Charlotte Ainsley didn't belong to the gulf coast like my other old ladies; actually, she said herself she had borrowed the cottage for the summer from a dear friend. Not only that, she was English, a cool sort of woman who spoke the language like it hurt her mouth to move it. I ain't going to try to imitate the way she talked, because I can't, but she clipped her words off like a knife cutting cheese, so that she sounded impolite even when she didn't mean to be. When she did want to be impolite, her tone of voice could chill a body to the bone.
She was older, too, than most of my ladies . . . must have been close to forty. Wasn't a big woman, either, though somehow or another you always had a feeling that she was big. She had sharp eyes, with a glitter of interest in everything about her, and color that was somewhere between blue and green, depending on the light. There was a yellow in her eyes, too, so that they looked like the eyes of a cat.
She had a beautiful nose, though you wouldn't have thought so if you had thought about it, because there was a curve to the bridge, with the flanges cut very sharp and fine. Not a large nose, but a definite nose, and her face wouldn't have been the same without it. Because her mouth was too soft and promising, you see, a real woman's mouth.
When she met me in the kitchen the first morning I delivered an order of groceries, she was wearing a pair of white shorts, and her legs, not long but well-shaped, were so tanned it made the shorts look all that much whiter. She was wearing a man's shirt, the tails tied in a knot at her small waist, and it was unbuttoned, showing her belly was tanned, too. The minute I looked, I knew she wasn't wearing anything to support her nice breasts, and I thought to myself, Oh, Lord, here's another one. Little did I know!
"Want me to put the groceries up, ma'am?" I asked, like always – though this time it was only one sack, a loaf of bread and a quart of milk and a box of crackers – and she said, "Oh, leave it there on the table. I didn't need the groceries anyway, I just wanted to get a look at you. I'm Charlotte Ainsley."
So I stood there and let her have her look. Which she did; and then she nodded. "Yes. When that girl described you in the powder room at the Yacht Club last night, I thought you might do."
"What girl?" I said, sort of surprised.
She grinned. "The woman who gave you that nice wristwatch you're wearing," she said, and then she laughed. "Are there so many of them?"
I looked at my wristwatch. It was a Rolex, and I liked it a lot. But it made me uneasy that Miss Sarah had been talking about me to the ladies at the Yacht Club, because every time that happened, I got a couple of new customers, and it was already all I could do to keep up with the old ones. It seemed like there just wasn't no way to keep my old ladies from dropping a hint or a brag to another old lady.
So I sighed, inside where she couldn't see it, and said, "It was might nice of Miss Sarah to give me such a pretty watch. She's a nice lady, all right."
Miss Charlotte was already through with that subject; in her clipped voice she said, "Come along, then," and turned to walk out of the kitchen without waiting to see whether or not I was following.
Which was a surprise to me, because I didn't hardly ever get invited into the other parts of the house. It was like when it happened in the kitchen it didn't count, like it would have counted in the bedroom.
I left the sack of groceries on the kitchen table and followed Miss Charlotte. The living room was all wicker furniture, old and comfortable, the room darkened and cooled against the Gulf Coast sun by heavy drapes over the windows. We didn't stop there, but went out onto a sun porch that faced not toward the Gulf but away from it.
She had made it into a workroom, rolling up the fiber rug against the house wall and laying down a canvas sheet like a house painter would use, and all the wicker furniture was shoved back out of the way, leaving a clear space in the middle. In that space there was a stand with some kind of artistic work on it, modeled out of clay, and around about was all the paraphernalia she needed to make such things.
"Look at him," she said, so I looked at the piece she was working on. It was something else, I can tell you, shaped strong and right, and I thought to myself that Billy sure would have liked to see it, unfinished though it was. It was the sort of thing, like a Gulf Coast sunrise or a flight of pelicans, that it pleased him to look at when he was alive.
I went close and walked around it. There wasn't anything there that said, "Male," because you couldn't say this was an arm and that was a leg or here was the shape of a thigh. It was all molded too much together, you see, for your eye to break it down into parts. But somehow or other she had made it to say "Male!" right on, in the strength and flow of the lines, in the mass of the unfinished clay.
"What do you think?" Miss Charlotte said.
"It's . . . it's nice," I said.
"Nice?" she said dryly. "It's great, young man, the best piece I've ever done." She frowned. "Only if . . . there's something missing. There must be one absolutely naturalistic observation, the central fact of a man, the . . ."
