Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Test Score Murders

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Friday June 18th, 2010.

The hallways in the basement of Dr. Martin Luther King High  were cement and linoleum caves lit by artificial light.  Wilfredo turned the key in the auditorium wall that brought up the halogen lights.  There was something hanging from the flies over the centerstage.  Maybe it was the dummy from the  school’s production of Three Penny Opera.  Maybe it was Lucas Howard. Wearing his gang colors.

 

            Twelve hours later there were still six squad cars parked on the Amsterdam Ave side of the building, and two that had driven up the handicap access ramp onto the plaza in front of the building.  The Principal, a formidable, African American woman in a stylish black dress, was talking to two detectives.  Both men wore dark suits and colorful pastel shirts with matching ties that stood out against the wet dark gray of the cement plaza.

 

“I tell you detective, there is no doubt in my mind that this senseless death could have been avoided if the Police had warned us earlier about the gang activity of these students.”

Her hands shook and her eyes shone with tears.  “Now it’s too late for Lucas, too late for his mother, too late for his little sister to see him grow up and have children of his own.”

 

Detective Scott wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve.  “These new privacy laws are killing us , M’am.”  He said in a tired voice.  “None of the city agencies can disclose that type of information to the school, unless it’s asked for specifically and there is reason to believe the child may be a threat to himself or others. Which usually means there’s already been a dangerous incident”.

 

Lieutenant Wallace produced a handkerchief and passed it to his partner. “We’ve been watching Lucas and his gang for sometime, but so far, they’ve managed to avoid arrests for anything other than small amounts of pot, which are just desk warrants.  We’ve seen plenty of cars broken into, some right after school lets out,  but there have been no eye witnesses and only one police report filed.”

 

“This is a life or death crisis. ”,  Principal Johnson intoned.  “That’s why we have to open the way for new, young lead teachers, especially minority teachers to guide our youth.  Until we Principals have the power to fire bad teachers, they’ll keep on clogging our educational system and keeping our students down.”

 

Detective Scott sniffed.  “I thought I read about your school just last week in the paper.  Said your graduation rate had improved by 30 percent and that your test scores were up an average of fifteen points from previous years.”

“Yes, that did make last week’s paper,  but this tragedy shows that it isn’t enough.

The cycle of poverty, crime, and discrimination overwhelms even our best efforts to make a difference.”

“Well, M’am, we’ll continue our investigation in the neighborhood and check to see if anyone’s had any conversations with Lucas that might have indicated he was about to… You know”.

Principal Johnson did know.  “Last year when little Jericho slit her wrists in the girl’s bathroom, we figured everyone would move on and there’d be no more.  But this is like the copycat murders you read about.     It’s a tragedy..”

 

 

April 25, 2010 5AM

 

 

“Shit, Mike, this is so easy.  How much are they paying us?”

“A hundred bucks Louie.  Each.  So shut up and don’t screw it up okay?”

Mike took a heavy ring of keys out of the pocket of his windbreaker and fit the biggest one with the black plastic head into the steel lock on the freight entrance door.

            The two boys shuffled into the delivery room and Mike slammed the door bar behind them.  The room seemed dark in spite of the bright fluorescent lights.  “How’d you get the key this time?”  Lucas asked him.

“It was a snap.  He was sleepin.”  Mike laughed softly to himself thinking of how the janitor’s eyes glowed when Mike offered him the  little bag of smack, all yellow and clumpy.   He had waited around, smoking a joint and looking at a girly magazine, while the middle aged man cooked up his fix.

 “It’s really cool of you to hang around man”  Gordie had said.  “Eat anything you want. My casa is your whatever.” Gordie smirked. 

After he passed out, Mike had taken the keys and left.

             “I hope the asshole called in sick” he said to Lucas as they swung up the stairs.  “It’ll give us some cover if anything happens”.

“What could happen?”  Lucas said.  “We are gonna erase these papers, write in the answers they gave us and then show up for period one.  We’ll get paid by Mr. P before lunch”.

