“You better hurry…”

280

(This is a repost from an old blog; indulgences if you’ve read it. It is still a work in process-as, my wife hopes, am I.)

The old truss-style bridge had been built around the turn of the last century with great fanfare as a permanent link to connect Millport and Riverton on opposite sides of the river. “Permanent” was emphasized at the time of construction because the first bridge that had been built a little ways downstream to connect what were not yet the two towns went up the year after the Civil War ended and, regrettably, down again into the river less than twenty years later.

The sidewalk on the bridge ramp glittered in the late morning sun. Most sidewalks in town glittered and dazzled in the sun-a feature of the glass flecks that were added to the concrete back in those days. “They paved our streets with diamonds!” he remembered his grandmother telling him once when they left Mass at old St. Francis one sunny Sunday eons ago.

The walk up the ramp on the Millport side was not a long one. It seemed that on this side-the low side-there was barely enough room for train cars to pass underneath. There was plenty of room actually, but it seemed so much lower on this side as every step across the span was uphill. The climb was gradual enough, and the span long enough, that it went almost unnoticed unless one was walking across the bridge as Jake was now. As the sweat began to bead at his temples and between his shoulder blades he knew that the walk across was also a walk up. Happily he wouldn’t be going the whole way over.

Jake knew-not “knew of” but knew personally-three who had jumped off of the Riverton Bridge. Their intentions in making their respective leaps could be judged by the end of the Bridge that they used as a launching point.

A leap from the Millport side was clearly less a suicide attempt than a cry for help or attention. Usually one hit the water on this side of the river, bobbed to the surface and swam to shore more often than not having to run away from the cops who were called. Eddie Figges had taken that leap in a moment of panic or weakness twenty years ago. He was now an insurance man over in the Riverton Hills section of town having done quite well for himself.

Jake couldn’t recall the name of the kid-was at his table in shop class-who had gone over the rail on the Riverton side. He didn’t bob to the surface. He didn’t see the light of day again until a grappling hook snagged his belt and pulled him up two days later a mile downstream.

Then there was “poor Sally” which is how his mother referred to her when it happened. Either she couldn’t swim and feared drowning (which is odd when you think of it) or she didn’t like the whole uncertainty of the river. So she shattered herself on State Route 437 which ran under the bridge on the Riverton side. He remembered people complaining that they had to shut down the road for a period of time making them late for work, ultimately costing them an hour’s wages in some cases and why was her problem theirs?

The burning sun, last night’s whiskey and beer, and the walk had the sweat pouring off Jake as he reached the middle of the river. There was a quick bleat of a horn from a passing truck and he turned to see if he recognized someone, or someone had seen him, but was blinded by the sun at his back. The beep-greeting probably wasn’t for him anyway. Most of the people he knew in town were either gone for the weekend or still in bed.

He leaned against the railing and looked down just as a speedboat popped out from under the bridge and continued to cut its way upstream. There-less than half a mile away-he could see the carnival rides of RiverFest beginning to crank slowly to life, awakening as the day’s first revelers made their way into the make-shift park. Every year the festival got bigger. What had once been a fireman’s fair in the ball field with barrel battles and softball games was now a full-blown water carnival complete with rides trucked in from somewhere in Ohio, speedboat races and what, from where he was, looked like a couple of Viking ships.

He looked down at the zig-zagging boats, jet skis, pontoons, two or three coal barges in sight up and down and wondered if he would reach the river in his final leap or come crashing down through the roof of some unsuspecting pensioner’s cuddy cabin.

Speedboats always reminded him of his mother and that summer years before when she had returned from wherever it was that she went periodically. Of course he knew now that she had another life out East, that she and the old man had effectively broken up before Jake started grade school but nobody talked about it then.

He did remember this one summer though-when she had come back and suddenly had a new circle of friends outside of the whole Riverton/Millport crowd.  He remembered being out in what he thought was a speedboat with these people pulling a skier. The guy was small and wiry and fast back there on the skis-slicing from side to side, jumping wakes,  exhilarating in each and every moment behind the boat-giving the impression that he had mastered something that nobody else had-that was beyond the scope of anyone else’s talents.

And Jake’s mother on the side bench opposite him, looking back and-in turn-exhilarating in every movement the little guy made. Her cigarette, with the blur of red lipstick around the filter, was in her left hand and a look of steely, determined contentment was fixed below her button nose and the huge cat’s eye sunglasses which were the rage back then. Her head ticked side-to-side as she watched the skier slice the water.

