"Time for me to fly
And that's just how it's got to be
I know it hurts to say goodbye
But it's time for me to fly"

- REO Speedwagon - "Time for me to fly"

          The Cowboy and the Hobbit

IHOP International House of Pancakes
Wednesday, May 9, 1990
Hardy Street.

Sitting there with Cody.

A girl which I'll just call The Girl.


Two motorcycle helmets and three people sitting in a booth at IHOP because the fourth person was on her way.


On the table a red, white and blue Bubba Shubert Bell full face helmet and a plain black Bell full face helmet.

Cody's set of keys for his '84 Honda VF500F Interceptor.

His sunglasses.

His driving gloves.

My Ray-Bans case.

My set of keys.

My pair of well worn driving gloves.

All arranged like some kind of simple still-life from a lesson in high school art class.

Noon o' clock, give or take.

I was waiting on Joy to show up so we could have lunch, a rare thing lately due to our busy schedules.  Cody and his latest interest had seen my white '86 Dodge Daytona Turbo-Z parked outside and droppped by to see what I was up to.

Cody and I were sitting across from each other there in the booth.  He had a girl from his class in tow with him, a girl he was trying to get in her pants as soon as he could and given what she looked like I was a little bit jealous of him.  Long legs, a nice face, long brown hair and a great body.  She was high end for me but low end for Cody.  She wore a three button shirt and a pair of jeans that really set off her ass.  She also looked expensive, maybe pampered, maybe even sheltered.  Cody liked going for the lookers, especially if he thought he might could ride in and save them from their own mundane lives.  Yeah, if Cody had one thing going for him it was his natural good looks.  Having a silver tongue didn't hurt either, either above or below the belt line as he liked to brag about.  Cody was always with some girl or another.  So much so that I never even tried to learn their names.  This girl was just a placeholder until someone better looking came along.  As such, I didn't even introduce myself when they showed up.  Chances were better than good that she wouldn't hold Cody's interest past next week.

I decided to call her "The Girl".  It worked for what it needed to work for.

"So ... you two drive fast ... a lot?" she asked.

"Well, I do.  He has trouble keeping up." I said nonchalantly.

Cody casually flipped me off and The Girl laughed.

"What's it like?" she asked.

"What's what like?" Cody asked.

"Doing what you do.  Just ... you know.  What you always do ..."

"Being a menace to society?" I asked.

She nodded, smiling and looking at Cody.

"He means having fun." Cody said.

"Usually at other peoples' expense." I added.

"Stupid people have no rights.  They're fair game." Cody said flatly.

"Fun.  My life is boring.  I never get to do anything fun.  Not like the stuff he's told me about the two of you doing ..." The Girl told me.

"Fun is what you make it.  Being bored is a personal choice.  Life's only boring if you let it be." I said.

"That's what I told her!" Cody said.

"I wish my life was half as interesting as some of the stories that Cody's told me."

I raised my eyebrows just a little and Cody caught it.  He gave me the "it's okay" kind of wink and The Girl saw none of it.

"Oh, we've got lots of stories." I said.

"Three years worth of stories so far and still counting." Cody added, slapping the table for emphasis.

So ... tell me one I haven't heard yet." The Girl said.

Cody stopped what he was doing and  rubbed his chin in thought.

"Tell you a story you haven't heard yet?" he asked.

"Yeah.  Tell me something you haven't told me yet.  You know ... driving fast, having fun." she said.

"Driving fast." I said.

"Driving fast." she said.

"Raising hell." I said.

Raising hell." she said, putting particular emphasis on the words "raising hell."

"Yeah, Cody!  Tell us a story!" I said, having fun at his expense.

Suddenly Cody seemed to be at a real loss.  His expression said "help me here, bro" and I laughed softly, shaking my head.  Cody knew I enjoyed seeing him dangle on a hook and this time the master angler seemed to have been baited by his own prey.  Cody suddenly smiled and snapped his fingers, making them into a gun gesture and pointing at me across the table.

“Hey!  What about that time when we were all out racing on Airport Road and The Blues came and busted us up?  You remember ... the time when Joy got left behind and you had to go back and get her?” Cody asked.

"Yeah?" I said.

"Yeah!" Cody said again, nodding his head slightly in a "you got my back, bro?" gesture.


I remembered the story that he was talking about.  
Not one of my favorite memories.

"Yeah." I said as I nodded and sighed.

I guess I was going to have to help Cody out this time.  I'd add it to the list of favors he owed me for helping him get in the pants of all the strays he picked up on a whim.

“Remember that night that all of us were out there on Airport Road just hanging out with everyone else …” Cody said.  “Must have been twenty-five, maybe thirty cars and trucks there at that meet-up that night ...  End of March, just a few weeks ago.  Biggest meet I'd seen yet since I moved to Hattiesburg.”

I nodded.  It had been pretty big and that had probably been part of the problem.  That many people and cars on a two lane out in the county had to get questions asked and the interest of the locals keyed up, especially local law enforcement.

“Yeah, I remember that night.  I was about to go up against Morris in his red '87 GT.  I had another heads up to finish ... "

"Heads up to finish?" The Girl asked.

"Two cars line up to race ... that's called a heads up." Cody explained, putting his two hands on the table, side by side for emphasis then pantomiming two cars racing, taking off side by side.

"And you race each other ... for what ... fun?"

"Sometimes." Cody said.

"Sometimes for fun but more often than not for money." I said.  "Doing it for fun doesn't pay for broken parts or buy a lot of tires and gas."

"Run what you brung." Cody said.

"What?" The Girl asked.

"Just show up with the fastest thing you have, find someone you think you can beat and take their money when you leave them in the dust.  Girl money."

"Uh huh.  Girl money?" she asked.

"Girl money is easy money.  It's just an expression." I said, anticipating her next question.

"Like taking money from a girl?" she asked, cutting her eyes at me and Cody.

"Yeah.  Just like that." Cody said.

The Girl thought about that for a second or two and I got back to my story telling.

"... like I was saying ... I had another heads up to finish and Joy said she wasn’t feeling good so since I was going to be on the line in a few she was going to go lie down in the back seat of Flynn’s Goat for a few minutes and wait on me to run."

"Okay.  Wait.   Who's Joy?" The Girl asked.

"One of his friends." Cody said quickly, pointing at me.  "She's this big Amazon girl that hangs out with us."

"Amazon girl?"

"Well, given that she's six foot two, yeah, I guess Amazon is as good of an adjective as any.  She'd look right at home on a roller derby team." I said.

The girl seemed to think about that as well.

"And Flynn?"

"Flynn's this old hippy guy we hang out with ... knows a lot about cars.  Drives fast like us.  Smokes a lot of pot.  Drinks a lot of whiskey.  Three of us hang out and have fun, mostly on weekends."

"And why did Flynn bring a goat to a ... car race?  I don't understand ..."

Cody shook his head.  Not a lot of people knew about cars like Cody, Flynn and me and I was prepared to cut people some slack for that but this poor girl was really pushing the limits.

"No.  See, the word "goat" is just a nickname for his car, for his type of car.  He's got this killer '69 Pontiac GTO.  People sometimes call a GTO a "goat.", kind of rearranged the letters to get that nickname."

"Why?" she asked.

Cody shrugged his shoulders and looked at me but I didn't feel like telling The Girl the history of the Pontiac GTO and why people sometimes called it a "goat".  Seeing as that was about the best answer that she was going to get The Girl nodded but it was the nod of someone who didn't really understand but nonetheless wanted to be polite.  I'd seen that nod way too many times before not to recognize it now.

"So Joy wasn't feeling good and she was going to go lie down in Flynn's ... goat?"

Cody nodded.

"Saying it like that ... just sounds ... weird." The Girl said.

"Yeah.  Joy said she was cold so I took my jacket off and gave it to her to either put her head on or cover up with … all I know is that she took my jacket when she walked off towards Flynn's GTO.”

"And the GTO is the ... goat?"

I nodded and she nodded like some kind of understanding had been reached.

“And like five minutes later The Blues came out there in force to bust us up."

"The Blues?" she asked.

"Yeah.  The Blues.  Blue Light Specials.  Cops.  There were blue lights and sirens everywhere and people just freaked the hell out.  It was total chaos.” I told her.

"Why?" she asked.

"Sex, drugs and rock and roll.  And beer and whiskey and ... probably other stuff." Cody said.

"And that's ... fun?" she asked.

