The next day I was even more miserable. On my cigarette break I sat outside and watched customers come in and out of Huxley’s Hardware.
“School boys tell me they was up at Stony Creek last week. Thursday, I think it was.”
“I’m impressed,” I said.
“Said she goes out there every Thursday, too. All by herself—her and that shiny red automobile. They seen the car about eight o’clock.”
I didn’t say anything right away. I just pulled hard on my cigarette and inhaled deep then flung it with my finger.
“You some kind of seer or something Willie? What makes you think that I’m interested in her?”
“Don’t have to be no seer to see what’s ailing you.”
“Why then, Willie? Tell me?”
“Maybe ‘stead of makin love to this bottle, I could be makin love to a woman. That is if I wanted one.”
“What happened? She take off?”
“Oh, she’s still around. I see her every once in a while. Don’t make love though. Can’t afford to. Sometimes a man and a woman are like two pieces of a puzzle. That puzzle can come together and something good will happen. Other times, not often, it’s bad. I know that old woman is waiting. She knows I knows. I’ve wanted that woman for thirty years come this July, ever since I was nineteen. I think about her all the time, then I take a drink of whiskey. She asks me every time I see her. I just say no, then I get stinking no good roll in the gutter drunk.”
“Sounds pretty bad Willie. What time was that?”
“Around eight. Stony Creek. Tonight.”
After work I hitched the ten miles out to Stony Creek. The spot where she parked took half an hour to get to though. Around eight thirty daylight had worked all the harsh edges off the sunlight and I could see without squinting.
Stony Creek was secluded alright. A patch of fifty feet square white sand was surrounded by high reeds and thick brush that covered the clearing. The creek ran East and West to my right, the water looked cold and deep from a crystal clear spring.
Parked at an angle sat the red convertible. I walked up to it expecting to see her leaning back on the seat. No such luck. Only white leather seats and half a bottle of Jack Daniels. The radio played soft music for no one. She wasn’t any where in sight. One thing wrong, she left naked. Draped across the drivers door lay a yellow silk dress. Folded neat across the dress were sheer nylon stockings and matching yellow garter belt. I hooked one stocking with my finger and passed it through my hands. It felt smooth as I stroked it. The familiar stir opened my senses. Where was she?
A splashing sound jarred my daydream. It was her, skinny dipping. Water ripples tided the sandy bank and then followed back to her.
“Who’s there?” she called out. “What are you doing here? How did you find this place?”
“I think the question is—what are you doing here?”
“You’re real bright, you figure it out,” she answered.
“Yeah, well, I say you pull the slip on your old man like this regular. But—you cover your tracks. Talk about a Wolf in a sheep’s coat. Sweetheart you take the prize.”
She tread water pretty good, but I could tell she wanted out. So, I waited with her stockings in my hand.
“Well, I don’t give a damn what you think. Now, if you’ll put my clothes down and turn around, I’ll get dressed.”
“You mean these?” I leaned back against her convertible and lit a cigarette. Time was on my side.
“Pull that stuff on old men and little boys. It don’t work with me. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
“Aren’t you Mr. Morris help? Doc something?” she said it as cold and icy as a winter in Alaska.
“From what I can see, I’d say about 35-24-36, right?”
“Morris should be more careful about the help he hires these days.”
“Say, I’ll bet there wasn’t a single stitch of clothes under that flower print dress. The one I first saw you in at the store.”
“If my husband heard you talk like that he’d kill you.”
“You’re a real live tiger all right.”
Suddenly she stepped out of the water on to the sandy bank. She moved directly to me. Confident, she focused into my eyes.
“See for yourself. I believe these are mine.”
She took the silk stockings from my hand.
“What?” I asked.
“That was 36-24-36.” She corrected me
“I believe you.”
She reached in my shirt pocket and took out a cigarette and used the dash lighter to light it. When she inhaled, she tossed her head back—like some personal triumph. The smoke drifted thick and slow from her lips.
