“I need you in here for a second…”


From Tumblr; Origin unknown

You were worried about it last week but knew his travel schedule would keep him otherwise engaged for a few days. Yesterday you thought he had forgotten about it. By today you were sure of it.

It was dinner and a show with friends and nothing was amiss. Then he called from the other room….”Honey, before you finish dressing….”

Almost Dusk…

Logging Road

He slipped on the loose gravel topping the ridge and paused to squeeze the sweat out of his eyes. Then, when he opened them, there she was sitting on a deadfall where the logging road split. Her right pant leg had worked itself up, exposing her ankle and a little above. The patch of white flesh glowing brightly in the gloaming looked obscene somehow-like an exposed bone. He stretched and dug both fists into the small of his back regaining his breath. She only watched; interested but not involved.

Having finally caught up with her, he chose to avoid her eyes for a moment more and looked back the way they had come. It might be easier just to roll to the bottom and have someone find him later than to walk down.

She rubbed at her eyes and tucked loose strands of damp hair behind her ear. Her hands were no longer a girl’s hands. They looked long and chalky-almost translucent-like her mother’s. The veins on the backs seemed to glow blue.

He was comfortable that she wasn’t a child anymore. He knew that-had been reminded of that often enough. But she’s not this old-not as old as she looks. There should be a place between being a girl and being beat down by life. She looks to have missed that place.

“Look. I’m sorry”, was all he could think to say.

She spat a short harsh laugh. “For what?” He didn’t have a ready answer. “You always thought it was you” she continued. “I admit I did too for the longest time. But I’m over that. You’re just a shitty little part of it. Just like me.”

That roll to the bottom was looking better and better.

The Unremarkables


She was an entirely unremarkable looking woman. Maybe she would have been, in the right light, someone his grandmother might have called “handsome”. Good in a man, but not the preferred adjective for a woman. When she walked in he saw that she was almost as tall as he was.

He pulled his attention from the young brunette who wasn’t returning his glances and asked the bartender to send her a drink. He watched the message delivered and raised his head slightly when she looked over with eyes that might have been a little pinched.

She nodded; he raised his glass slightly.


The only remarkable thing about him was that he wasn’t drinking beer out of a bottle. It looked like bourbon-dark, so strong-on the rocks. The corduroy jacket was a nice touch here if a little seedy; like a porn-trolling adjunct professor between classes. Does he think the slight shade in his glasses is disguising his stare?

She hardly got her coat off before the bartender was delivering his message. “You know him?” she asked. “Mostly a day-drinker. Bets baseball, the simple bastard. Seems harmless enough.” He was watching her through the smoky lenses.

She nodded; he raised his glass slightly.


Scar Lover

“There is something beautiful about scars of whatever nature…A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.

Harry Crews-from Scar Lover


Guthrie Moore sat in the car hidden from the house by the fat pines. If she was watching from the kitchen she had seen him pull up but, by the glow, she was watching TV in the back room. He wasn’t sure why he was sitting in the dark, waiting. Nor could he explain why he had sat at the bar for an hour before coming over. The evening had been planned out for him-why had he felt the need to elbow space into it?

Jared wasn’t there. Finally and for good he was gone. He had announced it to all within earshot last week that he was heading to Dallas for that construction gig he’d talked about for the last year. Everyone was conditioned to not believe the asshole but when he pulled out with the fully packed truck leaning into a thirteen hour drive south, all anyone, including his wife could say was, “Finally!”

Yes, it was a shit move to leave between surgeries but to hear Marian tell it, anytime he left would have been fine. He could have left while she was under the knife for all she cared. She was exhausted from trying. Their shaky marriage had crashed three years before when, on a weak night mentally worn by Jared’s chill carelessness, she had fucked a painter that they all knew. A little drunk and a lot sad, she had done it in his truck. She had regretted it immediately, but there it was.  Of course word got back to her husband who’d smacked her around and then shut her down.

