He always wanted; she, never.
Jack LeCouer the male, the Gladrag mailman, lusting after every woman ever
posted, loved them all, but though she caught and kept that potent notion, Jill
his lady let it linger, languish, leak from out their lives. That bedtime boogie
mattered less, and finally not at all. A burst at the beginning, yes, a joyous
blast of gypsy jive and it was only ancient mystery.
“Luscious,” he’d entreat her, dying daily for her passion, nightly for
the nectar that she hoarded. And think, Plump nectarine, but bitterly?
not ever. Banned from bed, Jack slept in fair weather on the roof of their All-Elektrik
Kountry Kottage in the eucalyptus forest two miles south of Gladrag, taking to
his tub when came the rains.
She found passion plenty in her fiddle, sang it poptunes nightly, diapered
burped tucked neatly ‘neath her chin, Jill by the iron stove she stoked with
splitwood, fodder chopped herself, and so she shed her groin desire, that bright
belly twitcher, axed it in the wide dirt span ‘twixt house and barn.
She’d felled a dying tree one day for mercy and found succor, chopped it
down and chopped it up, was left so lacking for the bed, that warring place,
that Shiloh, she began to drop them weekly. All day long in canvas gloves, up
the ax and down the tree. Hacking, whacking, busting up, she dreamt the violins
she’d make of the remnants, carved Strads from eucalyptus limbs, sanded
varnished finished off a dozen in an hour, roomsful of fiddlesticks.
Swing the ax and play the fiddle,
Gingerbelly roots for tea,
Whack my drumming paradiddle,
Jam for you, one lump for me!
And burst into the back door, shiny-glad with effort, happy in her heart,
pleased enough to pause while passing him at his morose crossword and muss his
hair and muss his head and peck his stupid fucking skull.
Fuckless skull, he’d have styled it, wondering again where the bird had
flown. They’d known happy passion in the days when Jill had jarred that
red-hot razzmatazz, been his jalapeno joneypie and double-boilered all
her down to-earth desire in an early fecund season. No child occurred; now he
wondered of the loving, did we leave it in the latex? By any measure, Jack
became a man undone by she the one he wanted more than all the rest.
The rest? Why, there was Cookie Carmel at the Pie Oh My bakery; a sugarvision
in her apron habit. She did him in donuts thirteen times each morning, sifting
the flower in her legs before ever she rose to heat the kitchen: Cookie would
have, could have, if she’d only found a way to let him see.
There were the sisters, Victrola and Crayola Fancy, curtain-peeking past
their gingham swatches, straight into the street they crossed him in their hairs
and hearts each day, secret whispered as he wandered lonesome through the town
aboard his pointless postal mission, or so he thought the daily journey.
Dipsy Tallow straightforward called him out from the open upper door of La
Candela, hollered Jackie, how they hanging, Sweet Daddy, come on over here
and dip your wick, it’s lonely when you’re so damned cold in bed, I just
know you know it too.
Her he never answered; the butcher woman was a different story.
“Hi, Minx,” he’d say, head stuck through her open door, junk mail in
his jeans. “What’s good today?”
And Minx Malone would look up every time from the carcass she was cracking
into bagsize parcels, look up with solemn level lips but dancing gray eyes, eyes
that waltzed with his across the little distance. And “Jack,” she’d sing,
“I’ve chops today, one-two-three, seven-bone roast, two-three, how have you
And Jack would smile and mosey into bloody comfort, lacking grace to dance
but all the happy willingness he needed. And say, “I’m middling, Minx, I
guess I’m doing fine.”
And they’d fall into conversation, and in this way grew close.
It hadn’t always been so easy. When Jack first looked on Minx, he’d
thought her well above his station, up the track and up the hill with the
smarter set. And she may just have been the tonier of the two, for he’d never
given modern mores much consideration, dressed himself in what came handy,
sunsoft jeans Jill left bodiless on the bed for him and the sort of flannel
shirt that’s seen syrup duty in Vermont, seasons of it, waterproof boots from
She’d put him at ease, though he never caught her at it. Minx could get a
man into an overstuffed chair before any other woman in town could get her pants
on; she merely had the knack. It wasn’t from the finishing schools Papa never
sent her to, nor was it learned at Mama’s knee: that old biddy drove Papa to
strong drink on a nightly basis.
Some part of what we are, she never said, is ours alone.
