SUSANDALE - EIGHTY-PROOF FURY
Susandale’s poems and fiction are on WestWard Quarterly, Mad Swirl, Penman Review, The Voices Project, and Jerry Jazz Musician. In 2007, she won the grand prize for poetry from Oneswan. Two published chapbooks, The Spaces Among Spaces from languageandculture.org, and Bending the Spaces of Time from Barometric Pressure have been on the internet.
Pogy’s Trailer Court, flanked with a grocery store on one side and a dairy queen on the other___ sat behind a major highway: Routes 6&2. There were five streets in Pogy’s with ten trailers per street: Karen’s trailer was the second on the second street. And in the back-est room of Karen’s hump-back abode, David was stretched out on a narrow bed with his elbows propped up to read. But he left Melville’s Moby Dick* when he heard Veronica’s Harley zooming into Pogy‘s whose entry was heralded by a sign that read, ‘Only Pogy’s Residnts Alowed. All Others Will Be Toad Away. That Means You.’
Veronica, the only girl that David knew who owned her own Harley, also sported creepy fingernails out to here and filed to sharp points. Painted purple, Veronica’s nails added to her fearsome MO. All the girls and most of the boys in Pogy’s moved out of Veronica’s way and quickly when she roared by. Though only five feet tall and weighing a mere ninety-five pounds, Veronica carried a mighty reputation for kicking ass.
Soon after Veronica va-voomed over to her trailer four streets over, David heard a car swerve in. Looking out the window by his bed, he saw the Donalds’ car pull up alongside his.’ He held his breath until eek, their car braked to a stop.
‘What the hell, they’ve pulled up to the wrong trailer: Karen’s.’
Though he waited for the Donald’s to drive over to their trailer; it wasn’t going to happen. They sat in their car for a full thirty minutes before they realized that they were parked by the wrong trailer. David heard Mr. Donald and the Missus mumbling slurred confusions.
‘Now, their car is starting up again.’ Closing his eyes in petition, he prayed, ‘Sweet Jesus, don’t let them hit my car, or ram into Karen’s trailer.’
Slowly opening his eyes, he looked out the window to witness the Donalds’ car: this time swerving away from Karen’s trailer with tires squealing. But when they backed up to change directions, they hit a section of rolled-up fencing. After driving over it, they pulled over to their trailer, the one next to Karen’s.
‘Alleluia, they made it, but, whoops, they left their headlights on, even as they are stumbling up the steps to their trailer.’
Though the Donalds were not yet aware and wouldn’t be until Monday, when they were ready for work, not only was their battery dead, but the fencing they drove over punctured holes in their tires.
Watching the Donald’s heading to their trailer door with stumbling steps, David thought,’ may the Lord be praised. Tonight, the Donald’s have miraculously made it home: I hope without maiming or annihilating any who may have been in their blurred path. It is, after all, Saturday night., and on Saturday nights, barring at Pogy’s is a time-honored ritual, as sacred to Pogy’ folk, as Sunday church is to Christians.’
Meanwhile, the twins in the room next to David’s, had finally settled down. ‘Their eternal, perpetual, perennial coughs are coming fewer now. After two straight hours of coughing, the kids have hacked out everything but their brains,’ David thought before he heard Rick stumble to the toilet. A steady stream of urine splashed, but Rick, being too worn out from the twins’ coughing to flush, sleep-walked his way back to his cot, pushed snug up to the baby bed the twins shared.
‘The twins need a room and beds of their own and I need to be gone, and so, as soon as I put together two more checks from Forces training, I will be exiting,’ David thought with a smug assurance that he carried around with him like a lucky stone in his pocket. A necessity, really. If he didn’t believe in his soon-to-be departure, he would be unable to get out of bed in the mornings.
Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly. ‘This is the best I can hope for at Pogy’s: Pogy’s on Saturday night has, at last, mellowed out.’
He set his wind-up alarm for 7am. ’Tomorrow being Sunday, I’m heading to training again. And so it’s time to leave the leviathan spouting while he heads menacingly toward the Pequod.’
He shut off the pages of Moby Dick,* and pulled down a torn shade on the window by his bed. Pulling the covers around his shoulders, as if to shield himself from Pogy’s, Saturday night revelry, David thought, ‘and hope when I sleep tonight, I don’t fall into another one of my ghastly night-mares. Faces of the unknown close in on me, walls rise around me. Horrors all! My dreams tell me to vacate, like I did last summer when I split, as in out. Most nights, I slept on the beach. Sometimes I drank coffee at an all-night diner then drove around until I ran out of gas. I was away from Karen’s crybaby face, away from the pullout table sticky with cereal and curdled milk, and away from my half-brothers: Rick, and the twins.
