Yet again I sat alone at a table for two beneath the neon lights on a Saturday night sipping a Coors Light. I sighed and lowered my head, the brim of my Stetson casting a shadow over my beer. I could be sitting on a Mexican beach with Psycho Sherry sipping tequila sunrises, but no, here I was in a smokey bar drinking overpriced beer and staring at couples sitting around me, holding hands and making steamy midnight plans. Perhaps I was a bit sexually frustrated, I reasoned. I peeled the label from my beer bottle as I realized I couldn't even remember the last time...my eyes caught sight of her sitting at a table at the far corner of the dance floor.
"Hey, come dance with me!"
She turned her attention from the crowded dance floor and peered into my eyes.
"Oh, I don't cowboy dance."
I detected a foreign accent in her voice, likely a northern girl I decided.
"You don't or you can't?" I grinned and drew myself closer.
"I can't scoot boots with you Texans. Just can't get the hang of it." she fidgeted with a silver heart necklace that dangled in the crevice of her cleavage.
She stared hard at my face, sizing me up.
"Tell you what, cowboy...why don't you sit down and buy me a drink and tell me about yourself. If they play some rock music later and I have a pretty good buzz going, I'll dance with you. Might even dirty dance! Do you know how to dirty dance?"
How hard could that be, I thought to myself. Two people just writhe on the dance floor, much like they would under the covers. A fleeting thought flashed through my little brain...like I need all that with nowhere to go with it.
As the girl who called herself Jenny downed her fifth margarita, 'Barracuda' blasted over the speakers. Jenny leaped from the table and pulled me onto the dance floor. How hard could this be, I repeated to myself as she grinded her fine little hiney into my groin? My sixth sense told me to drape my arms around her waist and hang on for the ride and it'd be alright. My sixth sense proved itself correct as song after song bashed through my head, the sexy blonde literally rocking my world to the music. With neon gone wild above my head and strobe lights blinding my senses, my good senses anyway, I found myself intoxicated with the firm, perfectly molded body that writhed against me. This had to be a dream. Life doesn't get this good, not for an old cowboy like me.
It seemed the night had only begun when they turned the lights on and told us to go home. Hand in hand Jenny and I walked off the dance floor.
"Wow, just wow!" her eyes sparkled as she embraced me, her hands grabbing my butt.
"Are you going to be okay driving home?" I asked, "I don't mind driving you if you're afraid to get out on the streets."
"Do you want to take me home?" she failed at suppressing a grin as her eyes gleamed.
Jenny directed me into the nicer part of the city, my pickup finally pulling into a driveway of what I estimated to be a quarter million dollar home. At her invitation, I followed her inside. She grabbed two beers out of the fridge and took my hand.
"Let's sit out in the backyard. It's a beautiful night! Oh, and by the way, just to get this clear up front...you're not sleeping with me tonight."
"Oh!" My eyes widened in shock at her honesty, "I'd never...heck, you'd probably scare me off if you came onto me!"
"Um-hum," she rolled her eyes and giggled.
For the next two hours, we sat and drank beer and talked about ourselves. Jenny seemed like a nice girl. What she was doing living in that big house all alone, I hadn't a clue. But the girl could dirty dance and I be lying to myself if I didn't admit she was a looker.
I glanced at my watch somewhere in the midst of the conversation.
"Oh! It's three thirty in the morning! I should hit the road. I have forty miles to go before I get home. Say, your car is up at the bar. Do you need me to take you over there tomorrow?"
"I'll tell you what...why don't you come over tomorrow evening. I'll make you a home-cooked meal. I bet a single guy like yourself doesn't get too many of those. After dinner, you can take me to my car. Deal?"
I embraced her tightly and kissed her passionately.
"Oh wow! Oh wow!" I can't believe you kissed me like that!
I was in the middle of the sweetest dream when my phone jarred my numb mind into semi-consciousness. I reluctantly answered it.
"It's not even eight o'clock and I've already had two... TWO people come into the store telling me about you making a spectacle of yourself last night. I want the story straight from you!"
