The Loveliest Girl

Reads: 371  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Among the Old Orchard Beach cognoscenti, Cassie Moffat was considered town slut. Whether her lurid reputation was justified or not wasn't really open for debate. Huey Spencer, the craggy-faced old fart who ran the air-brushed T-shirt concession, bragged that he bedded Cassie only a week after the young girl's arrival on the pier boardwalk. A short distance away, Freddy Spencer, who sold fruit coolattas - banana, coconut, mango and blueberry - never confirmed one way or the other that he slept with Cassie, but when the girl's name was mentioned, Freddy sniggered and made obscene gestures that left little to the imagination.

 
 
Among the Old Orchard Beach cognoscenti, Cassie Moffat was considered town slut. Whether her lurid reputation was justified or not wasn't really open for debate. Huey Spencer, the craggy-faced old fart who ran the air-brushed T-shirt concession, bragged that he bedded Cassie only a week after the young girl's arrival on the pier boardwalk. A short distance away, Freddy Spencer, who sold fruit coolattas - banana, coconut, mango and blueberry - never confirmed one way or the other that he slept with Cassie, but when the girl's name was mentioned, Freddy sniggered and made obscene gestures that left little to the imagination. Even the Guatemalan who spoke English as a second language and manned the henna tattoo booth claimed bragging rights to finessing Cassie into the sack after sketching a multi-colored cartoon devil with a pitchfork on her derriere. So when the trashy girl with the impertinent smile showed up at his room at the Scenic View Inn unannounced at one in the morning, Reese Donaldson knew perfectly well what to expect.
"Hey, Reese, let me in!" After the third knock Cassie hollered, "I can see light under the door so I know you're in there." Reese took a deep breath and eased the door open. "Hi, Cassie."
She brushed past him. "What is this, a freakin' broom closet?"
"An old storage room," he corrected, "converted into an efficiency apartment."
"Not very efficient," she chuckled at her own humor and promptly flopped down on the bed. She was wearing dungaree mini-shorts and a skimpy halter that resembled a maroon tube sock with the toe section cut away. The chubby girl was passably cute in a vulgar sort of way with a round face, dark eyes and hair. She possessed a pretty, kissable mouth, and most times her lower jaw hung slightly ajar showcasing a set of strong teeth. Even in repose the girl's fluid features settled quite naturally into her signature, impudent grin - an open-mouthed, in-your-face smirk that implied 'I'm not going anywhere soon so get used to it'. The cheeky nerve of her got under your skin but not necessarily in a bad way.
Reese Donaldson had run into her at the clothing boutique over by the amusement park where she worked. The store sold Maine souvenirs, cheap jewelry and racy sweatshirts with tacky slogans like:
 
If you think I'm an asshole,
You should meet my parents!
 
. "What's that?" Cassie gestured toward a card table littered with scraps of lined paper.
"I'm writing the great American novel." He tried to sound cavalier, but the tone was decidedly apologetic. With no publications to his credit, he didn't feel comfortable talking about his abortive writing career.
Cassie pointed to a wastepaper basket, which was brimming over with crumpled sheets. "Doesn't look like the project is going so hot." She lay back on the unmade single bed throwing her arms up over her head. "Maybe you need a break to stimulate your brain and get the creative juices flowing."
Reese didn't think the woman had his literary faculties in mind when she used the word 'stimulate'. She was so blasé about sex, he wasn't quite sure how to react. "Imagination," he noted. "A writer needs a compelling plot and interesting characters. I've got neither."
Cassie pursed her lips suggestively. "I'm an interesting character."
Reese smirked inwardly. How often had a flamboyant, fictional character like Cassie Moffat caused a minor insurrection, by running off with a story line he was struggling to write? Not that anything ever came of it. More often than not, the Cassie Moffat characters proved more intriguing, and irresistible than the one-dimensional stick figures that populated most of his writing. Reese glanced at the clock. "You can't stay here."
"And why not?"
"The boss doesn't allow guests. I could lose my job."
"And where is the tight-ass boss right now?"
"She lives over in East Biddeford."
"Does she ever stop by this late at night?"
"Not unless there's an emergency."
Cassie rose up on her elbows. In one deft motion, as though she had practiced the lewd maneuver a thousand times, the girl pulled her maroon halter, what little there was of it, up over her head. Lying back down, she reached out with both hands, beckoning for him to come and lie on top of her. Strangely there was no great sense of urgency, the gesture being more perfunctory then wanton.
"If I take the rest of my clothes off, does that qualify as a bona fide emergency?" Reese eased down on the mattress and began kissing the side of her neck. Working the button free, he wriggled her dungaree shorts down around her knees. "Now that's better." A hand came up around the back of his neck. "You can always return to the great American novel first thing in the morning."
Actually, he wouldn't return to the writing for another sixteen hours. One of the housekeepers, a Russian girl who had come over on a temporary work visa became homesick and had to be sent away. Along with his regular chores, Reese was cleaning rooms and changing linen until the boss was able to hire and train a replacement. Not that he felt any great compulsion to share the Scenic View Inn housekeeping agenda with Cassie Moffat.
 
