It didn’t matter to him what June wanted. That’s what he told himself. Calfskin boots, Mandarin oranges in syrup, fancy tobacco. But her teeth would rally to the twang of his shoulder, she would coo But Billy, and these gifts would appear in his hands, tasting sweet to his palms. She thanked him with heat and salt, with the hitching up of slick skirts and a fine spidery amnesia that threatened to creep on until dawn. She thanked him with buckshot kisses and flashflood thighs, and he would forget.
He reminded himself it was Edith whom he loved, Edith on her pallet on the floor, blankets smudged around her, with black-haired babies scrabbling softly for her glistening poemy nipples. Edith, with her small white feet like soapstone birds. Edith, with her fried chicken suppers and her wide hot sauce smiles. Edith with her love aimed true.
Billy would come home late again and Edith would be at the kitchen table, spine warped crooked over a fluttering hill of graph-paper math homework and red-inked cut-off notices, her eyes like over-ripe raspberries. Where has all the money gone to, Billy? And he would pull her close and cry into her curlers, with promises that smelled like marigolds.
But June wanted that turquoise ring, wanted to drive and drive under that shy fresh moon until all the gas was gone. She wanted those oysters in a can. She wanted paperback novels with wizards on the covers, and high-class shampoo. Billy tried to say no. You know, you can’t always get what you want he said to her as he sat on her sofa, watching her eat the Moo-Shu Pork with Pancake Special, $6.99, that he’d dutifully carried, in the greasy paper bag inside the plastic one, to her apartment. June leaned back from her plate, let out a laugh as silent as smoke rings. She set down her fork and her eyes fossilized, their frosted green lids lowering to bisect the mercilessly black pupils. She uncrossed and recrossed her legs, flesh-toned nylon swishing like a jailed miracle beneath her vinyl skirt. None of us do, Billy. None of us do.
About the Author: Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She is an Associate Editor at Night Train, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at The Citron Review, Hobart, matchbook, Prime Number, and many other venues. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More at: annajancewicz.wordpress.com
Story Song: “Fox In Its Hole” by Jolie Holland
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone