HO SPRINGS
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Posts Tagged ‘new fiction’

12. LaTONYA: Control

aTonya had already tried to wake Darrell up three times — the gentle calling-up-the-stairs time, the louder calling-up-the-stairs time, and the shoulder-shaking firm-voiced time — and three was her limit. She had class tonight, which meant she had to get to work ten minutes early so she could take off ten minutes early, and she knew from unfortunate experience that she couldn’t leave that boy in bed or he’d never make it to school.

“Come on, sleepyhead,” she said, yanking off the covers, averting her eyes because having raised three sons she knew that a young boy in the morning most likely had a stiffy. It was something she saw often enough on the massage table, but on her own baby, uh uh, she didn’t need to know.

“Oooooh,” he groaned.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw that he seemed to be strangely dressed for sleep, in some kind of dark, bulky clothes, and couldn’t help but look down.

Not some kind of dark, bulky clothes, she saw, but his clothes, his real clothes, hooded sweatshirt and jeans and even, yes, it was true, his fucking sneakers.

“What the hell is going on?” she cried.

“What?” He opened his eyes and looked around as if he had no clue where he was.

“Darrell Antonio Jones, you get out of that bed right this instant and tell me why you are wearing your clothes!”

She jerked on his arm and he sat up but then just kept sitting there, his head in his hands.

“I musta fallen asleep with my clothes on.”

She wanted to believe him, she really did. God knew she had enough to think about, with the layoffs at the bath house and exams coming up and her MCat lessons with George. And Darrell had been a good enough boy, until recently, not goody-good like his brother Dwayne but nowhere near bad like DaShawn. But something told her the balance was shifting.

“Don’t lie to me,” she said, trying to grip his shoulder, though he shook her away. He was a good six inches taller than her now, and twenty pounds heavier, all muscle. What control did she have over him, except his love and respect for her? She’d always sworn she would never lay a finger on her children the way her father had hit and slapped and beaten her, though she’d been sorely tempted with DaShawn. But she’d always resisted.

Darrell, her baby, the child she’d had by choice as a fully consenting adult and not because she was too young and stupid to say no to some sweet-talking boy, looked straight at her then, his deep brown eyes with their curled lashes locking straight on hers.

“I was out,” he said.

“Out.” She crossed her arms tight over her stomach, nodding fast and trying to think what that meant. “Where were you out? You weren’t at the Go Go, were you? Because I told your brother and I told you too, if I caught you hanging out at that nasty place…”

“No, Ma,” he said wearily. “I wasn’t at the Go Go.”

“Well then where? I was up till midnight. There’s no place else to go out after that in Hot Springs at this time of year.”

“I just went to the park,” he said, looking at her again. “With my banjo. I sat in the gazebo. I just wanted to play some music, be on my own.”

She wanted to believe him, she really did. She looked around the room.

“Where is your banjo?” she said.
(more…)

11. GEORGE: The Heart Wants

eorge, on his knees, watched as Taryn slid down into the water, legs bent, to rinse her long blonde hair. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her face was scrunched up, layered over with a veil of bubbles.

She stayed underwater so long he nearly reached down to rescue her, but then suddenly she bolted upright, water cascading off her hair and down her lovely back.

“You’ve still got shampoo in it,” he said, running a hand over her sleek, soapy head.

“Can you wash it again?” she said, twisting around to look at him, beads of water suspended like dew from her eyelashes. “Like in the beauty parlor.”

He laughed. Beth, who had been playing with her plastic horses on the floor, scrambled to her feet and rushed over to them.

“I want to play beauty parlor,” she said, stationing herself behind Taryn’s back. “Please, Mommy.”

“Okay, baby,” said Taryn. “You can do my hair and Daddy will do my back.”

Taryn leaned forward against her bent knees in the old white porcelain tub, deeper than it was long, rescued from one of the bath houses that was being torn down. The tub was perfect for the houseboat, where space was at a premium. George had built this place himself one long summer, when he and Taryn were first together. She had lain on the dock in the sun in a bikini, reading magazines, while he hammered and sawed and drove nails into the log siding, the cedar-shingled roof. He wanted to create a fairy tale cottage, floating like a magical place on the enchanted lake. At the end of the afternoon, Taryn would join him on a blanket under a tall yellowwood, where they drank beers icy from the cooler. Then, if there was no one in sight, they made love, after which they ran laughing and naked down the dock and jumped into the lake.

George took up the long handled brush now that he used to wash his own back and prepared to scrub Taryn’s.

“No,” she said, pushing it away. “With your hands.”

(more…)

9. DARRELL: Bad Luck

arrell couldn’t believe his luck: A college girl. College girls definitely had sex all the time, with as little fuss as popping open a Diet Coke. They also all smoked pot pretty much constantly. At least that’s what his brother DaShawn had told him, and DaShawn had been up to Fayetteville studying business for almost a whole year.

But this girl, Julie something, only looked at him strangely when he asked whether she had a J. And even if sex was going to happen at some point, you couldn’t just make a grab for it as if she was one of the hos down at the Go Go. You couldn’t even make a grab for it with a ho, DaShawn told him. No matter what you were doing and with whom — DaShawn actually used words like that: whom — it was important to do it with style.

Remembering this advice was what gave Darrell the idea to take Julie to the Futureama. He’d tagged along behind DaShawn there late one night. DaShawn told him how the old fortune teller lady, Jimmie Sue, left the windows cracked no matter how cold or hot the weather, so the spirits could move around and shit. She left her money, wrapped in a nasty old silk snot rag, in the top drawer of her big old carved dresser, right beside her magic cards.

Do not touch those cards, DaShawn had warned Darrell, taking half the money from the silk cloth and putting the rest back. Those cards are evil. They will bring you harm.

DaShawn showed Darrell how to screw off the head of the big black buddha, where the pot was stored inside. The old fortune teller lady must grow her own, DaShawn said, and it was fine.

So every once in a while, when he was feeling brave, on nights when he just needed to get out of the house and wander, he’d come over here, let himself in, smoke a little dope, help himself to a bill or two, and slip out. Never with anybody else, though. Not until tonight.

“What are you doing?” the girl, Julie, asked, looking around, rubbing her arms, as he raised the back window of the Futureama, gently lowered his banjo inside and prepared to follow.

(more…)