I wasn't listening, because I didn't know what she was talking about, and couldn't have understood it if I had know. Instead I was studying her hands, thinking that they had done this job of work. Not big hands, but strong, the fingers short and shapely, and I thought there would be a roughness in the skin; they're useful, not just a woman's hands; they would have to earn a roughness to do the work she calls on them to do.
She quit talking – to herself as much as to me, I knew, because I wasn't paying any attention to her words. Then she said, turning around, "So let me have a look at you."
"What?" I said.
"Take it out so I can see it," she said impatiently. "Your cock, old cock."
I felt myself drawing back. "It's not an it, it's Him," I said.
She turned her head to one side, peering at me with her bright eyes like a bird. Her voice softened. "All right, Him, then."
"Ma'am," I said.
"Oh, come along, don't be bashful," she said. "Every woman without her own man along the Gulf Coast has seen Him and used Him You're notorious, my dear fellow. Don't come the bashful-boy bit with me."
I stood just frozen, wishing these old ladies would learn to keep their mouths shut. It seemed like every time one of them got the use of Him, she had to whisper about it to her friends. Looks like they'd want to keep the secret to themselves, don't it? But I guess they couldn't help bragging about Him. For which I can't truly blame them, I reckon.
When I didn't move, Miss Charlotte came close, her strong fingers suddenly at the belt buckle of my khaki pants and then pushing them down on my hips. Nothing else for it, so I stepped out of my hockey shorts of my own free will.
"My, my, that is a nice one," Miss charlotte said. "No wonder your ladies are as proud as peacocks."
Stooping, she took Him in hand to observe closely as she skinned the head bare, then shaped her hand underneath Him. He lay limply in her palm.
"I need Him standing," she said, and closing her fist, began to pump gently. I had been right; there was a roughness to her palm that felt so nice, the way she was using her hand, and of course he got up and stood just like she wanted Him to.
Taking her hand away, she stepped back, then to one side to take v in profile, He stood up at a sharp angle, jerking slightly.
She nodded thoughtfully. "Yes. That's what I need. One utterly naturalistic object, embedded in the very heart and center of the piece. It'll be shocking, it'll ram the message and the meaning home like nothing else." She lifted her head. "I want you to pose for me. Will you do it?"
"Ma'am?" I said.
"I want you to model your cock for my manhood sculpture," she said in that quick impatience. "First I'll do an entirely separate model of Him, I'll have to get to know Him better, you understand, and I can't risk ruining my statue. When I'm satisfied, I'll add Him to the sculpture."
"Ma'am, I've got groceries to deliver," I said.
"Groceries? They're not important." She shrugged. "Even servicing your old ladies isn't important, alongside this, though I'm sure it's quite profitable for you." She gazed at me, her eyes bright. "Don't you realize that I shall make Him immortal? Long after you're an old man, and He's a shriveled bit of rawhide that's worth only pissing through, He'll be standing proud and young in a great museum somewhere, with people pausing every day to gaze upon Him, and know a real cock for once in their lives." She was regarding me shrewdly. "Think of the women who, seeing Him so, will yearn so fervently to possess Him they'll simply be burning with lust. Immortality, my dear boy, is not to be sneered at, however it may come"
She had something there. I had to admit it. Something to think about. I wondered what Billy would have said to such a proposition, had he lived to get his growth. Billy was dead and gone now, like one of these days I would be also, and not a mark to show my passing through this world except in the fond memory of an old lady here and there – if any were left by then to remember at all. Just like Billy had failed to leave his mark, from dying so young, except in the memory of my mind.
She was circling around her work now, studying it while she talked at me. "You see, boy, I'm not like your other friends. Sure, I want to use you. But not like they're using you. To them you're only a nice young stud whom they can fuck with guilt or love, obligated only to the payment of money or a beautiful watch. You're a dream come true, a dream that every woman, I suppose, carries somewhere in the back of her mind, a really great cock without the emotional involvement of a man attached to it. Men are always thinking of women that way, making them bed pieces pure and simple. It would shock most men to know that women can entertain the same silly, unrealizable dream. Except that you do, miraculously, realize it for them, and that's why they have to tell one another all about it. Only by telling someone else can they prove to themselves they've had you, bought and paid for in every way except with their hearts, which is the only way most women – unlike men – can purchase the fulfillment they need."