He had slept in the spare room and took up with at least three other women around town-making sure everyone knew about it and how he wouldn’t leave “the bitch” until she bought him out of the house….on and on-a river of crap. He drank more and when he did that, would hit her more. Marian never fought back; she had taken it-the whole sackcloth and ashes deal-and stayed a newly minted virgin waiting for the next shoe to drop.  It finally did when he decided to leave town.

What Marian would never know was the night before her husband had so suddenly decided it was time to leave, Jared had found himself pinned against the brick wall at the at the back of Cothrie’s Body Shop. Big Ralph had one hand around his throat and the other held Jared’s left hand. Milo had grabbed his right hand and leaned his considerable bulk into his ragged chest, further pushing him into the unforgiving stone. Young Bertram (so-called to differentiate him from his father) was on his knees having yanked Jared’s jeans and underwear down, and was holding his cock in his left hand and his scrotum with his right stretching them just enough so that Guthrie could slip his six inch blade between them and just touch the skin ever so lightly.

Jared’s screams would have awakened everyone in the cemetery beyond the low wall had Milo not shoved his dirty bandana into his mouth. Guthrie had squeezed a nut just enough to make sure he had Jared’s wild-eyed attention when he told him they had a sack with eight thousand dollars in it-which was much less than his half of the house was worth but was, after all, cash in a sack. He further told him that if they left him intact that night he should pack up and head out and never show is face around here again.  If he did…well, these boys were always looking for a bit of amusement. Young Bertram was actually disappointed when Guthrie put his knife away.

Marian cracked the door slowly, against the chain, after the second round of soft knocks. Seeing it was him, she closed it, slid the chain and opened for him. He paused a moment as if giving her a breath-a chance to close the door again-then stepped inside and put an arm around her shoulders.  He kissed her lightly-chastely-on the cheek.

“Hi Baby…” she said turning. He followed her up the few steps into the living room. She was wearing a gray sweatshirt and matching sweatpants. Her feet were bare.

“Cute outfit”, he kidded her.

“If I knew you were coming, I’d have put on socks.”

She led him to the sectional opposite the TV and gathered the quilt from the floor where she’d tossed it when she went to the door. He sunk deeply into the cushion which still radiated her heat. There was a glass of what looked like an energy drink that he knew would be laced with Vodka on the coffee table. Marian picked it up and flopped down beside him.

“What’s on?” he asked.

“I don’t know-I’m just trolling….Here.” she handed him the remote. Together they sat in the light of the big screen, watching nothing but flashing images of different shows, commercials and movies. Guthrie never really had time to sit and watch TV so wasn’t up on this season’s finest. Or worst, as far as that goes. He flicked through the collage for a few moments then glanced sideways at Marian.

Her face was slightly mottled-eyes were bloodshot-but her cheeks were dry. There was certainly evidence of the constant crying and gnashing that Shelly had told him about but it seemed to be currently in a lull.

“You doing OK?” he asked.

“You remember Delbert Lynn?” she asked.

Of course he did. Delbert was in high school with them and Marian and he had quite a thing one summer. Everyone thought they would pair up for good. But they didn’t. And Delbert died overseas. Coming home in a box to lay forever in the field below town.

“I had a dream last night…you and Shelly were there. I was there and Delbert Lynn was across the room on the floor. We were all watching a race on TV and smoking cigarettes”.

“Delbert Lynn didn’t smoke…”

“I know that. Neither did we for that matter. And we didn’t watch races then or now. But we were-it was just weird. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor watching the cars go round and round…this high pitched whine coming from the TV. Anyway, you and Shelley were making out and I felt kinda left out, so I crawled-on hands and knees-over to Delbert Lynn where he was sitting on the floor.

I said to him, tell me what you’re thinking-and he said, you’re not going to like it-and I said, tell me anyway, cause I had a feeling what it was-and he said ‘I don’t love you anymore’. Just like he said it back then-and it was like a movie, because it went into extreme close-up and there were his same green eyes-the freckles-but the face was a man’s face. Not a boy’s. God, that hurt. It hurt last night just like it did then…But I was scared in the dream he was gonna tell me he was dead. But then, I didn’t know which of those messages would have been worse.”

“He was a sweetheart though.”


