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Archive for the ‘Taryn’ Category

3. TARYN: I Cross The Line

aryn slammed down the receiver of the old pay phone still bolted to the wall outside the men’s room at The Exquisite A Go Go, and then slammed it down again, and then banged it against the wall a few times for good measure.

Fuck George! George was a class-A motherfucker. He was a first-class asshole, was what he was. Man says call him if she was ever in trouble. Man says don’t worry, he would always be there for her, of course he would be, she was the mother of his child, and he would always love her.

So this was what he called love? She phoned him in need, sick, and he said he was sorry, but he had to go take care of someone who was genuinely sick? Genuinely: She understood what that meant. It meant Fuck off, you druggy bitch.

Wade Perkins, another first-class asshole on her endless list, pushed out of the men’s room just as she was about to see if she could tear the phone out by its roots.

“Whoa, little girl!” he said. “Calm down there. Somebody do you wrong?”

Wade, with his flowing silver locks, big belly straining against pearl-buttoned black cowboy shirt, and Margarita breath, was the only dentist that Taryn had ever been to. George had sent her to Wade when they were first together, and she remembered Wade leaning over her, breathing through his mouth, clucking as he poked at her many cavities and exclaimed that she had the gums of an 80-year-old, a comment for which she would never fucking forgive him.

“It’s just George,” she told the dentist now. “He owes me my support money, you know, and he won’t pay me.”

Wade drew his head back, looked surprised. Yeah, nobody would believe such a thing of St. George, the Eagle Scout and Biggest Ass Good-Doer of central Arkansas. But it was her word against George’s, and she had the advantage of standing right here in front of Wade Perkins, batting her eyelashes and wearing nothing more than a rhinestone-studded patent leather mini-dress.

“Wade,” she said, stepping closer and laying a hand on his chest. “Do you think you could spot me some cash, just till tomorrow?”


16. TARYN: Home Alone

aryn assured George that of course, he had to go to LaTonya for their lesson. When he hesitated, when he said that perhaps he ought to take Beth with him, so Taryn could rest, she told him he was being ridiculous. Beth was fast asleep; he’d woken her up and dragged her out with him the night before.

Now Taryn was here, she was the child’s mother, for God’s sake. Didn’t he trust her?

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer,” she said, smiling gently, bringing her fingers to his lips. “I know I haven’t given you much reason to trust me. But things are going to be different from now on, George, really. I love you so much. You and Beth too.”

He hesitated just one more moment before enfolding her in his arms. She loved how he felt, big, tender, warm, different from any other man. If only he could be enough for her.

She curled up on the built-in sofa, leafing through a magazine, while he went out and got in the car, turned on the engine, backed out of the gravel drive, drove off into the darkness. It was so snug in the houseboat, the only sounds the lapping of the lake outside, and Beth’s quiet breath.

Taryn got up and went and stood over her daughter, gazing down. She couldn’t believe this was her child. The little girl looked nothing like her, and not much like George either. Taryn had been a tomboy, tearing around the woods with her brothers and cousins, swinging from trees, while Beth was shy and frightened, happy only when George was nearby and she had her play horses and stuffed animals, paper and crayons close at hand.

Taryn thought of kissing the girl on the cheek, but she didn’t want to risk waking her. Briefly, she considered getting into bed and going to sleep herself, but she’d been half-waiting for George to leave her alone in the place ever since she woke up. What did he have around these days?, she’d been wondering. Now that she wasn’t around here much anymore?


21. TARYN: Out of the Rain

m never going back there again,” Taryn said.

She shivered at the very thought of it and pulled Beth, nestled on her lap, even closer for warmth. Outside the houseboat, the rain beat down, gusts driving the water in sheets against the windows, the boat rocking with the waves.

But in here all was snug, the smell of frying butter rising from the little cooktop as George cooked them pancakes. He’d even gone out in the rain to get real maple syrup, the kind that Taryn loved.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, baby,” said George. He flipped a pancake shaped like a B, for Beth. “I just feel terrible for LaTonya, losing her boy like that.”

“LaTonya! What about poor Tiffany, dumped in an alley?”

Beth twisted around and stared, eyes huge behind her thick glasses, at her mother. “Why was Tiffany dumped in a alley?” the child asked.

Taryn and George locked eyes.

“Oh, nothing, sweetheart,” George said, slipping the pancakes onto a plate. “Mommy’s friend fell down and got hurt.”

