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I parked the car at the curb, several houses down from Eleanor Kaminski’s, and sat there for a few minutes before getting out and heading slowly down the sidewalk. I didn’t especially feel like being there, but at the same time, I didn’t feel right about standing her up when I told her that I would come back. There were lights in several of her windows but the front porch light was off, and I wondered if that was a sign, though we hadn’t talked about any such thing. But then I saw the glowing coal of a cigarette, and realized that she was sitting at the top of her front porch steps, in her robe of pink and purple flowers, drinking a bottle of beer. She didn’t get up or wave or say anything. I came up the walk, climbed the steps, and sat down next to her.
She handed me her beer. It was fresh and cold. I drank some, set it down on the step between our feet.
“I really didn’t think you would come,” she said.
“I said I would.”
“I know. But I thought maybe I went a little too far today and upset you.”
“I wasn’t upset,” I said. “It was… well, it was pretty hot, really. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before. Probably won’t happen again any time soon, if ever. When I’m back to my old habits, that’s probably the thing I’ll be thinking about when I defile the inside of another garden shed.”
She made a funny, sputtering sound of surprise and started laughing. She drank more of the beer, then took a book of matches and her box of Parliaments from the pocket of her robe and offered me one.
“The only reason I don’t tell your mother on you for smoking is because you’re such a good fuck,” she said in a low, husky voice as I lit my cigarette. The night was a soft hum of insect sounds, a silky cadence, but it was otherwise so quiet that when I touched the matchhead to the condensation on the beer bottle the hiss seemed to stretch out into the darkness. I didn’t say anything.
“Oops,” she said. “Wrong thing to say. I’m sorry. I was just trying to keep things light.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “Seriously. I’m just a little flat.”
“I don’t expect anything from you,” she said.
“I know. You told me before.”
“No, I mean tonight. I don’t expect anything.”
We took turns at the beer for a couple-three minutes. The quiet suddenly gave way to fire engine sirens howling in the distance, dopplering toward us through the darkness and then away.
Finally she said, “Ed and I got married right out of high school. It wasn’t like my dream to get married, I never felt like I had to do that as soon as possible or anything. But Ed was fun, a Good Time Charlie, always doing something or other, liked to party. He wasn’t one of those guys who just sits around drinking all the time; he had lots of friends, and they always did things—still do things—together. Hunting, fishing, playing sports, camping. I liked to be around that. I was a little more introverted—I know, you’re probably going to laugh at that, right? But I was. Still am. So I always enjoyed being around that sort of… energy, I guess.
“It’s just, these last few years… I don’t know. He still has fun, still does all those things. But me? Not so much anymore. The fun part, I mean. Things just aren’t quite as fun anymore. I don’t know why. I don’t blame him. He’s exactly the way he’s always been. It’s something with me.
“What I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done what I did with you. I don’t mean the sex part. I mean the flirting part. The teasing part. I don’t know if I ever thought you would act on it or not. I don’t know if I even thought that far. It was just… easy. It was an easy thing to do, the easiest way to… get someone to pay a little more attention. Sometimes you get to a point in your life where all you want is someone to pay a little more attention to you. Single you out. Flaunting myself was a way, an easy way, to have someone, you, single me out. But it wasn’t the right way.”
She lay her head on my shoulder.
“You’re a good boy,” she said. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Eleanor Kaminski brought out another beer, which we shared. She handed me a ten dollar bill that she’d folded up into a tiny square, as she always did—money that she still owed me from the afternoon I’d passed out in her upstairs hallway.
When I finally got home, my mother was still awake, watching the 11:00 o’clock news and working one of those hidden word puzzles.
“You’re awfully late,” she said.
“Yeah. Sally, from the A&P, her car broke down, and I waited with her until the tow truck came.”
“That was nice of you,” she said. “But you should have called me.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” I realized that might be the last time that my mother ever requested such a thing of me. Call me if you’re going to be late. I showered and flopped down on my bed, still wrapped in a towel, and slept that way through the night. I don’t remember dreaming.
The fire behind the A&P didn’t amount to much. The fire department bursa escort put it out in five minutes, from what I heard, and it all happened so far away from the building that the cardboard bale would have probably just burned itself out without damaging anything even if no one had arrived to hose it down. It was an accident. There was no crime, no issue. Just a solitary fire in the summer night.
