BULL SWAN

cigar man 1

BULL SWAN

        William “Bull” Swan was awakened in his bed by his pit bull Shiva who lapped his face with her big flat tongue.  It was Friday 5:30 AM and Shiva, who had been cuddled in the crook of Bull’s arm, knew it was time for her bed-mate to arise.

        Bull groaned, “OK, OK,” and he threw back the thin comforter and it enveloped Shiva’s head.  Bull sat up on the edge of the bed.  He felt his jaw.  He had shaved yesterday morning.  He pinched the collar of his V-shirt and stretched it up to his nose and sniffed.  He had only worn the V-shirt one day.

        He felt there was no need to shave and shower this morning.  Even if it was a kind of a special day.

        Shiva pushed her head between Bull’s arm and chest.  Bull put Shiva’s big head in a head-lock and nuzzled her big fuzzy forehead.  Shiva trembled with happiness and desperately tried to reach Bull’s face with her tongue.

        Bull stood up in his V-shirt and boxer shorts and black socks.  Shiva jumped off of the bed and charged to the bedroom door and then spun around and began an army-crawl on her belly back to Bull, all so he would have to rub her head again and Bull laughed.

        Shiva led the way trotting into the hallway and down to the kitchen.  Bull could hear that his friend Travis was already up in the living room and watching the big flat-screen TV.  Travis was a Ranger in the 75th Regiment, on leave back here in his home town.  He had slept on Bull’s couch last night.

        Bull, in the kitchen, called to Travis, “Hey.”

        Travis called back, “Hey, dude.  Big day, right?”

        Bull mumbled, “Yeah.”

        Travis called, “What’s wrong?”

        Bull was studying the big tall pot bubbling upon the stove.  Jostling together in that big tall pot were hominy, pork, chili peppers, avocado slices, and other seasonings and garnish.

        Bull called to Travis, “What the fuck is this?”

        Travis called back, “Pozolé.”

        Bull asked, “Where did this come from?”

        Travis replied, “That little Mexican girl next-door,” then he laughed, “If it wasn’t for me being here you wouldn’t have a pot to pozolé in!”

        Bull asked, “Because you fixed her flat tire last night?”

        Travis said, “Hey, dude, she invited me to dinner Saturday.”

        Bull said, “Be careful, man, she is really straight and her family is really traditional.  You might be proposing.”

        Travis gave out a fake scream.

        Shiva sat down on her haunches at Bull’s feet, looking up.  Bull picked-up the big plastic ladle and scooped a bowl of pozolé and placed it in front of Shiva who immediately began to lap it up noisily.  Bull then scooped a bowl for himself and stuck a clear plastic spoon into it.  Bull grabbed the pot of coffee and poured into a big mug (that was actually a soufflé cup with a handle).

        Bull called to Travis, “Thanks for making coffee, man.”

        Travis warned him, “It’s ‘kick-ass’ coffee, dude.”

        Bull said, “If I can’t chew my coffee it isn’t strong enough.”

        Bull picked up his bowl of pozolé and his mug of coffee and shuffled into the living room.  There was Travis slouched back on the big couch flipping channels with the remote control as if he was firing a pistol at an arcade.  He still wore his fatigues.  He had his feet on the big coffee table that was made from a cross-section of a redwood tree and was stained high-gloss.  On the table was a centerpiece that was a cherry tree branch covered in pink blossoms.

        Bull pointed at that anomalous token of femininity on the middle of his table and he asked, “The little Mexican girl?”

        Travis grinned and said with a comical Latin-lover breathiness, “Oh, yes, my Serena.”

        Bull set his mug of coffee down on the coffee table and sat down with his bowl of pozolé and began to spoon the rich savory stew into his mouth, slurping, “Mmmm, gawd, mmm.  Careful, man, or you will propose to that little señorita.”

        Travis said, “No savvy, señor,” and then he asked, “So where are we meeting Phillip?”

        Bull smacked and said, “Fleep?  At his store.”

        Travis was thoughtful and then he asked, “Do you think ‘Fleep’ will want to see me?”

        Bull said, “Tough shit.  For this day he will have to forget everything after high school.  He can hate your guts tomorrow.”

        Travis said, “Great,” and then softly, as he had said so many times, “I did yell ‘flare!’ but Fleep always claims he didn’t hear me.”

        Bull said into his bowl of pozolé, “That’s what he gets for jumping out of a plane with you strapped to his ass.”

        Travis winced, “I plowed the dirt with his face.”

        Bull said, “You two were coming in ‘way too fast.”

        Travis lamented, “But I thought he heard me.  Fleep was supposed to lift his knees and pull the loop to slow us down.  I was too late realizing.”

        That conversation had become almost a script with them ever since the tandem skydiving accident.

        Travis asked, “How is Fleep doing, anyway?”

        Bull recited, “His herniated disc is completely blown out now and its bone against bone.  So he has terrible sciatica on the right side and can barely walk.”

        Travis grimaced, “Thanks a lot.”