“She didn’t get hurt, George. She was murdered.”

It was bad enough that nobody cared about poor Tiff when she was alive. Now they wanted to deny her existence when she was dead too.

“What’s murdered?” asked Beth.

“She doesn’t need to know the gory details, Taryn,” said George, setting the pancakes on the table.

“What’s gory?” said Beth.

“There are probably three people on earth who give a shit about Tiffany, and I’m one of them,” said Taryn. “She was from Texas: Did you know that? Her stepfather got her pregnant when she was 13. She has a kid somewhere she’s never seen, but who she thinks about every day. Thought about. How can you just act like nothing happened to her?”


28. TARYN: Feels So Good


Taryn closed her eyes, let the feel of LaTonya’s strong hands on her back consume her.  There was nothing better than this.  Some drugs, maybe, but then you had to deal with the aftermath.  The feel of George inside her, loving her the way no one else, truly, ever had. Well, maybe sex felt this good every third or fourth time.

“That feels soooooo good, LaTonya.  You are a fucking genius.”

“That’s nice,” said LaTonya, pressing her elbow into the base of Taryn’s spine and running it all the way up to her neck.

Now that she had a chance to think about it, Taryn realized that her relationship with LaTonya was the longest-running and most consistent one of her entire life.  One of the very first things she did after running away from her sorry backwoods home to Hot Springs was treat herself to a massage at the Barstow, the whirlpool and steam bath and LaTonya’s warm strong hands seeming like magic to dispel everything bad that had ever happened to her.

Whether she was using or not using, dancing or not dancing, with George or with a hundred other guys, her visits to the Barstow and her dates with LaTonya were the one constant.  This was where she came back to herself.

“I love you, LaTonya, you know that?” Taryn said, opening her eyes and lifting her head a little and trying to look around at the older woman, but not quite managing to see her face.

Come to think of it, she’d be hard-pressed to describe LaTonya to anyone, or to literally pick her out in a lineup.  LaTonya was always wearing her white uniform when Taryn saw her, was never wearing any jewelry or any other identifying items.  LaTonya had skin the medium brown of a Hersey bar, she was medium height, her hair was natural but groomed, she was extraordinarily strong but it wasn’t like she had giant biceps straining against the sleeves of her uniform or anything. Not like you could see the super-human strength in the otherwise completely ordinary-looking middle-aged black woman.

“That’s nice,” said LaTonya again.

“How’s your son?” Taryn asked.


“I didn’t know you had a son named Darrell.  I was talking about DaShawn.”

Taryn had thought about stopping by the GoGo, but no, she wasn’t going to do that, didn’t want to go there, literally or figuratively.  She’d taken all the pills from George’s safe, thrown them in the river so she wouldn’t be tempted ever again.  She wanted to be back with George now, with her daughter.

That’s why she’d taken this detour after having her hair done to visit LaTonya, to get that newborn feeling back again.  When she got back home today, hair cut off, skin pink and perfumed, everything down to the cuticles of littlest toenails pristine, she would come clean with George.  Tell him everything so the two of them could start fresh too.

“Oh, DaShawn’s all right, I guess,” LaTonya said.  “You know they shut the GoGo down.”

“No!  Because of…..what happened to Tiffany?”

Taryn did not want to talk about that.  She did not want to think about that, not here, not now.  She wished she hadn’t said anything to LaTonya.  She’d just been trying to be nice.  But this massage cost a lot of money, and she had a right to pleasantness, and silence.

32. TARYN: The Swimmer

t was nearly dark when Taryn got back to the houseboat, breathless, a six-pack of George’s favorite pale ale on the front seat beside her to make up for being so late. George hadn’t answered her last couple of texts so he was undoubtedly pissed. It had just felt so good, to not only have a day to herself, but to have a day when she was sober, and awake, and able to enjoy those simple things that other people claimed to enjoy: Having her hair washed, getting a massage, shopping for new white underwear, even buying George the beer that made him feel like a man of sophisticated taste and experience.

When people talked about how much they liked doing things like this, she’d always thought, Yeah, right. I so believe the natural high you get from gardening is as good as a hit of meth.

But today, she had felt that.

Driving home, taking the curves in the mountain road a little too fast, playing her favorite Duffy CD a little too loud, she was so lost in singing along to Warwick Avenue that she thought at first that she’d missed the right turnoff.

