Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mr Broccoli

           Mr Broccoli come walkin up the sidewalk. He don’t look hisself. His green, bushy eyebrows is down and I don’t see no eyes. He look drained out and he start slidin a bit ta the side.
            What wrong wid you? I asks.
            He don’t say nothin. Just walk right up ta my porch, pull out his pecker and piss on my steps.
            What you doin? I asks.
            He look at me then, leanin back so I sees him full up now. What you mean, what’m I doin? I’m pissin on yur steps, he say, widout blinkin an eye, smiling while he zip his pants up.
            Then I hears my Mama comin and I knows Mr Broccoli won’t be hangin round to make this straight. He always make his getaway fore anybody else can see im.
            My Mama shoes come tap, tap, tap across linoleum floor she help put in black and white squares with new Daddy.
            Didn’t you hear me callin you? she asks, door slam, her high heels shine black next ta my dress.
            No ma’am, I says, lookin at the wet spot on steps, knowing Mr Broccoli did a very strange and bad thing fore he ran out the yard, laughin ta hisself.
            What’s this? Mama say, leanin closer, her nose sniffin the air round.
            Now I’s been through talk bout Mr Broccoli when he not round and believe you me, I wants no more trouble on his count agin. Last mention Mr Broccoli my Mama shine my butt good, an when I tries to tell her better, she go runnin out the house cryin and carryin on, her hands over ears, then blowin her nose hard in apron when storm’s over. I wants no more athat, so I says nothin.
            You wet your pants Mama say, right there on the step. Her long eye lashes hangin low, her long nails pointing, her long legs so close ta me now I hears nylon rub together.
No Ma’am, I says careful. Couldn’t, I admits proud. I talk mighty plain just like Speesh Teesher say at school. My step here’s dry, I says. I don’t say but I’s sittin up one from Mr Broccoli’s pee. I knows, I says, because my dress dry too, I says, standin up, pointin ta my step.
            Fore I make out nother thing, she yank me up to porch necks ta her, turn me up and over, my dress ta my head, butt half ta the sky, her hands slippin across my pants tween my legs so fass no time ta close im. All this Mr Broccoli see from his big eye view in the bushes. And I hears im laughin now, at a far way, but not sa close Mama hear.
            Oh, she breathin hard now. I could blister you good, she spit out, pull me up straight. And she could blister me, I knows. But we don’t have that kinda time now, she say, her eyes close squeezin tight. You wet as a baby’s bottom, you are, she say, un I feels the lightin up a little.
            She push me toward th door. Whatever came over you anyhow? You’re too old. You’ve not done this in months. I swear!
            Yes ma’am, I says lookin down. No use tellin her other, won’t do nothin.
            She standin, her hands on hip. Hightail it ta the bathroom and get everthing off, she say. Save this dress, though. And take care where you put it. It’s the only thing that missed the shower. She gazin at Mr Broccoli’s puddle drippin down one step ta the other.
            I’ll be along in a minute. Cavin Gene pour sand on this, you hear? She motion ta my brother Is sees outta th corner uf my eye, as my legs takin me ta the bathroom, follern her directions. Down the hall I hears her voice fore I close the door. Then sweep it off wid a broom. Sweep it good. Get it all, Calvin Gene. We don’t want no slippin on any left behind, Mama say.
            You trash, I says to Mr Broccoli’s risin knob over the winda sill. His eyes’re fire, almost shimmery, like my cat Julia when she mad or just caught herself a feel mouse.
            You mad? He say, liftin hisself quick up over th winda sill and jumpin quiet inta the bathroom. Mr Brocooli beautiful slick, with his dancer legs and body suit. He change, he duz. Sometime he come dressed like a scarecrow, overhalls an flannel shirt, lumberin long. Minnit ago he dressed like that but now he come ta tease and ta cajole. He not mad or scary now.
            I’s in trouble, I says, lookin down, my mind on my bizness. I’s in trouble plenty but you do it.
            Me? He lie, he duz.
            I has little time ta argue. So I wants ta make up an him gone fore more happens. Could be worse, I says, soft-like.
