Geneva – 5

(Continued from Geneva – 4)

She was at the top of the hill near a beer tent still intent on watching the show as she moved sideways toward the parking area. He approached her while she was in the halo of the tent’s light.

“Hey neighbor”, he said.

It took her a short moment to register who he was.

“Oh, hey…” she said distracted but he didn’t know if it was by the music or something else.

“You OK?” He asked. “You all set?”

She shook her head and looked at her phone. “I don’t know-so much goddam drama. You saw…”

“You got a ride?”

“She’s my ride…we all came together.”

“That will be a fun ride home.”

“Right-I know.” She paused and looked toward the stage. “Do you have a cigarette?”

“No sorry…I bummed one off you earlier remember?”

She shrugged, “Right, right…”

The band on stage was winding up their set-there would be one more coming on around 10:30 then all hell would break loose in the parking lot. He’d seen enough for the day-had enjoyed the music and honestly enjoyed the company of the girls he was never with. Talk about a low pressure date!

“Hey, listen. I’m going to bolt to try to get ahead of 25,000 people in pickup trucks all jamming the same road. If you need a ride…where you going anyway-north?”

“Uh, north? East maybe? Pittsburgh.”

“That’s my direction. I gotta go through there. If you want a ride, I’ll take you where you want to go.”

He caught her look. Good-she wasn’t reckless. He had closed the space between them to be heard in the general din so he leaned away just a little to give her some space. “Honey,” he said in the first true flirt of the day, “I was sitting nose-to-cheek with your dancing booty for the last eight hours. If I was going to bite, I’d have done it way before now.”

She smiled. “I wondered about you. Hoped you were enjoying yourself.”

“The show was great”, he said. “And I liked the music too.”

She looked down the hill toward the stage and back the way they had come. Was she hoping for or dreading seeing her friends looking for her? She glanced toward the parking lots to the brake-light parade of a steady stream of early-leavers.

“Text them. Tell them you ran into a friend and he’s taking you home.”

“A friend?”

“The amount of time we spent together today is like three dates worth.”

“But we never talked!”

“Sounds more and more like my dates.”

She grinned tightly and her eyes flickered. She reached out maybe to punch his bicep or pinch him-but lost her nerve. Ended up just pushing his forearm but he felt the touch in the back of his throat.

“A friend.”

“Better than saying a strange older man picked you up…”

“True.”

She sent a group text to everyone that was on the blanket, hit ‘send’ and slid the phone into her pocket where it almost immediately rang. She sighed and answered.

“No, Chel, I’m not getting into the car with her. Enough already. Guy I knew from college. No, we’re already gone. I’ll see you when I see you and tell Brittany not to call me because I’m turning my phone off.”

“Good job. Now I’ll get you home and you won’t have to deal with them until you want to.”

“Well, here’s the thing…”

 

(Continuing…)

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Geneva – 1

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He paused at the gapped door of the bedroom. She lay propped on pillows gazing at her phone in the yellow light of the bedside lamp. The soft pine-green cotton covered her but enough cleavage bloomed above the sheet to intimate that she was nude-at least up top.

“So, you’re opting for the open door? I warn you, the cats will be in here looking for breakfast at five-which really isn’t that far off.”

“Thought you could close it for me.”

“Has to be bolted from the inside”, he said.

“I know.”

Craning her neck slightly in his direction pulled the sheet slightly, exposing a bit more of her breasts. It was certainly warm enough to go without a covering so the sheet was for modesty’s sake, not comfort. Though they could be the same thing.

He stepped into the room to look down on her. She met his eyes.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.”

“I know”, she said wearing the same half-smile that she had most of the day. “I think that’s probably why I want to.”

 

(Continued…)

Nightwinds

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He held his ear close to the window. The blasting this spring up the top of the hollow had knocked everything in the house cattywampus and it was near to impossible to open the windows easily in normal times. Now, what with all the rain, everything was swolled so that he’d have to break it to open it.

“I can’t hear you,” he whispered, a tone of desperation creeping into his voice. “Louder! Please louder.”