The twins being part Cherokee, part White Horse, they are a part of me. I see myself in those two tots: eyes too big for their faces, ears too big for their heads, and half smiles that flicker around without settling. I’ll leave before they grow into those awkward parts, as I am in the process of doing. If I stay until they fit their faces, I will be a part of them, thus a part of Karen, and I’ll be beyond escape from the walls of this trailer that hold s me prisoner.’
A new sound emerging, footsteps coming from around the back of the trailer: clumsy, faltering, and coming closer. ‘A raccoon getting in the garbage can, or one of Karen’s jealous boyfriends checking up on her?’
Cursing, stumbling, bumping into things. “Be quiet, don’t wake the kids.”
Pushing the torn shade aside, David looked out to see Karen weaving towards the trailer. ‘Oh no, not again;’ he despaired.‘Karen is loaded to nth. There’s shadows behind her: slurring speech, too. Someone is with her; he’s stumbling,also, but who is he? Whoops!‘
Quickly, he dropped the shade. ‘They are directly outside my window and both careening towards the trailer door.’
Falling back on the pillows, he waited with clenched fists, ‘both are blind are with 80 proof. Will Karen and her swain manage to climb the steps and make it inside the trailer?’
Hearing the trailer door open, he held his breath. ‘The door is squeaking open, but I fear closing it will be beyond their abilities. Consequently, it will be left open to let in every creeping, crawling, flying, toxic critter at Pogy’s, and that includes Karen and her night’s lay.’
After lowering his feet to the floor, David padded down the narrow hallway with the intention of closing the outside door, but he stopped cold. ‘Karen’s yet weaving back and forth in the room with the open door. And, oh no, she has the worst of the lot with her; she has Sonny in tow. Oh, no, not Sonny!’
His hand flew to his forehead. ‘Both of them are lurching towards her bedroom while holding on to each other and to the furniture for support.’
In rapid movements, David stepped back into the hallway to hide in the walls’ shadows even while he estimated Karen’s companion: ‘Ah-hh, Karen’s tonight’s one-night-er is Sonny, the weathered cowpoke from a row over. Though deep furrows line his pocked face, and his sagging body is held together by blue tendons that wind around his tattooed arms and bony legs, his legs with knees the size of golf balls___ there’s plenty of notches on Sonny’s belt; he’s a babe magnet for the thirty-forty-something group in Pogy’s.’
David caught his breath and held it tight inside his chest. ’Worse yet, Sonny is married and his
betrothed, Dottie, is suspicious, vicious, and only one row over. No doubt, she’s waiting for her magnet man to appear. A standing joke at Pogy’s: Dotty trying to keep tabs on her wayward hubby.’
Back to his bed David padded with light steps, ’what if, at this very moment, Dotty is quizzing herself, ‘where is my Sonny-Boy?’
He rolled over on his stomach and banged his fists on the pillow. ‘Why Sonny?’ he moaned to the gods of fate. ‘She said she was going to Eddie’s and Eddie’s is crawling with Karen’s specialties, those flannel shirts under Texas hats. At Eddie’s, there’s three cowpokes for every cow-gal. On their Harleys and in their pick-ups, they roar into the red-neck palace to sock ‘em away until loaded enough to blow their balls with fists flying at any provocation … say, if another flannel shirt winks at their night’s pick-up, or if a cowpoke sits in his bar stool when they get up to boogie. And at Eddie’s, it’s a rodeo, rustling boogie: Texas hats on their heads, the cowboys lean over their feet and shake their shoulders. Now and then, a sexy shake of their hips. Seldom, if ever, do they even move their spurred boots.
Why Sonny, I ask you again, you: you, the gods of fate. Most of Eddie’s cowpokes are without mates like Sonny’s, Dottie ... a quadrate, sturdy, brawlen’ babe, she won’t hang back for a minute on “taking care of any little sluts gonna’ be dicking around with my Sonny-Boy.”
Both his teeth and fists clenched tight when David heard Sonny and Karen bumping and humping around in Karen’s bedroom. Unclenching his fists, David tried holding a pillow over his head and ears to shut them off, but the pillow was too small, and the trailer’s walls too thin, and too close to silence the spurious activities coming from Karen’s bedroom.
David so itched to knock their gloopy heads together to deaden the drunken tittering, the hiccups, and the slurred titillations: the most pernicious being, “Sugar Pie, you’re so darn young and purty’, I can’t believe you’re letting old Sonny love you like I’m doen’.”