"Who is this? Jacy? It's not even eight o'clock. Why are you calling me? You never call me."
"I already told you it's not even eight o'clock! I hear you basically had sexual intercourse on the dance floor with hundreds of people watching. Is this true?"
"Oh...yeah...uh, no!" I sat up in bed rubbing my head.
"Rusty?" came that sinister tone over the phone.
"Jacy, why do you care? It's none of your business anyway."
"My lord, dirty dancing? You? Seriously?"
"Well, Jenny didn't seem to have a problem with how I dirty danced!" I retorted.
"Ah, the blonde tramp's name is Jenny, not Baby? You ain't no Patrick Swayze!"
I tuned Jacy out as I stepped across the room, picking up last night's shirt lying on a chair, and stared at the makeup blotched across the collar. I sniffed the sweetness of perfume and in my head the song played..."(I've Had) The Time of My Life"
With a little practice, I could dance like Patrick Swayze!
My eyes fixated on one raindrop trickling its way down the plate glass window, oblivious to the drenching downpour just beyond. Nervous. Yes, I admitted to myself I was as I sipped on the steaming hot cappuccino. The last time I'd seen her, ten years ago or more, had come to an abrupt ending with her hand landing soundly across my face, dropping me to the floor. Whatever had possessed me to make contact again? My mind searched for the answer as the raindrop vanished out of sight at the bottom of the window.
As I stared at the cup in front of me, my senses alerted me she had arrived.
My attention was drawn to those long legs as she entered the coffee shop. As my eyes ventured upward, a clear raincoat covered a short black dress...I knew those legs. With a pounding in my chest, I raised my eyes and peered into the greenest eyes...I knew those eyes.
"Sherry!" I exclaimed as I rose suddenly from the table and quickly stepped toward her.
"Hello, Rusty." she replied with the faintest smile.
I pulled a chair out and took her raincoat as she seated herself.
"Let me get you something to drink. What would you like?"
She brushed speckles of rain from her hair with her long fingers, "Oh, I don't come to Starbucks much. I'll just have what you're having."
I returned momentarily with her drink.
"You haven't aged a bit, Sherry." I forced a nervous smile.
"You have. You look ten years older...in a good way, I guess."
"So, tell me what you've been up to."
We spent the better part of an hour catching up, telling each other about our mostly monotonous lives. The jittery feeling in my stomach began to ease as I decided the meeting was actually going well.
"Sherry, tell me about this vampire princess thing you posted on the dating site. It definitely caught my attention."
She smiled and ducked her head as if embarrassed, her finger twirling a strand of her long, brunette hair.
"Well, truthfully, I was just curious what kind of man might reply to such a headline as that. And look, here YOU are!" She waved her hand as her green eyes twinkled.
A cloud seemed to fall over her face, a cloud I had seen before.
"I want out, Rusty. Out of the real world. I don't handle this world well, as I'm sure you have noticed in the past."
I remained silent, intently listening.
"No, not a make-believe vampire world, but I do want to escape. I want to find someone to leave this world, just the two of us. Just take off down old Route 66 to parts unknown and never look back. Remember...'Me and you and a dog named Boo, traveling and living off the land?' She sang the words to the song softly, her green eyes focused on mine.
"Or escape to Mexico! To the western beaches of Mexico and live in a hut and sip tequila sunrises while the sun falls into the ocean, sprinkling its glow into the waves. I want to make love all night while the tide laps against the sand, and wake the next day and do it all over again. That life is never going to come to me. I have to go searching for it. And I want someone to come along to enjoy it with me."
She reached across the table and took my hands in hers.
"Come with me, Rusty. Leave this all behind. Look at you. You're still doing the same thing you were doing ten years ago...chasing women at the bar. You are never going to find whoever you are looking for, not there...not anywhere in this mediocre world we live in. I told you a long time ago that I had never fallen as hard as I did for you. I fell madly in love with you. Never before nor since have I had the feelings for anyone like those I felt for you."