He squinted through the wavy glass but even with no lights in his room he could see naught but shadows outside where the winds whipped the chestnut tree that towered over their little house. Even from the second floor bedroom-which was really a loft, no more’n a half floor- Jimmer felt he could step right down into the yard. If he could open the window-which he coont. He was feeling that pull down below that allus came with the visitations. First time he thought he had to pee-then found out not. Not that at all.

“Hey! You still there?” he croak-whispered, his breath fogging the chilled glass as he pressed his eye against it.

“Jimmer? That you? Who you talkin’ to?”

“Nobody Maw.”

“You stay off that telephone with the storm comin’. We don’t want to get struck.”

Jesus, he thought. As if I had a phone in here. Then he noticed the strip of yellow light leakin’ in under the door. Quick as that, he tore the cover sheet off’n his bed and jammed it down there and scampered back to the window. Still nothing-except maybe a sharp “tic-tic-tic” on the glass which could just as well have been branches as fingernails.

GODDAMIT! He thought, immediately sorry for thinking the Almighty’s name in vain. He’d been doin’ that a lot and it coont be good. He kicked the sheet away and opened the door at the top of the steep steps up to his room. He felt proud of havin’ thunk to keep the hinges oiled so they made no sound opening.

For only about the hundredth time that day he wished Pap could have hung on awhile longer to help with Maw, but he knew near the end there he coonta helped hisself with his wheelchair and oxygen tank. Better this way, but Hell’s Bells this was a hard pill!

He tiptoed past the front room where she sat in the recliner that wouldn’t recline, her swole feet propped up on her walker. The TV was on to nothing but rolling snow and she listened to an old-timey gospel show on the radio. It was no challenge to sneak past and outside-lifting hard on the door because it too was off cause of the blastin’.

On the porch he whipped his head left and right looking for her. Ignoring the tilted steps, he hopped right down the ground. Was that a light over by the shed? Even in the pitch dark thrown by the blanket of storm clouds he could easily navigate out to the woodshed and around to the other side of it. Nothin!

Wait, though-not nothin’-cause he could see, if he looked off center, his shadow tossed weakly onto the rough plank wall of the shed. Prolly from the house he thought as he turned to look. But no, there she was, balanced on the eave right outside his window. “Goldarnit” he said trying not to cuss at a time like this. “I knowed you was out there.”

His voice became more urgent as did the pull down below. He bent his leg against the discomfort of his broomstick-hard erection pushing against the teeth of his zipper. “On man!” he sputtered as he yanked at his jeans. It was only his intent to let hisself out to breathe but he was so skinny-assed that once his pants were unsnapped they fell to the ground. He didn’t note the chill as he grabbed what was his fearfully engorged cock and commenced to work it while watching her above him. If he could only git that window open.

“Come down here” he hissed through gritted teeth. “Just the oncet!” But she didn’t move from her perch on the eave. Jimmer worked himself in silence, staring hard to get every glimpse he could of what he took to be the shimmering clean lines of her nakedness.

“You could do something here you know!” He was losing the whisper but kept his voice down just below the level of the winds. “I wisht you would!”

He thought she was watching-she was moving though. She was there-she was all there, turning for him, bending for him-right up till the moment when she wasn’t. When that moment came she just disappeared-melted upwards like smoke from a pissed-on fire and was gone into the starless black.

He made no more sounds but a finishing grunt as he spattered over the dry leaves, bending forward, vainly trying to keep the final spurts and spasms offn’ the pile of pants at his feet. Eyes screwed shut he drooled one single string to splash off his fist where his part-twitching-disappeared like a turtle into its shell.

He made no show of bein’ quiet when he yanked the stuck door open to reenter the house. He trudged past the front room where Maw, without looking up, told him “You shount go outside on a night like this Jimmer. I can hear the Nightwinds moving about. They take aholt of you and you’re a goner.”

A goner, thought Jimmer. That sounded fair. He’d buy that if she was sellin’.

Copperhead!

Copper 4

My wife saw him first-riding ahead of me as she always did-and pulled off to wait for me. She was eyeing something on the trail that, even from a distance, I could tell was a snake. This has been a great summer for snakes and I’d caught and played with big blacksnakes, whippey little garters, a hog nosed, a couple of rat snakes and one beautiful corn snake that I wanted to keep. But didn’t. From the profile on the trail I expected a big black.

“Figured you’d want to see this one”, she said as I braked to a stop.