            Mama yank open the door and I stands there naked, in my shoes, not lookin Mr Broccoli way. She could sees him now, she really could.
            This’s uncalled for, you hear this? We’re late ta church and it’s your doin, Missy, nobody else’s. She call me that when she mad. I not Missy really. You pull this agin, I don’t care what the damn doctor says, I let go on you plenty, you hear me? I nods real fass. Doctor. What she mean, doctor? She think I got bladder infectin again? She think I pee bed agin? I stop that, she know. What she telling me, Mr Broccoli?
            Yes’m, I says, stepping then inta my clean pants, she hold out for me, my shoes through each hole careful. Clean slip down over my head, dress ta follow.
            You change your socks? She ask, pullin two times socks from the line in the bathroom, so that line look like guitar string twangin, like when New Daddy hit hard and sing loud. Probably not! Get em off, she say loud nuf for neighbors ta hear. You still have your shoes on! I undo fass and scoot ta side.
            My dress scratch my arms and I sit on bathtub rim tug wet sock off then other one and slosh foot each with washrag she pushes ta me.
            Mama wipe my shoes and throw my soggy socks an pants in wad inta bathtub with splat. I know my bizness after church, no questions askt.
            At the door, I looks round ta see Mr Broccoli watchin this lass show, but he no where in sight, cover hisself with branches, leaves. I starts ta run ta leave but falls instead inta Mama’s skirt, her standin there wid expression on her face, strange. I starts to say what else. She put her hand on my back, stand lookin out the winda toward the bushes an sky. She sigh, whisper soft at outside. She look at me, hold my chin up in her hand. I’d like to see all you’re hiding in that pretty little head of yours, she say. She fix my hair while she stare outta the winda into the bushes some more. I holds my breath now.
            Then sudden she kneel down an take me in her arms, hug me tight. I’s surprised, like something impossible. Crazy day, I says ta myself. She act stranger than Mr Broccoli when you think ta tell bout it. After she stand, she say magic, beyond belief, for sure. She start walkin down the hall fass toward car where New Daddy revving engine but I hears her say ta me on way out the door, Say good-bye ta Mr Broccoli, honey, else we be later than even now.
            At first I just stares and wonders bout how things happen in a sudden, so fass. But I want no more missif so I close the bathroom door and run down the hall to catch up with Mama fore the screen door almost slap my face.

Getting Unscrewed

        "Have you ever wanted to be a virgin again?" She lets her hair fall over her eyes and doesn't brush it away. I think this is an odd question coming from her, the demure, secretive thing she is. Maybe she's tired of her husband, wants me to find her a lover. She's right, I could. But I wonder why she thinks I can. 
        "God, no," I slash coffee on the table as I sit down, wiping it up with my napkin. 
        "You remember when?" 
        "God, yes." 
        "It's probably like remembering when Kennedy was assassinated, don't you think? I mean, everybody remembers, you know? You remember even what you had on. What the person you were with had on." She doesn't look at me, choosing instead to study the glass of ice tea she's turning her mouth toward, opening her lips and inserting the straw. 
        "Blue Jeans." I say, looking right at the hair in her eyes. 
        "I remember where too, you know?" she says, not smiling, leaning back. Her mood's becoming dark. "We were in my bedroom, with the radio on." 
        "Remember the song?" I smile, feeling only a little naughtiness in all of this. But she's wanting to tell. 
        "Uhmm, yeah. 'My Girl.' Isn't that odd. To remember so vividly, I mean." She pauses to blow up at her hair in a sigh. "They interrupted to say he'd been shot in a parade...." 
        It took me a minute. Then I felt a hot flash of disbelief, "No, Sally, I mean...." 
