by D. J. Herda
John wished he
had someplace to pee.
around, up-shore, down-shore, all around. Nothing.
Not a solitary shrub. Not a lamp pole. Not a rock. He shrugged. Perhaps it would
pass, this growing pressure deep down inside. Maybe he needed to take his
mind off of it, concentrate on the task at hand.
have had that fourth cup. But he realized, even at four in
the morning, just how cold the lake would be, how bitter the winds, the
water whipped into a frigid froth, icing everything in its path.
It was that
fourth fuckin' cup.
It was not
John's idea of a good time, coming to the lake so early in the morning, in
fall, just days before the first snowflakes began their assault on Lake
Shore Drive, just days before classes resumed at Columbia. It was not his idea of fun at all. But when his uncle had
called the night before and said he was going smelting and would John like
to come along--they're running like crazy!--well, John naturally
clenched his fingers around the receiver, fought off the lump that sprouted
in his throat, and stammered, "Sure. Love to. What, uhhhh, time are you
John loved his
uncle dearly. And his uncle? He loved fishing. Well, not fishing,
exactly. But catching. There was a big difference between the two.
Fishing, to John's uncle, was a means toward an end which was, simply
enough, bringing home the bacon. Never mind how you got from Point A to
Point B. It's simply arriving that makes all the difference in the
wasn't a spit-and-polish fisherman; he was not of the catch-and-release
school of thought. He had never tied a fly in his life and never could see
the value of standing in the middle of a rolling stream, throwing cast
after cast into the wind in the hopes of snagging a small brookie or a
rainbow or even a giant brown and reeling it in for the kill. To John's
uncle, it was a simple fact: you fish to catch. The more you fish, the more
you catch. The more you catch, the better your life will be when you
stop to look
back upon it just before expiring, drawing your last breath, dying of lung
cancer or angina or maybe even something so goddam mundane as getting run over by a
bus. Jesus, I caught a shit-load of fish. It's been a good life!
That was pretty
much how John's uncle saw it. And
John knew that, if his uncle said the smelt were running, then, by God, the
running! John liked little more on the face of God's
green earth than the taste of freshly caught smelt fried up fast and hot in a pan
and served with a little salt, pepper, and enough seafood sauce to float
a small armada. And if he occasionally had to go through hell to get it, so
whipped up suddenly--a growling, swift gush sweeping across the lake and
across John and across the entire world, making the boy's teeth
rattle--rattle literally out loud--so that in order even to catch his
breath, he had to turn sideways to its fury. "Fuck!" he said
finally. His uncle looked up at him.
John couldn't believe his ears. He couldn't believe his uncle could even
think about asking so foolish a question. "What do you mean,
what? It's fuckin'
cold out here, that's what! Jesus, who's idea was this,
laughed. Besides catching fish, John's uncle liked nothing better than
showing off his toughness. He had served proudly in the United States
Army as an infantryman stationed in Italy during the waning days of
World War II. He had caught some shrapnel in one arm at some battle or
another, Antietam or something, and John thought he remembered having heard
that he'd caught some in his head, too, which is exactly where the doctors
decided to leave it for fear of causing complications should they have
attempted instead to remove it. So, they installed some sort of metal plate inside
his uncle's skull to prevent the shrapnel from moving, from working its way
deeper and deeper into his cranium, like a worm tunneling through the decaying carcass of
a once-living creature, until finally it would reach the soft innards of the
brain, itself, turning his uncle into an avocado. Although, at times like
this, John couldn't help but wonder if the plate had really done any good.
aren't you ... c-c-c-c-cold?" John shivered.
laughed again. "Nawww. Cold is all in the mind."
the metal plate slowly but steadily dissolving.
what," John's uncle said as he strained to see his watch in the near-light
of near-morning. "It's almost five. Old Man Feeney will be opening his
bait shop soon. Why don't you go on over and get yourself a cup of hot
coffee. That'll warm you up. When you get back, we'll pull up the net and
see how we did."