        Bull added without mercy, “He uses a cane now.”

        Travis said, “And thanks a lot, again.”

        Bull finished his pozolé and sat back on the couch to drink his mug of black coffee and watched the TV channels fall and rise as Travis fired the remote at them.  Shiva clambered up on the couch and curled up next to Bull.

        Finally Bull arose and stated, “I’m getting dressed.  Time to go,” and Shiva followed him down the hallway back to his bedroom.  Bull pulled on his trousers and put on a Hawaiian shirt and then he laced up his black work boots.

        Outside in the driveway Travis was climbing into the passenger side of Bull’s extended cab 2014 Chevy Silverado truck that bore the logo “Bull Demolition Contracting” on the sides, back, and hood.  Bull had gotten a demolition contractor’s license after he had finished his four years of active duty in the Rangers.  He was still in the Reserves for another year.  Travis had stayed on active duty and had another year.

        Bull held the passenger side extended-cab door open and grunted to lift a stilled Shiva into the back seat, saying, “Wuff!  You are lead, Shiva.”

        Shiva immediately bounced to the far side and wedged her face into the open swing-out quarter window.

        Travis asked, “Why are you bringing your girlfriend?”

        Bull said, “She’s the one who truly loves me.”

        They drove off to Phillip’s store, The Smoke ‘n Guns Clubhouse.

        Shiva then stayed in the truck while Travis and Bull got out and went into the store.  Phillip was waiting for them behind the counter with his wife Charlotte.  Phillip was wearing a dark sports jacket with a pale yellow satin shirt underneath and a pale yellow satin tie.  His right hand was placed upon the glass countertop, with bold simple gold rings on his thumb and on his pinky finger.

        Bull guffawed, “You look like a fucking Mafioso.”

        Phillip replied unfazed, “My mother’s family was in the Jewish Mafia.”

        Phillip had laid out three cigars upon the glass: a Kristoff Ligero Maduro, an AVO Maduro, and an Esteban Carreras Habano, three cigars from recent reviews on his website.

        Travis said, “Hey, Charlotte.  Hey, Phillip.”

        Charlotte smiled, “Hey, Travis.  Hi, Bull.”

        Phillip nodded.

        Phillip handed a select cigar to Bull and then to Travis and then the three of them lit up, smacking and puffing.  Charlotte went to the register.

        Bull and Travis studied the big glass humidors full of cigars.  They ran their eyes over the pistols and rifles and knives on the nearby wall racks.  The three of them would use the shooting range in the big basement of the store whenever Phillip acquired a new weapon.  And Phillip had several “special customers” to whom he made “special sales”, yet he trusted Phillip and Travis to be silent when he would let them try “special” sniper scopes and “special” elite weapons in that shooting range.

        Travis glanced at Phillip’s cane hung on the counter edge and said, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry.”

        Phillip nodded.

After an awkward minute Phillip let Travis off of the hook and asked, “How was Kazakhstan?”

        Travis said, “I was in the Almaty region.  Almaty means ‘rich with apple’.  It’s supposedly the place where apples originated.”

        Phillip nodded and gave an ‘is that so?’ grunt.

        Phillip turned to Bull and asked, “Are you ready for this?”

        Bull shrugged and blew a billow of smoke above his head.

        When Bull, Phillip, and Travis were in high school together, the center of their universe was a dance nightclub called The Emerald Ember.  It was the center of the universe for most of the people they knew in high school.  As their era ended in the harvest of adulthood, The Emerald Ember slowly lost its hue in the eyes of the subsequent crops of young people.  The Emerald Ember recently had been purchased by redevelopers and they put out to bid for its demolition.  Bull found out about the job and he bid low, with his heart, instead of bidding sensibly, with his hard head.

        He had a mission.

        Bull had scheduled to start demolition on Monday but he was taking Friday off to gather one last time with his two friends at The Emerald Ember and drink memories and say a final farewell to those hallowed grounds.

        Bull motioned to go.  Bull, Travis, Phillip, and Charlotte went outside the shop.  Phillip put up a sign in the door of The Smoke ‘n Guns Clubhouse that said “Gun Away, Back Tomorrow” and then he limped out to Bull’s truck.  Travis got into the backseat of Bull’s extended cab truck with Shiva and Phillip sat shot-gun with Charlotte between him and Bull.

        Bull turned up the radio.  The engine roared throatily.

        Phillip smiled wryly at Bull and said, “Still haven’t replaced that Cherry Bomb muffler, eh?”

        The three guys smoked their cigars and Charlotte lit up a cigarette.

        Bull said to Charlotte, “I thought you quit.”

        Charlotte said, “Special occasion.”

        Then they all started to quietly think about how their town had changed since they all had cruised those streets as teenagers.

        Travis asked, “What are they going to build in place of The Emerald Ember?”

        Bull answered, “The City of Knowledge Islamic School, pre-school through Grade 12.”

        Travis snorted and muttered, “Fuck me.”

        Charlotte said, “I think it’s a good sign.”