“Shut up faggot.  I shouldn’t have told you it was Mr. P. “ Mike jiggled the lock on Room 106 with  the classroom master key and they flicked on the lights.

            The boys took out the pencils and started in on a stack of test booklets in the middle of the black rectangular table.  Mike took a thick sheaf of papers out of his bag.  He handed  Lucas  about ten pages. 

“Here’s how you gotta do it. You gotta print the first one,  then write the next one with handwriting.   Keep going like that and be careful not to skip words and stuff when you copy. “

 

            The boys worked solid for an hour before Lucas said “Hey, I gotta get me some coffee.  You got any quarters?”.

            “Here ya go stupid.”  Mike threw him a small plastic bottle.

Lucas tore off the  plastic wrapper with his teeth.  Mike took another one out of his pocket and the two boys sipped the thick bitter sweet liquid energy drink.

            “Alright, you think of everything,”, he said.  “But what about when we hafta pee?”.

Mike fished a Styrofoam cup out of the waste paper basket.  “Use this”, he said.  Lucas could see he wasn’t joking.

 

 

Alexander Bass got to work at 7:30.  He was early, and he enjoyed the feeling of being prepared for what promised to be an easy day.  He passed through the heavy industrial school doors that always reminded him of the skating rink he frequented as a teen.  His shoes squeeked faintly on the beige linoleum where the scanning machines were not yet set up for students who would take the geometry Regent’s Exam later on in the day.  Ms. Cunningham, otherwise known as Security was behind the large walnut desk in the lobby, eating   an egg and cheese sandwich and enjoying a large coffee.

“Morning”, he waved his paper at the guard.

“Good morning”  she said.  “Let me unlock the elevator for you”. 

“Thanks” said Alexander Bass.  He was on his way to the third floor cafeteria.  He’d decided to skip the line at Starbuck’s and the coffee machine in the teacher’s lounge was his last chance for caffeine.  He also knew they had Hershey’s bars in the candy machine, and he had promised himself one as a reward for squeezing an extra lap around the reservoir into his pre-dawn jog.

            He opened the orange safety doors that led into the vast, empty cafeteria with rows of open folding tables and a brightly lit wall of vending machines at the opposite end.  Empty except for one student, saggin’ his jeans to reveal polka dot boxers and wearing a pristine regulation Yankee’s baseball hat and long dirty blonde braids. 

“Mike”, said Mr. Bass,  “It’s so early.  How’d you get in here?”.

Mike wandered over, opening the Twix he’d scored from the machine.

“Oh”, he said simply.  “Gordie.”

“Yeah” said Mr. Bass.  “You out to get him to pay you, if you’re going to set up tables.”

Mike laughed and offered Mr. Bass a Twix.

“Listen,” said Mr. Bass.  “You gotta get out of here.  Grading starts at 9:00.  Come on, I’ll walk you past security.”

They walked wordlessly down the hallway and took the elevator down to the lobby.

 

“Alright,” said Mr. Bass.  “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah”, said Mike.

“And get here on time.” said Mr.Bass.

“Kay”

 

“What was he here for?” asked Ms. Cunningham.

“He had the schedule mixed up.  He wants to graduate”  said Mr. Bass. 

 

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Against Gun Violence

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]What the hell?  Four people dead in Santa Monica?  Nine shot?   Here we go again.  And again and again and again while we make weapons, assault rifles and high capacity bullet magazines available to essentially anybody who has the money to buy them, or the ability to steal or borrow them from the owners.

All these mass murders, every year since the assault weapons ban expired, and not once have I heard of a citizen hero who saved lives by standing up  and shooting down a raging group of mass murderers, homicidal maniacs, totalitarian government militias  or home-grown or otherwise terrorists.

It’s taken professional heroes called in after the fact to take down these individuals, whom we have made so deadly.

