Bobby B – My Little Honey B

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – May 2006

Bobby pushed the last of the papers back across Aunt Liz’s shiny desk, ran his finger around inside the collar of his starched shirt. Carrie’s pink pen he’d used all afternoon had left a red canyon in his finger. He looked up at Carrie Louise, she loosened his tie.

“S’up Bobby? Why’re you lookin’ at me that way?”

“I hate to keep askin’ you for help, but can I change my name? Not all of it, just the last three? Without a lot of questions and BS?”

“I can have a look. Why?”

“‘Cause if I write Bobby Beauregard Barthelemy Buisson one more time my fuckin’ hand’s gonna fall off. And Ms.V, is there somewhere in all this paper that will get CL paid for helping me? Or she can send me a bill or something?”

Carrie punched his arm. “Goober. I’m already on your payroll. You work me harder than my retainer and you’ll get a bill, and I’ll pay myself. And in all that paper somewhere you have bequeathed to me an education in law at the college of my choice. Providing can I get in and all, and have proven myself to be a good steward of your financial interests between now and then.”

“Be –queathed? That sounds like –”

“Carrie Louise?” Liz Vernier didn’t look up from whatever she was signing. “Let go of his tie before you strangle him.”

“He was gonna say –”

“I know what he was he going to say, sweetie. Let him go. You train men the same way you train dogs. Once they stop peeing on the floor and you have their undivided attention you start on manners. He’s housebroken and you have his attention. He’s got this one. Let him go.”

Carrie Louise released Bobby’s tie, smoothed it. “That was lesson number one, buddy.”

“But I thought you thought –”

“I did think. ‘Cept funny is funny some places and not funny in others. Haha pizza and beer and sex during the Saints game commercials, not so haha in here. This is like a church, only better. So no sex noise jokes. Got it?”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear most of that.” Aunt Liz dropped the last of Bobby’s paperwork in a cardboard file box. “We’re finished, you two can go. Keep your eye on the mail in case they forgot something.” She watched them take a sloppy, arms around each other shirt tails out teenage stroll toward the door. He pinched her butt, she smacked his and glared. “Carrie Louise, are you on the pill?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

***

Houma, Lousiana, May 2006

“We’re home for only two days and you got ‘er done? That’s it? Dayum. You for certain sure there’s no more forms I need to sign like this?”

“You’re being a waste of skin, Bobby. All we did was change your name, not start a country. The court will send it to Social Security and the Parish and the State and you’ll get your new driver’s license in the mail. Tomorrow we’ll go to the bank and give them the card. You’re done with everything name-wise after Bobby.”

He held up the bank signature card. Bobby B. “What do you think, legal beagle? I do okay?”

“The old-time scroll-y thing underneath needs work. I just…I’m not sure. I liked Buisson.”

“It’s called a flourish. Come on, Roche. What’s the prob?”

“Ro-shay, Ro-shay, Ro-shay. Goddammit, you can’t call me Ro-shay like that whenever we get married. And now it’s just B? CL…B? Something you pour in a septic tank or a coffee pot to clean ’em out? Carrie Louise…B? I can’t ‘B’-lieve you’d do this to me, Bobby. Even if I hyphenate it with Roche it sounds like I’m the fucking mascot for some kind of honey.”

“Then I’ll call you ‘honey’.”

“Don’t be a shit, Bobby. I’m serious.”

“My little Honey B. That oughta be okay, ‘cause you’ve been named after a foil wrapped chocolate thing for sixteen-and-a-half years anyway.”

He felt it in his teeth when she slammed the screen door. He clicked the TV back on.

“Hey, Honey B! You’re gonna miss Murder She Wrote and all those great Eighties perms you like.”

Bobby ignored what she said about selfish assholes and what they could do to themselves and to each other in their curly perms and how the fucking candy ended in R and what sort of douchebag he was all the way down the steps and across the front yard. He picked up the signature card, touched it to his puckered lips. Some ideas nobody agreed with came with some honkin’ hidden benefits. Like quiet.

