Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Gift by Jeff Weddle

Jim’s father has an unusual - and unwelcome - birthday present for him; by Jeff Weddle.

On the way to town, Doug opened the pint of Maker's and took a hit, then passed it to Jim.

"Go on, boy. You're old enough."

Jim held the bottle like it was a dead rat.

"No Daddy, I -"

"Son, just try a little sip. Come on. We're celebrating."

Jim took a good hit and did his best not to let his father see him gag.

"Now, that's more like it. If you think that's good, wait till we get to Lula's."

The two-lane blacktop was almost deserted as Doug's late model Ford pickup cut through the night. It was a twenty minute drive into Pikeville and Jim silently counted headlights. From home to town he counted a dozen pairs. Lula's place was on 4th Street, right across from Gordy's Tavern, and Doug drove straight there and swung in fast onto the paved lot.

"Okay, son. Happy birthday."

"Thanks, Daddy. But I -"

"No buts. Now come on. We're gonna have us a good time."

They walked on in. Lula's was just like Doug had described. It was a two-story house with a bar trimmed in crushed red velvet and seven or eight half-naked women lounging in the front room. Doug nodded to Big Ed behind the bar and Ed nodded back.

"Hey Ed, this is my boy. This is Jimmy."

"Welcome to heaven, Jimmy."

Jim blushed and nodded.

Doug told Jim to pick first. There was a little redhead off in the corner, small breasted and sharp nosed. She wore a short, silky black skirt and a loose red halter. Doug saw Jim notice her and whispered something to Lula.

"Peggy," said Lula. "You get the prize."

The old man picked a big brunette for himself and the four of them went upstairs. Just before the redhead took Jim into her room, Doug pulled out the Maker's and took a big drink.

"Good luck, boy."

He gave the bottle to Jim, who held it for a second, then tipped it up and swallowed. He only gagged a little.

Jim tied to smile. Peggy took his hand and led him into the room.

"Shut the door, honey."

Jim shut it. The room was small and clean and the walls were painted white. There was a bed, a nightstand, a love seat, and a small dresser. Above the dresser was a window with the shade drawn, and on the wall facing the bed was a large oil painting of a plump nude woman lying on a red couch. The room was lighted by a tall lamp standing in the corner, a blue shade muting the glow. Peggy put her hands on Jim's chest and pressed hard with her fingertips, then let her left slide down. She took his crotch in her hand and frowned.

"Just gi-give me a minute, okay?" Jim stuttered. He pulled a pack of Viceroys from his shirt pocket and tapped one out. "I gotta have a smoke. Want one?" He handed Peggy a cigarette and found a book of matches in his pants and lit the cigarettes.

"Mind if I have a sip of your whisky?"

Jim handed her the bottle. Through the wall they could hear Doug and the brunette laughing. They heard the bed creak.

Peggy gave Jim a sideways look and giggled. She didn't sound as young as she looked.

"We'll just sit here a minute and talk, okay?"

"Sure."

"So, you go to school? You go to Pikeville High School?"

"No," he said. "I go to Mullins. We live up Mud Creek."

"Oh, yeah? I went to Mullins. My cousin goes there now. You know Dorey Hoage? She's about my size but with blond hair. Real pretty."

"I don't think I know her."

"They say she's real popular, but I guess she's just a freshman or something."

"I don't know any freshmen."

"Oh." Peggy took a sip from the bottle and a drag on her cigarette. She blew smoke rings, a big one and a smaller one that passed through he middle of it. She smiled at Jim through the smoke.

"You a football player? A big boy like you ought to play football." Peggy licked her upper lip. "When I was in school I sure did like the football players."

"I'm on the team, but I don't play much. Coach says I'm slow. My daddy wanted me to play."

"I bet you're good, though. I can tell just by looking at you. I bet you've got some moves. I knew boys like you in school. You remind me a little of this one guy in particular." Peggy got quite for a minute and looked at the wall. "That was almost six years ago. " Then she looked back at Jim and giggled. "So, baby, how do you like to do it? I might even throw in a little extra, since you go to Mullins and all."

He sat there a moment looking at her. He nodded his head and smiled a little, then opened his mouth to say something, but noting came out. He was sweating. "Look,' he finally said, "I'm sorry. I can't do this. My daddy doesn't know, but I've got this girl, and -"

"And what she don't know won't hurt her." Peggy squeezed Jim's thigh.

"No." He said it louder than he had intended. "I'm sorry. I can't."

"Hush. Now, Peggy's seen this before. Just you relax and let Peggy help."

Jim tried to relax. He took a drink of whisky and a deep breath. The air felt jerky. Peggy started with his top button and worked her way down until his chest was exposed.

"Smooth skin. I like that, baby." She ran her fingers softly across his chest. Jim put the bottle down on the nightstand and deliberately put his hands on her waist.

"That's it, baby," Peggy whispered.

Jim let his hands explore Peggy's hips. She took his right hand and placed it on her breast. Jim squeezed it a little.

"Oh yes, baby." She reached down again to his crotch. She frowned again.

"Honey, we have to do something about this."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Let's have another little sip of that whisky."

They each had another drink. Peggy sat down next to Jim on the bed. She breathed in his ear, then put her hand high on his leg. Jim flinched.

