sweater melons


        Call me Richard.  I am not a “Dick”.

        A couple years ago – whatever – I ran out of money to stay in school, and, anyway, I wasn’t really interested enough in Marine Biology to commit to graduate school, so I took the money I had left and I followed my fisherman friend, Bob, and his wife, Cinda, up to Morro Bay, California.  We got apartments in the little coastal town of Cambria, a few miles north of Morro Bay, and just a few miles south of Hearst Castle, the famous estate of that newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

        Our cluster of tiny apartments was called The Art Villa.

        Bob and Cinda soon sold their boat and opened a fish market up the street in Cambria (I could always bum a free plate of deep-fried calamari with marinara sauce and a slice of lemon).

        I needed an excuse to smoke weed all the time, so I pretended to be a writer.  I had a bay window in my apartment and I would sit watching the Santa Rosa Creek below flow onto the sandy Pacific beach.  In the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek was a diet of diacritic driftwood from the coastal pine forests.

        Moby the great white cat was the tough old stray who would come through my bay window and then “let” me feed him.  Bob and Cinda told me that when Moby then would come next through their apartment window he would reek of weed.

        Soon enough I had to get a job.  Jobs were rare in that area, but I had faith back then and sure enough I was able to get a job as a janitor at the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center a few miles inland in the college town of San Luis Obispo.

        I told myself that the experience would be good for a writer.

        That is where I met Darin.  He was a young black and a fellow janitor.  But that was only his secret identity.  In fact, he was the greatest black ace “player” that I had ever met.  In looks, he reminded me of a young Nat King Cole with his bright eyes and winning smiles.  He had been in the Army and he had a German wife and a new baby.

        I was soon following Darin’s leads and we both took our work breaks out back behind the dumpsters.  Darin would bring out a tiny pipe and we would draw inspiration.

        “Hold it,” Darin croaked breathlessly at me.  He believed that the longer you could hold the pot smoke in your lungs the less “inspiration” would be wasted and the fewer aromas would escape into smoke signals.


        I was amazed though at how thorough and carefully observant I subsequently would become toward my daily janitorial duties.

        One day a young lady appeared to us at the dumpsters.  I jumped and almost dropped the pipe.  But Darin just turned on his smile and said, “Wennnn-dy.”

        Wendy had on a tightly wrapped housekeeping uniform.  In Darin’s own classification scheme, which he had explained to me very carefully, I categorized Wendy as “Plump with Assets”.

        Wendy asked Darin, “Starting without me?”

        Darin said, “You know I never start without you,” and he took the pipe away from me, saying, “This is Richard.  He’s new,” and he lit the bowl for Wendy.  As Wendy drew on the pipe she raised and lowered her eyebrows in a hello to me.

        In my inspiringly thorough and carefully observant state I studied the point of gleam in Wendy’s eye as she looked up at Darin while he was touching her hand and lighting the pipe.  I saw that it matched the point of gleam in Darin’s eye as he smiled back at her.  Thus I just knew that Wendy and he had been intimate.

        Wendy then closed her eyes and silently held-in the draw of weed.  She exhaled slowly and fluttered a hand wave as she turned to go, saying, “That will do.  Bye, Darrr-in.  Nice meeting you, Richard.”

        As Wendy rounded the corner Darin turned to me and said, “Now, those are some really nice sweater melons, believe me.”

        I said soberly, “Oh, I believe you.”

        Darin said, “She wants me to meet her at Pirate’s Cove.”

        I asked, “What is Pirate’s Cove?”

        Darin slapped my back and said to me, “A nude beach, Rich-hard.  You should come along.  Bring your melon baller,” he laughed.

        I said, “I don’t know, Darin.  I don’t know anyone that I could bring to a nude beach.”

        Darin said, “Forget that, Rich-hard.  You have me as your wingman now.  Hey, you are definitely unrepugnant.  I don’t think that you will not know someone for very long here.”

        I was always too self-conscious.  I was a watcher and not a doer by myself.  Those who can’t do, write.

        Darin headed back to work and said to me, “Better get busy on that date, man.”

        I was never a “player” like Darin but I did have youth and long hair going for me.  And, sure, with a wingman like Darin it could make all the difference.

        I had been assigned to clean the Counselors Offices after our break.  I saluted good-bye to Darin and took the elevator to the third floor.  High and horny I entered the offices.

