My Gypsy Girl from Bluefield
She was poor white-trash from Appalachia and that’s
where the story should have begun and ended. But it didn’t.
Her high school kicked her out for performing fellatio on
a number of boys in a stall of the rest room. What the letter to her house said—which,
incidentally, was never read in its entirety by anybody at that address—was that she was expelled for reasons of “moral
turpitude.” The week after that, she walked out of Bluefield, West Virginia,
and never looked back. It turned out that her boyfriend, a senior to her sophomore,
wanted to have sex before his seventeenth birthday. Although he was co-captain of the varsity football team, he was ashamed
of his virginity and he thought a girl from the hollows would be easier to seduce than his current girlfriend, who was National
Honor Society, vice president of the class, and an applicant to four Ivy League universities.
He was right, of course.
Bobbie was smitten, to use an old-fashioned word. She fell in love, but
she’d never admit it afterward. The two of them discovered sex together
and for four weeks it was bliss. She walked around feeling as if she could hear
rushing water in her head every time he winked at her in the hallways. His jock
buddies teased him relentlessly but the truth was they envied the hell out of him.
She was sexually liberated, all shyness gone in the first few weeks of her love for him.
He sent her a note first period and told her to be in the
second stall; there would be an “Out of Order” sign in the janitor’s semiliterate scrawl on the door knob.
She was there waiting for him when he walked in. He was
barely inside the stall when she went down to her knees and unzipped him. She
took him in and gave him as noiseless a blow job as she could. To her, it was
an utterly selfless act of love, ever more proof that he owned her body and soul. She was pretty and genetically blessed,
freakishly so, in the development of her young bosom and the pelvic swell of her hips.
When he exploded into her mouth, she swallowed the jissom easily and, gripping his throbbing meat still trying to peck
at her, she smiled up at him. What happened next wasn’t what she feared might happen when she found his note in her
locker: some busybody hall monitor opening the door on them—or, worst
case, old Mrs. Waddell, the senile math teacher finding them there because she could never remember this bathroom was for
males. It was four of his football teammates standing there with wide grins
on their faces.
“I brought you a little present, Bobbie,” he
said and walked out tightening his belt buckle.
The first one in was Nick DeRosa, the middle linebacker.
He held her down by the shoulders and took himself out and shoved his rubbery meat against her lips until she opened. His eyes were crazy. His girth was
wider than what she was used to and he thrust his hips so that she gagged several times, which made him so angry he raised
his fist to her and told her if she didn’t suck it off he’d beat the shit out of her.
He was followed by the team’s running back, center,
and cornerback, the school’s only black male. By the time he had finished
with her, she was dizzy, scared out of her mind; she was covered with pasty gobs of semen that stuck to her sweater, hung
from one ear lobe, and dribbled from her chin when she coughed up the sticky mess that stuck to the back of her throat.
Before she could get out of the stall, two more boys from
the junior class, not athletes or friends of the four, burst in and held her by the arms.
They shoved her back inside the stall and forced her to sit on the toilet while they too demanded sex.
She lost count; one followed the other; she heard buckles,
zippers, laughs, moans, threats, and commands but it all seemed to be part of a nightmare she was having and not reality. She didn’t know when but a deeper male voice replaced the whispered commands
roiling around in her head. A woman jerked her to her feet and she felt her
breasts squeezed in a vise-like grip that made her cry out. It was the school’s
religious fanatic, Mrs. Hochschartner, the Home Ec teacher; she thrust her face into Bobbie’s so hard and close that
spittle joined the semen stains of her cheek: “God didn’t give you
these so you could become a filthy whore!”
The letter came a week later, but school was impossible. The stares and snickers everywhere—she was so isolated at lunch that twenty
seats were empty in all directions from wherever she sat. Some of school’s
toughest males approached her at her locker and demanded she meet them after school.
