Tuesday, September 20, 2011

11seven (five)

Doubt - Amanda Mair (mp3)
Dandelion - The Asteroid Shop (mp3)

Presented this month is my unfinished fiction work, tentatively titled "11seven." I offer it in small mostly digestible doses of between 700-1,100 words. It contains strong language and sexual situations as intended for a mature audience. Parental discretion is advised. (I got all that from watching "Justified"!) Each entry will come with a song from our BOTG mailbox and discussion questions for Oprah.

PART ONE: Solitary Confinement in a Convenience Store
PART TWO: Stu & the Lost Male Art of Subtlety

PART THREE: All Desperate Horny Teens Deserve Charity
PART FOUR:  Going Steady

A Port in a Storm

The second time Stu come in was something special. There was a part of me that was surprised, ‘cuz I’d done told myself I’d never see that adorable boy again, and he had already gone down into my little personal private history book of memories that made me love owning this store – maybe I’ll share a few others with you sometime, but it’s not a long list. Seven or eight at best. There was another part of me, though, that saw him walk in and didn’t think nothing of it.

I don’t mean like I was hedging my bets or nothing like that. But deep down, I felt this connection between us, the kind of connection you don’t want to tell people about, the way people don’t talk about love at first sight until months or years later. And especially since there’s nothing noble about connecting like that with a boy barely old enough to drive, I wasn’t exactly giddy about rolling around in that particular feeling too much.

Stu, on the other hand, must’ve stewed on it – ha, yeah, I know – a lot. I bet he spent that whole week trying to decide whether or not to follow his gut and come back. I was trying to deny myself that feeling of intense connection; he didn’t have a name for it. He only knew it seemed dirty and bad, but he couldn’t explain why to himself.

Maybe it’s not right for me to speak for the boy, but trust me I know what he was thinking. Or I’m in the right ballpark anyways. When I told him that first day that I was psychic, yeah I was kidding, but the truth of it is that we seemed to get each other almost like we were psychic. I just always had more benefit of experience.

Just like a guy, he just walks in and walks straight up to me at the counter. Johnny’s monologuing in the background, and there’s this gleam in his eye. Later on I’d fantasize that he was walking straight up to the counter to lean over and shove his tongue into my mouth, some intense Top Gun kind of kiss. But I shoulda known he was a guy, which means that instead, he walked up to me and says, “So, like, are you OK with me buying those magazines from you, or was that, uh, just a one-time thing?”

I bet I sounded like a donkey in heat the way I laughed at that one. He was a little taken back with it – the volume, I think – but he also knew why I was laughing. He knew I wasn’t laughing at him. Which also means he knew that my laugh was all but a guarantee what my answer would be.

“Well you ain’t getting another free one ‘til you turn 17, Stuart.”

Here's another thing about guys. He came in so confident and direct because he had created this illusion that the conversation was about porno mags. He had sold himself and worked up the nerve by convincing himself it wasn't about him and me, like I was merely the toll booth operator rather than the destination. And even if he deep down knew it was bullshit, it didn't matter, because it was enough of a lie to keep him comfortable.

“Oh. Oh I know. Totally. I’d totally pay,” he says, and he’s almost bouncing on the balls of his feet like some eager puppy.

“Just make sure no one else is in the store when you do, OK?” I says to him.

“Oh yeah of course totally. Totally.”

“There’s one other thing,” I tell him, and I know his mind got kinda dirty a little on that one. He kinda looks up like he’s expecting me to say something about doing me from behind or who knows what, and I fight hard not to donkey laugh again. “Just hang out with me and talk for a little while. It gets kinda boring in here, you know? And you seem like a good kid.”

I know I know. Pathetic. Totally. I felt like I was back in sixth grade when I said it, like I was askin’ him to go steady or something. So then I kinda had to backtrack.

“Not for long or anything," I tell him. "Just, you know, a few minutes.”

Qualifying it was even more pathetic than the first request.