The victims are innocent people. Why does this continue while 90% of Americans favor background checks, and a majority support closing stupid loopholes like gun shows and internet sales.

I am thankful to Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg for their responsible actions as guardians of the public trust.  Our federal legislators have failed us so far.

Summer Story

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Midnight Moonshine  by Sarah G Lilly

 

She’s no good for you son.  But it’s no use saying so, like so many others have said.  No means not much more than that mockingbird singing.  Just pretty nothing.  Hate to lose them though.  and that’s how it is with girls like Stella.  They don’t add up to much, but you sure do miss them when they go. 

 

The damp heat filled the streets and the homes and the space beneath the shade trees  like a giant, living presence. It squatted over  Wilkins Glen and  Ranchero, over the junk yards and parking lots and over  Clayborn Street and Maynard’s Drug Store.  It parted grudgingly as Fulton drove his caddy into  Campbell, blasting Chuck Berry from his radio and singing along to Maybellene.

He pulled up to one of five metered parking spots  in town and looked both ways to see if the meter maid was anywhere in sight.

 

Fulton Aloysius Treymore swung his legs  under the steering wheel, and over the door and vaulted  out of his white Cadillac convertible like the  high school gymnast he had been six  years ago.  He had to.  The door was welded shut on the driver’s side after he ran into a beehive at the dump and hit a pyramid of empty oil drums trying to get  away from Joe Lewis’ crazy dog Wotan.  Thank God he didn’t have the top down that day. 

 

His  cotton shirt stuck to his shoulder blades and he mopped his face with his handkerchief.    Fulton sang his song undaunted by bees or summer humidity.  He knew where there was a cold creek and if you were a good friend of his, he would take you there and pass you a jug of his Daddy’s Secret, the moonshine that burned like fire and lifted you several inches above the Mississippi  mud. And tonight he just might end up there with Stella Cruz (damn it! He wasn’t going to consciously think that, so as not to jinx it. )

 

Fulton Aloysius had bodacious friends. He’d known Connie since they were seven year’s old in Mrs. Pertle’s class.  They had finger painted together and made each other peanut butter and apple snacks until Connie told him she was going to get married to Arnold Crosby when they both grew up.  They somehow managed to have the same teachers every year until they got to High School, and that was when they both got in trouble for talking (well, laughing, actually) during the State Regent’s test.  They both had to take the test again and get consequences from the superintendent.  A week later Connie was sneaking out of her bedroom window and Al was riding his bike to the library to meet her.  Them being together was just good times.

                  Connie might not like him taking Stella to cold creek though.

Fulton strode into the air conditioned drug store where Stella was working.  He saw her wearing that turquoise blue rayon cashmere sweater that he loved, and noted that her eye shadow matched the sweater.

There she was, Miss Stella Cruz with a blue bow in her dark hair, and her skirt flaring out from her petite waist.  She always smelled sweet, and Fulton wasn’t sure if it was the candied peanuts or the dimestore perfumes.  But it certainly added to Stella’s perfections and whet his appetite.

                  She smiled at him and stepped out from behind the counter with her manicure and her Barbie style spike heels, her toes with their shiny red nails displayed like so many mini-twinkies topped with a maraschino cherry.

“Good afternoon, Stella.  You look simply delicious”, Fulton enthused.

“Why thank you Fulton, you look kind of scrumptious, yourself” twinkled Stella.  

Fulton  looked humbly at the linoleum floor  of Maynard’s Drugstore, and caught a glimpse of his freshly polished saddle shoes. He smiled not quite shyly at Stella as he stepped beside her with a guiding hand on her waist.

“None of that, now.” She said as she slapped his hand away. 

“Right this way, Miss Stella” said Fulton, bowing.

“That’s more like it” Stella laughed, her big white  teeth framed by Revlon Red lips.  Fulton was mesmerized.

They glided through the drugstore and thumped  onto the burning sidewalk.  Stella’s nose wrinkled in distaste. 