 
"About your literary masterpiece…" It was two-thirty in the morning. Cassie pulled her sweaty body away. There was no air conditioning. The room had never been intended as an accommodation, and now, even in the middle of the night, the temperature was a steamy eighty degrees.
"There is no book," Reese explained. "I write a few pages, throw them away and start over again."
"How long has this been going on?" When there was no immediate reply, she drummed her fingers on his chest and added. "I think you need a new hobby."
"I know it's late, but you're gonna have to leave."
"Yeah, the East Biddeford biddy." Cassie rose up on her hands and knees straddling him. Her full breasts hung down like udders. "I'm the town slut, you know."
"Don't say that!"
"Well it's true." She rolled over on her back. "What are you doing in the fall?"
"I'm studying at Boston College."
A sliver of light from the rear window sluiced across the room, outlining her Rubenesque body in silhouette. "And those snooty Ivy League professors are going to teach you how to write like Shakespeare?"
"More like Raymond Carver," Reese corrected.
"Never heard of him." Cassie smelled of rancid sweat and some equally pungent musk oil she slopped on like deodorant. She wasn't bright. She had no class whatsoever. But Reese liked her; for no good reason and, against his better judgment, he had a soft spot for the chunky girl with the questionable morals.
"He publishes in the New Yorker. Everybody wants to write like Raymond Carver."
She reached down and flicked his limp genitals playfully with a poised thumb and forefinger. "And what about Reese Donaldson - does he want to write like Raymond Carter?"
"Carver," he corrected, "and, no, not particularly."
Cassie gestured with a wag of her head in the direction of the wastepaper basket. "Your scribbling… you agonize then throw it in the trash and start over. It's no different than what I do." Cassie's lips parted in a roguish smile.
"Your logic eludes me." He wanted to kiss her again but resisted the urge.
"In the D Street projects, half the tenants are underemployed; the rest draw welfare checks. Nothing ever changes. I came to Maine looking for something… I don't know what."
"Tabula rasa," Reese offered.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It's a Latin expression. You wipe a slate clean and start from scratch."
Cassie nodded. "Yeah, that sounds about right. Every time I sleep with some Prince Charming wannabe, it's like you with your writing. If things fizzle out and the guy's a turd, I shrug it off and start over again."
Reese considered the mixed metaphor but let it slide. "So where does it get you?
A guttural sound welled up in her throat. She leaned forward, her sweaty breasts coming to rest on his chest. Cassie's lips pressed up against his ear, the girl whispered, "That part I haven't figured out yet."
 
It had grown quiet out in the streets around the motel. All the vacationers were bedded down for the night. A solitary light was burning in the main office where the night clerk was hunkered down watching late-night TV or playing video games. "You can't stay the night." Reese repeated a bit more forcefully. She clearly was in no hurry to leave the Scenic View Inn.
"The D Street Projects, where I grew up, is a lovely working-class, Irish-American neighborhood," she said. The tone was self-mocking.
"Yes, I know. You already told me." Cassie moved up to Maine from the Dorchester Heights, West Ninth Street section of South Boston. The federal government tried to integrate the Boston's public schools back in the nineteen seventies by bussing underprivileged black students in from the ghettos of Roxbury and Dorchester, but that didn't go over so well. Many of the schools in 'Southie' were atrocious, far worse than those in the poorest Negro sections!
In the street an eighteen wheeler rumbled past the Scenic View Inn. She waited until the sound died away before continuing. "The MBTA trains run from Ashmont straight through to Park Street in downtown Boston. We lived near Andrew Station, and I used to ride into the city from there." Cassie nuzzled his arm with her chin. "I would see these hoity-toity professors in their tweed jackets with the leather patches on their sleeves, commuting into Boston. Is that what you want? You want to become one of them?" Her tone had turned noticeably more caustic as she finished. The sarcasm caught him off guard and he had to collect his wits before replying.
"I just want to write fiction, that's all." Reese had a mental picture in his mind's eye of the fossilized old fogies with their PhD's and academic tenure. No, he didn't want any part of that stultified malarkey. "I'm giving you the bum's rush. You got to go home now."
Cassie crawled off the side of the bed and threw her clothes on in less than a minute. Then she came back and kissed him on the lips in that breezy, infuriatingly distracted manner that made Reese's head spin and let herself out without another word.
 