Her one-piece red suit was cut low and high; her impossibly tanned legs glistened in the sunshine and spray. She caught his eyes riveted on her thigh and smiled too-widely. “You having fun baby? You like this?” She slurred slightly and he never remembered if he’d answered her or not.  “Well, enjoy it while you can because you’ll never get anything like this around here. With him.”

He leaned against the rail and watched the first pair of eight coal barges slip below his feet. They were pushed by the “Mary Sullivan” a coal company tow boat that worked the up and down daily and was impossible to miss if you spent as much time around or on the river as Jake did.

He reached into his back pocket for some reason thinking there would be cigarettes there even if he hadn’t bought any for two days. He remembered bumming a few last night…Jesus-he couldn’t even think of bringing a cigarette with him? The closest store was the Speedy-Mart on the Riverton side. He’d keep walking, buy a pack and have a smoke before. Just like every guy in front of every firing squad in every old war movie he grew up on.

He knew from the moment that he started across the bridge that he wouldn’t be jumping. At least not today. Probably not. He used the bridge and the walk up and over as a release for himself-something of a coping mechanism though he’d never call it that. But when things got to be a bit much-when the ringing in his head became too loud to drink away and the voices from the past too shrill-he would stand at the railing of the Riverton Bridge and watch the river flow by, imagining the feeling of the wind fluttering his cheeks on the way down. It wasn’t a self-dare as much as a reminder that if he thought that he really, really didn’t want to deal with it all anymore-he could opt out right here. He found a perverse peace in that.

All-in-all his river dreaming was a far healthier option for contemplating his own end than his pistol had been. There was the one night with a bottle of bourbon inside of him that Jake had taken the idea of playing Russian Roulette with himself to heart and had managed-he still couldn’t figure how-to blast his dresser mirror to pieces with his .308. The shattering report brought the old man wheeling out of his room into the hallway with his AK fully locked and loaded thinking they were finally under attack.

He thought of the impact too-what it might feel like to hit the water from that height. If his aim was truly to put an end to himself he would lay flat and allow the whole of his body absorb the blow. It would break him as surely as flopping onto the asphalt of Route 437. Having jumped from enough barges, piers and abutments in his day he knew that entering the river standing with his toes pointed offered his best chance for survival-providing the water was deep enough and he didn’t stick himself into the muddy bottom like a tent peg.

The “Mary Sullivan” passed below and Jake was pushing off the rail when what looked to be a twenty foot open bow flashed below. It was bright yellow carrying too many people as the pilot turned it into the Sullivan’s wake. He, of course, was looking for the slam-slam-slam of his bow crossing the towboat’s waves but Jake knew that the boat’s speed-even as loaded as it was-would make for a rough landing. “Too fast…” Jake thought.

The boat hit the crest of the first wave and slammed hard into the trough behind. Everyone in the boat popped up in the air to come crashing down into their seats. Except for the little girl in the back. The impact threw her higher and being in the back, the boat slid slickly out from under her. She hit the river in the wake as everyone in the boat, eyes forward, flew toward the next wave.

“Hey!” Jake yelled to nobody really because he knew that anyone on the boat would have trouble hearing him if he was sitting beside them. But he yelled again-“HEY!-THE GIRL!” and waved his arms. Behind him a car beeped in reply. The child wore a florescent pink swimming suit and no life jacket. As the waves began to flatten she turned over onto her back and with one tiny arm either reaching up or waving goodbye slipped easily under the surface trailing a cape of jet-black hair as Jake watched.

“You better hurry”, a voice behind him said. Jake turned quickly and was again blinded by the sun. He thought he saw someone standing there-a wild corona of hair seemingly surrounding the sun’s searing light-but couldn’t be sure. He looked away blinking and back down into the water. The child was still visible-a tiny pink smudge-getting smaller under the surface. “You better hurry.”

“Fuck me”, said Jake putting both hands on the top of the railing. In one smooth and surprisingly athletic vault he was airborne, carefully pointing his toes toward the river and keeping his eyes on the pink spot.

 

© TDR – 2017

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Chloe – The Finale

Continued from Chloe – Part 3

Chloe was sitting on the edge of her bed facing the door seemingly rubbing at her thigh. With the damn creaky floors, Chloe knew she was right outside the door, but wouldn’t look up. Just sat there fiddling with her leg. The shower brush was on the bed beside her.

Karen approached and looked down at her daughter’s leg. She was making what looked to be little tic tac toe scratches on her thigh with her fingernail. “Stop that”, Karen said, tenderly cupping her head in her hand. Then, sitting beside her, she wet her finger and wiped the dry, white marks away with her hand. Self-conscious, Chloe wiped at them too and pulled the skirt lower.

Karen felt the spine melting out of her. “What am I going to do with you?”

