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10
Jun
12

The Costume

Bluenote: do not try this at home, writing a story after a year of not writing stories, that is, unless of course you are a genius. I post this story like the head of an enemy on a stick at the entrance to a village, a warning sign and a remembrance, both.

The sound of kids giggling and squabbling busted into Jolene’s dreams, then a door slammed shut and there were just whispers on the verge of talking. A dull black fuzz sat heavy in her head. Pain pounded the sides of it, from the inside out, at the temples. Her eyes and mouth were bone dry. She squinted at the clock. 3:30pm.

Jolene reached for the nightstand, fumbled for her glass of water and brought it, shaking, to her mouth. She sucked at it, rattling it against her teeth, dribbling most of it, then dropped the glass on the floor.  She patted her hand around her, slow and heavy, feeling for her bathrobe, couldn’t find it. “Fuck.”

She heard her door open. And a voice, “I put it in the closet for you, Mama.”

“That you Tawny?” Jolene croaked.

“Yes, Mama.”

Jolene pushed herself up and sat on the edge of the bed in her bikinis and tank top, head in hands, hair sprigging out from between her fingers. “What were you doin’ messin’ in here, girl?”

“Jus’ tryin’ to help.”

Jolene reached for her cigs, lit one and dragged hard on it. “I don’ need no help in here, got it?”

“I found a funky costume,” Tawny said.

Jolene stood up, staggered to the closet. “What you talkin’ ‘bout, girl?

Tawny swiped hair from her eyes, looked at the floor. “It look like a hooker’s outfit or somethin’.”

Jolene reached for her robe. “What? In here?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Girl, you been watchin’ too much TV!” Jolene weaved her way to a high up cabinet, pulled out a bottle of Jack.

“Well if it ain’t that what is it?” Tawny asked.

Jolene picked up the glass she’d dropped, filled it full with Jack and downed it. “It’s a fuckin’ Halloween costume, alright? Now git!”

“What I really came in here for was to ask you somethin’, Mama.”

“Oh cain’t it wait, Hon’? I gotta get ready for work.”

“It’s Derek, Mama. He’s startin’ to get pushy.”

“That boy ain’t worth a plug nickel, girl! If I tol’ you once I tol’ you a thousand times!”

“Says if I won’t have sex with him he’s dumpin’ me.”

“Shit, girl, why you askin’ me? You already know that ain’t right. You the one should be doin’ the dumpin’.” Jolene took a drag, blew it out slow. “You just 14, Baby. He’s fuckin’ 19, a long shot too old for you.”

“But Mama, the prom’s comin’ up.”

“Dump ‘im, Baby. Don’t make the same mistake I made.”

“Mistake?”

“You heard me! Now go on and git your brother and sister somethin’ to eat, then y’all do your homework and go to bed.”

Tawny faltered. Tears came.

Jolene made like to go after Tawny, “Go on, I’m late!”

Tawny scuttled for the door, slipped through, slammed it shut, breathed heavy against it.

On the other side of it, Jolene poured herself another Jack and began to get dressed. She hummed as she smoothed on her silky black hose and shimmied into her black bandage skirt. She went back to the high up cabinet and pulled down a shimmery top. She put on her makeup and worked her hair into a come-fuck-me tousle.

Jolene pulled a long black coat from her closet, put it on, sinched it round her waist and buried a pair of black stilettos deep inside her handbag. She shoved her feet into a pair of black flats and rushed out of the bedroom and through the living area. She grabbed a dinner roll off one of the kids’ plates and stopped at the door. “Now Bobby, Sally, do as Tawny says, hear?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Love ya! Bye!” Jolene slammed the door.

Tawny poked at her food. Bobby stole something off Sally’s plate. Sally screamed bloody murder.

“Shut up, both of you shits!” Tawny yelled.

Whoa, wha’sup your ass?” Bobby said.

“Shut up!”

The phone rang. Tawny dragged over to it, picked it up. “Yeah?”

“Hey Darlin’.”

“Hey, Derek.”

“What you say we go down to theatre on Chancey and 115th for a flick tonight?”

“Are you crazy? Them’s x-rated films, they’ll never let us in there!”

“Doug and Joanie got in jus’ th’ other night, Sugar Pie.”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh”

“I cain’t leave Bobby and Sally alone while Mama’s workin’.”

“Jus’ wait ‘til they fall asleep then sneak out.”

“It ain’t right, Derek.”

“Come on, Darlin’, it’ll be a gas!”

“No. It ain’t right.”

“Don’tcha wanna go to the prom?”

“Are you threatenin’ me?”

“Naw, Honeybunch, I’m jus’ encouraging you ‘cause I love ya so much. What more can I say?”

“Really, Derek? You really love me?”

“I do, Darlin’, you know I do. Cain’t help myself.”

“Then tell me again.”

“You are my Sweet Angel, Tawny, and I love ya more’n anything!”

“Oh Derek I love you too!”

“Good, Baby. Now what you say we go have some real fun?”

“OK! See you downstairs at 9:30.”

Tawny went back, sat down at the table. Bobby was pulling Sally’s hair, poking her sides, doing anything he could think of any time she picked up her fork to eat.

“What is wrong with you, Boy?” Tawny said.

“Nothin’!”

“Is too!” Sally yelled in his ear.

Tawny stood up, hollered, “No Nutty Buddies ‘less y’all behave!”

Bobby and Sally straightened up.

“An’ no TV ‘til after your homework’s done!”

Tawny left the two eating like angels and started into the washing up.

She got the kids their Nutty Buddies, got them through their homework in time for Chronicles of Narnia, then went to the bedroom to choose her clothes. She put aside a pair of destroyed denim skinny jeans and dug around in her drawers for her shimmery, hot pink halter top, couldn’t find it. In a panic she turned everything inside out, couldn’t find it. She threw herself on the bed and was fixing to cry when she looked at the clock. “Shit!” She grabbed a little turquoise corset top and put it with the jeans.

Tawny hurried into the living area and shut down the TV, got the kids ready for bed and read them a few pages of “The Lion & the Mouse.” When they’d fallen asleep she tiptoed out, shut the door quietly, then scrambled around getting dressed, barely made it downstairs by 9:30.

She blasted out the door onto the street, looked around. Derek was nowhere. Her shoulders fell.

“Hey, Sugar Pie.” Derek stepped out from the shadows, held his arms out.

Tawny fell into them. “You freaked me out!”

Derek lifted her face to his, “Sorry, Darlin’,” he said, and kissed her mouth soft and delicious. He stopped, then smiled when Tawny finally opened her eyes. “Now let me look at you,” he said. He held her out, looked her up and down. “Oowee, do you look hot, girl!”

Tawny blushed.

“Well, c’mon, Darlin’!” Derek took her hand. “We can make it there by 10 if we hurry.”

They alternately walked and ran down toward the naughty side of town, closing in fast on the loud-blinking racket of neon and noise. They waited at the northwest light at Chancey and 115th, looked for the XXX-tra Hot theatre. The “WALK” light blinked white. Derek shouted above the noise, “There it is, Tawny.” He started out but she didn’t follow. He turned. “C’mon, girl!” She was just standing there on the curb, staring. People were flowing around her. Some knocked into her, but her stare never wavered. Derek went back to her and followed her gaze. “What the hell?”

Tawny pointed across to the southeast corner of the intersection. “There’s my hot pink halter top.”

“What?! On that hooker?”

“My mother borrowed it…”

“Shit, girl, have you lost your mind?”

Tawny snapped to. “No.” She grabbed Derek’s wrist. “C’mon, we’re late for the show.”

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