"You mean you just want me to stand here while you shape Him the clay?" I said.
She stopped pacing. But she didn't stop talking. "So they use Him. But they use Him up, they drain Him. I'll use Him too, my dear, of course I will. The artist is ruthless, you know, absolutely without pity where the work is concerned. But I won't use Him up at all, I'll make Him greater, the absolute quintessence of malehood. Your cock will become the immortal archetype of all malehood, the classic cock of enduring time. All men will be measured against the great ideal I shall shape with my talent and my two hands."
"How long will it take?" I said. "I got groceries to deliver."
"It shall not be abstract sculpture, you understand, not this part. It shall be done in infinite detail, every vein engorged with blood, the knob flowing in lust, the balls knotted to cast out strongly the sperm of your being. I must come to know every vein, every sinew, sense the lining of the tube, measure to the thousandth of an ounce the weight and heft of your balls. . ."
Near me again, she put both hands on Him this time, feeling Him, measure Him knowing Him like no woman had known Him yet.
"I'll quit my job," I said.
"Yes," she said, looking up into my face. "There's nothing more important. You see that, don't you? You understand now."
"Yes'm," I said. "I'll tell Mr. Adams I have to take off a few days. I'll come when you want me to come, I'll stay as long as I have to."
"A few days!" she cried. "It'll take weeks. Maybe months." She was still holding Him, gripping Him and it almost hurt. But it felt good, too, because her hands were knowing Him. They were hands meant to know Him, tough and skillful in the knowing. I felt as carried away as she was.
"All right. Weeks, then. Months." She had roused me, so I reached for her.
"Now, wait a minute!" she said sharply, pulling away. "There'll be none of that."
I guess I showed stupidness when she kept me from touching her. I'm not generally stupid around an old lady, but then, I had never met an old lady like unto her. She certainly had seemed stirred up to the point of needfulness, which was why I had tried to put my hands on her, desiring to give, to the best of my ability, what she surely wanted.
"You mean you don't want to . . .?"
She laughed. She laughed a long time. "My dear. I'm a lesbian."
Her face showed disbelief. You mean you don't know?"
"Never heard the word. You're a woman, ain't you? I ain't never seen a woman who could look on Him not want . . ."
"yes, I'm a woman, child. A woman who loves other women. I haven't had a man in years."
"How can a woman make love to a woman?" I inquired curiously.
Her lips quirked. "You'd be surprised." She patted my arm, moving safely away after having touched me again. "Oh, there was a time for men in my life. For a few years, when I was very young and stupid, a different man for every night, an incredible variety of males, until I came to the point of hating men. I learned, finally, that no man could give me what I was seeking. Then I found it . . . in a lovely woman. I haven't needed men, and their transparent ego, since."
"But you're here all alone. You . . ."
Her mouth softened. "My friend will be along soon. She couldn't get away just yet. Oh, yes, my lovely friend."
"Then you just want me to pose for the statue?"
Her voice briskened. "That's all, my dear. I shall pay you, never fear. What do your ladies give you for your . . . attentions?"
"Oh, they don't pay me," I assured her earnestly.
"What about the wristwatch?"
"That was . . . just a gift. Oh, they hand me a dollar, now and again, for delivering the groceries. But . . ."
She made a sharp laugh. "You are an innocent, aren't you? With your talents, you could be driving a Cadillac and wearing the finest clothes. Why, I know some ladies in London who'd . . ." She paused. "What does the grocery store pay you, then?"
"A dollar an hour."
"That's not even minimum wage."
"Yes'm. Mr. Adams, though, he says he can't afford to pay minimum wage, and besides, he says I'm bound to pick up tips here and there . . ."
She nodded in that brisk way of hers. "All right. I'll pay two dollars an hour." She grinned. "For as long as you can keep Him up. It must be a standing pose, you understand, no limp fig leaves for us. How long do you think you can keep Him at a stand?"
"I don't know," I said. "I never tried."
"Well, we shall see." She gripped my wrist, looked at my fine new watch. "You'd better get on with your deliveries. Can you tell your boss you're quitting, and be here early in the morning?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said. "Anytime you say."
I started for the doorway into the living room. Her voice stopped me. "Your ladies shall be rather irate, I'm afraid, when they discover you won't be delivering their groceries and hauling their ashes anymore, my dear. How will you manage about that?"