        There at a desk facing me was a slender older woman with short hair and pointed features.  She looked up at me at first with cold eyes and with an annoyed expression.  Then she sat back and stared at me.  I was buzzed enough to just stare back fearlessly.  I began to wonder how long I had been staring her down when suddenly it was as if she had on a new face.  She was now smiling warmly and her cold eyes had retreated behind narrowed lids.

        She looked me up and down and asked me, “Can I help you?”  She then pushed her breasts forward and she clasped her hands on her desktop as she continued to stare at me and all the while her smile and her breasts seemed to me to get bigger.

        I thought to myself automatically, “Nice sweater melons.”  Then, using Darin’s system I classified her as an “Hourglass with some real Assets” but suddenly I was afraid that I might be acting inappropriately so I said, “I’m here to clean the office, if that’s OK?”

        She nodded and said, “I’m Barbara.”

        I nodded back, “I’m Richard.”

        Barbara boldly teased, “Not a ‘Dick’?”

        I was taken aback but I instantly figured that hospital counselors had to have a sense of humor so I “played ball” and pitched, “I don’t care for ‘Dick’ at all.”

        She then hit the ball back to the pitcher’s head, saying, “Too bad.  I like ‘Dick’.”

        Was I high or was I really making “head way” here?  I decided that hanging around with Darin had given me new confidence.  We continued our bawdy banter as I swept and cleaned around her desk.  She was older than I was by several years, but she had a youthful assurance.  And she did have nice sweater melons from all of the angles that I could see.

        I finally asked her, “Barbara?”

        She looked up from her paperwork and replied, “Yes?”

        I said, “I’m new here.  Have you ever heard of Pirate’s Cove?”

        Barbara replied cautiously, “I’ve heard of it.  Who is telling you about Pirate’s Cove?”

        I said, “Oh, just a friend.  He wants me to meet him there tonight.”

        Barbara teased, “Oh?  I thought you didn’t like ‘Dick’.”

        She had gotten me.  I laughed, “No.  I definitely do not.  He’s bringing a date,” and before she could zing me again I clarified, “A female date.”

        Barbara said, “Well, I don’t know how much fun you’ll have there alone…”

        I went for it like I was skydiving for the first time, asking, “Why don’t you meet me there?”

        Barbara sat back in her chair and stared at me with one arched eyebrow.  I thought quickly, “She can’t get me fired for asking that after all this kidding around.”

        Barbara finally said, “Maybe.  I’ll look for you if I’m coming.”

        Emboldened I joked, “If you find me you’ll be coming.”

        Maybe that was too much.  A joke too far.  Barbara turned back to her paperwork without a word and I felt like my old insecure self.

        Darin said to me, “So what?  Nice move.  I know the woman you mean.  She’s older, man, but she’s fine.”

        We both said in unison, “Nice sweater melons,” and we snickered.

        Darin added, “You never know, man, I’m telling you.  You get your face slapped three times out of four but the fourth time makes up for all of it, I’m telling you!”

        We both then started down the hallway and that’s when we both saw the girl approaching.  She was young and her hair was long.  She was wearing a wool cap.  Her jeans were skin tight.  And so was her knitted sweater.  She held a bouquet of roses in front of herself and when she passed between us she acted as if she was smelling the roses deeply and so she ignored us.

        Darin and I found ourselves staring at each other from opposite sides of her wake as she headed toward the elevator.

        I spoke first; or rather I made the first inarticulate sound.

        Darin stated for the record, “Those were the most luscious, succulent sweater melons that I have seen in a long, long, time,” and he gestured lewdly and said, “lo-ooonnng.”

        I shook my head and I watched the girl enter the elevator and she turned around and I wanted to believe that she glanced at me.  The elevator doors closed.

        I said, “Slender with Assets, right?”

        Darin nodded.

        There was a full moon that night at Pirate’s Cove.  We parked on the cliff above the beach.  Darin and I both got out wearing swimming trunks and A-shirts.  We walked carefully down the rocky dirt path toward the cove, passing a fat joint back and forth.  We could see others below.  The moonlight on their bodies was unbroken.  Some were swimming, some were running, some were assembling wood for a bonfire.

        I had already assembled wood for my own bonfire, if you know what I mean.

        Darin said to me, “Be cool.”

        I said, “Sure.  How am I not?”