Advertisements

Bobby B – Only Half Stupid

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – July 2005

Elizabeth Vernier waved off one assistant, handed another a china coffee cup and saucer and held up two fingers before she got back to the man sitting across from her.

“We’ll take fifteen grand as good will to recoup the funeral and sixty days living expenses. Six grand a month maintenance, post taxes and fees, until we put an offer together we can both live with. Say ‘yes’ or he’s a traumatized minor, and you’re a big, bad oil company.” She leaned back into the uncomfortable Victorian love seat, drummed her fingers on her knee. “I can have this in front of a sympathetic judge tomorrow morning.”

“Six grand?”

“It’s low, but acceptable.”

“What I should be asking is why.”

“So you’ll take it and look like a hero with your homies at Magnolia and buy your child bride something pretty with your bonus.”

That was low. I can go twelve without touching my phone.”

“I don’t want twelve coming back on me. When I bend you over for the settlement next spring I want you to look like the cheap, uncaring bastards you are. Sign it at six, Brad. Or go to court in the morning where we both know twenty will be a gift and hero goes out the window along with your bonus and happy trophy wife.”

“You’re a gold-plated, sapphire crusted, oil dipped bitch, Liz Vernier.”

“Thank you, Brad. That’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me this morning.” He signed, pushed the document her way, she flipped it up with a polished nail. “Leave the doors open on your way out.”

***

“Two coffees, straight and strong.” The assistant set the coffee on an antique table between the curved Victorian love seats, pulled the office doors closed behind her.

“Any questions, Carrie Louise?”

“Why did you go low?”

“Keep them over a barrel, anywhere they look. He can’t argue with us or we go to court. He’s an oil company, your Bobby is a damaged waif kept alive by the charity of neighbors. Court is the last place they want to be right now. We know Bobby’s liabilities and he can live on six grand, easy, and you can give your mother more than enough to feed him.”

“But you said settlement in the spring and that’s all court, ain’t it?”

“Isn’t it. And yes, it’s all court. I’ll ask twenty-five, we’ll puff up and sit on it down to the wire. I know they’ll waste both of our time fighting anything over twenty. When they finally lose we’re a year further down the road, they’ll go buy us a bunch of crap financial instruments that won’t mature until doomsday…” She waved her hand dismissively, tested her coffee, set it back on the table.

“On the courthouse steps I’ll deal us down to seventeen to keep them out of a drawn out court battle with pictures of Bobby dressed like Huckleberry Finn everywhere they look. But only if they’ll write us a check. They’ll bite, I’ll take two off the top and buy that house I’ve been looking at in the wine country. You and I will go shopping for institutions to act as wallets for Bobby’s money that you will learn to manage. We’ll cross those bridges when the time comes. In the meantime, go to the library and read what you can stomach on long-term and short-term interest only payouts from various financial instruments, and the tax burdens on those payouts. Put some scenarios together, see what Bobby’s allowance would be living on the interest. Call me with any questions.”

“Okay.” She closed her new leather folio, dropped it and the $200 pink Italian fountain pen, both gifts from Aunt Liz, into last year’s school backpack. “Shooo-eee, Aunt Liz. Was Bobby’s daddy really worth seventeen million dollars?”

“No, it’s worth seventeen million for Magnolia not to look like shit in the press and have OSHA up their asses for a couple of years levying millions of dollars of fines every time one of their platform workers sneezes.” She tested the coffee again, drank half the cup. “Bobby’s daddy, from what I gleaned, wasn’t worth much of a shit for anything but roughneckin’ and keeping Budweiser in business.”

“He wasn’t mean, though. He just kinda left all that up to Bobby’s momma.”

“And she kinda said ‘fuck this’ and handed it all back to him. And didn’t get a damn thing for eighteen years of indentured servitude but a trash bag full of cheap clothes, a son who won’t talk to her and a pansy greeting card artist.”

“That’s why I’m going to law school? So when me and Bobby get married and he fucks up I get half?”

“So you get it all.”

“All seventeen million?”

“Fifteen, sweetie. I’ve got a house to buy, remember?”

***

Bobby’s Living Room Houma, Louisiana – July 2005

“But you won’t will you? Fuck up and make us get divorced?” Carrie Louise switched off the Charlie’s Angels re-run and shook Bobby’s knee again, harder.

“Hey! Come on –”

“Bobby, you need to be listening.”

“It’s okay. Only the half stupid one would have made it twenty minutes in a real swamp. Fifteen million dollars, that’s what you said? No shit, CL, that’s honkin’. When?”

“April. Maybe May. Nobody stalls Aunt Lizzie much. And you still weren’t listening to me.”

“Yes I was. You wanna know will I maybe have a girlfriend on the side ‘cause of you not sexing me up like a millionaire deserves. And the answer is no.”

“Good. Because –”

“I’ll sure as hell have more than one, CL. That kinda money? I can afford a butt load of girlfriends, spread out all over.”

“Bobby, you listen and listen good. I won’t –”

He reached around, pulled her into him on the couch, kissed her.

“Well gawl-damn, Bobby Buisson. Why didn’t you just tell me to shut the hell up?”

“’Cause I’m only half stupid?”

She chewed “Right answer” out on his lower lip and smashed him into the back of the couch.

***

Houma, Louisiana – September 5th, 2005

Bobby, Carrie Louise and Momma Roche, all in new rubber waders from the WalMart in Meridian, Mississippi where they’d waited out the hurricane, stood in the street in front of their houses. Momma tried to cry, was so shocky she couldn’t. Carrie Louise was about to squeeze Momma and Bobby’s hands off. Everywhere, houses were covered in a chocolate pudding mud, like the sky had taken a giant shit and covered their town with it. Windows broken, chunks of roof gone. The bayou behind them was still sloshing out of it’s banks, choked with debris and dead livestock. There was an upside down cow where Bobby’s detached garage and his daddy’s workshop had been. His car, like Carrie Louise’s daddy who’d decided to ride out the hurricane in place, were nowhere to be seen.

“Eldridge Junior said his front loader came through okay. He’ll be by in a day or two to carry off the cow.” Bobby had a hard time believing what he’d just said. “I heard they’re truckin’ plywood all the way from Montana. We oughta have it all fixed up by Mardi Gras. Christmas, maybe.” Bobby wasn’t sure he believed either of those, what with having to live in one of Aunt Liz’s condos with Carrie Louise and Momma Roche and go to school somewhere outside of Phoenix. He shook CL’s death squeeze. “We ever do get married, and have us a daughter? Katrina is out of the name pool. Just sayin’.”

Momma Roche broke, hugged them both like they would blow away, and cried so hard they were afraid she might choke on it and die.

Almost Halloween 2005, a golf resort condo outside Phoenix, AZ 

Bobby pulled his phone out of his jeans. Unknown and an area code he didn’t recognize. All the calls from insurance companies and contractors over Katrina, he answered it anyway, listened, stepped out on the balcony. He talked for a minute, left his phone on a chair, slid the door closed when he came back in.

“Momma R? Mr. Roche turned up. Passed out drunk in my car at a rest stop outside Memphis. The cop said it looked like he’d been living in it for at least six weeks. Puke and vodka bottles and trash all over, gone to taking a leak and laying cable in the back. He’s in the hospital, crazier than a hoot owl, might not make it. I told them to burn the car and I’d get online when they told me it was scrap and kill the title. He said they’d had him about a week and apologized, but what with Katrina fucking everything up…Sorry. What the cop wanted to know from you was did you want to post his bail and claim him, in case he makes it?”

“Is the policeman still on the phone out there?”

“Yes ma’am. He said he’d give you time to –”

“You go back out there and tell him no. I don’t mean any kind of maybe no, or polite no, Bobby. You tell him Virginia Roche is on record saying Fuck. No. That miserable son of a bitch can rot in hell and don’t anybody need to apologize to me. His sorry drunk ass is Jesus’s problem now, not mine.” She waited, caught Bobby’s hand before he left. “When I’m gone and folks talk about all this, you tell them Katrina might have fucked up a lot of things, but she fixed a few things can only be fixed by a hurricane.”