Listen to Taryn’s favorite song

She doubled back around twice until she fully understood that no, this was the right parking area, this was the right dock.  What was different was that the houseboat was not there.

Heart hammering, she paced frantically back and forth, trying to think of what might have happened.  The ropes were lying there, not cut, just loose.  It was windy, had been all day, the water choppy in the glow of the setting sun.

Flipping open her phone, she tried again to reach George, and again got no answer.  This wasn’t like him.  If only for the sake of his damn horses, he never let his phone go dead, never let himself be out of reach.

Could George and Beth have gone somewhere and the boat gotten loose while they were away?  Could someone have untied it, for fun or out of malice?  There were people who had it in for George, for not giving them drugs or for just being an all-around goody two shoes.  And there were more people, a lot more people, Taryn realized with a sinking heart, who had it in for her.

An image of Tiffany, poor Tiffany, her body hacked to pieces and thrown in that alley, flashed across Taryn’s mind.  She’d been trying to keep it at bay all day, had been so proud of herself for managing to resist drugs in the face of what had happened to her friend.

But now the reality of Tiffany’s murder, and Taryn’s own fears, came rushing back in.   Taryn knew all of the same people Tiffany did, had at least as much potential for pissing them off.  Whoever did that to Tiffany could do it to Taryn too.  To Taryn’s family.

Without thinking, she dove into the frigid spring water.  The lake was so shallow off the end of the dock she scraped her chin on a rock, felt the weeds around her arms as she swam.  She’d always refused to swim here, no matter how hot it was, for fear of the muddy bottom and the snakes and the snapping turtles, but now she felt none of that.  She thought she could see the houseboat, bobbing by itself out in the lake.  The more she swam, the more convinced she became that George and Beth were out there.


37. TARYN: The CEO of Trouble

he really thought they were going to come and save her.

After she pulled herself on board the drifting boat, she huddled wet and shivering under a blanket until she felt more disgusting than battered. Then she peeled off her wet clothes and tossed them overboard. She dried herself off as best she could and scavenged warm clothes from what George had left behind. Crawled into bed as if it were any normal night and went to sleep.

It was crazy, the way your entire world could be blown apart and you could still sleep as usual, your brain shutting down, leaving your body vulnerable to a world of threats. But Taryn had known that for a long time, since she was a child; had come to count on it, even. No matter what kind of hell your waking life gave you, at night you could reenter the gates of heaven.

When she woke, the sun was blazing and the boat was rocking on the open water. She remembered immediately where she was and what had happened, but she felt strangely more optimistic, stretching luxuriously and going out on the deck to admire the view. It was actually nicer out here, the water stretching for what seemed like miles all around, the hills with their spring fur of green beyond, protection from the wider world.

She didn’t blame George for freaking out, really, after all she’d put him through. What was he supposed to think, when he saw the safe open, the pills gone? And the truth is, she had been playing around with the oxies. How was he supposed to know that she’d thrown them away, that she’d actually managed to pull back from the precipice that so many others had hurtled over?

It was weird, how calm she felt, how optimistic. Her car would be found, near the dock, keys still in the ignition, purse inside, and someone would get worried about her and call the police. Or somebody, anybody, would spot the houseboat bobbing on the open water and realize something wasn’t right. Or George, most likely, would put it all together and sound the alarm himself. Whichever, she wouldn’t be stuck out here long, and while she was, she might as well enjoy it.

She took off her sweatshirt and lay flat on the deck, below the wind, sunbathing. When she was hungry, she went inside and scavenged food. Thanks to the solar panels and wind generators that thrifty, ecologically-conscious George had installed, the little refrigerator was still humming along, the stove still worked. Hell, she could probably stay here for days with no problem.

It wasn’t until the third day that she began to feel seriously unsettled. The sky had turned cloudy, threatening rain, the wind cold again. Power boats zoomed by and no one gave her a second glance. What was wrong with these people? What was wrong with George, to not care whether she lived or died?


46. TARYN: 84 Ways To Get What You Want

ou wait in the car,” Taryn said.

“Why do I have to wait in the car?”

Taryn sighed theatrically, so he’d know she was out of patience.  “Because you’re a Negro, and they’re not going to like that,”  she explained to DaShawn, the way she would to Beth.