“Ugh!”, she exclaimed, as she stepped into the muggy weather of the  street after Fulton and slipped into the caddy  as he held the door.

                  Fulton jogged around the car, put both hands on the welded door and sprang into the drivers seat.  He looked expectantly at Stella, but she was busy putting on enormous dark sunglasses and a blue chiffon scarf over her hair. 

                  As he started the caddy, he happened to see a reflection in the drugstore window.  It was Miles Ellerby, who worked nights at the drugstore cleaning the displays.  Miles was gazing intently at Stella with a look of confusion and disappointment on his open face.

                  “Can we hurry?”  Stella purred.

                  The caddy blasted off in a slow thunder of pistons and exhaust , and shot down Clayborn Street in a shower of sparks.

“Really, Fulton”, murmured Stella. “It is much too hot for this nonsense. Maybe I should have you drive me straight home”

“Lord, no Stella.  I just wanted to get away from that stupid Miles Ellerby, like you did.  I’ll slow down now.” They approached the Willow Bridge at about 35 mph.

“Honestly, Fulton.  If I sit in this car another minute, I will simply faint.  This heat is unbearable”.

“Stella, my dear, it’s time for the air conditioning”.

Fulton gallantly pulled to the shoulder next to a sweltering, grassy field of tall weeds.  He switched the car’s cooling system to ‘frigid’ and hopped over the door.  He walked to the rear of the car and cranked the motor for raising the hood.   It slowly rose over the car, covering Stella’s lovely head with an unfolding beige leather umbrella, Fulton snapped the top in place.

Stella sat in the passenger seat, studying her manicure.  Fulton gunned the engine and blasted off a second time,  barely missing a teenage possum who had wandered out onto the shoulder wondering what all the commotion was about.  The movie theater was in Ranchero, ten miles away, but he couldn’t get there too soon for Stella, and driving home it was a short distance to cold creek.  He might just accidentally wind up there.                 

Wham!

 whump whump whump whump whump.

“Good gracious god almighty,” thought Fulton. “ A blow out. Talk about a buzz killer.”

Fulton released  the gas and braked gently.  He was in luck.  He had just changed a flat Saturday for his Dad, and checked his spare that morning as part of his self-discipline campaign.

Stella moaned. “Really Fulton” She shook her head, as if she was putting up with some impossible flaw in his personality.

Fulton hopped out , ran around and lifted the spare out of the trunk.   He  swung the jack out of its case in the trunk door and  whistled “You are My Sunshine”  as he changed the flat.  Stella sat in the caddy with the ac on, her bright blue eyes hardening into little glinting ice cubes,  her candy colored toes pinching up in her shoes.

Ten minutes later, they blasted off for the third time that evening and ended up in front of Wood’s Theatre in Ranchero.  Stella grabbed her ticket from Fulton’s sweaty hand and clicked into the movie theater a couple strides ahead of him, as the caddy’s roof slid into its compartment and Fulton hopped over the door, stumbling after her.

The theater was a box of cool air, smelling of popcorn, cotton candy, and the smoking section that hid behind that red flashing sign.  Stella whizzed past the warm lights of the  cigarette machine with it’s  keyboard of colorful cigarette logos, and pull dispenser rods.

The usher held a flashlight to  light the  carpeted aisle to their seat in the dark theater.  Fulton Aloysius stood tall and protectively as Stella dipped into the seat next to the aisle.   He noted with pleasure the turquoise blue net slip that showed when her skirt flipped up.  Fulton thought he saw her creamy, sweet knees for a brief second before she  smoothed down her skirt.

This thought occupied him until the roaring sound and brilliant technicolor of the screen broke over them like a wave, and the Warner Bros. cartoon began. 

                  There they were, Fulton thought, embraced by the rippling laughter of the audience and the special feeling of being the lucky ones in the civilized cool of the theater. Fulton stretched and gently placed his arm over the back of Stella’s seat.  A sharp pain in his side jolted him upright  as Stella’s elbow jabbed his ribs.