have to be asked twice. He tugged at his coat collar until it hid his
ears and turned and followed the shoreline north, shielding his head from the
incessant pounding of the wind and spray so that his face was cranked to one
side, like an owl. He walked like that, head craned sideways against the
cold, when he felt himself stumble across the edge of the pavement and
turned to face the glowing windows of Old Man Feeney's bait shop. He
quickened his pace and reached the stairs, leaping up them three at a time
while grabbing for the knob that led to the heated confines inside. He
twisted it. He twisted it again.
spat. He looked around, then quickly checked his watch. Two minutes to
through the glass pane, rattling against the wind, peered through the door
and into the shop, where the lights glowed an eerie yellow-green and the
coffee machines sent plumes of steam funneling surrealistically toward the
ceiling. He looked away, huddling lower into his coat so that a passerby
might mistake him for a turtle. He shivered, which made him recall
that he still had to pee, and he looked around for some sign of a rest
room. He peered back inside the shop and saw a closed door against the back
"Thank God," he
said softly, then pulled back into his shell where he stood quietly, except
for the shivering. He stood there counting off the seconds, too cold to
pull his hand out of his pocket to check his watch. What if he doesn't
open on time? What if he doesn't open at all? What if he had an
emergency or something and had to take off and won't be back until later?
These were not
mere rhetorical questions. Old Man Feeney was a loon, pure and simple. His
reputation preceded him up and down the lake.
It'd be just
like the old fart not to open up at all. It'd be just like him, goddamn it.
Just to spite me.
It would be
like him, but when it came time for Old Man Feeney to open the shop, John
heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps followed by the soft clang of
metal-on-metal as the iron bolt slipped to one side. Suddenly the knob
turned and John's heart leaped as the door opened wide.
Now, Old Man Feeney--John knew from past
fishing trips he'd taken to Lake Michigan with his uncle--was a year or two
older than Moses and a ton more ornery. John once watched the old bastard
drop a pot of coffee in some poor kid's lap, then throw the kid out for
making such a mess. Still, Old Man Feeney today wouµj
www.iuma.com/artis no matter how much of a shit he could be.
halfway through the door and stopped to shake off the cold. "Mother
fuck," he mumbled, shivering. He looked up, and his jaw fell slack.
His eyes glazed over until they looked like the
shiners he used for bait whenever his uncle and he went walleye fishing in
Wisconsin. He shivered again. Less from the cold than from what lay before him.
She looked up
at him ... curiously at first, then more comfortably. She craned her head
gently to one said and smiled through painted red lips. Her teeth were
whiter than the foam off the lake, each one set perfectly
into a turned-up mouth like so many matching pearls clinging to some widowed
dowager's neck. She batted her eyes--actually batted them, for God's
"I ... I ..."
John heard somebody say, then realized it had been he. His eyes brushed her
lips--red, deep red, crimson, the color of a fire engine after
it has been freshly washed but not yet dried. She smiled past a complexion
so sweet, it had to have come from a bowl full of cream risen to the top, soft
and white, with just a blush of peach.
But her eyes
... oh, her eyes. Those two limpid pools of aquamarine, the color of Lake
Michigan on a calm summer's day; the color of a sapphire caught glistening
in the sunlight; the color of a Taos sky on a cold, crisp, cloudless January
eve. It was those eyes that caught his attention, caught his desires,
caught his very heart and reeled it into her so that he could feel their two
bodies touching, beating, flopping around in unison. He could smell the jasmine in
the air, hear the nightingales sing, feel the silk of her anointed skin.
But more than that, he realized something else:
God, is she
John knew right
then and there that he would have to have her. She didn't have to say a
word. She wouldn't ever have to say a word. And if it turned out
that she never ever said a word, he would still possess the world in all its
glory. She was poetry. She was porcelain. She was stacked.
for those tits!
cold?" she said.