        Darin said, pointing down to my third leg, “It’s not cool to raise your antlers when everyone’s all together.  Save it for later when you go to your own corner.”

        I said, insecure again, “Oh.”

        Darin quickly said, “Discipline, man.  It’s good practice.”

        I said wryly, “I could stay home and practice.”

        Darin gave a loud laugh and choked on his inspiration and coughed, “Come on, man!”

        Then we heard Wendy calling, “Darrr-in!”

        Wendy jogged up to us and I just blinked at her voluptuous moonlit crevices like I was crying.

        Darin was suave and he smiled nonchalantly.  Wendy took Darin’s hand, “Over here.  You know the dress code:  Shirt, pants … no service,” and she giggled.

        As I shyly took off my A-shirt I saw Wendy pull Darin’s swimming trunks down and, whoa, she kissed him right then and very, very there and then she stood up and put her hands under Darin’s A-shirt and they kissed each other deeply.

        I decided that I wanted a quick swim in the cold moonlit surf so I trotted alone, with my swimming trunks still leveraged upon my anticipation, carrying my A-shirt in my hand, into the froth and foam up to my knees.

        There was a fishing boat slowly passing not far from shore.  Their lights were on and I could see the crew drinking and hooting at the revelers on the beach.

        I thought wryly that now I was surf-fishing with my pole.  And then I had the subsequent alarming thought that some fish would take the bait.

        Chastened, I turned from the brine and the hiss of the sucking sands.  I pulled on my A-shirt.  I was heading back up the dirt footpath toward my car to get a joint to be my sweet companion.

        Swaying down the footpath was Barbara!  She was wearing a short jumpsuit with a zipper down the middle.

        She smiled and she said to me, “Leaving so soon?  Good.  I need a drink.  Let’s go to Tah-Tah’s.  I’ll drive.”

        Tah-Tah’s Bar and Grill was a club in Morro Bay known for its well-endowed and, as they say, “scantily clad” waitresses.  Since it was on the shoreline neither of us was inappropriately attired; me in my A-shirt and swimming trunks and Barbara in her short jumpsuit with the shiny zipper down the middle.

        We sat down at a table.  Many people seemed to know Barbara.  Men started to come up to our table and to greet her, “Oh, hey, Barbara.  How’s it going?”

        They ignored me.

        I reached to hold Barbara’s hand.  She pulled away while keeping a beaming smile on her face and nodding to her admirers.

        I looked away and acted like I was interested in the crowd.  The prominent waitresses all wore the white tank-tops with TAH-TAH’s emblazoned in glittery letters across their secondary sex characteristics.  They all wore short tight shiny pink pants that looked like panties at a distance.  I thought to myself that I wanted a closer look.

        One of the waitresses was easing through the crowd toward our table.  Holy God, it was the girl that Darin and I had ogled between us at the elevator at the Medical Center.  The flowers girl!  She had on that wool cap even here.  It must have been her “trade mark” to distinguish her among this herd of sweater melons.

        She smiled and said, “Hello, Barbara.”

        Barbara said, “Hello, Mallory.  I’ll have the usual.  Oh.  This is Richard.  What will you have, Richard?”

        I suddenly realized with searing humiliation that I was Barbara’s male bimbo for the night.

        It was a bad feeling.

        I thought about all the times that role had been reversed and I cringed inside thinking of how those girls must have felt.

        Mallory smiled sweetly and nodded at me.  I don’t think she remembered me.  I ordinarily would have ordered a gin and tonic but now to salvage my scorched male ego I said, in my deep voice, “Whiskey, neat.”

        I watched Mallory saunter away through the crowd.

        Barbara said to me, “She’s a sweet girl, don’t you think?”

        I looked at Barbara’s condescending smile and I turned away and muttered, “Yeah, sure.”

        I was never so glad to get out of a fun place.  We walked back to Barbara’s car, both of us now numb with alcohol, and she said, “Let’s drive to the jetty.  The surf is beautiful in the moonlight.”

        We parked in the shadows at the far end of the jetty and we watched the surf dash against the boulders and glitter in the moonlight.  I turned to Barbara and I leaned toward her and we began to hug and kiss with slurping gusto.

        I thought to myself, “Back in the saddle again, cowboy,” and I leaned over her and I began to fondle her.