They all saw it, of course, in the little town of Gladrag. The brilliantined
young men were merely envious, for Minx was a prize, a bluejay for the proper
cat and every cat came prowling. She pecked a few herself but finally sent them
all away, just-in-time beaux for balls she wanted some of, popcorn mates at the
new horror picture, boys to take to dinner when she couldn’t face another cut
For Jack she waited, time in hand so sweet so patient, mildly marking days.
And always had a welcome ready when he ducked inside her door.
There was talk. “The man has a wife,” Cookie might declare to Dipsy,
handing over fresh-baked crullers, their sweet aroma swearing to her sanity, her
kitchen’s. “Does she feel he needs another?”
“I’d say she feels exactly that,” Dipsy might reply, cackles concealing
a black and bitter heart, “but it’s what he feels that gets her
started.” And hand over exact change, cross to the door. And step and two and turn:
“If you get my drift.”
They smoked it over humidors and lathered it before the razor. In every shop
in town they tried it on and learned its inseam, weighed it for the postage and
returned it overdue: Did a man require two wives? And was Jack LeCouer that man?
And if Jill was the first, Crayola asked Victrola, who ought to be the other?
Who among us, Miss Vicki answered, is chopped liver?
Minx, who had chopped a few herself, might have had a word to offer. But she
held her tongue, and sliced it paper-thin.
Captain Cash kept his head and counted out the bills, the sorry few they hadn’t
repossessed before locking his nasty ass away. He knew nothing of the butcher
woman or any other soul in the border states of Minnebraska and Kansouri, knew
nothing of the world at large across all the lousy years he’d measured out in
some nameless concrete cage in Iron County.
“Git ‘em all, Cash,” the fatman gaoler hoarsely whispered past his
sullen grin, nickel teeth and nickel cigar. “You’ll spend every one and be
back here afore dinner, now how’s that sound, boy?”
Thirty-two, Cash summed. He raised his lids in one last leaden salute,
drooped his gunslinger mustache and, taking two steps before the cheap
prison-given suit took one, serged out the door and out the gate and never did
He crossed the state line at half past three and finally saw the sky, the
open air, his spacious cell. He almost wondered once again if it had been worth
the drill, killing Dink and Dee and Doolittle for the screwing they’d all
given him after they’d hit that racetrack in the Downs, nearly wondered out of
habit, for this had become a piece of his routine and a con without a routine’s
just another lonely man. But today, after doing eight-and-a-third of the
twenty-five, he finally gave it a rest.
Of course it had.
He stripped the pack of ciggies he’d liberated from a ninety-year-old in a
public park and lit himself up to smoke and find his bearings. They lay
southwest, he decided after a look at a highway sign: This Way To Where You’re
The Captain’s weirdly Christian name was Pentecost Jubilee, a mother’s
nightmare since conceiving him drunk and her last attempt to persuade the Lord
and the Law to forgive him his peccadilloes. It never really took hold and
before he was fourteen Pent had a yellow sheet as long as his cock, which was
his one impressive asset and a dead father’s only gift.
The state cops were out and about and several had a word or two with him,
knew what he was by the cut of his cloth and stopped to provide a little fresh
“You want to watch your step in this state, Sonny Charles,” one said,
tipping up his campaign hat and handing back the library card Cash had taken
from the old man between breaking his back and snatching the smokes. “I’ve
warned you fairly now, so when we throw your ass back in for looking at the
little girls’ panties, don’t y’all come cryin’ to me.”
An easy nod and Cash went on and on and drifted down the country road. Hunger
pressed him and he smacked a Little Leaguer for a chocolate bar. Lust likewise
burned bright and certain, so he thought to stop and flog his ox but first he
Dusk found the badman in a eucalyptus lane wherein he heard on brisk October
air the solid chunk of ax to tree and the clear sweet woman’s voice:
Hoist them high, my laddies, here’s another for your trouble,
I’ll just finish hanging didies and I’ll fly there on the double…
So sang Jill to the Violin Tree she was whacking on today, metal fang biting
deep into its woody flesh. Cash behind a potted palm beholding now this vision;
food there was and more: after doing the eight-and-a-third with no better
company than his hand, she was Woman One. He’d never taken to the prettyboys,
and pumped away his passion on the weight bench, wiry now as Western Union. Here
he saw a Better Thing.
“Need a pair of hairy hands, my darling?” he sang out as he showed
himself, and Jill started and let slip the ax and watched in horror as he took
the flat side in the forehead. Cash staggered to and fro, lurching about as had
his dear old dad when stupid drunk.
“Oh, my!” Jill collected him in her chopper arms and tossed him on her
shoulder fireman-style and lugged him off to the house. Cash hung there, changed
and blinking fast, and for the first time in his sorry life he failed to see and
seize advantage: a woman and a house!
