Cormac’s FFF is on again. The first line is given on Friday, then we have our attempt done by Tuesday morning. If you haven’t tried it, get in on the next one — it keeps you going. And even if you don’t check out some of the other folks; real fine writers over there. Anyway, below is my attempt for this week.
“What do you see when you close your eyes?” she asked while tracing my temple to jaw-line with her index finger. I thought about pretending to be asleep, but we had just finished making love and I was just starting to breathe normally again.
We had met at a diner set up by a mutual friend of ours, Ernie. He was a light-skinned Indian with an Elliot Smith look on life. For some fucking reason we hit it off in the pen. Funny guy, that Ernie, when he wasn’t completely stoned out of his gourd; it was too bad the dudes he ripped apart in the cage didn’t get quite the giggle I did over his antics.
I stopped having beers with him when he stopped being funny. Cheap vodka and pills I never knew the name to were Ernie’s breakfast while dinner consisted of even cheaper whiskey. Some kind of blackness took hold of him and never let go. When he called about Tally, I almost didn’t answer. Guess fate works that way, since my hands seemed to work on their own accord.
Louie’s Diner made the best damn Huervos Ranchos this side of Mexico. They splashed homemade spices on the plate hash browns that was so big it needed its own plate. It was a wide-open place so a person could watch the boys cook and talk and laugh trying new tricks with spatulas, spins, twists, tapping out beats. The cooks all knew me, so it seemed the logical place to meet someone for the first time.
Tally had me with the wave of her hand.
She was one of those natural red heads with striking blue eyes. Not what I expected. Ernie said I know a dog by its mange – funny guy was losing his punch.
In bed I could feel her eyes on me, waiting for an answer I wasn’t prepared to give. I turned on my side to face her. I moved my fingers along her hip, up to her the lattice of rib-bone, and back down. I felt her breath on my lips, my cheek.
At the diner we talked over dinner. We talked over Key Lime pie and coffee. We talked till it was almost breakfast. The way she laughed made me think of sunshine peeking through clouds and I’m sure as hell not a romantic kind of guy.
Over the next couple of weeks I followed her husband. She said he was abusive. She said he was screwing his secretary. She said the cops wouldn’t do anything because of his daddy, which was probably true since his daddy just happened to be Senator Garbeneaux who played a defining role the finest circus on earth or as otherwise known as the Louisiana legislature. The kind of guy who always knows what’s going on.
Over those two weeks I knew she wasn’t lying. I’d watch the stupid bastard take “meetings” during all hours of the day. One night as I rinsed the soap off Tally’s back, I gently touched the new bruises appearing there. The Friday I was going to fulfill my end of the bargain, I had to hold myself up off of Tally’s body because of her broken rib.
Ok, I admit it, I was incensed. My number one rule is not to get emotionally attached, but this was more than a man could handle.
That Friday I followed him from that upscale place just past Spanish Town. It was a warm evening and Baton Rough seemed simple and wonderful even though I knew dark things were happening and would happen again.
After it was over, she begged to meet me. I told her it was an awful idea, but she was insistent. She said she needed my arms wrapped around her; and to tell the truth, my body was aching for her too. We met at a motel and showered together, as was our ritual, and then we lay together, like married people finding lovers, or young lovers desperate to be married.
For about a month we would sit at opposite ends of Louie’s Diner and stare at each other while drinking coffee. We might steal a kiss outside the bathrooms, but nothing else. And then we started “seeing” each other. It was off and on at first trying to make it seem like we had just started dating. After about 6 months, we didn’t try to hide it.
And here, now, she stroked my forehead and whispered, “Tell me. Tell me what you see when you close your eyes?”
I rolled on top of her and wrapped my fingers around her throat. I squeezed as she cried out. I felt my muscles shaking as her nails dug into my skin. Her legs thrashed. Whimpering, her body slowed, sinking into the dark sheets. I never opened my eyes but let the tears fall from my cheeks without blinking. “I see myself a shell of a shell of a shell.”
The next day I met the Senator, took his money.
That night Ernie joined me at the local dive where stupid college kids and wannabe middle-aged men got on stage to make fools of themselves in the amateur comedy night.
Neither one of us laughed.