She sipped at her drink, her face clouding. She talked toward the room-not trusting herself to look at him. She wondered if she would ever have anyone again. It was encouraging that in dreams she jumped right over Jared and back to Delbert Lynn in surveying the loves of her life. “I’m telling you Gut, once I get this reconstruction and lose twenty pounds, I’ll get out there and find somebody to love me.”

“You got that right here”, she said running his hand through her hair.

“I know I have that”, she said. “And I love you for it. But I want someone for me. Of my own…”

Guthrie turned her head toward his and pulled her closer. “You will Marian-you definitely will.”

Their mouths came together slowly and gently. He opened his lips and she hers.

“Your mouth tastes like cigars, peanuts and beer. Could you please pretend that you don’t think I’m desperate enough that that won’t matter?”

“I could go gargle.”

“Or just don’t kiss me. At least not on the mouth.”

“How about the back of your neck?” She turned her head to the side…

“How about tiny nibbles on the back of your head?” He said quietly, nibbling.

She shifted further around-up on her hip-exposing her back. He inhaled her shampoo and the sweet, clean soap smell off her neck. He reached around and cupped her full right breast.

“See? I still have one tit left…”

“Actually you still have one tit-right.”

She snorted a small laugh and shot him an elbow. “Asshole!”

Her left breast was still there in fact. He hadn’t seen it but she had described it, in tears, often enough. His wife had helped her with post-op dressings and had described it. He didn’t mind it. He could see it-he had asked her once jokingly to flash him as she was wont to do years ago, but she wouldn’t.

“Here”, he said putting his hands on her midriff which had come bare as the sweat shirt rose up. He worked at turning her toward him. “Come around here.”

“Don’t be measuring my waist-there is a lot more there than there used to be.”

“Some”, he said. “Not a lot.” She was back to sitting beside him and reached up with her mouth.

“I thought you didn’t want to kiss me…”

“Well, I guess I’m that desperate.”

They kissed gently and tentatively-rubbing wet lips over closed mouths. Marian parted her lips first and he slipped his tongue between them and into her mouth. The rules of their game were simple-no penetration and Guthrie kept his pants on. He got enough at home, Shelly told him. He could flirt and he did that with the best of them. He got great joy out of flirting with her in front of her husband who either missed it or, more likely, gave not one shit.

They got involved in this spanking thing a few years before on Marian’s birthday. It was Shelly who suggested it that night. A birthday spanking! It turns out they all enjoyed it-he especially-slapping her butt encased in tight pocketless jeans. It was a great way to have sex without really….having sex.

He hadn’t spanked her a lot…six times? Seven? Only twice on the bare-once with Shelly in the next room and the last time had been over a year ago-just after her diagnosis. She needed a “release” she said, with all the shit going on in her life. This time was going to be different though Marian didn’t know it.

“I think it’s past time you went over my lap”, he said.

“Have I been bad?” she whispered into his ear.

“I think you’re going to be.”

Not breaking the kiss she came up on her knees and began to crawl over his lap.

“uh-uh-uhhhh” he stopped her.

“What?” she asked, pausing.

He reached for the draw-string on her sweats. “These are so sexy Marian, but they really have to come down…”

“Oh, Gut…with how big I am…I don’t want…”

He shushed her and gently slapped her hand away when she tried to grab his.

“I’m not wearing panties”, she complained.

“That’s OK. They would have come down too…”

“Aw man….” She huffed.

He loosened the string and pushed them as far down as he could with her kneeling there. She looked away as if not seeing him looking at the thick thatch of honey-colored hair below her navel, he really wasn’t seeing it.

“Now you can come on over….”

With an embarrassed groan, she settled primly over his lap and tried not to move too much. Guthrie ran his hand lightly over the billowing contours of her truly sumptuous ass. She held her bottom firmly up in the air revealing little but the deep crevasse between her lightly clenched cheeks. He cupped her near rump and gently pushed his fingers into the crease losing all of his knuckles before reaching bottom.

“Aw man….” She whined again at his explorations.