 
In the morning, Mrs. Fitch, the owner of the Scenic View, stopped by Reese's room before breakfast. "Another Russian's flown the coop… ran off with one of the Canadian guests." She was a dour woman, emaciated with pale skin and platinum-colored hair so light that it made her look as though she had gone prematurely white at forty-five. "For the next week or two, I need you to clean rooms full time. My daughter, Felicia, will be helping out until we set things right."
Set things right… Did that mean sending away to Russia for more Slavic girls on work visas or would she try her luck with the Cassie Moffats of the world? Reese wasn't sure which was the lesser of two evils. "What's with all the paper?" She gestured at the overflowing wastepaper basket.
The question caught Reese off guard. "I'm trying to write something."
"Which tells me nothing at all." The tone was abrasive - tactless and dismissive all in the same breath.
"Creative fiction."
"And how's that going?"
"Not well."
She glanced about the room in a distracted manner. Mrs. Fitch was always rushing off to impromptu staff meetings or nestled away in the office with motel suppliers. "Why don't you use a computer?"
"I don't own one."
"Well, at any rate", the older woman noted shifting gears, "until further notice, you're be working housekeeping with Felicia. My daughter has a list of rooms which should be cleaned first. And the pullout sofa in suite seventy-five is broken and needs replacing." Without bothering to say goodbye, she spun around on her heels and rushed off.
 
Felicia Fitch, who was married and had a little boy, was nothing like her mother, neither physically nor in temperament. Tall and lanky, she wore dark-framed glasses. A mop of jet black hair was styled in a page boy. The girl's face was pleasant, but the features seemed thrown together in such a haphazard fashion that there was nothing terribly distinctive. Once when she came to his room and saw the pile of torn and crumpled papers scattered about the floor, her usually placid features dissolved in a convoluted grin. "Tortured artist at work," she noted laconically and walked away.
Between the relentless heat and drudgery of dirty apartments, the day proved brutal. They vacuumed beach sand off forty-three rugs, changed upwards of a seventy-five beds and hauled away a mountain of soiled linen. Another housekeeping crew, what was left of the Russians, was working their way towards Reese and Felicia from the opposite end of the motel.
A strange thought occurred to Reese. The shrimpy Russian girl with the pallid complexion had run off with a Canuck, a French Canadian from the Province of Quebec. If the star-crossed lovers left Maine and crossed over into Canada, then the girl's legal status was now in jeopardy. And what would she do in a few short weeks when the temporary work visa expired and she was supposed to fly home?
Reese and Felicia didn't finish work until late in the afternoon and then there was a scheduling glitch. The receptionist had placed a newly-arrived party of five in the room with the damaged pullout sofa. When they opened the bed the bottom portion flopped down on the floor like a maimed animal. Reese had to scare up a replacement sofa from a vacant room. By the time he switched the furniture, the sun was already dropping below the horizon.
 
"Come with me." It was the insufferable Mrs. Fitch gesturing imperiously with a crooked index finger.
"I'm off-duty," he muttered.
"This won't take long." Without elaboration the gaunt woman hurried off. In the rear of the motel was a storage shed. Mrs. Fitch undid the security bolt and threw the double doors open. A heap of broken computers lay in a corner along with an Epson, continuous feed, dot matrix printer and mishmash of decrepit furniture that even the Salvation Army would have rejected. Further back toward the rear and nesting on top of rusting propane tank was a black laptop computer. The woman grabbed the device and thrust it into Reese's arms. "It's an older IBM Thinkpad model… Window's Millennium edition. You can't run Microsoft Office on it, because the operating system is too primitive." The gaunt woman averted her eyes as she spoke. "But it has a decent word processing software with spell-check."
"I can borrow it?"
"Keep it," the older woman said harshly as though she were offering a reprimand rather than a gift. Scurrying back out of the shed, she fixed the padlock in place. "It's yours to keep," she repeated with such brutal finality, that Reese didn't quite know whether to thank the woman or ask what was behind her uncharacteristic generosity.
 
