ME – 01
Beginnings . . .
When he was sixteen he had big muscles and was tan all over from swimming in the nude. There was a reason why lecherous old ladies ordered from Adam’s Grocery.
The Boy delivered more than food; he provided special services you could not buy in a store . . .
When she was fourteen , men lusted after her. They thought she was the prettiest little girl that ever laid foot to ground. They would pay for her favors. She was proud that she had found out so young the great thing about being a woman — a secret a lot of womenfolk never learn their life long — that when men need it they will give just about anything to get it . . .
I ain't no stud. Ain't never been no stud, no matter what anybody might tell you. Them old ladies ain't my fault; what else is a fellow going to do?
Now, take when I was sixteen years old, and delivering groceries for Old Man Adam's store, there in Pass Robin where I was born and raised to be a man. Pass Robin is on the Gulf Coast, so there's just two kinds of people, the folks who run the stores and do the commercial fishing and just live in Pass Robin because that was where they was born; then there's the other kind, with summer houses that have been in the same family, sometimes, since before the Civil War. They come from all over the southern states, and even as far away as Chicago and new York City in the summertime, and go away in the fall.
It's them kind of old ladies I'm talking about. They ordered their groceries by telephone instead of making a trip to the store, and they liked to have me deliver their order. I liked to do the delivering because, over and above what Old Man Adams paid me, sometimes I'd get as much as a dollar from one old lady or another.
So I couldn't help it. Let me just give you an idea of what went on that summer I was sixteen years old and just coming to be a man. You'll see what I mean.
Take a Thursday. That was always a big day for grocery deliveries, because everybody stocked up for the weekend, you understand, maybe even for weekend guests, because these old ladies were mighty big on having visitors come to see them in Pass Robin. I drove a pickup truck with a cover on it to keep off the sun, and a big ice chest to keep the meat and milk fresh. Early in the morning I'd set out on my route down the beach roads, and sometimes I wouldn't get back to the store before twelve o'clock noon.
Now, this particular Thursday. First stop was a house hadn't been open until now; first time this year I had delivered an order here. The driveway around to the back of the house – I always delivered at the kitchen door – was still full of tall weeds, and I could hear them dragging on the underside of the pickup. It was one of our pretty Gulf Coast mornings, a day when a fellow'd a lot rather be out on a sailboat, or gone fishing, than making his living working for Old Man Adams. It was making a living for me, too, not just pocket money, because my daddy hadn't worked in so long I couldn't remember when he had struck the last lick, and Mama, was so down in the back most of the time she couldn't take in much washing and ironing.
Pretty morning. Driving along the beach road, I could see the high wisps of clouds tailing northeast – being pushed by a strong wind up there, you see – and out in the channel a commercial boat coming in, its old motor chugging faithfully. An osprey flew low with flapping wings, carrying a big fish in its claws, and one or two gulls whirled up, begging him to drop it so they'd have a chance.
I had the habit of noticing that sort of thing, along with the smells of a low tide, and musky odors of the night-blooming things, growing fainter now by the heat of the coming sun. It's at times like that I wished Billy was along with me, because he always taken an enjoyment in such good things. Bill was my twin brother who got sick of a fever and died when me and him was nine years old. Ain't never been nobody in this world like unto Billy. We had looked so much alike that folks couldn't tell us apart, so we used to play games even on Mama and Daddy about which was which.
The important thing about me and billy, though, was not how much we looked alike, but that our heads worked together. He couldn't think a thought without me knowing it, or vice versa. Didn't even have to talk much, just glance at the other fellow and know he was going to say, "Let's go fishing," or, "Them muscadines are probably ripe by now, we ought to check 'em out," or, "The answer is ninety-eight and a half, idiot."
Didn't nobody know it but him and me, but he was the fellow who always noticed how things looked and felt and smelled, and could even draw them down on paper, whilst I was the fellow who did all the fistfighting when it come necessary, because Billy didn't like to put his strength onto another boy, not if he could help it. Just softhearted, that was all.
The world has been only half a world since Billy took sick of the fever and died when me and him was nine years old; though I do try to pay attention to what he used to see in the course of a day's living. It's like I've got to keep up his end as well as my own, now that he's passed away and can't do it himself. Folks thought I was a hardhearted boy because I didn't seem to grieve for my twin brother, crying and carrying on at the funeral like some folks do to let everybody know what a great loss they are suffering. Little do they know. It's not easy to live in just a piece of the world when you used to know it whole.