        "Oh, you're talking about...." she pushes her hair back finally. The word "sex" comes squeaking out of her. "You mean the first time." Her eyes look out at me with a nervous dare in them. So I wait, thinking she'll go on. When she doesn't, I say, 
        "I remember clearly. We both had on jeans and there was no song, believe me. We were at his apartment on the floor. He zipped down, but I had on the button kind, and I was glued into them. It was a terrible state of affairs. Him trying to get my pants down. Him with his pecker sliding back and forth over his zipper. A miracle it didn't get sawed off before he finished me. Probably the whole reason why we're supposed to wear dresses." I look down at the summer print I have on for work. When I look up puzzlement clouds her eyes. “I just mean that perhaps he could have removed his own pants more easily if he didn’t have to worry about helping me with mine! Time is of the essence when you’re having fun.” 
        There is a small pause before she laughs in a burst and I hear the slight rumbling of the last of the tea through a straw. She says with far too much girlishness in her voice, "It was different for me. I was engaged. He wanted to, but I didn't do it until after we were married. We ran from the courthouse to the motel. It was, like noon or something." 
        "I never wanted to be married," I say unreasonably loud. "But I didn't want to be a virgin either. I was scared I might always be one and embarrassed I was getting so old. God, what was I? in my twenties. Heavens! so I just let it happen to me when I came up upon it, so to speak!" We laugh together. I hope this coffee break is over and look around at the clock. 
        "Who was it?" she says, showing no signs of getting up. 
        "My best friend's husband." I say, turning around to see her eyes drop to where her fingers play with the spoon on the soggy napkin, turning it over and over. 
        "Oh, yes. He's still in a sanitarium, as far as I know. He ate himself up with drugs. And sex. I heard many years later that Susan left him for a kid who was fifteen years younger than herself. Guess she wanted to redo everything, this time having it her way!" 
        "Mind if I ask how it happened? You losing your virginity, I mean." 
        "Hell, no. What do I care? He doesn't remember his own name, let alone mine. I thought he was nervous about her appendectomy. Called me up from the hospital, and I went over to hold his hand. There never had been a thing between us. Ever. At all. But there was an attraction. Not sexual. In other ways. When she'd work late, he'd call sometimes, and I'd go for bike rides with him or drink at their apartment. She wanted it that way. I went with her too. Did similar stuff. But my visits with him got more frequent toward the end, and more dangerous. Once we went on his Harley after dark down the runway at the airport as fast as his bike would go, and half way to the end, he turned off the headlights. We just smashed through the night like that." I feel breathless, my voice spurting out too much air. She's just staring at me, her hand on her glass, this little opened-eyed stare on her face, her lips pasted against her teeth in a grin I couldn't make out. "Another time, I rode on his front car fender down the highway going sixty-seventy miles an hour, out of my mind. Nothing holding me there but luck and my might. I was buck naked. He was fully clothed behind the wheel, of course. He got his hard-ons doing that stuff. I don't know what I was doing. I really don't. For me, it was never sexual. It was more like suicide.” I can’t seem to stop. I blather on, dumbfounding myself, "Then one night he calls me from the hospital and I go over to their apartment and the minute I walk in the door, bang, he hits me straight on—not with anything, just his hands, slapping me around and I am so in shock, I don't even know what's going on until the jeans business and then his sex's going against me hard, right there on the floor, and all I remember is him getting up and saying, "A virgin. How could I be so lucky. Broke your cherry, kid. 
        "When I go to the bathroom and sit on the stool and wipe, there's some blood, but nothing major. And I'm glad, actually glad it's over, and I'm not a virgin anymore." 
        "Wow," is all she says, her eyes darting around to the other tables, then back at her empty glass. She picks it up again and acts like she's drinking through the straw. No sound. Silence.
         "It's sad, looking back, really." I say, not looking at her anymore, just staring out at the empty tables and chairs. "I think maybe I've spent the last twenty years trying to make this kinda shit right." When I look at her again, she's got this pinched up kinda expression. I feel a moment of heat, so I look her right in the eyes and say, "It's like I've spent a lifetime trying to get unscrewed, you know?” She laughs a nervous laugh as we stand up to go.