 
Three days later, the nightmare began.
Reese woke up Sunday morning with blotchy yellow stains soiling the front of his jockey shorts. Reaching out tentatively with a poised index finger, he tapped the moist cloth. "Cripes!" There were two ugly blotches, one to the right and the other directly below his male member. It wasn't urine. He never dribbled or wet himself during the night. Reese examined his privates. A viscous, yellow discharge was oozing from the tip of his penis. But he felt no discomfort so maybe it was just a strain from lifting the sofa bed the other day. Just to be on the safe side, he washed his privates with soap - not just any soap but an antibacterial, Phisohex scrub that the office provided the housecleaning staff.
Reese had noticed a dull burning sensation when he peed earlier, but the urine passed freely and the discomfort went away almost immediately. Funny, he mused, how a person never gave his body a second thought when it functioned properly. He could go days without even being marginally aware of the unassuming appendage languishing unappreciated between his legs.
There was a knock at the door. "Reese, are you there?" Felicia Fitch asked. "I'm going to Len Libby's to buy chocolate if you want to come along for the drive."
Len Libby's was a famous tourist attraction on route one a few miles up the road in Scarborough. Back in 1997, the owner of the candy store commissioned an artist to fashion a seventeen hundred pound, life-size moose. Sculpted from milk chocolate, the antlered beast was constructed on site in four weeks. From when they opened the doors at nine a.m. until closing, the store ran a video showing visitors how the animal came to life. "Yeah, just give me a second." Now what? He would need to change his underwear and switch to heavy dungarees just in case the unthinkable happened. But then maybe it was all in his head. Reese felt himself. No, everything was perfectly dry now. False alarm! It was just a strain.
 
"I almost forgot to tell you," Felicia said as they pulled out of the Scenic View parking lot. "A girl, Cassie Moffat, came by to see you last night, but you were out."
Reese cringed. "Was there any message?"
"No. She's stopping by again later today."
At Len Libby's a clerk was handing out samples of homemade fudge. Felicia grabbed a piece but Reese waved the girl off. "She has a very nice way about her."
"Who did?" he replied absently.
"That girl who came to see you. She has the loveliest smile!"
Reese shrugged. Cassie Moffat certainly had a very engaging way about her; her lovely smile was quite possibly her greatest asset.  
Len Libby featured dark chocolate prepared with pure butter and heavy creams. The display case held a huge selection of truffles stuffed with real fruit. There was marzipan honey almond, pecan buds, butterscotch squares, peanut brittle and a butter cream concoction laced with brown sugar. The girl behind the counter recommended the toffee molasses chips and Bordeaux dark nougat. Felicia bought an assortment of chocolates, taffy and fudge.
"Is she your girlfriend?"
"What's that?" Reese couldn't keep his thoughts in order for more than two seconds back to back.
"The Moffat girl - are you dating?"
"Not in this lifetime." She stared at him confusedly but let the matter drop. "I'll be back in a minute." Reese hurried to the men's room and locked the door. He had to pee real bad. Hovering over the urinal for the better part of a minute, nothing came out. The whole front of his underwear was a gooey, golden mess. His plumbing was busted! Another thirty seconds petered away. Still nothing. Then, just as he was getting ready to zip up his fly, the urine dribbled out in a fitful broken stream. In five different directions, Reese was pissing razor blades. The searing, white hot pain - it felt like Roto-Rooter had just reamed out his urethra.
"You don't look so hot." They were back out in the parking lot.
"No, I'm Okay."
"Here, this should perk you up." Felicia snapped off a huge piece of peanut brittle.
Peanut brittle, the drug of choice for gonorrhea. Just what Reese needed! "Yeah, that tastes great. Thanks a million." He could feel his legs going rubbery as he slid into the car.
Five minutes later as they turned on to East Grand View Ave, Felicia said, "That Moffat girl had something she wanted to give you."
"What was it?"
"I'm not sure. She didn't say. Just ran off in a hurry."
 
