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Erin J. Jones
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daysuchas.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees 2016

Days Such As…

Erin J. Jones

          It was a ten by twelve boarding room that came complete with a bed, dresser, and sixty channels on the television. For eighty-five dollars a week I got this along with a place to shower, kitchen privileges, and use of a washer and dryer. A far cry from what I have known in the past, but it was indoors and heated. There are those in the world who would wish to have it so good. There were four other tenants living in this house, each with their own hard luck story to tell. I never asked them theirs and they never asked me mine.

          It was early evening, just after dinner, when I left the house en route to the community center to check my email and surf the web for an hour or two. I had just crossed the railroad tracks and was walking down the path that ran parallel to the creek when I noticed her. I never could help but notice her. There was a certain something about her that had always intrigued me. I had seen her on and off in the neighborhood over the last couple of years. She was taller than me by two inches, slim with black hair that went halfway down her back. She always wore a black skirt that came to just above her knees and usually a certain green top. Her hips swayed to the music in her earphones as she walked. As she walked, she seemed oblivious to the looks men gave her or the traffic passing by.

          We came near but our paths did not cross that night. I walked on; past the apartment I had had in better times, on down the road to the community center. There was nothing in my email of interest, just the usual selection of spam, forwarded poems, and jokes. Leaving the center as it closed, I headed to the liquor store to buy myself a twenty-four ounce can of beer. There is a city ordinance, at least that is what the land-lord says, that a person cannot be under the influence of alcohol when living in a boarding house. There is an unwritten rule amongst tenants of ignoring the business of others and minding your own. If it did not harm you or effect you, you did not concern yourself with it. We all had a tendency to bend the rules slightly.

          Summer nights are made for cold beer. It was early summer and I had myself some cold beer, but now the question was as to where I could relax and enjoy it. I had no way to carry it unseen into the house. There were families with children in the park and a game of soccer on the field. As I continued homeward, the answer became obvious in a strangely odd yet funny way. Stepping off the sidewalk, I casually walked underneath the street bridge that went over the creek. Popping the top, I took a long pull on a cold beer. And damn, it was good.

          The bridge was a place of some notoriety in the neighborhood. It had been at one time or another a playground for children, a hangout for teenagers, temporary shelter for the homeless, and on rare occasions, a place of odd commerce and certain trades. A social enigma in an older but nice lower-middle class neighborhood in an average blue-collar town of thirty-five thousand or so people.

          I drank the beer and walked back to the boarding house. All was dark when I entered. It appeared that the other tenants were fast asleep or watching television in their rooms. I went upstairs to my room and lay down on the bed. I stared at the ceiling for a while, my mind lingering on the girl in the black skirt whose hips always seemed to sway to the sound of music.

***

          I had a job that I didn’t like. I worked in a shoe store. My workdays were spent stocking, cleaning, and selling. The worst part was waiting patiently in a world where children were going to bed hungry while housewives threw drama-queen fits over flip-flops. I had a boss named Chad. I always had to bite my tongue to keep from calling him Chip. He was young, tall, slim, educated, intelligent, and inexperienced. It showed in the way he did things. You know his type; the go-getter who is always quoting corporate policy and motivational books. The middle-manager who stands before the mirror at home, practicing a motivational speech that gets applied boldly at the first remote chance they have to give it. The lackey to bigger, more important corporate cowboys.

          The job was boring and unchallenging, but it paid the bills. I had had better jobs in the past and was qualified to do more. I had a college degree and management experience. That was part of the reason I had a hard time getting along with Chad. I was just as qualified for his job as he was. That was a good thing when discussing promotions and such, but it was a point of contention more often than not.

          There was nothing eventful with work or outside of work. Life was at a lull. Most of my friends had moved out of state because of work or family. There was no one in the area that I had grown up with. At that point in time my life was work, and after work, a good book, television, or heading down to the community center to check my email. Nothing was ever lost, nothing was ever gained.

          Chad did not want to pay me holiday pay for working on the Fourth of July, so I had the day off. Just as well, I really hated to work on holidays. I had walked downtown earlier that day and watched the rodeo parade with its hundreds of horses and floats passing by. Afterwards, I was hanging out in the park with some folks I knew from around the neighborhood. We were discussing the merits of a beer run and tossing some burgers on the grill when a girl I only knew as Jessica came over with a friend. I turned to greet them and found myself face to face with the woman in the black skirt and green top. In the customary round of introductions, I was introduced to her as Jon and she was introduced to me as Maria. She shook my hand in a soft lady-like manner and said “hola”.  Although we made plenty of flirtatious eye-contact, we did not speak any words directly to each other that day, though we were both part of the group’s conversation.

