“We’ll bring it back with a full tank!” Towanda promises as she lays a few taps on the pedal, gunnin’ it to keep the rusty Impala from dying’.
“Shhhhh! Quiet! Mama’s gonna hear!” Junior Junior shushes, shruggin’ his shoulders clear up to his sideburns. “You sure I cain’t just come with?” Junior Junior pleads. “She’s pretty temperamental and I know all the finessin’ she needs.”
Poor Junior Junior, he has somehow convinced himself that he knows “all the finessin’” any “she” needs. Not that I’m worldly by any means, but I know a bit more about the female body, havin’ been in one the whole of my life, than Junior Junior does, I’m sure. If he can’t get past assultin’ a woman’s ears with his whinin’, he ain’t never gonna get to finessin’ the parts that need the most finessin’. Like her heart.
“Nah, Junior Junior. We got this,” Towanda says, slappin’ down the lock on the ledge of the driver’s side door.
“We really do appreciate this Junior Junior,” I reassure, knowin’ full well my requestin’ is the reason he was willin’ to roll outta bed well before dawn. But I still ain’t convinced that when pedal goes to metal he won’t change his mind. But really, what’s he gonna do? It’ll be too late by then. Won’t it?
“Hey maybe, when you get back, you wanna go sit out at the Sonic or somethin’?”
“I’m tryin’ to cut down on my cholesterol,” Towanda tosses in, crankin’ the window up to a crack before Junior Junior’s fingers bring that to a halt.
“So what exactly am I gettin’ outta this whole deal? All I’m askin for is a burger.”
Towanda clenches her hand on the crank as she retreats her rotation a few tense twists.
“Junior Junior, you didn’t pick Whataburger, you picked a drive-in, where everybody stays in the car. We both know that you’re askin’ for way more than that.”
And for the first time, it dawns on Junior Junior that even though he’s outside, standin’ in the street, he might just be the one in the driver’s seat. Or at least the passenger one. Or at the very very least the trunk.
“When we get back, I might be willin’ to go get a burger, but we’re gettin’ outta the car.” I relent. The boy has always had mostly manners, so the Sonic selection may just be a misstep.
“Then how are you ever gonna make me a man?” And he winks. HE WINKS!
What on earth makes him think somethin’ like that is ever gonna work? Especially since it ain’t nowhere near the truth. Even I know bein’ a man goes way beyond your wiener. But beyond that, men are still pretty much a mystery to me. I mean what exactly is wanderin’ through their minds that makes them let loose with somethin’ like that?
Sometimes men appear to be perfectly fine and then outta nowhere just flip around to flat-out misguided! And I ain’t even got a clue as to why.
Especially men like my daddy. Now he ain’t never sexually asulted nobody at a Sonic that I’m aware of and he ain’t never been perfect, so don’t hear me sayin’ that neither, but before life changed for both of us after losin’ both my brother and my mama, he was halfway normal. Or at least I thought so.
And then, one day he sent me out to the garage to go grab a Philips cause he was fixin’ the light fixture. Yep. We used to live in a real house. With a real yard. And a real family. And what I had always assumed was a real boat. Not that we’d ever been out on the water in it. It just sat all covered in one corner of the garage under a big blue tarp, with the oft spoken commandment to just leave it be. We weren’t to touch it. We weren’t to look at it. And I’m pretty sure we weren’t to even think about it.
But this one time, out there seekin’ a screwdriver, fetchin’ for what he was fixin’, I just couldn’t keep my curiosity under control. So curiosity caught the cat. And that cat was definitely me.
In the past he had always sent my brother out for all of the bits beyond his reach, but this time he was busy holdn’ the ceilin’ fan blades back while Daddy dinked with the bulbs and glass. Finally, my turn to help.
I can still remember the sound of my elated hard-soled, sandled feet slappin’n against the cement floor of the garage as I made my way towards the tool chest, when that one corner of the tarp, that trapped the unseen boat in the back corner, caught my eye. It was undone.
Not that we’d ever been allowed out in the garage alone to linger near Daddy’s precious boat. Ever. So it wadn’t one of us. Daddy musta come out to sneak a peek at all of his past memories and forgot to fasten it back.
