Stories Winter 2007 Page 2
This Guy Meets This Girl
by Timothy Edgar
The only thing that stood out more than the man’s balding mullet and his see-through, black, mesh shirt was the intense stare in his eyes. His gaze swept through the bar from left to right, locking onto each woman, waiting until their eyes met, and then moving on as each denied the suggestive look. Muted conversations and laughter would follow each attempt, the woman trying hard not to look back, but unable to resist that quick glimpse out of the corner of the eye. The man had always moved on by then, however, and he never came back. Every woman was subjected to this stare, no matter the shape, size or color. He was a man on a mission.
Janet watched this ritual throughout the night, taking notes for her thesis paper. At every invitation, she cheered the man on, hoping that just once someone would meet his eye and not look away. As he made his way across the room, Janet kept up by using short-hand, describing each woman and trying to categorize her response by time, emotional expression, and then the response afterward.
As the night came to a close, and the man had been thoroughly rejected by all, Janet rose from the shadowy corner where she had remained hidden from his searching gaze. As she came into the dim light of the bar, her stance drooped and her eyes sought the floor, trying to hide the large and uneven teeth that just accentuated her over-bite and thin lips. Her straight, flat hair hung down both sides of her face, a shield from casual glances. Her stride, however, was sure as she made her way to the man, who had now turned to order one last drink. She had come to a decision. She would respond to this man’s intense stare. She was not inexperienced to approaching strangers in bars, but nor was she casual about it. The idea gave her a thrill and a warm feeling inside. Plus, it would give her an opportunity to interview this man for her thesis paper.
“Excuse me, sir, but I couldn’t help but watch you tonight as…” Her words trailed off when he turned around. His eyes, downcast and unfocused, widened as he noticed her and then intensified as their eyes met. She had been watching this stare for the better part of the evening, but still she was unprepared. Yellow encircled the brown, meshing together to seem a dirty gold. The pupils seemed dilated, sucking everything into them. There was a lonely, passionate hunger in him. Janet found herself wanting to turn away, knowing she could not feed such hunger without being consumed, but something held her. For a moment she thought she should be afraid, perhaps even hysterical, but it was not that kind of hunger, nothing perverse, just all-consuming.
“My name is Vince,” he said casually, as if he had not spent the whole evening, and probably countless others, just waiting for a single woman to meet his gaze for more than a moment. His voice was nasally and a little high for a man.
She found herself speechless.
“Come,” he said. “Sit. I have been waiting for you for a long time. We must talk.”
Janet sat on the barstool next to him, eyes still locked on his, her gap-toothed mouth open just slightly.
“What is your name?” he asked gently, leaning forward slightly, dirty-gold eyes never blinking.
“Uh… Ahem… It’s Janet,” she said in a whisper. Speaking broke the spell, and she was finally able to turn away for a moment to collect her thoughts.
“Janet,” he said, simply saying her name, but the word brought her eyes back to his.
“Vince,” she said back. Butterflies danced inside her as she said the name. With a mental heave, she brought herself back into reality. “Ahem… Uh…I’m doing a thesis paper for my doctorate in psychology. I was hoping I could interview you. You’re really the most interesting man I have ever seen.” She had not meant to say that. She had simply meant to say he was the most interest man she had seen tonight, not ever.
“I will tell you all that you want to know about myself, but it will never make it into your thesis paper.”
“Why is that?” she asked.
He shrugged. His eyes had not yet left her, and she realized then that the movement of his body seemed detached from the mind behind the eyes. The shrug, his words, all simply used to keep her there next to him, so that he could stare into her eyes and feed off of whatever he saw there.
Such an intuition was so beyond any experience she had ever had that again she looked away with an act of will. She had never thought to guess at someone’s deepest thoughts and desires, despite studying psychology. It didn’t work that way, she had always felt. It was careful study and discussion, slowly learning things and scientifically guessing at their sources. This simple knowledge of this man, Vince, coming out of nowhere had never occurred before.
“Janet,” he said, again just tasting the word, but also drawing her gaze. “Will you come with me?” His eyes almost glowed at the intensity behind these words. Instinctively she knew that he did not mean for an hour or a night, but forever, to roam the world, sharing every second of life.