The next day, Sunday, was quiet. I didn’t hear from Suzie Bowen. I usually didn’t on Sunday, it was always the typical day of rest for us, though I half expected at least get a phone call from her, with information or gossip about the wedding that I’d skipped. But she didn’t call.
I spent the day at home. I packed up a couple of boxes of books that I wanted to take with me to college. Sorted through other things, childish things. Cracked my senior yearbook and looked at the pictures and inscriptions of so many people—many of whom I had seen day after day, year after year, for twelve years. The girls, all of them, so many of them intimate friends, all closed their inscriptions with “RMA.” RMA. Remember Me Always. Why did they want me to remember them always? Why not? Didn’t they deserve that? Would they remember me? None of us would ever know if we did or didn’t.
The following morning, a Monday, would have seen me at Suzie Bowen’s, as had been our habit these recent weeks. But I didn’t go, and she never called. And I wouldn’t presume to show up without being summoned; for all I knew, her mother might have had the day off. Even if my presence had been requested, I’m not sure I’d have gone. At least not that day. But in any case, I didn’t hear from her. Instead, I spent the morning eating half a box of Eggo waffles greasy with Fleischmann’s margarine, then sat on one of the webbed chairs on the front porch with my feet up on the wrought iron railing, reading a book. The low, early sun shot beneath the porch awnings, burned through the gauzy morning haze and toasted the east-facing half of my stretched body. The close air had that tang of industry, of humanity. It smelled like every summer morning that I had ever known.
My shift at the A&P started at noon. Since I wasn’t especially occupied for a change, I got there in plenty of time. Despite the relative contentment of the previous few hours, it didn’t make going into work any easier, knowing that Sally was gone. I’d have to endure the final week with The Mormon, and Tommy the kleptomaniac, and the craggy Hillbilly smoking and glowering at us from the cage, and the union checkers and stock guys giving us orders and making us do shit work. I was loitering near the time clock, waiting for noon to strike when Jim the Mormon rolled in.
“Oh, man, damn, jeez, I owe you! You won’t believe when I tell you. I owe you, man,” he said.
“I take cash,” I said.
“Ha! Yeah, sure. Seriously though, I really appreciate you covering for me on Saturday. I’m telling you. So, the reason I wanted to leave early was because I wanted to go to my cousin’s wedding reception on Saturday night.”
“Yeah,” he said. “At the Legion Hall. Great party. You know, everybody got really fucked up. Anyway, I meet this chick, very hot.” He started whispering. “We’re dancing and dancing, and then she drags me outside,” he looked around, “and she blows me. She pushes me up against a car in the parking lot and squats in front of me and sucks my fucking dick, man. It was crazy.”
I turned back to the time clock, watching the minute hand.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. He grabbed my arm. “Man, she ate my cum. She was like, ‘C’mon, I want you to cum in my mouth. Give me a big fucking load to swallow.’ It was like a movie or something.”
The clock snapped off another minute.
“So,” I said. “Did you give her what she wanted?”
“Oh, jeez,” he said. “In like a minute. She was a pro. I mean, she knew what she was doing. I couldn’t believe it!”
“Yeah, you already said that. And how about that superhot girlfriend you always talk about? Was she happy for you?”
His look went hard, like he was summoning his determination.
“I broke up with her,” he said.
“Well,” he looked around. “I tried to, yesterday. But it got kind of ugly so I backed off. But I’m going to do it.”
“Wow,” I said. “Just because some drunk chick at a wedding reception gave you a blowjob?”
“I don’t think she was drunk. And it’s way more than that.”
“What do you mean?”
He snorted. “You won’t believe me.”
I told him that I would. The time clocked clapped 9:59.
He told me that he’d seen her the next day; she’d asked him to take her to the mall in Boardman. While they were in Spencer’s, that tawdry, patchouli-choked gift place, in the back of the store under the black lights amidst all the smutty sex games and gags, she gave him handjob. After he bought her an Orange Julius, she fucked him in the mall parking lot in the back of his dad’s Chevy Blazer. That, apparently, bursa escort bayan spurred him to break up with his superhot girlfriend on Sunday night, or at least try to.