 
Reese went back to his room and called a doctor. "I'd like an appointment."
"New or regular patient?" the receptionist asked.
"New."
"Nature of the visit?"
"I got an infection."
"Where exactly?"
Reese considered his options. "It's a venereal disease."
"Tomorrow at two," the woman spoke in a nasally monotone. "You'll need to arrive fifteen minutes beforehand in order to fill out paperwork."
Reese hung up the phone and began to cry. He cried because, in the better part of twenty years, his gonads had never let him down. They always performed properly, kept their own counsel and never gave him an ounce of grief. No nothing. And what did he do? He copulated with the town whore and, in the bargain, bartered away his otherwise perfect health. Idiot! Moron! Cretin! Moral degenerate! Well, the great American novel, which wasn't getting written any time soon, would have to wait just a little bit longer.
 
What was it Felicia told him as they were returning from Len Libby and the seventeen hundred pound chocolate moose? Cassie would stop by later on. Reese wasn't going anywhere special. He wouldn't let on to anything. When the timing was just right, he would let the fat whore from South Boston's infamous D Street Projects know exactly what he thought of her debauchery. Truth be told, it was because of people like her that Reese couldn't get beyond the tip of his nose with his writing. Cassie wrecked his peace of mind. Shaky at best, his writing was now losing all perspective; his world view was becoming brittle, misanthropic, misogynistic, dogmatic, world-weary and cynical. His stilted prose ended up where it properly belonged in the overflowing wastebasket.
And the prissy Mrs. Fitch was no better. Never a kind word, she ran the Scenic View Inn with an autocratic, iron fist. The motel was shorthanded. Reese pulled a double shift the previous Tuesday, and the cantankerous woman never even paid the mandatory time-and-a-half much less thanked him for his loyalty. No, life sucked. There was no hope for humanity, because nothing was ever what it seemed to be.
Earlier that morning Reese traipsed down to the beach. The tide receding, an adolescent boy was skim boarding on the bubbly outgoing surf. Throwing himself down on the warm sand, he scanned the shore. A bunch of sooty terns were wading about in the shallows. Much smaller and darker than the gulls, they scrupulously avoided the noisy tourists and more aggressive birds.
Caw! Caw! Caw! Far more numerous were the gulls. Reese spotted herring gulls, a scattering of ring-billed terns and a solitary black-legged kittiwake. All the herring gulls sported a blotch of bright red on the underside of their bottom beaks at the furthermost tip. How come he had never noticed that distinctive anomaly? Describing nature - a writer was supposed to report what he saw not what he imagined. The herring gulls' tails were porcelain when observed in flight out over the ocean, but once they set back down on the sand, the topmost tail feathers were decidedly gray. Everybody thought they knew what a herring gull looked like, but much of what they imagined was slightly off-kilter, just a tiny bit askew.
And oddly enough, sea gulls weren't really sea gulls. They had no salt regulation glands and needed to return to land to obtain fresh drinking water. The birds were scavengers and in the Old Orchard area increased their numbers by feeding on human garbage dumps. Reese had learned these things from reference books at the Scarborough Public Library and shooting the breeze with some of the local yokels.
Rising from the white sand, he pulled off his sandals and began walking in the surf toward the pier in the far distance. Cassie - a.k.a. Typhoid Mary with the lascivious grin - would be just settling into work about now. She could infect the entire boardwalk with pestilence and never losing a minute's sleep. How had he missed all the cues? She was crass and vulgar. In the course of a single week, she could fornicate with a dozen men and still find time to spread the creeping crud to one more unwitting soul. At face value Cassie Moffat seemed the sweetest thing, but as with sea gulls that didn't really live off the sea, first impressions counted for nothing.
Smoke and mirrors. Nothing was ever what it seemed to be. When they exited the Mel Libby Chocolate store, Felicia Fitch said "I want to show you something precious." Reese was preoccupied with his soggy crotch. He wanted to go straight home to die or rot away to a pus-covered heap of nothingness. But he followed Felicia across the parking lot to a stand of huge willowy grasses bordering the rear of the candy store. "What do you think?"
"Yes, very nice. The plants resemble those tall reeds with the brown seed pods that grow in marshy bogs."
"Yes, but this is a grass," Felicia protested. "See how it's gone to seed at the top?"
The slender green stalks rose ten feet or more in the air to a sandy-brown plume of fuzzy seedlings."Why are you showing me this?" His penis was beginning to throb again and his underpants felt ridiculously wet. Did he have to pee again? Would there be another profusion of needle-sharp blades slicing his urethra to a tattered mess that vaguely resembled the elegant plant's tasseled crown?
"Oh, I don't know." Felicia turned back in the direction of the car. "It's such an astonishing plant. I thought you might find it interesting."
 