Her locker was filled with notes full of obscenities and curses shoved between the slats. Every time she went to her locker there were dozens of stick-it notes slathered across the front of it
in block-lettered abuse, a rotation of “Bitch,” “Whore,” “Slut,” and “Pig.”
Being the school tramp she saw as a consequence of the other. But it was clear that her fantasy was a burning, foul-smelling rubble at her feet.
She berated herself for even thinking that her family, which had spawned nothing
but lowlife troublemakers, welfare scum and criminals, could have been overlooked by the school’s most popular boy. She wept at night in her bed and pulled her hair until she had a scabby line of red
dots at her hairline and swollen cheeks from self-inflicted punches.
When she left, no one said goodbye. Her mother was sleeping after her third-shift job at a taco plant in the next town. Her father was a drunk and long gone from the family. Her
three older sisters were married in different counties and had babies and troubles of their own. Her younger brother was in a juvenile-detention center for stabbing a boy and was destined for a big prison
someday. She stole ten dollars from her mother’s purse, tossed a few clean
clothes and undergarments into a paper bag from the Sav-a-Lot and walked off the front porch.
She ate at MacDonald’s in Beckley and made it as far
as a truck stop in Charleston by nightfall. It was colder in this part of the
state and all she had was a flimsy wool sweater. She ordered coffee in the café
and thought about going back home. She had never been more than fifteen miles
from her house since she was born there. The waitress, a hatchet-faced woman
in rouge, kept giving her the fisheye every time she asked for a refill. She
was so desperate that, when a bandy-legged trucker walked in and sat down, she immediately went over to join him at his booth. He was ancient, about forty-five years old, she guessed, and had a huge pot belly
stretching out the fabric of his work shirt. He gave off a male odor she had
never smelled before; all the high-school boys she knew who shaved doused themselves with excessive cologne.
He bought her a Captain’s Feast seafood dinner and
offered her a ride north to Ohio. He was delivering a load of steel wire to
Youngstown. He turned out to be a kind man, who didn’t want sex from her
and didn’t ask for anything except that she consider “turning to Jesus.”
She promised she would. His cabin was overheated and the country tunes
he favored on the radio were the kind she had heard all her life. She fell into
a long, deep sleep that was full of bizarre creatures, half-demon and half-mechanical, who chased her. She awoke with her hands slapping at the air in front of her. He
was almost invisible except for the magma glow emanating from the luminous dials of his rig.
“Havin’ you a bad dream, hon?”
She gulped and swallowed several times and remembered where
she was. The empty landscape at one in the morning could have been in the Alaskan
tundra for all she knew.
“I’m fine,” she said.
He nodded slowly and said, “Jesus is the answer, darlin’. You-all remember that and you will be just fine.
Just fine,” he crooned.
He dropped her off at a gas station near the 680 loop. She had no idea she was standing near one of the most traveled interstates in the
United States with something like half the country’s population living within 500 miles.
The Escalade that stopped for her at a quarter past two
in the morning screeched its brakes so hard just past her outstretched thumb that it juddered into the shoulder and nearly
slewed into a mileage sign.
He was black and he was grinning from ear to ear when he
popped the door open for her. She stood there looking at him a long time, uncertain.
“Well, c’mon, bitch, make up your mind,”
he said and showed her his gold incisors in a beaming smile; he refused to let the dentist exchange them for the porcelain
once he made his money. They were his street “badges,” he called
them. “Keepin’ it real,” he said.
Bobbie’s fate changed drastically from that day. His name was Reggie Duval, or so he claimed, and he was a very big drug dealer in
Cleveland. He said he was coming back from visiting the Muhammad Ali Peace Center
in Louisville—the champ being a boyhood hero of his—and, “You know,” he said, “one thing led
to another, blasé-blasé,” which was Reggie’s riff for a drug deal wherever he happened to be at the time. He pointed to a spot on the sidewalk of Cedar Avenue where a young thug named Donald
King had kicked a much smaller man to death for failing to pay up when King’s number hit. That was almost fifty years ago, he said to her, and she nodded her blonde head as if this was a package
tour and he was the guide. He babbled some of King’s loony patriotic gibberish in a fair imitation acquired from television
and showed her his gold-tipped smile. The sodium arc lights of downtown bathed the empty dawn streets in a hazy orange glow.
