Bees In Hot Corners
Iím forty and have had a thing for two different men since I was old enough to know what a thing was.
The first man I had a thing for was a carpenter who helped build Flappy Jackís Pancake House over on Whittington Avenue. I was fourteen, Pentecostal, and felt already as burnt out as a summer lawn. If you knew, youíd say I was burnt out too. After leaving Mother off at the geriatric home where she wiped asses and noses all day, Iíd cruise by Flappy Jackís, as if I was everything I wasnít. I wouldÖcruise, one hand hanging over the steering wheel, the other out the window so it could get reddish tan and the hot breeze would spike the little blonde hairs up stiff as if saluting the morning sun as it rose up over West Mountain, but the air would already be thick as breath. What made the thing happen that time was him taking off his shirt. A dirty blue t-shirt with the words Volunteer Fire Department printed on the back in flaking white letters. He took it off like it was about to just kill him, yanking it up over his head in one smooth jerk, then rubbing it around on his sweaty face, neck, and chest. In the Arkansas heat, having a shirt on was the difference between life and death, or at least thatís what Dad would tell me when he said straight as an arrow, Connie, straight as an arrow, off with it now, and Iíd lift my arms and point them to the ceiling of my bedroom, as if I was going to shoot right on through it.
I never knew the carpenterís name. Never needed to. Without his name and mine, that thing grew to grand proportions, huge, too big for names or phone numbers. Just a huge thing working hard inside a small truck cab.
So that day I was cruising by and he took off his t-shirt. I stopped and sat a while, there in front of Flappy Jackís, letting the vinyl seat of Motherís El Camino warm my ass entirely and all else down there too. I may have been burnt out, but I was still hot to trot. Next time I went back, I pulled around behind the half-finished building, back there behind trailers piled high with neat stacks of plywood, two by fours, and concrete blocks. I parked next to his truck and got in. For the next half hour, his lunch break, I rocked on his lap, sweating and panting like how Dad did when he keeled over after our last arrow, just a few months before this thing. And he never said too much. The carpenter, I mean.
We went on like that until Flappyís was finished. Then we took our thing over to his new job site and then on into fall, until during the rains when he got buried while digging out a ditch over by the Court House. Iíd come by at the usual time, but all I saw of him was a hand sticking out of the mud and people standing around looking at it like it was about to wave hello. It was just a summer thing, I guess. Besides, I read somewhere that people have the most sex in the summer, so I knew I was in for a slow spell. I just didnít know itíd last twenty five years.
Winters in Arkansas are half-assed. One day itíll be thirty degrees, next itíll be seventy. Canít get any real action when the weather doesnít do its part. Have to have extremes. Like in Siberia maybe. Itís so cold there people have to play the body heat card. Letís all huddle now. Rub chests and backs and thighs for friction. Maybe thatís where Dad got all his ideas. Of course, Iíve heard they play that card with the cows too.
Then my other thing was just last year. For the butcher at Kroger. I would say what all Iíve been doing for near twenty five years, but thereís nothing to mention. It took a while to get this one going because not only had my flame been out for awhile, Mother had died two years ago out on Highway two-seventy West when she was with a friend too old to be driving, who, in fact, was due for double cataract surgery the next day. So I was still busy getting her estate together. I either had to pay the second mortgage off or lose the house. I didnít care much for the house or what had gone on inside it, so I let the bank take it. Of course, I kept her old car. I even found an old cigarette butt from when me and the carpenter tried it in there to see if it was roomier than his truck. It wasnít.
With the butcher, there was no sweat, no wet black hair plastered in manly armpits, no bees buzzing around in the corners of hot windows, no sawing and hammering going on outside the window. Just blood and cold. Blood and cold. Red finger-paint on white coats. Fat globs in the stainless steel utility sink. Scales big enough for me to sit on. Water hoses spraying pink water into floor drains. But Iím a phlebotomist, so none of the blood bothered me. Thatís one thing I did. Become a phlebotomist.
Heíd been standing next to the sign that read ďWill boil crab legs and lobsters for free.Ē Iíd say so, considering how expensive the things were. This time, I had no choice but to get his name. Tom. Right there on his shirt. Damn. So much for mystery.
He said, how do you want your sirloin? Chunked for stew? Sliced for steak? Yes, that one, sliced. Thin or thick? Thick, I said. Enough to sink your teeth into? Yes, I said, and I mightíve leaned in over the white metal case a little, feeling that old thing bloom in my gut. Maybe it was the cleaver or the meat slicer that started the thing. Or because he gave me a discount. Two pounds for the price of one. I started eating a lot more meat.
It was a week later when, at about midnight, I was sitting on that scale, naked and cold. Then he weighed each of my breasts and wanted to squirt me with his hose. I thought of Dad in the driveway, washing the car, in boxer shorts that kept gaping in the front. Peek-a-boo. If he caught me looking, it was time to go inside.
This thing wasnít as good as the last one. It was Tom. I mean, me knowing his name was Tom was what was wrong about it all. I couldnít pretend he was somebody else, somebody I didnít know. I couldnít pretend like I did when my arms were pointed up high, fingers flexed in a steeple, waiting to shoot to the moon.
Prayer of Communication