“Shhhhh.” He sat back and rubbed his hand over the milky expanse. “You look wonderful”, he said. And she did. She wasn’t as much fat as…big. Different. At least from what he was used to. Shelly was a runner-even now deep in training for a marathon. Sixteen mile runs don’t leave much excess on a woman. He joked with her that somewhere between she and Marian, who always tended to be between failing diets, was a perfect woman. They were the kind of jabs he couldn’t get away with if she wasn’t utterly convinced of his fidelity. And her best friend’s loyalty.

He traced at the lines in her skin and smoothed the creases as the top of her thighs rubbing the dimples settled there. “Fat”, she said…”Shhhh…” he said again. “Here, bend you knees, lift your legs…” and when she did, he pulled the sweats down and over her feet, leaving her bare from the waist down. He was gently rubbing the tension out of her bottom and, as she relaxed, her bottom settled and opened. For the first time in months she began to feel comfortable.

“How many you going to give me?”

“I’m thinking fifty is a good number”, he said continuing to rub and knead her bottom and legs. The left hand worked her shoulders.

“I’ll cry”, she said limply.

“You’ve been crying already as far as I can see…”

“Do you mind if I do? I just have to. I’ll try not to if you don’t want me to.”

He stopped rubbing and lay his hand on the top of her leg. “Why don’t you tell me what it is that you want? How can I help you?”

“No, it’s fine. Fifty smacks is good…just take your time, OK? Don’t rush it. I want this to last…”

“Don’t worry”, he said quietly. “Don’t even think…I’ll take care of you….”He squeezed her hamstring gently then slid his hand down from the back of her leg into the darkness between.

“Gut-Hey!” she whispered feeling his hand between her legs. He pressed his left hand down between her shoulder blades. “Don’t move”, he ordered, though she was making no move to get up. His fingers gently played at the soft skin at the inside of her thighs.

“I don’t think you should be…doing that…” her breath caught as his fingers caressed higher and higher before gently whispering at her vagina.

“You want me to stop?”

“But Shelly…..” she caught again as his fingers concentrated on her moist lips finding the opening between.

“If you want me to stop, say so and I will.” He stroked-still gently but more determinedly-surprised at how wet she was. “But I don’t want to stop.”

She pushed backward slightly opening for his finger which found its way inside her. “I don’t want you to stop”, she almost whimpered.

And he didn’t. With his left hand pressing gently on the small of her back he pushed his finger in and out of her then up and down the outside. He opened his hand forcing her legs apart and settled his finger on her clitoris. Her gasp let him know he was in the right place.

She was no stranger to a finger’s touch, but it was usually her own. Though she craved the release that came that came from a good orgasm she always ended up feeling more alone afterwards in her bed. Now, with Guthrie’s strong left hand offering her security and his other offering her pleasure all she had to do was let go. She writhed slowly pushing backward then dropped one foot onto the floor opening wider to expose everything she had tried to conceal just minutes before. She vibrated in tandem with his quickening finger and would have turned herself inside out if she could.

It didn’t take long. Her orgasm was no long building wave that took time to reach its crescendo but instead a crashing rush that hit her all at once. Pulling both hands to her face she came loudly and strongly digging the toe that was on the floor into the hardwood for traction and rising almost entirely off his lap. He never lost contact with her throbbing clit-riding it up and back down-then gently slowing as she subsided. He stroked her gently rubbing his hand across then up and down her bottom while she regained breathing…”Here”, he grabbed her off leg and pulled it back up settling it into place beside the other one.

They sat like that for a while; Guthrie stroking her bottom-letting his fingers wander and linger as they would-and Marian alternately humming and mewing like a cat. Finally, his hard-on, which was well controlled while he was busy pulling Marian over the top pushed into her hip. She reached under herself to feel it through his jeans.

“You want me to figure out something to do with that?” she asked over her shoulder.

“…Oh we’ll figure out something you can do. Come on”, he said He patting her bum gently “Get up.” She rose slowly on shaky legs. He pushed her gently ahead of him so he could watch her bottom-peeking from under the sweatshirt-sway down the hallway into the bedroom. The bed was unmade so she had to do nothing when he told her to lie down. She scuttled aside to give him room to sit.