        After a few minutes I pulled down the zipper in the front of her jumpsuit.  .  She kissed me repeatedly on the ear.  She shrugged as I pulled her jumpsuit down over her shoulders.

        Her breasts were like a grapefruits in my cupped hands.

        I kissed and licked and sucked and pinched and nibbled.  And then I slid my flattened hand down along her belly into her crotch.

        She grabbed my hand and pulled it away and she cast it aside.  Oddly coy, I thought.  I returned to concentrating upon her neck and sweater melons.

        After a few more minutes I again slid my hand down under the jumpsuit that was gathered at her waist.  This time she clamped my wrist and squeezed hard and yanked my hand away, causing me a sharp pain in my wrist.  I lifted my head and looked quizzically into her eyes.  She was smiling.

        I became annoyed.  I shook free of her grip and plunged my hand back down under.

        In a sudden move, Barbara grabbed the hair on my head in two hands and pulled apart hard.  It really hurt and I cried out, “Ow!  Hey!” as I sat back.   She sat up and just stared into my face.  I was certain that she was taunting me.

        I became angry.  I thrust my arm past her and reached down and I released her driver’s seat and I pushed her back and then I reached again between her legs.

        She began to kick with her knees.  And there was that damn smile again!

        I became enraged.  I reached down and grabbed her jumpsuit and I pulled it over her thrashing legs.  I flung it on the floor.

        She slapped me.  Hard!  I growled like a dog.  She slapped me again, smiling with that devilish grin.

        I lunged and I began to force myself between her pumping legs.

        Then she suddenly threw her arms around my neck and pulled me down tightly on top of her.  Her eyes flashed and with a most evil grin she said to me, “Oh.  Daddy.”

        I then proceeded to just fuck, fuck, fuck her.  I fucked her.  I fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fucking, fuck, fucked.  I fucked her.

        It finally ended for both of us in a cauldron of moans.

        I rolled back into my passenger seat gulping air.  I just slumped there sweaty and vibrating and unusually upset.  There was a strobe light going off inside my head.

        I didn’t speak.  I couldn’t form a sentence!

        Barbara slowly raised her seat back up and turned the keys that were still in the ignition and she started the car.  She then methodically turned on the window heater to vaporize the condensed breath that had fogged the windshield and was now drooling down in rivulets.

        Without putting her clothes back on she began to drive back along the jetty.

        I just sat there.  I glanced at her several times.  What the hell now?  What the hell?  She had a cool smile on her face and her eyes were narrowed.  Neither one of us spoke a word.

        She drove onto the coastal highway.  Holy shit.  And thusly we drove all the way back to my car on the cliff above Pirate’s Cove.  I got out, still naked, clutching my clothes, and I shut the door without a word and she just drove away.

        I stood there blinking.  I was shattered.  I couldn’t contemplate myself.  I couldn’t face this strange person.  I dropped my clothes onto the hood of my car and walked naked down that dirt trail toward the beach.  I stumbled and I caught myself and with a clumsy stride I continued on down, down, down.

        I crossed the sand and I entered the boiling surf and I fell to my knees and the water was up to my chest.  I bowed my head under the churn of the pulverized waves and I gulped brine.  The gagging and burn of the brine brought my refracted mind back into a focus.  I stumbled back out of the surf breathing hard through my mouth.

        I stomped back up the dirt trail.  I concentrated upon the sting of the sharp pebbles under my bare feet all the way to my car.

        I pulled on my trunks and shirt and shoes and then I drove through the gathering coastal fog back home, sticky wet, to the Art Villa.  Thank God I was the only car on that stretch of obscured highway at that hour.  I wasn’t watching my speed or confirming my adherence to my lane.

        Back in my apartment I fell into my chair and absently stared at the fog and the moving shadows of the pine trees and I listened to the gossiping surf at the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek.

        For how long I do not know.

        At some point Moby the great white cat oozed through my window, watching me, and I just stared back at him.  I swear he gave me a worried appraisal as he circled the room again and again.  I felt myself sinking into my own maelstrom.  When I moved my hand reflexively to rub my sobering forehead Moby seemed to sail out the window the way he had entered and he was returned unto his night.  My mind was bobbing in his wake like an empty coffin, hungry for the guy I used to believe I was.

        I began to ponder Moby grabbing some female cat by the neck and forcing himself into her as she yowled.  That was natural.  Acceptable.  It was not rape.