          My buying a twenty-four ounce can of beer and quaffing it under the bridge became something of an odd nightly habit. It is hard to explain since I have never drank for the sake of drunkenness. It was simply my personal time, my space, my sanctuary. Then one evening that changed as I passed Maria on my way to the community center. She smiled and winked as I approached. Turning her head as I passed by, she said “On your way home grab two beers tonight.” With that said, she went on her way, never looking back.

          I kept my normal schedule as best I could. I left the community center at closing time and walked to the liquor store across the street from it. It was hard, but I walked at my usual pace as I headed towards the bridge.

          She was leaning against a concrete pillar with her hands behind her head when I arrived. I handed her a beer and she said “gracias” as she accepted it. We popped the tops and took long pulls. After an awkward moment of silence she looked at me and asked “So what is with you loco gringos and this damn bridge?”

          I laughed and replied “What do you mean? It’s just a bridge.”

          She looked at me with a mischievous grin on her face. “No it is not. Everywhere that I have lived, there is always a place such as this, a place with local…how you say? Notoriety? This place is an odd hang-out for pinche wedos.”

          I laughed as I shook my head. “Just a place, really. We never outgrow our love for a good hide-out do we? There will always be a lover’s lane, local bars, and water coolers. Children will always find a place to smoke cigarettes and grape vine. The high school I went to had a place called ‘head row’ where students smoked things rolled left handed. This neighborhood has this bridge.”

          “So what is your story? You look like a clean-cut little man, not someone who hangs out under bridges.”

          “For me, it’s just a place to escape and relax for a little while. I cannot drink where I am living, so I come here for my nightly nightcap. That’s about all there is to it really.”

          She laughed and smiled. Even in the dim light I could see the hard lines around her pretty eyes. “Good enough, I guess. I have just been curious, that is all.”

          We finished our beers in silence. As she turned to go, I asked “Will I see you tomorrow?”

          She turned her head and smiled. “Maybe” and without another word she disappeared into the night.

***

          The days that followed were odd, yet wonderful days. Maria and I would have a beer under the bridge every night. Our friendship was a comfortable one without pretense or false expectations. Neither of us asked about the other’s past or pried into personal information. Our lives and how we lived them were ours and ours alone. This respect for the other made it easier for me to talk. I could talk to her about things others did not listen to. I told her about my past unemployment, the basics of my financial problems, and the ex-employer that I was taking legal action against.

          “So, everybody is out to get you?” she asked with a laugh.

          “No, just a select few” I replied, knowing how my past employment sounded when I tried to explain it. “I do appear to have picked up a few enemies along the way.”

          “Don’t we all?”

          “I know, but it sucks when they are people you say ‘good afternoon’ to when you pass them in the store. At least a soldier on the battlefield can face his enemy with no false pretense enforced by society.”

          “And what would you do if society held no restraints on your actions?”

          “I do not know really, I do not know. Part of me would want to remain civil and part of me would love to lash out and make the stupid bastards pay. If given the chance, I truly do not know what I am capable of.” I paused for a moment, breathed deep, and slowly exhaled. “To be perfectly honest, if I could get away with it, I would love to kill that old boss of mine just because he has gone out of his way to be a dishonest son of a bitch about things.”

***

          It was a spontaneous thing that happened one night as we said our good-byes. It was a natural act to step forward and kiss. Her lips were warm, moist, and had a feel of a soft electrical charge. We broke from our embrace and left without a word. The kiss and her softness lingered on my mind.

          The next night we drank our beer in an awkward conversation of this, that, and a few other things. Finishing off her beer, she tossed the empty can to the side. “So tell me,” she asked with a hungry look in her eyes, “is it true what they say about you white boys?’

          “And what do they say?”

          “That you like to eat pussy and that is about all you are good for.”

          “There is some truth to what they say, but it does beg the question as to why you ask.”

          “A girl has her needs and a boy has his desires.”

          I smiled and stepped forward. “Your place or here and now?” She leaned back against the concrete pillar and slowly raised her black skirt. I went to my knees, reached up and pulled her white cotton panties down. She slightly parted her legs and I leaned forward and tasted the musky sweetness that is woman.

***

          Did I love her? No. But what I felt was something stronger than friendship, something stronger than physical desire. Whatever we wished to call it, it was real and it was meaningful to us. Neither of us wished to change it from what it was.

          We never had a date, per se. There were no dinners in fancy restaurants. No holding hands at the movies. Nothing that society expected couples to do. Only once did I go to her place. She knew my birthday was coming up and invited me over with the promise of a good birthday spanking. “Do you even know how old I will be?” I asked.