 
Cassie didn't show. Reese sat in his room waiting for the clandestine showdown with the female Antichrist but the girl never resurfaced. By now his genitals were in complete disarray. He wrapped a wad of toilet paper around the offending party in an effort to staunch the flow of putrid pus. Peeing was abject torture followed by a solid ten minutes of residual scalding agony. Eventually the pain subsided but only until the next time.
 
"Reese, let me in." An insistent pounding at the door announced Cassie Moffat's belated arrival. The digital clock on the night table read one in the morning. He opened the door, and the girl brushed past him as though she was a long-term resident of the Scenic View Inn. "We gotta talk."
"Funny you should mention it." Reese shot back sourly.
"I got this little problem." She rushed ahead without waiting for a response, "It's a gynecological thing….Chlamydia." She sat down on the bed but almost immediately jumped up again. "I'm almost a hundred percent cured now, but my doctor says that anyone I slept with ought to take precautions. Just follow the directions on the label."
Only now did Reese notice the white paper bag she was clutching in her left hand. Reese took the bag and removed a plastic container. Ciprofloxacin.
"Boy, you sure are a mess!" Cassie was ogling the mass of yellow blotches peppering his underpants. Reese slumped down in a chair and began to cry. "What's the matter?"
"I'm sorry," he blubbered.
"For what?"
"For damning you to hell,..for being a holier-than-thou shithead."
"I give you the clap and you're apologizing to me?"
"You said it was Chlamydia."
"Same difference," Cassie brought him up short. The girl wandered over to the card table where the IBM Thinkpad lay closed. "Looks like you're making progress with the book."
"How's that?" He wiped his cheeks dry with the heel of a hand.
Cassie gestured at the wastepaper basket. "No crumbled sheets."
"Nothing's really changed. I switched over to the laptop."
 Reaching down she fished a paperback out of the trash. The book looked as though it had hardly been read. In response to her questioning look Reese said, "It wasn't very good. You can take it if you like."
Cassie flipped the book back into the trash. "Never was much of a reader." Easing down on the bed, she draping an arm over his shoulders. "I'm not a bad person," she said meaningfully. "I just do a few things that ain't a hundred percent kosher. There's a difference."
Reese was still having trouble catching his breath. "I'm only just beginning to figure that out."
 Maybe next time around I'll hit the jackpot and find a swell guy like you." The girl brushed his cheek with her lips and slipped quietly out the door. Reese filled a cup of water from the sink and shook a green pill into the palm of his hand from the cylindrical, orange container. First thing in the morning he would call and cancel his appointment with the doctor.
 
Reese found the paperback at the Bargain Book Outlet sandwiched between a New York Style pizza concession and sleazy joint that sold barbecued pulled beef sandwiches. On his meager salary, he had little spare money but bought the book for two reasons: it was priced at three dollars in the 'remaindered' bin and the author, a Canadian woman with a huge literary following, was touted in one of the dustcover blurbs as being 'the modern-day heir apparent to Anton Chekhov'.
Despite the glitzy hype, none of the stories read like the Russian master. It was chick-lit pulp fiction masquerading as serious prose. The plots were thin and shot through with just enough sex, violence and perverted mayhem to create the illusion of a serious fiction. Putting her considerable writing skills on automatic pilot, the author was simply preaching to the choir. Midway through the fifth story, in blind rage, Reese hurled the book, full force, across the room. It careened off the microwave, ricocheting into the crate where he discarded his dirty clothes and underwear. After calming down, he retrieved the book and dropped it in the wastepaper basket. "So much for Chekhov's heir apparent," he muttered.
But something else had happened as he was perusing the famous Canadian writer. Toward the bottom of the third page Reese noted a smattering of purple prose. The writing was had become affected - overly ornate, extravagant. Perhaps the author was trying to dazzle the reader with her considerable skills but the strategy fell flat. Even if Reese still had nothing tangible to show for it - not even a single finished piece of short fiction - the boy was beginning to understand the demands, what was required of a mature writer. Without a single finished story, he was beginning to develop his own values.
 