"Most of the time, if you're in the middle of it and can't tell which way is up or out." I said.

Cody snapped his fingers.

“Hey!  I remember everyone was jumping into their cars, peeling out and running in all different directions.  It was a mad house, bro!  Beer and alcohol and all the other stuff being thrown off into the woods on each side, ice chests being kicked over and emptied then thrown in the back of trucks.  It was a psycho but somehow we got out of there before everyone else did.” he said.

“That’s only because we didn’t come to the races like we were going on a camping trip.  We didn’t have to pack up; we could just jump into our cars and book it out of there.  Jesus!  You remember Scott and Raymond?  They brought a damn six man tent, man!  A big tent and set it up there in that field on the side of the road!  They might as well have built a damn log cabin and hung out a mailbox."

"Or built a campfire."

The Girl laughed though I don't think she understood how seriously retarded those two had been to do something like that.

"That was nuts.  You come to race, not camp out." Cody agreed.

"Yeah, well, I think they were selling stuff out of their tent and I'm pretty sure it wasn't new and used car parts ... if you know what I mean." I said.

"I hadn't thought about it like that ..." Cody said, a look of late understanding on his face.

"Anyway, we hauled ass out of there …” he said.

“Yeah, I remember seeing Flynn’s GTO taking off with your scrawny ass hanging halfway out the passenger side window, legs kicking, trying to get on over into the inside and I thought that the three of you had gotten away so I hopped in the TA, took off and tried to stay right on Flynn’s bumper …”

Cody threw his head back, laughing at the memory.

"I swear that hippy almost killed me.  He told me to get in and he was already in gear before I could get the door open so I just dove for the window and barely made it because I knew he was serious and he wasn't slowing down.  As it was I was halfway in and couldn't pull myself the rest of the way inside and Flynn is just dancing on pedals and rowing through the gears and all I can think is "God, I'm going to die!  I'm going to fall back out of this hippy's GTO and I'm going to be road hamburger!" Cody said and The Girl laughed out loud, imagining the scene in her head.

“And we got about a mile down the road when I called you on the CB and asked if Joy was with you …”

I nodded.

“I remember grabbing up the CB and said that I thought she was with you two because she had taken my jacket and told us that she was going to lie down in the back seat of Flynn’s Goat …”

Cody laughed.

“I remember looking over at Flynn when you said that and Flynn looking at me and then we both looked over in the back seat and ..."

"... and Joy wasn’t there.” we said together, at the same time, in almost the same tone of voice.

I smiled and pointed a finger at Cody.

“Yeah and that’s about the time that you came back on the CB shouting …”

“No Joy!  (static) Joy!” Cody’s voice came over the CB radio.


Aw ... what the hell!?

An eighty-five mile an hour wind was whipping at me through the open T-tops and rolled down windows of the black and gold ’79 Pontiac Trans Am.  I couldn’t be sure that I had heard Cody correctly so I adjusted the squelch.  There were so many people on the CB right now during the bust up that channel 19 was just about useless and so were the nearby channels as well.  I keyed up the mic again.

“You broke up on me.  Too much traffic and chatter.  Go down three and hit it again.”

I flipped the channel selector from “19” down three to “16” and waited.

“You there?” Cody’s voice shouted from the CB speaker.

Much better.

“What do you mean "No Joy"?” I said into the CB radio mike.

“I mean we’ve got no Joy.  She’s not in the Goat, bro!  She’s not with us!  Joy’s not with us!  Is she with you?”

I looked over at the empty passenger seat.  I don’t know why I did that, it was just a reflexive movement even though I knew that Joy wasn’t with me.  Even so, I looked over into the back seat to see if she was passed out there instead of in the back seat of Flynn’s Goat.  The back seat of the TA was empty except for my case of cassette tapes.

No Joy.

“She’s supposed to be in the back seat up there!” I shouted into the CB mic.

“She’s not with us!  I just told you that!” Cody came back.

The Goat roared down the road, the TA keeping pace at a high rate of speed, the north side of eighty to be sure.  I tapped the hand mic against my head and drove one handed … thinking.




Damn it!

Where was she?

Where was Joy?

“Where is she?” I asked, keying up the mic again.

“I don’t know.” Cody said through the CB.

“Ask Flynn.” I said flatly.

“He doesn’t know either!  He says we’ve got to go back for her …”

“Son of a bitch!” I shouted as loud as I could.

I doubt that I was keyed up at the time ... at least I hope I wasn't.

I dropped the CB mike into my lap, grabbed the Formula steering wheel, and flipped my headlights to bright.  I dropped the three speed automatic transmission from Drive to Super and stomped down hard on the TA’s brake pedal.  The four wheel power disc brakes of the ’79 TA grabbed hard and the nose dove while the tail lifted.  Tires screamed, rubber was transformed by friction into thick smoke and two long black skid marks appeared on the pavement as the four wheel disc brakes locked up.  The TA slid rapidly like it was gliding on glass, screaming and sliding to a tail wagging stop.  All I could think about was Joy back there all alone with The Blues and how I was going to get her out of a really bad situation.  

It wasn't just the fact that Joy was back there by herself ... Joy also had my black leather jacket and I was kind of fond of that black leather jacket.

“Where are you going?” came Cody’s voice over the CB as the Goat roared on down the road.

I picked up the CB mic and keyed it up.

“I’m going back to get Joy!  I’ll meet you back at Flynn’s!  Don’t stop for anything and don’t come back looking for me.” I shouted into the CB mic and dropped it back into my lap.

If Cody said anything else, I didn’t hear it because I was too busy driving. 

The TA had barely come to a rocking stop when I looked over my shoulder, threw the transmission into reverse and pushed the accelerator halfway to the floor.  The rear tires screamed and smoke rolled off of them, filling the wheel wells and flowing over around the TA.  I tapped the wheel to the left and then cut it hard to the right, slewing the Pontiac around in a fast reverse “J” turn as I slammed back down on the brakes and thumbed the gear selector switch, throwing the gear shift from Reverse all the way down to First. 





I stomped the long skinny pedal to the floor again and the 403 screamed under the hood, lifting the nose and squatting the rear.  The shaker hood slammed hard to the right in its cutout as the rear tires screamed again spinning in the opposite direction now on the pavement.  I was pushed back in the driver's seat as the TA lurched ahead, getting all squirrelly out of the hole, sliding sideways as the rear tires fought for traction against the building torque of the 403 under the hood.  First gear, redline, my right gloved hand manually slap shifted the gear selector up to second and the rear tires barked hard leaving more rubber on pavement behind me.  The engine never stopped screaming.  The tach needle fell slightly and started to rise again.  Headlights on bright, quad beams cutting through the night, letting me see the road ahead of me.

The building roar from under the hood was a siren call in my blood.  Dense, cool air whistled in through the opened up shaker hood scoop to feed the Rochester Quadrajet four barrel carburetor.  Wind whipped at me through the open T-tops and rolled down windows.  I flew by a few cars and trucks in the left lane, trying to get away like we had been trying to do and there I was, heading right back into The Blues with only one thought on my mind … Joy.

I had to get Joy.

No way was I going to leave her behind in all that crap.

Up ahead there were a whole lot of tail lights, headlights and flashing blue lights.  Smoke and dust in the air.  People running around.  It looked like a disco had exploded.  I didn’t see Joy anywhere.  Maybe she got out on another ride …  begged someone to give her a lift.  I wasn't banking on that, not at all.  I blew past some parked cars and trucks, people who had resigned their selves to having been caught and who knew that they couldn’t pack up their gear quick enough to get out of the surprise bust.

Not me.

If The Blues wanted me they were going to have to sweat for it.  I’d done this a few times, run from the cops, and I’d never been caught yet.  The only officer that had ever caught me was some dumbass park ranger down at Paul B. Johnson State Park and he hadn't really caught me as much as he had just written me a bullshit quota ticket.  That ticket had led to something pretty amazing.


Thoughts of Marie distracted me and I almost didn’t see Joy.  One minute I’m roaring through the crowd, threading my way through cars and trucks trying to go the opposite direction, quickly running out of room and the next Joy is running up the side of the road, frantically waving an arm and my black leather jacket to get my attention, shouting my name at the top of her lungs.  I roar past her as she runs to the middle of the road and stands there behind me, my jacket held in her crossed arms, shouting something at me, cars and trucks honking their horns and driving around her on each side trying to get away from The Blues.


The world becomes here and now. 