          She smiled a sweetly evil grin. “It does not matter, little boy. I will spank you until you cry. And if you are a good boy, I will give you a blow job afterwards.”

          She finished off her beer and tossed the empty can on the ground. “I live in the brown apartments across the street. I live in 2C. Be there at eight tomorrow evening.” I stood there like a fool, my heart racing as she walked out of sight.

          I opened at the store on my birthday. Chad did not see fit to let me have it off. It did not matter; the day went quickly with me staying busy. After work, I nuked a meal in the microwave and ate it in front of the television up in my room. After a long, relaxing hot shower I jumped into some clean clothes and was out the door.

          I knocked on the door of 2C and stood there nervously waiting for her to answer. The door cracked open and she peeked out. She was standing behind the door. She pulled the door open to allow me in, shutting it behind me after I had entered. Her apartment was small with just a couch and television in the living room. A picture of Jesus and another of The Virgin Mary hung on the wall behind the couch. Off to the side of the couch was a metal folding chair with a ping pong paddle lying on it.

          I turned to look at her. She was dressed for the occasion in a black bra and panty set with black fishnet stockings and high heels. Her hair had been done and she wore make-up and finger nail polish. She looked stunning.

          There was an assuredness to her manners that I had not seen before. “Take off your clothes, fold them neatly, and place them on the floor.” The excitement of the moment made me hesitate for a second. “Now” she said with a ring of authority to her words. She did not raise her voice; she did not need to raise her voice. I felt my hands tremble as I undressed.

          She sat down in the folding chair with the paddle in her right hand. With her left hand she signaled for me to come to her. I did so obediently. “Lay across my knee, little man.” As I did so, she grabbed me by the hair with her left hand and pulled my head back. The paddle came down on my ass with a solid whack. Before I could catch my breath, it came down again and again. Excitement danced through my body like electricity as I surrendered to the pleasure of pain. She proved herself a lady of her word. I cried and happily so.

          Tossing the paddle to the floor, she ordered me to stand before her. I did so with the pleasure of the spanking putting me at full attention as I stood naked before her. Reaching out, she fondled my scrotum for a minute and suddenly gave my boys a hard, loving squeeze. Looking up at me, she smiled. “That is what I like about white boys. You are little sluts for this.” With that she leaned forward and took me full into her mouth. It was nice. It reconfirmed my belief in the theory that all girls give good head because there is no such thing as a bad blow-job.

***

          A couple of days later, so much of what I cared for came to an end. I had seen the ambulance and police cars as I drove home from work. My heart sank, I knew without being told…I somehow knew.

          Walking to the community center after dinner, I stopped by the park and talked to some people I knew. They told me that she was hit by a drunk driver while walking home from the store. On television, the news covered the story. She had no family in the area that anyone knew of.

          I was off work the next day. I slept late only to wake feeling sore and tired. I had no appetite for breakfast, so I showered and went to the post office to check my mail. My former employer had sent me a letter saying that all money was paid. There was my commission slip and pay-out sheet enclosed to back this claim. Double checking the paperwork, I found an error. A payment on an account previously paid had been erroneously applied as payment to an account still unpaid. He had tried this trick before and it had not worked then. It angered me that he thought it would work this time. It was such a sad attempt to avoid paying me the money he legally owed me.  Something long buried inside my mind seemed to snap. My temper rose to full blossom.

          I moved as if on autopilot. I felt as if I was watching the actions of another person. Reaching underneath the driver’s seat to retrieve the pistol I kept there did not seem real. A cold anger drove me as I drove the car. I could not explain my thoughts or actions at this time. I did not stop to think things through or even try.

          Something beautiful had been lost to me. I was in a rage that an old, arrogant punk wanted to play silly games with money he rightfully owed me. I wanted to face him. I wanted to tell him what I truly thought. I told myself that I was carrying a gun because he always carried a gun. That was partially true. It was a security company. Most people there owned guns and many had concealed carry permits.  I wanted to make a statement. I wanted him to understand. When I entered the building, he was standing there with a smug expression on his face. When I saw him looking hateful and arrogant as usual, something snapped. Drawing the pistol seemed natural. I aimed as easy as pointing a finger. I felt the gun buck in my hand. I fired once, twice, three times…

          I was in shock as I looked down at the wounded man dying on the floor, but I felt no pity. Turning around I saw Lance, a former co-worker, standing with his gun coming up. As I started to bring mine up, I was strangely aware that he had fired…


Erin J. Jones has been published previously in Poesia, Criminal Class Review, and Homepage of the Dead.

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