Getting closer, there was no mistaking. The sunlight shining off it’s head named it perfectly. She had heard the stories about all the copperheads I had caught as a boy. Climbing up the sunny rocks overlooking the river or kicking through the driftwood piles on the bends. There was no “why” to it back then but the excuse that I was sixteen or seventeen with more testosterone than brains.

There were belts, hat bands and just plain salted skins oiled and mounted on the garage walls. There were one or two still around when we got together which led to the stories. My rule then was to catch them alive and dispatch them gently, in a way that wouldn’t damage the skin.

That was as good an explanation as any but she knew better. She could hear in the stories the rush of hanging over a rocky outcropping forty feet above the water and yanking a copperhead by it’s tail from a fissure in the rock, dropping it to the ground and being quick enough to snatch it behind the head before it came back on me. To hold it thrashing in my fist-feeling the strength of it’s body and seeing the bare fangs wanting nothing more than to be inside me-got my heart racing like nothing else back then. Truth be told, that one had almost gotten me on the thumb. I had sat in the hot sun, legs dangling over the river, for a good twenty minutes until my heart regained its normal pace.  I kept that skin the longest.

These days I give copperheads wide berth as much as I can. They and I share similar tastes in surroundings and terrain so they are always near. But avoidable. This guy, though, is right here. “You’re not going to pick it up, are you?” she asked noticing me moving toward the snake. She quickly repeated the words as a declaration rather than a question in case the seventeen year old me bubbled to the surface with none of the requisite reflexes or quickness.

“Naw. Just watching him move off into the tall grass. Beautiful, isn’t he…”

“You don’t kill what can’t harm you. And you shouldn’t kill what can harm you unless it’s a threat to you right there….Go around just killing stuff, it’ll eventually come back on you. It throws things out of whack.”

 -from “Strange as this Weather Has Been”; a novel by Ann Pancake

“A Fuck of a Night”

Art by Yoko Tanji

Art by Yoko Tanji

Sam was a small man even among regular folk. Out here, tonight, he felt like a bug. Still though, he was happy to step out of the darkness of the tree-lined avenue into the open square where the buzzing lights cast a monochrome silver tableau before him.

He was relieved for a moment to see what had to be a man in the far corner of the square, leaning one-legged against an old wooden telephone pole smoking. His other leg was crooked back behind him, foot on the pole, affecting the rakish, relaxed look of a model in an old cigarette ad.

Sam’s fingers weren’t sticking together anymore. The blood that was left had dried and would have to be washed off if there was water or scraped it there wasn’t. He shuffled toward the tall man, one shoe on, one missing, hesitating only when he realized how large the fellow really was. Up close, he looked less relaxed and more gaunt, like an anxious scarecrow.

For a moment Sam wondered if it really was it a man he was seeing before him or an apparition leaning against the pole. Standing before him he had to crane his neck back to see his face.

“Excuse me”, Sam said, looking up. “I’ve had a fuck of a night. Can I bum a cigarette?”

The head above him swiveled his way then pitched downward carefully, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. “I don’t smoke”, he said in a flat guttural voice that betrayed no accent. A streetlight glinted in his dark eyes-the light glancing off the dead one like a skipped stone-the other flaring hot for an instant, then fading.

Sam backed into a shadow away from his gaze but the head had swiveled away.

“I wanted to see if he’d give you one.”

He turned and noticed the girl against the wall. She was even smaller than he was-but not a child. Just a girl in bare feet and torn back dress.  Nothing special-plain. In fact, in the light, she looked like a pencil sketch of what a plain girl should look like.

“He said he doesn’t smoke.”

“I know him. He doesn’t.”

He looked back once more at the cloud circling around the pole. She took his hand to lead him down an alley out of the openness of the square. At her touch he felt himself thickening.

“I’ve had a fuck of a night”, he said letting himself be led.

“I know. Come on.”

The apparition didn’t turn to watch them go. They mattered not a whit to him. He smoked in peace, scanning the sleeping world above their heads.

Front Nine

“Then”, he said, after striking his ball cleanly and watching it disappear over the top of the crest before them, “She said I was an alcoholic…and mean.”