Sherry paused and stared at the table before her, "I still have those feelings for you after all these years."
It was at that very moment I realized the hold Sherry had on me all these years. I gazed into her eyes.
"And never before nor since has anyone...anyone so wholeheartedly given their love to me. Not just a little of their love, but all they had to give. Only you, Sherry, have honored me with your true love. Ever since that time so long ago, you have always been right here," I touched my heart, "You've always had a place in my heart...and you always will."
"Then come with me. Pack a bag. We'll leave tonight. I'll show you how much more love I have to give. Every day and every night, you will have all of me. More love than you ever knew possible, I promise you. It's there, in another world. Come with me, please?"
Somehow she made sense. Cast the bills, the rent, the job aside. Drive off and leave the stress and strife far behind. What more is there than what this woman offered so generously?
"Sherry, I am a creature of habit. I thrive on structure and schedules. I sleep at night with the knowledge that I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I am not a spontaneous person. I think everything to death before I make a decision, even what pair of socks to wear. I cannot carelessly and haphazardly throw my life away with no guarantee that another one exists in this other world you talk about."
I shook my head slowly, "I just can't do what you ask."
Sherry rose from the table, slipping her raincoat over her shoulders.
"Then you are not who I am looking for...sadly, you're not."
She turned and stepped out into the rain.
"Sherry, I want to talk more. Can I have your number?"
The pouring rain muffled my plea as Sherry turned her back to me.
" No, don't call me...I won't be there!"
She turned and rushed into my arms. Gripping my face in her wet hands, she kissed me passionately, her tears intermingling with the raindrops on her face. She pushed herself away and disappeared into the torrential storm.
I think about Sherry often and wonder if she ever made it...to another world. I hope so.
Continued from last week's story, 'Psycho Sherry'
"Oh...it appears that I'm intruding!"
The school teacher I had become so absorbed in throughout the evening had returned from her potty break. My glazed eyes rolled to focus on her standing across the table, her arms crossed, her eyes wide as she attempted to digest exactly what was happening. I forced myself to breathe as Pyscho Sherry clutched a handful of my hair in one hand, a raised beer bottle in the other, mere seconds away from crashing it across my brow.
"I take it you two know each other?" the teacher questioned in her squeaky voice, pointing a single finger upward as teachers tend to do.
The words had barely left her lips when Sherry let out a blood-curdling scream, crashing the beer bottle against the edge of the table. The school teacher reciprocated with an equally deafening scream as Sherry lunged toward her with the jagged glass. I felt faint and it is true what they say...I did see my life flashing before me. Well, only the first six years or so. That's when four big, burly bouncers appeared out of nowhere. One scooped the raging psycho up in his arms, her legs kicking his shins relentlessly. Another grabbed her wrist, giving it a painful twist until she released her grip on the weapon. Within seconds the four had disappeared through the front door, Sherry fighting all the way as she screamed profanity and shook her fist at me.
"An old girlfriend?" the teacher asked as she picked my Stetson off the floor and handed it to me.
"Um, a case of mistaken identity," I responded as I glanced down at my beer soaked shirt, "I should go...out the back door probably. Thanks for the dances..."
No, it wasn't the last time I saw Physcho Sherry.
I laid low for a month or so, deciding to avoid the temptation of that bar in the city. I spent my Saturday nights scouring the pages of the dating site, occasionally messaging an undatable woman or two. I eventually grew bored with that and against my better judgment, donned my black Stetson and headed toward the city one Saturday night.
I chose a table in a far corner of the bar, in fact, the very same table I had met Sherry. Sipping on a beer, my mind strayed from the music and neon lights. I wished I'd not come. My heart wasn't into chasing women or even drinking beer. An hour passed and the twang of country music gave way to the beat of classic rock. Chicklets from every corner of the club squirmed their way onto the dance floor as 'Sweet Home Alabama' began to boom over the speakers. I looked up from my empty beer bottle and there she was. Her legs were longer than I remember. Her dress was shorter than I remember and her brunette hair was longer than that dress. I could see those green eyes in the dancing neon lights and there was almost a smile on her face as she danced with a couple of girlfriends.
