“I SWEAR TO GOD, I went to Nationals in high school,” June blurted, wiping beer from her chin.
Miss June and Early sat in the mid-afternoon solitude in front of the Mobil Home drinking, facing the pumps and waving to the occasional passing car. June took a tug at the bottle she had just taken from the cooler next to her chair, and continued.
“I use ta be the best. My mother’s still got ribbons and trophies all over the den. I’m tellin ya.”
Early sat back, his mind’s eye basking in the lascivious image of Miss June in a tight and skimpy unitard, ruffled at the waist, twirling and tossing the silvery baton.
“I had my own routine just like what’s-her-name, the skater, ya know. I chose my own music and did my own thing up there.” She took a double gulp of the Utica Club, belched silently, eyes closing, with her free hand patting daintily at her chest just below the collarbone. “Oh, Early,” she whispered, unable for the moment to use her larynx, “that musta gone down the wrong way.”
Early winked. “Miss June, ain’t no such thing as going down the wrong way, far as I’m concerned.” He took a big tug at his beer, swallowed hard, stretched his arms out wide, and belched loud enough to quiet birds and wake the dead. “I’d sure like to see a parade go by. Right here, right now. Did you know I used to play drums in school? Marched just like you did, every parade.” He took half the bottle in three fast gulps, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down like a yo-yo. “You know, I’m a pretty patriotic guy. You’d never know looking at me. Used to get pretty into it, marching right behind the twirlers, banging on the snare. I was lead drummer on the right, man. Everybody else had to guide off me.”
Miss June leaned over, warming to this vague mutual interest. “No shit?” she replied. “Parades are so cool. Ya know, I think I still got my baton in the trunk of the Camaro.”
She looked down at her nearly empty bottle, shook out the remaining few drops, and tossed it into the trash can next to the front door. Dogma raised his head off the couch as the can reverberated next to his shady corner. He yawned, snapped at a circling deerfly, and went back to his dog-day napping. Early leaned over, pulled another out of the cooler, twisted off the cap, and handed it to Miss June. She took it, leaned back in her chair, stretched her arms back with a yawn, dribbling foam out the top of the sloshing bottle.
“Oh, Early Bird, I don’t know. I shouldn’t be drinkin’ all this beer this time of day.”
Early leaned over further, tipped his chair up onto two right legs, and threw his arm around her shoulder, leaning his own shoulder into her to keep from tipping over. “June Bug, the sun’s out hot, we’re sitting here with nothing better to do, nowhere else to go ... Remember how hot it used to get marching on Memorial Day? Man, I’d sweat my ass off.”
“It was sure hot, even in that little thing they made me wear. I’ll tell ya.”
Early removed his arm, brought his chair back to level, and drained his beer, tossing it at the trashcan over his left shoulder. It missed, bounced off the wall, and broke on the asphalt below. They both erupted into party laughter, turning to look at the shards of Early’s burgeoning incoordination.
Turning back, Early looked over at Miss June. “Man, those days are gone,” he said. “I gave up drumming for the guitar, and I’ll bet you can’t twirl no more since you took up singing with your dad.”
June sat up straight in indignation, taking the barely disguised bait whole. “Maybe you’re done. But I was the best, and I can still twirl just as good as I ever did.” With that, she lunged up and out of the chair, side-stepped her way back into balance, and made for the back of the Camaro. She leaned her pelvis into the side of the aging muscle car, fumbling in her tight jeans pocket for the keys.
Early tipped back his beer, adjusted his crotch, and yelled over, “You still got the outfit?”
June turned the key, pulling up on the trunk lid with her left hand, and banged it with the heel of her right hand just above the lock, as always. The lid popped, and she began rummaging through the piles of clothing, tools, and empty bottles, until she came up with a somewhat-greasy, but still functional, chrome-plated baton.
Early took another pull at his beer and asked again, “Hey, look at that! You still got the outfit?”
June rummaged some more and came up with a grimy little gym bag with the initials, JCS, and a baton embroidered on the side. She struggled with the rusty zipper as Early watched with growing impatience.
“You need some WD on that,” Early said.
She finally overpowered the zipper in little jerks and removed a flimsy looking, crinoline tutu affair with a ruffle along the bottom.
“You can’t still get into that, can you?”
Miss June turned around too fast, losing her balance, catching herself against the quarter panel of the Camaro. Holding the tutu out in front of herself, she snarled indignantly, “I can fit that!”