David balled his fists and held them closed tight to keep him from scrunching Sonny-Boy. ’I’d knock Sonny around absolutely if it wasn’t ear popping. But a fist fight would switch on Rick and the coughing twins to their mother‘s sordid life.
Yea, and then the commotion of me and Sonny duking it out would waken Pogy’s , a-hem, upstanding citizens. They’d fly on over here and within minutes they’d be joining in the yelling and the rumbling. Sure enough, they’d put the finishing touch on another Saturday night at Pogy’s. Worst of all, the rumbling would be noisy enough to compass Dottie from one row over. She’d be seething and snorting over here to Karen’s trailer. And then would occur some stupendous moments for the whole trailer park to witness.’
Thus and so, David determined to keep the rage inside his stomach where he felt it flashing and zinging around like fireworks on the fourth. ‘How much longer will it be before Karen and her conquest clock in to a finish? Or maybe, just maybe, Sonny will flash on his bartender, wifey. Why, say, that would be excellent!’
When the remote possibility presented itself, David sat straight up in bed. ‘Yea, what if Sonny remembers through his eighty-proof fog, that not only does Dottie tend bar, but she doubles as a bouncer at a saloon on the East Side. Then he’d be scared out of his pants, or in Sonny’s case, he’d be scared into his pants. Why yes, he’d be so scared, he’d be his way out, and over a row to Dottie.’
Yet sitting up motionless in bed with his feet hanging over the edge, David continued to hold-his-breath hope that Sonny would be scared into his pants. To hold himself in bed, he monitored the time until he heard Sonny’s feet dragging across Karen’s bedroom floor.
A muddy snort before Karen’s bedroom door slid open. Clump – clump: Sonny, bumping along the furniture fell back into the sofa, and stayed collapsed within the cushions of cigarette holes and diaper stains. Slurred curses followed the booms and the bangs that propelled Sonny out of the sofa. Thick, heavy footsteps slugged toward the yet-open door; David heard him fall against it. Sonny cursing: David balling his fists, and the trailer’ door swinging back and forth.
At long last, David heard Sonny stumble down the outside steps. After taking a deep breath, he unclenched his fists. Peeking under the shade, he saw Sonny weaving past his bedroom window.
He thought. ‘Oh thank-you, Lord, for small favors; Sonny’s managed to climb into his blue jeans. T-shirt clad with Texas hat on his head, and carrying his flannel shirt, he limps along with …’ David’s head fell forward. ‘Oh no, Sonny’s spurred boots are on the wrong feet.’
He collapsed into laughter. ’A pretty comical scenario: Sonny’s feet pointed in alien angles: the right to the left and the left to the right.’
Impromptu, under the street light, Sonny zipped his fly.
Chuckling, David continued to watch Sonny stumbling along with his boots on the wrong feet. Weaving back and forth, pausing, and starting again to stumble along, Sonny braked his legs to a wobbly stop. Shifting from one foot to the other, Sonny was trying to figure out what foot was responsible for
his lack of balance.
‘A new drama unfolds,’ David predicted.
And as Sonny was struggling to right his weaving stand, he lost his balance. His corded arms flailed about when he spiraled to fall down into the gravel “What the hell!” Sonny whooped. “Gawd-damn and shit,” he bellowed upon landing.
His legs pummeled in circles: his arms jabbed the air when Sonny struggled to stand. Shakily, he rose in a weaving way.
David thought, ‘like a snake being charmed out of a swami’s basket.’
Sonny managed to stay upright, but only for a minute or two, only to fall again into the gravel. This time, he sat for a long time with shaky fingers clutching his head. ”Where the fuck am I goen’ anyhow?” he asked himself aloud.
He scratched his head. “I’ll light up a smoke and think about it,“ David heard him say.
But not only did Sonny forget where he was headed, but Sonny couldn’t remember where his cigarettes were. He sat in the gravel with a confounded look on his face. At last, he snapped his fingers. “Ah-ha!”
Remembering where, Sonny reached up to unroll a pack of Lucky Strikes from his t-shirt sleeve. Inside the cigarette pack’s cellophane wrap was tucked a pack of matches. Smiling gingerly, Sonny poked a cigarette between his lips, lit a match, and cupped his hand around the cigarette for lighting. But after puffing only a drag or two, he snuffed out the smoke with a tidy grind into the stones. He tossed the butt behind him.
David figured, ‘Sonny’s smoke must not be that tasty. Or maybe it is not so fun taking a smoke break in the gravel.’