        I just couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

        The next day I was quiet and more than hung over.  Darin looked at me and asked, “Well?  How was your date?”

        I gave him a pained smile and answered, “Alright.”

        Then Darin burst out laughing and he patted my shoulders and said, “Barbara is something else, isn’t she?”

        I fumbled, “What, what do you mean?”

        Darin revealed, “Man, I went out with her one time, a few years ago.  She’s a trip, ain’t she?”

        I said weakly, “Nice sweater melons, too.”

        Darin studied my face and shook his head, “Wow.  You poor fuck.”

        I then felt angry and I asked Darin, “Why didn’t you warn me?”

        Darin walked away chuckling and said, “What?  And let you miss all that ‘writer’s experience’?”

        I rode the elevator up to the third floor Counselors Offices, my pounding blood draining down into my feet.  I carefully entered Barbara’s office, hoping that she would be away in a long meeting.  Of course she wasn’t.  She looked up as I came in and she said casually, “Good morning, Dick.”

        I felt myself flush but I couldn’t speak and I looked around and then I saw Mallory.

        It was Mallory sitting in the waiting room.  And she was wearing her Tah-Tah’s outfit!  What the hell? I forgot my pain and walked to the waiting room.

        Mallory was just staring ahead as she sat there, waiting for some appointment I reasoned patently.  As I went into the room to empty the trash cans she stared right through me.  I didn’t say hello.

        Then, as I was carrying out the trash I heard her say behind me, “You’re Richard, aren’t you?”

        I turned back around and quickly said, “Oh, hi.  Yes.  I didn’t want to disturb you.”

        She seemed sad but she smiled slightly and said, “Small world inside this small town.”

        I didn’t know what to say so I just said, “Yeah, really.  Well, nice to see you again,” and I was going to leave but then I suddenly had to ask her, “Why are you here in your…uniform?”

        Mallory’s mouth trembled and she pinched her lips, but then she suddenly wagged her breasts and said, “A final ‘tah-Tahh’!” and she gave a short burst of laughter but I knew something was wrong.

        Mallory returned to her blank stare.  I suddenly thought of the phrase that I had heard used to describe the expressions of war-weary soldiers: “the thousand-yard stare”.

        I suddenly felt invasive so I said, “Well, gotta go.  No rest for the wicked.”

        I walked out of the office without a word but I heard Barbara call out cheerfully after me, “Try to get some rest.”

        I was never so grateful that I was off for the next two days and that I would then start the “graveyard” shift.  My self-esteem was in cold hibernation.  I would be glad to be alone and I was hoping to heal eventually my astonishingly flimsy male ego.

        By the graveyard shift days later I was thinking of other things.  I was mopping the hallway floors.  There appeared only occasionally a night nurse striding past.

        I was mopping my way past the dark Recovery Ward when there appeared beside me a little girl.  I was taken aback.  It actually startled me and I recalled all the horror movies I’d seen where a vision of a dead child’s ghost preceded something ghastly.

        But she was such an adorable little girl with full curly hair and big eyes and she nervously held her pudgy little hand against her face and she swayed and said to me, “Mommy’s crying.”

        I bowed toward her and asked, “Your mommy’s crying?  Where is she?”

        The little girl held out her hand to me and said, “I show you.”

        I looked up and down the hallway.  What was a little girl doing here?  I took her hand and she led me into the Recovery Ward.

        The Recovery Ward was dim.  There were night lights at all the beds and I could make out patients sleeping.  The little girl led me past them toward a bed where I could discern a woman sitting up with her face in her hands.

        When we arrived at the side of the bed the little girl said, “Don’t cry, Mommy.”

        The woman lowered her hands and I saw the smear of tears glistening on her cheeks.  Holy… It was Mallory!

        I whispered quickly, “Mallory?  What… Are you alright?”

        She stared at me and said, “Richard?  I’m sorry.  Gloria is supposed to stay here,” and Mallory pointed to a cot that had been set-up beside her bed.

        I said, “It’s OK.  What… Why.  Are you alright?”

        Mallory sniffed and wiped her eyes and said, “Yes, I’m alright,” and she tried to straighten her loose hospital gown and then she said to the little girl, “Gloria, Mommy’s OK.  You need to stay here.  That is the rule.”