        Travis asked, “How can that be?” as Phillip shook his head to stop Travis from asking the question and Travis said, “America is about the excellence of the American way.”

        Charlotte preached, “I feel your pain, Travis, but America is about inclusion and diversity, not about excellence.”

        Travis said, “God help us.”

        Phillip said to Travis with a laugh, “I tried to stop you.”

        As they drove onto the traffic circle, in the middle of which was The Emerald Ember, Travis pointed and said, “Fuck me.”

        There was a crowd in the parking lot of the boarded-up dance nightclub.

        Phillip asked, “Protestors?”

        Bull drove his truck into the parking lot and halted in wonder.  He asked, “Isn’t that Steve and Teri?  Mark and Brenda?  Jesus.”

        Travis said, “Well I don’t see Jesus but I see Skip and Diane.  And there’s Ricky and Mike!”

        Ricky and Mike had been founding members of The Delusions, the house-band for The Emerald Ember back in the day.

        Charlotte continued, “And Loora and Gabby and John and Dennis and Lois…”

        Bull said, “What the fuck is this?”

        The crowd surrounded the truck.  Bull, Phillip, Charlotte, and Travis got out.

        Travis, next to Bull, said, “Uh oh, Bull.”

        It was Perri.  With two young girls, apparently her daughters.

        Perri said, “Hey, Bull.  Hi, guys.”

        Bull stiffened and asked Perri, “So what is this?”

        Perri said, “I read about the closure of The Emerald Ember and I saw that you had the demolition contract.”

        Bull looked at the two young girls beside Perri and he asked, “Your body guards?”

        The two girls giggled and moved closer to their mother.

        Perri said, “My daughters, Rachel and Sarah.”

        Bull looked back at Perri and asked, “So where is Dr. Li?”

        Perri said, “My husband is in Kazakhstan with a medical team doing charity work.”

        Travis could be heard saying, “Fuck me.”

        Bull asked Perri, “So what the f-,” and he looked at Perri’s daughters as Perri scowled and then he finished, “What is going on?”

        Perri said, “I explained to my daughters what this place had meant to all of us and they got on social media and put out the word to everybody.  We were going to be here Monday but then Charlotte told me how you were going to be here today to say good-bye to the place.  We want to say good-bye too.”

        Bull looked at Charlotte who shrugged and said, “A lot of people wanted to be here.”

        Bull looked with narrowed eyes at Phillip.

        Phillip said, “You think I could stop this?”

        Bull sighed and marched through the crowd toward the chain-link construction fence surrounding The Emerald Ember and he unlocked his gate.  He muttered, “I need to call my insurance and make sure I’m covered for this.”

        The crowd filed past Bull, many of them carrying picnic coolers.

        Bull muttered, “No alcohol,” and each bearer reaffirmed, “The Emerald Ember didn’t serve alcohol.”

        Several ‘mourners’ brought boxes from Hillary’s Everest Burgers, another old hang-out, that still survived by serving fast-food breakfast and offering burritos.

        Many of the crowd had brought their children.  All stood at the doors of The Emerald Ember waiting for Bull to unlock the door.

        Phillip grinned, “Should I be the bouncer and check for proper attire?”

        Many in the crowd had dressed in an approximation of the old fashionable gear.

        Inside, Bull turned on the bright lights.  The crowd ‘booed’ and Bull said, “Just a fucking minute,” as he adjusted the ambience to the nightclub atmosphere.  People dragged the clustered tables and chairs out to the old positions.  Charlotte led the formation of a buffet table with all the picnic coolers set underneath and the food and drinks arranged.

        Mike and Ricky, former members of the house-band The Delusions, set up a DJ booth for music.  Mike now sold nutraceuticals online and Ricky still performed as a solo artist for Christian fellowship events.  Mike and Ricky had bought the DJ booth together.

        Bull and Travis sat at a table together watching the moment unfold.

        Travis said, “Pretty nice, Bull.”

        Bull said, “Well, this isn’t exactly what I planned.”

        Phillip said behind them, “Yeah.  Most everybody’s here.  Now who do we talk about?”

        Travis looked around and then leaned toward Bull to whisper, “I don’t see your ex.”

        Bull said, “Lucky her.”

        Bull suddenly stiffened.  Perri and her two daughters were approaching.  Phillip said to Travis, “Hey, Travis.  Come help me and Charlotte.”

        Travis grabbed the excuse and stood up and departed with Phillip.

        Perri stood before Bull with her two daughters and watched Travis and Phillip departing and she then she turned to Bull and asked, “How have you been?”

        Bull grinned and said wryly, “Good, if I don’t think about it.”

        Perri said to her two daughters, “Go get some goodies.

        Perri watched them hop and skip away and then she turned to Bull and asked formally, “May I sit here?”

        Bull said, “Sure, I guess.  That’s what this is all for, right?”

        Bull was still drawn stiffly into his defenses.

        Perri said, “You look good, Bull.”

        Bull muttered, “Not good enough, right?”