You might say, cynical, that things happen all at once in stories like this,
but why do you suppose such tales get told? In any case, Jack chose that dusky
day to lay down his mailbag and sit with Miz Malone at dinner, in the rooms she
kept behind her shop.
She’ll never know I’m gone, he thought, concerning Jill. If she
ain’t chopping down a tree it’s sure she’s sawing on that fiddle.
Minx was medium as women run, a middle-heighted lady on a sturdy frame. On
this evening she’d disguised herself petite, using engineering skills to rig
slight structures on her clean foundation, all apparent slenderness and winsome
wonder at this bravo bossanova hero she finally was dinnering.
And “Oh, these wretched ribs,” she cried, full content in her table’s
excellence and what was he to say but truth? for all of it was fine. She fished
her creel of compliments in this familiar way and bagged her limit but no more;
Minx was not a rapacious woman.
There was alcohol with dinner and a little after—but wine was not the way
of it and cognac not the cause. Neither was a fool, and both knew when they sat
at table they would later lie in bed.
The bed itself was wondrous, an enormous thing a man had made for Minx at her
direction, and been paid for in the coin of pleasure. It required leap or
stepstool, mattress slabs piled high with comforters, but the greatest comfort
in the heap was Minx; she saw to that.
The butcher woman cradled Jack’s carcass with some expertise, offered up
her rib and cheek and loin and lovely breasts. She tied herself inside his arms
and drew so cushy-close both gasped at sudden otherbody pleasure, at delight
delicious bedtime raptures in that lively linen tangle.
And Jack was lost in her, wrapped tight in thighs and pinioned blithe,
rocking rhythms of Parisian jazz, Stephane Grappelli slipped so hot so slick a
stick across his maple ax that never did Jack hear the instrument, merely felt
the fresh and ancient ocean surge of Minx’s hips, her perfect pelvis. He
plunged into the rhythmic swells that rose to meet him, dove down deep and bold
till both had lost their reason and their seeing and their minds—until they
drifted in sheer feel.
They were sated, and then off they sailed again.
“I’ll take your best,” says Jill to Dan Sedan, and presses money wads
into his greasy palm. He gapes at fortune, shoves her toward the Coupe De Ville
he daily buffs, bright symbol of his Gladrag Repo Roundup.
“Underbody coating?” he inquires, handing over keys. She flushes, shakes
her head, glossy hair unpinned undone, slides in behind the wheel and drives
away without her change. Fair enough, thinks Dan, I’ll keep it.
She next is seen at Larry’s Liquor Lockup, picking up a box of Bud, a case
of Wild Turkey, ice. Not so mad a purchase, but it’s ten p.m., an hour Jill is
seldom seen in town. At the counter like an afterthought she adds a banjo box of
El Presidentes and a gross of whopper condoms to the hooch and asks all
nonchalant, “How much?”
Larry blinks and says the number, takes her paper money, bags the goods. And
asks, “How you gonna carry all that, Jill? Want me to deliver it tomorrow?”
“Coupe de Ville,” she crows, “V-8, here and now.” And scratching,
Larry lugs the goodies carward, whistles lengthy low and shakes his head. “Danny’s
Caddy, ain’t she?” But Jill is in and Jill is down the road.
And heading out of town she thinks a sudden second thought and yanks around
the big pearlescent cruiser, motors up the only drag, hammers on the brake in
front of Malone’s Meatery, out and up the stair and sees the sign there: Done
For The Day.
She lifts a fist to knock, but the door glides open silently and there stands
Minx, berobed, bemused, befuddled. “Hello, Jill,” says she, “hello the
night. What brings you out? The moon?”
Indeed a pizza hangs on the horizon, dripping mozzarella moonshine on the
dusty downtown avenue of eyes—for sleepless, all watched Jack walk in, and no
one saw him leave. Enter Jill in crazy Caddy, showdown in the night with Minx
that gray-eyed calmwise puss. The Fancy sisters place their bets; Cookie and the
Tallow woman peer from out the windows of their commerce homesteads; up and down
the street lungs quiet nicely for the listening.
And “Beef!” Jill bawls at Minx.
“Right now?” Minx asks, retreating. And thinks, I smell sex, and not
my own. What’s in this night?
“I need steaks,” sings Jill, “I’ll want a dozen, easy.”
“And I’m closed,” Minx murmurs, “but come in, come in and let me see.
And where’s the hurry, dear?” Jill is through the door and all the world’s
in anguish, wishing mightily for the nightly news.
Seconds saunter past, a minute, three, and Jill is out the door again, laden
down in bloody bargains. In the car and off she roars for bed, and back of her
Minx stands in doorway hipshot, arms akimbo, thinking her unpublished thoughts.
In his dotage, Tom Hanks would tell the other barflies of the role that got
away: he’d have given all his Oscars to be cast as cop in the movie made from
this story, but instead Ed Harris got the nod, and even kept his name.
It was Ed the Cop who, cruising Treedotcom Park, found one Sonny Charles,
backbroke, weakly wiggling his wrinkled busted fishbody, ninety years old every
day of the week.
But Sonny could always talk, and to Ed he told the tale of the dark,
mustachioed little weasel who had broken him for cigarettes, liberated Lucky
Strikes and left him there to perish.
“Thought he’d done me dead,” wheezed Sonny while the paramedics
inflated the bodybubble to immobilize him, wishing they could do something
similar to his mouth. “The son of a bitch thought he’d kilt me, yassir.”
“Five-five,” Ed repeated, “one-thirty. Droopy mustache, baggy blue
serge. Black hair, prison-short. Eyes?”
“Squinty,” Sonny offered as they gurneyed him into the machine and
sirened off to some stainless steel ER.
Leaving Ed nothing to do but walk to his cruiser, thumb the radio handset to
life, and tell his story to all the world that lay in breathless electromagnetic
anticipation. All is calm. All is bright.
Cash in the tub, soaking up the fiddlewoman’s purifying waters and
blackening them with a life of sin and ignorance, leaves rings of sooty evil
with a nonchalance born in the company of caged and desperate men. And
shell-shocked still, struggling now to comprehend the day.
She sure can play that thing, he barely thinks, and isn’t near the
half of it. Jill had tossed him on the bed and puffed his pillows as awareness
grew between them. Something in the little wretch appealed. The ax had paralyzed
his talkalot; so he listened with apparent interest as she exhumed in longtime
buried words her tragedy, how she’d teenage once thought Jack her lifetime
love, O what a fool she’d been, however could she love him? Yet how leave?
And Cash just stared as though intelligent, as if her story fascinated, bore
him down to dig her baby tears. In truth, he fathomed little of it; nonetheless
in altered consciousness he felt he knew her human sorrow. And so it seemed to
her he listened, heard her as no other ever had, so wept she now and even loved
this hangdog mongrel.
And she’d not finished off her tree that day, so all the strident urges
surged within her, wanting, wanting. Finally she sought solace in her violin,
and stunned herself when out jumped Little Wing in little ways that Jimi
never thought of. Encouraged by the bulge that grew in Cash’s pants, she flung
away all caution and played him Idouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, hot
as her britches in the first movement, sweetly seductive in the fourth.
And then Jill’s clothes were history and devil take the underwear. His
strapping summer sausage, aging in autumn, rose and stiffened perky, and no
thought muddled up her mind as she straddled that ugly blue-eyed killer and
impaled herself on him, all her hot sweet-and-sour juices slipping dripping as
she gasped and moaned forgotten lyrics of the body. Cash was stricken dumb and
just as well; for had he said a word he’d likely ruined all but as it was she
forward leaned without the slightest grace, ground pubic bone on pubic bone and
pleasure squeezed between. Her nipples finger-tweaked until he palmed her ass
and pulled her aft and often down and up until there came the one great shudder,
minutes long and then the leap as first she came along and once again as he
caught up, erupted into her the greatest geyser of his life, his life and one
They spoke no word then, merely whooped the oxygen and sprawled like dogs in
summer’s heat, recovering.
At last she said, “Tell me what you want.” And Cash had rote recited
whiskey, car, cigars; she’d added beef to keep him going, thought a little
late of condoms. And threw on clothes and left him there and double-timed to
Gladrag for the goods. No thought, no thought at all.
Here came she through the door again, heard him sloshing there and glanced
from habit at her ax and fiddle, left them there and poured a tumbler of whiskey
for him then grinning madly one for her as well, derelicting clothing in her
crazy heat and haste.
Coming with your Turkey, darling,
Climbing up your barber pole,
Sliding slipping heat your Harley
Hunk inside me, rock and roll!
Bouncing bedwise, devil take me,
Slipping sticky sound effects,
Keep it coming, don’t forsake me,
Lovely rocking rolling sex!
Then she found him in the tub, and tossing him a cigar, Jill lit him up
“Jill?” Jack queried, blinking rapid.
“She herself,” said Minx, “but you needn’t hunt for cover, dear, she
wasn’t after you.”