Reggie took her to a motel and started teaching her about
sex. Reggie read books on tantric sex and believed his masculine stamina was
legendary. When he went off to prison a year later, she had become his prize
moneymaker. She danced at his club and did lap dances in the back room that
were sometimes sexual simulations and sometimes the real thing—if the client paid up. When middle-class whites from
the suburbs started to show up at his club because of this tall, gorgeous blonde dancer with large breasts, the cops started
to pay attention. When some of these white gentlemen were mugged on the way to their cars, the city took action and closed
him down. Reggie headed off to the prison in Massillon a week later following
in Don King’s footsteps this way, too.
Bobbie became her own manager and went from the better class
of club to the best in the city, where her tips and money were tripled. She
read fashion magazines and dressed well. She hid her urban slang whenever she
found herself in politer company at Playhouse Square or at dinner in the Blue Pointe Grill in the Warehouse District. Once in a while she’d slip up, say, when a passing taxi spattered her outfit
and she might blurt out a “jackass motherfucker,” showing the awkward merger of the two big strains in her life. She was twenty-four years old, disease-free, and her answering machine carried a
dozen calls daily from men who wanted to know her better. She wrote Reggie one
letter in a childish scrawl and refused to accept his collect calls from prison.
This is the part where I come in. I married her a month after I saw her dance.
It began at a bachelor’s party for a friend at the
Crazy Horse Saloon and around midnight somebody said we were moving on to Ed’s, which is what my crowd called the Executive
Den east of town. It was safe from “the black element,” as my friend
Rory said, who worked for Price Waterhouse downtown; he said that we could party hard, feel up the girls there—“maybe
get our bones smoked in the parking lot.” A friend of his yapped about a beauty who resembled a young Christy Canyon.
“Be careful,” Rory bellowed to the three of
us squeezed into the back seat of his Lexus on the way. “Some of those
bitches are nothin’ but crack whores who let niggers cream into their pussies!”
I was a little drunk when we walked in. Bobbie’s set was the last one before midnight. By
the time she came on stage, I was half in the bag and more than a little tired from a long day. I had seen enough of the dancers, and the music, all techno or eighties retro, was beginning to give me
tinnitus; the girls were young and pretty enough but I was sated by whatever that amount of gynecological voyeurism is that
males require in the limbic brain before they can say, “That’s fine, thanks. I’d like to go to sleep now.”
I just happened to turn around, somebody had given me another
watered down Seven-and-Seven, and I caught sight of her up there. I thought
my heart would stop. I had never seen such bone-aching loveliness in a woman. She made you think in capital letters. I
was rooted to the floor as if somebody had driven railroad spikes through my shoes.
Every undulation of her magnificent body was a caress. Just when you
thought your eyes had feasted on her legs and butt to be satisfied, those gorgeous, symmetrically perfect breasts hove into
At work I was useless.
I ignored my voicemails and didn’t call anybody back who didn’t have the power to fire me. This went on for three days before I got up the courage to go back to Ed’s alone. I waited for her set like a young communicant waiting for the host at his First Communion. She came on and it was magical—just like the first night.
About one-thirty, just as she was preparing to walk off, she looked over at me and gave me an appraising glance. The men clapped and cheered and called her by her stage name: “Dasana!” “Dasana!” The back of
her yellow thong rode high up her crease as she walked. I remembered somebody’s
comment about Marilyn Monroe in Niagara.
Bobbie could make an entrance walking away.