Bobby B – In the Beginning

Several times in my vocational career I traveled the two-lane, one-lane and no lanes of southern Louisiana. I’ve helped make drilling mud movies, serviced music stores and eaten things I still don’t know what were. The stereotypes are far more sanitized than the reality, and to remain sane on those long, lonely swampy drives I talked to a micro cassette recorder. About Bobby B and CL Roche. Here they are.

Houma, Louisiana – Late May, 2005

“That pipe joinin’ chain let go and popped your daddy’s head clean off, Bobby. Rolled around on the platform some, kinda crazy like that bowling ball y’all took a blowtorch to a while back…” Gardner Dupont kept taking his cap off, putting it back on. He’d worked next to Bobby’s father on the offshore rigs for years and the two men were closer than most brothers. Aside from Mr. Dupont being black, they might have been. “Don’t know no other way to tell it. Sorry.”

Bobby buried his face in Mr. Dupont’s starched overalls, and stayed there. Dupont put an arm around him, set a big, rough hand on Bobby’s head. “Things gonna be okay, son. The oil company, some insurance. I’ll help with cleanin’ up your Daddy’s business, gettin’ him in the ground and such. It’ll work out. Long about now, though, they tell me since you’re only sixteen, you’re gonna need a legal guardian. You want me to call your Momma?”

“Hell no, Uncle G. I ain’t movin’ to Kansa City and I ain’t living with her and that couillon greeting card artist she ran off with. That shit won’t never happen. Never.”

Carrie Louise Roche, the petite fifteen-year old girl in cutoffs and a faded tank top who’d been standing in the living room with Bobby when Dupont and the Sheriff knocked, opened her folded arms, put a hand on Bobby’s back. “Mom’ll do it, Bobby. She’s right next door, and my Aunt Lizzie an ‘em in Baton Rouge will run it through the system however we need. Mr. Dupont’s right. It’ll work out.”

“C’mon, Roche, your Daddy’s not so fond of me.” Bobby’s muffled voice sneaked out from between his head and Dupont’s chest. “Or my daddy or my used-to-be mom, us not ever bein’ Christian enough for him.”

“Daddy’s an ex-alkie tent revival coon ass who thinks Jesus pulled him out of the bottle when Catholics had foresaken him, and nobody is Christian enough. Particulalrly Catholics ’cause we’re all still idol worshipping drunks and fornicators as far as he’s concerned. Which, no offense, your ex-momma kinda was some of that, but forget him. My Momma says you and me, we’re the pair to beat in Houma, and she’ll do whatever for us. Daddy does exactly what she tells him ‘cause even snake handler Hell looks like a springtime garden in the French Quarter compared to my house if he don’t. And Momma’s been feedin’ you half the time anyways since your Momma took off and your Daddy was out on the rigs.” Carrie stopped, assessed the quality of her pitch, decided she was okay and went for her summation. “So we’ll ink it, and unless you fuck up royal and stop goin’ to school or do some other dumb shit, things’ll keep on bein’ how they’ve been.”

Dupont looked at the girl, nodded with approval, gave Bobby a squeeze. “Girl’s got herself a point, Bobby. Down the road there’s gonna be some money for you in all this. And Carrie Louise, since she’s gonna grow up and be a lawyer and all? I gar-own-tee she’ll sue her Momma, she don’t do right by you.”

*** 

Houma, Louisiana – Early July, 2005

“This is what we’ve decided is a prompt and fair offer for your Father’s untimely death while in our employ, Mr. Buisson.” The oil company lawyer from Baton Rouge, who Bobby figured smelled better and had softer hands than most women who went dancing on Saturday night or church on Sunday morning in Houma, set the papers on Bobby’s kitchen table. Carrie Louise immediately snatched them away and had a look.

“Five hundred grand? That’s it? You’re fucking kidding me. Uh, us. I mean our client.” Carrie skipped a beat before she let go of the line she’d practiced in front of the mirror countless times. “We’ve subpoenaed the OSHA reports, the witness statements and reports from your own company on their pathetic indifference to safety and lack of concern for their people. You can stick this where the sun don’t shine, Mr. Michaud. And we’ll see you in court.”

