so cute, she looks very young. She told me she was twenty-five. May 10th?" I ramble.

"How old are you?" Mrs. No, back on the attack.

"I just turned twenty-eight," I tell her. I don't share the news. May 10th? Coincidence? Or there is a God and He's decided, 'This will be funny! Hey everybody! Watch Gary's face!" Point, God.

"She's been through a lot," Mother No says. "She got tangled up with that boy in high school. She was a sophomore when he was a senior. He graduated, went to Athens to college. She graduated and was up there with him for two years. He graduated college, dumped her, and she's been..."

'Miss No ever since!' I think to offer; don't. This is TMI; Too Much Information. Mom's a blabbermouth!

"...troubled ever since," She goes on. She seems to soften for a moment. I feel genuinely sorry for her distress.

"She seems like a rational young woman, mature..." I start, but don't repeat what I told...Ileace, 'capable of making her own decisions.' Obviously Mrs. No is making some decisions for her daughter. This is really uncomfortable. Tipping my hat, saying 'G'night!' and walking out comes on the Pulldown menu. The only other option is to say, 'Sweet Baby Jesus!' and turn the bottle up, guzzle it, and order two more! I find a third option. Sit there. Unable to see my own face.

Ileace! She's back! Coming in the door. 'Save me! Put bandaids on my bleeding eyes! I think your Mother broke a nail off in my forehead!'

She flops down in the chair the little girl sat in, opposite her Mother, gets up and scoots it closer to me, or maybe just squares it up to the table. Sweet Baby Jesus!

"What have you two been talking about?" she demands. Her mother smiles benignly. Oh woman! Thy name is Mrs. No.

"We were talking about the origins of Cubby's Hole," I tell her. This place...or...that place over there, was a bar, Clancy's Bar. Along came Prohibition and they couldn't make a living selling Demon Alcohol. The Clancy Brothers had been 'rounders', whatever that is, in their Mother's opinion, and their Mother told them no woman would ever put up with a rounder so they needed to learn to cook. Well, when Prohibition started they began selling food, cooking it in the house up the street, serving it in the bar. "There might have been some alcohol in the back or down the alley in the basement at their house. 'People must eat!' they said. 'People will drink! And they want entertainment!'"

That's all a quote from the back of the menu, more or less. I remember from reading it a couple times in the last few weeks.

"Business got so good, they bought this place next door," I gesture at the wall, ceiling, "and knocked a hole, that hole back there," I point, "and got to be the place to eat in Portsmouth. People came in from the country and ate here. People came across the river from Kentucky to eat here. Prohibition ended. They started selling Demon Alcohol again, but they kept cooking good food. They still use the Clancy Brothers' Mother's recipes to this day."

Ileace is blank-faced, listening attentively. I turn the menu to face her. She looks at it, reads a couple lines. I smile at Mrs. No. She smiles. She looks like Ileace.

"And both the Clancy Brothers married and their Mother was very proud of the women they married, and taught them to cook. Clancy's stayed in the family until January 3, 2003 when the next generation didn't want to keep it. It sold and the new owners insisted the recipes come with the restaurant. There was some haggling, almost a battle in court, and then a settlement, and the rest is... hysterical."

She laughs. I love it when she laughs. Mrs. No is smiling, with her mouth, not her eyes.

Petreace is here with the bill.

"I'll take that, Petreace. These folks were my guests tonight," I tell her.

Mrs. No protests, "You don't have to do that, fumbles with her purse.

"You can leave a tip," I tell her. "That was great service, Petreace!" I say. "Cookie's on the ball tonight!"

"Yes! He is!," she says. I hold up my beer label again. She grins too beautifully to hold a grudge. I have to grin.

I look at the bill. Forty-seven dollars and seven cents! Holy crap! I poker-face it, lay the bill back in the tray, pull out my wallet, thumb out three twenties and a ten. I lift the tray to Petreace, say, "Keep the change," smile at her, ask, "Would you take this?", hand her my Sweet Baby Jesus bottle, "I have to go for a walk before I'll be fit to drive."

Petreace goes. I stand. The...ladies...stand. We go out the door. I pick up Mrs. No's jacket off the chair, take it out, overtake them out on the sidewalk, over by the bar door, drop it on her shoulders.

"Would you all like to go for a walk with me?" I ask.

"In this neighborhood? At this hour? I think not!" Mrs. No says, indignantly. "And you shouldn't either." That last was directed at Ileace.

"I drank a beer. I'm not ready to drive," I explain. "I go for a walk." I only drank about half that beer.

"I'll walk Mom to her car," Ileace says. "I'll be back."

"Okay." I'm smiling like a Cheshire cat. I wait, pretend not to watch. I start to say, 'It was nice meeting you' but she's not waiting to hear it, so I don't. It wasn't. There's a lot of talking down on the sidewalk by her car. Lots of arms, gesturing, some pointing, a couple turns away from each other, turns back. I stop watching.

I hear several, "Mother please!" exclamations.

Finally Mrs. No turns, steps off the curb. The curb's about eight inches deep along here. I noticed before. Ileace kind of jumps like to catch her Mother, like she was falling. I don't know. Mrs. No straightens up, looks my way. Ileace is coming. I hear, "A condom won't protect your heart!" I think that's what I heard. That sounds like something she would say.

Her Mother gets in the car. Backs up, pulls forward, backs up, pulls forward, backs up, pulls out on the street. Ileace is beside me by the time her Mother goes by. A little Evil Eye and a dismissive wave, I think I see. I raise my arm, grin. I hope the devil's ready for her when she gets home.

"Well, thank you for coming," I say. "And for wearing that top. You were the prettiest girl in the room tonight."

"Damn!" she says. "I'm starting to like the way you flirt."

"No flirt, Ma'am," I say. "Just stating a fact. Everybody saw you, looked at you, agreed with me; prettiest girl in the room. We voted while you were gone."

She takes my left arm, says, "Let's walk." We walk. We don''t talk. I may never stop walking as long as she holds onto my arm. We end up walking up the hill and around Greenlawn Cemetery. It's quiet. Spring blossoms sweeten the air. There are lots of blooming trees in the cemetery. Traffic has gotten to where it's going. Occasionally one goes by. It's quiet. There are two people walking a dog ahead of us. They turn left on Kinney's Lane. We turn right, go to Baird Avenue. It's dark. We stumble on rough sidewalk, in the dark, first me, then her, then me again. We walk more carefully. We cross 17th Street to the sidewalk, down to Grant Street, and head back to Cubby's. I think I'm 'well' enough to drive. I only had half of one Sweet Baby Jesus.

"Would you like to come to my place?" I ask her.

"I would," she said. "Mom's probably calling the exorcist right now."

"Soooo," I start, "does that mean you're coming or...you would...but Mom's calling the exorcist?"

"I'm coming," she says, still hanging onto my arm. "Do you want to ride in my fancy-smancy car?"

"I drove down tonight," I tell her, gesture toward my Malibu.

"Oh!" she says, "I didn't even see it. I walk her across the street, watch her get in, close the door until she can take it in hand and close it herself.

"See ya there," I say. "Oh, if you'll back in your headlights won't shine in peoples' apartments. It's a little neighborhood courtesy."

She drives off. I cross back. Petreace is at the bar door. She comes out.

"That's a hell of a tip!" she says. "Do you want some of that back? Your Mother-In-Law...I mean...the old woman left 15%." She laughs.

"No!" I tell her. "I want you to start saving to buy your daughter a guitar!"

She laughs, goes in. I get in and drive into the night, visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 05/01/23 11:59 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 5,728
Likes: 43
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6. ILL-AT-EASE; The Case Of The Exploding Phone. June 17, 2023, continued.

She's there, in my spare parking place, head in. She's up by my door, phone in face; that pretty face. Those blue jeaned legs. I pull up, back in, so as not to shine lights on the apartments, hoping she notices the example. Hoping she comes again, and remembers. I park, pop my trunk, get my guitar. I walk up, expecting Ileace. Miss No turns to face me.

"My Mother's blowing up my phone!" she says. "She's saying all kinds of...things...about you!" She stops, looks at her phone. "What did you really talk about? That Clancy Brothers story wasn't it. She says that shows you're an easy liar. She says you found it easy to tell that lie, quickly, and..." she seems to be reading off her phone, "...and in depth. She says..."

My song-writer's mind is distracted, "Easy Liar", copyright June 17th, 2023 by the late Gary E. Andrews. These witches are going to be the death of me!

"She says that wasn't what you talked about. She says you lied to me!" she says, looking at her phone. I set my guitar case down, pull my keys out, try to reach around her to the storm door handle. She doesn't move out of the way. I step back. Her face is angry in the light from her phone. I don't want to look at it. I look off up the front doors of the other apartments. I wonder if anyone has their windows open. She's a little loud...like...her Mother. The wind rustles the trees. I see light from the moon, on clouds moving slowly overhead, disappearing northwest over the apartment roof. I want to go to the back yard. I pick up my guitar, start to tell her that, and that there's a picnic table out there to sit on. I'm fantasizing about a moonlight scene that she ain't willing to play in. She's getting more agitated.

She's reading. The little sound-signal on her phone is pinging every fifteen or twenty seconds. I turn away, waiting for her to...finish there and...get to me. I look at our cars, look through the trees, back down the hill to the strip mall, the light from the convenience mart. I wish we were down there, her sitting on the hood, me standing in the broken glass and cigarette butts and growing weeds, me playing, her not saying anything.

"Did you..." she says... I turn sideways, look back at her. There's a tear on her right cheek. I lust to kiss it away, imagine the taste, wet on my lips. "Did you tell my Mother...you intend to have sex with me?"

"Turn that damned thing off for a minute!" I say, a bit regretful for my tone. I walk out, lean on the trunk of my car, lay my guitar case at my feet by the parking curb. She's still standing by the door, still lit by her phone screen. Then, she's coming, still reading, still lit. She stops about ten feet away. Her face goes dark. She looks off into the woods at the end of the apartments. I look there. It's dark, but for moonlight on the tree tops. I imagine the moonrise, close to the horizon, huge. She comes closer, still about five feet away. I feel that distance. I stand there, leaning on my car, and don't know what to say. Where do you start with a story like this?

"When I finished playing, I looked and you were gone," I tell her. "I thought, 'Maybe she took the kids to the bathroom. I took my guitar outside, came back in and sat at her table. Your car was gone. I thought the exorcist men would come then and harvest my kidneys. Instead your Mother started without them. Your Mother asked me, 'Do you make up those songs?' I told her I do." She interrupts,

"She says that's why you're an 'easy liar', 'cause you make stuff up, make up stories. She says your songs are all about me."

"Yeah, I'm an easy liar. I like making up stories for songs. And if the conversation isn't very interesting, and it usually isn't, I...easily...tell a joke, make it sound like something that really happened. Jokes go over better that way, when I get to the punch line and people realize it was a joke all along. Easy Liar. I'll probably write a song about that. I hope you don't mind. I'll have to credit your Mother with the idea, cut her in for the Royalties!"

She steps closer, arms crossed, ever present phone sticking up by that pretty right shoulder, says, "Don't joke. This isn't...fun to me!" The phone pings. She ignores it.

"Yeah," I say, edit out a few possible comments and eff bombs from the Pull-down menu in my mind, "It's not fun to me either."

I don't want to look away from her. I do want to, but I don't do it. I don't want to look at this face, her face, hurt, antagonizing me, in agony, questioning my...intent.

"The very next question your Mother asked me was whether I was having sex with you," I say, my voice low, cracking a little. This is embarrassing. She steps closer.

"No... she... didn't!" she says, a quiet, deliberate tone. I stand accused!

"Yes, she did," I tell her. I don't know if she's accusing me of lying or what. "She asked if you slept here last Saturday. I said you did. She asked if we were having sex. I told her no, that we just met. It was...such a bold question I asked her if you were fourteen." I chuckle just a bit, but have to steel my emotions against the opposite of chuckling. "I think the next question she asked was whether I intended to. I started to tell her you could make up your own mind about that...I think I said you were a mature young woman, that I am a man. Oh. I told her it was a distinct possibility. I'm a man. You're...a lovely young woman."

I don't want to talk about this any more. She's rocking forward and back on her feet, one forward of the other, looking at me, saying nothing, looking away at cars passing out on the street, looking off into the woods. That damned phone in her hand isn't pinging but it's ugly just the same. I'm just waiting. I'm worn the hell out. A minute ago I was ready to stay up all night. What the hell have I gotten myself into? The crazier it gets the more I want her. Or less. I'm that confused! Hell! I just met her! I shouldn't be this...this... This.

"I need to go talk to my Mother!" she says. She steps toward her car.

"Yeah," I say. Now I'm the one looking at passing cars. I stand up, pull my keys out again, pick up my guitar. I step up the sidewalk. She steps aside, arms crossed, shoulders and the right side of her face, glistening in moonlight. I reach out, hug around her waist, not hug, not pulling her to me, just...my arm around her waist. She puts her hands on my torso, like she thinks I'm about to grab her. Damned phone light in my face!

"Come back if you can," I say, looking in her eyes. "Don't bring a butcher knife. I have knives here."

She laughs, just a one syllable, 'Ha!'. She brings her hands up, that stupid phone in her right, wipes the corners of her eyes, index knuckle on the right, thumb on the left. I take my arm from around her, go, walk up to my door. As I open the storm door I hear her car door shut. I put the key in the lock. Her engine starts. The headlights shine on me. They go off. I open the door, step in, set my guitar case against the wall, behind the door. The storm door closes. I catch it with my shoulder, look out, watch her go through the parking lot to the street, headlights come back on, turn right, hear her shift slowly through the gears. I wait until I'm sure I don't hear her any more, imagine her there, in her fancy-smancy car, blue light on...that face... alone. 'Come back, baby.'

I close the storm door, latch it, leave the inside door standing open. I don't turn on any lights. Moonlight is shining in the kitchen windows, the back door. I go to the back door, open it, look at the moon through the storm door. It lights the picnic table. We're not out there. Latch the storm door, leave the back door open, let the moonlight in. Let the moonlight...in.

I come back in, get my water bottle off the stove, half full, fill it with water from the pitcher in the refrigerator, go sit on the couch, in the dark. I don't want to turn on my laptop. Finally I get up and do. I don't want to see the numerous Yahoo News articles about the Idiocracy raging in Washington. I don't want to read the tragedy locally, missing children, runaways, murders, the menu from the new restaurant. I don't feel like opening www.JustPlainFolks.com and seeing what's new. I turn it off, go back to the couch. I'm thirsty. I don't want to get up and go to the computer desk to get my water bottle. I lay my head back on the couch. I'm... numb. I'm...not thinking...of anything.



There are people chasing me! I'm outrunning most of them! One guy is catching up. He has a razor blade! I pull my pocketknife, let him get close, turn suddenly and slash across his neck and shoulder! He cuts my thumb with the razor blade!

I wake up!

I lay over on the couch. Pull a pillow under my head. I smell...her. I go back, go back, go back to sleep, back to dreams.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 05/02/23 12:09 AM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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7. AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO June 18, 2023.

Someone's knocking in my dream. I see a guy, knocking on an apartment door. I wake up. Someone's knocking on the storm door. Is that...no. I see Petreace! She's shading her eyes with her hand, trying to see in. I stumble over there. Petreace turns away. I see...that girl whose name I'm not sure of. I unlock the storm door.

"You have a visitor!" Petreace turns back, says, less than light-heartedly. "She didn't want to knock on your door. I did!" She turns and goes down the sidewalk. She hugs Ileace, goes on down to her apartment down on the end.

Ileace comes up. I hold the door open, step aside. I feel too drowsy to wake up. She turns around just inside the room. I lock the storm door, close the inside door.

"Did you lock your car?" I ask. I turn and she turns, walks over to the couch, sits in the middle. I stumble back to the back door, close it, lock it. I come into the living room, stumble over there, flop on the end. I miss, hit the arm, bounce into her shoulder, straighten up. I stretch. It makes me want to lay down but...she's...in the damned way!

"Someone's lying to me," she says, quietly. I don't say anything. I can't process it right now. I don't want to process it right now.

"You're not denying it!" she goes on. I don't like the accusation, the tone of her voice.

"It's...a true statement," I murmur. I'm coming awake. I don't want to come awake. I do, too. And don't either.

"My Mother says you're a skilled player of games, a user, who has probably read all kinds of books on how to manipulate people," she rattles on.

"Did you tell your Mother about me?" I ask. I'm so sleepy.

"Yes," she says.

"Like, before tonight, last night," I say, realizing that if Petreace is home it must be after closing time, Sunday morning. I wonder what time the exorcists get up.

"I kind of...," she stops, goes on, "told my Mother...all about you."

"You told her I had a lot of books?" I say, asking, not telling, but like a statement.

"Yes," she says.

"You don't know what kind of books I have. They're nonfiction, mostly, history," I tell her.

"You told her I wrote songs; 'made up' songs. You told her where Cubby's was. You told her you were coming. You told her...you had to tell her where you spent last Saturday night, so the exorcists could find my apartment," I blather.

"Yes," she says. "Mom says your songs are about me. She says...I told her about you wanting me to put you on my list...She says that's what "Get To Me" is about, getting to you on my list. She says the line about not getting any younger is about you saying, 'That's how old men flirt'. She says, your other song is about getting impatient, wanting to move things along...to...to sex, 'Enough's enough', she says, and she says, it's about you wanting my car, wanting to ride in it and drive it."