It was on mornings like this that I could best feel Billy traveling with me, not to be seen, but there, right on. Somewhere above my left shoulder, because if folks had known the secret that I stood or walked or sat always to the right, while he stood or walked or sat always to the left, they wouldn't have had any trouble telling us apart.
At this first house, I knocked loud on the screen door and called out, "Grocery boy." Then I went right on in, because the people are often down on the beach, or still sleeping, or just too summer-lazy to pay attention to a delivery boy. I do the job right, too, putting the meat and milk and ice cream, if any, into the refrigerator instead of just dumping everything on the kitchen table without a thought or a care.
That, in fact, was what I was busy doing when this old lady said, "Well, good morning."
I turned around to speak my polite reply. And I knew right then, at first look.
Now, like I said, I ain't no stud. Never have been. But I know. I don't know how it is that I know, but you just take an old lady and put a thought into her head, and I can read it like a book. Even when she hasn't got around as yet to recognizing the thought herself.
For one thing, this particular old lady didn't have anything on under the flimsy robe she was wearing. Of course, in the heat of a Gulf Coast summer, a person doesn't want to be going around in a heavy bathrobe. But still and all . . .
This one wasn't bad-looking for an old lady. She had black hair and black eyes, and she didn't need to put her face on of a morning, like so many do. The white thing she was wearing was cut down practically to her navel, and I could see the nipples of her breasts through it. They were standing up, as rosy as an apple. But I already knew before I looked at the nipples.
"Good morning," I said. "Grocery boy."
She laughed, a low and throaty sound. "I didn't think you were the neighborhood rapist."
I shut the door of the refrigerator. "Want me to put up the canned stuff for you?" I asked.
"That would be nice."
Her eyes followed me as I moved back and forth across the kitchen floor, sorting out the cans into the shelves according to what was already there. For a while she didn't say anything. But it hadn't gone away; if anything, it had got heavier.
"How old are you?" she asked after the silence had got to be noticeable.
"Eighteen," I said. I always lied two years' worth, because nobody wanted to believe I was only sixteen.
"You're big for your age," she said.
"Yes'm," I said. "I've always been like that."
"Always?" She said teasingly. "Even when you were a little boy?"
Always. Just born to grow plenty of muscle, I reckon. It's not that I'm all that tall, but I'm broad, with strong arms and legs and wide shoulders and a waist as small as a girl's.
"I've always liked blond hair and blue eyes," she said. "Even your eyebrows are white."
"That's from the sun, I reckon," I said, feeling embarrassed like I always did when they got to talking about me as though I wasn't really there at all.
She chuckled, the low and throaty sound again. "I'll bet you've got pretty girls running after you all the time."
Now, why is it that, when an old lady gets the through into her head, she always starts in on how many girls you got? Ain't never had no girlfriend; I never know how to act around girls.
"Well, ma'am, I'm always busy working, I guess," I said, ducking my head.
"A strong boy like you, and so handsome?" She said scoffingly. "Come here and let me feel your muscle."
I looked at her from all the way across the kitchen. She was sitting on the edge of the table now. Her legs were open, like she didn't know what was showing, you understand. And the nipples were bigger now, like two thumbs underneath the flimsy fabric.
I walked toward her, my hands reaching for the next stack of canned goods. She put both hands around my upper arm, bare under the short-sleeved shirt, and I could feel how damp her palms were.
"See, I can't even reach around your muscles with both hands," she said, a tremble in her voice.
Loosening her grip, she stroked my arm. "Your skin is as soft as a baby's skin."
I stood still, letting her touch me. They always want to touch you. And while she stroked my arm, my mind was feeling for her mind, so that I would know how to do. I always need to know how it is with them, you understand, because you can't help but feel sorry for an old lady like that. They are so needful.
"I'll bet you're tan all over," she said. "Are you tanned all over?"
"Well, yes'm," I said. "We always go out to the little islands to go swimming, where a fellow don't need to wear a bathing suit."
The deep laugh again. "I knew it. I can tell, you know. I can just look at a man, and . . ."