“Then,” he said, punching his time card, “she had me come over to her house this morning after her mother went to work. She really doesn’t live very far from here. Man, I thought I was going to be late. She just wanted to keep going and going.”
Predictably, the Hillbilly came through the swinging doors at that moment and put his hands on his hips.
“Did you boys forget your way out onto the floor? It’s just through these doors.”
“Sorry,” said the Mormon, who no longer seemed like much of a Mormon to me anymore, slipping past me and the Hillbilly and out into the store. I was still holding my timecard.
“You know,” I said, putting the unpunched card back in the caddy. “I don’t think I’m going to work today.”
“Excuse me?” said the Hillbilly.
“I think I’m done.”
“You’ve got a whole week of hours scheduled before you’re done here,” he said. “Now put on that jacket and get out there on the floor. I don’t got time for this nonsense.”
I looked for a place to hang that red-and-white striped clown jacket but didn’t see anything convenient. I didn’t want to drop it on the floor, so I draped it over the timeclock.
“Is this how you plan on going through life?” he said. “Just walking away from your responsibilities whenever you feel like it? Leaving other people to clean up your mess?”
“It’s just a grocery store,” I said.
Even though, then, I considered the guy just a gnarly, ignorant cracker who smelled like an overfull ashtray, he was right. It wasn’t my finest moment. There wasn’t anything noble in what I’d done. It was peevish and arrogant. But I’d done it. The strange thing was, I wasn’t upset that Suzie Bowen had taken up with Jim the Mormon, or anyone for that matter. If it hadn’t happened then, I fully expected it to happen not long after I left town. My vanity was nicked, but only in the most rudimentary, competitive way; I’d been replaced.
No one answered when I knocked on the Bowen’s front door. That didn’t surprise me. It seemed still too early for her to be out somewhere, but she could have been in the shower, washing off the morning’s activities or, more likely, back asleep after fucking someone hard for a couple hours. I stepped down from the porch and stood on the sidewalk, looking at the house, when I heard music coming from somewhere. I took the walk between the house and the detached garage, following the sound to the Bowen’s little postage stamp backyard with its box hedge surround.
Suzie Bowen was back there, sunning herself on a vinyl chaise that she’d draped with a beach towel. She was on her stomach, in bikini bottoms, her top unclasped to leave her back bare. Her trebly little transistor radio was squeezing out Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” I couldn’t tell through her sunglasses, but I was sure her eyes were closed. I thought first about making presence known by putting my hand between her slightly parted thighs and grabbing her crotch, which I imagined as swampy with another guy’s jizz. Or maybe quickly grabbing her bikini bottom and yanking it down. But I abandoned these vulgar ideas and instead, rapidly and ever-so-lightly, drew my fingertip up the grimy sole of her foot.
She jerked and heaved and twisted and cursed. She reacted so spasmodically that she turned half over without ever trying to cover her breasts. Her sunglasses fell off and landed in the grass.
“What the hell?” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“Hey Suze. Haven’t heard from you. Wondered what was going on.”
“I haven’t heard from you either. Why aren’t you at work?”
“You want to go inside?” I said. “Or…” I put my hand at my zipper. “Do you want to do it out here?”
She seemed to realize then that her tits were still on display to the world and she wrapped her top around them and clasped it.
“The pool is closed,” she said.
“Really?” I said. “Is it closed, or is it packed with too many swimmers just now?”
“What are you talking about?” She swung her legs over the side of the chaise and stood up, taking the beach towel and wrapping herself in it.
“I guess it’s possible that you swallowed all his loads this morning,” I said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said again.
“Yes you do,” I said. “Jim. Jimmy. You know. The guy you blew at the wedding reception on Saturday night. Then jerked off at the Spencer’s Gifts yesterday, and fucked in the back of his Blazer in the Boardman Mall parking lot.”
Suzie Bowen could lie, but it took some preparation. As I’ve pointed out earlier, she was about as sharp as a sackful of wet mice. Given the circumstances, I would have thought she might have already spent some time concocting some way to inform me that I was out and someone else was in, even something cruelly simple. But instead she just kept at escort bursa being herself, moving blithely and witlessly forward, leaving the big kiss-off for another day, another time, when she wasn’t so busy laying on her stomach in the sun. She just stood there looking at me.