Shopping at Shur-Save

It was, after all, a bright sunny day. That should have been the biggest clue, because upstate New York doesn’t have many of those in mid-February. A powdery snow had fallen but the thermometer had not, holding at an impressive forty-eight degrees (by the neon sign as I drove past the bank) but with the promise of reaching past fifty-five for the day (by the Channel 10 website I’d viewed before leaving for the grocery store). I was thinking of possibly taking a walk instead of a nap later in the day as I grabbed a shopping cart, threw in some bread, baloney, hard salami, high-fat cheddar, Doritos barbeque chips, Claussen halves and coarse ground mustard. I drove into another aisle, threw in some Lorna Doones, then backtracked to the produce and slapped a pre-packaged Dole Italian salad and a peach from Chile or a hydro-hot bed in the Cornell experimental lab or, well, Chile (who knew these days?). I slid behind a full-carted customer to wait, leafing through a copy of Good Housekeeping which I never intended to buy. When my turn finally came, I had figured out what makes spicy hummus and cold cucumber salad a healthy combo for afternoon socials and how to pick the appropriate gardening tool for rooting out Bishop’s Weed, ammi majus, in Latin, or Queen Anne’s Lace from my flower beds. I was still left wondering why the Bishop was considered a weed while the Queen was considered a flower and thinking maybe a compromise might be to call both a “flowering weed,” when the checker began cheerfully zapping her way through my two paper bags-full of groceries (neither quite full but looking with two as though I got more bang for my buck).
I was all but out the door to my car when my cart hit a speed bump of a partly dropped something or other. By the time I got the wheels moving again, I realized I’d purchased a lotto ticket at the customer service counter a few days before. Since this was Sunday morning, yesterday’s drawing would be posted. I took out my wallet, withdrew the ticket and gave it a quick swipe through the scanner. I smiled at the clerk who was coming to help me when the buzzer went off with this little song and the small moving message stated clearly in glowing letters, “Congratulations, you are a winner.” I stood with my ticket in my hand, shaking a little now, as an odd chilling shudder ran through my body. By the time, the buzzer stopped, I was a millionaire. I just didn’t know how many times over.
“Wow,” said the clerk.
 “Wow,” I said. And several people in the check-out lines began to talk to each other noisily, waving my way, and by the time I started to hand the clerk my ticket to check the number, a woman had left her cart and started walking excitedly toward me, shouting, “Congratulations, how much did you win?” 
“Million!” the clerk called out before I could respond. Everybody in the check-out lines burst into applause. The woman, now by my side, acted with great familiarity, as though I knew her. I studied her face, in turn, as though I should recognize her and realized I was in a dream. But her hand was real to the touch when she reached over to turn my hand with the ticket toward her. I instinctively drew it back. “What were your numbers?” she asked, looking into my face with genuine interest, as though her knowing would verify the validity of my win. I was in no dream. My God, this was happening. To me!
Stunned, I looked down and said, “I don’t know…I just…I did a quick pick.” The numbers were under my pinched fingers and irrationally I was afraid to untighten the grip I had on them. I looked up into the clerk’s questioning face.
            The woman laughed, as though this were a joke, and trilled, “A quick pick. Imagine that!” She whirled around and shouted, “She’s won millions on a quick pick!” But she didn’t leave. She just stood there with me.
“Whatta I do…next?” I asked the clerk who was turning to the manager who had come to her aid.
            Stepping forward, the manager held out her hand. “I’d have to read what’s on the back of the ticket,” she said. “It’s all there, I think.”
            I retreated a bit, looking down at my cart, then at the ticket still tightly pinched in my fingers. I said rapidly, “It’s all right. I’ll go to the website at home.” Then, so that I wouldn’t leave her thinking I was rude, “How much did I win?”
            The manager didn’t hesitate. She said “Fifteen million dollars,” as though she’d had it on the tip of her tongue when she rolled out of bed that morning. By now a crowd had gathered around me while I stood staring down at the ticket in my hand. And then it hit me, how dangerous it was for me to walk to the parking lot, ticket in my hand, or for that matter, in my wallet or pocket or even my underwear. Somebody could easily waylay me next to my car, follow me out the door and entice me to the wrong side of the fire lane in their car or race ahead of me and block entrance to my driveway at home.