  “What’d you do that for?” he whispered loudly to her. 

She stared into the movie screen and whispered out of the side of her mouth. “Behave!”.

Fulton, wounded, leaned back into the plush seat, his confidence shaken.  The cartoon ended, and the main feature started.  It was “Giant”, with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. In the light from the panoramic screen filled with a herd of cattle in the desert, Fulton made out the silhouette of a familiar profile in the row ahead of them.  It was Cliff Arnold, former football star of Ranchero high school, now brass balled bouncer at the Club Callaloo in Jackson.  While the recognition poked him, he thought he saw Stella turn her head slightly in that direction, then glance back at the movie screen. 

About 20 minutes into the film, Fulton began to feel a bit chilled by the ac.  He fidgeted in his seat.  Stella squirmed a tiny bit in hers.   Fulton’s mind spun away from Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson and technicolor  and into his own personal movie of passion and rivalry starring himself, Stella and Cliff Arnold.  For now it seemed clear that Stella had noticed Cliff and glanced in his direction a little too often to be coincidence.

                  After the film, Fulton stood so that Stella could pass him in the aisle, and she paused in a calculated way while Cliff strode up behind her and playfully placed his hands over her eyes.  Stella gave a mock scream and tore his hands away, turning sharply and saying, “Well, now, don’t let it be you, Cliff honey!”.  They both laughed, conspiratorially, Fulton thought.  He now had to awkwardly fall in behind Cliff to get out of the theater.  Stella and Cliff seemed to be speaking a silent code up ahead of him.

They got separated in the crowded lobby and when  Fulton found her again she was leaning against the cigarette machine in her adorable blue sweater.  Her eyes were twinkling again.

“Oh Fulton”, she sighed. “Don’t you just want a cigarette?”

Fulton replied obligingly, “What brand do you want, Stella?”

“Oh well, I really don’t smoke, but if I could borrow one of your menthols” she said, pointing to the “Kools” button.

Fulton deposited six quarters and pulled the rod and a pack of “Kools” shot into the bottom tray.  “Here you are, Stella” he said.  He felt a little passion again for a second as she put the cigarette between her Revlon Red lips and he flashed the cigarette lighter into flame.  Stella inhaled deeply.

They walked out of the theater into the 90 degree Ranchero, Mississippi night. 

“It’s hot”, Fulton ventured. “ I know a place that’s really cool and comfortable right now”

“Well. I can’t see the point of going to a bar tonight, Fulton.” Stella said with petite authority. “I have majorette practice tomorrow and I’d like to be fresh.  You know how things are at Beaumont.  I’ll lose points if I’m late.”

Fulton did know how things were at Beaumont.  Cliff had flunked out there after losing his football scholarship for improper off-campus conduct with a couple cheerleaders.  He wasn’t sure how, but he dimly sensed Cliff factored into Stella’s reluctance.

“Well it’s a really pretty night, and the moon is rising at 10:07 over the Willow Bridge.  Have you ever been to the cold creek?” He asked.

“Oh, Fulton, have you even looked at how I’m dressed?  I’m not some little farmer’s daughter in raggedy cut-offs.  Take me home”

She seemed genuinely upset now, and Fulton wondered at the mystery that is femininity.  He put the car into gear and noticed the  ac felt frosty. 

The black night sped away from the headlights on the road and Fulton and Stella flew toward Wilkins.  Before long they pulled into Stella’s driveway ..

Fulton  pressed the retract button for the roof and hopped out as quickly as he could, but Stella beat him to the punch and opened her own car door. 

“Dear God, it’s melting tonight”  she said as her high heels  clicked onto the porch.  Fulton felt smaller than his 6’3” in the puddle of porch light.

“I had a swell time, Stella” Fulton said, catching her hand.  “Can we do it again next Saturday?”

“I’m pretty sure I have to wash my hair, Fulton” Stella said. “Maybe I’ll see you at the drug store.”