“Aren’t you going to get undressed?” she asked.

“Yes, I am…but first…” he took up the band at the bottom of her sweatshirt.

“Don’t.” she said, grabbing it beside his hand.

He let go and she relaxed into the bed as he kissed her-first her mouth, then her neck. Then whispered to her the things he wanted to do with her breast-the things he couldn’t do through a sweatshirt. And no, reaching up underneath on one side won’t get it.

“Please Guthrie…I don’t want you to see…”

“It’s you, Mare. How could you not want me to see?”

She stubbornly held onto the bottom of the shirt. “Maybe you’re right”, he told her. “Maybe you are. Could be that we’ve gone too far off the script already. Right? I should probably get back…”

“Now wait…” She released the shirt to grab at his belt. ”Don’t you want…?”

“There’s only one thing I want…”

She loosened her hold on the sweatshirt slightly and looked off toward the window.

“Turn off the lamp please…” she said.

He did and they were bathed in what was left of the blue moonlight after it had filtered through the trees and blinds. Her hand opened one finger at a time until she let it go and lay her arm back under her head. He pushed the jersey slowly and gently up her belly following it with his tongue leaving a light wet trail up her middle. He got it to her shoulder and descended mouth-first onto her full right breast. He nibbled and suckled like a hungry calf and she hissed, sucking air through her teeth. He slipped his left hand between her legs where all signals were that she was ready for whatever he was doing.

“Here-arms up”, he said as if undressing a child. She lifted them and he pulled the shirt over her head and off. Her left breast was there-just missing a bit of itself-like a waning moon. Somewhat deflated perhaps-desiccated and maybe a bit forlorn shadowed as it was by the exuberant right titty-but not the horror that Marian was convinced it was. He leaned down slowly and gently kissed it as a child might a kitten. She choked slightly and ran her fingers through his hair. He slipped easily out of his jeans and tossed his shirt aside so that he could lay chest to chest with her, filling the void that she felt with himself.

He leaned and she yielded, slowly rolling onto her back letting her legs come open. She drew a sudden breath as he slid deeply into her all at once not stopping till their bellies slapped together. It was the first time he had been inside of her since the after prom, junior year in the back of Joe Ludkey’s van. He pumped slowly and deliberately-taking his time. In to the hilt, grinding pubis to pubis-then all the way (ALMOST) out-then in again-then out…each thrust become progressively faster…each grind a little harder…

“Jesus, Guthrie-I’m going to come again…!”

He caught her rhythm and hooked both arms under her shoulders to ride. This one came from her toes and built as gently as a freight train hitting a downhill. Her fingernails dug into his ass trying to get him further inside until she came with a cry that chased the owl from the pine tree outside the window. Her scream was his permission and with a few more quick short stabs he went stiff and drove her grunting into the mattress painting her insides with thick bursts.

He collapsed onto her chest which felt slightly off-balance but fine otherwise. So they lay together, he on her right side running his hand over her full, complete breast and gently over the rib cage around her left. He wanted to give her the privacy that she needed but not as much as she thought she wanted.  But then, as quickly as that, he got the feeling that it wasn’t as much an issue anymore.

“Can I ask you something-and you tell me the truth…”

“No guarantees…”

“Did Shelly set you up to do this? The whole thing…?”

“What-me fucking her best friend?”

“Cause it would be too much like a pity fuck. And I’m not into that.”

“Did that feel like a pity fuck?”

She rubbed his thigh. “It certainly did not…”

“Girl, pity would bounce off of you like hail off a metal roof”.

So they lay there and talked-like an old married couple. They knew the risks of the game they were playing. He knew them. Guthrie told her he knew there might come a time when he wouldn’t be able to help himself.

“Hell Mare, You know what you do to me. It’s amazing I was able to hold off for this long.” If he didn’t know any better there might have been a little confidence creeping into her eyes as he kissed her on the neck and stood up.