She wondered that eyes alone could communicate so much. “Who are you?” she asked.
Again he shrugged, but his eyes, for once, turned from hers, seeking refuge to hide something. He stared at the bar, the intensity and curiousness lost for a moment. “Will you at least come with me outside?”
“Yes, I can do that. Then will you answer some questions?”
He kept his eyes averted as he stood, then walked toward the exit. When he reached the door, he turned, realizing she had not immediately followed. His burnt-gold eyes locked with hers again, and there was a pleading in them that pulled her to her feet. He nodded and then walked out.
The brisk night air refreshed Janet somewhat, enough to make her question her behavior. “Vince,” she said, looking left and right in the small parking-lot. He was nowhere. Moon-shadows danced as the clouds overhead flew by on a strong wind. Few cars remained, it was very late. Janet realized just how late it really was when she glanced at her watch, past one in the morning. All thoughts of Vince were suspended as she remembered the million duties that waited for her tomorrow, including a seminar that she hoped would give her more material for her paper. She stuffed her notes into her bag and retrieved her keys. The gravel crunched and slid around under her quick walk to the car.
She gasped the cool air deep into her lungs as a shadow came around her car. It was a very large dog, large enough to cause the gravel to shift under its weight. The eyes locked onto hers, reflecting the little light, and she found herself immobile, though her hands did shake slightly. Then the light of the moon again came out from a cloud and she saw that it was not a large dog, but a dark wolf.
It did not move any closer, and after a moment Janet realized how unusual such behavior must be for a wolf. It just stood there, staring at her, its pure-gold eyes unmoving.
It knows me, she thought. Then, realizing her sudden intuition, her mouth opened in horror.
Come with me, those eyes said. I need you and you need me.
“Vince,” she said, tasting the name that she now knew was meaningless.
The wolf turned, breaking the gaze, and trotted across the road and into the field beyond. Once a good distance from the road, the wolf turned, its glowing, gold eyes seeking hers. Those eyes pleaded with her again. When she remained immobile, the wolf nodded once, then turned and ran off into the woods.
Janet stared hard at where he had vanished into the shadows, almost sure that she would see him reappear and plead with her again. Minutes ticked by, and she knew that he was gone for good. She turned to her car and unlocked the door. She threw her bag in with a little too much force, and all the papers spilled out onto the floor. So meaningless, she thought. What good would her silly thesis paper do for anyone? She would never again find anyone as intense and interesting as Vince. She knew that intuitively.
“Oh…” she said, indecisive, keys in her hand. Then she started to run, her feet slipping on the gravel. Once she got across the road, it was much easier. She ran on all four feet, nose into the wind, exhilarated in the smooth motion that almost seemed like flight. Without hesitation, she plunged into the shadowy woods, her gold eyes searching out the matching pair.
Bio:Timothy Edgar lives in New Hampshire, USA. He has been trolling the online writing workshops for a couple of years and has now only recently taken the dive from hobbyist to actively submitting his works. He is married, has no kids and one dog. His most recent, and only, publication to date is at www.demonminds.com. His blog can be found at http://timedg.freehostia.com and accepts emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Dixon Hearne
The train arrived late from Beaumont, bound for Shreveport and points east. The last thing I wanted to see was Lee Ann set foot on the transport. She’d been trying to leave home ever since she was twelve. Anywhere looked better than here – so long as it had a crowd and lots to look at. When she turned fifteen, she ran off with a drummer who came into the Rexall one day with a line of hair-care products and turned half the ladies in town into blond vixens. The color lasted just about as long as his visit, though it took three months more for everyone’s hair to look natural again – instead of like straw piles. Poor Lee Ann had to learn the hard way that beauty comes with a price – fifteen dollars, to be exact. Stripped her hair so bad she had to wear a floppy hat every time she left the house. And then, not one year later, she sent off a box-top ticket for a free makeover – and won the damn thing. It was me that had to drive her the hundred miles to collect on it. Not that she could tell a damn bit of difference later on. All they did was make up her face to the point she didn’t even recognize herself – and it scared the devil out of me when they paraded her out. But for three days, she was Miss Hollywood, and every last soul in town got a gander.