"Genuine Mullins High School football player. Yes sir. You know, I always wanted to be a cheerleader. You ever do it with a cheerleader?" Peggy pulled aside the straps of her halter and it fell down around her waist. "What do you think of these, baby?"

Jim looked at Peggy's breasts for a second and then looked away. "They're nice," he said.

"They're just for you."

Jim sat quiet and unmoving. Peggy leaned toward him and rubbed her breasts against his arm. Jim looked down at his knees. She tried to touch her hand to his face, but he pulled away.

"You like girls?"

"Of course I like girls."

"You like me?"

"It's just that I've got this girlfriend -"

"Okay. Okay." Most of the sweetness was gone from her voice. "Will you do me a favor, kid? Will you tell them we did it?"

"Yes'm."

Jim sat on the bed and smoke a Viceroy. Peggy put down her cigarette long enough to take a drink. Through the wall they heard the thumping headboard and every now and then a moan or growl.

Peggy put the bottle on the nightstand and took a long drag on her cigarette. Jim took the bottle and picked at the label, then took a good drink. His face was red. He wasn't used to drinking, but it felt good.

Peggy shook her head and sighed. She pulled her halter back up and moved to the love seat across from the bed. She'd been working at Lula's for six months and this was the first time she'd ever got one in the room who wouldn't do it. She was afraid if nothing happened Lula might get mad and not give her price. Why knew what this kid might say? Peggy licked her lips and narrowed her eyes.

"Honey, are you sure you don't want to?"

"I just want to drink." His words were slurred. "Will you please let me alone?"

Peggy sighed and crossed her legs. Her short skirt rode up even higher.

"Your daddy sure is a man."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, baby. It just sounds like he's having a real good time."

"I guess he is. I just guess so." Jim felt the whisky. He lit another Viceroy and took a deep drag. "Here," he said. "Have a drink."

There wasn't much of the pint left. Peggy took a good swallow and then another. She let the bottle neck slide deep between her lips. She pulled it out slow, looking right at Jim's eyes. She raised one eyebrow, then smiled around the bottle. Peggy uncrossed her legs and spread her knees.

"Sweetie, you know it's already paid for, don't you?"

"You think I gotta buy it?" Jim mashed his cigarette into the ashtray. "You think I wanted to come here?" The thumping in the next room got louder and faster. A man's voice said, "God damn!" It sounded like the woman barked.

Peggy laughed a little and shook her head.

Then everything was quiet. For almost a minute they sat there, not looking at each other. They heard a door open and then footsteps coming down the hall. There was a knock at the door.

"Jimmy? You done?"

Peggy raised her right knee and Jim saw her panties. They were sheer and white. She ran her finger lightly across the fabric and shook her head.

"I'll make sure and tell Dorey and her friends you said hello. You have fun with your little cheerleaders." Then, under her breath, so quiet that Jim almost didn't hear, she said, "faggot."

Jim stood and moved unsteadily toward her. Peggy was still smirking when Jim backhanded her across the mouth. Peggy screamed. Jim hit her again, harder. He was still hitting her when Big Ed crashed through the door. Ed hit Jim hard in the gut. Jim went down quick and Big Ed kicked him in the ribs and face.

"Stop, damn you. That's my boy!" Doug grabbed at Ed's arm and tried to pull him away.

"Nobody hurts the girls!"

"God damn it! God damn it!" Doug was pulling twenties from his wallet. "Here, take it! Just let us go!"

They made it out of there and across the street to the bar. Jim's cheek was bleeding from a kick, and he was having trouble walking erect. He had his arm around Doug's neck until they sat down at the bar.

"Hey Gordy, give us a couple of beers," said Doug. Then he turned to his son. "Hey boy, what the hell happened back there? What'd that bitch do to you?"

Jim's fists lay on the bar. They were so tight that his forearms shook. Jim sat staring at the scarred and gleaming wood.

"Daddy," he finally said. "God damn it to hell." Jim raised his hands and they were still shaking. He turned to his father and knew something was going to break, but he didn't quite know what or how.

"How old is the boy?" asked Gordy, standing at the bar with two wet and glistening long neck bottles.

"Old enough," snapped Doug. Gordy looked at Jim and raised an eyebrow.

"If I say it," Doug said evenly, "it's so."

Jim made a sound in his throat like he was going to say something. He shook his head and brought both of his hands to his face.

"Well, what is it?" asked his father. "Just what the hell's the matter with you?

6 comments:

  1. Good build up of tension. I guess Jim´s father just isn´t the type you can have a heart to heart with. But a tricky subject well handled.
    well done

    Michael McCarthy

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    1. Many thanks, Michael. Yeah, Jim's daddy is a real piece of work. I appreciate the read and the comments.

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  2. The reader feels real empathy with Jim, particularly knowing that this is just the beginning of a long, rough road he will be walking, made even harder by having an insensitive 'macho' father! Very true to life.
    Beryl

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    1. Thank you, Beryl. I'm glad you were able to empathize with Jim. He's having a tough night and, you're right, probably a rough life in general. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

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  3. A fine piece, Jeff. There is just enough restraint to maintain rich dramatic tension. I like the closing, its dark irony. There is really nothing wrong with Jim...it's the messed up, tawdry and broken world around him. It's great to read your work again, Jeff. George E.

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  4. I truly appreciate your comments, George. Many thanks for this and for all.

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