        Perri’s face contracted and she said softly, “Oh, Bull.”

        Bull said, “Sorry, just a joke at your expense.  I didn’t mean it.”

        Perri and Bull studied each other’s eyes.  Perri finally said, “Life has given me so much.  Bull, I’m glad you married and had the wondrous experience of parenthood.  I truly hope you too feel life has been generous.”

        Bull said dryly, “I never had kids.”

        Perri was embarrassed, “Oh.  Oh.  Oh, I’m sorry.  Didn’t you want kids?”

        Bull looked into her eyes intently and said, “Hello, Perri…”

        Perri looked away and said, “Where is your wife, Bull?”

        Bull said, “We split.”

        Perri said, “Oh, Bull.  Jesus, I’m saying all the wrong things.  I’m sorry.”

        Mike announced into the DJ microphone, “All right, all you geezers throw down your canes and let’s dance,” and then the music from their day began to blare and everybody hooted and cheered.

        Perri said to Bull, “Let’s dance.”

        Bull was taken aback, “What?”

        Perri repeated, “Let’s dance.  You were the best back then.  Can you still dance?”

        Bull said, “Fuck.  I haven’t danced since we outgrew this place.”

        Perri said, “Well, now you’ve grown back,” and Perri stood up and held out her hand.

        Bull took her hand and suddenly he was back at The Emerald Ember, Friday night, gonna’ show ‘em how it’s done.

        There was already a crowd on the old dance floor, shaking away the years.

        Perri still had the moves.  Bull watched her and slowly he warmed his joints and let go.  He closed his eyes.  It was then as if all the old memories had been hiding in his joints and now they were free in a rush of euphoria.

        People were cheering.  Bull opened his eyes and saw that Perri was smiling at him.  In fact, many were looking at him.  He had been the best dancer back then and now he was back.

        The mood on the dance floor turned into fever.  The Emerald Ember became a throbbing time machine.  The children were astonished at these people who had been their parents a few minutes ago.

        Suddenly Shiva was hopping gracefully up and down around Bull.  Everyone laughed.

        Bull shouted to Perri, “She must have climbed out the window!”

        Bull grabbed Shiva’s forepaws and began a hopping variation of his trademark moves.  The crowd squealed with laughter and became wilder.

        Finally the series of songs ended so that the sweaty, laughing crowd could get a drink of soda and share the kindled memories.

        Perri said, “Thanks, Bull.  I’d better find my daughters,” and she started to turn away.

        Bull said, “You haven’t changed, Perri.”

        Perri turned back and smiled and they looked into each other’s eyes, standing on the pivot of time.

        Bull, hot and loose, just blurted out, “Perri, you still prevail in my mind and my feelings.”

        Perri started to speak, “Bull…”

        Bull interrupted, “I tried to forget you, to bury my feelings, but it was poison.  It cost me my marriage.  No, no, no, it’s not your fault.  I’m just saying I don’t want to be like this.  But at the same time I wouldn’t trade these feelings if I could.  How fucked up is that?” and Bull snorted, then he continued, “I just have to live with it and deal with it,” then a realization struck him, and he laughed, “So I smash things, I shoot things,” and then Bull sobered and said quietly, “And I hurt my wife.”

        Perri leaned and kissed Bull on the cheek.

        Bull said, “Just think of me once and awhile, Perri.”

        Perri looked down and said, “I do.”

        Sarah and Rachel skipped up to their mother and began a silly dance mocking her and Bull, and Shiva joined them.  Perri and Bull laughed hard together.

        Perri wiped her laughing eyes and said to Bull, “I’m going to mingle,” and she started away.

        Bull said, “Sure.  I’m going to mangle,” and they laughed again.

        Shiva followed Rachel and Sarah, all three of them hopping behind Perri.

        Bull joined Travis and Phillip shooting pool at a pool table which miraculously had been left behind intact.

        Bull asked Phillip, “How can you shoot pool with your back fucked up?”

        Phillip said, “Drugs.”

        Travis said eagerly, “You’re bringing this pool table back to your house right?”

        Bull said, “Why not?  You can sleep on it.”

        Phillip was holding back but then he asked Bull, “Seen your ex?”

        Bull quickly asked, “Is Deborah here?”

        Travis said, “She’s talking to Mike and Ricky.”

        Bull looked over and saw her.  He was relieved that she looked good and that she was laughing.  Bull slowly approached.

        Mike and Ricky looked past Deborah and Deborah turned to see Bull.

        Bull grinned sheepishly and said, “Hello, Deborah.  You look good.”

        Deborah said, “Thanks.  I wanted to be here too.”

        Bull said, “I’m glad, really.  This has been quite a day after all.”

        Deborah said, “I saw you dancing with your true love.”

        Bull asked, disingenuously, “Shiva?  She’s good, isn’t she?”

        Deborah said, “You know who I mean.  Perri.”

        Bull sighed, “It was good to see her again, yes.”

        Deborah asked, “Is that all?”