Today was different, though. She’d taken a job over in Atlanta. One of them travel agency jobs where they hire attractive young girls to escort groups on trips around the world. Actually, she ain’t supposed to go nowhere except to some islands off of Florida. Just the same, she’d got it in her head she’s meant for something bigger than Cutoff, Texas – and of course, anything is. Won’t settle for less, she says to me.
By the time her train arrives, she’s already late for her connection in Shreveport, which sets her off real bad. I says to her, it might be a bad omen. But she just jerks her chin at me and frowns. Then when it does finally arrive, the damn thing overshoots the station and has to back up a hundred yards to board folks. In the meantime, I’m getting a bad impression of the whole idea. I says to her again at this point, “Ain’t you ever considered the possibility that this might not be a good move?”
She lays into me like a buzz saw and blames me for holding her back so long. If there’s one thing we Futches are noted for, it’s speaking our mind – and sometimes that can take a spell. In this instance, I had to relive every last effort I ever made to protect her from herself: the time she joined that Little Pals group for sleepovers, and she woke up with all her Barbie dolls beheaded; the time she entered the Town Princess contest and lost her skirt in the baton twirling competition because I bought it too big; the day she fell off the homecoming float into the crowd when I made her turn and wave at me; and the time I sent that sorry Carl Trosper away when he came calling for her one night half-drunk.
This was one dream she said I owed her. So I just shut my mouth and buried my pride – along with my marbles – and bought the ticket. I even took her to town and let her pick out a new dress and a pair of high heel shoes she said she needed. Spent a day’s wages on it. Raisin’ a child alone and barehanded ain’t no picnic – especially a girl. I had no idea what she needed, beyond the love I could give her. And that wasn’t enough.
I didn’t hear from her much for a month or two. I wasn’t sure yet how or where she lived. All I knew is that she had some young man living with her and she needed money. She don’t talk much about her job in the letter she finally gets around to sending me – just that it wasn’t what she was expecting. For one thing, she ain’t left the office to do any “escorting” like they said she would. And for another, she’s got to work more hours than they told her. Not that she’s complaining to me, of course. That might look like I told her so. Just that she’s surprised by what she finds when she arrives.
Finally, I decide to call the operator there in Atlanta and try to reach her. Four L. A. Futches in the phone book – if you can believe that! I call up every last one – polite as can be – and get cussed out by two of them. That’s just the way city folks are. And then I finally remember that boy’s name she’s living with – Brenden Burkette – and sure enough, I get an answer at his number. Everything is “Yessir” and “Nossir” – just nice and respectful as you can imagine. But up under all that niceness, I knew something wasn’t right. Like, why ain’t he at work? And how come the phone at her apartment is in his name? The whole thing makes me a bit unsettled. I left a message and then waited a week for a phone call from her – collect – and I ain’t heard a word. Knowing Lee Ann, I figure she’s just been taken in by one more fast-talking charmer. But it took a lot of stewing and calculating before I got mad enough to buy myself a train ticket out there. The last thing I needed was some more blame added to my record. Still, I didn’t care. She was my only child, and just like her mama – bless her soul.
Of course, I ain’t going just to pick a fight and drag her screaming back to Cutoff. She’s a grown woman now, tall and handsome, a fine figure any man would be tempted by. But she’s lost her direction, plain and simple. This much I’m sure of. That’s why I feel so right with myself when I march up to her door and ring the bell.
One ring. Two rings. It takes six rings to jar someone loose from the TV set blaring inside. An older woman finally comes to the door, and, sure I have the wrong address, I beg pardon and disappear. Minutes later, I reappear and ring the bell a half dozen times more. “I’m looking for Lee Ann Futch, ma’am,” I says to the woman. “My daughter.”