Fear raced through his chest. Terror stalked his brain. He wasn't
positive, but he thought for one split second that he felt his heart stop
beating. She had spoken to him. She, this apparition of joy, this
vision of perfect loveliness, this goddess of all goddesses, this monument
to love and light and life.
you look at them?
giggled. "I'd just better get you a hot cup of coffee," she said, and she
turned, jiggling her way across the room. John felt himself take one step
after her, heard the door close behind him, and stared. She was poetry in
motion, a perfect body to match a perfect face. A twenty-four-inch waist
set between 34-inch hips and a 38-inch chest ... 38-D, even! Give or
take a letter or two.
hesitated as she reached the counter, then looked back at him and smiled
once more before ducking down and skittering through the passageway, only
to emerge upright on the other side, looking more radiant and perfect than
on," she said, her voice oozing honey, draining sweet nectar lightly
squeezed from a comb so that it dribbles its golden goodness down your
forearm. "I won't bite."
several steps across the cracked brown linoleum that somehow, after 57
years, still managed to pass for a floor and slid down across a
vinyl-covered stool that matched, in age and overall condition, if not in
cleanliness, the linoleum. He stared at her chest--he couldn't help
himself--at the promise of the untold wealth at which those two magnificent
breasts hinted, watching first one stupendous globe strain tightly against
the pink chintz of her uniform, then the other, she turning halfway away
from him to pour a cup of steaming coffee, then halfway back as she reached
for a saucer and spoon. He managed to lift his eyes only milliseconds
before she turned full toward him, placing the java on the counter
between his outstretched hands. She smiled. He smiled. They both smiled.
He looked down
at the cup, managed to thread one trembling finger through the hole, and
lifted it slowly off the counter. Slowly, deliberately, wantonly,
his vision, his apparition, his goddess leaned forward, resting her weight
against her forearms, pressing lightly against the counter's edge. She
reached out and grasped his wrists.
trembling cup back down, John looked up--up and in, up and deep down within
that chasm of hope, that sink-hole of joy, that glorious crater of delirium
in which those two grandiose globes were laid wide for his inspection,
opened to reveal the swollen ripeness of their glory, two honey-do's
ripe for the harvest. They were the biggest boobs he had ever seen, and he
was positive they must have been the sweetest tasting.
faint scent of jasmine on a moonlit night swept past him, and he heard the
voice of an angel incant, "Cream?"
believe his ears and blurted out suddenly, "Oh, God, yes!" He
stopped short. His eyes widened and a sudden rash of red sheathed his
face. "I ... I mean, y-y-yes. I'd love some ... cream ... if it's not too
much ... trouble."
She smiled at
him, pausing far longer than one would have thought necessary while staring
into his eyes, capturing them, taking them prisoner, ensnaring them for all
eternity, pausing far longer than anyone would have expected a waitress to
pause before finally releasing his wrists from her grasp; and, still
smiling, turning away to fetch the creamer.
felt a new surge race through his body, a swelling deep down within, felt
his manhood straining against all decency, straining and coursing, ready to
race, raring to go ... and felt his bladder begging for release. He shifted
his weight uneasily to one side as his vision of loveliness returned, set
the pitcher before him, and said something softly, too softly for him to
make out, before smiling once more and turning away to go fiddle with one of
the coffeepots. John raised the cup to his lips and took a sip, then
another, then a third, his lips lingering at the edge, his
nostrils taking in the heady aroma, the heat rising from the black brew, a
heat that nearly matched the one he felt burning within his loins. All the
while he sipped, he watched the goddess move her derriere first this
way, then that, its perfectly formed twin globes matching in symmetry and in
promise, if not in size, those other twins that had already captured his
imagination, his heart, his lust-filled soul. She was the most beautiful
woman he had ever seen. He had to have her.
how these things happen, sometimes. At one moment, you find yourself
wandering aimlessly through life, aching to meet someone you could be
attracted to, fall in love with, and never ever want to be apart from
again. And the next moment, wham! There she was. Standing right
before you. Standing there and staring into your eyes, all gooey with
sappiness and tenderness and all that other stuff, just the way it says in
the movies. Standing there invitingly, hoping that you notice, that you
feel the same way about her that she feels about you. Hoping against hope
... and more.