“And you would be?” The lawyer’s obvious boredom and indifference lit Carrie Louise’s fuse. Her mother put a hand on Carrie’s arm to shush her.

“She would be my daughter, Mr. Michaud. Unfortunately for us, she was born with the same Lawyer stamp on her forehead as you. However, I do agree with her sentiments, if not her language. As I’m Bobby’s legal guardian and my daughter is his legal watchdog, we can neither, in good faith and with Bobby’s best interests and future at heart, accept your offer without making further inquiries on his behalf.” She smiled like the edge of a sharp knife. “But if you would be so good as to leave us a copy of your offer, and your card?”

***

The Highway Patrol trooper who’d escorted the fuming lawyer and was supposed to have been an official witness to the signatory proceedings, eased out of the Buisson driveway and rolled down Bayou Black. “Not what you were expecting in there, I gather?”

“Mouthy little backwater bitch. She was mine I’d turn her over my knee and teach her some manners.”

“She was yours, and you did, she’d have me put you in handcuffs and every penny you’d ever made or will ever make would be headed straight into her bank account. Girl’s been that way since she was born. Sharp as a catfish whisker and a mouth like gator. Just like the rest of the women folk on her Momma’s side.”

“Well, they’ve got a fight on their hands if they think some scrawny, teenage gator mouth swamp monster wannabe lawyer and her Ice Maiden Momma are going to push Magnolia Production around. I’ll drop the offer to two-fifty, tell ‘em that’s it, see how they like it.”

“They already ain’t likin’ it at twice that, Mr. Michaud. Chew on this. That little swamp monster’s Aunt, the one helping her out with the ‘wannabe lawyer’ business? She’s Liz Vernier, runs Senator Guillon’s office.”

“Senator Francis Guillon, the pious Robin Hood reformer? Vernier as in Vernier, Leduc and Delome?”

“Daughter and senior partner and the Senator’s Chief of Staff. The one pushing his pious reformation ass right at the governor’s office. Yes sir.”

“Fuck.” Magnolia’s assistant chief counsel ripped the manila envelope with the unsigned payment contract and release into eighths, then ripped them up some more, scattered the whole mess out the window and watched them blow into the bayou. “You know what VL&D got from the tobacco companies and the refineries?”

“Yes sir, I do. And that right there was littering.”

“Arrest me.”

The trooper hit his grill and rear window lights, turned right onto the highway and pushed the cruiser up to 85. “No sir, not this time. If it’s all the same to you, Mr. Michaud, I’ll take you on back to your office in Baton Rouge. Where I reckon you’ll be a sight more miserable than you would be in jail, even in Houma.”

Heart

From The Hot Girl – Part One

For the sixth time Deanna watched her father pull another card from a vase of flowers, put it in a stack with others just like it, toss the flowers into a rolling trash can and dump the vase in the sink before he set it on a nurse’s cart.

“Daddy, why are you keeping the cards?”

Doc Collings turned toward her from the other side of what had been her Gramma Cora’s hospital bed. “So your mother can send them ‘thank you’ notes.”

“Mom hates cut flowers. What’s she going to say, ‘thanks so much for sending dying flowers to my dying mother’?” She didn’t see him wince.

“Flowers are okay at our house. Twice a year.”

“I know. Valentine’s and your anniversary. But you buy mom plants.”

“Sometimes what your mother says is okay, and what she really thinks is okay, are entirely different. She has tolerance for flowers on days where flowers are the norm. And tolerance for your brother or you giving her flowers or something fattening is different from her fully accepting it as okay across the board. Like with me. I don’t gamble with your mom. If I know where the strike zone is I don’t get fancy and try to throw curve balls.” He held his hand out perfectly flat. “I go straight down the middle. Plants in pots are in the strike zone every time.”