"Sweet Baby Jesus!" I say. "You told her all that...that...detail? Song lyrics and conversation? And she remembered it all? Your Mother should be a music reviewer. Does she have a podcast?"

"Did you write those songs about me?" She's sitting up, turning sideways to look at me.

"No. I told you I wrote them back in January. "Get To Me" anyway. I can't find where I wrote, "Come On, Baby!" down. Maybe I didn't."

"Didn't what?" she says.

"Write it down," I explain. "I may have put it on a song-writing website I go to and forgot to put it on paper." I lean forward, my elbows on my knees. I'm groggy. She's here! I want to...wake up, participate in this conversation. Or just bite her. Talk. Bite. Either one. Or sleep. If I could wake up and talk, that'd be okay. If I could bite her. Those shoulders. Damn! She gets up, goes to my laptop, flips it up, turns it on. It boots.

"What's the website?" she demands. I tell her.

She's got it up. I can see the familiar main page. "Where is it?" I go and kneel on the carpet beside her. Damn, she smells good! Her naked left shoulder is right there, by my face, on my list of eleven places I want to bite her. Five of the eleven places I want to... I find myself indulging in lust for her, no longer feeling like I...respect her and want to take it slow. I'm...not in control of my emotions.

"Lyrics Library," I say, "Lyrics Library 2. No. Just Lyrics Library Forum," I correct myself. "That one," I say, pointing. "And 'Showcase'," I add. She finds it way down the page. She clicks and opens it. "Page 6," I say, but I'm not logged in so it doesn't show up in six pages; just two. I point at the Page 1 Table of Contents. "It's way down at the bottom of the last page," I tell her. Clickety click. I remember.

"Do you expect me to believe," she says, "that you wrote 'Show me how you shift four-on-the-floor' before you met me? In a song about 'Start it up! Drive me to the mountain! Take me to the sea!'?"

"Actually," I confess, "I put that in...after I met you. It just came out...ad lib...one day when I was playing the song. And...it made me think of you...and I like thinking of you," I declare boldly, looking at the side of her face. "I liked it better than what I had in that line. I can change it back." I can't remember what I had in that line. I can think of something though.

"I no longer have any expectations for you to believe," I say. "You believe what...your Mother tells you to believe. Hey!" I remember, jpfolks posts archive the date of posting.
"Check the date of posting."

"December 13, 2022," she reads. Clickety-click. "January 5, 2023. Yeah. You...you told me you wrote one and later wrote the other one. Mom says you call me 'Baby' to make me think of you in the same way as I think of my Dad."

"Your Mother's probably read a lot of books on how to manipulate people," I say, regret my tone. "Ileace..." I stop. "What is your name. Do you realize I don't even know your name? She pronounces it, just that first name. "How do you spell it?" I ask.

"I-L-E-A-C-E," she spells. "I hate my name. I always have to tell people what it is, again, and again, and spell it. It was my Mother's Mother's sister's name."

"Wow. That's how I've been imagining it; imagining spelling it. Your Mother only said it once. The kids were saying it but I didn't know it was your name. I love it. It's unique. You're unique. You should have a unique name. The world didn't need another Brenda." Sorry, Brendas everywhere. "Your grand-aunt," I say.

"What?" she says. "My grand-aunt?"

"Yes," I mumble. "Your grand-mother's sister is your grand-aunt."

"See? You say stuff like that, and I'm inclined to believe my Mother!" she says.

"Stuff about your grand-aunt?" I ask, "makes you inclined..."

"No, stuff like, 'you love my name'. You can't 'love' my name. We just met. You just found out what my name is!"

"Baby...", I start, stop, say, "I'm sorry. lleace, I don't want to insult your Mother, but..." I stop myself, refer to the Pull-Down-menu in my mind;
Option 1: Baby, that bitch is crazy!
Option 2: Darlin', that bitch is crazy!
Option 3: Bitch, that bitch is nuts!
Option 4: Who you gonna believe? Me? Or your lyin' eyes?
Option 5: Ileace, I want to lie down. When you decide what's going on, because you have no way of knowing what...whatever.

"Your Mother told me you were adopted," I tell her.

"What? I'm not adopted!" she exclaims. "She didn't tell you that!"

She's indignant! I think I'm close to getting my ass kicked! I look over my shoulder, check to see if I left any cutlery on the coffee table.

"I told her I saw the resemblance between you and her. She said, 'No you don't!' real..."

Pulldown menu...
Option 1: bitchy?...
Option 2: witchy'?

"witchy-like, and said, 'She's adopted!'

"I was embarrassed. I thought she'd think I was just paying her a compliment, trying...trying to endear myself...trying to manipulate her, 'cause I read all those books you know. And she'd caught me at it, and so she pointed out that you shouldn't resemble her if you're adopted. But she wears her hair like you do. I told her maybe that was why. You do look a lot alike."

I lull into exhaustion.

"I like your hair," I mumble. "I like your name. I tried to recover, pointing that out, the haircuts. She was quiet. Then was back on the attack. I thought she had to be your Mother because she's as mean as you are!"

"I'm not mean!" Ileace argues, loud, mean. "I'm not mean," she repeats, quietly, calmly. I'm exhausted. Exfreakinzausted!

I get up, go lay on the couch. I put a pillow under my head, intertwine my fingers behind my head. I can look at her from here. Little witch! Pretty little...b...witch. I can't keep my eyes open. Eyes closed, I say,

"You were so mean that first night I met you, I nicknamed you Miss No!" I tell her that, laugh a little, eyes closed, peek out. "You kept coming back to some negative no matter what I said. I wasn't saying anything...calculated...just off the cuff remarks, just...how old men flirt. You asked me to play a song. You said, 'For me'. I said, 'Every song I play is for you, darlin'." I didn't calculate that. It just came into my addled brain and I said it. And you told me not to be rude! That wasn't rude! Clumsy maybe! I called you 'Baby'. You told me, 'Don't call me Baby'. Strike two. I thought I was clever saying, 'Don't let my banana get brown'. You accused me of being lewd! Strike three. Mean. Miss No."

"No I didn't," she says, quietly.

Hey! I think this stuff is landing. I open my eyes. I sit up, a little energy. No. Still tired. I slump forward, elbows on knees.

"I nicknamed your Mother 'Mrs. No'," I tell her. "As soon as she started her..."

Pulldown menu: no acceptable word.

"I thought, 'Whoa, Miss No, the girl whose name I don't know is her Mother's daughter!'"

"Oh," Ileace says with mock dismay, "don't you know that's the worst thing you can say to a girl? That she's like her Mother?"

"No," I say. "It wasn't in all those books I read about how to manipulate people." She laughs. She scoots the chair, out, lays her head on her forearms, like...before.

I lay back down. I don't think I can do this. I can't keep my eyes open. I lay on my right side, smell her on the pillow. There's some clickety clack. I perceive the light in the room change. I roll on my back. I want to go to sleep. Suddenly she's there, climbing across me, laying between me and the back of the couch. There's not enough room to lay between me and the back of the couch. I move to the edge a little, let her find her space. I reach and grab the t-shirt, sweat pants, lay them over on her shoulder. I picture the moonlight on that shoulder. She spreads the t-shirt over her torso. I reach and get the fuzzy blanket, just throw it on top of us, folded up.

I'm...asleep...It's...black and white..."The Wizard of Oz".

"And your little dog too!"

In the basket of the Wicked Witch's bike, I'm the little dog!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 05/02/23 12:23 AM.

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8. MIDNIGHT SLAMMER: Rounder. Sunday, June 18, 2023.

She's bumping against me, gently, waking me. I open my eyes. She's right there, head bent back, looking. If I wasn't so tired I'd look at that face.
"I have to go to church," she says. I muster a grunt. There's daylight outside. The idea that she has to go and I can go back to sleep is delicious!
"You wanna go with me?" I'm awake, laughing. I roll on my right side, away from her. She snuggles close on my back. My shirt is twisted. I still have my boots on. My mouth feels like all my teeth have little sweaters on! I passed out here without brushing.

"I'd like to," I mumble, "but I have to get these cows in the barn. And then...there's...the milking." She laughs. I...like... her laugh.

I picture myself sitting in a church pew, just as I am, tufts of hair at right angles, bleary eyed, shirt twisted, boots making black marks on the floor.
And there, leaning forward, looking at my boots, the marks, peering at me from across the aisle, The Wicked Witch of All-Knowing.
She sits back and there behind her is a flying monkey! Lettering on its hat says, "The Exorcist". I may not be fully awake yet.

"Yeah," I murmur. "You go ahead. I'll get cleaned up and meet you there." She laughs. She settles in against me. I'm going back to sleep.

"You should go," I tell her. "Your Mother needs to know where you are, that I didn't sell you to a passing caravan of Gypsies, like the others."

"My mother's not a bad person," she says, her voice muffled in my back. "She's just..."

Pull-down Menu:
Option 1: crazy
Option 2: crazy
Option 3: bat-s--t crazy
Option 4: nuts
Option 5: nuts
Almost as soon as I conceive Option 6, Ileace speaks it aloud,

"...mentally ill."

I'm quiet. She's quiet.

"Everybody is," I say. I start to imagine her Mother, less as Witch; more as just a Mother, with a beautiful daughter...who would hook up with a guitar player out on the damned street, stay out all night, a break from a norm of long-standing, talk about him a lot, and scare Mom about the dangers a young girl...she thinks of her as a young girl... can get herself into...overnight... Bang! Her baby girl is in crisis, and she's known crisis, seen her daughter go through it, and knows she can't do anything about it, can't help her daughter, just watch and suffer and try to counsel...can't stop trying...even to the point of annoyance.
Then there's the 'companion' factor. If your daughter, who has been with you a long time, every day...

"Do you live with your Mother?" I ask.

"Yes," the answer.

"How long have you lived with her?" Question.

"All my life," she says.

"You went away to college, came home. How long have you been home?" Question.

"Since...," she starts, goes on, "three years." Companion, three years. Three years, her baby in the house. Confidante. Friend. Companion. You know where she is almost constantly. I'll bet they wear each other's clothes, go shopping, watch tv, have sit-down-at-the-table meals.

"Do you and your Mother borrow clothes from each other?" I ask. She draws away from my back. I can tell she's looking at the back of my head. I wonder if she's examining my thoughts or determining where to stab with the butcher knife. You can't just stab people in the back of the head anywhere. You have to pick a spot.

"Did my Mother tell you that? She buys clothes, tries them on, looks in the mirror and gives them to me. She bought this top!" she bleats.

"Mom has great taste! I love that top. No!" I laugh. "She didn't tell me." I want to see that top. I roll over. She ducks under my arm, makes room, snuggles against me. I imagine raising up the fuzzy, having a look, don't do it, just enjoy that shoulder. Damn! Girl! "Think about it. You meet some guy on the street. All Mom sees is 'Danger! Danger! Danger!' My little girl! You tell her all about me. Right?"

"Right," she says. "I...I was excited. I...I'd met someone...who wasn't...ordinary. You weren't...rude, crude and socially unacceptable, which is what my Mother pronounces people we run into. At the grocery store, after we run into people from her church even, she'll let them get out of earshot and mutter, "Rude, crude and socially unacceptable." I call her a hypocrite! "Love thy neighbor," I tell her and she says, "If they become my neighbor we'll have to move."

I laugh. She laughs. I like her laugh.

"Your Mother's perspective is that her little girl is taking life chances, and, that her companion, constant companion of three years might start spending less time with her. Are they still married?" I ask, eyes closed, wanting sleep.

"My Mom and Dad? They separated while I was away at college," she says. "I'd come home some weekends and Dad would be there for dinner, sometimes for breakfast. He'd work different shifts so it wasn't unusual for him to be there...on a...an irregular schedule. It wasn't until I graduated and came home that I noticed he wasn't living there. She told me they'd been separated for a long time, like most of the years I'd been gone. She says he went crazy. He says she went crazy. I think they both went crazy."

"Most people have been crazy a long time before we notice. She was worried about you. You told her all about your boyfriend didn't you?" I ask. No answer. I don't need one. She tells her Mother everything. "She told me you...'got tangled up' is how she put it, with 'that boy' in high school, hooked up with him again in Athens. She told me he graduated and dumped you."

She sits up, leans on her right hand, her left on the middle of my chest! I'm scared. She lays back down.

"My Mother talks too much!" Ileace murmurs into my chest.

"Her daughter tells her too much," I say, quietly, hugging her a bit closer. "TMI; Too Much Information." Damn! I wanna bite her. Would it be appropriate to stop this conversation and...

"She's my Mother! I need to tell my Mother things!" Ileace says, petulantly. There's genuine emotion, distress in her voice. I tighten my hug, gentle, let her settle down. She does.

"Now you're a woman. Your Mother's daughter is a woman. A woman can't tell her Mother everything. Especially...boy things...some good things...some bad things," I say, searching my way through the philosophy. "You told her about your sex life didn't you." Silence, then,


"And it wasn't pretty for a Mom to hear. Sex, a couple's intimate...moments...activities...specifics...are not what we want to imagine, about our parents, or have them imagining about us. It's private stuff. We don't want...we don't tell our buddies stuff if we're serious about the person, the girl. It's too good between a man and a woman to sully by... telling other people about it. And if we're giving them, our buddies, your girlfriends, your parents, details, they're over-imagining. It's TMI; Too Much Information! For some it's juicy gossip! It's sex! There are...body parts! They can't wait to gossip about it. They look at you, imagining, look at your girlfriend, boyfriend, imagining. Thoughts can be pornographic.

For Mom or Dad, 'That's the little baby I put a thousand diapers on, looked at their little naked bodies, thought about them growing up and being...sexually...active. Worried from day one about their sex because I know, as a man, as a woman, what my own sex life has been like.'

I only met one couple in my life who planned to have a baby! Everybody else was a...a...'Guess What! I'm Pregnant! baby'. An accident, a surprise. Unplanned pregnancy, they call it. They get married, form a family around the baby human being they've created. Or they don't. Sometimes the family stays together. Sometimes they don't even get started. Sometimes it's for the best. Sometimes it's a recurring tragedy. Moms worry. Dads worry. 'Will they make the same mistakes we did?'

Did...did I hear your Mother say, "A condom won't protect your heart!"?

"You heard that?" she asks.

"I did. How did that...come into the conversation? It was the last thing she said before she yelled 'Bonsai!' and jumped off the curb," I say.

Ileace laughs; she sniffles, cries. I hug, release.

"You have good ears," she says, laughs. She wipes her tears on my shirt.

"She was...saying you were a drinker, you'd end up beating me. Don't come running to her when you did! 'He's a schemer, a scammer,' a midnight slammer!" she says.

Now I'm laughing! "What... is a midnight slammer?" I roll out from under her. She lays back against the back of the couch, head on the pillow. I lay my head up on the arm of the couch. lean it on my hand, elbow. We're looking at each other.

"My...boyfriend," she says. We had sex in high school. Not 'in' the high school, but while we were still in high school. I told her about it. We didn't tell my Dad. But...I needed to get on birth control pills. I...knew we'd do it again. It was too...exciting...not to expect to do again. And I thought it was normal. This is how everyone starts their sex lives and then they get married and raise a family. Or girls raise their children without the Baby Daddies. So I told her. She took me to the doctor. And that made it...okay. He...my...he wanted to...screw every chance we got. So I let him. Don't...think...I didn't like it too. I thought we were so in love. I didn't have anything to compare it to. I assumed everyone...lived like that. Other girls told me about their sex. It seemed like the ultimate expression of love. I assumed Mom and Dad had me and my brother because they did the same thing. I know she was pregnant with Natan when they got married. I saw his birth certificate and their marriage license and did the calendar math. Then he graduated..."

"Natan?" I ask.

"Natan's my brother. My...boyfriend," she clarifies. "He graduated. I... saw it coming. We settled into a routine there in college. I'd stop by his dorm room. He'd lock the door, screw me, and I'd go home to study. He got an apartment with some other guys. Then I stayed overnight sometimes. I thought that was normal too. Then, some nights he'd get cleaned up to go out...after...and I didn't want to just go home. So I'd go out with him. He'd...get really drunk, whoop it up with friends, talk to other girls, and I'd just be there, like someone tagging along. I quit going out when he did. It got to be routine. Screw. Clean up. Go out. I'd go home. I had to study.

That's what Mom called a 'Midnight Slam'. It fit the concept. Tonight...last night... she was telling me I was going to have sex with you! And I wasn't! Maybe...some day...but...not...right now."

The cheerleading squad in my head are chanting, 'Right - Now! Right - Now!' They're all men! I add some girls for Equal Opportunity, try to get them to cheer again. 'Right - Now!' They just look at me.

"But I wanted... to have a good argument, you know, so I said, "Well we'll use a condom!" She came up with that on the spot! Pretty good slogan, huh? 'A condom won't protect your heart!'

She's quiet. I'm quiet. My eyes are closed. I can't...

"I had plenty to take my mind off him. I...I think I was using him too. I...learned to enjoy that...hit it and quit it sex! It was...okay...It became normal, our...normal. I thought it was a normal relationship, that...we were in a...committed... relationship. That it was normal. I..I knew better. But..."