“I think we both know that”, Chloe mumbled through a mouthful of cotton without looking up.

“Look, Chloe. I…”

Chloe’s heart was racing and her eyes were burning. She could not bear to hear another lecture, another session of having her own words thrown back at her and having to listen to what a shit she was. She knew that. I’m sorry Mom, was all she was thinking but she couldn’t make herself say that. Not right now. Not that it wasn’t true, but if she said that now-just apologized-Karen would believe her. She would forgive her and not do what she came upstairs to do. What she needed her to do.

Chloe twisted on the bed and laid herself quickly over her mother’s lap. Once there she reached back and pulled her skirt up as best she could, exposing her panty-clad rear. She was wearing skimpy blue panties that Karen had never seen and she chose to ignore the fact that her daughter was matching her underwear to her skirt. She had an idea of where this evening had been headed.

“Be my Mom alright? You can be my friend later. Now you need to be my mom!”

Jarred, Karen swallowed her surprise and still-borne response, remembering what Deena had told her. Christ, had she had been so blind to what her daughter needed from her? It had always been about what she wanted, what she needed from her daughter. How had she missed the signals being sent her way?

“Alrighty then”, said Karen, tightening her grip around her daughter’s waist shrugging off the feeling that she was a player in someone else’s drama. When she brought the first swat down heavily on Chloe’s right cheek they both said “OW!” Karen silently with an-O-open mouth and Chole not so quietly. It had been awhile, but Karen knew the feel of wood on bottom-something her daughter was about to learn.

At the moment, Chole’s thoughts were more along the line of “be careful what you wish for” but by the third smack of the brush had degenerated into a mishmash of “OW-Ouch! She’s really beating my ass! Jesus! Jesus! This hurts-HURTS! Ow! OW!” She managed to bite her lip and not yell too much but couldn’t stop the wriggling.

Suddenly remembering her own sessions over Chef Tony’s lap Karen switched the paddle to her left hand and quickly grabbed her daughter’s panties and yanked them down. Something obviously unanticipated.

“NO MOM!” Chloe yelled and reached back. Too late to grab her underwear, she instead covered her bared bottom with her hand palm up. “Not on the bare, Mom! Please!”

“Take your hand away or I will swat it.” She swatted her moderately on the back of the leg.

“Ouch! OK….”

Chloe, having begun to cry despite herself, pulled a pillow down and buried her face in it. A thin sheath of cotton would not seem to offer much protection from a stout bath brush, but the first contact of wood on bare skin was electric. “Jesus! She’s spanking my bare ass!! My BARE ASS” echoed through Chloe’s brain as she yelped into the pillow. Karen delivered smack after smack to her reddening bottom. She kicked and swam not able to avoid the blows but neither could she register that every swat was a tad lighter than the one before.

Karen, even now determined to be more attentive to her daughter’s needs, watched her reactions and listened carefully to her cries. When Chloe stopped wriggling and instead pushed her legs straight back tightening her bum into two hard apples Karen decided the punishment was over. She dropped the brush back onto the bed as the girl relaxed, continuing to cry softly.

Karen grabbed the panties that were bunched at Chole’s knees and pulled them gently up, covering her bottom. She primly dropped the skirt back in place, only then patting Chloe’s aching back side.

“That should about do it”, she said. “Come on, get up”.

Chloe pushed herself up and sat on the bed where she had before eyes focused on the carpet.  Karen got up and snapped tissues from a box on the bedside table. “Here”, she said putting them in front of Chloe’s face. “Let’s see if we can get along for a while”, she said stroking the top of her head.

Chloe didn’t look up but seemed to nod.

“You’re done for the night,” Karen told her heading for the door.  Get ready for bed. No computer, no phone….”

“OK….” Came the tissue-muffled answer.

Downstairs Karen poured a thick glass of tooth achingly cold vodka over ice and headed for the front porch. The cool of the evening sliced hard into the heat running through her and she almost shivered. Tossing a few cushions aside she settled onto the wicker glider and finally, finally sighed deeply emptying her lungs then refilling-once, twice…sip. Repeat. She had thought about calling Deena but didn’t; wanting this time for herself and Chloe in case…

She heard the door opening behind her.

“Mom?”

“Yeah, honey?”

“Can I come out?”

“Sure.” Karen tossed the cushions beside her onto the floor. Chloe had changed into pajama bottoms and a long-sleeved Carroll High cheerleader T-shirt. She flopped down beside her mother and let her head loll onto her shoulder.

Karen took her offered hand. “How are you doing?” she asked.

“My butt is SO sore…”

“I hope you’re not looking for an apology.”

“Nope.”

They sat just so for a few moments, Karen breathing the soft scent of Chloe’s hair.