The woman smiles politely and places her index fingers behind her ear lobes. And though I don’t know what she’s up to, I’m struck by her gracious manner and fine features. “I say, I’m looking for Miss Futch, ma’am.” The woman nods and presses her fingers to her ears again. The third time I announce myself, she decides to let me in – but not before I have to answer a question or two. This makes me mad, and I ask her why she’s answering my daughter’s door anyway. The discussion that follows is forced and uncomfortable – not to mention LOUD. And it ain’t long before Mr. Brenden Burkettee himself comes rolling out of bed and into the living room to see what’s up. He’s a tall, skinny boy pierced from head to toenail – which surprises the hell out of me when I don’t see a single tattoo to go with it. The woman fumbles around trying to introduce us, but she’s cut short when the phone starts ringing.
“Hello!” the boy’s voice booms, clearly irritated by the call. “Oh, it’s you”, he says and then breaks into a giggly grin. His mama just stands there, wide-eyed and waiting. She knows that company comes before telephone calls. He don’t. I couldn’t help hearing enough, though, to know it was Lee Ann on the other end – grilling him to be sure he wasn’t lying about me being here. And then, SLAP went the phone. “I knew it was you, sir,” he says to me, “by your voice.” His mama just stares at each one of us in turn, still confused by the situation, adjusting and readjusting her hearing aid. “Lee Ann’s on her way home, sir,” he says to me next.
All I can think is that she must be plenty mad at me, taking off work in the middle of the day to come running home. It’s all I can do to keep from calling a taxicab to haul me back to the train station. Meeting everyone like this was all wrong. Nobody explaining themselves. Just being pleasant with each other till it hits the fan – which, by the way, don’t take long.
Ten minutes later, the front door busts open and in stomps Lee Ann. She throws her purse onto the sofa and charges across the room, where Mr. Brenden meets her with a glass of wine and a cigarette – neither of which I approve. But it’s no use. First, she starts in on me, old enough now to give me a good cussing for not announcing that I was coming. Then she sets in on Mrs. Burkette for letting me in the door in the first place. I figure if they ain’t upset with her temper by now, they just ain’t trying. That’s when I decide to lay down the law, only, poor Mrs. Burkette steps right up and takes charge before I can open my mouth. She tells Lee Ann – Missy, she calls her – that she ain’t got no right taking a tone with her. “It’s hard enough watching you boss my Brenden around,” she says to her, “but I don’t have to put up with it, sister!”
For a stark moment, the only sound we hear is the TV set. Lee Ann is totally perplexed by the woman’s behavior, and her Mr. Burkette just stands there with his mouth wide open for the flies to come in. As for me, I’m completely lost for a minute, unsure whose side I’m on. Poor old Mrs. Burkette, who seemed so meek and fragile just moments before, loomed large and mighty right now. In my mind, she was tall as her gangly son.
It was a while before we got down to the purpose of my little visit. Lee Ann was still angry that I was interfering with her freedom. Swore she’d never forgive me. I, however, was now more concerned about what to do with Mrs. Burkette. The poor thing had finally wilted back down to a fine gardenia again. Whatever notion of authority she’d ever desired had surely been satisfied. Nothing left but a whimper.
In the aftermath, I take off to the nearest Motel Six I can find, leaving the rest of them there to sort things out. Next thing I know, Lee Ann ups and elopes with her Mr. Burkette in the middle of the night and then comes charging back the next day announcing she wants to come back to Cutoff. Wants to make them all eat crow back home, she says – her being so worldly and sophisticated now. And married to a CPA from Atlanta. Of course, I’m all but ready to foot the bill for the train fare all around when I suddenly realize that poor old widow Burkette was now all but kicked out of her hive. She’d depended on the rent money from these two to make ends meet – which is no way for a fine woman to live at her age. And that’s when it comes to me just what to do. And that’s why I told this story to my widow-sister last time she called me up singing the blues about her son Reece leaving home with a gal from New Orleans. “You got to keep your eyes wide open," I says to her, smiling over at my new Mrs. from Atlanta: “Sometimes love comes in pairs – two for one.”
Bio: Dixon Hearne lives in southern California, where he teaches, writes, and actively supports literary events. Much of his writing reflects the rich images and observations of daily life growing up in Louisiana and Texas. He holds a B.A. in English.