“You going to stand there and stare, or are you going to pour us a drink. You’ll find cups in the glove box.”
“Yeah, sure.” I said kind of awkwardly.
I needed a good jolt, so I poured a couple of two finger stiff ones. One gulp and I peered at the remaining liquid in the bottom of the cup. She didn’t give hers time to stain the cup. She was alive alright,wild alive.
“You want me. Don’t you?”
“What would your husband say.”
“You want to ask him?”
“Look , I don’t want any trouble. I just figured we could have a good time. You know, a few laughs—“
“Kiss me,” she said, almost in a slow whisper.
I met her half way. One thing I can say. Half way was not her style. It was all the way or nothing at all. It took her one second to bring the fire inside me to a roaring blaze.
“The puzzle comes together,” I said.
“What did you say?”
About a hundred yards away we heard laughter, kids laughter, and lots of it. A party was coming our way. It was clear everybody and nobody knew about her little hiding place.
“Get in, I’ll drive,” I said.
She gathered what little she had spread on a blanket and tossed it in the back seat. The last thing that she needed was the exposure—another thing—I didn’t need to be run out of town on a rail.
She dressed on the seat as we made our road through the weeds. The car sucked up the road like a vacuum cleaner. It swayed a little from the bumps and the potholes, but overall, there is no feeling on the earth like it; fast cars and even faster women. I liked them both.
“We didn’t finish,” she said. Her eyes were closed and her head was tilted back on the seat. She was a dream come true.
We followed two rutted tracks to the highway. Ten miles of smooth blacktop lay before us. I opened up the Buick. At ninety the engine purred. Her red hair whipped about her head in the wind. She was breathing deep, like a race horse.
“I can’t stand it.” She said her eyes were still closed.
“Now. I tell you, now. I’ve gotta have it. Doc. You no good bastard—give it to me—or so help me I’ll wreck this car.”
She was clenching and unclenching her fists and squirming in the seat.
We were entering Rightsboro city limits so I took a few low profile short cuts and ended up in back of Easy-Quick.
I climbed out of the car. I was looking for something to solve my problem.
“Just a minute,” I said, looking everywhere around the car.
“I can’t wait a minute!”
“Okay, a second!”
I picked up the biggest rock I could find and slammed the back door lock on the rear entry roll up. It jumped, nothing broken. Again I slammed it, harder this time and it clicked open. The door hoisted easy. She pulled the car in and I closed up.
I started the washer motor and talked to her as I rolled up the windows and put up the top. The spray jets were beginning to spout steam.
“You’ve got an appetite. I’m going to fill it.”
“Yes Doc. Talk to me. Fill me.”
She groaned low in her throat. I looked deep into her blue eyes, only now, they were like a hungry jungle cat. Of all the women I made love to, she was at the top of the list. Her adrenalin flowed so hard in her body she was an animal. The strange thing is—it’s catchy. My back was racked like an alley cat was on it. And she still wasn’t satisfied. The pulsing jets of water on the rag top throbbed and motivated our desires. A woman like her unlocks every fear, unfastens every inhibition a man can have. She could turn a mouse into a tiger; an honest man into a thief; a good man into a murderer.
As quickly as she excited, she calmed down. Somewhere inside her a steam valve turned off, trying not to burst the pipes.
“I hate him,” were the first words she said.
I lit two cigarettes in my mouth and handed her one.
“That stiff neck, tight ass, husband of mine. I hate him. He never lets me go anywhere, do anything. I feel caged, cooped up like some furry creature you feed through and eye dropper.”
“I wouldn’t call this extending the hand of brotherhood. What the hell more do you want—him to pay me?”
“This? I’ll tell you what this is. This is supposed to be at my sisters, getting my hair done.”
“You could have fooled me.”