“I know I still don’t have car privileges so you think you can take me to school in the morning?”

“Isn’t what’s his face picking you up?”

“Ah…I don’t think that would be right. I’m breaking up with him tomorrow.”

“Really?” Karen asked, happily surprised. “Why?”

She felt Chloe shrug and knew there would be no other explanation forthcoming right now. And she was fine with that. As they sat in silence, slowly rocking back and forth, Karen felt her eyes burning but was unwilling to let go of her daughter’s hand to rub them.

She let the tear slide softly down her cheek.

Chloe – Part 3

(Continued from Chloe – Part 2)

Chloe was so relieved to be in the car and out of the Che’s office that she forgot to immediately sulk and Karen almost relaxed too. Almost. And only for a moment before the anger took back over.

“Did you pick Umberto’s because I used to work here?”

Chloe shrugged and looked out of the passenger window, closing up and pointedly ignoring her mother’s glances.

“Did you figure if you got caught at least you might not get busted? Again. Have you been in there before?” Again, just a shrug.

That growth spurt did complicate things Chloe was about as tall as she was, with coltish legs and quickly developing breasts. Karen would have been thrilled to put the kid stuff behind them and get on with the sisterly mother daughter time that Chef Tony talked about. But then there were things like this. When adulting ground to a halt and she would prove herself a willful seventeen-year-old not ready for the adult role that Karen wanted her to assume.

“You were grounded for three weeks, still don’t have car privileges back and the day after you’re allowed out of the house you are busted trying to…”

A blaring car horn jolted Karen back to the task at hand and she yanked the wheel back from where she had drifted.

“Jesus Mom! Would you watch what you’re doing? Christ!”

Almost unwilled, Karen’s hand lashed out and grabbed Chloe’s ear along with a thick lock of her blonde hair. “Bring it down a notch”, she growled. Chloe’s eyes widened with surprised fear as her mother twisted and yanked slowly, laying her hands on her daughter for the first time in anger in years.

“Alright! I’m sorry”, Chloe shrilled.

Karen released her ear as quickly as she’d grabbed it and the girl pulled away plastering herself against the passenger window and rubbing the side of her head. “I’m sorry”, she clipped at her. “You just push and push. Why?”

“I don’t know. I’m just stubborn that way.”

“How much of it is him?”

Chloe sniffed at that.

“Are you in love with him?”

“Please!”

“Really, what is it with him? I mean, he’s not what you’d call bright. Why are you even with him?”

Just like that, Chloe glanced her way and gave her a seemingly surreptitious look. A “how much should I tell her?” look that Karen recognized immediately. There it was! That quick look-that wink without a wink-a sister to sister acknowledgement of a carnal truth that would be hell to tell your mother.

Karen smiled inwardly if a little ruefully. She was her daughter, that couldn’t be denied. She stopped at a light. They weren’t far from home Karen cleared her throat to announce what she’d been thinking about since Chef Tony’s office.

“You know what’s going to happen when we get home, don’t you?”

“No idea” she answered.

“I’m going to spank you.”

“Yeah, right!” she sniffed.

“Yeah. Right.”

“Mom. You’re not.”

“No, I was thinking…you remember the last time I spanked you? When you pushed me to the edge and I didn’t know what else to do?”

“No”, she answered too quickly.

“Of course, you do. What were you twelve? You had stolen that boy’s paper when you didn’t do the assignment and lied about it? Said it was yours because you copied it into your own writing?”

“Thirteen”, she said out the window.

“Yeah…seventh grade. They were going to fail you for the class but I told them I would handle it at home. I almost had to tell them-I had to make it clear to them-what I was going to do and they were fine with it.”

“It was humiliating.”

“No doubt. For me too. But after that-you were fine. You were on the honor roll the last two quarters-we got along for the rest of that year it seemed.”

“THAT wasn’t why.”

“Probably not. But it’s impossible to ignore the personality transplant that my hand on your butt brought about.”

“But you can’t spank me…

“Why not?”

“I’m an adult…almost…”

“Almost. This is nothing I want to do, believe me. Sometimes I wish you would grow up and move out just like you say you want to almost every day. But you can’t. You’re too young. And sometimes I wish you were younger so you wouldn’t test me all the goddam time. I’m still responsible for you. And I have to do something to get through to you.”

“But you know I don’t mean half of what I say…”

“How would I know that?”

“You know I’m sorry when I really fuck up!”

“How do I know that? And watch your language. Do you ever say it? Don’t break your brain trying to remember. You never do!”

“I AM! I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Karen asked calmly as she pulled into the driveway. “For what, exactly?”