I slam on the brakes, throw the TA into reverse, throw my arm around the passenger seat, look over my right shoulder and start to back up fast.  The motor roars and the ten bolt limited slip rear end whines as I tap the Formula steering wheel slightly to keep the Pontiac more or less straight while I’m backing up to her at speed.  I slam on the four wheel power disc brakes and come to a frame rocking stop with her standing there next to the passenger side door. 

The look on her face says that she is pissed and not just pissed but fucking Amazon pissed.

“Get in!” I shouted.

I didn’t need to tell her twice.  If she thought about making a scene then and there then she thought twice about it.  Joy angrily threw her purse and my black leather jacket into the back seat then hopped into the passenger seat through the open T-top and the rolled down passenger side window, not even bothering to open the passenger side door.   I was impressed because her technique for doing that had greatly improved.

“You’ve gotten better at doing that.” I said as I tried to do another “J” turn.

“It saves time when I’m riding with you.” She chided, trying to put her seat belt on and fumbling.

I laughed out loud.

"What?" she asked, confused, running her hand through her hair to get it out of her face.

“You know, we really have got to stop meeting like this.” I said, looking around at the chaos that was taking place all around us.

Joy harrumphed but I saw a little flash of a smile before she crushed it flat.  I looked for a spot to do another quick “J” turn but there were too many people and vehicles trying to get away and I was getting blocked in real quick.  If I didn’t do something right now I might as well just park the TA and take my medicine but that wasn’t happening.

“Hold on!” I said, cutting the wheel, throwing the transmission from Reverse down into First and driving off the shoulder onto the side of the road.  The nose of the TA pitched downward sharply then leveled out as we headed down the embankment into the field beyond.  Tall grass, rocks, dirt and other stuff all sounded like it was being fired out of a sandblaster at the bottom of the TA.  I winced with each ring of stone on metal and at the sound of rocks bouncing off the inside of the fender wells.

I turned around in the field, throwing up a rooster tail of grass and dirt as I aimed for the road again and let the Pontiac build up some speed.  I drove at an angle back up the steep shoulder and onto the side of the road, transmission still racked down into first gear and the engine screaming at four grand.  The ride was rough, real rough and the TA bounced, hard enough to send both of us moving around in our seats despite our seatbelts.  I slid the TA sideways onto the pavement in the oncoming lane of traffic, cut the wheel hard and managed to straighten her up.  The rear tires chirped and lay down a long strip of black rubber as they transitioned from soft to hard surface and I nailed the accelerator as hard as I could.  The 403 cubic inch V8 under the hood screamed through its power band as the rear tires burned smoke again and I heard the sound of gravel ricocheting around the wheel wells.

Real street machines had rock chips.

I shifted from first gear to second.

The rear tires barked loudly and the rear end slipped slightly to the side.

"Fuck yeah!  Let's go!" Joy shouted, turning around in her seat to look out the rear window at all of the chaos behind us.

"Kiss my ass!" she shouted loudly at ... someone ... something ... sticking her left arm out the passenger side window and extending her middle finger defiantly before turning around again and sitting down facing forward.

Joy had a death grip on my side of the open roof bar with her left hand and just as firm of a grip on the grab handle on the dash pad with her right hand … and there we were, Joy and I, the ’79 TA, engine screaming as we weaved in and out of the gathered traffic, passing everyone else in the right lane on the left side of the road and everyone on the left side in the right lane or on the right side of the road.  Horns honked, I honked in return and several other cars and trucks that had followed us through the field now fell in behind me, following my lead but I didn't feel like much of a leader right then because it really was every car and driver for their own self.  There was so much metal between us and The Blues now that by the time that The Blues could wade through it all we would be long gone.

Vanishing into the dark of night.

I reached down and picked up the CB radio, keying up the mic as I held it close and drove fast.

“Hey, Goat!”


I keyed the mic again.

“Hey, Goat!  This is Blackbird.  Got your ears on?”


“I copy, Blackbird.” Cody’s voice said.  “Tell me something good!”

“I’ve got Joy.  We’re hammer down on our way.”

“Wooohooooo!” Cody shouted on the CB.  “Is she okay?”

I glanced over at Joy and her expression hadn’t changed at all.  In fact, she reached up and snatched the CB mic out of my hand before I could reply.

“No, she is not okay.  In fact, Joy isn’t a happy little girl right now.  She is really, really not happy ... with any of you!” Joy growled into the mic above the roar, her long lashes and witchy eyes flashing anger at me and at Cody and Flynn, wherever they were way out there in CB radio land.


“I think you scared them.” I said, laughing as I drove fast.

“Good!  I going to beat the crap out of those two when I catch up with them.” She said loudly.

I laughed because Joy was serious.

Damn serious.

"You don't think I will, Cowboy?" she asked incredulously.

"Better them than me." I said.

“Oh, I may just beat the crap out of you, too, for leaving me like that.”

“Hey!  I didn’t leave you!  I came back for you!” I said, not even bothering to look over at her.

“You left me!” she screamed at me.  “You left me back there with all of those redneck hicks and you left me back there with The Blues!”

Joy, as I had said, was not happy. 

She was really not, not, not happy.

She really did not like The Blues.

Another story I'd yet to pry out of her but man, she did not like The Blues at all.

"You and your fucking racing.  Got to race one more fucking time.  Got to make more money.  Look under the hood of my Trans Am and see how big my set of balls is."

Joy turned in the passenger seat, quick as a cat and sneered at me.

"Oooo!  I know!  Let's put our dick-mobiles next to each other, wind our scrotums up and see who can outrun the other!"

I laughed long and hard at that.

"Did you just come up with all of that?"

Joy cracked a little smile, just a little one then her face was stern again.  I smiled because Joy was pissed and when Joy got pissed she got funny ... and misandric.  I didn't let her know that I was smiling because at that moment in time I really didn't want to get my ass kicked up around my shoulder blades while I was doing almost a hundred miles an hour so I tried to calm her down as best as I could

“Look, doll.  I thought you were with Cody and Flynn when they took out!  You took my jacket and said you were going to lie down in the back of Flynn’s GTO!  They took off when we saw The Blues and how was I to know you weren’t in the back seat like you told us you would be!?”

"You could have looked!" she shouted.

"You weren't in my car and they were already hauling ass out of there!  I was kind of busy trying to keep up."

Joy was silent.


Biting her lip.

Shaking a little.

“Speaking of that … where the hell were you?” I asked.

Joy turned her head and said something I couldn't make out over the roar of the wind around us and the engine under the hood.

"Huh?  Where were you?" I asked her again, louder.

“I had to go pee so I walked over to the woods … where it was dark … where no one would see.” She said.

Wow.  Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time ...

“You picked a great time to squat and water the flowers.” I chided.

“Yeah?  You think so, Cowboy?  Tell me about it.”  Joy said, tapping the left side of her temple with her middle finger before saluting me with it.

I laughed again, shaking my head.

"What?" she asked.

"You missed Flynn taking off and not waiting for Cody to get all the way in ... Cody's ass was hanging halfway out the Goat, his legs kicking in the air, trying to swim his damn way into Flynn's GTO."

"Flynn was out of there like that?" she asked.

"Flynn was double dealing." I said.

Joy looked at me, curious.

"Flynn and Cody have the same guy they buy from, guy has some pretty good stuff so they tell me.  It has its own kind of reputation ... people come looking to Cody and Flynn to buy it and that's why Cody hangs out here ... I don't think he's ever raced once but he's walked away with some serious cash in his pocket when we left."

"So those two had a reason to haul ass." Joy said, her long hair whipping in the wind.

"Yeah, one or the other or probably both of them probably had enough to be considered a dealer so that's why they were out of there so quick.  Street racing is one thing, dealing is another.  Big difference between a couple of pieces of paper and jail."

Joy cracked a smile again.

"So Flynn was out of there ... with Cody trying to get in the car?"

"Legs kicking ... just like this." I said, holding up my gloved hand and moving my two fingers back and forth in the air.

Joy snickered then caught herself but her smile lasted longer this time.

Not all of that came out in the story ... I didn't know how The Girl felt about smoking pot or if Cody had discussed one of his habits with her so I glossed over that part of the story.  Still, memories.

"So you had to go back and get your friend Joy?" The Girl asked and like that I was out of my memories, back to the here and now.