“I don’t mean it that way, right now that’s where I’m supposed to be at. Don’t you see? I get one lousy night out a week, and that’s only for a few hours. If it wasn’t for my sister covering for me, I wouldn’t get that. You don’t know what its like, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday—nothing, then Friday at ten o’clock I get it. A few strokes and he’s done. I tell you Doc, I haven’t opened up for him but once and that was on our wedding night. He was scared, honestly scared of what we were doing. He thinks now, if I’m kept to a bare minimum, he’s satisfied, I’m satisfied. Well I’m not! I’m a woman Doc. I’m just a plain woman who wants to be satisfied. Do you understand me?”
She began sobbing uncontrollably in my arms. Here was this hard bodied animal; soft, crying. She just wanted to be a woman.
She was a woman alright. In fact, she was twice as much as any woman I ever met. No wonder he backed off. He opened a can with a peaches and cream label and found Piranha. Some men can’t handle it, they’re not willing to go that far. That was the reason for the tight leash. Big cats you don’t keep on a tight leash. Let them wander a little, and gently but firmly pull them back. That way they feel they were going in your direction anyway. If you don’t —they turn on you. They get nasty. They hate you.
Little beads of water spotted the hood and the windows leaked. But the car was clean. She was satisfied; I was satisfied, and her husband got a clean car in the progress.
“What do we do now?” she asked?
“I don’t know. Not for now anyway. But what you can do is fix yourself up and go home.”
“I don’t want to go home. I want to be with you.”
“You want to stay here all night? What do you think is going to happen when Morris opens in the morning?” I was hard, but realistic. One of us had to be.
“We have to work out a system. It all depends on you. When you can get away. When you can pull your sister routine. It’s the only way.”
She looked into my eyes, searching. Then I saw something in her eyes that wasn’t there before. In a moment, she grew from a hungry love starved little girl to a strong willed woman.
“I’ll be in the hardware store tomorrow,” I told her.
She nodded her head, but didn’t take her hard stare off of me. I slipped out of the car and opened the big door in front.
Before I could get back she said, “Don’t bother,” And tromped the accelerator to the floor, squealing the tires. I stood there for a minute as she fishtailed down the street, looking at a very clean red convertible drive away.
“One can of wax, one barrel of soap. Your change and the invoice are on the desk.” I said.
“Thanks Doc. Now you’re beginning to see how a real business operation is run. Easy-Quick car washes are a thing of the future.” Morris answered.
“Yeah, one on every corner,” I said and chuckled.
“Something like that Doc. You know you’re real smart, good at figuring things right away. One day you could manage an Easy-Quick and be just like me.” He reached down and grabbed a handful of belly through his vest and shook it. “This is prosperity.” He pointed to his head. “This is ingenuity.” Then he pulled his smoldering cigar from his mouth and gripped his desk. “And this is my place, Doc. I want you to remember that; lock, stock, and barrel.” He laughed “ and wax too. That’s all, you can go back to work. There’s a big Lincoln coming through, it needs a good towel job. See to it okay?”
“Sure Mr. Morris, right away.”
I left the office and found Willie Black wiping down the hood of a new 1956 Lincoln.
“That fat ass son of a bitch,” I said through the clouds of steam and water. I wanted to rub the triple black finish off the car hood.
“Ain’t but one man fits that handle, and he don’t work down here,” said Willie Black.
Willie worked for Morris for the past ten years, odd jobs mostly. Every business venture Morris had, had a Willie. They were expendable, exploitable and cheap. Morris bought Willie, and men like him along with the equipment. He used them both until they broke, or just wore out. Willie was forty-nine years old but his hands looked like a hundred. Gnarled and twisted arthritic fingers worked long enough to keep him chin deep in whiskey. He suffered the D.T. shakes so bad he couldn’t one hand a cup of coffee. All that and I kind of liked him.
“I don’t see how you take it.”
“Nothing to take,” he said. “My young buck days is over. Young Willie run when he wanted to run. Now the runnin is stopped. Just cars now, cars and whiskey. Don’t need nothing else.”
“Not me.” I said. “One day I’m gonna have it all, big house, no worries, and plenty of leisure time. Hell with washing cars. When that knock comes on the door, you better believe that I’m gonna jerk it open.”