"So ... " the
goddess' voice chimed sweetly, dragging John back to reality. "What's
hard and set the cup down. He cleared his throat. He had to be cool. He
had to do this just right. Oh, he knew it wasn't a tough question. He knew
he could handle it. He'd done so in the past many times. But now
... Now, his answer would have to be perfectly smooth, confident,
relaxed, secure. He would need to be all of that and more if he was to
capture this wanton beauty for his own, forever. He knew his chances in
life of ever meeting anyone again even half so desirable would be slim. He
was not about to waste his best shot. She was just too good to be true, his
fantasy dream walking. If this was John's one-in-a-million shot, he was
going to sink it.
replied. "John ... " He paused. He felt his knuckles tighten, his palms
begin to melt. His feet grew suddenly to twice their normal size. His head
began to throb. Fear raced through him like a condemned man on Death Row,
walking those last few desperate steps.
minute. Wait! Something's wrong. Something's very wrong! a little
voice in the back of John's head screamed. Did he remember? Could
he remember? A year or so ago or more. Back to the very first trip he'd
taken with his parents to Las Vegas. It had been a high-school graduation
present. He'd wandered down to the bar late one night, 1:30 or 2 a.m., long
after his parents had turned in, and fought his way past wall-to-wall
bodies, a sea of sweating torsos, smoking cigarettes, waving cigars, beaded
handbags, stacks of chips, plastic cups filled with quarters, until finally
he spotted a solitary stool.
through the crowd, he settled onto the perch and motioned to the bartender
for a beer. As he slowly raised it to his lips, the woman seated next to
him turned around. "Well, helloooo," she said seductively. She was
dark-haired, dark-lipped, with plenty of eye makeup, but clean, not greasy
looking, and when John's eyes swept across her, he couldn't help but notice
that her peek-a-boo blouse was peeking back. "What's your name?" she
replied, surprised that someone older, someone so sophisticated would express an interest in
him. He sat up on the stool, trying to make himself look taller,
and older, too. After all, she was 23, 24 maybe. He couldn't tell. "John Aiello."
"Well, nice to
meet you, John Aiello. My name is Marie ... Amore," she said,
holding out her hand for John to squeeze. He hoped she hadn't noticed the
sweat on his palm and wondered how it had gotten there. "Are you here on
business or pleasure, John Aiello?"
replied, reaching nonchalantly for his beer. "Pleasure. Strictly
pleasure. I always come to Vegas when I want to have some fun. I love it
here. Always something going on. You know? Always some action."
She smiled. "I
know what you mean. I'm here for some action, too." She stared at
John as he sipped from the glass. "Are you staying here? At the casino?" she
Suddenly a bell
went off within the distant recesses of his mind. Ohmahgawd ... she
wouldn't be ... I mean, she couldn't be ...
John said. "Yeah, I am. And you?"
She smiled, ran
her long nails gently across his forearm, and looked up at him. "I could
be...if you're looking for some fun."
"Ohhhh, gee. Yeah, well, I mean...sure. Who isn't looking
for some, I mean, fun?"
Fun ... as
in, fifty dollars and a lifetime of herpes? A hundred bucks and she throws
in an autographed HIV kit? This wasn't exactly John's idea of a
good time. Not to mention the fact that, for his first ever, well,
paramour, he had always pictured something, someone, a bit more ...
"I mean, no. I
mean, not really. You see, I've got this business, uhh, engagement. In the
morning. You know, early. In the morning. Tomorrow? So, you see,
I really shouldn't, uhh ..."
leaned forward, her ample breasts dangling invitingly, unrestrained, just
inches from his nerve center. "Oh, nooo. You're not going to put
business before pleasure, are you? Life is soooooo short." She
slipped one hand, long-fingered and delicate, through his hair.
God. Yeah, that's saying a mouth ... I mean, yeah, you can say that again.
But you know what they say. All work and no ... I mean, no rest for the ...