“Man!  I was looking in the back seat of the Goat and talking to you on the CB.  Joy wasn’t with us and then you said that she wasn’t with you.  Flynn said we had to go back and get her and then I look out the rear window of the Goat and all I see is your TA take a nose dive, tire smoke is everywhere and then your front end started wobbling back and forth!  I thought you had blown your engine or lost a tire and then I saw you do that flip flop in the middle of the road and haul ass in the opposite direction … Flynn kept looking in the mirrors and asking where you were going and when I looked back out his rear window your tail lights were almost out of sight … you took off like a fucking rocket!”

“I had to go back for her.” I said.  “There was no way that I was going to leave her behind like that.  Not in that situation.”

“Bro!  She was pissed as hell at me when you two got back to Flynn’s house.  What was that you always said about her when she got like that?”

“Amazon pissed.” I said.

“Yeah!  She was Amazon pissed."

"Amazon pissed?" The Girl asked.  "How pissed is that?"

"Think of it this way ..." I said, folding my hands on the table in front of me.  "Picture Wonder Woman in your mind."

"Uh huh." The Girl said.

"Now imagine Wonder Woman with PMS and Tourettes."

"Seriously?" The Girl asked.

"Seriously." I said and Cody nodded enthusiastically.

"Wow." The Girl said.  "That bad?"

"Add a good set of cramps and it's close.  Not exact, but awfully damn close and that was Amazon pissed."

"And Joy was Amazon pissed." Cody said.  "I thought she was going to blow a gasket or pop a blood vessel.  That’s the only time that I’d ever seen Flynn worried.  That woman was unbuckling her seat belt as soon as you pulled up in his driveway and I think she had jumped out of the T-tops before you even put the TA in park.  I mean, even Flynn was scared of her when she hopped out of your TA and marched across his front yard and up to the front porch where we were waiting on you.”

“Flynn walked back into the house, care as I remember.”

“Yeah.  Flynn threw his cigarette down, stomped it out when you two pulled up and when she hopped out of the TA and started huffing her way up towards us, he just took a pull on his flask, wished me luck and then went on inside the house.  I’ll swear to this day that I heard him lock the front door behind him.  That fucking hippy left me there, outside, with that six foot two inch tall pissed off Amazon heading right for me and what did you do?”

“Uh.  I leaned up against my TA and laughed my ass off.”

“Yeah.  You laughed!  Bro, that was sorry.  You were sorry!  Here I was about to get my ass kicked by a pissed off Amazon and you were laughing while she was chewing me up one side and down the other and it wasn’t even my fucking fault!  It wasn’t my car she was supposed to be lying down in the back of!  I didn't drive the goddamn GTO off and I didn't take off and leave her behind!  I didn't even have any fucking thing to do with her getting left behind but she chewed me out that night.”

“I think you were the only one that stayed around long enough for her to vent her frustrations on.”

“Why is it that every time that I get my ass in a sling with some girl that you’re there laughing at me?”

“Because it happens so often?” I asked.

“Screw you.” Cody huffed, smiling and chuckling.

“Hey?  What are friends for?” I said, smirking and kindly gesturing with my hands.

The Girl laughed then looked at her watch and her expression said she didn't like what she saw.

"Oh, crap!  I'm going to be late for my next class!"

I almost twitched at The Girl's use of a vulgar term ... somehow I didn't think she had a vulgar cell in her body ... and I thought that because Cody tended to like them naive; it made his job easier.

"I'll ride you over there." Cody said.

A small look of relief on her face.

"We've got to go!" Cody said as he and The Girl resigned their selves to their time schedule and grabbed their helmets.

"Thanks for the story ... Cody's friend ... or whatever your name is." The Girl said.

"No problem." I said, nodding and giving her a small wave goodbye, choosing not to tell her my name because lately all of Cody's girls had been pretty much disposable.

The way that I figured it there wasn't much use really getting to know someone that probably wouldn't be around this time next week.

As Cody and The Girl were leaving they ran into Joy walking in.  Joy said hi, looked around and saw me sitting at a table that we had kind of started to claim as our own.  Joy.  Six foot two inches of pure Amazon, last night Joy had told me that she wanted to have lunch with me today and it had been something that I had been looking forward to all morning.  Joy was a stunner and as she walked towards me Cody looked her up and down from behind her back and his expression said "thanks, bro" while he gave me the thumbs up sign.   I don't know if the thumbs up was because I helped him or because I was having lunch with Joy.

If I could help him out and Cody could get lucky then good for him.

After all, what were friends for?

Even a Lone Star Gigolo needed a little help every now and then.

Joy sat down and put her purse on the bench beside her, leaning forward on her arms and smiling.  Long hair, witchy eyes, long legs ... that was Joy.  

"Hey, Cowboy!" she said.

"Hey, doll." I replied.

Joy smiled.


Joy had taken to calling me "Cowboy" and she had started doing that after Cody had come back into my life so I began to wonder if Cody had been telling Joy stories about my past.  The last woman to call me "Cowboy" had been Elizabeth.  I'd told Cody about Elizabeth while Cody and I had been up at Hinds and here was Joy, now, calling me "Cowboy" all the time and that little nickname had cropped back up a few weeks after Cody had come back into our group.  I didn't mind, I'd kind of gotten used to the nickname ...  still, hearing Joy call me that mixed feelings sometimes.  Maybe it was nothing.  Maybe Cody hadn't talked about my time with Elizabeth to Joy.  Maybe it was because I wore my Cowboy hat most of the time during the colder months.  The nickname didn't seem that important to me but, still, something there that two women in my life, years apart, would choose to call me by the exact same nickname.  There might be a connection there, that was what bothered me ... thinking there might be something there when there probably wasn't.

Too much thinking being spent on something that didn't deserve that much thinking to begin with.

I shook myself back to the here and now.


Joy was a part of our group; me, Flynn, Cody and Joy.  In the two years since I'd met Joy we'd gotten closer but no where near to what I thought I wanted from her.  There was always some kind of wall between us, something that kept us close but not touching.  Sometimes it felt like I was pawing at my side of the wall and sometimes it felt like Joy was pawing at her side of the wall.

Today she smelled of ... perfume.  

New perfume.  

I couldn't have placed it if you put a gun to my head and asked me what it was but I liked it and I don't remember her ever wearing it before.

I caught her scent, something new.

I knew enough about perfume to know when I was smelling something different, especially on someone who didn't often change perfume.

"New perfume?" I asked.

She smiled.

"You noticed." she said, cutting her witchy eyes at me.

I also caught a slight blush from her.

"It grabs you like black magic, almost like your eyes."

Joy definitely blushed then, slightly but noticeably, and smiled.

"So ... Who was Cody's new girl?"

"Which one?" I asked nonchalantly.

Joy laughed softly and wagged her finger then jerked her thumb towards the entrance foyer of IHOP.  I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders.

"Oh!  That one!  Sorry.  Never saw her before today.  Didn't catch her name."

"Didn't catch her name?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Didn't think she would be around long enough for me to need to know it.  You know how Cody has been lately.  It's spring time and he's twitterpated."

"Twitterpated!" Joy laughed out loud and shook her head.

"That boy does tend to date a lot." she said, taking a pack of cigarettes out of her purse and tapping one out.

"I don't think dating is what he's after ... not with her." I said.

"You mind?" she asked, holding out the cigarette.

"No.  Here, let me get that." I said, pulling out my Zippo and firing off her cigarette then clinking the lighter closed and putting it in plain view on the table.

Joy took a long puff, held it then blew it out.

"Long day?" I asked.

She nodded.

"It's been pretty busy."

I thought about Cody, about Joy, and about me.   Ever since I had introduced Cody to the group a few months ago he had been smitten with Joy but I don't think she was having any of his attention. He tried all the angles, straight forward, sneaky ... none of it seemed to work for him.  As much of a ladies man as Cody was all of his Lone Star Giggalo Charm that seemed to work on every other woman on the planet didn't get him an inch of play with Joy and that really shook his world.  Cody had even declared that Joy must either be a lesbian or a nun because only those two types of women were immune to his natural good looks.  Joy was different, that was for sure, but she wasn't a lesbian and I damn sure knew that she wasn't a nun.




I knew where Cody stood with Joy but where did I stand with her?  That was the mystery.  Was there something between us?  Without a doubt but everytime I thought I was getting close to her or it seemed like she was getting close to me something would come up that would keep us from taking that last step across the line between us and committing to a relationship.  It had been that way for a year now ... a constant tease, dancing around each other, testing, trying, but never fully engaging.  Part of me just wanted to sweep her in my arms, throw her into a back bent curve and kiss the hell out of her.  I smiled at that thought because it would be worth it if doing that finally broke the ice between us.  It would even be worth it if she used her Amazon strength to flip me and broke my shoulder for trying.