"You want me to put up the rest of the groceries?" I said.
She drew in a sharp breath and took her hands from my arm. "Yes. Of course."
I picked up both hands full of cans and walked across the floor to the shelves. I put them up carefully, one by one. Then I turned to look at her again, and this time I knew how it had to be, knew it just as well as if she had told me in so many words.
She was still sitting on the kitchen table. Her legs were open, and I could see that she had red hair there, not black, like on top of her head. I could hear her breathing all the way across the room. So I reached down and unzipped my pants.
"Oh, Lord, yes," she said when she saw Him.
I started walking Him across the floor to her, her legs lifting and opening, and when I came between them, they were high enough to circle around my waist and clamp the heels into the small of my back. Which pushed Him right into her, deep and true, and I felt the sigh of her body, the strength of her hands clutching at my shoulders to hold herself closer.
"Oh, you are big for your age, aren't you?" She whispered, holding me tight against her. Then her voice changed; it got angry as she said, "Don't move."
I didn't move. I just stood there, feeling the trembling in her body, deep and shaking, shuddering her flesh. And then I could feel the ripples growing inside her, rippling and rippling and rippling, because she was moving now, not on the outside, but completely on the inside; and because I knew it was the way she wanted it, I held myself still and let her have her way.
Her hands were like claws on my shoulders now, and she was breathing hard, her lower lip bitten so hard between her teeth that I thought it would draw blood. She was staring into my eyes like a bird will stare at a snake, and she was saying, "Big, oh, yes, how can it be so big, so big, so . ."
It started then, just standing still like that, because she was doing it all; she knew it was starting. I saw the change come into her eyes, and she started too, the rippling strong and fierce now, and her hips were thrusting and thrusting, and then it grew and grew and grew, and when it burst she let out a cry like a cat.
We stood together for a time, her legs still around me, holding Him in her. I wanted to move, but because she didn't want me to leave her yet, I stayed there until she gave me the signal by taking her legs from around my waist. And all the time, I was looking into her eyes, watching the memory of Him washing through them, then ebbing, then washing through them again. And I knew that I had done good.
I finished putting up the groceries while she sat silently watching. We didn't say anything. Then she said, "Well! I don't know what got into me."
I turned to look at her, and she was just an old lady again. "I'm sorry, ma'am," I said, knowing it was what she wanted to hear.
She laughed nervously. "You can at least quit calling me 'ma'am' now."
"I don't know your name," I said.
"It's Sally," she said. "Will you call me Sally?"
"Yes, ma'am, Miss Sally," I said.
She was still looking at me as if she didn't believe I had happened in her kitchen this morning. "How old did you say you were?"
"Eighteen," I said, because no old lady ever wanted to believe I was sixteen.
She had to make light of eighteen, even. "You could have fooled me," she said, making a laugh along with it. She hesitated. "I hope you won't go around talking about me . . . bragging . . ."
"Oh, no, ma'am," I told her truthfully. "I don't ever talk about any of my good customers."
She looked at me sharply. "You sound like you're . . . rather used to this sort of thing."
"I've got some nice customers," I said. I didn't want to keep talking about it, so I said, "I've got to go now. A lot of deliveries to make yet."
She slid off the table. "I suppose I owe you a tip for . . . for delivering the groceries. Wait a minute."
"You don't have to tip me," I said politely. "It's a service of the store that we are proud to provide to our steady customers."
She was easier with the laughter this time. "You do provide service, I have to admit that," she said. "Wait a minute."
I waited while she disappeared into the house, thinking that I knew the kitchens but rarely had I been invited into the rest of the house. Well, that was how I liked it; it don't do to get too easy with people you do a service for, like delivering groceries.
She came back and handed me a five-dollar bill. I stood holding it. "That's too much," I said.
She put her hand on the side of my head, brushing back the long hair there with a quick, warm gesture that made me afraid I'd be further delayed. I was already thinking about old lady Brandon on down the road, how she'd be peeping and peering out the kitchen door wondering why I was so late in coming.
"A hundred dollars wouldn't be too much," she said, the throatiness in her voice again, so that I moved a step away. I didn't want her to keep on touching me. "You deliver all the time, don't you?"