" He felt his hands begin to tremble and his arm sink back down to the bar
where the glass clinked softly against the damp urethane. Slowly he pushed
himself backwards until he slipped off the back of the stool. "Yeah, well,
no, really. I mean, I appreciate the offer and all. I really do. That's
... that's just ... swell of you. Really, it is. But I think, under the
circumstances and all, well ..."
raised her brows and pursed her lips into a tight, inviting pout, all the
while her eyes never leaving his.
said. "I guess I'll just be, you know, turning in."
"Well, that's too bad, John Aiello. Are you sure you don't want some
"Ohhh, gee. I
mean, yeah, that would really be, you know, nice. But, really, I can't.
I've got this ...meeting...in the morning...you know? And--" he spread
his arms out to his sides, looking for all the world like a Mallard coming
in for a landing, and forced a loud yawn--"I'm really tired, as you can
plainly see." As he spoke, he backed slowly away from her and, lowering his
arms, said, "No, I'm just going to...hit the old hay and get some
shut-eye. You know. Just me. All night. Alone. Asleep."
maybe we can get together tomorrow night...if you don't have any
more business meetings, and if you're not so tired."
Oh, my God!
I told her I'm staying here at the casino. I told her my name! I'm dead
fucking meat! Jesus Christ, what if she looks me up? What if she comes
knocking on my door in the middle of the night, stoned out of her head on
drugs or something...or drunk as a sailor? Or what if her pimp gets mad
at her and beats her up and throws her out for not making any money and she comes to my room looking for help? Or,
Jesus Christ! What if she goes to my parents' room by mistake!
"Hi, my name is Marie, and I'm a hooker. Is John in? He's expecting me."
Oh, my God, that'd be it. That'd do it.
"I said, John
what? What's your last name?" the goddess asked, staring across a big,
inviting smile that reminded him of another smile he'd seen so long ago, a
smile so potentially disastrous.
"Oh," he said,
fear coursing through him like a thoroughbred breaking at the wire. "John
... uhhh ... John ... "
John? John John? Oh, that's just great. Really great. You are
sooooooo smooth, John John! Anything else you'd like to tell her?
Like maybe where you're from? Like maybe ... Chicago Chicago?
That's so cute. And unusual. You must get kidded a lot."
"Uhhh, no. I
mean, not that much. Not really. Some. You know, with a name like John...John. Some, but not a lot." He shrugged. "But some. You know."
She smiled, her
lips opening to reveal those same bead-like pearls that had first lured him
to the trap. He wondered how anybody could actually chew anything with teeth
"My name's Mary
Lou," she said, holding out her hand. "Mary Lou Feeney."
John shook her
hand, amazed at how soft her skin was, how warm, how delicate her touch.
Feeney! "Mary Lou
Feeney? I didn't know old-man Feeney had any kids. I didn't even know
he was married! I mean..."
"I'm not his daughter. I'm his niece."
John raised his
brows, his eyes washing over her ample assets, then took a deep breath.
That was close. John couldn't begin to imagine what kind of a
girl could spring forth from the loins of a fruitcake like Old Man Feeney.
He breathed out again. He should have known. No one this nice,
gorgeous, this stacked could be the progeny of a loon. He was ashamed of
himself even for thinking it. For thinking lots of things.
hooker, for chrissake. She's just a nice, warm, friendly gal looking for a
nice, warm, friendly friend. Just because she's stacked doesn't mean she's
a hooker, for God's sake.
On the other
hand, John thought, he hadn't seen it coming in Vegas, either. He hadn't
been able to tell. At least not until she had practically come out and
propositioned him. Could it be the same thing here? With Mary Lou? Could
Old Man Feeney's niece be a goddam whore? That would certainly
fit. That would certainly explain her being so...open with him.
Christ, John. Can you pick 'em, or what!
"I just work
here whenever I need a little...extra cash," she said. "You know, to help out with
school and things like that. I'm in collage. The University of
Minnesota. You know, home of the Golden Gophers?"
She took one
step back and threw her arms out to one side. "Hit 'em high, hit 'em low,
come on Gophers, go-go-go!"