"What have I done?" I spoke out loud, watching her every move, "This beautiful creature was mine and I let her get away!"
There is nothing that has more power over a man that pure, unadulterated lust. When the song ended, I watched Sherry make her way toward the bar at the far end of the dance floor.
"I really am smarter than this," I commented as I rose from my chair.
"Sherry..." I spoke her name as I laid my hand on her arm.
She turned around, her green eyes locking onto mine.
"I want to apologize to you."
I vaguely recall those pouty lips forming the 'F' but I never heard her say it...I do vividly recall her arm swinging back and the palm of her hand making solid contact with my cheek. Everything is still a bit fuzzy after that. I'm not sure if the lights came on as the bouncers surrounded her or if she hit me so hard that I just thought the lights came on. I have some faint recollection of her hurling vulgarities and screaming my name as she was carried out the front door. I picked myself up from the floor as a hundred or more people stood and watched. Steadying myself against the bar I decided I should leave...out the back door probably.
A decade or more had passed since that night as I sat in my recliner staring at her picture on the Plenty of Fish dating site. There was something about Sherry still there, deep down inside me even after all these years. I shook my head as I read the headline over and over. Psycho Sherry was now the Vampire Princess. I closed the laptop and went to bed. Every evening that week I found myself drawn back to her profile on the dating site. I would stare at her picture and again put the computer away. It was a Friday night that I finally sent a simple message:
"Hi, Sherry. Been thinking about you..."
Continued from last week's story 'The Vampire Princess'
"I never dreamed I would feel this way! I still have butterflies from that kiss you gave me last night. I have fallen hard, Rusty. I have fallen madly in love with you!"
I sat silently on the other end of the phone digesting her confession. Isn't this what I've been yearning for? A smoking hot, young thirty-something chick with beautiful green eyes, brunette hair that swept her butt with every turn on the dance floor. The previous night replayed in my mind. Her head laid against my shoulder, her warm body pressed against mine, and yes, that kiss was one of the best I ever recalled. And here we sat on a Sunday morning, our cell phones pressed against our ears, plotting our next move. Well, I wasn't really plotting anything. I was mainly wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into with this chicklet. Was this the same bitter, man-hating, potty-mouthed female I had met at the bar the night before?
We literally stayed on our phones until the batteries went dead, with me promising a call before I went to bed that night. And we ran our batteries down again.
"I'm going to die!" wailed an unrecognizable voice through multiple sobs.
It was Monday, 3 p.m. when my phone rang.
"Whoa, whoa...Sherry? What do you mean you're going to die?"
"I went to the doctor today," she moaned between sniffles, "and he found a mole on my tummy. He said I should get it burned off or it could turn into CANCER! I'm going to die!"
"So why didn't you let him burn it off? It's a simple procedure and really doesn't hurt. My Uncle Tom practically had his whole face burned off and he's still alive."
Perhaps that wasn't the best thing to say at the moment but after talking for six hours I managed to calm her down and convince her that she would not die from a tiny mole on her tummy. I felt mentally drained as I hung up the phone, much like a hostage negotiator likely feels after a six-hour standoff with a bank robber.
Sherry's health issues were the furthest thing from her mind when she called Tuesday night. The best I could decipher after deleting voluminous curse words from her conversation, her kid had been kicked off the school bus for...yes, cursing. Sherry had hunted down the school bus driver and threatened to do serious damage to his anus with her foot and if he'd man up and step out of that F-ing bus...and well, the cops showed up just in time. Sherry was none too happy about that.
In our phone conversation Wednesday night, I discovered Sherry had been fired from her job after telling her boss to go fornicate with himself, not her exact words. Thursday she told her ex-husband basically the same thing when he opted to buy drugs with her child support money. I sat and listened to her rants for two hours, my mind wandering back to that previous Saturday night that I held her in my arms on the dance floor. Those long legs and that tight-fitting black dress got the best of me and when she finally paused to catch her breath I asked,
"What are your plans for Saturday night, Sherry?"
