There’s an old saying: once a whore always a whore.
I guess that’s so. Too bad I didn’t pay notice to that when the time came, but you know how it is – it’s just one of those things you later wished you’d known.
I’ve lived on the outskirts of Schuyler Falls since I was born. My daddy bought himself a little spread back in the ‘fifties, and farmed it ‘til the day he died. One afternoon, out in the fields under a hot sun, he just keeled over. Heart attack at age forty-two. Mama said it was the farm that killed him. Maybe so. Property never was worth much, and that hardscrabble farm required a lot of work. Still, we always managed.
There had never been much talk about what I’d do with my life. My people were farm people – always had been – and that wasn’t about to change with me.
At age sixteen, I dropped out of Schuyler Falls PS #15. Hell, what did I need with an education? All I needed to know was enough arithmetic to make sure I wasn’t being cheated – anything beyond that was wasted effort. Still, the law made me bide my time until I was of an age to leave.
One good thing came out of school: my Jess. I met her when we were in 9th grade, and she was my sweetheart ever after. Young and hot, we were frisky like newborn foals.
Those were the good years, me and Jess, farming the land, taking care of mama. Jess was a good woman, sweet to mama, and even sweeter to me. And pretty? Lord, but she was pretty with her uncomplicated smile and those dimples that flashed all sorts of promises – promises always kept under the cover of darkness, when we’d hold each other close.
Each day was like another, full of promise in spite of the day’s hard work. And, if over time, the babies didn’t come, well, that was God’s will. A man shouldn’t be too greedy, and Jess had been this country boy’s biggest answered prayer.
I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever.
Maybe I would have tried harder to memorize her face, to remember the lilt in her voice when she’d say, “Caleb, you sweet, silly man!” Maybe, I would have touched her a lot more, too, because that’s what I missed most once she was gone – the touch of her warm body next to mine.
But we were young and I thought there was lots of time. I didn’t know that the cancer would take her when she was thirty-five – and take her hard. Nobody tells you when you’re young how quick things pass. It’s one of those things you wish you’d known.
Not long after, mama left, moving to town to live with her sister, Ella. Can’t say as I blamed her. Things got pretty bad with me after Jess died. I’d taken to whiskey to forget what I’d lost and stopped attending the First Methodist Church. I didn’t even go to the cemetery to visit Jess.
All I did was work the land during the day, and drink myself to sleep at night.
Pretty Lucy, with her buxom figure, large inviting mouth, and pouting green eyes. She was a red-haired beauty with alabaster skin – and Lord knows she showed enough of it. She was giving in that way, didn’t mind flashing a man a bit of thigh – or even something better.
First time I saw her was at Thelma’s Social Club, a place not frequented by the ‘nice’ people in Schuyler Falls. But once Jess died, I didn’t care so much about being nice. I was lonely and wanted the softness of a woman’s body, and the word was that female companionship was Thelma’s specialty.
I spotted Lucy as soon as I walked in. Looking at her was like looking at a painting, and she took my breath away. Dressed in emerald lace, she was lounging on a red velvet sofa, and gold-framed, floor-to-ceiling mirrors caught her image and bounced it throughout the room.
Soon, I was one of her regulars, no other girl would do. She was like midnight to Jess’s sunny day, but I didn’t care. I possessed a fever for that girl – had to have her. I could think of nothing else.
After a few weeks, I began to notice bruises on her beautiful skin. When I asked her about them, she began to cry and told me about the crazy young man who’d visit her when he was drunk, and how he’d rough her up. He was one of Thelma’s best customers, she said, and she had no choice but to put up with him.
“I sure wish I could leave this life behind.” She looked at me meaningfully and ran a light finger across my thigh. I shivered, remembering once again those long summer nights with Jess, the moist darkness all around us.
A man should never love a whore.
And he sure as hell shouldn’t marry one. But I was thinking with a part of my anatomy that didn’t care much about logic, and the next day Lucy and I married. They say only young men act like fools with women. I’m here to tell you that ain’t always the case… it’s one of those things you wished you’d known.
Lucy wasn’t a woman to live on a farm – and that’s another thing I should have known. She liked pretty dresses, and looking at magazines about movie stars, and she didn’t care much for exerting herself past the couch in the parlor. Still, I kept thinking it would work out, and I tried my best to give her what nice things I could. But it wasn’t long before she started giving me the sharp side of her tongue. Day in, day out, she’d complain: the place was dusty; it was small; it was out in the middle of nowhere; we never had any fun.
I tried to ignore it all, even though she soon got on my nerves. I began to long for the quiet days before I’d known her. But then the nighttime would come, and I’d forget my irritation; having that body astride mine in the darkness made a lot of wrong things suddenly seem right.
At least for a time.
Last night I went into town to pick up some seed and take care of a few errands. I asked Lucy if she wanted to go along, but she said she wasn’t feeling well. “You go on, I’m fine. Maybe you want to stop by and see your friends and have a drink. It’s okay with me.”
She was smiling, acting real sweet, so I took her at her word. But I didn’t stay in town for that drink. Instead, I bought the seed, and then stopped by that dress shop Lucy liked so much, and picked out a pretty little dress I saw hanging in the window. It was Lucy’s color – emerald green.
When I got home, it was dark and I almost missed seeing the truck parked near the shed. Up at the house, only one light could be seen shining dimly – the one in the bedroom. Standing outside under the stars, I stared at the silhouettes on the nightshade: two shadowy figures, one prone and the other bouncing atop it.
Like I said earlier, once a whore, always a whore. Something I wish I’d known.
Here’s something else I wish I’d known: how heavy six feet of dirt is when you’re the man shoveling it. It took me all night, but I finally finished. I dumped his worthless body in first, followed by the cheating Lucy.
She looks real nice in that green dress – and she’s just where she likes to be: on top.
But she ain’t bouncing no more.
Author’s Note: The idea for this Schuyler Falls piece rose out of a challenge to write a story (no particular number of words) based on any of a variety of phrases as part of ‘Inspiration Monday’ from the blog BeKindRewrite . One phrase was ‘things you wish you knew.’ I changed that a bit to ‘things you wish you’d known.’ Thanks to BeKindRewrite for the inspiration prompt!