"Yes, ma'am, Miss Sally," I said. "Anytime you phone in an order of groceries, I got to bring them out."
She nodded thoughtfully. "That's good to know."
That's how it came to be with her, starting the same and ending the same and staying the same in between, as though each delivery was the very first. That's just how it is; every old lady I ever knew had her own ways, and if a fellow wants to make them happy, he must let them use their little ways just as they wish. So I went on, hustling, because, not having counted on Miss Sally, I was running behind schedule, and I never did like to answer questions about how come I was late today. Each old lady was a separateness unto herself, you see, so that I never let one know about the others.
Five or six houses with lots of people in them, families and visitors, so that it was an hour before I got to old lady Brandon's house. The kitchen was empty. I made noise opening and slamming the door as I put up the canned goods. The kitchen stayed empty. After I was done, I stood listening. She was in there somewhere.
"Miss Brandon," I called.
No answer. I shrugged my shoulders. I always wondered, at this point, what would happen if I just went on about my duties. I had a feeling she would have tackled me before I got outside the door.
"Come here!" I roared. "Damn it!"
Suddenly she was in the doorway, regarding me with fearful eyes. She had her hand up to her trembling mouth. She was wearing a long black dress, severely buttoned all the way from the neck down to her ankles. I gazed at her, standing with hands on hips, my legs braced wide.
"When I call, I want you to come, damn it," I said.
Her voice was trembly. "Please," she said. "Please."
"Please, hell," I said roughly. "You know what I want. Git naked."
"I can't today," she said. "Please, not today. I can't . . ."
"Shut up," I said. I went close, her flinching away, putting up one hand to ward off my threatening fist. "Don't talk back to me. Ain't I done told you, don't never talk back to me?"
She cowered, her fingers frantic on the many buttons, the black fabric parting inch by inch to show her naked breasts. Hands on hips, I stood watching. She was tall, too skinny for my taste, but she had a fine belly on her, and a good leg. Quicker than a fellow would have thought, she showed me all her nakedness, while she stood with head hanging, her eyes closed. Her face was pale and drawn.
With a rough movement I put my hands to her shoulders and pushed at the unbuttoned dress until it fell to her feet. She moaned.
"Down on your knees," I said.
She dropped down, her hands clutching at my legs. Even in her fear, her head pressed warmly against my thighs. "Please, please, please," she was saying. "Don't make me do it. Don't make me, please, please . . . ."
"Take Him out," I said, unheedful of her pleading.
Her hands fumbled at my zipper, she laid both hands on Him, her cheek against Him, saying, "Oh, God, no, you'll give me a baby. Please, God, anything but that."
I stood there until she had got her fill of what was coming to her. Then I said, "Lay down."
There was a shag rug convenient on the tile floor, where a person would stand to use the cutting board. She laid back on it, her knees tight together, her hands clutched over her breasts. I didn't like her eyes as she gazed up at me in stark terror. So I looked at her body instead while I took off my pants and stood over her, letting her see Him full and clear.
Her breath was coming now in ragged gusts. "Just . . . let me . . . just . . . anything . . . just don't give me a baby."
"Open your legs," I said.
Unwilling, the legs opened of themselves, the knees up and swaying apart, offering me the all of her. I got down on my knees and put my hands under her hips, lifting her.
"Why do you have to do this to me?" she said frantically. "I ought to call the police. It's rape, nothing but rape, that's all it is, plain old rape, and —"
"Shut up," I said. "I don't like to hear a woman talking while I fuck her. So just shut up."
I slammed Him into her up to the hilt in the one move, her head going back, her arms flinging out wide as though she was crucified. "Ahhh," she said. "Oh, you're killing me. Ahhhhhh. . . "
I slapped her on one side of the face, saying, "Shut up, damn it, you want the whole neighborhood . . . ?" and that drover her into it, her body threshing under me like she was having a fit. Her mouth was open screaming soundlessly, and I had all I could do just to stay with her and ride her out to the end.
She had reached it, but she still hadn't put her arms or legs around me. She lay panting, her head twisting to one side and then to the other like she was dying. Until, watching her eyes, I started stroking her of my own accord; then her head stopped still and she gazed at me, our eyes locked together, and she listened to Him working in her, her body answering to the thrusts in spite of her, her body answering to the thrusts in spite of her mind being all against it.