And there she was like I had flipped a light switch, right back to normal...if there was a normal for Sherry.
We dated for three weeks, a wild roller coaster ride the whole time. Yes, wilder than Six Flags. I had come to accept that Sherry might be bi-polar or just plain phycho. Not that I am a qualified psychiatrist, but I had reached the point where I realized I would have to cut ties with this beautiful little filly. Someone was apt to get hurt, likely me, I reasoned and I was aware that if I didn't break it off soon, the inevitable would happen. Yes, sex. If it ever went that far I would never ever get rid of this dramatic, needy, clingy, phycho...um, woman.
What would have been our one month anniversary, as Sherry reminded me numerous times that week, I took the plunge and instead of setting up our typical Saturday night date, I casually mentioned that I had other plans that I could not break. After thirty minutes of F-bombs and sorry SOB's, I weaseled my way off the phone by telling her my dog had just dropped dead. I intended it to be our last conversation...ever.
I pondered my situation most of the day Saturday and came to the conclusion that it'd probably be safe for me to wander up to the bar all alone. Likely, Sherry would stay home pining her heart out for me. So, I starched my Wranglers and donned my black hat and headed out to the city.
It wasn't far into the evening that I met a cute school teacher with pretty blue eyes and the most pleasant smile, something I realized I had never seen on Sherry. This woman captured my attention as she divulged her love for The Eagles and the fact that she had driven a Rambler to high school because her older sister talked their daddy into buying her a Mustang. We eventually wound up at a table just off the dance floor, holding hands and giggling like young lovers as we swapped stories about our high school years. I found myself overwhelmed at the revelation that this woman could actually carry on a normal, civilized conversation. She laughed and smiled constantly. She radiated her genuine zest for life like the morning sun. I was past giddy as she excused herself to the ladies room, reaching for my beer sitting on the table in front of me.
Suddenly a hand lashed out from behind, grabbing the beer. I felt my hat knocked off of my head and watched it fall to the floor. The beer poured from the bottle onto my head, streaming down my pressed pearl-snapped shirt and into my lap. Before I could look up, I felt the bottle pressed against my throat as someone grabbed my hair and pulled my head back.
"One word...one word from you and I'll break this bottle over your head, slash your throat with it, and stand here and watch you bleed to death on this dance floor!"
Well yes, it was Sherry...or as I affectionately like to call her...Phycho Sherry. And I knew she meant every word of it.
"Old...ugly...old and ugly."
On the rebound from my disastrous date with Leslie the mail lady, I had succumbed to an online ad directing me to a free dating site called Plenty of Fish, the name itself should have given me fair warning of what I could expect. Nevertheless, I was high and dry and disgruntled and had lowered my standards about as low as they could go, browsing undateable women's' profiles in the wee hours of a Friday night.
"Fat...eew, grody...oh, here's a phycho!"
I shook my head as I read the headline, 'Vampire Princess Seeking The Dark Side." I mean, really? What kind of a nut...my eyes focused on the few photos attached to the profile. I squinted, lifting the laptop up to eye level. Was that...Phycho Sherry? After all these years! I began reading the profile.
'No, I am not Goth. Goth is for wannabe tweens. I am the real deal, a vampire princess...'
I stared at the pictures, my mind unleashing memories from once upon a time, I believe it was the summer of 2002...
I sat at a table alone at the edge of the dance floor, a black Stetson pulled low on my brow, casting a shadow across my face as the neon lights danced like fairies between the boots of wannabe cowboys and lonely women on the old wooden floor before me. My eyes darted from table to table, my mind making mental notes of exactly where every single woman was positioned in the room. I sipped slowly on a Coors Light waiting for the urge to strike me and when it did, I'd be ready. One I hit that dance floor, there'd be no stopping me. I'd dance the night away with a dozen or more of those beautiful creatures pressed against me. I'd smell the sweetness of their perfume. Feel their breath against my neck. Hold their bodies tight against me. I'd not stop until the lights came on and they told us all to go home. It was what I did on Saturday nights, go to the bar...the one place a man could go all alone and not be alone.