Doc Collings’ sports analogies always worked with his super jock son, but now he was in a situation where he always felt lost. Alone, with his daughter. Who, since she’d outgrown her Sting-Ray bike and Barbies, lived on an intellectual diet of poetry, art books, Medieval versions of fables and fairy tales, and top forty radio. And until his mother-in-law’s failing health had sent her to live with them a couple of years ago, there hadn’t been anyone in their house who “got” the post grade school version of Deanna except their black lab, Hayden.

“DeeDee, your grandmother knew you cared.” He tossed another handful of flowers, spun a guest chair around and sat in front of her. “She had all the pictures you copied out of the art books for her. All of your notes and poems and Polaroids were taped to the wall. She was so sick the last week or so she didn’t open anything.”

“I looked for this card forever.” She stared at the unopened envelope in her lap, a thumb and finger holding it on each side. “If she’d just opened it…Maybe…”

“There was no magic in that card that would have saved her.” He ran his hand through his hair, left it at the back of his head. “I know how it hurts when you lose someone you love. In ways you can’t explain to anyone. My parents are gone, my brother died in the war…If you live long enough you lose people…And unfortunately there’s nothing anyone can say or do to make it easier. I wish I could, but…” He reached out, put his hand on top of hers, took the card and gave it a long look before he handed it back. “Deanna, when things like this happen? The old saying about how ‘it’s the thought that counts’ is true. She knew how you felt, card or no card. Believe me.”

“It’s okay, Daddy. She told me before. About her heart and everything.” She glanced around at the stripped bed, dying flowers, empty vases and back to her lost father. “And how if I gave myself time I’d realize the heart that doctors understand isn’t the most important one I have.”

 

Thoughts and commentary on this one are requested, here or via email

True Value

Lamar pulled the creamy bean dip his way across the Formica imitating black shale table top, waited for Upjohn’s woman radar to make the entire room and come to rest across from him.

“Damn, Lamar, which of our asses you think they picked for those nachos?”

“I’m thinking yours. You have the broad beam of success, not me.”

“Shit, you just don’t eat right, don’t go out with the right women.” Upjohn took the restaurant fatigued spoon and fork out of a rolled up paper napkin and lifted a heap of nachos onto his plate. He picked up and sniffed all four of the small salsa bowls, sneezed after the roasted verde sauce. He set it down, tapped it with his fork. “Best give that shit some respect, Lamar. Set your ass on fire just knowin’ about it. You figure we could get Marshon through that door?”

“Marshon?” Lamar picked up a chip that was half a flash fried tortilla covered in all things chicken nachos, cracked it in half when he leveraged it to his plate, covered it with creamy, spicy bean dip

“Marshon Lewellyn. Big ol’ gal.” Old Upjohn held his hands out a foot from his chest. “You’ll recall she worked at the Buick parts counter? Had to wear a man’s 3XL golf shirt to be part of the Buick parts team.”

“Wouldn’t know her. Never owned a Buick. You checked out that shirt for size, did you?”

“I did. Never know if a woman might need a gift of casual clothing to set her at ease. What I’m sayin’ is there was never even a Buick made for her backside. Thing needed two lanes and a couple of double wide escort trucks, were she to get out on the road. I’m thinkin’ we get her through the front door and these people are good to their word, we be eatin’ nachos till the Good Lord calls one of us home.”

“You think she’d come out from behind that Buick parts counter with you, knowing you were going to use her that way?”

“No tellin’ what a woman might do for an all-you-can-eat ‘till you die Mexican hors d’oeuvre dinner, out with a handsome man. You plan on stakin’ a claim on that bean dip, Lamar? Goddam. You gonna start spittin’ shit when you laugh you best ask that girl in the cut-offs running up her crack for another napkin.”

“You thinking about the size of her nacho plate?”

“Man could starve to death eatin’ that girl’s nachos, Lamar, and turn his mind to pudding trying to talk to her. Man needs to know a woman’s true value. She’s good for the napkin and a cup of coffee and a lonely man’s prayer she bends over facin’ the other way.”

“That’s awful close to sexist, Upjohn.”

“I start lyin’, stop me.”