“For today-for trying to walk on that bill. It was stupid. I’m sorry.”

“Is that it? You’re just sorry for today?”

“For all of it then!”

“All of which?”

“I don’t know…for being a bitch, I guess. I’m sorry!”

“Ok, so I’m hearing that message, yes. But I’m not exactly getting it.”

“You are NOT going to spank me”, she said as firmly as she could though her eyes were tearing and her voice quavering.

“No way out of it now, I’m afraid. You’ve pushed me too far too many times and I have to figure out a way to stop it. I can’t fight you all the time.”

Chloe pushed her door open and slammed it behind her stalking to the house. Karen watched her go gripping the steering wheel to keep her hands from shaking. “One-one thousand, Two-one thousand, Three-one thousand….” She counted until Chloe reached the locked door and realized she’d left her purse-with her keys-in the car. She could do nothing but stand on the porch and fume until Karen got there. When her mother approached the door, Chloe kicked it. Hard. Then again.

“Chloe”, Karen said as calmly as possible. “That’s a kickplate. Get it? A brass kickplate on an oak door. The only thing you are going to hurt is your foot.”

When Karen opened the door, Chloe bolted past her mother quicker than a cat might trying to get out. She headed for the stairs.

“Go upstairs and wait for me in your room. “

“Mom!”

“First, go into the bathroom and get the shower brush out of the tub.”

“NO!”

“Go upstairs, get the brush and wait for me in your room.”

“The last time you just used your hand!”

“You were a girl then. Not so much anymore.”

Chole combined a primal grunt, sigh and growl in a way Karen had never heard before stomping up the steps. “And leave the door open”, Karen called after her.

Karen waited and listened-definitely heard her in the bathroom. Heard her crossing to her room. Waited for the door slam which…never…came. “Huh”, she thought.

She wandered into the kitchen and opened the freezer grabbing the bottle of Grey Goose thinking to take the edge off but knew instinctively that would be a bad move. She pushed it back in among the ice, Moose Tracks and frozen chicken breasts. Her phone pinged and she pulled it out of her purse. There were three texts from Deena all variations on the theme: Are you OK? Everything OK?

Karen texted back. “Peachy. Just got home-about to go upstairs and spank Chloe.”

She hit send, watched the message sent, watched it delivered, watched it read. And waited. “One-one thousand, Two-one thousand…” She didn’t even get the three before the piano tinkling ring-tone sounded and Deena’s beautiful smiling face filled her screen. “Hello”, she answered.

“Really girl?”

“Apparently so.”

“But, wow. Your idea?”

“Who else?”

Deena paused for a moment. “You up for this?”

“I don’t know. But I do know we can’t keep going like this.”

“Just remember sweetheart. You’re dealing with a full-grown woman now…”

“She’s seventeen, acts twenty, then acts fourteen…”

“Age is not the point. Point is, she’s a woman. And you’re not going to do anything to her that she won’t let you do. You get that don’t you?” Karen didn’t answer immediately. Heard her, but wasn’t sure that she got her. “Where is she now?”

“Upstairs in her room waiting.”

“Go then. Go do what you both need.”

“I wish you were here right now”, Karen said quietly. “I could use you.”

“You always got me kiddo. You’ll do fine. Just be you.”

Just be me, thought Karen when they disconnected. That’s part of what got them into this mess. If it were up to her, she would sit on the porch with a glass of vodka and wait for it to all blow over. No, she couldn’t be her exactly. She had to use that anger…maybe channel a little of Deena. She smiled and tossed back her shoulders imitating Deena’s cocky military posture and the rolling swagger when she walked with a purpose.  Karen strode across the room and up the stairs.

To be continued…upstairs

Chloe – Part 2

Continued from Chloe

Karen’s stomach flipped as she pulled at the large wooden door and stepped into the dim warmth of Umberto’s. Thank God that they were busy-Chef wouldn’t have much time to spend with her and she could get in, collect Chloe and get out. She was standing at the end of the bar blinking against the half-light when Marie appeared at her shoulder squeezing her arm.

“Hi honey”, she said gently kissing her on the cheek. Then with a shrug and eye-roll, “She’s back here.” Karen followed through the dining room and only hesitated for a quick breath before sliding through the swinging doors to the kitchen, embarrassed for a quick moment that all she cared about was how her hair looked.

She saw him before he saw her and the flip her stomach did when she walked into the place, returned. And spread to her chest. The salt and pepper goatee, the muscled arms swelling against his black T-shirt reminded her immediately of why she had to leave here.

It only took a second before he noticed her. “Hey-Beniamina. Come stai? How you doin’?”