"Don't come in me," she whispered. "Please don't come in me. I won't have your ugly baby in my body, it would a rape baby, you make me do it, if I didn't do it you'd kill me, would you, you'd beat me up, please don't come . . . "
I stayed with her, making her believe I was coming in her. I could feel her whole body fighting me, her pussy as cold as ice, so that, like always, it hurt Him. Then, right in the midst of her begging, right when she was sure that this time I was going to give it to her for sure, I pulled Him out and laid Him her belly so she could see the spurt of it, feel it wet and hot on her naked skin.
I got off of her, like I always did, without delay. She lay with her eyes closed, the lids pale and trembling, while her hand moved on her belly, wet with the come, circling slowly, slowly, wet with her salvation.
I put on my pants, stood over her again. She was still rubbing the stuff into her belly like it was a body lotion, her hand moving, slow but steady, her eyes still closed. There was a peaceful look to her face now, all the hate and anger gone, along with the terrible fear she had of Him. And of me.
"I want some money," I said, making my voice rough.
"My purse is on the counter," she murmured.
I found the big pocketbook, opened it, fumbled through all of the junk for her wallet. I took out the wad of bills – she always had two or three hundred dollars – and flipped through them. Taking a one-dollar bill, I put it in my pocket before I dropped the rest of the money fluttering down no her naked body, falling between her legs, sticking to her sticky belly.
"That's all you really want is the money, isn't it?" she said. "First you want to rape me, and then you want to rob me. That's all it is, isn't it?" But her voice was quiet with the words, like talking about the weather, so I didn't have to say anything.
From the doorway, I looked back at her. She was lying curled on her side now, her legs drawn up to her belly, the bills scattered around her on the floor. She was already half-asleep, at peace with herself.
I figured that was it for the day, because the next old lady, I knew, had house guests, and the one after that had been gone for two weeks. I hoped she wouldn't come back, to tell the truth, because she was so weird she made Miss Brandon seem like an ordinary everyday sort of woman. Sometimes she even scared me.
But I had forgotten that I had another new one, the next to last on my route, so it was nearly noon before I got to her house.
She might be an old lady, I told myself on first sight of her, but, my goodness, she was something else. A blond, with baby-blue eyes, a leg short but shapely, a body so soft and luscious it just wouldn't quit. And straight out about it, too.
She was waiting for me. I could tell it the minute I walked in the door, carrying the one small sack of groceries.
"Well, hello," she said, her eyes sparkling with mischief. "My friend Sally just called, said I ought to be sure and order my groceries from Adam's Grocery. Now I know why."
"Good morning," I said abashedly, moving to put the groceries on the kitchen counter.
"Sally was so mysterious about it," she said, moving close with a snaky movement of her whole body. "But I guessed, knowing Sally . . ." She laughed suddenly. "How was she, grocery boy. Good stuff?"
"I don't . . . I don't know what you're talking about," I said.
She put her hand boldly onto my crotch. "Come on, now, don't act so innocent with me." She cocked her head, smiling up into my face. "I know all about you fellows that make home deliveries. You see more ass than you can shake a stick at, don't you?"
"Ma'am," I said with dignity, drawing away, "I wish you wouldn't . . ."
"Oh, I'm not going to rape you, like Sally probably did," she said, chuckling wholeheartedly. "Couldn't do it today if I wanted to, anyway, because I've got my period. I just want to find out what Sally was so damned smug about." Her hand was inside my pants by now, groping for Him. Her breath caught. "Oh, my, yes," she said. "And you're just a growing boy."
"Ma'am," I said, "I wish you wouldn't . . ."
"I wish I could," she said, a gay lilt in her voice. She had Him out now, her warm hand stroking, so that for the first time this morning I felt it myself. Maybe it was because I knew she couldn't; anyway, I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close and with all of my own free will I put my mouth on hers, pulling her up on tiptoe as I did it, she was so tine and so warm.
"Oh, yes," she said softly. "It's going to be a nice, hot summer, isn't it? Except . . ." She laughed softly. "You must promise to make my delivery before Sally's."
"I promise," I said.