Peter gave no immediate indication that he had heard. He approached his ball with a seven iron, comfortable that he could get to the green. “But you are”, he said casually measuring with an easy practice swing.

“Yeah but it wasn’t a problem until…” Evan paused to allow Peter to hit.

“Fuck!” He topped the ball and it skated up to the top-almost got over-then rolled back a foot, then settled.

“It wasn’t a problem”, Evan went on, “Until….”

“She quit drinking.” Peter finished the sentence for him. “I know. You’ve said.”

That was the bitch about golfing with your internist. There were no secrets.  “Go ahead, hit again.”

Peter walked to the top and looked over scanning for Evan’s ball. “Where are you?”

“I’m betting ninety yards down-ten o’clock…”

Peter squinted down the fairway and, satisfied, stepped to his ball. He looked comfortable on the hill, one long leg bent on the uphill side-the other straight. One practice swing then a clean stroke and with the clear CLACK of a well hit shot the ball flew up and out of sight.

“One twenty”, Evan said turning abruptly toward the cart. “You got me by thirty but you’ll never make up that stroke.” Peter grinned as he got in and they whirred silently down the cart path.

Peter reached into his bag and pulled out two cigars handing one to Evan. He admired it in spite of himself-it was a favorite but he wouldn’t buy them. No matter how much money he had, spending thirty bucks on a cigar was stupid especially when his old man happily smoked himself to death on generic cigarettes. He took the offered cutter and sliced the end, then lit up. It was a Wednesday morning and they were not pressured. There was time to enjoy a smoke. Even a thirty dollar smoke.

“There was the time you told me you didn’t fear cancer because you were married to her”, Peter said picking up a thread of conversation that should have died.

“I did say that, didn’t I?”

“Many times”, He said exhaling a plume skyward.

Evan puffed deeply and considered the lighted end of the Cuban. He flicked the ashes from the red glow gently and blew on it, suddenly swallowed by the thought of jamming the fiery tip into someone’s eye. Reflexes would win out and undoubtedly the eyelid would close and there would only be a burned eyelid and the requisite screaming.

But what if he were quick enough to get the smoldering tip into the eye proper-would it sizzle like water hitting hot grease and fall into itself? Or would it pop like an egg, oozing down the face and dripping from the cigar like yolk from a burnt toast tip?

Peter stepped out of the cart and picked through his five thousand dollars-worth of clubs. Ridiculous clubs-he wasn’t a good enough golfer to be outfitted this way. Evan came out with eight clubs in an old bag he’d had since college. That’s probably one of the things she liked about him-he was flashy. She’d come to like flashy it seemed.

“I imagine you’re going with your wedge for this one, right?” Peter asked from behind him.

Just don’t pick today to tell me you’re fucking her, Evan thought darkly. Not today.

Peter chose his club and walked brightly to his ball eyeing the flag on the green. He didn’t really notice that Evan hadn’t answered as he was distracted by a sumac leaf. It was a beige sumac leaf shaped birth mark that Evan’s wife, Janie, had right along the inside of her ass cheeks. It was hardly visible until she opened to him-her favorite sex position was face and knees. He ran his thumb over it as he rode her, imagining the skin felt rougher there. It didn’t though; the inside of her crevasse was as soft and luscious as the rest of her.

“How about double or nothing on the next hole?” he called back over his shoulder without really looking.

“Sure. Why not?” Evan answered. He was up fourteen hundred over the first seven and wasn’t giving anything back. He watched Peter take that lazy practice swing of his and smoked.

The Longest Day

CAUTION: Intimations of buggery ahead….

 

“You been in there, right? Top floor?”

“Ah…it’s been years-and honestly-those days? Not much in the way of memories…”

“Well, it’s a long hallway and I’m at this end…” to make his point he did a chopping motion in the air and held his hand on edge. “Y’see? And Colleen’s room is halfway down-more than that actually-just a door up from the loo. Right there.” He pointed through the window and up the hill to the rambling ramshackle of a boarding house overlooking the few standing structures that still defined Wichymeade as a town on some old maps. “The one with the purple curtains”, he continued to point.

Glennon’s shrug was equal parts “I see”, “I don’t get it” and “get on with it.”

“Anyways” he shrugs getting on with it, “I’m creeping down the hall to do my night’s business and I hear this…hum. More like a moan.”