Early’s mind raced the best that it could along this alcoholic backroad, colliding with blivets of large volumes in small containers, teenage fantasy obscuring thirtyish reality. He grabbed the gas pump to stop the vertigo of these prurient contradictions. “Bet you can’t!”
Miss June huffed and began a swaying drunkwalk toward the front door. “We’ll just see about that!”
Early stumbled back to his chair and dropped heavily into it. He drew the back of his hand across his brow, shaking it off in a gesture of blistering, libidinous heat. He looked over at his sleeping dog as he reached for his next Utica Club. “Dogma, old buddy, you and me are about to get a real show. You best wake it and shake it right now.”
He was finishing his beer and checking his watch about the time the screen door slammed open, sending Dogma out of his slothful indolence, off the couch, and onto his feet. Miss June stood at the threshold, leaning heavily against the jamb, one knee bent sideways, one leg straight, one arm akimbo, the greasy baton spinning in front of her at the end of the other.
“Hot diggity dog!” yelled Early, grabbing another beer, twisting around to face the house, trying to get up off the rickety chair. On his second lunge, he found his feet and held the pump to keep from falling. “Whoooeeee! Look at that!”
Miss June stepped down to the asphalt and started a high-knee march in place, spinning the baton like a silver propeller. She had managed to get into the tutu, technically winning Early’s informal bet, but she was clearly not the little girl she used to be. The elastic leg holes bit painfully into the ample flesh of her thighs, creating a sausage-like effect just below her pelvic girdle. Her breasts were pressed close together and stuffed asymmetrically into the front of the garment, coming out the top like the foam oozing out of Early’s beer bottle. She tossed the baton high in the air, and—without a glance—passed her cigarette and caught the spinning staff in her opposite hand.
“Holy shit,” said Early. “I don’t fucking believe my eyes!” He staggered over to the garbage can and up-ended it in a single motion as he hit the wall with his shoulder, foam spewing from the beer he had forgotten to set down. Trash and empty bottles scattered about the parking lot, and Dogma scurried for cover under the Camaro. Early emptied the rest of his beer, picked up another bottle, and began to beat furiously on the bottom of the can. “Step high, Miss June! Step higher!” he slurred, beating out a martial cadence, staring at the gaudy spectacle before him.
She stuck the cigarette into her mouth, spinning around and changing hands. Her second spin revealed that the zipper linking the back of the tutu was beginning to fail near the bottom, its little teeth bulging with pent-up flesh that would not be denied.
“Whoooooeeee!” yelled Early, as he beat on the can. “You’re doing it. You’re hot today!”
Dogma snuck his head out from under the Camaro and watched the cacophonous drama unfolding just above his place of refuge. His tail began to quiver as Miss June marched past the car, spinning and swaggering. Early beat furiously, breaking a bottle, reaching for another without losing the cadence. Miss June’s zipper continued to part slowly upward, loosening the tutu, making her feel more comfortable as the vitality of reprised youth coursed through her veins alongside the alcohol. Dogma crawled carefully and quietly. Early beat faster.
“Whooooeeee!” he cried.
Then—as if staged for the eye of God watching this spectacle—three events took place in a startling precision of coincidence: their friend Harry’s station wagon careened into the parking lot, Dogma lunged out and locked onto Miss June’s left calf, and the aging zipper parted all the way to the top of the tutu. Harry got out of the car, Dogma humped in closed-eye abandon, and the front of Miss June’s tutu popped open to reveal a mountainous landscape, compressed and held together with multiple strips of duct tape. Harry gaped, Dogma humped, and Miss June screeched. She flailed at the dog with the baton, while Early just kept on banging the garbage can louder and louder.
Miss June bolted for the house, dragging and beating at the slobbering dog, which let go just before the threshold. Early fell backward in spasms of uncontrollable laughter, with Dogma all over him, licking his face and hands.
Harry just stood there, erect and wide-eyed with astonishment, absorbing the incredible coincidence he’d stumbled onto. He slowly made his way toward the convulsing Early, helping him to his feet and back into his chair by the pumps.
“You got any more of that beer?”
♥ End ♥
VICTOR SMITH is a writer living in a rural upstate New York hamlet that just might be the setting of this piece. He has self-published two novels, and has had shorter fiction accepted in a number of online and paper magazines. He has been rejected by the very best minds in the pantheon of corporate publishing—an accomplishment that brings him great pride. He is also a musician and writer of quirky and cynical love songs.
A PDF of this story is available for free.
Search tag: Go Read Your Lunch. All stories are submitted by the authors, are used with permission, and are not to be reused in any way without the authors’ consent.