The second week in August, three new housekeepers were hired and Reese went back to general maintenance full time. Cassie's antibiotic knocked down the infection within the first three days to the point where he had no more pain or pussy discharge. His 'little friend' was back to normal. All was right in the world. Felicia stopped by his room one night after work. Her mother wanted to know if he could help out with a pool party planned for the weekend. "I want time and a half."
"Really?" Felicia's normally deadpan expression lightened. "She doesn't indulge me and I'm her daughter." Noticing the outdated laptop computer, she ran her thin fingers over the keyboard. "My mother gave you this?" Reese nodded.  "It was my brother's. Two years this November, Joel was killed in a car accident." The somber expression deepened several shades. "She hasn't been the same since."
When Felicia was gone, it occurred to Reese that nothing was ever quite what it appeared to be. Cassie pulled herself out of the D Street gutter only to land face down in a similar pile of effluvia several hundred miles north in Old Orchard Beach. And yet, the ever-resourceful girl still managed to find a doctor and bring Reese the medicine. That took guts! And Mrs. Fitch blustered about the Scenic View Inn like some crotchety bitch on a stick. Who knew the woman was heartbroken? Grieving? It flew in the face of logic, not to mention every law of God and nature, for a mother to bury her child.
 
Labor Day was approaching. Toward the end of August, Reese made his way down to the boardwalk. He found Cassie just finishing her shift at the sweatshirt boutique. "This is for you... a little, end-of-summer, going away present." Reese reached into a bag he was carrying and pulled out a slab of Len Libby dark chocolate. Breaking it in two he gave her the larger piece. "It's from the store with the life-size, chocolate moose."
"That's so sweet!" She raised the chocolate to her lips. "How's the writing coming?"
"About the same." The Ferris wheel fifty feet away was spinning at a dizzying clip. "It's an organic process. You inch along in fits and starts." Reese was staring at a T-shirt with a naked woman sitting in a martini glass. He wasn't quite sure how to interpret the crude message. "Ever heard of the Western writer, Louis L'Amour?" Cassie shrugged. "During what he called his 'yondering years' L'Amour joined the circus and became an elephant handler. He also worked as a fruit picker, longshoreman, coal miner and lumberjack. The man even skinned cattle on a ranch in Texas."
"Well that's something!"
"L'Amour lived with bandits in Tibet and served on an East African Schooner. He was also a professional boxer and won fifty-one out of fifty-nine matches."
"Okay. What's your point?"
 "That comment you made about hoity-toity college professors riding the MBTA, red line train into Boston…" Cassie's face clouded over trying to decipher his intent. "The crusty old farts with their tweed jackets and leather elbow patches," Reese added in an effort to jumpstart her memory.
"I say a lot of foolish things on any given day," the girl hedged. Using her top teeth for leverage, she snapped off another piece of the dark chocolate. "This is really good stuff - not like that cheap shit they sell on the boardwalk."
"I don't envy them," Reese said, picking up the thread of his previous remark.
"Envy who?"
"The nerdy professors you saw commuting into the city." He looked her full in the face. "I may lack the daring of Louis L'Amour, but the comfortable respectability of patched elbows and penny loafers leave me cold." "Do you remember," Reese deflected the conversation elsewhere, "that dark haired girl you spoke to at the Scenic View?"
"The skinny one with the dark glasses?"
"Felicia said you have the loveliest smile and a very nice way about you." Reese watched the Ferris wheel gradually lose speed as the ride wound to an end. The cars at the top swayed abruptly backwards when the machine finally creaked to a stop precipitating a outburst of childish hoots, giggles and squeals. "She has a very nice way about her," Reese repeated. "Those were her exact words."
"Do you share Felicia's sentiments?"
"Wholeheartedly!"
A young boy nibbling on a cone of cotton candy scampered by. "There must be a reason you're telling me this." When there was no immediate reply, she added, "I want to show you something." She led the way down the causeway leading to the ocean. The tide was out, but a handful of families with small children were clustered close by the surf.
Cassie waved her hand fitfully at the beachgoers. Reese felt her body leaning into him but there was nothing suggestive in the act. "What I've been doing - it's an organic process… sort of like you with the endless piles of crumpled paper. Maybe you never get it right. You slave away for the better part of eternity and all you got to show for it is your empty pipedreams." She reached up on her toes and kissed his cheek. But then may just maybe…"
Reese remembered her saying something similar the first time she came to his room. "I'm putting my money on Prince Charming discovering the girl from the D Street projects." A young father was teaching his daughter how to ride a boogie board in the shallows as they turned and headed back in the direction of the boardwalk.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Submitted: August 23, 2010

© Copyright 2020 barryj1. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

More Literary Fiction Short Stories

Other Content by barryj1

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Short Story / Literary Fiction