        Gloria said sweetly, “I’m sorry, Mommy.”

        Then Mallory said, “This is my Gloria.  I didn’t have anyone to babysit so they let her stay here with me,” then she put out her hands to Gloria and said, “And I’m glad.”

        Gloria stepped forward and let herself be lifted onto the bed beside her Mommy.  She hugged Mallory.  Mallory hugged her tightly against her chest and sobbed.

        I asked again, “Are you sure you’re OK?  Can I get the nurse?”

        Mallory looked over her daughter’s head and said to me, “No.  No.  I just have to deal with this.”

        Trying only to let her talk to someone I asked, “What happened?”

        She settled Gloria on the pillow beside her and she pulled her hospital gown flat against herself.  I gazed stupidly for a moment and then I saw: she had no breasts.

        Mallory hardened her voice clinically and she said matter-of-factly, “I had breast cancer.  I had to have a radical mastectomy.”

        Then she fell forward and cried.

        Gloria was alarmed and said, “Mommy!”

        I was helpless and shocked and my eyes watered watching Mallory sob.  What could I do?  I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder.  What could I do?  I said, “God.  I am so sorry.  Mallory.  Mallory do you want the nurse?  Do you want a tranquilizer?”

        Mallory sat back up and shook her head.  She hugged Gloria.

        Mallory sniffed and began to talk, “That isn’t going to help.  What am I going to do?  I can’t work at… I can’t go back to work.  They said I could work in the office but I just can’t go back there.”

        I asked, “Where is your husband?”

        Mallory laughed with a snort, “Who knows?  He never was a ‘husband’.  He wasn’t really a boyfriend, apparently.”

        I said, “Oh, jeez, I’m sorry.  I’m just.. I…”

        Mallory hugged Gloria tighter and said, “It’s just you and me, right, Gloria?”

        Gloria looked up and gave a big nod and said, “That’s right, Mommy.  You and me.”

        I guess I really didn’t have any problems.  I was just going to keep talking to her and I asked, “What did you do… before?”

        Mallory said, “I was a Sociology Major in college.  I needed money and I got a job at… the club.  And I was making such good money that I never went back to school.”

        She laughed and looked up at me and asked, “So what do I do now?  I can’t ‘retire’.  I have some savings but I don’t have my… ‘assets’ anymore,” and her eyes filled with tears and she said, “That was all I was.”

        I was stabbed by her despair and I said too loudly, “That is no way fucking true, Mallory!”  I looked around quickly at the disturbed sleepers.  I whispered intensely, “You are a beautiful… person and you have a beautiful daughter and you have… friends who are going to help you.  Don’t you worry about that!”

        What the hell was I talking about?  All I know is that I felt anointed to help Mallory in any way that I could.

        After a few more minutes a nurse came in.  The nurse asked me what I was doing there and Mallory told her, “It’s OK.  He was helping me and Gloria with something.”

        I said, “Goodnight, Mallory.  Don’t you worry about anything.”

        All I could think about was Mallory for the rest of my shift and on into my sleepless day.  The very next night I returned to Mallory’s bedside.  Gloria was still there with her and the little sweetheart said to me, “Hi, Richard.”

        Mallory seemed to be calm, if not in good spirits, at least she didn’t seem like she had been crying.  I talked fast, “Mallory, I was doing a lot of thinking.  You could work here, at the Medical Center, as a counselor.  A counselor for women like you, for sure.  They would listen to you.  You have a Sociology background, right?  I can find out if they can find a place for you, OK?  What do you think?”

        She smiled indulgently at me and she said, “Sure.  I suppose.  Why not?  It’s worth a shot.  Thanks.  What else have I got to lose?”

        Then I took my own shot and I asked her, “Mallory, when you get out of here, how would you and Gloria like to take a ride up the coast.  We could have a picnic.  I could use a break.  Just a friendly outing?”

        Mallory studied me for a moment and then she said with a faint smile, “Sure.  They wrote my cell phone number on the board for some reason.  That sounds nice.  Thanks.  Richard.”

        I did not go home when my shift ended.  I waited in the hallway for Barbara to arrive for work.

        She saw me waiting outside the Counselors Office door and she tipped her head quizzically as she approached and she asked me with narrowed eyes, “Dick?  What a pleasant surprise.  What are you doing here?”

        I said, “Hey, Barbara, Hi.  Can we talk inside?”