"What were you and Cody talking about?" she asked and I snapped back out of my daydreams.

"Oh, just ... stuff." I said.

"Guy stuff?" she asked.

"Mostly guy stuff."

"Stupid guy stuff?" she asked.

"Stupid guy stuff." I admitted to.

"So ... lies, right?" Joy said, smiling.

I laughed out loud.  I knew I was a misogynist but knowing that Joy was a misandrist and ... something between us just rubbed and not in a bad way either.

"No, actually, we were talking about you." I said.

Joy got a defensive look.

"About me?" she asked.

I waved a hand to put her at ease as she tapped her cigarette out in the ashtray on the table.

"I was just telling Cody's new girl about the time you got left behind at the meet ...  You remember, the time I thought you were with Flynn and Cody and they thought you were with me ...?"

"And all three of you left me behind?"

"Hey!  I didn't know you weren't curled up in the back of Flynn's Goat.   I came back for you." I said.

"I'm still mad about that ..." she said, huffing.

"Maybe that's why Cody left when he saw you." I said.  "He didn't want his new girl to see you stomp his ass in IHOP."

Joy laughed out loud.

"I'm still mad but I'm not that mad." she said.

"He thinks you are." I mused.

"Let him keep on thinking that.  Might keep that horny little pony-tailed weasel from trying to dry hump my leg whenever he's around me." she said.

"Hey." I said softly.

"What?" she asked, cutting her eyes at me again.

"This." I said and held my hand up, two fingers extended, wiggling up and down wildly.

Joy laughed softly and shook her head.

"I wish I could have been there to see that. " Joy said.

"It was funny as hell." I admitted.  "One of the funniest things I've ever seen."

The waitress walked over then and took our orders.  Once she was gone, Joy finished her cigarette and ground it out in the ashtray.
 Her smoke rose forever ... a vapor wafting back and forth, serpentine, as it climbed in the air in front of her and then slowly vanished.  We had a quick lunch because she had to get back to work but having half an hour with Joy was better than anything else that I could think of in regards to how I could spend my time.  Cody could have all the girls he wanted because I had the one that I wanted, sitting across the table from me ... the only problem was how did I make her mine?  

How in the hell did I make Joy mine?

All mine?

Joy was Atalanta to my Melanion but where was Aphrodite with her three golden apples?

So far Aphrodite was a no show in anything other than spirit ... quick teases between us always met with an ever increasing amount of caution the closer we got to each other ... caution that quickly built into a barrier between us ... an unbreachable barrier, transparent, where we watched each other tease and saber rattle with the other.  The few times that we'd gotten close, really close, had been rewarded with uncertaintity, periods of no contact as we worked out what had happened, then a cautious approach and rekindling of what we had shared before an uncomfortable line had been crossed.

Always the same.

What Joy and I shared was special.  Our friendship was about as close to being perfect as you could get and I was scared that if I tried to make it anything other than what it was that I'd lose what we had and that would be almost too much of a price to pay.   The chance of having what I wanted wasn't worth the risk of losing what I had.

Maybe that was her probem as well.  

Maybe she was thinking the same thing that I was.

What Joy and I shared reminded me a lot of how it had been with Jeanne years ago.  Joy and Jeanne were the only two women that had ever looked at me with their eyes and smitten me on the spot.  The difference was ... I think I had a chance with Joy.  There was something there.  Joy wasn't just wishful thinking.  We were friends, like Jeanne and I had been, but there was something more there, something underneath but everytime I got close or tried to get close it was one step forward and three back.  It was like Joy had this shell that she would peek out of every now and then and when I tried to get close she would just pull back and put up this wall between us.  It wasn't so much overtly as it seemed like it was something defensive.  Automatic.  I'd been on this battle with her ever since I'd met her ... just something about Joy, something I wanted to have, to get close to and it was this damn dance that I was going through to get close to her.  One step here, two steps there, always back to where I started with the hint that if I somehow got it right that I'd finally ...


Get in her pants like Cody was trying to get in the pants of every girl that he met?


It wasn't that shallow.

I mean, don't get me wrong ... I'd be crazy if I didn't want to get in Joy's pants ... I'd seen what was in her pants and it was pretty impressive ... Hell, I'd seen Joy buck stark naked before when I trip-sat for her and she dropped a couple of tabs but sex with Joy wasn't my ultimate goal.  That would just be a fringe benefit of what I really wanted and what I really wanted was Joy ... all of Joy.  I didn't want just part of her ... I wanted all of her ... heart, soul and body.  All the time.  I wanted to make her mine.  

All mine.  

I mean ... we had that kind of friendship where if we were going to go out somewhere I'd go to her house to pick her up and she'd just walk through the living room where I was sitting, naked as the day she was born, smoking a cigarette and squatting to dig through a hamper of washed clothes before finding a bra anda pair of panties then walking back out the way she had come to finish dressing.  Joy and I were just comfortable like that, completely comfortable and I knew that she knew that she could do stuff like that because she knew that I'd never hurt her or take advantage of her.  It was just the neatest kind of being comfortable with a woman that I'd ever experienced in my life and Joy was like no other.  She would snuggle up in my arms and let me hold her when we were stuck somewhere and it was cold outside or when we were down at Flynn's Creek spending the night in the woods with our sleeping bags zipped together there on top of the tree bistro.  There was a comfortable closeness with Joy but there was an invisible wall as well, some kind of barrier that I couldn't figure out how to get past because just on the other side of that invisible barrier was everything that I ever wanted with Joy.

Maybe we were both pawing at the same wall, scratching, trying to find a way through to each other but afraid of what that might cost us.  I stole glances at her, got caught at least twice and the worst chastisement I got from her was a demure smile and a blush.  I paid for our meal, cash, and walked her to her old Monte Carlo and held the door for her to get in.  She stood there, staring at me, smiling ... always that little girl smile like she was happy in a way that maybe I'd forgotten how to be.

As for the gifts of Aphrodite ... maybe it wasn't three golden apples that I needed in my race to win Joy for myself ... maybe it was just a bit of divine intervention. 

I found that my thoughts were about Joy ... more so lately than they'd ever been.  I wondered if her thoughts were sometimes about me like my thoughts were sometimes about her?

"Thanks for lunch, Cowboy." she said softly.

"Thanks for the company." I said.

"Well, I don't know about that ... but I am better looking than Cody if I do say so myself." she said.

I held up my hand, two fingers out, and wiggled them back and forth in the air.

She smiled and shook her head.

"You really needed to be there to see that." I said.

"I really missed out on seeing that, didn't I?"

"You really did.  Cody's skinny ass ... legs flailing.  It was like he was trying to swim in mid-air.  I'm pretty sure that he was screaming at Flynn the whole time to slow down and Flynn was probably reaching over and trying to pull him on into the car by his hair or whatever he could grab hold of and pull on him with."

Joy smiled and looked at me.

"So you were telling stories before I got here." she said.


"Tell me a story?" Joy said.

"Now?" I asked, looking at my watch, confused because we were both almost out of time together.

"Yeah.  I'm sure you've got a short story ... tell me something funny ... tell me a story about ... Cody."


Joy wanted to hear a story about Cody ...  I thought about all that Cody and I had been through then I leaned forward, clasped my hands together and smiled.

"Okay.  I've got a story for you."

"A short one?" she asked.

"Yeah, a short one." I said.

Joy smiled, leaned closer to me and I stared into her eyes as I started to talk.

It was late Saturday night ... or more properly Sunday morning: 1:28AM.  I'd gotten off of work at County Market around ten, drove my white '86 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z through the drive-thru at Taco Bell on Hardy Street then headed on over to Cody's house to hang out for a while and now it was just Cody and me sitting on the old carpeted floor of the living room, sharing what was left of a fifth of Jack Daniels, taking turns plugging straight from the bottle.  Cody laughed softly, at what I couldn’t be sure but he shook his head, closed his eyes and rubbed them with his fingers.

I didn't know if it was a pot laugh or a whiskey laugh or something else.

"What?" I asked softly.

Cody laughed again, almost uncontrollably, waving his hand that it was nothing.

I smiled, laughed a little as well.

People who were high were sometimes hilarious and for no other reason than what they did when they were high.

"What?" I asked, smiling.