“Must get kinda boring in here, huh? Do you have to be here all night?” he asks me. Like I said, he felt the connection too.

Here’s what’s messed up. Right there that very night, I pretty much told this kid, this horny testosterone-addled boy, my life story. And even more messed up is that he sat there and listened to the whole thing. Asked me questions. Paid attention. Never drifted off to Johnny on the screen behind me or anything. Just totally involved himself in my story.

A lot of the stuff about Ralph, like how we met (except without as much of the story about being deflowered) and how we come to own a 7-11, and how I hurt my neck and lost a kid and lost a husband to fantasies of Elvis. How I was locked up in here for so long. This conversation kept going after Letterman signed off.

“Did you love him?” he asked me when I got to the part where Ralph run off.

“Well yeah I loved him. I didn’t love all of him,” is what I said, “but I loved a whole lot of him.”

He mulled on that one. “And that’s good?” Stu says to me.

I kinda rolled my eyes on that one. “Hell yeah that’s good. Hon, if you can be with someone for more than 20 years and still love a whole lot of ‘em, then it’s true love. Ain’t no two people, not real people I’m talking about here, can live and spend time and pass through a decade or two without finding parts of each other they hate. They can pretend like it ain’t true. Or they can be all polite about it at least. But true love is about loving a whole lot of somebody a whole lot of the time.”

He shook his head like I'd just told him God was dead, like I'd just denied him some clear and unbreakable truth of life that was just too obvious to reject.

“I want to love all of someone all of the time,” Stu says. And not, like, to insult me. But because he’s just a damn boy with visions of gumdrops and lollipops and bad romance novels in his head. And then he melted me: “But it’s, like, really cool for, you know, like, how you managed to come out of everything OK. I admire that.”

I mean Christ on a cracker, how many guys are there who’ll do that for you, who’ll just sit and let the story be about you for a change? Who’ll tell some older lady he admires her?

For a while I thought maybe he was just afraid to back away from the counter ‘cuz he had some serious boner and didn’t want me to see. But who can keep a boner with some wrinkly lady going on about her suicidal husband and boring convenience store life?

Stu more or less explained that nerdy awkward boys, barely old enough to drive who have never once in their whole goddamn lives gone on a single date, are absolutely enthralled at the idea of talking to a female. Or, in this case, of listening to one. Any drop of water in the desert, I guess. Or is it port in a storm? Whatever.

And me? Hell yes, I took full advantage. I exploited a weakness. But that’s OK as long as I wasn’t working some sinister angle, right?

Discussion Questions: Is Gladys right or wrong with her definition of true love? Is the connection between Gladys and Stu sexual?


cinderkeys said...

1. Yes. I think.

2. Not entirely.

3. You didn't ask the question I thought you would. Is this big connection mutual, or all in Gladys's head? I was thinking maybe Stu came for the Penthouse and stayed because he found Gladys interesting. Maybe he felt flattered that this adult was having a conversation with him as if he were another adult.

Billy said...

Hey Cinder - Thanks for asking #3. I intentionally didn't, because I don't want to make it too obvious what Billy the Author is trying (and/or failing) to do. But at the very least I think your question is at the heart of what I'm trying to do here, which is to explore the fine line and complicated dynamics of relationships. Albeit with a redneck lexicon and salty language.

Daisy said...

1. Yes

2. I think they are both starved for companionship and therefore attracted to anyone who will pay them attention. I think there is some sexual tension in the mix.

3. I don't think it is all in Gladys' head. Stu is clearly not getting much attention at home ( no one seems to notice or care that he is barely 16 and out cruising the streets alone until all hours of the night) so I think that fact that Gladys pays attention to him and doesn't judge him creates a connection on his end.

Anonymous said...

Enjoying the story.
Keep 'em coming.
Regards, Dave.

Billy said...

Dave - Whoever you are, I'm merely and sincerely appreciative that for whatever reason you're still reading it. Thanks.