"I'm available to hit and quit!" I joke. She bumps against me! My leg falls off the couch, boot hits the floor.

"Well don't be!" she says, kind of loud. 'Chill baby, chill!'

"That would make you a slut!" she goes on. 'I'm okay with being a slut...'

"I'm okay being a slut for you," I laugh. She doesn't. 'Shut up!' I tell myself.

She draws away from me, separates our torsos, our legs.

"Now I'm telling you too much!" she observes.

"Yeah," I say. "But...we're...in it now...and...I don't see any way through it...and out the other side where I can flirt with the girl down by the convenience store again. She's really cute and I really wanna flirt with her."

"Shut up!" she whispers. She whispers it. She whispers.

"Then he graduated. I went to his graduation. His family were there. He just introduced me by my name not as 'My girlfriend'. They went out to dinner. I just shuffled off to Buffalo.
He came to my apartment that night. I shared with this other girl. She let him in and he knocked and came into my room. I was happy to see him, happy for him graduating. He began making out with me and was passionate and we got naked and did it. He got up, got dressed, went out. I thought, 'Well, he's going to the bathroom' or 'He's going to get a drink.'
When he didn't come back I went out and my roommate was sitting on the couch. She saw me looking around and pointed at the door, said, "He left... a long time ago!" I never saw him again.
I went to his apartment. The landlord had a big old armchair stuck in the doorway. I'm standing outside talking to him inside, over this big armchair and it's just hanging there and he tells me everybody's gone, and the armchair comes loose and clunks down on the threshhold! He and his roommates were gone. They had a big party and, apparently, everyone started jumping up and down in the living room and broke the floor! I helped the landlord get the chair out. I walked in, looked at the broken floor, went upstairs, bare rooms. Nothing. No rugs. No posters. No furniture. A sweet candle smell in his room. No candles.
It was summer break. I went home, cried for days. Mom couldn't handle it. She'd get mad. She'd get sad. We'd fall asleep crying together. I'd fall asleep crying alone. She made me get a job, get some money together to go back to school. That helped, helped us both I think. Routines. Busyness.

It...it was stupid. I finally realized I didn't love him. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with him anyway. He wasn't my friend, not even my boyfriend. It was just...I don't know...like a sudden...change...the old...jerk-the-rug-out-from-under-you change. You know what I mean? And...I told Mom everything. She'd...we'd be laying on the bed, just like this, you and me right now, and...I needed to talk about it. When I told her about the...hit-it-and-quit-it sex she called him a 'Midnight Slammer'.

Mom says you'll be a Midnight Slammer too!" She's laughing. I'm not.

"Sounds like fun," I say. "I'm willing to try if that's what your Mother wants. Hit! Quit! Slam!"

I'm laughing; she's laughing, but the imagery in my head has much appeal!

"I'm more your kind of 'hang-around-and-do-it-again' type. But if that's what your Mother wants I'm willing to try it! Can we slam at your place so I can come home and get some sleep? I really like my sleep!?"

She's laughing, says, "I live with my Mom. Are you sure you're up for that?"

I close my eyes, put my right hand on her waist. She snuggles under my chin, gets her left knee between mine. She smells good. She's warm. I bring my left forearm up her back. My left hand finds a spot on her neck and left shoulder to rest. My hand doesn't want to rest, wants to rub and squeeze. I pinch the flesh under my hand, relax. We're quiet.
I'm figuring out this Mother-Daughter dynamic. Being 'open' with each other seems like a good idea. But not everyone can handle knowing the...intimacies and intricacies of each others' lives. Especially parents. They don't want to know you're hurting. They don't want to know details about the risks you're taking, even after you're through them, the tragedies you've been through, are going through. They really don't really want to know your sexual experience. That's scary. They want to vaguely know you've figured it out, you're okay, you're handling it. Maybe they didn't have experiences like that. Maybe they did, and they don't want you to learn the hard way, like they did.
Maybe Mom's not...irretrievably nuts. "Irretrievably Nuts", 'copyright June 18, 2023, by Gary E. Andrews and the Brass Balls Band!' 'Yo Momma! Yo Momma! Yo Momma's Irretrievably Nuts!' We're not getting the band back together.

Her brash questioning at Cubby's made a bad first impression. I want Ileace. I think...I want...Ileace. This is tricky. I'm...getting seduced. She's...practically offering herself into...whatever this is...a...relationship. Sex is on the table. I like things on the table. To 'get' her, to...have Ileace, I have to be prepared to sign for the whole package. I wonder how crazy her Dad is.

I'm not sure what I want. She's...unobtainable. What makes me think I can have her? She's not...easy. It seemed easy. We went from a conversation on the street to her sleeping on my couch, to...now...a week later...laying here with me. She's with me, like a woman with a man. I haven't even kissed her. I still don't know her last effin' name! A series of Saturday nights and...Uncle Lonnie. Crazy old effer. His advice was, "You get one titty in your mouse (he meant mouth) and next thing you know you got the whole woman in your house!" He went on to explain that might be a good thing, depending on the woman, depending on the man. "Some folks rise to the occasion," he'd say. "Some cain't!" Uncle Lonnie's wife left him before I was born. He never found another one. He must have been a 'rounder'. LOL

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/28/23 02:49 PM.

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9. CHURCH; Sweet Baby Jesus Revisited.

Suddenly...I have...an inspiration! What an idiot! If you had any doubts! The thoughts in my head are more energetic than the sensations in my body, but the ideas overwhelm my fatigue, or my fatigue makes me too weak to resist. I get up, cross the room, turn at the bottom of the stairs, look back at her. She's sitting up, middle of the couch, corner of my fuzzy blanket clutched in her left hand. I give her the one finger one-moment-please signal, run up the stairs. You're not supposed to run up the stairs here. They can hear it in the stairs in the apartment next door.

I jump in the shower, come out, shave, brush my teeth, deodorant, touch of smell-good on my throat, and on my upper lip so I can smell it too.

I dress in my workclothes, black slacks, shirt with a collar, gray tweed sport-coat, black cowboy boots. They don't shine. I wipe them off in the bathroom with a wet paper towel. They still don't shine. I should shine them some day. Transfer wallet, keys, necessaries from my jeans. Ready!

I step off the stair landing and spread my arms to indicate 'Voila', and say, "Let's go to church."

She's still sitting like I left her, leaning back now, still clutching the blanket. Her face is fluctuating between blank and WTH?

"I...," she starts, can't find words, then finds a bunch of them, which don't all seem to go together or complete all thoughts, "I can't... You can't..." She looks at her watch. "No! No! No!" she says, standing up, coming to me. "You can't just show up at Mom's church after...all this. She might have a fit right there! Are you...you're not trying to hurt my Mom are you? This could...she'll think..."

"You have to go to church," I say. "It's not an option for you. You have to go. The exorcists are waiting for you to not go. I want to go with you." I start to call her Mrs. No, but the words that come out of my mouth are, "Your Mom will have to deal with it, in church, with you, with me. We have to show her we are not the people she thinks we are. I'm not a rounder! Do we have time to look that up? I'd rather know exactly what it means rather than just assume bad things about the Clancy Brothers. Maybe I am a rounder. Maybe I'd like being a rounder. Depends on what I'm, you know, 'rounding'. We have to get her to see things...our way."

No laugh. Head shake. Watch check.

"I don't have time to go home and change!" she argues. "I was going to...blow it off and confront Mom's...intrusion...when she came home. I can't go like this...this top."

"Baby, Jesus loves that top as much as I do!" I tell her. "Go...go upstairs and see if any of my shirts fit you!"

She looks at me...stares...blank face... Then she runs past me, and up the stairs. We're not supposed to run up the stairs. In a minute she's back. She has on a lavender shirt I never wear, and a dark blue sport coat, the sleeves too long, but, she explains, "I...don't wear a bra with that top, and...the shirt, by itself, was...too revealing. But this works!"

"Oh does it ever!" I declare, opening the door. "You'll be the prettiest girl in the pews!"

She walks by me very calmly, sleepy eyes ignoring me.

"You can stop flirting now," she says. "I'm interested."

She says, "Let's take my fancy-smancy car. I know where we're going." We get in. Seat belts. Radio on; rock n' roll, turned off. We're out on the street, right turn. Zip, at a very reasonable pace. 'The Safe Speed Limit on all City streets is 25 miles per hour, Sir, unless otherwise marked,' a nice policeman explained to me once, and once was all it took to educate me, as he wrote out a ticket that cost me too much. Soon she's pulling up near a church. She doesn't turn the car off. She's staring at the church. Lots of cars. People are going in. I don't ask any questions, don't make any remarks. She turns off the car, still staring.

"You promise...you won't...hurt my Mother's feelings?" she says. "If...if you would hurt her...I...I could never forgive you. My Mom's not a bad person!"

"I'm hoping..." I start, "that we will win her over, allay...some of her...fears... her... delusions about... well...you actually. You're a woman. You're trying...to build your life. You took a big chance...with me. I could have been a dawg. I wanted to be a dawg! I actually have a list of eleven places I want to bite you! Where is that list?" I say, searching my coat pockets. "Oh! I left it in my other pants!" She's laughing; a tear leaks out of her right eye. I touch it with my thumb. Her left hand comes up under mine, wipes it away.

"You're...actually...," she starts, "the nicest person I've met in a long time."

"Nunh unh!" I say. "I'm a rounder. I'm...pretty sure I'm a rounder. We have to look that up!"

She checks herself in the rearview mirror.

"Do you..." I hesitate, almost afraid, afraid...to ask, "Do you think she'll...lose it? Is she...is she crazy? Or is this just Mom being Mom? This is crazy, us, just...figuring each other out, and all the stuff she said to me, but, is it crazy crazy or just...Mother's instinct, human instinct, and...a... a degree of desperation to maintain the status quo, protect you, protect the life you've been building for yourself, the life you've given her for three steady years?
I don't know Ileace. You have to decide. I'm the outsider here. I want...in...I want in with you. I'm willing to risk this, but I don't know...anything. If she stabs me in the chest in church with a butter knife I get to go to the hospital. You have to stay and explain it to the preacher and congregation! I don't even know your last name! Who in the hell are you? Oops!" I cover my mouth!
"Ileace, I don't believe in this church stuff. Perhaps I should have told you that. I'm telling you now. This place may fall down when I walk in! I don't think I'm a bad person. Preachers say we're all sinners but...they turn out to be such sinners all the time I don't trust any of them! Only you can decide this. I'll go with whatever you decide. This...this is my crazy idea. I'm not crazy crazy, no matter what my Mom might tell you, and my teachers, and the neighbors, and Judge Hohobenhollern, and all those cops and Dr. Flegleman. I can walk home from here. You can go in without me. I still think the place may cave in on me!"

"Shut up," she says, stifling a laugh. "I think this building is built of stronger stuff. And Mom seldom carries a butter knife in her purse. Maybe you'll get lucky and this won't be one of those days." She opens her door. I open mine! I'm up and out before she is, looking across the top of her fancy-smancy car at the most beautiful smile I've ever seen; ever! We're walking past the hood. We angle to each other. She takes my left hand in both of hers. We're walking. I start making cracking, crunching sounds, explain that it's the church beginning to fall apart. "Stop being silly now," she says. "And don't make me bust out laughing while the preacher's talking."

I reach, catch the doors before the people in front of us let them close. We're...in. Sweet Baby Jesus!

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/28/23 03:13 PM.

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10. AIN'T IT GONNA BE WONDERFUL WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN; Ain't It Gonna Be Wonderful When... Ain't It Gonna Be Wonderful... Ain't It Gonna Be... Ain't It Gonna... Ain't It.. Ain't.

The place reeks, perfume, flowers, funereal feeling, smell. Old people. Young people. Whoa! Good looking girl! Baby Jesus loves that top!

A 'rounder' of my acquaintance told me church was a good place to meet girls. I think he said, "to pick up girls." Since we were talking about getting laid... sex, I thought it was an odd suggestion for finding girls to...engage with. He talked about the ones he'd met, showed me on his smart-aleck phone, pictures of one, maybe two...they looked a lot alike, what I saw of their faces. I didn't see much of their faces because they were holding...or she was holding her shirt up and I was busy looking at...those. Titties and beer are three of my favorite things. Yeah, I'm in church, a rounder I reckon, thinking thoughts like these. But...I'm not a bad person. I swear! Can ya swear in church? I think that's what church is all about. Swearing. You swear to the 'Shalt nots' which implies you swear to opposites. I never had much churchin', as Uncle Lonnie used to say. I went to Vacation Bible School one day and that was alright. There was some artsy craftsy stuff we did with raw dough that dried hard. I had to memorize a verse, that one about, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him might...live long and prosper."

As I was leaving some kid stepped up in my face and started a fight, just mouthing off, but right in my face, right in the middle of the street, in sight of the church and Sweet Baby Jesus. I don't think I said anything before he pushed me, and there was another kid on the ground behind me on his hands and knees. It was intended I should fall over him but I just sat down on him, got my balance, grabbed him by the neck and brought him up and threw him in the other kid's face! I reckon their heads butted because the guy who started it was bleeding from his nose. They went on up the street and I took another way home. I didn't go to Bible School any more.

I've...been in churches for funerals. I read in the papers about lots of priests and preachers who show they don't believe what they preach to the rest of us, because they break all the commandments...all the commandments, with no apparent fear of eternal hell lakes of fire or pitchforky devils! The Air Force told me I was Protestant, put it on my dogtags. My friend told me she was agnostic, and explained it meant she didn't take a stance on it so much as just declared she didn't know, and wasn't convinced. I've seen the Christians. I'm pretty much not impressed. I read a couple books on 'comparative' religions. They have more in common than differences. But...I decided if I take care of this life, that next one will take care of itself. So...here I am... a Midnight Slammin' rounder, rascal, deluder of fourteen year old Ileace, target of her Mother who I'm still not ready to accept is not a cat woman and nothing can protect my eyes if she goes for them!

There's a conversation here, there, children being scolded, a baby crying, the organ player trying to drown it out, I think. Nobody hollers "Free Bird!" I...no I probably shouldn't be the first.

Then the holy man steps up to the podium. "May God be with you!" he says. The speakers ring. He stands up a little straighter, away from the mic. Hey! Open mic preaching! Anybody who wants to preach can get up and do it.

I'd better shut up my inner stupid. I'm not looking at the prettiest girl in the pews for fear of getting the giggles myself.

"And with you!" the crowd...the...congregation answers back. Ileace's Mom is in our pew. She must have finally seen Ileace because she scoots over the couple spaces between them and looks around her at me.

"Good morning," I say, quietly. Ileace takes her hand, and Mrs... Ileace's Mom clutches with both of hers.

Preacher's revving up. Yadda yadda yadda. Yadda. Yadda yadda. He said, "Ain't..." He said it, "Ain't it gonna be wonderful when we all get to heaven?" I pick that phrase up because in just a few more lines of yadda, he says it again; "Ain't it gonna be wonderful when we all get to heaven?" He goes on. There's not much substance to his sermon. Even I...I read the Bible once, cover to cover, like any book, even I could hear that he was preaching around religious ideas but not citing any Bible verses. I don't have expectations so I just relax and listen. "Ain't it gonna be wonderful when we all get to heaven?" came up again, and again, and one more time.

Then all the little children who can walk, and carry a coffee mug...come up out of the basement...I'm guessing... because there are a couple dozen of them, and they came from somewhere, and the organ player cranks it up, and the children march in two columns down the center aisle, turn left and right along the front pews, soliciting donations, and getting them, coins clinking on ceramics, then go to the side aisles and pass along the ends of the pews. People seem to be ready for the ritual, dropping coins noisily on ceramic, soon clinking in the cup on other coins, an occasional flourish of paper money. I reach for my wallet. I usually have a pocket full of change. Left it in my jeans. I get several dollar bills out and every third child or so gets a dollar bill in their cup. The ones that get it turn to look at the kid behind them, lift their cup with a wow face on. The organ plays. The kids keep circling. I fish out a few more dollars, and when the ones who were on the other side while I gave this side dollars come by this side I drop in my dollars at intervals. More wow faces. I'm out of ones. You little...ain't gettin' fives! The organ keeps playing, the children keep cycling. Finally they must have gotten a signal because they start coming into the pews, people turning their knees aside, pulling their feet in, coins hitting ceramic! Finally the organ player falls off her stool, dies a peaceful death and the ritual is over.

Preach revs up again and I start to feel a little cramped. "Ain't it gonna be wonderful when we all get to heaven?" Suddenly, it's over! The organ player is alive! All the children have vanished with my money. People start getting up heading for the exit. Ileace gets up. I get up. Mom gets up. They're talking. Lots of people are talking. The dead organ player's playing. If I knew it would be this quick I'd 'a come last Sunday!

Ileace turns to me, beaming. I'm dumbstruck, don't step out of her way until she reaches and touches my chest. I step out into the aisle, gesture with my left arm, she steps out, Mom out, takes Ileace's arm, and away we go. I expected to have to shake a Preacher's hand at the door, a deacon, the dead organ player. Nobody. Cars are starting and most seem quite eager to get the hell out of there!

Out on the sidewalk, we're stopped with other folks, waiting for the demolition derby to take a recess. Ileace and her Mother are talking. Ileace turns to me, says,
"We usually go home and make breakfast. Can we do that?"