She undid another button at the neck of the housedress she’d bought at Goodwill and plumped up the cleavage she’d created with the help of one of the supersonic bras from the costume room at the Go Go.  Humble yet hot, that was the look she was going for.

“Now give me the cash,” she said to DaShawn.

“Why do I have to give you the cash if I can’t even get out of the car?”

She held out her hand.  “Do you want to be a bonafide businessman or don’t you?”

He gave her the book-thick wad of bills, which she had trouble stuffing into her stiff purse, even though it was the biggest one they had at Goodwill.  From somewhere in the distance, sirens sounded.

“Shit,” DaShawn said, flattening himself on the car’s front seat.

Taryn laughed.  “Not every siren blares for you, D.  You know what, you better stay down like that till I get back.”

She didn’t wait to see whether he obeyed her — of course he would; she wouldn’t have brought him into this deal otherwise — but got out of the car and walked gingerly in her cream high heels down the gravel driveway toward the farmhouse.  It was a sorry place, all scrubby lawn and peeling paint, falling-down barn and untilled acres stretching toward forested hills.

But it suited her perfectly: Large, secluded, unflashy, and gettable for a song.  Or at least for a purse full of cold hard cash.

64. TARYN: Candy

ou could tell without thinking who was at the festival.

Car gone. Lights thriftily turned off. Dog tied up.

Everybody piled into the vehicle and went together, and nobody locked their door. Or if they did lock it, they left the key under the mat or above the doorjam.

She didn’t even try sneaking, just made DaShawn sit scrunched down, as a black man would be the one thing that would arouse suspicion out here, with the engine idling, then walked right into the house and took what she wanted.

Not the jewelry. None of these dowdy farm wives had anything worth stealing.

Not the money. Money here had already been converted into combines, or livestock, or soybeans.

It was the guns she wanted.

Some kept them displayed in the living room, in a shiny walnut and glass case. If the case was locked, she had no problem grabbing a pot from the kitchen and smashing the case, grabbing all the guns and walking out the door.

If they weren’t in the living room, they were in the basement: red tile floor, pool table, makeshift bar, a couple of stools with black leatherette seats. Her stepfather had set up a bar in their basement like this, spent all his time down there.

That was one thing she’d loved about the houseboat: no basement.

This was the first house she’d been in where she hadn’t found at least one gun proudly displayed in the living room or perched on a rack in the basement.

She might have just walked out but now it was a challenge. There was nothing obvious about this farmhouse that made it any different than any other farmhouse. So where else might they be keeping the guns?

She checked the pantry and the coat closet but didn’t find anything there, which left the second floor. Wooden stairs creaking as she climbed, she stood in the second floor hallway and took in the layout.

Master bedroom, sun streaming in the windows, girly pink and white coverlet neatly on the bed. Sewing room with daybed pushed against one wall. Dinky little bathroom. And room with its door shut tight.

69. TARYN: Queen of the World

ou go on out to the field,” she told him.


“You want me to send  you back to that sorry-ass farm where I found you?  Now get.”

She had his number, all of their numbers.  She knew how bone-numbing the work could be on a grim silent farm like the one where she plucked him from his bed, and how lost a boy like him would feel without any work to do.

She knew what it was like for the girls, too, the ones who’d been pawed and fingered from the time they were young enough to equate such attentions with love.  Love was what they wanted, what they’d work for above money.

And for the Mexicans, those who were here without papers, who couldn’t speak English beyond their big grinning bowing Thank yous.  They were out in the fields right now, working under the cover of darkness, building the massive tent that would be sheltered beneath the stand of trees between the fields. She understood them too, how marginalized they felt, how powerless, because that’s what life was like for an uneducated female of any race.

She didn’t need DaShawn.  She’d never needed him.  That was the old Taryn who’d gone to him, offering a partnership.  But he wasn’t capable of partnership, he just wanted to be boss.  And that’s what she wanted too.  What she was going to have.

“Mercy,” she called to one of the girls from the Go Go.  “Get me that pink polka dot dress, that one with the ruffle at the neck.  And that big ass white hat.”

This was her ladylike outfit, the one that, like magic, made people give her what she wanted.  That’s how she got the retired racehorses for practically nothing, taking a certain satisfaction in knowing George had plowed his sweat into caring for them.  How she’d gotten that shithead dentist, Wade, to fix her teeth.

But today she was after something more important than horses or teeth or anything else money could buy.