I don't know," I said. "I ain't thought about it."
"As far as I'm concerned, you can see as many of them as often as you want to." she chuckled. "I have no desire to interfere with your nice hobby. Except . . ." she paused. "You must remember that the important thing is our work together."
"Yes'm, I won't forget," I assured her.
"So avoid going to one of them before you come to me. Afterward, only. We must have the very best of Him you understand."
"Yes, ma'am, I understand," I said. "You'll have the best. I promise."
She gave me a lovely smile. "You're a charming boy," she said. "And the greatest charm of it all is, you don't even know it."
I had a sudden idea of telling her about Billy, how the idea of him in my head made me the way I was. I always thought about how Billy would have been with people, kind to their needs and all. But she was walking around her piece of work again, her mind gone away into it, away from, me, so she didn't need to know what I wanted to tell her. So I went on.
It did upset people something terrible when I quit delivering groceries for Old Man Adams. This skinny, red-headed kid took my place; but Mr. Adams called me the first day, all upset about the flood of complaints, and would I come back to keep his customers happy? Said he'd raise me to two dollars an hour. But by then I had already been back to Miss charlotte's house for the first day of posing, so he couldn't change my mind. I did the best I could – I took the route one day with the other boy, to sort of introduce him, and whilst doing so I let my old ladies know that even if I wasn't delivering groceries anymore, I would be handy for any odd jobs that might come up, like cutting grass or heavy cleaning. All they had to do was call me on the phone and I'd make time for their needs. So that turned out all right, and I could put my mind on the business with Miss Charlotte.
She wanted me bright and early each morning before I got caught into something else, which meant before sunrise. That was all right with me, because I do like to be out and doing at such a time of day. I could walk along the beach from my house to her house – I lived out on a point, because my daddy called himself a commercial fisherman in case he ever took the notion to work again, and though the point was a valuable piece of waterfront land now, my family had lived there since anybody could remember, in a big old frame house that hadn't been painted in so long it was weathered gray. It stood on stilts so the high water could wash under it, and because there was so much salt in the ground, there wasn't but just a few tough bunches of grass here and there in the yard.
It was a sort of pleasant thing to go scuffling along the beach every morning, to knock at Miss Charlotte's front door – no more going in through the kitchen for me – to have her greet me cheerily, ready to go to work.
That first morning – every morning thereafter, as a matter of fact – we shared a pot of coffee and a nice conversation. Miss Charlotte wanted to know all about me, when I was born and how I was raised and what my daddy was like, and my mama. Asked things I was embarrassed to talk about, too, like did I really take joy in making it with my old ladies, and why didn't I have a girl of my own age to be in love with. When I couldn't' answer, I just kept silence until she went on to something else.
Then, briskly looking at her watch, she'd say, "We've got the light now, we must get to work." The screen porch looked out to the north, which, she told me, was just the best light in the world for her kind of work.
I'd take off all my clothes – after the first time, knowing her interest was purely artistic, it wasn't an embarrassment to show myself naked to her gaze – and then she'd do what was necessary to make Him stand. She was terribly interested in the process; the first morning, she even had a great big magnifying glass for closer observation, while her palm with its nice roughness roused Him. Then she sat and studied Him through the magnifier for the longest time, while I stood gazing out over the top of her head. In fact, that first day she didn't do anything but look, every time He begin to lose interest bringing Him up to a taw all over again.
The next thing, she started in to sketching him in charcoal on sheet after sheet of a great pad of drawing paper. She sat close to Him working very quickly from one angle or another, whilst he was at His peak. But every single sketch dissatisfied her, it seemed like; while I took a rest, she would study the latest one with a scowling distaste before throwing it into the wastebasket and starting all over again.
We quickly came to realize there was going to be a problem with keeping Him best for as long a period of time as she wanted to work every day. I did my part the best I could, thinking the thoughts and running through the pictures in my mind that would make Him rise up eager for business. I could manage fifteen minutes at a time, maybe even as much as half an hour; but then, in spite of myself, He would start to wilt.
She was mighty impatient; she seemed to think that a fellow ought to be able to keep a hard-on wouldn't do her, either – it had to be the fullest and the strongest, just this side of losing it, all gorged and red and with a painful thump. After an hour or two of such strain, I'd get the stone ache so bad I couldn't hardly stand straight.