"Yes," NOT BABY, "ma'am. We can do that."

"Thank you for coming!" Mrs. No says, reaching to shake my hand. We walk her to her car. Ileace and I walk across the parking lot, go to where she parked on the street.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Ileace asks. I begin in my head with a critique of "Ain't it gonna be wonderful..." but decide to save it for when it's wonderful to discuss at length.

"No," I tell her. "Best six bucks I've spent all day!"

"Shut up!" she says. I stop in my tracks.

"Shut up?" I say. "Shut up? I'm going to tell your Mother you say that to me all the time. You'll be grounded until you're fifteen!"

I get a laugh! I start walking again. Always leave 'em laughin'. She catches up, takes my hand.

"Thank you for coming," she says.

"Thank you for having me," I say.

"Are you hungry?" she asks.

"I haven't been hungry since 2010!" I declare. "But I can eat."

"Good! Mom will have biscuits ready to pop in the oven, homemade white gravy, bacon and ham. You have to choose. You can't have both!"

"What happens if I try to have both?" I tease.

"Violence!" she says, thinking herself very funny. I just think she's very cute. My list of eleven places goes up to fifteen.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/28/23 03:25 PM.

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11. BISCUITS AND CRAZY: A Parental Two-Fer Free-for-all Blue Plate Special.

Ileace pulls into the driveway of a modest house. I'm not sure what street this is. I know I can walk home from here if I have to. Five streets come together at a nearby intersection. Coles Boulevard ends, Dorman Drive, three others. Her Mother is there, standing, talking to a man beside a big white pickup truck, the hood up.

"Daddy!" she exclaims.

Daddy? Can I handle Daddy and Mommy at the same time? I should have availed myself of the sanctuary of the church, should have prayed that The Man forgive me my sins and let me trespass or accumulate debts, depending on what the current Lord's Prayer says. Lord must have come back and changed it from one to the other. She's looking at me. I'm looking at 'Daddy' working on his truck. Mommy's looking at us, talking to Daddy, her lips moving, her left hand gesturing. I think she's casting a spell! I think of ducking but you can't avoid 'em once they're cast. They just come and hit you anyway. Them's the rules!

"Be brave, Rounder," Ileace is saying.

I look at her. She's smiling. It's going to be okay. They'll kill me and eat me, put the leftovers out for the garbage truck on Tuesday.

She's getting out. I have to get out. I get out. My face is numb. I swallow. My mouth is dry. I'm gasping for air. I focus, inhale through my nose, out through my mouth, in again, out again. Deep breaths. Oh! Too much. Dizzy. We're walking. She's running. A hug, Daddy. Mommy. I run off across the lawns, hide in the woods for days and days until the exorcists stop looking for me. Move to Kentucky. Change my name to Harold.

Ileace turns. I love her face. She's smiling. I hear my name, full name, for the death certificate.

"Why the E.?" the deep voice is asking. Big face. Red face. Brown eyes, like Ileace's.

"I got a phone call one time," I hear myself explaining, "from a Rent-To-Own place in Marion, Ohio, asking if I was the Gary Andrews who rented an engagement ring and then disappeared!"

They're laughing. Everyone is laughing. I run off across the lawns, hide in the...

"I told him, 'I didn't even know you COULD rent an engagement ring, and, I'm pretty sure, if SHE finds out about it, you CAN'T!'"

They're laughing. I see bags of cement on the floor of the open garage. 'Local Man, Found Not Floating In Ohio River'.

Her Mother is laughing, shaking her head.

"He tells tall tales!" she declares. She's smiling. Ileace is smiling. The sidewalk is crumbling beneath my feet. Red light glares from the cracks! The devil is super-gluing my cowboy boots to a large chunk of concrete. 'Settle down,' I'm telling myself. I don't listen.

The hood is up on his giant white pickup truck. He turns back to whatever he was doing. The girls start going through the garage. I'm stuck where I am, 'cause of the cement shoes, super-glue, you know. Ileace, comes back, turns her back to me to look back. Daddy's hidden behind the hood of his truck. She leans back into me, turns her head, puts her right hand on my right cheek, reaches up, somehow, to kiss me on the right corner of my mouth!

"I'm going to put on a bra," she whispers. At once I am healed! Sweet Baby Jesus! My feet can move. And I am afflicted anew! Don't talk about your...bra...in shooting distance of Daddy! He has metal tools I think he can stab me with, crescent wrenches with two points on one end and a circle on the other. I wonder which one will kill me quickest!

She goes through the garage. I step over around Daddy to the front of the truck. I'm afraid if I look at her I'll stare at her...jeans...like I always do...and...Daddy. Crescent wrench. Round end, I think.

"Damned things," he says. "My Dad used to tell me about climbing in over the fender, standing on the ground beside an engine, to work on it. Now you can't get your hand down in there for all the gadgetry. Look at this! I need to change out this battery but to get the old one out I have to remove this bar!" It's a structurally necessary bar, bolted at an angle between the right front fender and the firewall. "I pulled up here on the level hoping nothing flexes when I undo it!"

"Good thinking!" I say. "Yes sir," I start, "they make them to sell; not to work on. Even Chevrolet is like Rolls Royce now. If it needs maintenance you just about have to take to them."

"Eff that!" he says. "They want sixty bucks an hour to work on them!" He looks over his shoulder into the garage where the...ladies have gone. "Don't tell her I said a bad word in her driveway. She'll make me hose it down. "So...you..."

I'm afraid of where this sentence will go!
Pulldown Menu:
'So you,'
'are a drug-addicted singer in a rock n' roll band?'
'are having sexual intercourse with my daughter',
'once choked a small farm animal to death and ate its heart...

"are Ileace's new friend," he says. "I'm glad to see her have a new friend. She hangs around here, from what I see, all the time; too damned much!" Another glance into the garage. "She goes to work. She comes home. She goes out driving. Comes home. She goes to church with her Mother. Her Mother likes it that way."

"Hmmm," is all I can get out of my brain all the way down to my vocal cords, coordinate with lungs for a little exhale.

He's having trouble getting the bar back on, holding it in place while trying to manipulate a bolt and a...double-pointed, circle-ended crescent wrench.

He drops the bolt! "God damn...", over the shoulder glance, "it!" he finishes. "Murphy's Law: A bolt dropped will, if you're lucky, fall all the way through, but then roll under the vehicle to the furthest point from any access from the outside." He bends over looking under the truck. He's looking behind the tire. I look down, in front of the tire, and...It's right here in front!

"There it is!" I say. I reach and pick up the bolt! Hand it to him! "Howard one; Murphy zero!" I say. Did...did I get that right? Was his name Howard? I was busy having a stroke when they introduced me. Ileace was introducing me. Mother was adding the E in my name. I was losing my mind. Yes. Yes, I'm sure it was Howard. Just in time to prevent another stroke Ileace's Mother comes to the door into the house, back in the garage, and calls,

"Howard, put that stuff away and come and eat!"

"Sunday breakfast, or brunch," he says. "She likes to feed us and put us to sleep on Sunday! Keeps me from cussing the football game! Or used to. I don't live here any more." Oh. Details of a personal nature. I can't say 'Hmm!', can't say, 'Soooo...sup wid dat?'. He goes on. "We've been separated, ever since she started going to church. I'm not a religious man! And I couldn't stand that Preacher. You went to church with them?" It's a question. I have to process it to realize that a question wants an answer.

"Yes!" I say. "I...just met Ileace...and...'
Pulldown Menu;
Have a list of eleven places I want to bite her.
Have a list of eleven places I intend to bite her.
Have a list of fifteen places...
Have a list.
'Slept on my couch and...

"and she told me she had to go to church, or her Mother would call the exorcist."

He busts out laughing! I'm startled! I want to laugh. I'm afraid I'll cry if I give in to the emotion of the moment! He offers a fist bump! I take it!

"Ileace has an out-sized sense of humor!" he says, "to compensate for her Mother not having one at all! I shouldn't say that. When we were young..." he stops, starts again, "When we were young we laughed every day, all day, constantly. We found something funny in everything we did, everything we talked about. We could be in a mess, money, always something, but we could always laugh. We got so used to each other finding the funny I told her we'd get married and become a comedy team in Hollywood!"

He's chuckling, to himself. I'm holding the bar. He's putting in the bolts.

"And until Ileace was in high school..." He stops. Yes? Go on. He doesn't. He's got the bolts in place. I'm still holding the bar. He's picking up the stabbing device. He hooks the ring on the bolt at the firewall turns it a couple times, just to start it. Hooks it on the one at the fender. Turns. I let go. Stand up straight. He works. We're quiet. "Ileace had boy trouble, in high school, and then, went to college and the same boy was there and they got together again. My wife...went nuts. She wanted me to go up there and arrest him, shoot him, tell the teacher. She came up with a new way to fix it once a week; a new way for ME to fix it. She was...obsessed. I couldn't handle it. I'd...gotten old I guess. I couldn't...find the funny any more. She couldn't either. She had a...a look on her face all the time... worried. I saw her wringing her hands even when she wasn't wringing her hands. She finally ran me off! I left and didn't know what to do with myself. I came back one Sunday and asked her if I could watch football here. I had television at my place, but...I wanted..." He doesn't finish the sentence.

He stops, looks in the garage, puts his foot up on the bumper, lays his crescent wrench hand across his knee, ready to stab.

"We quit laughing. We started fighting. She accused me of not caring if Ileace went to hell, got religion. I tried to go to church with her, thought maybe we could find a way to just let things...let Ileace figure her life out. Ileace and I talked about it. We were okay, she and I. I have complete confidence in that little girl! But my wife...just could not let it go. She worried. She cried. She argued about everything else. If I used a rag to wipe something I used the wrong rag. I raked the leaves the wrong way. I was late coming home even though I walked in that door at..." He's put his foot down on the concrete, points at the front door with his crescent wrench. He stoops under the hood, starts turning the bolts again. He stands up, walks into the garage, comes back with a torque wrench, consults the owner's manual, sets the wrench, torques the bolts. Dude!

Did he say, 'Arrest him'? 'Shoot him?' 'Tell the teacher.'

"I moved out, came back, moved out again."

This isn't fun to hear, and I can see it isn't easy to tell.

"Ileace is okay," he says, looking me in the eye. "She took it all in stride. I liked the way she'd explain her perspective on things. I'd tell her, 'Men are no damned good!' She'd laugh, say, 'You're okay Daddy'. She got her degree. Came home. Went to work for the police department." He's talking saying other things. I'm putting 'One: Go up there and Arrest him' with 'Two: Went to work for the police department.' and coming up with 'Three: He's a cop. She's a cop?' She's a cop? She's...a cop? You're a cop? She's a cop? Cops. 'Local Man Arrested: Fourteen year old girl...' Film at eleven. Maybe she just works there. Maybe she's a secretary. I can see her in pretty suits, pants suits, skirts. Wow! Nice legs! Oops! Daddy's looking at me.

"She seems...Ileace...a little troubled," I say. "We just met a few weeks ago. We started talking but she seemed to...find fault with...everything I said."

"That's her damned..." he says loud, then quietly, "...Mother. When she starts it with me I call her Orlean."

"Orlean?" I ask.

"That's my wife's name. She's...You know she's been a whole lot better since Ileace has been here; better to me. But now...it seems like she still just worries too damned much. Things that are out of her control drive her nuts! I don't see her crying any more. She doesn't ask me to go arrest anybody!" He laughs. "But she's still not...not the woman I married." He's gathering up his tools. He takes them in the garage. I step in that direction, stand by the bags of concrete. There are places on pegboard for everything. Everything goes back in its place. I know too much. I shouldn't know this much, this soon. Ilean...oh s--t, Ileace...is...damaged goods. Is Ileace damaged goods? This is not the time or place to give the matter clear consideration. I...wonder if the damage is...reversible. Has she...fixed it...or...am I wheedling my way into a...heartache? Irretrievably nuts.

Howard's back at the truck, picking up his owner's manual. He's giving a last look around under the hood, gives a yank on the bar, closes the hood, goes to the passenger door, puts the owners manual in the glovebox, locks the doors.

"Did she lock her car?" he asks, walks over, tries the door. It's locked. "This is the era of the 'Crime of Opportunity', he says, coming back. "The opioid makers have been waging Drug War around here for the last quarter century. They've rendered a substantial strata of the society desperadoes, sneak thieves, bank robbers, murderers, convicts, and corpses." It sounds like a speech he's given lots of times.

"I know," I say. "My neighbor across the street, years ago, said his wife had gotten addicted. My neighbor on my right said he had to run one of his sons off, coming home all skinny and eyes sunk back in his head. Neighbor on the left...her daughter was a maternity nurse, said she delivered a lot of drug-addicted babies. I was walking by the hospital emergency room and a nurse was out there standing in a flower bed. I thought it was a strange place to be standing. I spoke to her and she told me people were hanging around out there trying to buy drugs off people as they came out. It's been happening, invisibly, all around us. People think, 'Oh it's just my kid, my wife, my friend. But it was and still is a Pandemic!" I say. "In late 2022 the Coronavirus death toll caught up with the opioid death toll at about 840,000, dead Americans. And both Pandemics are still going on."

"God! Don't tell Orlean all that!" he says. "I know those statistics, but if she knew them she'd be out of her mind. No damned wonder she worries about Ileace. I don't. Damned kid's got more guts and brains than her Mother and me put together. She's smarter than you!" he says, laughs. "Hide and watch. She'll amaze you if you get to know her. She can think. She can take action. She knows what she's doing. I told her to move out of here, and she told me to be quiet, smiled that smile, patted me on the face. I shut up. If that was the thing to do she wouldn't need me to tell her so. I love that kid!"

"Howard!" It's a voice from the darkness at the back of the garage. It sounds like Ileace. It looks like Orlean.

"We're comin'!" he says. He reaches to shake my hand. I shake his. "Thanks for the help," he's saying, going in. "A man ought to have at least three hands! Four would be better. Things go better with a little help."

Inside the house I'm breathing easier. It smells good, clean, fragrant; overly fragrant as I inhale through my nose. I take a couple deep breaths through my mouth, follow Howard to the kitchen. They're sitting at the table, Mother at the far end, Ileace in my lavender shirt on the left. Howard sits on the right. I sit on the near end. That face. That smile. That...cop.

There's a platter in the center of the table. Ham. Bacon. Orlean...stands, takes biscuits out of the oven, turns and dumps them on the platter!

Biscuits go off everywhere, rattling through silverware, to Ileace, to Howard, to me!

Everyone laughs!

They're hot! I set the one I caught back on the platter. They do too. Orlean sets plates on the table. Ileace takes one. She's grinning. I can't not grin back. Howard hands one to me. I get the impression that this isn't an accident; this is how they do it. I don't know but... Crazy times three? It could happen. I start wondering how the gravy will be served. 'Local Man, Scalded In Hot Gravy In Religious Ritual'.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/28/23 10:52 PM.

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12. Table Manners; Table Matters.

I choose ham. I don't fork it onto my plate yet. Orlean is at the stove, hot gravy coming. Ileace reaches to the counter behind her, brings back a trivet, sets it on the table by the platter. Orlean arrives seconds later, turning with the hot pot. I'm planning; Plan A: Throw my body between Ileace and the hot gravy. Become disfigured, think Quasimodo. Plan B: two biscuits, ham. Ladle the gravy over the biscuits. Be careful. Don't burn yourself. Don't drop anything down the front of your shirt, onto your pants, on your chair, her chair, on Orlean's floor! Run across the lawn, into the woods.

"Howard, will you say grace?" Orlean says, reaching her hands to Ileace and Howard. They both reach hands to me. I take them. They bow their heads. I'm looking at them, bow my head just in time as Orlean is looking up at me! Did I make it! Or is hot gravy coming for my head? Sinner! Blashphemer! Devil boy! The Heart sisters sing, 'Gravy on you! Gonna go gra-vy gra-vy on you!' I'm realizing how hard it is to turn off my inner dialogue. I've been...alone...a long, lonely time.

Howard says, "Lord!" kind of facetiously, in tone, "Thank you for biscuits and gravy, good company with good-lookin' women, and Bengals football!"
They let go of my hands. I look up. Orlean is giving Howard a look. Howard's mugging, tilting his head a little toward her, his face a little away, meeting her gaze. She shakes her head, grins. Starts filling her plate. Ileace is reaching with her fork for pieces of ham. It looks like those thin, spiral sliced ham pieces. I act like I was going for the same one. She grins.

"You snoo-ezz you loo-ezz!" she says. "Right Daddy?"

"Ass right!" he says. "Don't get between her and her ham!" Howard warns. "She'll kick your ass! She's a black belt!" Howard's busy getting squinted at by Orlean. Ileace is glancing at me, rolling her crazy eyes across the table top, making karate choppy motions with her hands, fork brandishing in the air.

I take another one. Two biscuits. Howard is ladling gravy. He ladles some onto Orlean's plate. She smiles, a beautiful smile, mutters, "Thank you, Howard!"

He sets the pot on the table, turns the handle to me.

Orlean erupts! "Don't set it on the table! I grab it up, look around; no one's been shot. I ladle gravy onto my biscuits. Ileace has pushed her plate toward me. She smiles, grins. I ladle gravy onto her biscuits, think of it as a way to say something dirty, 'I'd like to ladle gravy on HER biscuits!' Goofy laugh in my head. I push a couple biscuits over on the platter, set the gravy pan on it, spin the handle toward Orlean. She takes it, sets it on the trivet.