Cody started to say something, stopped, laughed to himself then took a deep breath and sighed.  He sat there, blinked, put both of his hands in his lap and shook his head like he was trying to sort through a mess.  After a while he opened his eyes, turned to me and spoke and when he did it was almost like he was completely sober.

“I was just thinking of ... us.  All the good times that we've had.  Things that we've done.  Hey!  Remember when …” Cody started and then stopped.  He put his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.

Memories of all that we'd done came rapid fire and I picked one at random, a recent one.

“I remember when you were so stoned that you almost passed out, in the bathroom at Julie’s party … “

"Julie?" Cody asked.

"The dirty blonde ... sophomore you had the hots for about two months ago ..."

"Julie?  Oh!  Yeah!  Chi-Oh.  Drove the white convertible VW Rabbit?  Man, she gave good head.  Really good head."

I closed my eyes and sighed.

"What?" Cody asked, a little confused.

I was just glad that I didn't go through life remembering every woman I'd been with based on what she could do for me sexually.

"Wow.  Julie.  Kind of miss her.  What were we talking about?" Cody asked.

"The party."

“The party?  What party?” Cody asked, yawning.

Julie's party over at her place!  The one you dragged me to so I could be your designated driver because you said if you weren't wasted you were going to be knocking the frame out of Julie all night and you needed me to be there in case she didn't let you stay.  Basically you dragged me to a party so that you could either get wasted or laid and if you didn't get one or the other I was your ride back home."

"Vaguely.  Sorry, bro.  Mind blown.  When was this?" Cody said.

"Oh, it must have been what?  Two months ago now?  You remember ... You were stoned out of your mind that night.”

“I don’t remember.  I really don't remember ...” Cody said, his voice trailing off but a sly smile on his face.

“Yeah, you do!  That was some really good weed, you said so yourself.  Remember when you got stoned out of your mind at her place and you wound up in the bathroom between the toilet and the bathtub under that fat chick … that really fat chick that came with that guy … that creepy guy who really liked fat, ugly chicks … crap, what was his name?” I said, trying to remember.

I snapped my fingers in the air, trying to remember because my mind had drawn a complete blank.  Oh, I could see the guy's face but ...

“Rodney.” Cody said.  “Rodney Jones.  I remember ...”

Cody did an involuntary shudder.

Rodney Jones!

“Yeah!  Rodney Jones!  Remember that really nasty fat chick, Lisa, that he brought to the party that time and how she had the hots for you?”

“She also had salsa sauce on the collar of her dress.” Cody said.

“I don’t think that dresses have collars.”

“Her dress did because it really wasn’t a dress just a really large Polo shirt.” he said.

“Oh, damn!  That’s right!  She was wearing this really large yellow Polo shirt that fell over her like a circus tent and … fishnet stockings!” I said.

“Oh, God!  Don’t remind me.  I may vomit.” Cody said as he shut his eyes tight and started shaking his head side to side.

I laughed at the memory.

“Man!  She had the hots for you!  Rodney was getting pissed off that she was following you around the party instead of spending time with him.”

“Rodney was creepy.” Cody stated.  “He kept rubbing his hand on her ass and grabbing her ass.  He’d just stand there, talking to someone with her standing beside him demolishing some plate of chips or whatever and he’d be reaching behind her grabbing her ass and just squeezing it.”

“I didn’t see that.” I said.

“Be glad that you didn’t.  It was creepy.  It was kind of like he was winding her up and when he did it, it always reminded me of someone kneading dough.”

“His dates were creepy.  I think foreplay for him was letting them graze for a while in a pasture before he put a bridle on them and hauled them off to whatever party he decided to crash.”

Cody laughed.

“You remember what Rodney looked like.  Fat chicks were the best that guy could do and even then he was lucky for that.  Julie said that he once tried to come on to her but she put that down real quick.  She said you had to keep guys like him where they belonged, couldn't give them any hope of ever getting out of his league.” Cody said.

“I remember that Lisa looked like the Michelin Man ..."
I said.

"The Michelin Man in drag.  I ran out of fingers trying to count her fat rolls …” Cody said, holding up my hands, fingers apart to show me how he was counting.

“She had like three chins … I’m not sure she even had a neck but her breath … damn!”

“Yeah.  I don’t think she had ever been introduced to the basic childhood concept of dental hygiene.  I picked up on that real quick when Julie introduced me to Rodney and his pet ham.” I said, shuddering.

“Pet ham!  Ha!  Man, that girl had really bad breath.  It would curdle milk from half a room away!”

“You should know.  After all, you got to find that out the hard way.” I said.

Cody pointed a finger at me and wagged it.

“You were some help there.  Crazy fat bitch was all over me in the bathroom, trying to put her tongue down my throat and ear.  There I am, being smothered under this land whale, her breath smells worse than five day old ass and somehow she’s got a tit out of her dress thing rubbing it up and down on me as she’s slobbering all over me and making grunting noises like she’s rooting …”

I started laughing at the memory.

“Yeah!  That’s exactly what you did!  You laughed!  I remember looking up and seeing you and Julie standing there, in the bathroom door frame, laughing your asses off and there I am about to get raped by the Michelin Man in drag and … you two were a big help.”

I shut my eyes I was laughing so hard.  A few seconds later, Cody started laughing as well, shaking his head.

“I did pull her off of you.” I told him.

“No, you, Rodney and Julie pulled her off of me because she had gotten wedged down between the toilet and the bathtub with me under her and it took three of you to get her unstuck.  She was crushing me!  I thought I was going to die that night, I really did and there you were, laughing and making jokes while you were trying to pull her off of me.”

“Heave ho!” I said loudly, laughing again.

“Yeah, heave ho my ass.  You weren’t the one under her.  She had my crotch in her hands, squeezing and kneading it when she could and there I was trying to wiggle away from her because I couldn’t get my arms and hands between us to get her to stop.  She just kept squeezing my crotch and trying to stick her tongue in my mouth.  I kept trying to turn my head and her wet lips and tongue would just slide across my lips and face, one side to the other, that tongue darting in and out.  Oh God!  You probably couldn’t hear me under all that fat but I was screaming for help!  I was begging God out loud for help!”

I kept laughing.

“I remember you screaming.  She was rutting on top of you and you were pushing back and I guess she thought that you and she were going to do it there on the floor because the more you struggled the more she tried to get it on with you …” I began, starting to laugh my ass off.

“ … And then she realized that she had gotten stuck and she started crying and squirming harder and the more she squirmed, the tighter she got stuck …”

“And the louder you screamed.” I said.

“She kept squeezing my crotch and slobbering on me!  My dick was going numb!  She kept kneading my groin like she was making bread!”

I tried to catch my breath from laughing at the memory of Cody there on the bathroom floor, stoned, and the really fat chick on top of him trying to dry hump him.  Tears were almost in my eyes.

“And there I am, screaming and she just kept saying ‘It’ll be good for you, baby.  I’ll make it good for you baby.  I promise.’”

“We kept trying to get her off of you but it’s hard to get a hold of a girl that fat.  I mean, I was going to grab her by the fishnet stockings but it would have been like trying to catch a whale in a fishing net.”

“Yeah, well, the more the three of you kept pulling her up and letting her drop back down again the more you kept wedging her in on top of me, tighter and tighter and all the time you’re doing that she’s trying to dry hump me to death!”

“Well, we got her off of you, didn’t we?”

“Finally.  Eventually.  You sure took your damn sweet time doing it!”

I wiped my eyes clear from laughing so hard.

“I thought I was going to have to unbolt that damn toilet to get her out from where she had been wedged.  The important thing is that we got her off of you.  Finally.”

“Yeah, finally.  You’d have done it quicker if you hadn’t all been laughing so hard.”

“Cody!  That shit was funny as hell!”

“Rodney wasn’t laughing.”

“It didn’t matter because the rest of us were laughing our asses off.”

Cody nodded.

"Yeah, you and Julie and Rodney all working to get Lisa off of me sure drew a crowd there at the bathroom door ..."

"Everyone was laughing then."

“I wasn’t laughing then.”

“No, but you’re laughing now which means that shit was funny as hell.” I said.

Oh, Jesus. 

My sides were hurting from laughing so hard.

“I remember that Julie felt bad for that girl because once we got Lisa out and off of you and once she got that big tit stuffed back in that shirt dress thing she was wearing she wouldn’t stop crying.  I was glad that Lisa and Rodney left after that.” I managed to say with a lot of difficulty, trying to catch my breath.