At the end of
the cheer, she thrust her boobs so far forward, John expected them to come
flying at him across the counter.
She looked at
nothing. I was just thinking about...someone."
She glanced at
him mischievously and reached up to tug at her top, still straining to pop
"I said, how
about you? Do you live here? In Chicago?"
"Ohhh.." John's mind raced around for an answer. If she were a hooker, he wasn't
about to share his life story with her. On the other hand, even if she was,
he didn't want to come off looking like a dork. "Oh, no. No. I'm from ...
uhh, South Dakota. Yeah, that's it. I'm just here helping my uncle work
said. "Then your uncle lives here."
"Huh? Oh, no.
No. None of us lives here. Actually. We're all from...we all live somewhere else.
Far away. Far, far away. All over. All over." He hoped that she was
"And do you go
to school in South Dakota?"
school there. In South Dakota. You know, far away."
"Oh. At the
right. In Fargo."
smiled again, then paused, the smile fading from her face. "Wait a minute.
Isn't Fargo in North Dakota?"
uneasily. "Oh, yeah. Of course. But, I, uhh...commute."
that's fine...I guess."
said awkwardly. "What's your size? I mean major. Major.
What's your major? What are you studying? You know. In
college. In Minnesota."
Her lips turned
up into an impish grin. "You're cute. And kinda shy. I like that in a
she thinks I'm cute. And shy. And me? I think ...
"Just for that,
I'm going to give you another cup of coffee, on the house. Just for being
so cute, John John."
As she reached
for the pot, John could just picture his father opening the morning paper to
the scream of the headlines: "Local Boy Picks Up Hooker!" they read.
"'I didn't know she was a whore,' lad insists. 'I thought she
was just being friendly!'"
She filled his
cup, and John jumped back sharply. "Owww!"
sorry!" she said. "Is it hot? I'm so clumsy. Here, let me get you..."
"No, no, that's
all right. Really. Besides, I've gotta go. I've just gotta...help my
uncle...pull in that net. He's waiting for me. Right now. Right down...over somewhere, err...somewhere else. Thanks, anyway. Really."
goddess said, looking very confused. "Okay, but at least let me give you a
Oh, my God.
Did she say D-cup?
keep you warm. Here," she said. She filled a plastic cup
with java and handed it to
thanks. Thanks a lot. Really. Sorry I've gotta run and all, but, well,
"If you get
cold later, come on back, John John. It gets lonely in here sometimes."
I'll do that. If I can. I'll definitely do that."
off the stool and slid out the door, failing to notice the sun breaking over
the lake. He scurried back to the rocks where his uncle was waiting,
watching, tugging at the net to see if he could feel any activity.
Christ, John! What the fuck is the matter with you? Two women in
two years, and they're both fucking hookers? What the fuck is the matter
with you? What the goddam fuck is the matter with you?
quickly, quietly, helping his uncle pull up the net, then letting it slide
back down into the frigid abyss after they'd removed the handful or two of
fish they'd brought up, wriggling like wild to get free. He wiped his hands
and wrapped them around the go-cup, then took a sip as he watched the fish
swirling around inside a bucket.
"You were gone
for quite a while," John's uncle said matter-of-factly. "Must have been one
Ohmawgahd. I forgot to pee!
again at the wriggling fish and instinctively crossed one leg over the
"Say, how long
do you think we'll be out here? I mean, the fishing seems a bit slow.
His uncle waved
him off. "Nahh. It always starts out this way. Usually they really start
to run after the sun's been up an hour or two. So far it's been only--" he
hesitated as he checked his watch--"twenty minutes. Let's give it another
couple hours, anyway."
A couple hours! John knew he couldn't wait that long. He was straining now. A
couple more hours and he'd explode!
maybe Old Man Feeney's niece come down to work in her uncle's shop.