They decided they would have to tell Shelly what happened here. Doing it is one thing, they agreed. Lying about it; keeping it a secret is something else. That’s the poison.

“Will she be mad you think?” asked Marian.

“We’ll figure it out…Maybe she’ll be the one to come over and spank you.”

“I deserve it. And anyway, she spanks harder than you.”

“Your problem.”

They kissed once more at the door-lightly on the cheeks-like the friends that they were.

He was back in the car when his phone vibrated. It was Shelley.

“Hi. I tried you before…”

“Yeah-couldn’t get to it.”



“…did you do it?”


“The whole thing…not just the spanking part.”

“Didn’t really get to the spanking…”

“Wow, really?” Then, after a pause…”How was she?”

“What? Shelly, really?”

“No, no…not like that. Was she crying-is she OK?”

He started the car. “She’s OK. We’re going out for dinner tomorrow.”


“All of us….”

The Bluetooth picked up his phone as he was driving away so he was speaking to the air.

“Question for you.”


“Marian said that you spank harder than I do…” There was no response. “Did you hear me?”


“How would she know that…?”

He tightened a little behind his fly in the silence.

“I’ll be home in ten”, he said to the windshield. “Make us a drink would you?”


Harry Crews

Harry Crews from tumblr

Photo from Melville House obit

I’m working on a story titled “Scar Lover” which is a direct lift of the title of Harry Crews’ 1993 novel that I re-read not long ago.

I was antsy about using it-and still might not. The story’s not meant as an homage because I don’t have the game to step on the field with Harry, no matter how long he’s been dead.

To my mind, Harry’s work was split. His later work calmed down and got a little…lighter in tone, befitting the aging college professor and respected author that he was. His early stuff though, like Car, The Gospel Singer, The Gypsy’s Curse and the ferocious Feast of Snakes were born of a particular kind of madness that I happily swallowed whole at a tender age.

Those books embedded these little writer prompts deep in my brain like earwig eggs that bloom usually as one of those 3 a.m. fever dreams when you start awake convinced you’ve just heard someone moan in the room.

I spoke to Harry once. I had written him at the University of Florida where he taught about acquiring the rights to Car his novel about a man who wanted to eat his car. At that time I was a terrifically, albeit deservedly, unsuccessful playwright but convinced, I let him know, that Car would definitely work well on the stage.

About a week later we were all at the house; my wife, the kids, some friends, their kids, children laughing, climbing out of windows, being lowered by ropes off the deck-more screaming than was probably allowed by ordinance or common courtesy, beer, liquor, football on the TV, football in the yard…It was pretty much a normal Sunday.

I was surveying the carnage from the deck when Theresa-not my wife then or now-came out and told me there was a “Harry Crews?” on the phone for me. I’m sure I said something akin to “Get the fuck outta here…”. I waded through the ruin of the living room and scuttled as far up the steps as the phone cord would allow. Yeah, it was that kind of phone.

Harry was bemused, I think, as I described my vision of his vision, how I saw the set etc. And the strange coincidence-that elicited a chuckle-was that I had a friend at the time who had once (need I say “when high”) discussed eating his car. It wasn’t a long conversation-fifteen minutes tops-that effectively ended when he told me that Sean Penn owned the rights at the moment and he “didn’t know what he had planned for it.” He gave me Penn’s agent’s name and told me to feel free to let him know we’d talked.

I never made that call. I’m sure Sean Penn didn’t do anything with Car and for all I know, El Chapo has the rights to stage it now.

Before we said good-bye however, Harry said something that stuck with me. The years have stolen the exact words but he allowed that by the cacophony of background noise he could tell that I had managed to surround myself with a lot of love and good feelings “up there”. “You go back and enjoy your friends and family”, he said. “Don’t lose that.”


About That Hat….

I had stepped outside to have a smoke. One more pasta dinner was almost in the books and it had been a busy one. When we had bought this old social club a year before-technically the bank bought it and was letting me run it for the next fifteen years-I had the brilliant idea to go back to the traditional Italian dinners on the last Sunday of every month that had been a fixture when I was growing up. Homemade gnocchi, ravioli and spaghetti.  It was a good boost to the visibility-we donated some of the proceeds to the youth programs-and helped the catering side of the business.