She didn't understand why that should be, either. But it interested her. Over and over again I had to describe just how it got started, a tiny ache down there under the balls – I put her finger right on the place – and then grow and grow until you felt like the pit of your stomach was going to drop out.
I must say, Miss Charlotte did her part, too. No matter how impatient she got, when she had to use her hand to fetch Him to taw she did it gently and thoughtfully, and whilst she was sketching she'd talk bawdy, keeping my interest up, and once in a while she'd reach over and stroke Him with just one finger, smiling to see Him jerk and throb.
Come the third day, though, we had found real trouble. Ever an independent cuss, He had a mind of his own, you understand and He just decided He couldn't see anything good for Himself in all this foolishness. So He just decided He wouldn't come to a stand today at all, and no matter how she coaxed and played, He stayed stubbornly limp.
She said angrily, "You've been wasting Him with those women."
"No, ma'am," I protested. "I'm supposed to mow some grass for Miss Sally after I get done here today. But I ain't seen nobody since we started."
"Have you been masturbating?"
She told me, and I said, "No, ma'am, I never was much of a one to go in for that sort of thing."
She smiled, sort of, and said, "Then how did you find out when you were a man?"
"I was doing this old lady," I said savorily. "It liked to scared me to death, because it was the first time it had happened."
"You mean you were being kind to your ladies even before you could . . .?"
"Yes'm," I assured her. "They didn't mind at all, because it didn't come to a halt so quick, you see. But that time . . ." I thought about it, remembering. "Just all of a sudden there was this explosion all down my backbone, and I didn't know what was happening, and so I reckon I went sort of crazy there, because I thought I had ruined myself for sure."
With that remembering, He had started to take an interest in life at last, and seeing it, she started to sketching. But He didn't hold it for more than five or ten minutes before starting to draw in on Himself.
"Looks like we're just going to have to wait," I said apologetically. "I'm doing the best I can."
She shook her head. "We can't afford to waste a day's worth of time. Wait a minute."
Going into the house, she came back with a great book. She set it up comfortable on a tall stand so I wouldn't have to hold the weight of it, slanted so I could scan the pages easily enough.
"Now, Look at those pictures," she said. "We can talk about them, too, if you wish."
It was all right. The book was just full of these dirty pictures, all in living color, of people doing things to one another that I hadn't ever even thought of. At Miss Charlotte's suggestion, I didn't flip through fast, but lingered over every detail, imagining what it would be like to do it in such manner.
It was educational, right enough, because when I didn't understand what was going on, Miss Charlotte explained it all most carefully. Among other things, I found out, after all, how women can do it to one another; not to mention the things that men do together, and how groups of both men and women and boys and girls can enjoy themselves in strange fashions. But I still couldn't believe – and I told Miss Charlotte so, too – in some of those postures as depicted in that book. In fact, I told her, you'd have to be as limber as a snake to fuck like that. Which made her laugh.
The dirty book got us through the day, but that afternoon Miss Sally got a terrible surprise, because I didn't last but about half a minute. It made her mad, too, but I couldn't tell her the reason for it; Miss charlotte had sworn me to secrecy about our artistic project.
But looking at pictures of people doing it, or even just pictures of naked women, never did do a whole lot for me. I never had even taken much interest in the fuck books – Maggie and Jiggs, Popeye and Olive Oyl, and so on – that always circulated in school at such high price.
So the very next day, our fourth morning at work, He come out stubborn again. For the first time, too, Miss Charlotte wanted to work in clay, which is, of its nature, a slower process than sketching in charcoal, and she got so impatient and upset I thought she was going to explode.
Her nice hand would get Him to standing pose, all right; but by the time she'd start thumping at the lump of clay with her fists, He'd droop again. Which caused her to speak cuss words. I tell you, it was something else to hear that lady curse in her elegant, clipped voice; she put thought into it, and imagination; and then finally she slapped down the handful of wet clay and came over to me.
With a sudden quick gesture, she knelt down and put her mouth on Him. Oh, my, that was something else! That was what He had been looking for! He throbbed up to full size, just as ready as ever in His lifetime, and when she went smiling back to her work stand, He held it for a good thirty minutes.