        Barbara unlocked the office door and replied, “Su-uure.  Why not?  I have a few minutes.”

        Once inside she turned on the coffee machine, picked up a couple files from the inbox and then she sat down at her desk and she asked me while looking through the files, “So what’s up?”

        I said earnestly, “Barbara, I heard that you were thinking about hiring an assistant.  Well, I think you should consider… Mallory.  She has a Sociology background and she certainly has the … experience to be a good counselor.”

        Barbara sat back and said, “Well, well.  Mallory?  You two have been talking, have you?  Ah, that’s right.  The night shift in the Recovery Ward, I presume?”

        I said, “Yes.  Barbara, she could use your help.  She’s a nice person.  You know her.”

        Barbara put her finger to her lips and asked me, “You do know that she has a daughter, don’t you?”

        I ignored her innuendo and I replied, “Yes.  Cute kid.  All the more reason to help her if we can.”

        Barbara grinned, “We?”

        I was righteous, “Yes, we, Barbara.  Please?  Just think about it?”

        Barbara returned to studying her files and said as a dismissal to me, “I’ll think about it.”

        I should have been sleeping but I was wide awake and happy as I drove to Mallory’s place in San Luis Obispo.  She was renting a room in a quaint old house not far from the railroad yard.  The day seemed particularly bright and sunny.

        Mallory and Gloria both sat with me on the front bench seat of my old Chevy Caprice as we cruised onto the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway One, and on up the coastline.

        I asked Mallory, “Do you smoke?”

        Mallory looked down at Gloria between us and replied, “Not in front of Gloria.”

I said, “That’s OK,” and I already felt high just driving with her and her Gloria.

We drove past the little seaside town of Cayucos.  People in Morro Bay referred to them as “Cay-useless”.  The Cayucos people referred to their rivals as “Moron-Bay”.

We stopped in the tiny artist’s colony of Harmony and I bought a weaving of fairies in a forest for Gloria.

We drove on through the virgin ranch lands of San Simeon which rolled right down to the rocky shoreline on a carpet of emerald grass.

We watched the white rocks of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse drift past in the distance as we glided down the two-lane Pacific Coast Highway.  We rode right alongside the shoreward wooden fence posts of the expansive ranchland.

Mallory seemed at ease.  Gloria was singing a verse of a song on the radio, “I don’t care, I love it, I don’t care”.  Mallory and I laughed.

Farther north the winding highway rose up at times to 1,000 feet above the coastline.  Gloria was astonished and ooed-and-ahh’d.  She became the delighted fulcrum of our journey as you can imagine.

Mallory and I talked and talked.  At one point Gloria said, “You guys are talking, talking, talking,” and we laughed and Mallory hugged Gloria.

I had never been with a woman without having my own agenda.  And I think that Mallory was glad to just have a sympathetic companion.

We finally stopped at a turn-out with a pathway that led down the cliffs to a picnic area.  We spread a blanket on the pine needles and kneeled and we had the lunch that Mallory had prepared for us: salmon empanadas and vegetable empanadas and coleslaw and fruit ambrosia.  It was a perfect day.  At one point Mallory and I were just looking at each other, our eyes glistening in fearless semaphore.  Gloria suddenly said, “You guys say something!” and that made us laugh.

Gloria laid herself down and fell into a blissful nap.  Mallory and I moved next to each other and I kissed her willing lips.  The sea breeze and the sunlight and the fanning shadows became ambrosia.  We embraced and I laid Mallory back down upon the blanket without breaking our gaze.  I caressed Mallory’s sweater gently.

We made love, and I felt for the first time that I was Making Love, but Mallory would not remove her sweater that day.

Mallory got the job in Barbara’s office.  Barbara never harassed either of us.

We have moved into my Art Villa apartment together for now.  I thought about going back to school for a better job but then what would be the point?  I could not leave Mallory and Gloria.

I made it known at work that I was interested in the Janitorial Supervisor position that was opening up.  They needed someone who could handle paperwork and write reports.

I laughed to myself, “My expensive education finally paid off.”

Darin was apprehensive that I then had become his boss but he soon enough realized that I had no interest in curtailing any of his methods.

I became all about Mallory and Gloria.

Mallory and I talk a lot about getting married someday, but I tell you that little princess sweetheart Gloria, she owns me.


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But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS



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