And deep inside, I knew that I knew that I shouldn’t, but…I just wanted to know. I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. Just like Junior Junior’s “she” that he shuttled us around in. I wanted to see the “she” that had captivated not only Daddy’s desires for alone time, when he went out there just to sit with her and collect his mind, but one whole corner of our garage so we couldn’t even fit the car in there.
I crept over and lifted that loose edge. And I will never forget how my tiny tummy fell clear down to my toes. Under that tarp there was no boat. Nothin’ even like a boat. Just a boat shape. Built outta boxes. Boxes and boxes. Case after case of Crown Royal, evidently bought in bulk. Enough, well, to fill a boat. A boat that was nowhere to be found because it apparently never existed. But I had finally seen my daddy’s secret “she” that had the beginnin’s of goin’ way beyond baitin’ or beguilin’ to full on bondage, for the resta his life.
I had always inexplicably had plenty of those little purple and gold corded bags for puttin’ pencils in for school, bagin’ up bottle caps or makin’ Barbie sleepin’ bags and now I knew the mysterious source. The dark secret of the supposed boat, that would eventually sink us all.
“What did you just say to her?!” Towanda roars! “You kiss your mama with that mouth?” And Towanda has had enough. “I bet you do!”
“I’m sorry! Shhhh! I’m sorry!” Junior Junior looks back to the house for newly lit up lights.
“Nasty! What on earth makes you think Twyla Shane would ever show you her stuff at a Sonic?”
“Shhhhh! Okay! Okay!”
“Just nasty! I’ll take a strawberry shake and a big side of nasty!”
“I said I was sorry!”
“Yes you are, you definitely are Junior Junior! And to think, we were gonna do you the favor of bringin’ the car back with a full tank.”
Wait a minute, idn’t he doin’ us a favor by loanin’ us the car?
“And then you have to haul off and go turnin’ a hamburger into somethin’ dirty.”
“Twyla Shane, I shouldnta done that. Like I said, I’m real sorry.”
“I don’t know, she looks purty upset from the propositionin’ to me.” Towanda looks me up and down and then back to Junior Junior. “I cannot believe the likes of you! Solicitin’ prostitution from a nice girl like that for the use of your car!”
“Prostitution?! Now hold on…”
“Lookin’ for a little tit for your tat! How dare you! How dare you sir!” Towanda revs the engine and puts it in gear. “I think we’re gonna need a coupla days just to calm down from all of this sexual tension and tauntin’ and insinuation’”
Oh, I get what she’s gettin’ at. Though she is kinda right about all that Sonic nastiness. But it ain’t the first time somebody just assumed since I live in a school bus I must live like complete trash with no morals and all. And they can just do whatever ’cause I’m a girl to boot. But I’m kinda disappointed in Junior Junior. I pegged him for far more mannered than that. But then again, he is quite a mamas boy. Maybe he’s just lookin’ to move strait from his mama’s tit to somebody else’s, skippin’ the whole man milestone in the middle. And I got a feelin’ Towanda’s about to teach this man boy another lesson.
I start fannin’ myself.
“Yep, Junior Junior. I’m gonna need at least three days to cool off before we can come back inta contact,” coincidentally the exact amount of time we’re thinkin’ it’s gonna take to get to Nashville, cut and fluff and hightail it right on back here.
“But what am I sposta to tell mama?”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud! Come on Junior Junior! You wanted Twyla Shane to help make you a man, well she just did! Figure it out and grow a pair!”
And with that Towanda floors it, whippin’ the Impala the rest of the way outta the driveway, scrapin’ the bumper on the curb and knockin’ down the mailbox. Then lays on the gas and gets us right into the glare of oncoming headlights before swervin’ us onto the opposite shoulder right before rightin’ us on the right side of the road.
In the rearview I can see a little yellow light flip on in an upstairs window and I start wonderin’ just how much of a man he’s gonna be once Lidia starts layin’ into him here shortly. And with Towanda’s drivin’ if we’ll even make it outta the Oklahoma City limits all in one piece.
Between the KOA and right here in Junior Junior’s front seat, I’ve suddenly started wonderin’ lotsa things. like why Towanda’s in such a hurry to get on outta here tonight? Like what will Daddy say when he wakes and finds I ain’t there no more? And in the faintest, back little corner of my mind, what exactly happened between Towanda and Daryl? And where exactly is he now?