“A moan?”

“Like, ‘Mmmmmmmm’.”

“That could be a moan”, then shrugging. “Or a hum. And it’s coming from….”

“You got it. Right! Colleen’s room. And it’s getting louder as I get closer-which of course makes sense-and I get there, again, on my way to the loo…just passing by, and I see Dennehy-of course I think it was Dennehy. Never seen him from that particular angle.”

“What angle was that?”

“He was laying over Colleen’s lap-like a naughty baby-stark naked from what I could see…”

“Naked!?”

“Completely!”

“Facing which way?”

“Away from me.”

“Oh dear.”

“Right. And that’s not the worst of it. Colleen was pushing a cucumber into his bottom.”

“What? A cucumber?”

“Had to be”, he answered struggling to remember the details.

Glennon sipped his coffee. “Why don’t people shut their doors when they’re on about something like that?” Then, after a pause as he tried to envision the calamity, “You’re sure it was a cucumber?”

“And not a….”

“Zucchini, let’s say.”

“Would have had to be a small zucchini…”

“And the sound you heard, the ‘mmmmmmmmm…”

“That was coming out of him.”

“I don’t doubt it. Was there lights on in the room?”

“See, that’s the thing what gets me wondering if it were a dream or not. It seemed to be sunlight leaking in around the curtains…”

“But it was night.”

“Exactly!”

“Were you soused?”

“No more, no less.”

“Sampling any of Dixon’s latest”, he asked pantomiming puffing on a joint.

“My credit’s no good with him no more.”

“Did you speak with either of them?”

“No, not speak. But when Colleen noticed me at the door, she gave me a look.”

“What kinda look?”

“You know.”

“I’m sure I don’t.”

“Like I had come upon them playing bridge or something. Chess maybe. Like ‘nothing to see here, best be off.’ As if she wasn’t jamming a zucchini up me mate’s behind.”

“I thought you said it was a cucumber!”

“It was, what did I say?”

“Zucchini.”

“No. Had to be a cucumber. Of produce, I guess I could see a carrot…a banana, of course…”

“Candlestick.”

“Oh, yes. Forgot you were an altar boy.”

“Shush!” hissed Glennon clapping him on the shoulder. “What you do then? After she spied you?”

“What ya think? Bypassed the loo completely. Down the stairs and out into the yard. Did my business behind a tree and went over to Sadies.”

“Ah Sadie. She’s always good for a piece of day old pie and a cuppa that hideous coffee of hers.”

“Ghastly stuff!”

“You really have to work to make coffee that bad.”

“Then I come over here soon’s June Bug opened. Did you see Dennehy this morning at the dock?”

“No. But his boat leaves early so I wouldn’t, typically.”

The sharp double toot of a steam whistle cut the heavy air.

“That’s me”, said Glennon, drinking off the rest of his cup. “I’m off. Salmon to be caught.”

“You need a hand?”

“No, we’re full today. Why? Don’t you have a train?”

“No I do not! Fools threw a wheel down the bottom of the lake.”

“So you have nothing today.”

“Nope.”

Standing Glennon patted him on the shoulder and headed for the door. “You should set a bit. Stay down here and get your thoughts in order. And oh”, he paused hand on the push bar “on the off chance, pass on the salad if she tosses one for dinner.”

The door closed and he was alone at the counter.

“Junie? Would you give me a wee,” he held his fingers up a scant smidge apart for emphasis “tiny bit a’ schnapps please?”

“I will not, Kevin Duffy!”

“You won’t?”

“It’s not an hour past sunup and you yourownself told me to never serve you before noon.”

“I did, didn’t I?”

“Yes you did. So unless you want a good, sound spank you’ll have another coffee and be happy about it!”

“What?”

She stood in front of him with the pot. “D’ye want another cup?”

“What…else? The other thing…? What did you say? Besides coffee?”

“Are ye daft as well as deaf? No alkyhol till noon. Now, ‘nother coffee?”

“Uh…no. No thank you.”

He pushed away, leaving more coin on the counter than was necessary.

“See ye at noon then”, she called at his back.

Outside the sun burning from over the lake warmed his back and threw his shadow well up the hill. He set out, trudging after it as if underwater, up toward the boarding house.