“So there’s a woman in your world for just about anything? Barely legal eye candy waitresses in illegal cutoffs for napkins and coffee, and a woman with a backside bigger than a Buick for when you need more nachos than you can eat?”

“You find a problem with my logic?”

“No. I’m sure the ladies would.”

“That’s part of bein’ female, findin’ fault with how we think. Now there’s men out there will tell you a man should learn to figure women. I’m tellin’ you, a man should learn to appreciate the figure of a woman, and leave it be. Sexism comes down to natural selection.”

“Natural selection? How the hell do you ‘figure’ that?”

“The manager naturally selects skinny young girls who don’t know no better to stand around in push-up bras and short cut-offs so tight they crush their cell phones against butt cheeks they don’t have, just to keep us coming back. And naturally I select Marshon to keep me in nachos that let me sit here longer so I can watch, and she naturally selects to join me because her fat ass ain’t doin’ nothin’ but sittin’ around watchin’ Dr.Phil on the DVR. Ain’t never gonna fix sexism till both sides stop participatin’. And this place comes up with another gimmick that don’t involve asses in any way, shape or form. You ask that girl for some more bean dip when she brings the napkin. When she does, tell her you dropped somethin’ and your back’s out.”

“No way, Upjohn. You keep it up you’re gonna have every woman in the world down on us.”

Upjohn looked up from doctoring his nachos, raised a bushy gray eyebrow and flashed the store-bought smile. “Why God invented fat bottom girls and the blues, Lamar. So you have somethin’ to sing about, something to do, you think nobody loves you.” He shook with silent laughter. “And to keep you from starvin’ when you come in a place like this.”

Groupies – I Just Love Your Wife Version

“Thank you so much for coming! I just love your wife. Did she tell you what happened last week?”

Let’s see. Someone came back from China, and the girl from Boston Ballet was soooo beautiful and soooo nice, and the place was packed with girls back from their summer intensives and professionals from all over the world home to see family at the end of summer, and…Yes. I always go back to ballet class with Nana Ballet when she comes home. None of those feel like the right answer. “Duh, no…” doesn’t work in public when asked by a woman who was a New York City Ballet Ford Foundation scholar at 12 and loves your wife.

“I’m not sure. I heard a lot about the ballet studio last week.”

“Let me tell you, she is such an inspiration. She didn’t mention it, did she? Well, there was a large group of very talented young dancers, and some of the younger ones who adore her all filled the big studio on Saturday. And one of them overheard your wife say she needed to check on your grand daughter in the studio next door. You wouldn’t believe it. They were all talking. ‘NO! Like Oh my God. We don’t have to stop taking ballet just because we have a job, or get married or go to med school or get old? We can like still dance when we’re grandmothers? Oh. My. God’. One minute she was another adult taking her regular class crowded in the studio with them, telling them all how lovely they were, and whoops, there’s a grandmother in their ballet class? I think that’s wonderful, don’t you? All those talented young women realizing that dance can be forever. We just love her.”

Nana Ballet strapped the granddaughter into her eighteen-point space capsule car seat, climbed in the front seat, closed the car door and adjusted the air conditiong vents. Off of me and into the back seat like there’s not air blowing back there already. I turn one back my way and get the look.

“I hear Nana Ballet is an inspiration.”

“Seriously? Please. Those girls stand in center, no barre, stick their legs straight up in the air and say things like ‘I can’t believe how stiff I get when I don’t take class’. Ms. K has dancers at ABT, Miami, Seattle, Houston. Denmark. Everywhere. When I saw them all in there on Saturday morning I should have turned around and come home. I shouldn’t have been in a leo in the same building with girls that young and talented.”

No? Shouldn’t let strangers that come up to your knees and hug you get hugged back, either? Not likely…

All you need to do is show up, be real, and kind and able to appreciate your own limitations and the beauty of other people’s gifts, and the magic that needs to happen will take care of itself.

White Lies and Dirty Laundry

Another cutting room floor editing casualty from The Hot Girl that I liked enough to rescue from the trash.