Howard speaks; "So do you make a living playing music? I've never known anybody around here to be able to. They travel and pay their expenses, then come home and get a job."

"No," I tell him, "I just dabble at it."

"You should be famous," Ileace says.

"Well thank ya darlin'!" I say. "That's kind of you to say." She's grinning. Her face is red. I turn to Howard. "Robbie Robertson, in "The Last Waltz", Martin Scorsese's documentary about The Band, talks about the work of it, saying," I try to figure out how to quote him without blaspheming...the gravy's still hot, the trivet free for throwing, "saying "It's an impossible life." I find I'm not willing to do that work," I declare. "Traveling, always coming somewhere new, day after day to make the profit margin, having to meet new people. It's a fun fantasy but the reality of living like that for...well...how long? It lost its appeal to me some time ago. I'm not even a musician. I'm just a songwriter."

"Yes," Howard says, swallows some biscuit, "every musician I ever knew talked about it that way. Lots of setbacks. Personnel problems. Lots of expenses. They say a musician is a guy who will put five-thousand dollars of equipment in a five-hundred dollar car and drive a hundred miles to make fifty bucks!" He laughs at his joke. Orlean doesn't. Ileace is frowning.
Howard; "So you didn't quit your day job. What do you do?" I tell him where I work; not what I do. He starts asking 'Do you know' questions, names the Executive Director, a couple other people. "Ileace works in records, mainly," he says. "She's not a street cop. She can be. She's fully qualified. She's been out on the street a couple times when needed. But mainly she's a paper-pusher!"

Ileace makes a scoffing sound. It's cute.

"I make sure documents are found when someone needs them," Ileace says, protesting, I think, an oversimplification of her job. "I try to make sure reports make sense. Daddy, the other day Mackleroy turned in a report saying the accident was at the 'intersection'," she emphasizes, "of Eleventh and Twelfth Streets." They laugh. Orlean looks puzzled. I'm puzzled too.

Howard explains to Orlean, "Eleventh and Twelfth Streets run side by side. They don't 'intersect'."

"Did you correct it?" Orlean asks.

"I radioed out and asked him to stop by if he was in the neighborhood, for a record check," Ileace says. "He came in and I asked him, 'Where was this accident?' He read it and his face got red. He's a good cop, mostly. He started calling me 'Teacher', and asking if he got an 'A' or a 'B-plus'. Then he said he'd like an 'F, leaned over the counter grinning like a...horse's hind end. I asked him if he'd like a sexual harassment lawsuit. His face got red again. He didn't apologize; just left, and that was good enough for me." She grins at me. I smile back. Bite.

"Cops!" Howard and Orlean say at the same time. They both laugh! Ileace shakes her head.

"You handle 'em, honey!" Howard says, "but let me know if you need me to!"

I eat. It's all good. Orlean can cook! Ain't nothin' like biscuits and gravy, any time of day. I don't need to speak. They talk. There's lots of laughing. Ileace and her Dad have zingers for each other, surprise observations by one that makes the other laugh, back and forth, the joker just grinning as the joke lands on the other person. It's really fun! Orlean gets the jokes both ways. She laughs. The more she laughs and is able to join in the conversation the more sane and likeable she seems. I get to look at Ileace a lot. Looking at her Mother is a lot like looking at her, twenty years from now. Howard looks at me a lot, includes me in the conversation without having to say anything. I grin, shake my head, laugh when appropriate, when the joke takes me by surprise.

Ileace drops a forkful of biscuit down the front of her shirt! My lavender shirt! She jumps up, runs out of the room. I hear the knobs on a washing machine clicking. I want to go tell her not to worry about it, but consider stumbling in on her in her bra in the laundry room of Mrs. No's house not the place to be right now, found biting her shoulders. Howard looks at his watch, says, "Football!" jumps up, slaps me on the shoulder, jerks his thumb toward the living room. He heads that way, out through the small arched doorway, which leads to a larger arched doorway. I can see what look like a dining room, chairs, the end of a dining room table out that way.

He stops, looks back, looks at Orlean, comes back. I'm watching. He doesn't look at me. He bends down, crosses his big left arm over her chest and shoulders, snuggles into the right side of her face, kisses her cheek!

"Orly, honey, you're still the best cook in five counties around," he says, "and the prettiest!" He stands up, goes through the arches, disappears.

"More later!" she says, after him.

'Orly'. I'm sure I heard that right. 'Orly, honey.' Not...Orlean. She's looking to her left. Her face is...placid. All the...worry...the anger...is dispelled. She looks...like Ileace. I notice, she has her elbows on the table. Her thumb and index finger of her right hand...are holding the ring finger...of her left hand. Her profile. She's smiling, thoughts to herself. I look at my plate, take another forkful of gravy, all that's left. I'm aware as she comes to herself, drops her hands

"Thank you , ma'am," I say. "Best biscuits and gravy I've had in a while!"

"You're welcome," Orlean says. "We do this every Sunday, after church. Or..." she hesitates, "we used to."

"Well I highly recommend a..." search for a word...find one, "...revival of the tradition. I haven't seen so much genuine familial interaction and laughing in a long, long time."

"I haven't either!" she says, laughs, grins. "Thank you for coming, here..." she says, "and to church. Did you enjoy it, at church?"

"Well, frankly, I didn't care for that 'sermon'," I tell her. "He just, well he kept saying 'Ain't it gonna be wonderful when we all get to heaven'. I counted seven or nine times. I didn't start counting until I'd heard it more than twice. And that was pretty much the only 'Biblical' thing he said. Everything in between was just talk. He doesn't seem to know HOW we're all gonna get to heaven. And that ain't so hard to know. Take care of this life, and that one will take care of itself!"

"Yes," she says, troubled. "I know. I just like...", she dabbles at the biscuits with her fork, repeats, "I just like...being there."

"Next Sunday we ought to go church shopping, visit some other place," I suggest.

"Church...shopping?" she repeats.

"See if we like another preacher somewhere else," I say. "We can probably like being in another church just like you like being in this one. We can see if another preacher has something...thoughtful to say. You can come back to yours the next Sunday after that, if you still prefer it. Or, we could keep shopping. Maybe a black church!" As soon as I've blurted it out I wonder if it would be appropriate, for her.

"I think I'd have to have an invitation to a black church," she says, "the way things are in this country these days. It might scare people to see a bunch of white people just come walking in."

"Good point," I say.

"I'd better go see how she's doing with that shirt," she says. "That's a pretty one." She gets up, goes past to my left. I nab a piece of bacon while no one's looking!

I get up, go right, following Howard where he went into the living room. There's a big dining table in a window-filled area to the left, separated only by a large arched opening. The TV's on on the right, the other end of the living room. Howard's kicked back. The game is ready to kick off. He's snoring.

"Kickoff Howard," I say, just in a normal voice. He jerks awake! His legs kick out, his arms jump up! I think his whole body cleared the chair! I'm startled, but laughing!

"Thanks man!" he says. "I hate when I miss the kickoff! They'll let me sleep right through it! This channel reruns games and I missed this one when they played it! Bengals!"

He's leaning toward me with a high five sign. I never get those right. I try. It's not a direct hit but it'll have to do. I sit in an armchair to his left, between him and the couch.

The kickoff! They decide to return it from the ten. Fifteen. Twenty. And down. Could have just called 'Fair Catch'. "Looks like they came to play," I say. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no football. Howard's got it. He talks about it, knows who he's watching, players on both teams, coaches. Howard loves football.

Orlean...Orly... and Ileace come through the hall by the TV, not out of the kitchen behind us, like I did. They stop, bend from the waist to see if there's a play in progress. Seeing there isn't,they come on across the room. Howard's grinning at Orly. She's grinning back.

"Get out of Mom's chair!" Ileace says.

"Oh! My apologies!" I say, jump to my feet. Orlean is saying, 'No! No! That's okay', but I'm up. I move to the couch. Ileace has changed into a t-shirt. She comes and sits next to me, slips out of her shoes, takes hold of my arm, finds my left hand with her right, pulls her legs up onto the couch. I'm freaking out. She makes it seem natural. It, of course, isn't. It's like she's decided we're going to explore this as...not just...dating...but...a relationship. It couldn't match my desire any more perfectly, but I'm aware of how quickly she's changed gears on me, public displays of affection (PDA PDQ). I remember her saying, 'You can quit flirting; I'm in.' I'm hot. I murmur, 'Take this coat off', she lets go. I stand, take it off, sit back down. She resumes her position. Natural PDA.

The game goes on, slow, the ball moving in ten-yard increments up the field, back down the field. Nobody's scoring; field goals. Howard's snoring attracts my attention. Looking, I see Orlean's asleep too. I look at Ileace and she looks back, sleepy-eyed.

"Let's go," I whisper. "We're both exhausted." She nods, slips into her shoes. We get up, tiptoe out to the hall, out the garage door, and out to her car.

"Will you drive?" she asks.

"Sure," I say. "Fancy-smancy car!" Getting in I realize I haven't driven a standard shift in years. I tell her that. She shrugs. I drove a standard shift vehicle in the service, lo those many years ago, so I'm fairly confident I'll get the hang of it again. I'm a little rough. She tells me it's okay. I get going, doing good, and the damned light changes!

"Why is there a traffic light here?" I complain. "They should put in a roundabout! Look; there aren't any other cars on any of the other four streets that come together here. I downshift, stop, wait. She's smiling, touches my forearm. I make a right. I take streets I know will get me home with the least amount of stop and go. Soon we're there. I back in. She reaches and turns off the key, gets out. I think she's coming in.

I can't help admire her jeans as she's going up the walk. She's round in all the right places. She opens the storm door, waits for me. I reach around her and unlock the door. She leans in and kisses me on the cheek. She goes in, crosses to the couch, picks up the fuzzy blanket, t-shirt, sweatpants, turns, comes back to me, says,
"I'm exhausted! Can I sleep in the bed with you? And I mean sleep. No...stuff."

"I'm exhausted or I would tell you that's a bad idea and I can't promise you anything," I tell her. She steps in, kisses me. It's sexual. It's lips, pinching lips, kissing and kissing again.

"Thank you," she says, turns, and I get to admire her jeans going up the stairs. I maintain my distance to do so. "Is my toothbrush still...Never mind. I see it." The toothbrush I laid out for her the first time she slept here is still on the sink. She had opened it, put it back in the package it came in, and I left it there, a talisman to bring her back again. And...now...she's back again! We're going to sleep...and she means sleep...in the same bed. List of places to bite her has increased but I've lost count. Somewhere in the twenties. Did you ever try to ignore places you want to bite someone? They insist on being imagined! They...multiply. You imagine them from different angles, front, back, side, other side...upside down. I'd bite her toes! Top of her head. 'Thhpt! Thhpt! Hair!' Her ears. I like her ears. And lips. I like her ears and lips...and toes! I haven't really examined her toes, but I'm sure I'll like them. "I'm going to change," she says, going to the other side of the bed. "Sit down and don't look," she commands. "Okay?"

I sit down, say, "Okay." I take off my shoes, socks, shirt. I get up, go to the bathroom, shut the door, start the shower. I'm quick. I'm tired. I come out, look at the guy in the mirror. He's too tired to register any state of mind with that face. I raise my eyebrows, look in my own eyes, as I brush. I don't often look in my own eyes. I think I'm okay with this. I think I want this...to be...a relationship. It's weird. I never got...into a relationship...this way. Drunken one-night stands. Thanks! See ya! But this...slow, fast, slow, fast thing. That's new. I like her kisses. They feel unnatural but then natural, nice. She makes it...seem...natural. I think I can...control my...Lust List. I'm sure I can. All I have to do is go to sleep. I can do that without much effort. I'm worn the hell out! A woman is hard work! I dry off. I didn't bring clean underwear. I put my pants back on, put my dirty underwear in the pile at the top of the stairs. I cover them up with other stuff there.

In the bedroom she's in the t-shirt and sweatpants, looking out the window. "I need my uniform out of the trunk," she says, jingles her keys. She comes to my side of the bed, picks up the clock radio.

"I need to get up at six," she says. "I'll reset this for you when I do. What time do you get up?"

"Seven," I tell her. We're not just...taking a nap. She's spending the night? Sleeping...just sleeping...in my bed? My Crazo-Meter red-lines, and I'm looking into my own eyes in a mental mirror; I'm the Crazo!

She goes down the stairs. I hear the doors. I hear the trunk slam as I'm taking off my pants, finding clean underwear. Putting on my shorts over them. She's coming up the stairs. She hangs a uniform in the closet, lays shoes on the floor. I'm sitting on the bed. She comes over, pushes me back, climbs over me. I pull my feet in, lay back on the pillow. She's back, looking in my eyes, closes hers and starts kissing me. Now...I can control things to a point, but this is...this is making out! This is freakin' foreplay! I reach for her. She catches my wrist like she's afraid I'm going to grab her somewhere. She lays back, lets go, lays her head on the pillow against my bicep. I only have one pillow. She doesn't seem to notice. I can hardly hold my eyes open, despite my skin being stretched very tight, if you know what I mean. "Good night," she says. "Thank you for today. Thank you for...exploring the possibilities of us...with me."

What can you say to that? 'You're welcome?'
"You're welcome."
I'm afreakinsleep. I am. I know I am. I'm aware of this delicious piece of...woman beside me. And I'm asleep.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/28/23 11:10 PM.

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13. MONDAY MORNING ALARM; Buy-in's Remorse. June 19, 2023.

The alarm clock beeps three times before I reach and shut it off! It's seven o'clock.

The first thought in my consciousness is, 'What in the hell am I doing?'

I meet a girl on the street, who gives me hell for every word I say. Next thing I know she's a 'whole woman in my house' and I ain't had much o' nothin' in my mouse!
We've lain together on a couch, like we're familiar...lovers. And now, I'm giving her pajamas to sleep...sleep...in my bed.

She's a cop! A cop! It's a different mind that becomes a cop! A cop is laying on my couch, sleeping in my bed, taking a shower in my bathroom! Putting on a uniform and leaving for work, from my house! I ain't 'hittin' that'. We're not on a third date basis. Wait a minute. Are we? That's just it, dim ass! You don't know where you are! I don't know what this is! I'm...did I do this, lure her in? Or did she do this, reel me in?

What in the hillbilly hell am I doing? What...in the...hillbilly hell...am I doing?

She's...she's the one that...Let's see. She told me to put my guitar in her trunk. That was the first...aggressive move to...friendliness. Can you aggressively move to friendliness? Then she's the one who asked to sleep on the couch. What? I'm gonna tell 'that', 'No! Sorry! You can't stretch out all that...beautiful...stuff...on my couch! What do you take me for? A...a...' I can't think of what she might take me for, any...negative thing. It...it seemed...okay. It seemed like...a friend...comes and... wants to stay instead of going home. So you just...you just...fix them a bed, leave them to make themselves at home. But...we're not...friends. She's suddenly friendly! It's her! She's reeling me in! I...I like...being reeled in...by her. She's a...great lookin' little fisherperson!

I sit on the side of the bed, staring out at the bathroom door. She left the light on. There's a paper on the floor. I get up, go in; it's a tampon wrapper! The thought that she's a fertile...nubile...fecund...Damn! She could get pregnant! She makes eggs! I make...fertilizer!

I come back to the bedside stand, open the drawer. Plenty of condoms! If we...if I...ever need them. But...we're not just playing around with casual sex, hit it and quit it, wink in the grocery store later sex. She wants a relationship and...well... I want a relationship too but... Is this reasonable? Is this rational? I think I want a relationship. But we're already deep into...some kind of relationship and...I still don't know her last name! She's a cop! A uniformed cop. She's a cop.

I've met her Mom and Dad! I've gone to church! I never go to church. We sat at a table and ate biscuits and crazy! We watched football while her parents fell asleep. We stayed up all night, talking last night...no...Saturday night...Sunday morning. I don't know what freakin' day it is! It's Monday. Is this normal? This ain't normal! Am I addled? Is disruption of sleep making me make low-quality decisions? I mean...she's fine...but I'm not...I'm... I don't know how we got this...involved. I've gotta slow this down. What? I'm gonna tell her that? "Hello, darlin', we have to slow this down," I speak aloud. Or speed up. 'You cain't kiss me and lay in my bed and tell me to go to sleep.' I... bought in to this...this scenario...and we're practically old friends now. How in the hillbilly hell...?

I go, get in the shower. The hot water has the effect of stopping my crazy. I step out, dry off, shave, brush my teeth, do salt water lavage, draw saltwater up each nostril, and blow, mouth wash with hydrogen peroxide. The 'routine' makes me feel more...stable. Damn! I'm 'un-stable!'

Downstairs I just look around the room and go out the door. I need to get to work. Normal. Everyday routines. Everything's normal. Monday morning normal. I'm early. I don't want to go in that place any sooner than I have to. I drive over by the river. The Ohio River is new, every day! There's always something! I spot an Eagle flying upstream along the Kentucky shore. You can't miss that white head. They get 'bald' with white head feathers when they're five years old. It flies into an open area over there, that looks like maybe someone cleared the trees some time back. I spot two dark-feathered birds on the ground there. Perhaps younger eagles. I come to a stop and watch the slow, steady flow of the river. You can't perceive the flow when your car is moving. A bunch of turkey vultures is down on the concrete apron where folks launch boats. Two great blue heron lift up, fly downstream. The Sun is up behind me. Little steam snakes are rising all over the water surface.