He stared, uncomprehending, while she told him of the steaks the booze the
Cadillac. She’d seen the condoms clear enough, but held them in reserve; the
lad was clearly boggled. So she shucked her pansied housecoat and arranged her
limbs around him, wrapping him in her in him until at last he found her sweet
confusion, rising to her woman’s honeyed touch.
A passing screech abruptly jerked them from their pleasure; sirens in the
road—alarm! Minx flew bare-assed to a window, comelier than she knew, in time
to see a caravan of cops go by; Jack joined her.
“Who’s the badman?” both murmured, and then Jack melted, seeing her in
merely moonlight clad, and kissed her, long and purposeful. A loving smile
upturned at last her somber lips and lit her cat-gray eyes. When he responded,
Minx found a ready handle and towed him back to bed.
Outside, Ed Harris led the law through Gladrag, burning down the road to find
his awful outlaw. The infantry trotted on behind, soldier boys on loan from Camp
Handjob down the road, there for Zero Defects, barely buttoned up. The cops had
talked to Dan Sedan and Liquor Larry: someone needed wheels and drink. As
townfolk gaped they barreled by, for all roads led to Jill LeCouer.
And people pounding after them at this new primetime feature--anxious for the
chase ran Cookie, Dipsy, Vicki and Crayola, every blooming Gladrag soul until
only Jack the Happy Mailman lingered there beside his beguiling butcher lady.
And Jill? She’s lying with her Pentecost, eliciting the first giggle of his
wasted life. They play with rubbers, looking for one big enough to seal him up,
as though the first time’s free, as though his fish were not within her. She
wishes she’d bought lemon-flavored, starred and striped and ribbed and rocked
but these’ll surely do.
They won’t do much. His gush a rush inside her, swimming strong in towering
fallopian seas toward some lost floating lifetime. As though the first time’s
She fills their glasses, slightly stunned by alcohol and liberty, tangles him
and drinks him for a kiss. Cash is likewise dazzled, can’t remember who he
used to be or where it happened, how he came in here or came in her but God, he
truly prays, it’s good to be alive, a happy man.
He knows nothing now of prison, murder, mayhem for malevolence or massacre
for money. Call him consecrated if you like, or merely hammered in the head; he’s
as good a man as you are, maybe better. He plays with Jill in innocence, all
smiles as now she dips her head to lick his sweet meat lollipop.
And giggles, trying to make it fit her mouth and even though her lips would
wrap a knackwurst, nothing doing; her Pent’s a little man but large of organ.
She laps him like a cat and backward lolls his head—he gives it all to sweet
sensation, tension tingling in his balls.
And what might she be thinking? What of Jack, her wayward mate? Is this
In plaintalk, she’s forgotten him entire. This ugly outlaw-man, her
sweetest babe, has fizzled all her logic, lain her waste. If truly we are one
for one, she found her matching soul the moment she’d revised his brain, and
became exactly his.
And oh the cops arrive, the army right behind and last of all the leering
japes of Gladrag. Spotlights pierce the windowpane. Weapons rattle with a
snicking purpose, rounds are chambered, pins are pulled. And now the hackneyed
bullhorn: Yeah, we know you’re in there.
Why drag it out? They take him.
Endings get no better than they are.
Divorce and marriage: Jill was glad to let Jack go, to send him off to
happiness, her mental mailman goof. She fiddled for their wedding, played Quarter
Moon in a Ten-Cent Town, sounding just like Emmylou. The blushing bride wore
naugahyde and Jack put on a tie.
Divorce and marriage: Jill married Cash, of course, swore her love through
iron bars and Minx sent meat. The blushing groom found elbow room and Jill drank
rock and rye.
Jill makes his Pentecostal prison life as good as any could: her prison
ministry includes free concerts, Born to the Blues, and she brings the
fatman gaoler a pie from Cookie every time. The mildman Pentacost becomes a
trustee, pushing bookcarts up and down the cell blocks, calling out their names:
“Hot Kafka! Getcher Dostoevsky here! Done it with an ax, he did, the way my
Jilly done to me!”
They live for conjugal visits, and for the daughter that she bears him, sweet
Genevieve the child of autumn love, that spastic splat of his salvation. She’ll
never take his violence, nor mama’s violin, for Jenny will a sculptress be,
scrap metal welded well enough for craft-show sales, a slight dark woman
lighting Luckies with acetylene.
There’s bliss enough, and pain enough, to make its blindfold way around the
block. They all were lost they all were found they’ll all live long enough on
©1999 Bob Arter
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