        Bull said to her, “Yes.  That’s all.  Come over here a minute,” and Bull walked Deborah to where no one else was nearby.

        Bull said, “I want to say something that I couldn’t have said if it weren’t for today.  Deborah, I’m a moron and a complete jerk.”

        Deborah grinned, “I know.”

        Bull said, “And I’m so sorry I put you through all that.”

        Deborah said, “Poor Bull.”

        Bull looked down and shook his head, “I know I’m an asshole and a rotten husband.  I should never have married anyone.”

        Deborah said, “Jesus, Bull are you going to cry?”

        Bull took a deep breath and looked up and said, “Been there, done that.  Wanna dance?”

        Deborah said, “We’ve danced enough, Bull.”

        Bull felt a knot in his stomach and he looked away.

        Deborah surprised him with a kiss on the cheek and she said, “I don’t hate you, Bull.  I just wish we hadn’t wasted all that time.”

        Deborah walked away into the crowd to mingle.

        Shiva emerged where Deborah had vanished, trotting between all the legs of the crowd and she came up to Bull and then she jumped up on her hind legs and embraced his waist and she barked one time.

        Bull laughed and bent over to hug Shiva and he let her lick his face.

        Travis and Phillip came over.  Phillip asked, “How are you doing?”

        Bull looked up at Phillip and then to Travis and then at the happy crowd and he said, “I can’t wait to tear this place down.”

 

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CHERRY BLAZE

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CHERRY BLAZE

        The end of the world?  Somewhere, always, there is a person whose world is ending.

        Grant Blume was only twelve years old.  The girl of his apocalypse was Cherry Blaise.  She was fourteen years old.  They were neighbors.

        Grant Blume was at that age where he had deduced that all adults were phonies and lied to each other and that he was never going to be like that.

        One Summer Monday Grant was working in Cherry’s backyard for her step-father, Mr. Geftakys, who Grant would continue to assume was Cherry’s father, until a few hours later.  Mr. Robert Geftakys was the Youth Pastor at the church which Grant’s family attended, The House of Praise.

        At Bible Study that Sunday, the day before, Mr. Geftakys had said to Grant, “Grant, God has moved me to ask you for your help.  And I’ll compensate you generously to help me dig the little trenches for my new automatic sprinkler.”

        Grant didn’t ask how much, thinking of the comic books he would buy, and he had said enthusiastically, “Sure.”

        Mr. Geftakys had asked, “Tomorrow?”

        Grant had answered, “OK, Mr. Geftakys.”

        Mr. Geftakys had said, “Early.  It will get hot tomorrow.”

        Grant had acquiesced, “OK, Mr. Geftakys.”

        Mr. Geftakys had said in closure, “Praise God.  Always.”

        Grant had shrugged, “Praise God, Mr. Geftakys.”

        And so that next day Grant was digging the shallow trenches, following the lines of twine that Mr. Geftakys had laid out back and forth across the backyard and had secured looking like a big spider’s web.

        It was truly a hot day and Grant had already removed his shirt.  His body was unusually lean and muscular for a twelve year old boy who liked science and art.  Grant’s older brother played football and while he was away at college and Grant would use his brother’s training weights because he idolized his big brother.

        Cherry walked out onto the patio and said, “Shit.”

        Grant turned around and saw Cherry in her bikini and sunglasses and holding an iPad and Grant said, “Oh, hi, what’s wrong?”

        Cherry Blaise was only fourteen but she already had a healthy female body.  She had the relative proportions of a girl twenty years old but she still had a wide-eyed innocent face, without the sunglasses, despite the tiny silver nose-stud.

        Cherry said, “I was going to sunbathe,” and then she vented her disappointment at Grant, saying, “But now you’re here, of course.”

        Grant felt guilty for some reason and he said, “Sorry.  I’m digging as fast as I can.  You can sit near where I’ve already dug,” and Grant pointed behind himself.

        Cherry made a sour face and said, “No thanks.  You scared-up all the bugs.”

        Grant said again, “Sorry,” and then he was compelled to say something positive to Cherry and he asked her, “Uh, hey, what are you reading?”

        Cherry answered, “They are making me take online summer school to improve my grades.  I have to research the Yanomamo, the indian-dijness tribe of the Amazon rain forest.”

        Grant said without thinking, “Indigenous.”

        Cherry looked at Grant over the top of her sunglasses and asked coldly, “Oh, really?” and then she smiled and slid her sunglasses back up her nose and said, “I’m an idiot.

        Grant withered and pleaded, “No, no you are not.  I just happened to read about them before, that’s all.”

        Cherry looked over her sunglasses again and asked coldly, “Just happened?  Did you fall on a book?” and then she smiled and slid her sunglasses back up her nose and said, “Maybe you could read my essay for me.”

        Grant felt a wave of gratitude and he thought to himself involuntarily ‘praise God’ and that amused him while he said to Cherry, “Sure.  No problem.”

        Cherry nodded once in satisfaction and said, “Now we both dig,” and she turned and went back indoors.