“Not as much as I was.” Cody said.  “That bitch was fat, stinky and just plain gross.  I mean, you didn’t get to see her tit!  It was right in my face and she kept trying to get my lips on her nipple.  I thought that I was being slapped with a big pink tube sock full of warm sand.  Every time she lifted that tit up to stick it in my face, it smelled like BO.  I don't think she ever washed under her udders.  I was dying down there, bro.  I was really dying down there and the one thought that kept going through my mind was … I don’t want to die on a bathroom floor.  I really didn’t want to die there on that bathroom floor crushed under that fat hog.”

I slapped the floor and waved my hands that I couldn’t take any more then wiped my eyes where I had been laughing so hard that my sides hurt.  We lapsed into silence as we both caught our breaths.

Joy slapped the side of the booth and waved her hands that she couldn't take any more then wiped her eyes where she had been laughing so hard that her sides hurt.  We lapsed into silence there, sitting across from each other at the table we shared at IHOP.

"Yeah.  You had to see his expression ... trapped like that.  Cody seriously thought his end was nigh."

Joy laughed so hard she snorted then leaned her head back and tried to calm herself.  When she finally looked at me her face was flush from laughing so hard.

"I wasn't with you for that party." Joy said, wiping at the moist corners of her eyes.

"Be glad that you weren't.  It was a downer to be sure.  Cody was the bright point."

"He does have a way of getting himself into those kind of situations." Joy mused, her color slowly returning to normal from laughing so hard.

"Yeah, he does have a knack for that.  Being around him you never know what's going to happen next or what you're going to get sucked into."

"So ... Tell me another story?" Joy said.

"Huh?  Now?" I asked, looking at my watch, confused because we were both almost out of time together.

She shook her head.

"I don't have time and you probably don't either.  No.  Tell me a story tonight, after your night class?"

"Okay.  Do you want me to come by your place when I get finished with class?"

Joy smiled.

"When you get out of class ... I'll be there waiting on you.  Call it sitting on the steps."



This was new because Joy had never done that before ... had never come looking for me after night class.

"You ... will?" I asked, regretting asking that immediately.

She nodded.

"I thought maybe we could walk around the campus.  Just walk ... and talk."

"I think I'd like that." I said.  

"I think I'd like that, too." she said.

"So ... What kind of story do you want to hear?" I asked.

She smiled and there was mischief in her smile.  
She held her finger up and made the motion for me to come closer.  

I leaned in close to her.



The smell of her hair.  

Her lips next to my ear.

My heart racing so fast I knew for sure that she would be able to hear it, maybe even feel it.

"What kind of story do you want me to tell you?" I asked her, again.

My mind racing almost as fast as my heart.

"Oh, why don't you tell me the story about the time you fucked a midget while you were up at Hinds."

The universe came to a sudden halt ... and I do mean a sudden halt.

The time that I ...




My expression must have been priceless because I jerked back away from her and Joy flew back in her bench, busted out laughing, snorting loudly and almost rolling there in the bench seat she was laughing so hard.

"The story about ... ?  The time I ... ?"

Joy was rocking in place now at my predicament, deep gasps of laughter.

"Wow!  Okay ... that came out of nowhere.  Who told you that I did that?" I asked her.

"Guess." she said, recovering her composure and smiling.

I didn't have to guess ... I knew.

"Cody." I replied.

She made a gun-gesture and pointed it at me.  I guess I knew now where she got my nickname.  I sighed and chose my thoughts and words carefully because if Cody had told Joy that story there was nothing left to tell her but the truth and hope she believed it because sometimes truth was stranger than fiction.

"He said you had a midget girlfriend your first year up at Hinds and that you and her were a pretty regular thing ... kind of like bunnies only he said it was more like a German Shepherd hunching up on a big fluffy bunny."

She made a closed fist then started slapping one end of her fist with the palm of her other hand all the while making a "ruff!" sound over and over again.  I realized that I had to cut this off real quick.  I held up my hand and got her attention.

"No.  That's not true." I said.

"It's not true?" Joy chided, disbelief dripping in her voice.

"No, it's not.  Okay.  First ... Two things.  No.  Three things." I said. 

"Uh huh." Joy said, smiling, nodding like she had already dismissed anything that I had to say in my defense.

She made a closed fist then started slapping one end of her fist with the palm of her other hand all the while making a "ruff!" sound over and over again.

"Damn it!  Cut that out!  I'm trying to be serious!" I said.

Joy stopped making fun of me and leaned over closer.

"Okay.  Three things, Cowboy.  Make them good things because I want to hear all about this little adventure of yours."

"Okay.  Three things." I said.

"Three things." Joy said.

"The first is that I didn't fuck a midget.  The second is that she wasn't my girlfriend ... she was just a woman I went out with a few times.  We were friends, just friends, and we had fun."

Joy nodded sarcastically.

"Fun.  Uh huh.  Ruff!" she said, turning the last word into a really sexy sounding low to hi rising growl.

I ignored her jab.

"And the third thing  ... she wasn't a midget."

"She wasn't a midget?" Joy asked.

"No, she wasn't a midget ... She was a hobbit."

Long pause and this time it was Joy's expression that was priceless.

"She.  Was.  A.  Hobbit?" Joy asked, each word a separate sentence as she cackled with laughter.

She.  Was.  A.  Hobbit." I said each word a separate sentence.

"You had sex with a hobbit?" she asked, laughing out loud and trying to catch her breath.

"No.  I did not 
have sex with a hobbit." I said.

"My bad. 
Did she have hairy feet, smoke a pipe and live in a big hole in the ground?"

"No, she did not." I said flatly but Joy was about to make me bust out laughing.

"Did she have to use a wooden step-stool so you could reach it when you two did it?" Joy asked, smiling.

I sighed and Joy was having no end of amusement at my expense.

"This is great ... oh, this is just great." I mused.

Joy waved her hand in front of her face to give herself some air she was laughing so hard.  In fact, she laughed so hard she started to cough and had to excuse herself from our conversation while she got her coughing under control.

"Oh, I think that you really need to post a sign ... you must be this tall to ride this attraction." she said, holding her hand flat to the floor about the height of the table we were sitting at.

I folded my hands in front of me and stared at the table.

"Joy ... look.  I didn't ...  I didn't have sex with her ... at all.  Ever."

"Ever." Joy mimiced.

"Ever.  I didn't have sex with a midget, a dwarf, a fairy, a hobbit or any type of small person or mythical creature.  Period.  What she and I had was ... we were just ... kind of friends.  She was a blind date that kind of worked out for a while but it never got serious ... or that serious.  She was just a fun person to go out with every now and then, sometime to go cruising with and wasting time with."

"So ... as far as girlfriends go ... she was what you would call ... fun-size?  You know, like the little candy bars you get around Halloween?" Joy asked, smiling.

My serious look caused her to pause.  My expression told her that I was being both honest and serious.

"Okay.  Okay." she said, putting her hands up in front of her.  

"Cody said that you fucked a midget and that I should ask you to tell me the story the next time I saw you.  Knowing how your life is I just thought that this was going to be one story I really wanted to hear.  I don't think I've ever known anyone who fucked a midget ..."

"I didn't ..." I started to say but Joy waved me off and I nodded, thinking of how I could get Cody back for this.

Oh, I had some dirt on Cody and since we were telling stories ...

"Cody's got a big mouth lately." I said.  "Unlike him, I don't try to hump everything with two legs, a set of tits and three holes."

Joy smiled then and I got the feeling, deep down in my soul, that smile was for me and me alone.

"So ... tell me about this hobbit of yours."

I sighed. 

"What do you want to know about her?"


"Do you really want to know?" I asked.

She slowly nodded, smiling.

"Ok.  Her name was Lacey Meyers and she was a friend.  Just a friend I had for a while, a girl friend.  Girl.  Friend.  Lacey wasn't a midget or a dwarf ... she was just a really small ... tiny ... woman ... like four and a half feet tall.  Petite.  She was twenty-three years old and she worked at  a car dealership as a secretary and sales ... person."

"Sales hobbit." Joy said.

"Yeah.  Sales hobbit.  She didn't look like a dwarf or a midget ... she just looked like a little woman.   A tiny little woman.  Lacey and I and Cody and Wanda all went out to see a movie and Cody called Lacey a midget.  Lacey didn't like that, at all.  Lacey thought that Cody was a dick.  I mean, she thought he was a real dick.  She even said so to his face and I think that's why Cody never liked her after that."