“Hi Tony-great to see you”, she kept her smile tight and professional-not wanting to offer much. “Not under these conditions though.”

Tony gave her a quick-but not perfunctory-hug, coiling his thick arms around her for a moment. “Kids’ll kill you, you let them,” he said releasing her and taking her hands as if she were a long-lost friend. “You shoulda had a boy-they love their mothers.” Then he shrugged. “Want to kill their fathers, but hey, that’s the way. You had a boy, you’d be the queen mother instead of the wicked witch. Girl will fight a mother straight through till they’re both women-then it’s like they’re sisters. Trick is surviving till then. “

Karen wished she was listening but all she could do was watch his mouth, the straight porcelain white teeth, lush tongue rolling every vowel, Adam’s apple bouncing between the cords of his neck. Then there was the familiar whiff of cloves on his breath that he used to cover the occasional cached cigarette.  Jesus.

“You look great”, she heard him say. “You still in the business?”

“No. Got my CPA-working in finance.”

“Ach-numbers”, Tony threw up a hand.

“Keeps me off my feet all day.”

“You ever want to dip your toe back in, call me.”

Karen shifted on her feet as the small talk wound down. “Here”, said Tony, reaching into a pocket on his apron. He handed her the check that Chloe’s group walked out on.

“Impressive”, she said frowning. “And wine too. I’m sure none of them are of age.”

“That’s another issue. One that I’m taking up with their server Lynette. She’s good. New, but not that new.”

“I’ll pay this, of course.”

“You of course will not. I’ll take care of it. You might tip Lynette though-she has enough to worry about right now.”

“Of course.”

Standing here in front of Tony was actually worse than she thought it would be. She had no idea what he was thinking right then but her mind, in spite of everything else going on right now, slid directly to his cock. She wondered if it was stiffening as he spoke to her. She was conscious of hoping that it was. She actually glanced at the tile floor feeling the cold ceramic on her knees as she imagined dropping and dipping her head under his apron to gnaw at it like a sausage in denim casing.

Karen knew-or assumed as everyone else did because there wasn’t a newsletter-that Chef and his wife had an “understanding” and as far as she knew, again assumed, it extended only to spanking the help. She’d heard also that his wife started that thing when she worked with him at their first place.

She’d heard he had a “special” relationship with this one or that one over the years but not as special as the one Karen wanted to have with him. He resisted her pretty well over the three years she was here but she knew she would wear him down over time-which is why she left Umberto’s. She obviously didn’t mind ruining her own marriages but didn’t want to ruin his. That was her story then anyway.

“So where is the master thief?”

Tony nodded. “Office.”

As she turned away she felt his hand on her bicep, “You know how they say that the sins of the father are visited on the sons right?”

“I’ve heard, yes.”

“The reverse can sometimes also be true”. He winked and squeezed her arm before turning back to his post. She felt the heat rising in her cheeks. Don’t blush, she repeated over and over like a mantra, as she blushed and swallowed a breath.

Chloe looked too big for the chair she was sitting in. She was wearing the blue and gold madras skirt she had appropriated from Karen for the cheerleaders Night at the Races fundraiser a few months before. Karen knew that she wouldn’t be seeing that skirt again except on Chloe but she was fine with it. Since last winter’s growth spurt she could wear her mother’s clothes and lord knows she had enough for both of them.

Sitting there she looked twenty-five to the casual observer but upon a mother’s closer inspection there was the defiant teenager in her sullen look. She studied the floor in front of her twisting a blonde lock between the fingers of her left hand, completely ignoring the fact that there was someone else in the room with her.

“So”, Karen asked evenly, “How was your day?”

“Don’t! I’m not in the mood”, she scowled back.

“Really Chloe? Really?”

Karen felt a stab in her throat and a tightness constricting her windpipe. If she spoke again, she would squeak. She looked away and started counting-something Deena had told her to do. “One, one-thousand, Two, one-thousand, Three…”

As she pulled her eyes from her daughter, she noticed the wooden spatula on top of the filing cabinet. Hanging in the kitchen with everything else it was an innocuous piece of cookware. But in here-sitting alone atop a filing cabinet-there was no mistaking it’s intent. Had he brought it in here waiting for the end of Lynette’s shift or had he, over the last few years, just abandoned all pretense and kept it in here.

Or maybe…was it possible he left it here for her. Did he bring it in here with Chloe as a suggestion to how to deal with her recalcitrant daughter? If he had, Karen didn’t know how she felt about that.  But still… she reached over her daughter and picked it up, held it-something she’d never done before. She knew what the flat end felt like in application of course, but never held it by the handle. She turned it in her wrist and studied the woodgrain darkened by years of stirring.