        Grant went back to digging, pushing his narrow shovel into the trench with new-found satisfaction.  He paced himself by remembering and silently rehearsing for Cherry all that he would say about the Yanomamo.  When he got too hot and sweaty he would spray his face and torso with the garden hose.

        Just before noon Grant was finished.

        Mr. Geftakys said, “Well, Grant, terrific, you have earned your reward.  Come and sit down with us for lunch.”

        Mrs. Geftakys and Cherry had set the patio table.

        Grant hosed himself off a final time and Cherry brought him a towel and she said, “Rub one off,” but Grant did not get the joke.

        Grant tried to join the cryptic joke and he said lamely, “Thanks for the rubber,” and Cherry surprised him with a big laugh and Grant did not know why but he silently praised God.

        Mr. Geftakys and Cherry and Grant sat around the metal patio table while Mrs. Geftakys brought out three paper plates with skirt steaks on them and set one in front of each of them.

        Mr. Geftakys leaned toward Grant and asked, “Do you know how expensive these steaks are?”

        Grant did not know and he would have preferred a hamburger but he replied, “No, sir, Mr. Geftakys.”

        Mr. Geftakys sat back and nodded and said significantly, “Wehhhllll…  But you have truly earned it, Grant, and I thank you.”

        Mrs. Geftakys said, “I’ll get the potato chips,” and went back into the house.

        Grant felt a nervous buzz in his gut.  He looked up at Cherry and she was staring at him and she raised an eyebrow and he thought she shook her head slightly.  It was a look of pity.

        Grant suddenly knew that his “compensation” was to be this lunch.  He felt like he was in a vise.  He was too intimidated by the adult, the Youth Pastor, Mr. Geftakys, and too fearful of what his parents would say if he told Mr. Geftakys to go fuck himself, out loud.

        Grant ate the lunch while looking down at his plate the whole time, answering any of Mr. Geftakys’s insincere inquiries with a grunt as if his mouth was full of that phony “generous compensation”.  The cheap steak and greasy potato chips made his inchoate angry nausea even worse.

        He said thank you and goodbye to Mrs. Geftakys and to Cherry.

        Mr. Geftakys said, “Thanks again for the good job.  Praise God always.”

        Grant grimaced and fumed homeward next door, thinking, “What a lying asshole.”

        Grant went to his room.  He looked at the surfing posters on his wall.  One showed a surfer riding an enormous wave on Oahu’s North Shore.  On the poster Grant had scrawled the quote from his brother “No Guts No Glory”.

        Grant immersed himself in the diorama he was constructing.  In a box he was depicting a Patrol Torpedo Boat, a PT-Boat, from World War Two, in the Philippines fighting the Japanese.  In the diorama his plastic model assembly of the PT-Boat that he had painted with meticulous realism was set upon a blue velvet piece of cloth that he had rumpled and glued representing the ocean.  He was gluing tufts of cotton on the blue cloth for the wake of the speeding PT-Boat and for the splashes of enemy bullets hitting the water.  He glued tufts of cotton on the PT-Boat machine guns to depict them shooting back at his plastic model assembly of a Japanese Zero fighter plane suspended in a corner of the diorama box.

        Grant had vanished into his work making occasional gunfire sounds, “Phew, phew, kprrr,” and the afternoon vanished with him.

        He was shot out of his reveries by a rat-a-tatting on his window.  It was evening already.  Tapping on his window was Cherry wearing short pants and a blouse and holding her iPad.  She motioned for Grant to open the window.

        Grant opened the window and was saying, “What…,” and Cherry climbed into his room.

        Cherry said, “I thought you could help me study.”

        Grant said, “I don’t really feel like…” but he was observing that against her blouse her nipples pressed.

        Cherry asked, “Hey, what were you working on.  It looks cool.”

        Grant’s annoyance was replaced quickly by pride, “Oh, it’s a diorama.”

        Cherry giggled, “A diarrhea?”

        Grant scowled.

        Cherry quickly said, “Come on, I’m joking, it is very cool.  Like something in a museum.”

        Grant was mollified but he said, “Cherry, I don’t really feel like…”

        Cherry was ready and she said, “Rob is an asshole.”

        Grant might have agreed but he was shocked and he asked, “How can you talk about your father like that?”

        Cherry made a sour face and replied, “He’s not my father.  He’s my step-father.  My name is still Cherry Blaise, not Cherry, ugh, Geftakys.”

        Grant asked, “You don’t like him?”

        Cherry replied, “Like, noooo.  My mom married him.”

        Grant asked, “Why?”

        Cherry replied, “Because my mom can’t hold a job and because Rob likes blow-jobs.”

        Grant did not know what a blow-job was.  He quickly deduced that a blow-job must be something that you had done to your car, like a paint-job.

        Cherry looked at Grant and asked, “You know what a blow-job is, right?”

        Grant said, “Oh, sure,” and then he wondered why he needed to lie to Cherry, “But my dad has it done at Leo’s Garage.”