But the next time . . . well, it wasn't my fault, I don't believe. Of course, He did falter after that long while. This time she didn't hesitate, but came over, wiping her hands, to take the head gently between her lips, doing Him so lovingly it was just real nice, that's all, and He was throbbing and jumping all over again. But then, getting too experimental, she raked the raw edge of her teeth over the tender head – and He shot it so quick she barely had time to get her head out of the way.
"Now you've ruined it!" she snapped furiously. "The whole morning's work just shot to hell. For god's sake, boy, you must learn to control yourself."
"Well, you're being pretty mean to Him," I said, as mad as she was with me. "You just ain't treating Him right, Miss Charlotte. So what do you expect?"
She checked her anger. "What do you mean?"
"You just can't do Him no such a way," I told her. "You expect Him to stand ready for hours at a time, and yet you don't offer Him nothing for all His hard work. If He can't feel there's something good in the offing, why should He do your bidding?"
I shook my head at her. "No, sir, ma'am. You don't understand Him, not the least little bit. How can you expect to make such a great thing of Him as you say you're going to do, when you don't know how He looks on life?"
She sighed. "You're right, boy." She studied me seriously. "You see, I haven't had anything to do with a man's cock for so many years." She was suddenly depressed. "Maybe I'm not the person meant to do this work. Maybe it's not in me . . ."
"You can do it, Miss Charlotte," I said urgently. "You've just got to be patient, that's all, you've just got to learn His good times and His bad times. You've got to give him the house room he deserves."
She sighed again. "I'll try. I'll try." She put one hand on the unfinished model she had been working at, mashed it into a shapeless lump that was nothing but clay. "We'll try again tomorrow."
"Now, there you go," I said. "Sometimes I think you don't want to understand Him."
She turned quickly toward me. "What do you mean? He just lost it, didn't He? He can't possibly . . ."
"You just come over here and do that nice thing again and see what he can do." I spoke with all the confidence in the world. "You'll see what I'm talking about. Why, Miss charlotte, you've done woke Him up for good, giving Him a whole new interest in life."
She stared into my eyes. She came close, put her right hand under His head, gazed upon Him. He perked up, stirring in her palm with His own life, which she smiled to see. Then, very carefully, very gently, she kissed Him, putting the tip of her tongue into His eye to taste Him. He was nearly there already, just with the notion that in the next minute she was going to swallow Him whole.
She meant to do it. But first, making a bellows of her cheeks, she blew her warm breath on Him, until when she did take Him whole He was at a fuller stand than she had ever seen before.
So we worked happily the rest of the morning, and she got down a free-standing model of Him that seemed to satisfy her, at least to some extent.
When she wiped her hands and said she was finished for the day, I stepped off the pedestal to put on my clothes.
"Wait a minute," she said. "Are you seeing one of your ladies this afternoon?"
"No, ma'am, I reckon not," I said.
She stood looking at me for a minute. "Then go over there and lie down on that daybed," she said. "I intend to let Him know there are rewards for all His labor."
Oh, He heard the news. I hadn't realized that He had yearned to get inside of Miss Charlotte. Hadn't really thought about it, to tell the truth, since she had told me all about how she liked women as well as I did. But of course He had kept his own notions, and He meant to do her proud.
However, Miss Charlotte had something else in mind. Without taking off her clothes, she laid herself down between my legs and treated Him for about ten minutes to the best blow-job it had ever been His fortune to enjoy. She just put Mr. William in the shade in that department, though maybe that was because she was a woman after all, even if a lesbian, and I had always felt a mite uneasy about putting Him in the mouth of a man, nice as Mr. William was about it all; though nearly every time getting so excited he'd end up hurting Him a little, in spite of everything.
Miss Charlotte didn't get excited. But she made a fine job of it, I can tell you. And when it come to the end, she didn't back off, either, but took it most nicely, and stayed with Him in the afterpart when it's just the best of all. Then she snuggled her cheek into my crotch and laid so for a while, breathing deeply and saying, "You smell so nice. Did you know that you have a nice wonderful clean smell?"
She was sort of whispering the words, so they didn't need no answer. We laid so for some minutes, at peace with ourselves and at peace with Him.
Finally she got to her feet with her usual briskness. "This is all very pleasant, but you told me things today I must think about." She paused to look at me most thoughtfully. "I think I'll call Vi tonight, tell her to come on down and join me right away. I think . . . I think we need Vi to help us do the great thing we've set out to do."