“Missed, over by the hood.” Willie pointed to a spot the brushes missed.
“Got it. Where was I? Oh yeah, I’m going to have it all.”
Willie took a quick swallow of whiskey from the bottle inside his pocket. “Is that it?” he said wiping his mouth.
“No. I’m gonna have that woman from across the street.”
I stopped for a moment. What the hell did I just say? I wasn’t thinking about her and the way she moved in that dress. Her baby fine red hair falling over one eye.
Something stirred in me and I felt it tingle down my back, only for a moment and then it was gone.
A Chrysler eased around the back and lined up to come inside. One of the kids who skipped school regularly took the money and the man got out to wait. She slipped from my mind.
In the car wash business, that is the working end, you have to face one fact. You are eternally wet somewhere. Shoes, shirt, pants, it all gets wet. We worked steady that day till closing. I collected two dollars in tips. The two school kids departed early. Morris closed up and checked every lock twice.
“Good night, boys,” Mr. Morris said and climbed into his big Dodge and pulled away from the parking area. He left a fine brown mist of dust in his wake. I’d like to say Southern heat is all Mint Juleps, Gazebos, and back porch swings; it isn’t.
“How about a sip? It calms your nerves.”
“No thanks Willie, not tonight. I’m too wired up.”
“Sure?” He offered again.
“That bad, huh?”
“Ain’t but one look like that. All the same. Don’t matter if you’re black or white, the look is the same.”
Across the street Huxley’s neon sign extinguished and two people emerged from the front door. Frank and Margo Huxley climbed into a sleek red Buick convertible. The powerful engine roared to life and nosed the car out onto the street and headed West. I watched the tail lights until they blinked off in the distance.
“Boy, you got the worst kind.”
“What kind is that?”
“Another man’s wife”
“Come on Willie. You been sucking on that bottle too hard. You’re seeing something that isn’t even there.”
“Hah. I could suck the bottom out of this here bottle and go stone blind, and I could still see the way you was looking at her.”
“Willie, times like these I think you’re a plain old fool.”
“Then I guess that makes two of us.”
“G’nite Willie,” I said
“You take care, real good care Doc.”
Behind the car wash, and a couple of miles down Cooper’s street was Mrs. Gretchen’s Laundromat. Above that, a furnished one room walk up went for seven dollars a week. It was small but clean and close to work. I was lucky to get it, I guess. If you take into consideration a nosy landlady, and a damn striped cat that rubbed against my pant leg.
My landlady stood in the doorway of the laundromat with her hands on her hips. She was wearing a sleeveless wool sweater over a faded blue house dress. At 55 she had gained and lost all the things that had mattered most to her.
“Good evening Mrs. Gretchen. Fine summer night we got here.” I said, and started up the back stairs. My how-do-you-do’s paid up.
“Oh, Mr. Bonnely, how are you?”
She held me by the sleeve while her cat gave my leg the rub job.
“It’s Doc, Mrs. Gretchen, and I’m real tired.”
“A good woman could take care of that Mr. Bonnely. You could be coming home to a good hot meal right now. That’s what my man had for thirty years, May he rest in peace.”
“Sorry, well I guess I’ll be—“
“like I was saying to my niece today—she’s the one not married—a good woman is the best thing ever happened to a man.”
She talked, while Napoleon the cat did everything but wipe his ass on my shoe. “Say, time really flies and I’m dead beat tired,”
“Okay Mr. Bonnely, you rest. Oh, I took the liberty of letting myself in with the master key. Now you can sleep on clean sheets tonight.”
Upstairs, she looked at every stitch I had and put them back neat for the first time. I lay across the bed and smoked a cigarette in the semi-darkness while Margo pumped through my brain in hot waves.
Welcome to the Shame On The Moon Blog site.
What I am going to do is post my entire book on this site. It can be read from the beginning to the end, right here. But…you can also download the book from my site and also lulu.com.
I also have available the audio version with my reading the entire book. You would be surprised what I sound like reading the book.