I cast a glance toward the far end of the room and my eyes locked on a lone silhouette sitting in the farthest, darkest corner of the bar. I drained the last of my beer, still staring. A woman alone, I decided. My curiosity convinced me she merited a closer look. I swaggered my way toward the table, the darkness still making it impossible to make out anything more than a silhouette. There was only one thing left to do.
"Hey, come dance with me." I flashed a smile as the brunette lifted her head and stared into my soul beautiful green eyes.
"F--- you! Go away! I just want to sit here and drink beer!"
Fueled with a healthy dose of grit and determination, I slid into the chair across from her, motioning to a nearby waitress to bring two more beers.
"What's your name?"
"F--- you! Leave me be, will you!" she snarled.
I passed the waitress a five as she sat the beers on the table.
"So, what did he do?"
The girl stared at the beer before her before reluctantly reaching for it.
"He won't leave his wife. He tells me he's leaving her, but there they are right out there on the dance floor."
She tossed her long hair as she shot a quick glance toward the couples beneath the neon lights.
"Well, you come out there with me and we'll dance circles around them, what do you say?"
"F--- you! I don't dance. I just want to sit here and drink beer."
After nine beers, the girl who called herself Sherry finally allowed me to walk her to the dance floor. With the lights from above illuminating her, I felt a tingle run through my body as I gazed at the gorgeous woman now in my arms. Her brunette hair flowed down her back until there was no back. Her green eyes sparkled in the neon. A dress that was really short, though not too short for my taste, hugged her body. After the first dance, I felt her relax in my arms.
"Getting warmed up now?" I asked.
"My boyfriend and his wife just walked out the door. I'm okay now," she whispered as she laid her head on my shoulder.
The night seemed to evaporate like raindrops on a hot sidewalk. The girl named Sherry clung to me as we spun around the dance floor, her warm breath against my neck. Before either of us was ready to end the night, the DJ announced the last song of the evening.
"Oh, Brian Adams. I love this song." Sherry whispered in my ear as she drew her body even closer. Even with our eyes closed, we could still see the neon fairies dancing at our feet. As the last note of the song played, our lips met and we kissed. I mean, we really, really kissed!
And that's where I probably messed up...
Continued from last week's story 'Men Only Want One Thing'
As the pickup rounded a curve in the Farm to Market road, one lonely blinking light came into view, signaling me that I had arrived in Sunup, Texas. Dusk settled across the sleepy little community as I drove down Main Street. A half dozen antiquated street lights flickered to life, casting an eerie glow upon vacant store fronts that likely had not seen a customer since the Great Depression. As Leslie the mail lady had instructed, I turned right on the last road on Main, following it to the very end. Beneath a solitary street light sat a single wide mobile home that I could tell even in the dim light had seen better times. An old wooden porch wobbled beneath me as I knocked on the door. I could hear foot steps from inside and directly the front door opened. A wide eyed chubby lad, perhaps six or so, peered at me through a torn screen before abruptly slamming the door. I again heard footsteps and then a voice.
"Mom, there's an old man standing on our porch!"
"Well good lord Pudgy, let the man in. And he's not an old man, he's my friend!"
More footsteps and the door opened again, Leslie smiling as she unlatched the screen.
"Oh, you found it! Come in!"
As I stepped into the dimly lit living room, Leslie began introducing her family.
You've met Pudgy. This is my twelve-year-old daughter, Samantha. My twenty two-year-old daughter Angel, and trust me, she ain't no angel. This is her husband Rob and my two grandbabies. They're two and six months. Come on into the kitchen. I'm making hamburger soup."
I worked my way through the maze of feet crammed into the small area, following Leslie who seemed adept at maneuvering in tiny spaces.
"Here, taste this. I am not much of a cook, but I do make a pretty good hamburger soup."