That was the start of it—that one look. The testosterone in the air was thick as fog. I asked one
of the serving girls to give Miss Dasana the note for me and watched her eyes roll up in her head until I showed her the fifty-dollar
Two days later she called me at the office. You would think we had met at a dating service. It was the
easiest conversation I ever had with a woman I had never met in my life. When
I asked her how she acquired the stage name, she said she wanted “Dusty,” but one of the other girls dancing in
a club on Prospect had already snapped it up.
“I was carrying a bottle of water when I got hired,”
she said. “They thought ‘Bobbie’ was too hillbilly for me
so the owner changed my name on the spot to the name on the label, sort of,” she laughed. The exotic motif was added on by the bartender doing the intro for the girls. He couldn’t pronounce “Herzegovina,” which was the first choice, so he and the owner
proclaimed her to be a “Gypsy from Bosnia.” They gave her a bright
scarf to hold across her bosom. It made no difference that she was awkward on
the pole. Her body was so eloquent that no one would even remember the scarf
“It’s a pretty name,” I said stupidly,
“very feminine, like you.” I could see her serious, appraising glance
forming again. “Call me for dinner tomorrow night,” she said.
We dated for three weeks and at the end of the fourth week,
I asked her to marry me. We drove to Monroe, Michigan and found a Justice of
I was unprepared for my own response when she first suggested
we steal millions from my company and abscond to Rio. I said yes without hesitation. She went back to reading her magazine. All
I remember about that conversation is what came afterward. She took her right
breast out of the cup of her negligee and held it out in front of her, examining it carefully.
She was as amoral about sex as a feral cat, which was how I thought of her and her tea-colored eyes.
When she brought the subject up the next morning while I
was dressing for work, she asked me if I meant it. I said yes, I did, as long
as I didn’t have to hurt anyone.
I work for a hedge fund and do most of my trading in the
forex markets where a tenth of a cent on the margin can mean millions. It’s
work for young men with rapid-fire brains for mental calculations under enormous stress and a degenerate gambler’s appetite
for risk-taking; by the way, it helps to have a cast-iron stomach. I was almost
forty and I was burning out. One of my fellow traders gave me a condescending
pat on the back. “You lasted longer than most,” he said. My hands were shaking.
The trouble was, at my age, I should have had a comfortable
nest egg from my past bonuses. But I had a ferocious online gambling addiction
that stripped me to the bone faster than I could make the money. Unfortunately
for me, predicting a change in the yuan in the Asian markets doesn’t have a thing to do with how the Browns will do
that Sunday. Losers don’t last at my level. Bobbie came along at just the right time to push me over the edge before I was dumped on the firm’s
garbage heap where I had seen other men and a couple alpha-women go. I had made
about sixty million for this group as a senior trader on the floor. Now I wanted
some of it back and I knew how to get it.
I told Bobbie how easy it would be to set up a dummy corporation
with ghost assets and wire transfer money into a “deep pool” in the Caymans or a “blank check” in
the British Virgins. I was bragging to impress her but I was really telling
her what was lying at the bottom of my mind like a tiny pearl being formed out of an irritating grain of sand. She didn’t say anything more and we talked about boating in the Caribbean.
My chance came two days later when I had a flash of my old
brilliance. I saw an arbitrage coming before the rest of the pack. I cleaned up on dollars-euro and made a mint for the hedge fund. My
hands were still shaking from the adrenalin rush when I left at one o’clock to meet Bobbie downtown at Piero’s.
I told her what I was going to do and I asked her to come
“Baby, I’ll be your gypsy girl in Rio,”
she said with a smile.
If she had a single, tiny flaw in her lovely face it was
in her lips. For a woman with such bounty—from the luxurious sweep of
her hair all the way down to her shapely feet—it was in the lack of fullness she had on display everywhere else. I noticed a carmine smudge of lipstick on one of her incisors.
“When?” she asked me, leaning forward.