Roosevelt Junior High, October 20th, 1971

Deanna clung to her open locker door with her right hand, leaned her head on the shelf inside. She couldn’t go to home room. She didn’t want to talk, or smile or lead cheerleading practice or read the afternoon announcements or do anything at all. Just for a day she didn’t want to be who she was. All she wanted was to be alone, and maybe have just one real friend she could tell about Gramma Cora. Goddammit. Was that too much to ask, really?

“Morning, Jackson.” Coach Stephens raised his chin at the growth-spurt skinny eighth grade boy in his doorway. “Some geniuses clogged the shitter next door in the band room.” He tossed the blue nylon bag full of his laundry at the kid like it was a medicine ball. “I’ll get you out through the girl’s side. Grab a hall pass in case you meet a stranger on that side of the building.”

Jackson tore off several pre-signed hall passes from the pad, even though anyone that would stop him on blue bag days knew better. He hefted the laundry bag on his shoulder and followed Stephens to the center of the basketball court, the invisible wall between the only non-coed homerooms at Roosevelt Junior High.

Stephens chirped his whistle. “Heads up, skirts down, legs crossed, ladies. Man on business, comin’ through.”

Jackson knew he’d turned red, shielded his head with the bag and sent his eyes to the floor for his trek through the minefield of girl’s gym homeroom. Damn. They sat on the floor cross legged, or laid on their backs with an ankle on their knee, skirts dropped to almost there. He heard them all shuffling positions, heard the giggles, the “is that Santa Claus” and “what’s with the bag” and “uh-oh, panty check” comments that followed him across the basketball court until he was out the double doors, up five steps and in the hall headed toward daylight.

He raised his eyes, and opposite where the janitor had half the hall blocked there was a locker open, but all he could see were sweat socks and girl’s saddle oxfords. Cheerleader gear. And Mr. Han, the asshole French teacher and hall pass Nazi, was coming down the hall from the other direction, on a collision course with him and the cheerleader at her open locker. Shit.

Bonjour, Mr. Han.”

“Always halfway clever, Monsieur Jackson. You and the bag say it’s Wednesday. Who do we have at their locker who should be in home room?”

Jackson stepped sideways into the narrow space between the cheerleader’s open locker door and Mr. Han, swung his laundry bag around and knocked the unseen girl back inside her open locker. He was chest to chest and almost eye to eye with Han in zero personal space for all three of them. He lifted a hall pass out of his back pocket with his thumb and finger, held it under the bag and waited until he felt her grab it.

“She was with me, Mr. Han. There’s shit, uh, sewage all on the floor by the band room on our side and Coach sent her to escort me out the girl’s side. So I wouldn’t do anything stupid or talk to anybody. And, um, anyway, she needed a book, that’s why he sent her with me. And she ran ahead of me. To get her book.”

Han reached around Jackson, checked the crumpled pink paper the girl pushed past the blue bag.

“Don’t you have somewhere you’re supposed to be, Mr. Jackson?”

“Yes sir.” Jackson stepped off in a hurry, just under the ‘don’t run in the hall’ rule, didn’t look back. Han followed him with his eyes until Jackson and the blue bag were around the corner.

“Miss Collings, are you feeling alright?”

“Yes. My grandmother’s funeral was yesterday. I just didn’t want to talk to everyone…anyone. That’s why I, um, ran to my locker. I’ll be okay. Really.”

“I understand. There’s never a good time for a funeral. Or Jackson.” He flicked the pink pass in his hand with his middle finger, handed it back. “Tell Stephens even he needs to put names on his hall passes. Why he’d send you out with that kid and the bag is beyond me.”

“Well, there is some really gross stinky poop and stuff on the floor on their side and Jackson can get in trouble. I mean pretty easy, and kind of a lot. And I did need my book.”

“As usual, Miss Collings, everything you have said is true.” He pushed her locker door closed. “Home room young lady. Now.”

“Yes sir.” She glanced at the hall pass on her way, smoothed it out and put it in the history book she wouldn’t need for four hours. Jackson, the guy with the big blue bag, had spare hall passes? And covered her? Cool.