        Cherry laughed loudly and then quickly she caught her laugh in her hands and she said to a mortified Grant, “It is something a woman does to a man.  I’ve seen them.  My mom is on her knees between his hairy legs and Rob is sitting on the bed and he makes sounds like she is hurting him and then he grabs her hair and he yells at her ‘I’m coming, I’m coming’.

        Grant was distressed trying to compute those images.

        Cherry said, “And then afterward that asshole tells my mom that it is good for her and that it makes her hair shiny.”

        Grant said, “I don’t think you should be telling me this.”

        Cherry continued, “My boyfriend says he likes blow-jobs.”

        Grant felt a pang and he asked Cherry, boldly, “Do you two do blow-jobs?”

        Cherry was silent and then she admitted, “Well, no.  But he wants to.”

        Grant asked, piously, “Isn’t that sex?”

        Cherry laughed and Grant felt the sting of her condescension, “Oh, Grant, no, that is not sex.  I’m not ready for that.”

        Grant said, as a way to escape the conversation, “We should look at your report.”

        Grant sat on the bed and Cherry handed him her iPad with the draft of her report in it.  Grant read it quickly.  It was a crazy-quilt of copy-and-pasted passages from internet sites, with no attempt to blend them into a progressive essay.

        Grant said to Cherry, “It’s… all here, but let me make a few changes, ok?”

        Cherry, who was looking around the room, said, “That’s why I’m here.”

        About half an hour later, Grant showed his rewrite of the essay to Cherry.  Cherry held the iPad and read.  Grant watched her lips moving.  Her lips had pink lipstick.  Grant looked at her eyes following the train of sentences.  She had eyeliner and really green eyes.

        Cherry finally looked up at Grant and said, “Wow.  This is an ‘A’ for sure.”

        A thought occurred to Grant and he asked, “Do you get ‘A’s’?”

        Cherry gave a wry grin and answered, “No.  Mostly ‘C’s’.”

        Grant took the iPad from her and said, “Maybe I’d better make it a ‘B-minus’ report.”

        Cherry laughed and said, “Oh, sure.  Thanks.”

        Grant said, apologetically, “Well, you know…”

        Grant thought about the way Cherry spoke and he gave the report more of her voice.  When he was done editing he showed it to Cherry.

        Cherry said, “Wow.  This sounds like me.  If I was smart.”

        Grant found himself having to lie again and he said, “Cherry, I think you’re smart.  Writing is just hard, that’s all.”

        Cherry studied him and thought for a moment and then she said, “Grant, I think you’re kind of cute, for a smart guy,” and she giggled.

        Grant didn’t know what to think.

        As if sensing Grant’s off-balance emotions Cherry suddenly leaned close to Grant’s face and whispered, “You want to study together some more?  I’ll take off my shirt if you take off yours.”

        Grant was stunned, “What?!” but he found himself smiling.

        Cherry stood up and unbuttoned her blouse and dropped it.

        Grant was paralyzed.

        Then Cherry pulled down her short pants and stood there facing Grant with her hands on her hips.

        Grant blink, blink, blink-blink, blinked.

        There was nothing else that Grant could do.  He shed his clothes in a trance.

        Cherry took a step towards him and Grant took a step back against the bed.  Cherry pushed him and he sat down.  Grant saw her kneel before him and then she took him into her mouth.  Cherry began to make ‘yummy’ sounds.

        Grant thought his face would split from grinning.  Oh, it tickled so wonderfully.  This was so naughty, so nasty!  Grant swelled like a wave on the North Shore of Oahu.  His head went back and he glanced over Cherry’s head to the surfing poster of the surfer shooting down that long green tube.  ‘No Guts No Glory’.  Grant felt elated.  He finally was breaking all the rules.  He couldn’t wait to tell his friends Phil and Travis.  Then he realized that they would want some too.  Grant didn’t like that so he shook it out of his mind.

        Grant, feeling almost dizzy, looked down at the top of Cherry’s head.  Sounds were going to come out of his throat and he tried to shape them, saying, “You have pretty hair, hair, uh, pretty…”

        Grant felt Cherry’s fingertips caress his balls and he jerked involuntarily, “Oh!”

        Cherry stood up and said matter-of-factly, “I get it now.”

        Cherry gathered her blouse and shorts and pulled them on and Grant just sat there naked watching her with his tail wagging.

        Cherry grabbed her iPad and climbed out the window.  She turned and as she was lowering the window she said to Grant, “Maybe we can study together again sometime.”

        Grant said, “I would like that.”

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Author’s Apology:

Only part of this story is based upon actual experience.

(Sigh)

I never did have a chance to dig a trench for a lawn sprinkler.

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THE ANGELIC POSITION AND THE MANNER OF SERPENTS

  angelic position

        In Third Heaven where the River of Milk meets the Land of Honey grows the Tree of Knowledge.

 

Eve gently hoes the soil around the roots of the Tree of Knowledge.  Adam waters the Tree of Knowledge with wine.