A serving girl came by and dipped her tray of drizzled treats
in front of us and asked us whether we wanted dessert. Bobbie smiled at her
and said, “No, thanks. I’m having his cock in any hole he wants
to put it.”
When I got back to my cubicle at four, my knees were weak. Bobbie had devoured me and I felt as drunk as a Siberian pickle, although I had not
drunk anything since lunch at the restaurant. The firm’s manager spotted
me and made a big deal of checking his watch.
“Long lunch, Guy,” he said.
“What do you want?” I snapped. I didn’t like Frank. He had ferret eyes and made a
big point of professing his faith on public occasions. There’s something
nauseating about a man who thrived in the kill-or-be-killed environment of hedge-fund trading and thumped the bible. It was his idea to fine any traders whose eleven-digit password was discovered taped
to the undersides of their desks. Since these passwords were changed quarterly,
most guys risked the thousand-dollar fine imposed and did it anyway.
“Alicia Fox is taking over foreign exchange Monday,”
“Who fucking says she’s taking over forex, Frank?”
“Mister Kray wants to try her out. It’s her special area of research,” Frank said. His little eyes glittered at me for my impertinence. Sebastian Kray was the fund director, a mysterious man with a lot of rumors and black
clouds hanging over him. Word was he was blackballed in New York and had wound
up in our backwater.
The blood thudding in my temples subsided; it was all clear
now: I’d have to make my move tomorrow by the end of the work day. Monday
I’d lose my chair to Alicia and I wouldn’t have the clearance to do it.
It had to be done on a Friday before the Asian markets closed.
By three in the morning, I had it all worked out. I didn’t sleep. When I walked into the building on the Memorial Shoreway overlooking Lake Erie for
what would surely be the most remarkable day in my life, I was twitching with nerves.
I kept Bobbie in my mind all day long to give me courage. I followed
the contours of that lush body like a desert saint fasting on the single idea of God’s awesome power.
Alicia was right there at my cubicle, eager to begin the
tutoring, scenting the warm blood of my demise. The woman had claws. She had once tried to seduce me. Now she treated me as—well,
what I was about to become—a junior trader.
I was giddy with fear and at times I must have been incoherent
because she scowled at me beneath her piercing blue eyes and said, “What’s the smirk all about, Guy?”
I didn’t get much sleep last night,” I said.
“Lay off the booze, Guy,” she said. “You’re getting too old.”
Fortunately the woman had the habit of making calls on her
cell or punching up files on her BlackBerry every fifteen minutes to follow me too closely.
By three o’clock I had put the pieces in motion; now I just had to ditch her to make the last part of the plan
work, and I didn’t need her watching over my shoulder. I fobbed her off
with some excuse about “personal stuff” I needed to do.
When I walked out of that building at five-forty, the hairs
on the back of my neck were tingling. I was five million dollars richer. The security guard who eyeballed me was the last chance the Kray bloodhounds had
of stopping me. When he grunted a surly good night, I knew I had done it.
Bobbie was waiting for me at my condo with a bottle of wine
in one hand and the front of her bathrobe in the other. She opened the robe
and let me feast on her.
As the plane banked over the dirty gray lake below before
turning south, I looked over at Bobbie already asleep next to me, magically curling that long, feline body into the plush
lining of her winter coat.
We stayed in a deluxe hotel that gave us a view of the world-famous
statue of Cristo Redentor atop his mountain in Corcovado overlooking the beautiful aquamarine waters below. Even the elevators played samba music. Carnival was next
week. I was going to enjoy my new life as a rich, decadent hedonist—oh
yes, very much.
Bobbie pleaded jet lag and stayed behind to catch up on
her sleep while I cruised Avenida Atlântica in an air-conditioned taxi—it was the onset of the Brazilian summer—and
scoped out the exclusive Zona Norte for a place to dine. I had an appointment
at the bank at four o’clock. I had several ideas about investing the money, which I was calling “mine” whenever
I thought about it. I felt no guilt at my theft, only the slight discomfort
of the sun’s excessive warmth. By the end of November in Ohio, you’re
already locked into winter and your blood has thickened.