“Mom?” she heard Chloe say from far away.

It was lighter that Karen would have assumed as she waved it easily, gently, through the air subtly pantomiming a batter swatting a ball down the first base line. That wasn’t the motion Chloe was seeing of course and Karen was fine with that.

“Mom!” came that voice again. When Karen deigned to look her way, her daughter’s eyes were bright and wide-no hint of the hooded sullenness that took up her face minutes before. Her eyes weren’t leaving what Karen had in her hand. “Can we leave?”

“There’s a lock on this door”, Karen said calmly.

“No!” Chloe said quickly grabbing the sides of the chair as if to attach herself to it. “No, Mom!”

Karen made a show of trying to decide what to do. She glanced at the door, hefted the spatula then looked back at Chloe’s wide pleading face. She noticed the spattering of freckles across her nose and the dampness in her glistening eyes.

“Can’t we just leave? Please?”

Karen wasn’t exactly proud of how good she felt eliciting this feeling of fear in her daughter but for the first time in a couple of weeks she felt she had the girl’s attention. She was inclined to not beat herself up too much over it and call if even for the countless missed curfews and various other things Chloe had done to drive her crazy. Yeah, she’d call it even for now but….

“Sure”, she said putting the spatula back on the filing cabinet. “We can leave, but this discussion is not over.”

“Sure…OK”, she said quickly, eschewing the snide “whatever….” she typically would have thrown in.

On the way out, Marie pointed them to Lynette-a small, bright athletic type with a thick shock of silver hair done in a boyish cut. Nothing boyish about her body though and impossibly young looking though Karen was learning that the older she got, the younger everyone else looked.

“How much you have in your wallet?” Karen asked her daughter.

“I don’t know…about thirty bucks.”

“Give it to her”, she nodded to Lynette. “Never stiff a waitress.”

Without a question, Chloe handed over the money with a quick apology-a nice touch that Karen hadn’t expected.

“I’m sorry”, Lynette told Karen, eyes bright. “…I should have carded them. It’s just that we were so busy….”

“It’s OK”, said Karen. “It happens…” The poor kid was probably apologizing to everyone thinking it might bank her something when she met with the boss later. Karen knew that it wouldn’t.

To be 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’.

“…A Failure to Communicate”

She turned away from the window to light the cigarette she’d kept in a plastic bag hidden in an old purse with a wooden match from the candle drawer. In the utter darkness of the house the yellow flame burst brightly until she sucked deeply and shook it out.

“Fuck!” she whispered when she saw the red glowing dot of the tip reflecting back from the glass. Could he see it? She palmed the butt next to her thigh and squinted trying to regain her night vision. There was nothing. More correctly, she could see nothing. But he was out there.

Beyond the lawn and the rhododendrons, across the property line and beyond the subtle rises that she knew to be remains of Civil War trenches that existed undisturbed in these woods for 150 years. “If you didn’t know they were there, you might not know they were there”, said the locals. Over the old stone foundation of a house gone before she was born was an oak tree. It was probably there when the old house was built and stood powerfully if charred by a lightning strike on V-E Day-or so said nosy old always-in-your-business Millicent Fenwick at the library.

“It’s a four by eight sheet of three quarter inch exterior plywood”, he had intoned when she asked him if it would hold him. Those numbers meant nothing to her, she wasn’t a builder but neither was he. Still, he said “It’s a four by eight sheet of three quarter inch exterior plywood” in such a way that she guessed she should be impressed. He had taken this sheet of plywood and somehow wedged it between the three large main branches of that old oak about ten feet off the ground and “stabilized it with three two by four struts screwed right into the trunk.” She stared at him and he repeated it; more than a few times. Could just have well been speaking Mandarin-she didn’t know or care what a fucking strut was.

“Hear your husband’s building a tree stand back off the old Warner place”, Mrs. Fenwick had said, taking the cards out of the back pockets of the books she was checking out. “My husband Elmo, God rest him, used to hunt those woods. Got more than deer back there, you ask me.”

Her eyes adjusted and she could see beyond the yard into the black of the woods. She even imagined that she could see the top branches of the oak drawn against the silvery starlit night. She hadn’t minded when he moved from their bedroom to the spare room. That was a lie-it bothered her-but it had happened gradually. One night a week, then two, always a perfectly acceptable reason: he had to get up early, his back was a little off, he “felt a good snore coming on…” Then it had become semi-permanent.

Getting used to that wasn’t easy but at least she could still hear him breathing and rolling around and, at three a.m. precisely, getting up and walking to the bathroom. Sometimes he would veer into what he had begun to call “her” room and slip into “her” bed so that they could get into some of their nighttime business but that wasn’t happening anymore.