Suddenly she disappeared from my arms, sinking down, her arms going around both my legs as her mouth swallowed Him, taking Him deep, her lips sliding warm and lovely, bringing the stuff so quick it surprised me. She didn't flinch, but took it all, so that I felt my legs beginning to quiver, and all I could think about was that I was glad Mr. William had his friend down from New York and so wouldn't be interested this week.
She stood up. Her mouth was soft and bruised, her eyes were glowing. "You're quite a fellow," she said. "But I suppose you know that."
"I just deliver groceries," I mumbled, dropping my eyes so I wouldn't have to look at her.
Her busy little hand tucked Him away, zipped up my fly, and with a loving pat withdrew. She then patted her hair back into place, smiling in fond memory of Him.
"How much did Sally give you?" she asked.
"Five dollars," I said.
She laughed, a silvery tone in the still kitchen. "Don't you think you owe me this time?"
"Yes'm," I said. "I reckon so." And taking out my billfold, I gave her the five dollars.
She looked at it, and for just an instant a dark expression flowed across her face. Her mouth drooped, and all the gayness had gone out of her so completely that for a minute I thought I had made a mistake. But darn it, I told myself, a fellow can't know all the ins and outs of what they want, no matter how hard he may try. How can he, when so much of the time they don't even know themselves . . . or, at least, won't let themselves know that they know it?
But it was only for an instant; then the gayness of her spirit came back into her. With a quick movement she tore the bill in two and handed me half of it.
"Next time you come, you'll get the rest," she said. "All right?"
Her little hand came up to pat my cheek. "Oh, you're something else, you know that?" she said. Her words quickened. "And next time, I'll show you something. I'll make you know Sally is nothing but an old stick-in-the-mud. So you just go on about your business." She laughed softly. "That is, if you've got any business left to transact today . . . . And I'll see you next week. All right?"
"All right," I said bashfully.
Now, that was just one morning delivery out of the many, all that long summertime when the visitors were on their vacations, living in their old and new houses all along the beach road. Of course, there were differences. There were those who only wanted to talk about it, flirt with the idea, with absolutely no intention of doing anything drastic. They could come close to fooling you with it, too, into thinking they really wanted Him. Some there were who never gave me a second glance; I was nothing in the world but just another delivery boy as far as they were concerned. Some wanted it once, but then acted like it hadn't ever happened, no sir, not in a million years had they opened their legs to a delivery boy, no sir, not a fine lady like them.
I took them as they came. I smiled and talked and laughed, or I came and went as silent as the tomb, and maybe I had made their day brighter because I had come and gone, and maybe I hadn't. But I tried.
So you see, I ain't no stud. Ain't never been no stud. It's just that I can't help but know how it is with these old ladies. I can't help feeling sorry for their lonesomeness; if they need me to smile, or growl at them, or maybe even, once in a while, strike them with my hand . . . well, who am I to say them nay? There is such great emptiness in the life of a woman alone, all the losses and heartbreaks that I never knew the details of – or hardly ever – but that I could feel in them, because a lady has got to feel something deep and needful to cast a lustful eye on a sixteen-year-old delivery boy . . . eighteen, I mean, because I always told them that when they asked.
So I don't want nothing said against them. I won't hear it, no sir, because my old ladies were each and every one just the finest kind of women, not a bad one or a bitchy one in the lot, not if you understood their doings like I did. I didn't care about the money they gave me, because, not being no stud, I didn't' deal with them for the sake of the money. Didn't ever take money unless they had to give it out of something needful inside themselves, where the giving of the money would put their doings in such a light as they could live with, without feeling bad.
It's that I see. Like Billy, my twin brother, could see the prettiness of a Gulf Coast sunrise, or the way a full moon can make the water like silver. It was his talent to see beauty in this world. It is my talent to see beauty in an old lady, and answer to that beauty in the only way I've got to answer. Because any woman is beautiful, if you can just strike the right chord in them, just like every guitar can make music when it's turned right. So I was sometimes enabled to let them know their own beautifulness, no matter how much they might have let it get bruised and hurt and maybe even sometimes nearly lost forever. Which, to my mind, don't make a fellow no stud, no way you look at it.
Not even after I got to know the old lady named Charlotte Ainsley, and my entire life changed as a consequence. Or, maybe, only got showed the road that I was meant to take, anyway.
Charlotte Ainsley . . .