            “Uh, could you call a cop?” I asked the manager.
            “What?” I looked into her eyes and saw that she was as stunned as I was over this change in my life.  It was as though she couldn’t think either, or hear or react quite normally.
            “I think I need a policeman to escort me to my car,” I said, turning and scanning the crowd for any face that might demonstrate the slightest capacity for thievery.
            The manager let out a burst of laughter so enormous, she spit on the counter and her sleeve. And with that burst, I saw how the millionaires live. I had been born and raised in a culture of lack. I lived with a complementary bias that had instilled in me the belief that others pretty much thought and lived as I did. Oh, I knew about the rich—Elton John, Oprah, Warren Buffet and Mark-the-Facebook-Guy. They lived between the pages of magazines or as widgets on the internet, sliding into my consciousness every now and then when I gazed at them there, otherwise only coming to mind when I couldn’t pay my water bill. They weren’t real. I looked past the crowd and settled on the cover of the Good Housekeeping I’d been reading while in the check-out line, the broad smile of Covert Affairs star, Piper Perabo, with her suggestion of dieting without effort. What was she worth? What did she do with it? Where did she bank? Did she use one bank, two, four with one in Switzerland? Did she have an accountant? No, who was her accountant? How did she manage her money, her Financial Affairs? I didn’t know where to start.
            “Are you serious?” the manager asked me.
            “What?” I look into her face again. Did I see suspicion there? What? Jealousy? Disgust?
            “The cop,” she said, a little spiteful. “Do you really want me to call the cop?”
            “Uh…” I glanced down at the ticket again, thinking now to turn in over to read instructions on the back which were written in light red and too small to make out. Everybody was still standing there, held by my next move, waiting for me to do something. Did they want to be released to go back to their normal life? What were they waiting for?
            I held the ticket up in the air and they all gasp at once. They think I’m going to throw it to them, like a bride with her bouquet of flowers at a wedding. 
And in one swift motion, I tore the ticket in half, brought my hands down and tore it again and again and again. It was amazing to me how the faces around me turned from surprise to anger. They were suddenly a mob, ordinary people gone mad. The slanders came with such immediate venom it threw me back against the counter. One man ran to me and dug around in the pocket of my jacket for the pieces of the ticket I’d shoved there, clawing until he had ripped the pocket back and the sleeve had partially come off at the shoulder. He stepped back with pieces of the ticket in his hand, throwing them in the air like confetti and cursing back at me, he promptly left the store, his cart full of groceries still in line. The others either left or went back to check-out, some glaring my way, others standing outside the sliding doors talking with their hands flapping the air, still others pacing in small steps with arms tightly pressed against their stomachs. Terrified of moving a muscle from my body press against the counter, I saw out of the corner of my eye, the manager punching in the number for the police. As she hung up, she glared at me, saying only one word: “Stupid.”
While I waited in the store for the police, I had a succession of thoughts which had only partially come to mind when I tore up the ticket: Once the buzzer went off, I had no choice but to have the police escort me home and guard my house until the ticket was secure; I had no choice but to move from town; and I had to get a lawyer whom I would pay well to stay honest and silent so that I could get the money into several banks under various names so that I would not be hounded to death by friends, relatives and telemarketers. Then the task would be to hold onto it and make more so that what this ticket had given me wouldn’t leave my new lifestyle as depleted as I’d been before—there are taxes, after all.
I’ve had lots of time to think about this and more while I’m waiting on the closure on my house and my anticipated move to Portland, Oregon, where my sister lives, and who, by the way, doesn’t know I won lotto. I have to admit, I’ve sneaked back, tail between my legs, to the New York State Lottery website and taken a look at my winning numbers which stared back at me, lifeless and unforgiving. 1, 8, 9, 26, 30, 36. They were the identification numbers I’d found in the inside case of an antique gold pocket watch I bought in a pawn shop on Long Island years ago and had played on a lotto ticket almost every week until I decided the other day to go for a quick pick.