Fulton sighed.  “Goodnight then, beautiful lady” he said.

“Goodnight, Fulton” said Stella, shaking his hand and looking past him into the blackness.

Fulton  swung his legs over the welded door and drove into  Wilkins Glen, where his family lived.  He parked in the driveway and hiked up the stairs into his apartment over the garage.  He was opening the door as he saw his Dad’s head poke out the front door below.

“Have a good time, son?  I heard Liz  Taylor is sizzling”.  He called.

“ I wouldn’t know, Dad. I’m going to bed”

“Well goodnight then” his Dad said humbly, and they both went to bed.

 

Al  came in and took off his shirt in the  oven like dark space of the garage apartment.  He opened the refrigerator to try to get some cool air on his chest, but only his navel and mid section had access to the cool fridge air, and he felt perspiration beading on his face and neck with the effort of getting undressed.  He grabbed an ice cube and ran it over his shoulders when a gentle knock came at the door.

He opened it without turning on the light, and there was his Dad, in shorts and a T shirt.

“Al, it’s too hot to sleep”, he said.

“Let’s go down to the cold creek.  I think I  can get it frozen this time.”  He held up a gleaming blue bottle in the moonlight.

Fulton smiled in spite of his deep discouragement and the oppressive humidity, which had now slicked his body over with oily wetness.

“Okay, but you’re driving”,  Fulton said, recalling the unfortunate collision at the dump that directly followed his most recent encounter with cold creek and moonshine.  His Daddy’s quest to freeze pure alcohol had always resulted in failure, but like a dogged alchemist he was constantly seeking ways to manifest his vision of a kind of moonshine slushie.

Fulton rummaged in his laundry basket for a pair of swimming trunks, which he squeezed on over his  damp body.  The  humid darkness held them both close for a moment, smothered in a moist hug that felt  like the clammy , crepe skin  of a dear maiden aunt. 

The two of them flowed down the stairs stepping quietly with respect to some dim memory of others sleeping, and melted into the seats of the big , safe Buick sedan that closed around them like a cashbox.  The night felt dark green outside  of the car and smelled faintly of pond water as they approached the creek .  The car radio  played “Your Cheatin Heart”  by Patsy Cline and  a kind of summer magic settled over them. When they  got close,  his dad turned off the radio and the headlights and they drove by the moon and the parking lights.  The sound of the crickets and frogs throbbed around them.

Leonard Wilkins Treymore  looked over at his son and approved  of the fruit of his loins.  He had loved his mother passionately and loyally for 30 years, and felt thankful their love had created this being.  He was grateful for the companionship that helped him bear the loss of Fancy and yet reminded him constantly of her.  He glanced down at the doctor’s bag he was carrying, nearly missing the turn off.

 Fulton called it out, “Hey, Dad, we’re here”, just as he had in the early days when they came here for family picnics. Leon  was going so slow he didn’t have to brake to turn.  The warmth seemed to pull them along, and by now, both father and son were aching for the cool.  The men  sauntered out of the car and  walked carefully through the mud, considering they were “regulars” . They found a place at the foot of their favorite tree, a natural bench really, formed from the root of the Willow tree that had grown over a boulder washed away  in some  forgotten flood. 

Now the  father and son sat side by side, dangling their feet in the cold creek, letting it’s cool creep up their bodies, cooling their bones.  Leon opened the black bag and brought out an insulated aluminum thermos. Then  he lifted out the blue moonshine bottle with “Daddy’s Secret” stamped on the label.

“What’s the idea here?” Fulton asked .

“Dry ice”, said his Dad, tapping the thermos with his finger.  “You just put a piece in the moonshine, and by the time it evaporates, it’s frozen the alcohol “,  Leon grinned.  “I read about it in “Southern Life”.

“I don’t think that article was journalism, Dad.  Wasn’t that in the “New Fiction” issue?”