I drive down to Alexandria Point, the mouth of the Big Scioto River, see a great blue wading in the shallow water over at Popcorn Beach, a sandbar that builds up on the other side. It darts its head into the water, takes a couple steps, darts again, steps, darts and comes up with a shiny minnow, flips it, swallows, stalks anew. I get my binoculars, watch it a while longer. Out of the corner of my left eye I see a large bird flying over that direction. I calculate it will come right into my view through the binoculars. It does! A bald eagle! It flies high up in a tree. They like to hunt from a perch. Suddenly I'm aware of another large bird in the air. It seems to have come from the direction of the Carl Perkins Bridge which crosses the Ohio to Kentucky. It begins circling, circling, folds its wings! Dives into the water! Splash! Comes right back out, flies up, starts circling, circling! Folds its wings and dives right in! Up a second time, circling, circling, and a third time, dives, and comes up with a fish! It flies off up the Scioto, likely to get away from the eagle. They fight and take prey away from each other.It turns the fish for aerodynamics. Poor fish is alive, looking at a scene it never imagined.

I go to work. Routines, normal, problems, cussing, good to be distracted, solve the problem, next problem. Lunch. Jim Dandy; Big Mo, Coke, Fries, $4.99. Working pains. Arrggh! Quittin' time!

I stop off at the grocery store. All the girls who look good look like I could reasonably expect to start a relationship with them! What makes me think... I can smell them, at a distance, as they walk by, as I walk where they were a moment ago. I'm picking up apples and stuff, not looking at what I'm shopping, handling. I get a grip, pay attention, get my sh-stuff so I can get out of there. The checkout girl is telling a story to the customer in front of me about the car wash refusing to wash her car because it is so 'raggedy' with rust and fender bender damages. When I get to her I ask what kind of car she has? She says, "It's a 2006 Fallinapart!" Beautiful blonde hair. Nice face. I could have a relationship with her. We could have hit-it-and-quit-it. I could make a list of places to bite her. I get out of there before I get myself in trouble.

I walk down the parking lot to my car and...the cops are here! It's Ileace! She registers a little surprise.

"Hi," she says, turning to look at my car. "I'm trained to notice cars! I keep missing yours. She walks with me to the car. I set my groceries in the front passenger floorboard. Trunk's full o' junk.

"Just getting off?" I say. She says she is. She looks delicious! Except for the uniform. Except for her face. It's that troubled look.

She crosses her arms over her chest, leans on the right front fender. "I've...I've been..." She stands up, right hand on her gun, well...on her hip, just above her gun, left hand searching the air for a word, I think..."I've been...freaking out...all day!" She looks me in the eye. "What are we doing? How did this happen? Did you seduce me? Did I seduce you? We're...kind of in a relationship! Already! I've never been in a relationship...gotten into a relationship this quickly in my life! Not that I've been in a lot of relationships but... This has been quick, like from...'Nice to meet ya!' to 'Set the alarm for me!' How...did this happen?"

I laugh, not 'Ha! Ha!' That's funny!' but 'Oh! My! God!'. I try to play it cool.

"Yeah, I was...wondering about that today...all day...myself," I tell her. "I think one or more of us must be crazy!"

We both point and say, "It's you!" That really makes us laugh. Genuinely, laugh. Hers is a treble chuckle, so cute, just three quick, spontaneous giggles. I...love...like it.

"I wanna see you," she says. "Meet me somewhere."

"Alexandria Point," I say. She gives me a thumbs up, says 'Okay!'.

"About an hour?" she asks. "I gotta get Mom some groceries, go home and change."

"I have to take groceries home," I say. About an hour, hour and a half. No rush. We'll see the Sun go down."

"Sounds good!" she says. Good grin. We look at each other. She's half turned to leave, stands there. "I want your kiss," she says, stands there. I want her kiss. I reach for her. She comes to me. We kiss, not a 'Luv ya! Bye' kiss; a sensual, sexual, in a relationship kiss. I like it. I can't help liking it. This is madness! I throw her down on the hood of my car and... She's walking away. She looks good in that uniform too. She looks back, catches me looking, grins. I go.

On the way home a theory comes to me; we're conceptualizing the relationship we think we could have. We're both imagining so anything that happens...if it seems to fit the scheme of our fantasy, we go with it, act on it, so it seems to make perfect sense...in the moment. It doesn't make perfect sense. Or is that how things happen? I'm no more clear headed later when I come out to go meet her than I've been all day. 'Love is blind'? It would be irrational to think this is love. Love has to be rational. Does love have to be rational? 'Love at first sight'? No. Bogus. Lust maybe; love has to be...has to have a more established...basis. You don't just...I... Damn it!

I've been playing with it; trying to say flirtatious things, trying to be clever and charming. That...established a pattern for...how I respond to her...how I present myself to her. She...responded to that, came off what seemed a sullen, challenging attitude, softened up. It was too quick. She...wanted to be softer, wanted...a friend. I wanted her, to bite. Well, I wanted a friend too. Not just hit/quit. Although... We fit our mental...health together like a jigsaw puzzle. Is that...good? Bad? Ugly? Most of the time it seemed...logical, rational, just... what you do, feeling your way into someone. What was happening was some semblance of what we wanted...I wanted...to happen. I wanted to bite those shoulders! LOL. To do that, I had to let the shoulders in, keep the shoulders around. Suddenly she was asking to...come in...'Can I come in?'... to stay around. But...last night. That was...irrational. No sane woman...no sane man...lays in bed with a...stranger, sleeps, like having your sister visit. Not that I'd sleep with my sister but...You know what I mean.

I'm early. It's only been forty-five minutes. I'm coming down Front Street, 'round the corner onto Scioto Street. She's here! There's her car. I park at the only open space. Where is she? I see her. Blue jeans. Man! Oh! Man! Can she wear some blue jeans. Short tank top. Bare mmmm arms. Bare belly. Bite! Bite! Bite! How's a man supposed to not be crazy?

I'm so...confused... my head is spinning like that little pukey girl in that devil movie. How is it that we're both freaking out at the same time? We...teamed up to get where we are, and now...we both have remorse about buying into our own delusions. This confirms to me that one or both of us are nuts. She's pretty. But...Uncle Lonnie's philosophy, "Just remember, no matter how pretty they are, somewhere there's someone who's had enough of their crap!" Note to self; don't tell her that. It works both ways.

Conversely, maybe I'm the one who's crazy and she's the hapless victim of my madness, like in a dozen movies. People can be crazy and not know they're crazy. Mom says, "If you find yourself all the time telling people you're not stupid or not crazy, you just might be!"

I don't know whether to tell her...in detail...how I'm freaking or wait and see if she can come to some conclusion for herself. We both have to figure this out for ourselves. If I let her tell me how I'm thinking or I try to define for her how she's thinking... Maybe she'll say we need to cool it. I'll go back to...I don't want to go back to... Maybe she'll have a rational plan for going forward with caution. Maybe diamonds will fall out of the sky and we'll get rich and not give a crap.

"Hey!" I say.

"Hey, yourself," she says, lovely smile. She takes my hand in both of hers. "I'm sorry about earlier. I kind of dumped my crazy on you! I...when I'm away from you I get confused about what I'm doing...with...you. When I'm with you I have what I think is clarity. Then, I'm away from you and...it comes apart. Is that crazy?"

"Yes," I tell her. "Doctor Flegleman can see you at two on Tuesday!" She laughs, that cute treble giggle, spontaneous. She gets my joke. I take a deep breath.

"Let's go down by the river," she says, leans closer and in a confidential tone, "It's too people-y up here." We step up, go down the steps to 'the point', where the Scioto flows into the Ohio. She lets go of my hand. We're walking in the fine dust, silt that floodwaters left behind, down to the river's edge. She finds some dead alligator gar. They're about two feet long, long ten inch snouts of needle sharp teeth. I don't know if fishermen just kill them instead of putting them back in the river or if they're afraid to get close to those teeth to get their hooks and sinkers back so they cut the line and put them up on the bank to die. She toes at the desiccated carcasses. They've been laying here a while. She bends down, looks closely at the teeth. It's not a pleasant place to be. She looks at me. I turn, throw my head back up to the road. She comes. We start walking down the road, upriver. It's warm, comfortable. There's usually a nice breeze here, and is today.

"I was thinking about..." Tell her? Don't tell her? "what you said. I..." Tell her. "I had some of the same 'Buy-In Remorse' thoughts today." Don't tell her the alarm clock didn't get a fourth beep before you started having doubts, you fool! "We have...rushed in, haven't we?" I ask her. "Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread!"

"I wish we were angels instead of fools," she says.

I'm trying to untangle that to comprehend practical application but it does not compute.

"I'm settled down a little now," she says. "As long as I was busy today I was fine. When I got idle it kicked in. What are we doing?" she asks. "How did we start doing it so fast? It's my fault. I...I should never have asked to sleep on your couch. And you, ya big dummy? I might have been a crazy lunatic who would kill you in your sleep! Why did you let me stay in your house?"

Having considered that possibility numerous times that night, I tell her, "I took a chance. I...wanted to believe in you...pretty badly...wanted to be reassured you weren't a crazy lady who would...jump off the train somewhere!" I laugh. She doesn't. "You asked, like it was...normal...like we were old friends and...like it made sense. What? I'm going to tell...someone like you...'No! You're young and beautiful! You have to go!'"

"I think I am crazy," she says. "Sometimes I scream in the car, on the way home," adds, "or the way to work. Any time I'm alone and it all seems too tangled to..." she doesn't finish the sentence, long enough for me to,

"Untangle?" I offer.

"...to think. Just to slow down and think. I have to think fast all day, make a lot of decisions, in a hurry, people waiting, people moving, people talking! Yammer! Yammer! Yammer! I drive down here sometimes. I wish it was longer. I need a...a country drive to untangle my brain from the day's...madness. I'm dealing with people who have intense problems, and cops and lawyers and judges who are problem people too!"

"I used to have a psychological...thing...I'd do, leaving work in the Air Force," I tell her, remembering. "There was a gate where I came out onto the base, from the work area to the living area, heading to the barracks, and I started going 'Ping', out loud if there was no one around, to myself if there was, as I passed through that gate."

"Ping?" she asks.

"And that was my signal to leave the day's...abuses and aggravations behind and head for 'home', the barracks, where I could just chill. It got to be like any day-job. Do your job. Don't let the bastards grind you down, and go home."

"And that worked? Hell, I'll try it! Ping!" She tilts her head back, raises her voice, yells to the air, "You bastards don't exist! That's my thing. I keep thinking about papers and people after I leave work. Things I gotta fix tomorrow, when there will be a whole new workload of people and paper. And then thinking about my home life, Mom. Dad, myself."

"Most genuine people care about the work they do, take it to heart, want to do the best they can," I philosophize. "You...you seem...like a genuine person."

"Genuine?" she ponders.

"Authentic," I say, searching for words for...my feelings...about her. "I think you mean what you say, say what you mean. If...if you're fooling me into thinking you're something you aren't...you're doing a hell of a job. I'm almost happy to find out you're a little bit...off balance in this crazy world. I don't think anyone 'handles' life well all the time. People who aren't a little...disturbed...aren't paying attention. Sometimes...I think sometimes the best of us get knocked for a loop, suddenly, or gradually start...losing our grippers! We...we don't like how things are going, worklife, personal life, world life, but there's not much we can do about it. Suddenly or gradually we find ourselves very...unhappy."

"Oh!" she says, looking ahead. "Let's go back. There are people up there too." There are trailers and cars at the boat docks. "I know those people."

I don't know them but the Sheriff's Department maintains that boat dock.

She takes off up the hill, through the weeds. I follow. I don't think about it, don't try to call her back; I follow. I don't care where she's going. I'm going with her. She goes up the hill, comes out on top of the low floodwall along Front Street that was built after the 1913 Flood.

When I get there, she's looking down at the street, about four feet below. I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to jump. "This way," I tell her, and walk down the floodwall to a place where an old, broken concrete step gives a way down. I step down, turn and offer my hand. She takes it, comes down, and hugs me. Just a brief hug, a little longer than a 'necessary' hug to get her footing. It's...affection. She lets go, heads east, up Front Street where the murals are. I follow. She's ahead of me, just walking, steady pace. She turns, keeps walking, backwards.

"Do you feel like walking?" she asks, tosses her head as she turns to walk forward again.

"I do," I say, and just follow. She keeps walking, doesn't wait for me to catch up. We're walking, no talking. We come through the Madison Street Gate in the floodwall, built after the 1937 Flood, into the city. She's looking at people's flowers, flowerbeds at the houses there, across at the murals, at cars as they go by.

"Arizona," she says. Another car goes by;

"Virginia," she says. I realize shes reading license plates. I see her eyeing them, going on and on. We're walking fast, like we're in a hurry. It's okay. At the end of the murals she turns up an alley. I'm following. It's fine. I like being with her without having to sustain a conversation. She's toeing at the bricks in the alley. I notice they're thin, thinner than any brick street or alley I've seen. I can't resist telling her a story. She stops, comes back to me, takes my hand when I start.

"You see the floodwall buried in the levee over there?" She's looking. Doesn't need to answer. "One time I was walking on that sidewalk and I saw a man coming who I had been told was a Veteran. He had a bedroll tied diagonally across his back, no hat. He was deeply tanned. Whoever told me about him...we saw him walking along the road, the highway up in Sciotoville...they said he walks to Huntington, West Virginia to the Veterans hospital there, by choice. He bent down and picked something up. When he got close enough to speak he said, "They never should have made those. They quit making them a long, long time ago, but I keep finding them, and every time I do I think I've found a diamond ring!"

"In his thick brown fingers was a pull tab, like for an aluminum can. But it was round, with two little...points, like a diamond ring would have to hold the diamond, you know." It was the original design, and it came completely off the can when you pulled it, pulling the closure part off the hole you drink out of. People would throw them down, litter, or play with bending the two segments, the ring and the tab, back and forth until the metal fatigued and broke and then they'd litter both pieces. The ring part had two little points, you know, like a diamond ring would have to hold the diamond. He was still finding them on the ground. Somewhere I see one when I'm walking, a relic from last century, embedded in the tar on a road. I forget where.

With no...segue... no pause...," I go on, "between the 'pop-tab' story and the next one, he said, "When a bass first hits your minnow, you don't jerk your rod. He's scaling the minnow. When he hits your rod a second time he's flipping it around to swallow it! That's when you jerk your rod!"

And then, again, no...pause, he pointed at that wall," I point, "buried in the bottom of the levee, and said, "My father told me that in 1937 the water flowed over that wall just like Niag'na Falls!"

"And, with that, he went on by me. I never saw him again. I didn't get a chance to say a word!"

She laughs, just that little treble chuckle I'm learning to like, turns, goes on up the alley. Under a tree there, she stops, turns, waits for me.

"I want your kiss," she says. "Can we?" I don't answer, just kiss her. It's not a passionate kiss; just a kiss. It seems to be all she wants. She takes my left hand, grins at me, starts walking. "I'm not crazy," she declares. "You're not crazy. Maybe this is how people fall in love. Just...serendipity. No...plan. Just...it just happens."

"This is exactly how people fall in love," I tell her. "Then they end up trying to explain it in court to a Judge who looks at them like they're crazy!" Now she's laughing.

"I'm in, Gary," she says, looks at me, and away, down at the skinny bricks. "I've decided I want to explore...this...whatever we're doing. If...if you don't want to...all you have to do is tell me. I know it's...irrational. But...I'm not...afraid of it. I"m...not afraid of where it can go. Unless I...unless you tell me you're not interested. If you're not it's okay. I understand."

I don't get a chance to process that before she says,

"I don't want to go up that way," and she points to her right. "I work there in the City Building. I don't even like to drive by when I'm not working. Ya think I'm in the wrong job?" she asks. Treble chuckle! LOL "No," she says. "I like my job. It's just sometimes...when my private life gets...annoying...I start to hate everybody and everything." She laughs. "But I'm NOT crazy!" she says, treble chuckles. "Or am I?" She leads me across the street, on up the alley. They're building a new residential hotel there, on the corner of Washington and Second. She keeps going, turns on Third Street, then up Washington past Daphne's. At Fifth she crosses Washington...I'm just letting her lead me, following now a few steps behind, and we go up to Chillicothe. She turns north up Chillicothe, stops,takes my hand, points out the building across the street that will be the new Municipal Building. "I don't know if we're moving our operations up here or what," she says. "Some people say we will. Some say we won't. I ask them who told them that and they don't know. It's just talk. I hope it's a well-organized, you know, floor plan. I hope they put in more windows!"

She lets go my hand and walks ahead. I follow. It's comfortable, walking, not talking. It's a hike. She slows to look at big pictures in the Marting's building, a last-century scene of the street at this location. She stops at the corner, lets traffic go by. I notice she's holding her right hand on her stomach, remember the tampon paper.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

She says, "I have...poison ivy." She grins, but there's a pained look about her. "I'm on my period," she confides. "Sometimes I get cramps." We cross the intersection of Sixth and Chillicothe diagonally.