She does that sometimes toward the end of summer. Likes to make a little money for school,
although I can't picture the old coot paying her anything to make it worth
uncle pulled an orange from a sack he'd brought along with him and began
carving into it with a small pocket knife. "Goes to school at the
University of Minnesota or someplace like that. Straight-A student. You
know, Dean's List and all that kinda shit. She's studying to be a doctor
or a lawyer or something, I forget. Old Man Feeney near as talked my head
off about her last time I come out to the lake. Saying how proud everyone
in the family was of her. Claimed she's quite a looker, too. Although I
can't see how anyone related to that old buzzard could look like a damn."
raced. "A doctor?"
nodded. "Doctor or lawyer or something like that." He popped a slice of
orange into his mouth and extended his hand to John.
John shook his
head. "Say, it's the darnedest thing."
looked up. "What?"
coffee I've been drinking, I'll be damned if I don't have to take
His uncle shook
his head. "Kids. I swear, when I was your age, I didn't pee but once a
"Yeah, well, I
won't be long. Then we'll check the net again, huh? See if they're running
back over his shoulder. The sun had begun warming the early morning air to
where it was finally bearable. The wind had died down, too--as much as you
could expect this time of year right off the lake. As he thought about his
uncle's words, he felt his legs involuntarily pick up their pace. He felt,
too, the sudden release he would know, felt the easing strain on his
bladder, pictured himself before the porcelain god, listening to the
stream working its way up and down against the back wall of the urinal. He
quickened his pace again, knowing that he would make it just in time.
He bounded up
the steps to the shop, pausing just long enough to push his hands through
his hair. He would walk in and use the john and then come out and do some
heavy-duty schmoozing. He couldn't believe he'd been so dumb. He couldn't
believe he'd let his imagination run away with him that way. That whole
Vegas thing, that whole episode ... What's past is past, he thought.
Jesus, John, you've got to quit worrying. You've got to get hold of yourself.
John opened the
shop to the door and glanced around for Old Man Feeney's niece. She was
nowhere in sight. Must have stepped out a minute. He angled his way
across the floor and stopped before the doorway leading to the bathroom.
Just in time, he thought as he grabbed for the knob.
door flew open and standing there before him was Old Man Feeney, himself.
The old geezer took one long, squinting look at John, and John at him, at
the broom in his hands, at the stubble on the old man's face and the queer
look in his eyes.
The old man's
eyes exploded. "Excuse you? Excuse you? Ain't you the
son-of-a-bitch what's been putting the make on my niece? Ain't you the
good-for-nothing two-timing little bastard what's got the hots for my little
John shook his
The old man
suddenly exploded toward him, swinging the broom in wide arcs like a palace
guard wielding a scimitar.
"Go on, don't
lie to me, you rotten little punk! Why, I'll teach you to go causing
trouble. I'll teach you to go bothering innocent young girls when all they
want is a little peace and quiet. Go on, now! Mister punk! Go on, now,
and get your skinny ass the hell outa my place. Now!"
cried as the broom caught him flush against his ribs. Another blow struck him
on the arm, and a third missed his head by inches.
are you nuts?"
"Go on, I'll
show you who's nuts. Git the hell outa here, now. Git the
hell outa my shop, before I really lose my temper!"
the door knob and rushed across the threshold just as he felt the old man's
boot skim past his ass. As he emerged in the sunlight, the door slammed
shut so hard, the glass rattled. John looked back inside the shop, where
Old Man Feeney was still ranting and raving, swinging the broom above his
head like a lariat and shouting at no one in particular and at everyone in
general at one and the same time.
For a moment,
he couldn't believe what had happened. He couldn't believe the old man had
mistaken him for somebody else. He couldn't believe ... Shit! He
couldn't believe he'd probably never see Mary Lou Feeney again.
Shit! And she's gonna be a doctor!
John took one
last look over his shoulder as he walked down the steps to the pavement,
then stopped to look out over the lake. The waves were rolling in gently,
now, their early morning thunder all but quashed. They lapped lightly at the shore,
sheeting up and over the rocks and moving the sand and small pebbles first in and
then out, again, as they receded back into the lake, only to be replaced by
a new ebb and flow.
John looked out
over the waves, over the steady in-and-out motion of the water, and wished
he had someplace to pee.