“Well, yeah, alright, but my granddad used to talk about it too.  So I think it’ll probably work.”

“Okay”,  Fulton said, sliding into the moonlit creek.  Silver-gold ripples broke around him as the water accepted his body like a kiss. Fulton splashed back into the cool.  “Dear God, it’s heaven!” Fulton moaned.

“Yep, it’s almost as good as sex”, his Dad said as he pulled the dry ice out of the canister  with tongs and  dropped it into the alcohol.   Immediately, it began to smoke, and Fulton shouted “Look out , Dad!” 

 Leon continued to drop long shards of dry ice into the bottle resting on the tree root.  He stood up and jumped back a bit as the bottle began to rock and sway and smoke shot out of it’s mouth nearly twenty feet in the air.  The smoke continued to pour out of the bottle, a quantity of it puddling on the tree root then growing into a shape almost feminine as  it spread over the water.  The moonlight reflected on the water sparkled through it and seemed to give it life.  Gentle, familiar laughter filled the hollow.

“That sounds like Fancy” Leon whispered.

Of course it’s me.” said a voice that seemed to make the stars shiver.  “You think I didn’t know about your moonshine midnights?”  She laughed again.

“Mom?” said Fulton.

Well, I hope so.  Now I’ve got your attention, I hope you’re listening.

She’s no good for you son.  But it’s no use saying so, like so many others have said.  No means not much more than that mockingbird singing.  Just pretty nothing.  Hate to lose it though.  And that’s how it is with girls like Stella.  They don’t add up to much, but you sure do miss them when they go. 

 

Fulton Aloysius, you’re better off without her. Because fate is about to deal you a great opportunity.  And if you miss out on Margaret Roberts you have to be a bigger fool than your Daddy.  And I know you’re smarter than him or I wouldn’t be wasting my time with you, would I?

 

.  “Forget her, darlin,”  the familiar voice said as it seemed to evaporate into the trees.  A little laughter shook the tree braches and the voice was gone and the mist with it.

The quiet was staggering.  Leon spoke first. “ I knew she was something pretty special” he said, kind of shivering in the heat.

“We’re not drunk, are we?” Fulton said.

“Well, I need some medicine now” said his Dad, as he swirled the bottle  and leaned his head back,   and the drink  oozed out like liquid jello.  He opened his eyes in pleasure and awe.  “It worked,”  he grinned, passing the bottle.  

 

Fulton awoke the next morning to a ringing sound pounding painfully into his head.  He grabbed the alarm clock and slammed it on the night table until it stopped ringing.   He dropped two alka seltzer tablets in a water glass and filled it in the sink.  The sound of the water running hurt his head.  He took a sip and fell back into bed.   He was awakened by the sound of a horn honking.  It was Connie.  After five minutes he heard her pounding up the stairs. 

“Goddamnit, Al!  If you make me late one more time” she hit the landing  and swung open the door for emphasis.  Fulton weakly raised a finger to his lips without opening his eyes.

“You lousy slob!” she yelled.  She put both hands under his armpits and hauled him to his feet.  Fulton stumbled toward the shower.  Connie made coffee.

A half hour later, he opened the glass door of the downtown office storefront and made his way to his desk without raising his eyes above the floor.  The office was quiet except for the beeping of a phone that was off the hook.  Fulton took it off the desk and replaced it on the cradle.

The bell behind the door rang and the glass swung open.  A slim figure entered, shadowed by the early morning sun at her back.  Gently curling brown hair in a halo of light framed the angel face of a girl about 23 years old.  Her white blouse, tied with a red scarf at the neck, dwindled to a narrow black pencil skirt that stopped just below her knee.  Two  long shins, one slightly bruised, ended in white arches above the black pumps on her feet.   She smiled, looking all together like an adult version of a girl scout, preparing to sell cookies. 

“I’m Margaret Roberts”  she said curtly.  “The new intern from Tulane.”

Fulton smiled, and it hurt in a good way