Suddenly before Sonny loomed a mental image of Dottie. David could tell that it was Dottie who
popped into Sonny’s mind. Sonny was looking straight ahead like he was seeing a ghost. He glanced at his watch, but the time was fuzzy coming through eighty-proof. Sonny knocked his wrist with quick jabs and his head with his knuckles.
David figured that Sonny was trying to drive focus into his fuzzy mind.
Sonny looked again - “Three-forty,“ David heard him say. “Why, the old gal ought to be sawing logs ‘bout now.“
Straining to lift his leg, Sonny managed to hoist it up to his chest. But when he jerked off one of his wayward boots, again, he lost his balance. With a loud “Shui-it!,” Sonny fell over backwards into the gravel. He laid there for a long time.
David moaned in exasperation. ‘What if Sonny can’t get up? What if Dottie comes a barreling around the corner?’
But miraculously, Sonny came to with a “Fuck!”
Sitting straight up like Lazarus come back from the dead, he bent to pull off his other boot. It was with a mighty effort that Sonny weaved himself upwards to a wobbly stand. This time he managed to stay upright before he wobbled onwards.
‘Oh no, Sonny’s clean forgot his boots and his flannel shirt, too. He’s left them lying in the gravel, as he zigzags along barefoot, one row over.’
The next day, before the crack of dawn when a quiet hangover hung over Sunday’s trailer park, David recouped Sonny’s boots and shirt. He shoved them into Pogy’s, community burning barrel, and while the flames were blazing away last night’s evidence with the rancid odors of cloth and leather smoking up Pogy’s, David headed back to the trailer. He was more than ready to square off with Karen. He pushed the trailer door open to the flies and mosquitoes that flew in last night, and stayed to buzz around the kitchen. They seemed to be everywhere, sizzling on the screens, crawling across the sticky table, and flying around the cupboards, even as Karen stood numb at the table. Beside her paralyzed presence tottered the twins who had crawled out of their crib, and were crying beside their mother with runny noses, dirty diapers hanging low, and both babes holding up empty bottles to be filled.
“Hey Karen, you wanna’ trade a vertical Sonny for Dottie on your back?” David demanded.
Karen rubbed her eyes, somnolent, focusing on nothing, and staring into space with the void vacancy of an eighty-proof hangover.
Watching her, David thought, ‘she sees no one and nothing else, but herself.’
In a braying voice, she said, “Something about Sonny reminds me of your daddy, Davey.”
Enraged, David said, “You have the gall to say that to me, Karen?”
He dropped his head to an in-your-face proximity: so close that Karen fell back. He was so incensed, so utterly furious that his words could not travel beyond a whisper. “I am not Davey to you, Karen, and you better hold faith that Sonny-boy is not White Horse. There’s not enough room in this trailer for a fly, another fly, much less another set of twins.”
Yowling, Karen began to recite her old crucifixions.
David thought, ‘here we go again: ‘snowed under, desertions, married lovers, jealous boyfriends, my unfaithful father/ slash her cheating man, murdered in a bar. Caged-up, beaten down, her youth spent ... all that drivel.’
David snarled like the cornered creature he felt himself to be. “Don’t peg yourself on my account, Karen. You are nothing to me, I mean less than nothing, and soon as I scrape together enough cash for a deposit on an apartment, I am out of here: out, completely and forever. And damn, if I’m not getting closer to exit time.”
That’s what he said, even as he knew what would follow. She sighed, she cried, she sniffled, she sobbed. The twins joined Karen in her chorus of sloppy, sordid misery to awaken Rick, who then padded barefoot from his cot to the hallway between the kitchen and the bedroom. Standing quiet in his raggedy blue pajamas, he rubbed his sleepy eyes open.
David turned away in disgust, ‘revolting: Karen’s sniveling and play-acting at being tapped out. Verbatim the scenes when she told White Horse about her pregnancy with the twins.’
He thought further, ’I have got to move on: absolutely on!’
Stomping out the door, he headed for his car to drive to the Rieger Hotel for Forces’ Training: classes and physical workouts, of which neither Karen, nor anyone else in his acquaintance, were aware.
The Priest who comforted him when his father, White Horse, was murdered, had a childhood friend high up in Special Forces. Knowing how David wanted to escape his life with Karen in the trailer, he helped David secure the position as a trainee. David was more than eminently qualified: secretive, in need of escape, intelligent, and had no one holding him here: David, a half-breed orphan, more than fit the position of a Secret Service recruit.
Though languages came easy to David, judo and defense he dreaded, and Sunday was defense.
With Moby Dick in hand, he thought, ‘I’ll be early for training, but what the hell? I’ll read until it’s time to gear up for defense. Anything beats being here.’
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