I had overlooked so many things that didn’t add up
for a hill girl descended from trailer-trash in West Virginia.
The semiliterate note said:
“Forgett looking for me Guy. I realy think you have other concerns on your mind now. Signed, B.”
I’m not sure whether it was the “Signed”
part or the chocolate mint she left me on my pillow that stuck more in my craw. I
made a desperate call to the bank and went through three vice presidents before I got to the president, whose English was
flawless. He confirmed it. While
I was soaking up rays and ogling glistening rumps, she was showing her cleavage at the bank with forged papers. It was gone without a trace. Like Bobbie—vanished.
I remembered how she had taken me to bed as soon as we were
in our room. I wasn’t in the mood for love-making because I was exhausted from the strain and lack of sleep. My eyeballs felt as if they’d been rolled on sandpaper before being put back in my head. She wasn’t taking no for an answer; she rode me hard on the bed, calling herself vile names like
“slut,” “bitch,” “pig,” and “whore”—names I never used on her because
I was never angry with her. Her tawny, gold-flecked eyes stared into mine. I thought she was transformed by lust or greed in some strange way I couldn’t
fathom. She pounded and squeezed me with her muscles and wrung every drop from
my sac. It wasn’t the same woman I had gotten on the plane with. When I realized she was the one who had proposed Rio, of all the places in the world,
I should have been suspicious. I’m Canadian so I don’t need a six-month
wait to apply for a visa like any American. Like Bobbie.
She had it all set up, and I walked into her gaping twat
like a lovesick schoolboy. If I weren’t so wired, I’d have fallen
asleep for days. That’s probably what she intended, too: fuck me into oblivion and then leave me there to wake up broke.
I had enough cash to last three more days in my very expensive
hotel. Then I was faced with sleeping on the beach or turning myself in to Interpol
or the American consulate for voluntary extradition. I could walk down to the
beach and start swimming toward the horizon, but I’m a coward, and the thought of becoming shark food before I slipped
into the black waters to drown was too frightening.
I looked up the address of the American embassy and saw
it was located in El Centro, the downtown area.
Three days . . .
I tried to make the most of them, all the freedom I would
get for a very long time, but the sour taste in my mouth and the feeling in the pit of my stomach made that impossible. I got drunk on the beach from the national cocktail, something called a caipirinha made from lime and a liquor distilled from sugarcane, and tried to chat with the girls but their soft,
mushy-voweled Portuguese made that just as impossible. I went back to the bank,
but they said the same thing. The senhora’s
papers were in order.
Some old man in front of the bank selling fried meat on
skewers said to me as I passed in a daze: “Só o que é bom faz o que é
bom.” I stared at him. Then
he said in English, “Only good things make good things.”
I have that written out in black letters on the wall of
my cell. I’ve done four years and with good time I’ll do four more. All that I told you at the beginning of my story I learned from relentless correspondence
and computer searches. I bartered with a hacker in the next cell block for everything
I know about trading on the margin for his computer know-how.
Someday I’ll find Bobbie, the girl of my dreams. The blonde, beautiful succubus of my nightmares from Bluefield, West Virginia. I wake up every day in the Mansfield Correctional Institution forty miles south of
Cleveland. In the daytime I go to my job in the Tender Loving Dog Care program,
and at night I lie in my bunk listening to men farting and groaning in their sleep.
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me in the hours before sunrise and I’ll have a sharp, sudden hallucination
that turns the reek of stale piss wafting down the cell block into a fragrance of cinnamon and musk like the smell of Bobbie’s
skin after we made love.
What will I do when I find her? Well,
that’s another story now, isn’t it?
“My Gypsy Girl from Bluefield” originally appeared
in Hard Luck Stories in 2007.