But I didn’t have any particular plan, speech, or recrimination in mind, either. Up and quitting the A&P had been spontaneous. I couldn’t bear spending the next six hours, let alone the next week, with the Mormon sidling up to me at every opportunity and sharing more details of the wild ride he was embarking on. And going from there to Suzie Bowen’s house only occurred to me after I had driven away and wondered where I should go. Now that I was there, and seeing her, I no longer had the stomach for much else. I certainly didn’t have a moral leg to stand on. And my feelings were nothing so dire as jealousy, revenge, murderous rage. If anything, I felt only disdain. The summer seemed like it was finally draining away.
“He told me,” I said. “He works with me. At the grocery store. Jim.”
Now she looked upset. She re-cinched her towel more tightly and looked down around her feet before crouching and picking up her sunglasses from the grass.
“He doesn’t know who you are,” I said. “It’s not like that. If you’d have come to the store an hour earlier on Saturday, when you gave your little performance, you’d have probably seen him, but he’d already left for the day by the time you showed up. He doesn’t know about you and me, so let’s just keep it that way, if you don’t mind.”
She shrugged, pulled out her hair tie, and shook her head. “What difference does it make?” she said. “You’re leaving.”
“I just don’t like anyone knowing my business. Even if it’s… old business.”
“He didn’t really fuck me in the Blazer,” she said. “He was going to, but… he just shot all over my stomach and bra before he could get it in. Then he wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the way home.”
“I’m sure it was all a little more than he bargained for,” I said. She shrugged again and looked around the empty yard like she was expecting someone.
I don’t know if it occurred to me at that moment, or sometime shortly thereafter: the challenge that Suzie Bowen would probably face as she made her way through the land of future lovers. She wasn’t a patient sort, or very dissembling, so I found it hard to imagine her feigning shyness or inexperience to spare her partners the emasculating sense of being overmatched by her sexuality and carnal expectations. I’ve always wondered about the slew of man-children she left strewn in her libidinous wake, a humble trail puddled with the premature ejaculate of her unwitting humps. Or if she had to endure more sinister turns, stalkers and addicts, the ones who became ensorcelled and obsessed.
Suzie Bowen dropped her towel and came up to me. She roughly yanked open the button of my jeans, pulled down the zipper, put her hand in my underwear and wrapped her fingers around my cock.
“Nobody can see us back here,” she said
“No,” I said and grabbed her hands.
“Just let me suck it,” she said.
“I don’t want to be anywhere that Jim has been, sorry,” I said.
“You’re hard though,” she freed her hands from my grasp and pulled my jeans halfway down my thighs, grabbed my cock again and started stroking it with one hand, and with the other pulled the waist of her bikini bottom away from her stomach. “Just shoot it in there,” she said. “I want it, I want to feel it.”
“You want me to come in your swimsuit bottoms?”
“Uh-huh. Shoot your cum in there. C’mon.”
Her sunglasses slid down her nose and she stared at the waist-level space between us, her hand steadily pumping my hard prick. She shoved her other hand down the front of her bikini bottoms and starting stroking herself.
“Pump a load in there,” she whispered.
I’m not sure why I did it, but I did. I knocked her hand away and starting stroking my cock myself. She pulled the waist of her bikini bottom away from her stomach. I pumped my hard dick and pointed the head at her intended target, a shadowy crosshatching of hair atop her pubic mound. I grunted and began shooting gouts of white cum against the tan line of her belly. It slithered down, decorating her pubic hair.
“Oh fuck yeah,” she exhaled, watching the spurting jizz. I squeezed my cock, milking out the last measures, and gave it a shake. She stuck her hands down the front of her suit and began massaging my fresh cum into her cunt.
“It’s so warm,” she whispered, backing away from me toward her chaise, where she knelt, and then lowered herself onto her stomach, her arms still beneath her and her hands in her bottoms. Her lips were slightly parted. Her sunglasses sat crookedly and I could see her closed eyes. She lay and masturbated herself with my cum. It was as if I wasn’t there. I repacked my personal belongings and watched her for another moment as her breathing grew ragged and more audible. The antenna on the transistor radio sitting in the grass was tipped with a brilliant asterisk of summer sun, flagging this footnote to our squalid little affair. I left her that way, writhing on the chaise, an enflamed brew of sweat, Sea and Ski, and semen.
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