 

Hidden behind the Unburnt Bush is Azrael, the Archangel of Death.  He spies upon Eve and Adam.

 

Azrael is startled suddenly as the Serpent appears beside him.

 

Azrael warns the Serpent, “I’ve told you for aeons not to do that!”

 

The Serpent asks Azrael, “Business slow?  Why are you watching those two miscreants?”

 

Azrael looks back at Eve and Adam and asks the Serpent, “Why does Big Joe need day-laborers like them to tend the Tree of Knowledge?”

 

The Serpent asks Azrael, “Where is Big Joe anyway?”

 

Azrael replies, “It’s the Seventh Day. He has a time-share in First Heaven with Lucifer.  You can imagine the gossip about that!”

 

The Serpent says, “So now I sssssseee!  Big Joe can get Eve and Adam to toil on the Seventh Day while He and Lucifer play dice with the Universe!”

 

Azrael says slyly, “I’ll wager they play more than dice,” and Azrael wags his level hand side-to-side.

 

The Serpent hisses, “No, do you really think so…?”

 

Azrael shrugs and watches Eve and Adam and then Azrael asks the Serpent, “Nachash, did you know that Big Joe has called those two field-hands His ‘Crown of Creation’?”

 

The Serpent hisses in disbelief.

 

Azrael says, “That’s what I heard.”

 

The Serpent says, “This could get Apocalyptic.  We need to do something about Eve and Adam quick.”

 

Azrael says, “Well, Nachash, I have been giving it thought and I have a Revelation.”

 

The Serpent nods and wiggles, “Well, go on!”

 

Azrael says, “My plan won’t work without you, Nachash.”

 

The Serpent says, “I’m down!”

 

Azrael whispers to the Serpent, “Now listen carefully…,” and Azrael weaves his plot into the ear holes of the Serpent.

 

A few minutes later the Serpent appears at Eve’s feet as she gently hoes the soil around the Tree of Knowledge.

 

The Serpent says, “Hello, my name is Nachash.  You must be new here.”

 

Eve smiles, “Oh, hello.  I’m Eve.  Yes, Adam and I just got here yesterday.”

 

The Serpent says, “I just wanted to welcome you two here in Third Heaven.”

 

Eve smiles, “How thoughtful.  Thank you.”

 

The Serpent casually looks around and asks, “Where is Adam, by the way?  I’d love to say hello.”

 

Eve looks around and shrugs.  The Serpent sways in rhythm to Eve’s breasts.

 

Eve says, “He was watering the Tree of Knowledge a minute ago.  He’s probably off naming the animals again.”

 

The Serpent asks Eve, “Did I detect a little disappointment in your voice?”

 

Eve sighs and replies, “Adam has been spending a lot of time lately with his animals.  Naming them was just a hobby at first…”

 

The Serpent finishes for Eve, saying, “…but now it is like he is ignoring you?”

 

Eve’s lip quivers and she says, “Yes.  It’s almost like he is bored with me already.”

 

The Serpent says, “Well, one Day is a long time.  I’ve seen it before.”

 

Eve asks, “What should I do?”

 

The Serpent asks,  “If I may,” and he slithers up Eve’s leg, across her thighs, up her belly, over her breasts, his tongue darting constantly, and finally whisssssspers into her ear.

 

Meanwhile, Azrael is conversing with Adam, saying, “Oh, I understand, believe me, being with the same woman for a whole Day is not easy.  I’ll bet she isn’t thrilled with you spending all your spare time naming the animals.”

 

Adam stops and turns his head to Azrael and says, “Exactly!  How did you know?”

 

Azrael replies, “Oh, I’ve had to end a few relationships in my aeons.”

 

Adam adds, “It’s my hobby!  It relaxes me.”

 

Azrael says, “Oh, I know all about relaxing, believe me, and I am behind you.  But…”

 

Adam asks, “But what?”

 

Azrael says, “Wehhhhhl, Adam, it’s like this: you can take all the time with your animals that you want to take as long as…”

 

Adam asks impatiently,  “Yes?  As long as what?”

 

And Azrael begins to pour his plan into the ears of Adam.

 

Azrael and the Serpent meet again behind the Unburnt Bush and spy as Eve gently hoes the soil around the roots of the Tree of Knowledge and Adam waters the Tree of Knowledge with wine.

 

The Serpent smiles when Eve begins to exaggerate her swiveling hips as she bends over and hoes.

 

Azrael smiles as Adam looks at Eve’s swiveling apples.

 

Adam takes a swig of the wine with which he was watering the Tree of Knowledge.  Adam wipes his lips with the back of his hand.  He begins to leer at Eve’s forbidden fruit.

 

Adam embraces Eve from behind.  He whispers into her ear, “I shall name it ‘pussy’,” as he enters her sacred temple.  The temple dogs howl.

 

Suddenly the Veil is lifted in a cataclysm of light.

 

Big Joe bellows, “What!?  The Fuck!?”

 

 

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The rest of this tale you already have been told  missionary style.

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