"You may not experience that if you get a mineral supplement with calcium," I tell her.

"Really?" she says. "How do you know all this stuff?"

"I know everything!" I tell her. "Wanna know the annual rainfall in Rio de Janeiro?" She laughs. We keep walking. "Let's go in the drug store there and see if they have a mineral supplement." They do. I buy it for her. Coming out she turns and starts back down Chillicothe, takes my hand and turns on Seventh, lets go my hand, starts walking a little faster ahead of me. I follow. It's comfortable. I like being with her. She zig zags down Washington, to Sixth, to Court, to Fifth, to Market, to Fourth, on to Third and Second. West on Second and soon we're standing by her car. I'm worn out! LOL

"I'm going home," she says. "I need to lay down." I give her the minerals.

"Take one right away. They're not magic. It takes time to get into the system and start doing you some good. Put one in a glass of water and see if it dissolves," I advise her. "I read about a nurse who noticed white spots on an x-ray and the woman told her she had taken two calcium caplets earlier. They were down in her digestive tract but hadn't dissolved yet. And people say vitamin caplets go right through you the same way. So, unless they're water soluble they may not be doing you any good."

"You really do know everything, don't you?" she grins, steps to me, offers her mouth to kiss, and I kiss it. "I...wanna see you. Can we get together this week, again, sometime? I think I'm okay with...you and me. I...want there to be a you and me. Sometimes I come out of my house and...mentally look across the... world, and know...there is no house where I can go, where I want to go, where I will be welcome." It's a profound comment.

"I think we can get together," I tell her. "Do you have a day in mind?"

"I don't know," she says. "I'll be getting over this...poison ivy... so I won't be very good company. I'm surprised I haven't been mean to you!" Treble chuckle! We kiss. It's sexual. It's sensual. It's desire. Mine. Her desire. She looks in my eyes. She's not relaxed, comfortable. She turns away. I turn to go to my car as she opens her car door.

"Hey!" she yells. I turn. "My Mother says..." and I find myself apprehensive about sentences that begin with 'My Mother says...', "you wanna go church-shopping Sunday! Any truth to that rumor?" I come back a few steps.

"What do you think?" I ask her. "I think that church..." I search for a word...find one... "Sucks! Preacher can't preach! She just likes being there! Maybe she'd be even happier if the preacher had something to say!"

"I like the way you think, man!" she says, grinning, grimaces, touches her stomach, a little wave. Bye.

I'm in a daze. I find myself backing in at the apartment without remembering driving there. In. Eat soup. No crackers. Jam. Bed. Alarm. Work. Routine. I feel...good about where my life is headed, if it's headed anywhere. It's...nebulous. It's...unplanned, unorganized. It's...a world of new possibilities. There's...somebody.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/29/23 02:14 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
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14. GETTING OVER POISON IVY; True Confessions.

Having established that we're both nuts has, believe it or not, eased my mind. As long as I'm not delusional by myself, that she knows and is concerned too about our...rationality...our...decision-making, thus far, I feel a little better. I sleep well, get up and go to work, get along with people better. Suddenly, their 'problems' don't get under my skin. I'm Mr. So What? Always was. I cope. We move on. Suddenly it's five o'clock. I'm the guy holding the door for everybody else.

I have long jam sessions at home. Night falls. I go to bed. Sleep. Dream. I wake up refreshed. Sometimes I remember my dreams. Sometimes I don't. You know how that goes. But, I wake up sometimes now, from intense dreams...of Ileace. We're playing, laughing, goofing off. Walking. Sex. The girl's on my mind. In my mind.

Wednesday comes. I go to work, remember about ten o'clock that Ileace said we'd get together today. That of course slows down time. Lunch. I go home, eat an apple, stare out the back door, do the dishes, leave some when I realize I've daydreamed myself into being late to get back to work!

Five o'clock. People start disappearing. I notice. I shut down, head out. Across the street, leaning on her car, Ileace.

I walk over. She's in civilian clothes. "Get off early?" I ask.

"Yeah," she says, "I wasn't feeling well so I left at 4:30."

"What time's quitting time?" I ask.

"Five," she says. We both laugh. "Can we go to your house?" she says. "I really don't feel good. Poison ivy, still."

"Yeah," I agree, readily. "Meet you there?"

"Okay!" she says, cheerfully. "I did a drive-by and got us a fish sandwich!" she says, gets in, doesn't look back. I follow her, like her route to get to my apartment. I let her back her fancy-smancy in, back in myself. She's waiting at the door. Petreace has leaned out her door. They're talking. I don't hear anything. Petreace waves, closes her door. Ileace is smiling, looking peaceful, happy. She touches her stomach, grimaces. She opens the storm door, stands against it. I reach around her, unlock. She kisses my neck. She goes in. She goes to the kitchen, sets a bag on the table. 'We have the meats!' She comes back before I can go in, goes to the couch,

"Can I just take a nap?" she says. "I'm sorry."

"Sure," I tell her. "Be comfortable." She picks up the t-shirt and sweatpants that lay there all the time now. She starts to lift up her shirt, stops, looks at me. I go look out the front door.

"Okay," she says. Her clothes are on the coffee table, laying on my guitar case. She's covered up in the green fuzzy. Her eyes are closed. "Go eat that fish before it gets cold," she commands. "Do you like fish?" she asks, in sort of a mumble. I utter 'yep', go to the kitchen. Good fish sandwich! Hers is half eaten, wrapped back in paper. No fries? That's okay. That's better. I set the bag in the fridge, refill my water bottle. I take a bottle of water, set it on the coffee table, in reach.
I love...look...at her face.

In the kitchen I run a little hot water, do some dishes I left. Not many to do. Done, I go back through the living room, look at what's laying on my couch, up the stairs. I put on my shorts. I go in the bathroom, grab a quick shower, scrub down the walls, the tub, the shower curtain. I come out, scrub the sink, sanitize the commode. I'm on my knees out in the hall, finishing cleaning the bathroom floor with a towel, when the light changes in the stairwell. She's coming up the stairs. I look. Pained expression, arms crossed. Damn! She's pretty.

"Get out of here!" she says, sleepily. "I gotta do something." I sit back. She steps over my right shoulder, right leg over, left leg drags against my back, in, and turns, half behind the closing door, grins, says, "Real men don't clean their bathrooms. I knew you were just a dream!"

I laugh. She closes the door. I get up, take my laundry pile and nasty towel down the stairs to the laundry room, start a load. I don't buy white clothes. My underwear are colors. I don't have to worry about mixing white clothes with dyed ones. They're all colors. I close the door, slip out of my shorts and add my underwear to the mix, put the shorts back on. They're a little flimsy. I wash my hands, go back up the stairs. She's still in there. I go in the bedroom, close the door, get on underwear. While I'm naked I hear her come out, go down the stairs. I come out, go down. She's standing looking out the door at the Sunset. She catches my left wrist, pulls my arm across her chest, lands my hand on her right shoulder, rests her right cheek on the back of my hand. I swing around to stand behind her. No words. I hear her sigh.

"You should put the couch over here, by the window," she says, "so I could be kneeling on it right now, looking out the window, watching the Sun go down."

Uncle Lonnie, 'whole woman in your house', rearranging the furniture. She turns, lays her head on my chest. Her hair smells good, under my chin. She's hugging me. I feel her arms locked behind my back. We stand there. I can stand here a while if she wants me to. She lets go, finds my left hand with her right, tows me toward the couch.

"I'm sorry this isn't much of a...get-together," she apologizes. "I'm just sleepy," and adds, "and poison ivy." She's pulling me to lie down, toward the back of the couch. I'm a very cooperative guy. She lays down in front of me. I have to...adjust...things in my shorts to not be too... protrusive. She lies down in front of me, lays against me, feels my arousal. Suddenly the pillow is between us. "I'm sorry," she says. "Be patient with me."

What do you say to that, this...situation? Yeah, me neither! I reach for the fuzzy on the floor, cover us up. She sounds like she's sleeping. This is why it feels so...out of synch, so...premature. This is sex. This is bodies and carnal knowledge and...inches away from...applying one to the other. My left arm is up between her breasts, my hand at her shoulder, her throat. It's the most sensual thing, to move a finger and feel her skin, to feel the weight of her left breast on my forearm. I'm running through my bite list, like I'm planning a vacation. 'First I'll go to the beach! And then to the aquarium! And then out to eat somewhere I've never been! And then come back to the house and...sleep.' I fall asleep.

I wake up. It's dark. I don't know what time it is. I think I just heard the washer shut off. I think that's what woke me. No. Can't be. It's dark out. She stirs, asks, "What time is it?" I tell her I don't know. We still need a pillow between us. She sits up, knocking the pillow aside. No contact! I put the pillow back. She leans back against my belly, stretches her arms over her head. I hear her bang her shins on the coffee table!

"Son of a bitch!" she shouts! She leans over, rubs both her shins. She leans back, stretches her arms again. The outline of her right breast, the nipple pointing to the ceiling, is obvious to me even in the darkness. I wriggle my right arm free from under me, put it across her waist, her thighs.

"I'm sorry I'm just...sleeping through our visit," she apologizes.

"That's okay," I tell her. "The body knows what it needs." She turns, leans up to me, kisses my jawbone, my throat, my clavicle. I don't try to match up lips.

"I know what our bodies need," she whispers. "I need to get over this poison ivy. You need to get your bite list checked off. How long has it been since you've been with a woman?"

It's one of her out-of-the-blue questions. I know 'who' the answer is; I don't have a 'when' readily available. It was winter, and not the winter we've just left for summer. Today's the first day of summer.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asks. "Are you married?" She laughs, treble-chuckle. "What's your middle name?" She laughs again.

"No," I tell her. "No," I tell her. "Eugene," I tell her.

"It...," she stops. "it wasn't him, up in Athens. I..." She stops. "I did something stupid. We were in Los Angeles, at a conference. Mackleroy was there..."

"Oh! No!" I say, without enthusiasm. "Not Mackleroy! I hate that guy!" She laughs out loud!

"You don't even know Mackleroy!" she shouts, laughing. "No. He was there and, apparently, had buddied up with another cop from...somewhere...I don't even know where now...and had been telling him that I was an easy mark, that I was wild, that I would...do things. The dog kept finding ways to sit with me at tables during lunch, breakfast, dinner. In sessions. Any private moment he found with me he said something suggestive; 'Let's you and me slip away and have a drink. I have a bottle in my room'. 'Let's you and me go out tonight.' 'Let's you and me...'
I saw him talking to Mackleroy a couple times, once before he started dogging me. One other time. I didn't think much about it. I was there with business on my mind.

We were there for three days. Finally, the last night there...I was flying out of LAX the next day...I drank too much in the hospitality suite. Me and some other girls were laughing our heads off. Everything was funny. We found funny in everything. Just about three margaritas...which is one too many...probably two too many...I don't drink...I"m pretty sure I left about half of that last one sitting...Anyway, he, dogboy, jumps in the elevator with me, starts 'Let's you and me-ing'. Some other cops get on at another floor and he backs off. They know each other. They'd been drinking too and were 'flirting', saying vaguely lewd things. He just stood there grinning. I get off on my floor, go to my room. There's a knock. I look out through the peephole, open the door, it's dogboy, we're talking and I start questioning him...

'WTF?' I'm saying. 'What's it take to get through to you?' He tries a couple more suggestive lines, but then he apologizes. He seems genuinely sorry, starts telling me he had the wrong idea about me. That piqued my curiosity. I say,

'Why would you have ANY idea about me?'

He says, 'Well, Mackleroy said...you were wild back home.'

I was drunk. And now I'm pissed off! To the max! He tells me what Mack had been telling him, since day one of the conference, 'She'll...do things."

And now...now we're sitting in my room. Me, drunk, emotional, pissed off, and this guy. He was being nice. He was a good looking boy. And...I just decided to be wild. I approached him. It was my stupid. We're kissing. I'm horny. I hadn't had sex since...since Athens and the Slammer Jammer's last hump!"

She treble chuckles at her joke.

"It was the quickie of quickies. And he was up and out of there. Mission accomplished! I was instantly...so sorry I'd let it happen. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to put my finger down my throat but I couldn't get myself to do it. I drank a couple glasses of water, took two aspirin, went to bed.

The next day I didn't see dogboy or Mackleroy during the closing sessions. I was glad. My head hurt! I got a taxi to LAX and flew home. It's so damned far out there, and back, and the time difference. I was miserable. Don't ever let me drink! I got home and slept all weekend. I wasn't recovered by Monday morning. I didn't see Mackleroy until later in the week. He was grinning, but he's always grinning. I don't know if he saw dogboy that last day or not. He never said anything, never tried to...use it against me."

"Can't your Dad arrest him or shoot him?" I ask her. "I'll pay!" She laughs, lays down, her back against me, adjusts the pillow. It's warm.We're quiet.

"And that was like," she says, "early 2020, 2021 maybe. I've had dates. Men hit on me. I liked a couple of them so I went out with them. Then I didn't like them so I didn't go out with them any more. Then...I just...went into...hibernation. Go to work. Come home. Go for a drive. Come home. Go to the gym. Come home."

"So...now..." she stops. "I'm wondering if...I'm doing another...stupid."

I don't have an answer right away. Then I do. "Yes. Of course you are. Which means I am too. Now...I know why I'm being stupid. You're...very pretty. If you weren't so mean I'd think..." She elbows me, not a strike, just a nudge..."you were the 'whole package'. What's not for a man to like?" But we've been...very casual about things, haven't we? You AND me. We're talking. We're...working things out, verbally, psychologically... We're imagining...but..."

"But?" she repeats. "'But' kinda scares me," she says.

"But...this," I hug her, "this is physical. Physical, touching, intimate conversations and intimate...physical contact. It clouds our judgment. We might be...fooling ourselves, fooling each other with hormones...and...desire...aloneness...loneliness. What if we're fooling ourselves? We don't make sense."

She rolls over to face me. "So that's why I'm nuts! How about you?" She laughs, kisses me. They're sensual kisses, foreplay kisses! Damn it woman! I can't blink now! You're gonna damage my eyes!

"You know my whole sexual history!" she exclaims. "I don't wanna know yours. If...I'm doing a 'Stupid' I...I'm going to keep going with it unless...you tell me to stop. I don't have the judgment at this moment to stop myself. I...don't think I am doing a 'Stupid'."

I'm not going to tell her my last time story. It's probably longer than hers...a longer time ago, I mean. Girl I had gotten together with when I came home from the service, on leave, ran into again in...a bar...and we just finished the drinks we had in our hands and headed for the door. Wham! Bam! Thank ya Jesus! Out in her car. And I never saw her again. It's a sordid story, isn't it? I won't tell her. And...others before that.

We're making out! I'm thinking all this, while we're kissing. She stops, lays her head on the armrest, tilts her face into my shoulder.

"I want you," she says, a muffled voice. I don't move, don't say anything. "I want...you...in my life. I want to come into yours. Now...that I know you...I don't know you...but I know of you...I want to...see you. To be together. I don't care what we do. I loved just walking the other day." There's a lull. "If you...don't feel that way just...let me know. I understand. I would...understand."

"I have to go," she says. "Two more days! I'm off for the weekend! Yayfreakinyay! If they don't change it on me!" She changes course, "Are you gonna play Saturday night? I wanna come and hear you."

I usually don't plan it ahead of time; just...the day arrives, the night arrives and I go. I haven't missed a Saturday since I started. Have I? It was the night I met her. I tell her all that.

"See?" she says. "It was serendipitous! Us meeting. If either one of us had changed a decision and hadn't been at the right place at the right time. It's...she sits up, leans on her left arm. She's excited... "It's the Cosmic Highway!" She laughs, leans and kisses me. I feel her breasts flatten against my chest. She sits back up. "If you had...decided to have another drink or...talk to somebody...went to take a pee...I might not have seen you walking! If I had gone home to watch TV with Mom... or caught a redlight, turned right instead of left somewhere, I wouldn't have met you. If either one of us had changed one little thing we wouldn't know each other!"
I sit up, throw my legs over hers, to get up. She pulls them out from under me, before I can get up, sits up, sideways on the couch, her left knee up over my right thigh. Her face looks kind of blank, in the darkness, like she's asking me how I feel about her Cosmic Highway. I wait too long to tell her. Her face clouds over. She's reaching for her clothes, pulls her pants into her lap, sits still. She's not looking at me, but down at the floor.

"I think your Cosmic Highway ran over us!" I say. "I think we're a Cosmic Collision, an accident." Her face doesn't change. I finish, "...but...in a good way."

Her face brightens! "Yeah?" she says, question? "Yeah," she says, affirmation. "I gotta get dressed! I gotta go!"

It's dark in here, but I can see her pull my t-shirt over her head. 'Girl, what the hell are you doing to me?' I can see her light-colored bra against darker skin! It's too dark in here! She pulls her own shirt on over her head. She spins around on the seat, pulls her sweat pants off. I can see the light colored panties against darker skin. I can see the curves of her legs, her belly, her ribs. She's a lean, muscular girl. Her arms are sculpted, her legs, shapely. I'm thinking of reaching for her when she stands and pulls on her pants, steps into her shoes. I watch the light fabric disappear under the jeans. My bite list rolls between my ears like a ticker tape machine!

"When are you gonna play your song for me?" I ask.

"It's finished!" she says. "Maybe...someday."