Any boost would help. To say the place was on the “other side of the tracks” was a bit of a stretch in that the place was ON the tracks. Or close enough that when a stranger to the club parked too far back in the lot one night his Impala got clipped and spun like a seven pin by a coal train that wasn’t slowing down. We found the rear bumper up in a tree.

It was good to see the place full and everyone seeming to enjoy themselves. Our spank-buddy Theresa had joined us full time a couple of months ago and had worked her cute ass up to number two in the front kitchen. I was working the back kitchen as Management (my wife) mandated Theresa and I keep a building between us on these long days. Knowing a good thing when I’m living it, I complied easily.

A lot of people came through here-some locals, some “used-to-bees”. Sweet Lori, who I hadn’t seen for years, was at the bar today. She gave me a smooch on the cheek blaming a cold for not wanting to give me a proper kiss. Not buying that, but OK.

I remembered one of our last “dates”, me in the kitchen of her apartment rummaging through drawers and cupboards looking for a wooden spoon, spatula, yard stick, anything. “Why do I have to spank you”, she called from the bed room where she lay naked, wet and ready. “Why can’t you just come in here and make love to me?” Ok, that was a good question. Good question then, good question now. Still no answer. Bored with it. Moved on. It was good to see her though. She bought take-out for her and her husband.

So I’m enjoying my smoke outside the front door. This woman comes out and I know she’s missing something. I spied her coming in an hour ago and she was wearing this god-awful, freaking hideous, faux leopard fur had, brimmed in black with a wide pleather button on the top. She was short and a little round looking like a small bottle of kid’s bubble bath with an ornate screw top. You forgot your hat, I told her. She looked at me and blinked. Put her late sixties maybe. Her companion came out behind her.

“Eddie, I forgot my hat…” Eddie was wearing a flannel shirt button to the Adam’s apple and both breast pockets were bulging with documents, little notebooks wrapped in gumbands, pencil stubs and pens. He looked over his bifocals. “Your hat”, he said breathless. There was a light sheen of sweat on his upper lip and he leaned forward as if the weight of all the documentation was pulling him over.

“I’m sure it’s in there on the chair beside where we were sitting.”

He made a three-point turn as smoothly as he could with his tripod cane and headed back into the hall.

“He’ll find it,” I assured her.

“Hope he doesn’t. I hate that goddam hat”, she said. “I’m sure I left it behind accidently on purpose somehow.”

I laughed and she blinked up at me. “This place has really gone downhill hasn’t it?” she asked. I gave her the non-committal “It’s had it’s ups and downs…” answer.

“Mostly down. Like the rest of this town goddam town. I remember there used to be dances here years ago. They don’t have them do they? They were nice-my husband and I would come down and dance the night away…”

I knew about those dances. The last one was fifty years ago.

“They should go back to them dances. Might make something outta this dump.”

I allowed that there probably wasn’t much of an audience for that kind of dance down here anymore. If “they” had one, probably just she and her husband would show up.

“That would be a trick”, she said. “He’s been dead twenty years.”

“Oh”, I said glancing back toward the hall. “I thought…”

“Him? That’s Eddie. He’s just my date. Couldn’t hold a candle to Charles. But he’s dead.”

Come on, Eddie, I thought. How long could it take to find one ugly hat?

“Did you have a good dinner, at least?” I asked stubbing out the cigarette in the planter next to the door.

“I don’t go in much for the Eye-talian food. Never did. That’s his thing. But I come with him. He takes mine home with him. I’ll eat the bread and salad. Cake’s not bad-it’s store bought though.”

Finally Eddie showed-his glasses further down his nose and leaning another few degrees forward. No doubt from the weight of the furry abomination in his non-cane hand.

As they wobbled down the broken sidewalk my old man came to mind. When he saw someone he didn’t like wearing one, he would say loudly enough to be heard but softly enough to not appear aggressive, “Who took a shit under that hat?”

Indeed, Pop. Indeed.