Because now he had taken to sleeping in a fucking tree.

“A little anisette, please…” Part ll

(Continued from “A little anisette, please…”)

The glowing wafer of moon slipped thinly into the chalice of the hills.

“I am not worthy to receive you…” the long forgotten words clattered across his memory like a broken strand of pearls. “…but only say the words….” He was startled to hear himself speaking aloud and bit his lips too late. The sweeping sound of her breathing was gone-leaving a silent void. He inhaled deeply as if to smell whether he had awakened her.

She was on her side so when he looked down he saw only her right eye glowing back at him. Her lips, always full, seemed swollen. He bent to them and kissed her. Gently. Dryly. She returned his kiss over her shoulder then, like a cat, pushed her haunches still wrapped in sheets back into him.

“You are definitely not worthy”, she said huskily-her voice full of sleep.

“Of anything.”

“Release my legs”, she told him.

“I don’t want to hurt you now…” he said quietly. Last night was last night. This was a new day.

“Release my legs”.

The knots melted in his fingers. A lifetime on the lake, sailing, boating and fishing made ropes and knots his superpower. Before she could imagine how she was bound, she was free. Still on her side she pulled her right knee up then, when he uncovered her, lifted her top leg toward the ceiling, opening and still pushing backward. From another woman this would have been an invitation. From her, it was a summons.

Hard since he’d walked into the room he held back and grasped her ankle, then slid his hand down the muscles of her leg-pausing to outline the panther on her thigh. It rippled across her quad and roared up the inside of her thigh directing with white teeth and a blood-red tongue where he should go next.

“Do you want your hands?” he asked.

“No”. She kept them, still bound, clutched at her throat like a child curling her loose hair around her long slim fingers.

He settled on his side poking like a blind dog against her still bruised bottom cheeks. She rolled slightly and pushed backward further. Even in the dim, dawn light she glistened as he slid inside-never surprised by how wet she was. She gasped, taking him all at once as he grunted-forcing himself all the way inside with a loud slap of flesh.

She answered his grunt and caught the wave of his thrusts, digging backward as he pushed forward. They quickened the pace and he held her leg high gripping the firm muscles and feeling the quiver coming from up top. She probably would have preferred to hold her leg up herself just with the core strength she never tired of yakking about but he just wanted a fucking handle. He grabbed her ass and kneaded.

Whatever didn’t work between them, this surely did. This always did. He listened for the breathing again; this time the quick gasping that signaled….here it came. As the bed creaked and rolled, he pushed-pushed-pushed thrust-thrust-quickening his pace-slapslapslap skin on skin until her gasping became a moan then a bark then a cry as she slammed her leg down like a guillotine holding him in place as he, with a last firm jam spewed his shuddering heat deep into her.

As they deflated, dissipated, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close as if wanting to contact as much of her skin as possible. He slid out of her and rested until he heard the telltale whispering of her wheezing. He allowed himself to be lulled to the edge of darkness before he roused and pulled gently away.

Without touching her he leaned over and untied the ropes on her wrists but she reacted not at all, lying as if in prayer. He retrieved the knife and put it on the bed stand then, reluctant to leave, kissed her shoulder, her back and ran is tongue along the salt of her hip. When he felt himself begin to swell, he rose and pulled the sheet up to her neck leaving her exactly as he’d found her. He left the door ajar.

Later with the morning sun high over the ridge she, still damp from the shower and clear-eyed as a child, joined him at the kitchen table. The silk robe parted as she gingerly sat affording him an easy view of her small, firm breasts. “Good Morning Glory”, he said mocking. She gifted him a half smile.

“I trust you welcomed the sun”, she said seeing that the sweat from his sunrise workout was already dried on his shirt.

“Someone had to do it” he said pushing away from the table. “Coffee?”

“Christ, yes.”

“Cream?”

“A little anisette, please.” He took the clear liquor from the sideboard and poured thickly closing his eyes to the sweet licorice scent filling the room. He placed the cup before her and kissed her on the top of her head and slid his hand inside her robe. “Always nice to have the girls for coffee”.

“Will you join me for sword later?” she asked ignoring his hand.

“Technical or Kumite?”

“I want to fight.”

He stepped back and regarded her carefully. She was talking into her coffee giving him nothing.

“Wood”, he said firmly. Their steel tournament swords weren’t razor sharp but carried enough of an edge to do damage. He would only fight her using the wooden swords. They had a way to make that interesting.

“Fine”, she said looking up. Her eyes had a sparkle rather than a gleam. Which was good. “Eleven?”

“Eleven it is”, he said. “Now drink your coffee.”

She blew on it and sipped.