"Someday's ass!" I say. "I wanna hear it. I'll wait. You'll be ready. You'll play it for me someday." She's laughing.

"Someday has an ass?" she teases, laughing at her own joke. Treble-chuckles, twice. I love it! She drops, sits sideways, knee over thigh, leans in, kisses my shoulder.

"Yes. Yes it does," I say. "And a nice one too. Not as nice as yours, but...yes, it does." She's giggling. She stops.

"I'm...giddy," she says. "I'm dizzy, I think." We're up. We're at the door. She's out on the sidewalk. She kisses me just inside the door, turns and walks away. I let the storm door close.

Then, she's gone. I'm alone. It's dark. It's real. It happened. She's...real.

I go to the laundry room, switch on the light, take things out of the washer, put them in the dryer. Turn off the light. Go to bed. Morning comes. Work. 5:00 o'clock. Come home. Jam. Put a beef roast in the crock pot. Sleep. Work. Home. Cook vegetables. It's Friday. Plan to go to Cubby's tomorrow, what songs I'll play. She doesn't show up anywhere, on the street outside work, at my apartment, parking lot down the street. I'm looking. Every silver car. I'm looking. That's okay. I wish she'd show up. I don't go find her. I wish I could go find her. Sleep. Come Saturday morning...

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/29/23 02:35 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 5,728
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Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 5,728
Likes: 43
15. HIDDEN TALENTS, HAS OUR ILEACE; "You're Talking To". Saturday, June 24, 2023.

I walk down to Cubby's. It's a beautiful day. The Sun is still up. It's hot. I'm perspiring a little too much. I decided to 'dress up', white hat, red shirt, tan jeans, black cowboy boots. I have an identical red shirt. If I sweat this one up I'll change after my 'show' and be fresh again. I slow down, stroll, get there at 6:15. Nobody has signed up! I could have the opening slot if I wanted it. I don't want it. I put my name at 7:50, Gary E. Freakin' Andrews. I feel good.

People are eating, people are ordering, Petreace is hustling, grins at me, quietly says, "Hey! I saw that cop leaving your house last week!" She squeezes my bicep, keeps on trucking! She smells of patchouli and pot!

The kids come in, take the top slots. The older players come in, take some slots. It's not a full slate, still a couple openings above me. That's okay. I'm ready when they are. Sound guy is there, twiddling knobs, running up to the stage area...it's just an area at that end of the room...not a stage. There is a narrow stage, red carpeted, along the end of the room, and a baby grand is in an alcove on the left.

I go through the door to the bar. It's kind of full too. Noisy. Petreace is back behind the bar, hustle, hustle, serve, ring it up, run back to the other side, deliver meals to tables. I come back over to the restaurant side. What was two empty tables at the back before is now...Sweet Baby Jesus! Daddy, Orlean, some good lookin' girl and the two kids, some guy, and...the prettiest girl in the room, in my lavender shirt! I set my guitar on the red carpet stage, up where my website can be seen, www.garyeandrews.com .

I glance at the board. There, just above my name is another name; Ileace Calhoun. Ileace! Calfreakin'houn! What the hell kind of name is Calfreakin'houn? I laugh! I laugh some more! I turn around and there comes Ileace Calfreakin'houn down the middle aisle.

"Good evening!" I say. My voice sounds loud. My ears are ringing. It's noisy in here. I can hear cutlery on china. I hear chairs creak. I hear someone sneeze. I can't take my eyes off the prettiest girl in the room. She's grinning at me. She puts her hands on my chest, reaches up and puts them on my face, reaches up and pinches my lips between hers.

"Let's get some air," she says, takes my hand, leads me up the aisle. Howard offers a fist bump. Orlean is grinning! She's doing introductions. The kids are waving at me. The guy's too far over on the other side of the table to shake hands, waves. Oh! Natan, Ileace's brother. His wife is pretty, grinning, nods her head. Ileace pulls me toward the door, tells them we're going to get some air. Orlean offers a fist bump as I go by! I give it!

Outside on the sidewalk, her car is parked at the curb. We lean on it. We cross our arms over our chests, stand there. I'm grinning at her. She's grinning at me. I'm grinning at the moon. The moon ain't up.

"So tonight's the night?" I say. "You're gonna debut your...your act, and your new song?"

"Yes, I am," she says, a positive vibe. "Tonight's the night! I've got butterflies! I've never played out like this. I played in college when we'd have people in the apartment. I played out 'under the elms' my last year there. I only had a few classes and had time. I finally knew enough songs and had written enough of my own to do it. There's money in my case from busking. I never took it out. I never meant to busk. People would open my case and put money in. I started leaving it open. It's not much but it was fun to think someone liked me well enough to drop in a coin or a dollar. One day two young girls who, apparently had just come to school listened to me a long time. When they got up to leave, they came over and said that was the first time they felt comfortable there. That made me feel good, 'Sharing the gift!' I thought."

"Just breathe," I say. "Get plenty of air, and have the good time you usually have when you play. Anyone listening will enjoy it just like you do!"

"Well I'm excited now!" I tell her. "I've been waiting for your song to... come up on your list. It finally did. Check!"

"You're the only thing on my list," she says, crosses her arms over her torso, looks down at the sidewalk. I want to kiss her. People are walking by. Natan's wife and the kids are watching.

The young kids are on stage, we can barely hear them out here. They do their act, one by one, duo by duo, and the night goes on. The moon rises over the hill by Mabert Road. It's huge! It looks huge near the horizon. She stands up, takes my hand, offers her mouth and I take it, gentle, just a kiss, not a bite. She leans against me, kisses me again. She rights herself. We go in. It's time for her! I stop at the door, by Howard and Orlean. She looks around at me, sweet smile on her face, lets go my hand, grins, turns away.

She goes on up the aisle. My lavender shirt comes down below her waist. I lust at her legs in her jeans. She's ready, pulls out a big Martin guitar! She steps to the mic. Sound guy plugs her in. He talks. She talks but we can't quite hear her. Sound guy tells her, "Get closer to the mic!" She does. Her voice comes through loud and clear, too loud. She quiets down.

"I'm not used to playing electrically," she explains. "I usually play acoustically and just sing without a microphone. This is a new experience for me, my first open mic! I'm...scared!" She laughs. I can tell...she sounds... she's nervous.
Some people applaud her. She grins. I can tell she's blushing. She's beautiful. I love her eyes! She's grinning, fusses with the strap at her neck. My lavender shirt shines in the light. Her dark skin, her tan against the lavender. She's... I feel my heart beating, look around, wonder if anyone else hears it.

She strums. Turns on her tuner, makes a couple adjustments. Strums again. She's ready.

She plays an old folk song. I've heard it before. Something about a buggy, I think. I can't retain it! It has one part in the Melody that I've always loved. It's the only thing I know about the song. It ends. They applaud! Applause is genuine! She's grinning. She won't look at me, to the back of the room. Her family applauds, some of them embarrassingly loud and long. Orlean is genuine, claps normally. Natan and his wife are standing by the windows.

Ileace starts another song. It's...it's "Both Sides Now". She's crushing it! She's good! She's moving through it. There's a little stumble, a missed chord, strings muted, a mumbled line. She keeps going! It ends. They applaud. Family has settled down. Her sister-in-law is beaming at Natan, turns to the kids, bright-faced enthusiasm! The kids are enthusiastic! The little girl is standing up beside her chair, seeming transfixed at her aunt on the stage.

Her third song; "I just wrote this," she says. It's called, "You're Talking..." what? What did she.. .What? 'You're...Talking Too?' You're Talking To...Two? Too.'

"It's not...about anything, anybody," she says. "My mother says it's 'harsh! She thought it was about me. It's not. It's just a fictional...story. It's just...It may be a sad story, for somebody, but...nobody I know. Not me though."

Some people applaud, just a few claps. Some chuckle. She's so charming!

They quiet down. Forks tap on plates. Chairs squeak. People talk at their tables. There's noise from the bar.

A bass riff, just four notes, E - G - A - E. She strums an E minor, down-up-down, on the third and fourth beats of the bar.
Repeats the bass, the strum.
A third time. She strums Em7 and sings;

"You've been singing the blues, (rest, but her voice sustains the last note, in a quiet vibrato)
every since you got home! Am7
I've been list-en-ing to, Em7
you talk on the phone. Am7
I've been wondering who, B7
You're Talking To. Em

The bass riff, Em strum.
Repeat, riff, strum, sing,

You've been walking the floor, (A beat! One, two downstroke, one, two, three! Down-up-down!)
in the middle of the night! (Back to the slow strum)
We don't talk any more!
All we do is fight.
I've been fighting the urge,
to slip away one night!

Bass riff and,

One more bad decision, I've got to make! Am7 Bm7 (Choppin' those chords! On the Beat! Some bass notes!)
One more mad collision, before I break! Am7 Bm7
I've been wondering who, Am7 Am6
You're Talking To! Em, the riff!
I've been wondering who, Am7 Am6
You're Talking To! Em

Bass riff, three times. The audience is applauding! Someone started and everyone...or...a bunch of 'em joined in! Holy Shittake!

She sings;

I've been singing the blues, (She...she speaks it...It's just...her voice...Ileace...talking, telling...)
the whole while you've been gone. (Sings it!)
Now there's nothing new,
since you've come back home.
I've been wondering who,
You're Talking To.
I've been wondering who, Am7 Am6
You're Talking To.

The riff, the strum, again...again, the bass riff and end.

The place is in an uproar! People are coming in from the bar, crowding the stage. I can see her grinning, smiling, nodding. Those wonderful lips are saying 'Thank you' and 'Yes'. 'Thank you' and 'Yes'. I hear her over the mic, 'Thank you' and 'Yes'. 'I wrote it!' 'Thank you' and 'Yes'.

Howard, turns around and pokes his fist in my belly! He's grinning! Orlean is crying and grinning. Natan is standing, applauding. His wife standing, applauding. The whole place is talking, loud, noisy, crazy, crowding the aisle. I back out the door, go in the bar. Seems like the whole damned crowd is around the doorway over into the restaurant. Petreace sees me, motions me to come. She grabs my right hand, plows through the crowd, me in tow, gets me right up to Ileace. Ileace has put her guitar in her case. She stands up and turns, and sees me. She's grinning already but there's a perceptible change in her face. Grabs me! A kiss, just a nice normal, 'Hey baby!' kiss. Petreace takes her by the hand, plows through the crowd. Ileace looks back at me! She looks like she's on drugs! Ecstatic!

I watch their heads moving away up the aisle. The whole crowd of those standing here has turned away from the stage, looking after her. I strap on my guitar. Sound guy is standing staring back through the room. I take the guitar cord out of his hand, plug in. He recovers, gets back to his table. People are going back into the bar. The people in the restaurant are talking to Ileace. Petreace is coming back, grins at me, rolls her eyes to the ceiling, plows back over to the bar. Ileace is going from table to table, stopping to talk to them, on the left, bending, left hand comes up to her shoulder, hand cups at her ear, relaxes, stays there by her neck, her lovely neck, a few steps, bends to her right, right hand comes up, talking, nodding, working her way back to her family. They're all on their feet, still, her standing ovation. The children grab her. Natan's wife is beaming into her face. Group hug, Natan in the back, reaching around them all. Howard, Orly, standing, grinning.

I play three songs. I forget what they are. I get applause. Not uproarious applause; but...applause. Karaoke girl is setting up. I pick up my case, and Ileace's case, walk back up the aisle. Her family are getting up, going out the door. I'm there to bring up the rear. Ileace is beaming, grinning at me. She takes her guitar. "That was fun!" she says over her shoulder, going out the door. I laugh.

"Yeah!" I say, "that WAS fun! That was a whole lot of fun!" Outside there are hugs and laughter and lots of people talking over each other, short comments and joking. Orlean says, "A Star Is Born"! She's grinning, a spitting image of her daughter. They hug. Howard gives me a hand-shake! Orlean gives me a quick hug, lets go, says, "Good night!" The kids are grinning up at me, little squeaky voices, talking through laughter. I'm watching them all go down the sidewalk.

Orlean is warning, "Be careful! This curb is eight feet deep!" Ileace is watching me, not them. I turn to look into...that face.

"Baby, that was amazing!," I tell her. "You stole the show! You stole the night! They loved you!"

"I know!" she says, truly astonished herself.

I step to her, pinch her lips between mine, kiss the corners of her mouth, kiss her full on the lips. "That song is killer!" I whisper.

I step back. I look down the sidewalk where her family's cars are pulling out. We wave.

"Okay," I say, reaching to shake her hand. She looks confused, switches her guitar to her left hand to shake mine. "I'm gonna head to my house. I walked down again."

"My car's right here!" she says. We were leaning on it for an hour earlier. I know where it is.

"Yeah, I...I think I'll walk home," I tell her. "Maybe...Maybe I'll...run into you somewhere, like, down the street, sometime."

She's grinning. My girl gets me.

"Okay," she says. "But, my car...right here." She pops the trunk, puts her guitar in. She's gesturing at the trunk, gesturing at my guitar, both arms gesturing at the car. I'm grinning at her, but...I really just...can't take my eyes off her. Who knew? She's...amazing! Brains and beauty and talent, all in one package! She closes her trunk. She's looking around, not at me. She goes around the car, grinning, says, "I've gotta go. I'm meeting a friend and I really wanna get there as soon as possible, because...I really like him. He's...come up on my list...I finally...you know...got to him...on my list."

"Watch out for that guy!" I tell her. "He's up to no good!"

"I'm up to no good too!" she says, treble-chuckles.

"Okay," I tell her, "Nice seein' ya." She shakes her head, negatively, grinning, gets in. I hear the car start as I walk away. I'm really walking, fast as my little black cowboy boots will carry me. I hear her pull out, shift fast through four on the floor! She turns at the corner, tires squealing a little. I glance back, see her go right, instead of left toward...my house. I worry that she's misunderstood my silliness! No. No. My girl gets me!

As I get close to Offnere Street I see her go slowly by. Her radio cranks up the jams! She goes out of sight. The radio goes quiet. I turn the corner onto Offnere. I can see her, in the second block down, pulling into the lot, and parking in the first parking space in the lot at the first store in the strip mall, not on down in the usual spot. She's out, leaning on the car. I see her put her hands beside her on the fender, lift herself up, spin to sit lotus-fashion. She lays back on the windshield, stretches her legs out, stretches arms up over her head. I have to slow down. I'm huffing and puffing, my guitar case bouncing off my leg at intervals, painfully!

I laugh to myself. I laugh at myself.

As I get close she says, "Hey! You! Play a song for me!"

"Why darlin'," I say, "every song I play is for you!"

She pops the trunk. "Take me home with you, and play your songs for me," she says. I'm a cooperative guy. I put my guitar in the trunk, go to the door. It's locked! She's laughing when I get in! At the apartment she backs in, turns off the key, leans over and kisses me. Gets out, pops the trunk, hands me my guitar. Gets hers out. I go up the walk. She's behind me. I open the storm door, step in, set my guitar behind the door, push the storm door open for her. She comes in, I'm closing the door, locking it. I feel her hand run across the small of my back. She's up on the landing, going up the stairs, guitar and all, in a run!

"We're not supposed to run up the stairs!" I tell her. She stops, halfway up, turns around, coordinating her guitar case in the space of the stairwell, runs back down, eyebrows up, eyes wide, a lovely smile on her face becomes a grin.

"Petreace told me nobody lives next door!" she says. She leans down and kisses me, says, "I'm gonna run up! You take your time, conserve your energy!"

She turns and goes back up, but not at a run. She's got my lavender shirt pulled up around her waist. I admire her jeans, follow. "One of the great pleasures..."

We're in the bedroom. She sets her guitar over by the closet. Comes to my side of the bed. Opens the nightstand drawer, reaches in, comes up with a condom! She bites it open, lays it by the radio. She passes by me, goes to the other side of the bed, finishes what she started on the stairs, unbuttoning her shirt. Pulls her pants off, kicks them off on the floor. She's in bra and panties, starts shaking out the quilt, squares it up, folds it down toward the foot of the bed. She lies on the fresh lavender sheet I put on this morning. I wonder if she notices my new pillow...her new pillow. I turn away, undressing. I hear her stand up. When I turn around she's wearing the lavendar shirt again. Then, she's on her hands and knees, crawls across the bed, comes, raises upright.

"Now, about this list of eleven places..." she says.

"Well," I tell her, five of them are right here," and I try to bite her left shoulder, can't get to it. "You'll have to unbutton that top button on your shirt," I tell her, she does. I push it off her left shoulder, nip at it five times, moving in toward her neck, "and five are here," and I push the shirt off her right shoulder, and I'm biting her, "and number eleven is here," and I try to bite under her chin, but have to take hold of her and lay her back on the bed, her head at the foot, on the folded quilt.

"I will never tell you 'No'," she says, kissing me. She's breathless, breathing deeply.

"I will never forget your birthday!" I promise.

She looks at me.

"What?" she asks. I just grin. We'll talk later. Ileace. Ileace. Ileace. Ileace Calhoun. Woman, thy name is love.


"You're Talking To", copyright October 21, 2022, by Gary E. Andrews.

Last edited by Gary E. Andrews; 04/29/23 10:50 PM.

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Joined: Dec 2006
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Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 5,728
Likes: 43

There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com

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