I allowed her to place the spoon inside my mouth. It tasted just like it looked...clumps of hamburger floating in hot water. With a heaping dose of garlic salt, some chili powder, a dash of paprika, and a whole onion...it might have been edible.
"Oh, wow! That's really good!" I obligingly replied.
"Here's a bowl. Get you some. Y'all come eat! Do you know anything about Bearded Dragons?" she continued as a herd of people surrounded me with empty bowls and spoons.
I glanced at her as she hovered over an aquarium sitting beside a Mr. Coffee on the counter.
"Well, all I know about reptiles and rodents is they don't belong in the house," I commented as the fat kid shoved me away from the pot of soup. I glimpsed through the glass at a six-inch lizard laying on his back. Definitely, on his last leg, I decided.
"I'd say you should probably throw him outside before you go to bed tonight. Safe bet he'll not make it through the night."
Pudgy let out a wail, "My pet dragon is going to die!"
"Shut your freakin' mouth! I just got the babies to sleep!" screamed Angel.
"Find you a place on the couch, Rusty. I'll start a movie. Hope you like chick flicks."
The front door opened and a scruffy man perhaps in his mid-thirties stepped into the furor as everyone scrambled to secure a seat with their bowl of soup.
"Hi, Donald." Leslie unenthusiastically muttered, "I made hamburger soup if you want some."
"Hell no! Got any beer?"
Leslie rolled her eyes and the man turned and stepped back outside, "Brought my own just in case."
As the chick flick began, I found myself sandwiched between Donald and Pudgy, my elbows drawn into my ribs as I tried unsuccessfully several times to hit my mouth with a table spoon. Donald slurped his beer while Pudgy picked his nose, wiping boogers on my freshly starched Wranglers. I glanced over at Angel and Rob cuddled on a worn love seat, Rob caressing his wife's boob as she polished off the last bite of her soup. Leslie sat in a rocking chair across the room, a mere five feet from me. Samatha trotted in from the kitchen, planting herself directly in front of me.
"I play clarinet in band. Were you ever in band? Eww! Pudgy's wiping boogers on your pants!"
I heard a bowl land sharply on the floor and suddenly Leslie hovered above me. With the grace of a lioness, she hefted the fat kid into mid-air, swatting him soundly on his rear several times. He emitted a howl which resulted in more howls from some room down a narrow hall.
"See what you freakin' did now, Mom! You woke the babies up!" Angel leaped from her spot and stomped down the hall. Pudgy continued to howl and Donald belched and reached for his fifth beer. And things just went down hill from there.
Just as soon as the credits began to roll across the small screen, I stood and glanced at my watch.
"Oh goodness. It's getting late. I should head home."
Leslie glanced at a clock on her wall. "It's barely ten. We have another movie to watch and I thought we might play a card game afterward."
"Oh no, it's quite a ways home."
"Fifteen minutes..." she squinted her eyes as she followed me outside.
"Well, you have quite a family, Leslie," I mentioned as I unlocked my pickup.
"What's important is that we are a family in every sense of the word. We are very close."
I nodded and forced the question that had been on my mind all evening.
"So, who is Donald?"
"He's my ex. The daddy to Pudgy and Samantha. He's trying to straighten his life up. Got caught up with drugs. Ran off with a meth whore for a couple of months. God only knows why. She didn't have a single tooth in her head."
Her eyes focused on me as I stood in silence, the street light casting a yellow glow across her face. She dropped her head and stared at her hands.
"I'm not really dating material, am I, Rusty?"
I let out a deep sigh and with hesitation replied, "No, not really. But I bet you are one hell of a good mama. You don't need anyone getting in the way of that."
I opened the door of my truck. Her hand fell gently on my arm, guiding me to turn around and face her.
Tears streamed down her face as she whispered, "Kiss me goodbye?"
Whenever I think of Leslie the mail lady, it is of that last moment I ever saw her in my rear view mirror, standing in the middle of that dark street, a dim streetlight casting its frail light on her as she sobbed, her shoulders quaking, her face buried in her hands. I think about her often, really...