"She thought Cody was a dick?" Joy asked, putting her hand on her mouth.

"Oh, yeah.  Called him that to his face.  One time she even called him a walking penis with arms."

"A walking penis with arms!?" Joy half laughed / half shouted out loud.

"Yeah.  Lacey was a blind date for me, set up by one of my teachers and when she met Cody she took a dislike to him real quick.  In fact, we kind of double dated once and after that the only way she would go out with me was if she and I went out by ourselves without Cody or Wanda."

"Wanda?  Okay ... Who is Wanda?  You've mentioned her twice now." Joy asked.

I smiled.

"Ohhhhh .... That's another story." I told her.

"A ... Cody story?" Joy asked, smiling.

"A Cody story." I said.

"A good Cody story?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah."  I nodded, smiling for emphasis.

"Okay ..." she said, skewing her jaw in thought.  "And Cody called this Lacey a ... midget?"

I nodded.

"He called her a midget just to make fun of her.  She wasn't a midget.  She was just really ... petite.  I called her a hobbit ... just trying to be funny and make her laugh and save what was turning out to be a really bad evening and you know what?  She liked that ... She thought calling her a "hobbit" was a nickname and kind of like that she and I got along.  When she would call me on the phone she would say "Hey, Christopher!  It's your favorite hobbit calling ...  What are you doing tonight?"   We dated, for a while, off and on for a few months, nothing serious ... a few times out to dinner, a movie or two, driving around and talking or just sitting around some place and talking.  What Lacey and I had was over about six weeks before I left Hinds and came back home.   She was just really fun to be around.  Nothing serious."

Joy smiled and leaned forward.

"Like I said ... she was fun size."

"Be serious because I'm being serious." I told her.

"Okay.  Don't get defensive, Cowboy.  I believe you over anything Cody says to me." Joy said.  "So ... How far did you ever get with the little woman?"

"What?" I asked.

"First base?" she asked.

I thought about that.

Memories of Lacey brought a smile to my face.

Trying to save a bad evening.  The almost fight we had that first time we went out ...

Lacey had almost made it back to my '79 Pontiac after having stormed off from Cody and Wanda.  I caught up to her just as she was getting near the Trans Am.  For a little woman she sure had some fast legs on her and I thought of the legs of the little horse that Porky Pig rode in all the Daffy Duck cartoons where Daffy was the sheriff. 

"Lace!  Wait!"

"Walk faster, Christopher.  You wouldn't want a MIDGET to outrun you, now would you?"


This night was really going to hell.

I caught up to Lacey, reached down and grabbed her arm, turning her around to face me.  She was all fury and anger and being the petite woman that she was it was both comical and serious at the same time.  I fully expected her to start blathering and spitting and spinning in place to the sound of a high speed circular saw ... just like the Tasmanian Devil used to do on the Saturday morning cartoons that I used to watch.  Lacey stood there, defiantly, as defiantly as a nearly four and a half foot tall grown woman can stand there defiantly.

"Your friend is a dick ... a real dick.  You do know that, don't you?" she stated loudly.

Cody had started all of this by being a dick, that much was true, and now I was having to pick up all the pieces.

"That's a given." I said as I nodded.  "But he's fun to hang around with and he's not a dick all the time."

"Oh!?  He's not?" She asked, sarcasm dripping in her tone.

"No.  He's not." I said, trying not to laugh at this little woman in front of me, this little woman who was almost to the point of being fighting mad.

"Could have fooled me." Lacey huffed.

"Lace ... look ..." I started.

She shook her head.

"Just take me home, okay.  This ... "

Her voice softened.

"I'm sorry, Christopher.  I don't think that this is working out ... for either of us."

I sighed and shook my head.

"I'm not going to let Cody ruin my evening with you." I said.

"Why not?  He's done a pretty good job so far ... did you hear what he called me?!  He called me a MIDGET!  I am not a midget!" she said, her voice hissing at times in her anger.

"No ... you're not a midget."

She humphed and folded her arms, looking back towards the front of the theater.  I looked over my shoulder ... Cody and Wanda had already gone on inside which was probably for the best.  Meadowbrook twin cinema was probably not the best place to be having a feud between my blind date and my best friend.

"Just ... take me home.  Now.  Please." she said, looking down.

There came the soft sound like almost a sniffle.


This silly shit had to end right now.  I reached down and picked Lacey up and sat her down, hard, on the front passenger side fender of the Trans Am then leaned in close to her as she leaned back, surprised, scared,  confused, trying to get away from me.  The look on her face was mixed, surprise and anger and fear.  Real fear for a second as I leaned in close until only inches separated our faces.  So far this night was going to hell in the express lane and I really needed to turn things around.

"I don't like being called a midget.  That's one thing that really, really pisses me off."  she said loudly.

"I wasn't thinking about calling you a midget." I said, feeling like I was being put on the defensive.

"I don't like being called a dwarf, either!  I'm not a midget or a dwarf or a little person!" she stated.

"I wasn't planning on calling you a dwarf ..." I said.

"Well, that's what your friend called me so ... what were you going to call me?" she asked.

"Well, the term "bitch" was one word that had crossed my mind ..."

Lacey sucked in air and fumed, her expression was one of utter and pure shock.

"Bitch?!  You were going to call me a BITCH!?"

The look on her face was priceless and she continued to stammer.

"Bitch?  You think that I'm a bitch?  You really think that I am a bitch?!" she asked, stammering, her hands balled into fists.

I shook my head.

"No.  But I've found if someone's about to throw a fit or break down in public one of the quickest ways to stop that is to call them something that they least expect you to call them."

Lacey's expression changed as she thought about that and nodded.

"So ... you ... don't think I'm a bitch." she asked.

I shook my head.

"No.  If I had to call you anything I'd call you a "hobbit" since the term "hobbit" is a bit more polite than "dwarf" or "midget"."

"And ... what did you call me?  A  ... a  ... hobbit?"

I nodded.

"You're a hobbit."

"I'm a hobbit?" she asked, surprise back on her face.

"You're not a dwarf.  You're not a midget.  You're not a bitch.  You're a hobbit."

"Wow.  Never been called a hobbit before ... that's kind of ... new ... I guess.  Sure as hell didn't see that coming."

She looked off to her left, wiped her eye and sniffled.

"Twenty-three years old and an eighteen year old dickhead can make me cry."

"If it's any consolation, I'm eighteen years old and I just made you not cry."

Lacey chuckled.

"There's that, I guess.  Need to keep a balance I suppose."

"And ... I'm not a dickhead." I said.

"No ... you're not a dickhead.  At least not like he is ..." she mused.

"Althought I can be a pretty big asshole sometimes, if the mood fits."

Lacey gave a little laugh then sighed.  Inches separated us, her there on the fender of my TA, me standing there in front of her.  She looked down at the hood of the TA, looked around and then looked back up at me.  I leaned in closer to her, as close as I dared, just enough to make her a little uncomfortable, more to get her attention and keep it.

"Why did you do that?" she asked her voice trembling somewhat.

Our faces were so close that each word she spoke I felt.

"Do what?" I asked.

"What you did.  Pick me up and put me up here ... like this."

"So that when we talked it would be face to face.  I thought you deserved at least that simple courtesy." 

Her anger softened, her fear seemed to fade somewhat and she looked at me, her eyes to my eyes. 

"So ... I'm not going to get driven out in the woods and get my brains fucked out in the backseat of some old Trans Am tonight?" she asked. 


I didn't know how to take that like she presented it so it took me a few seconds to think about what I was going to say and when I did answer her I chose my words very carefully.

"Look ... Lace ... I didn't exactly have a lot of expectations for tonight, blind date and all, and what few expectations I actually did have I can't exactly say that was one of them ... or even on my list of expectations." I said. 

"Can't exactly say it was one of mine, either." she whispered, looking away, almost like she was still looking to see if she could get away from me by going across the hood of the Pontiac. 

I leaned back and stood there, arms crossed, looking at her sitting on the fender of the Pontiac.

"Sorry." she said.  "I figure what with your "bitch" comment that you threw out I might throw something out there, too.  You know, shock you, maybe get a glimpse of the real you, not the you that everyone puts on when they first meet someone for the first time ..."

"And ..."

"And ... what?" she asked.

"And did you see a glimpse of the real me?"

"I think I did.  Maybe."

"Was it good enough that maybe we can salvage tonight and try to have a good time?"

She shrugged then nodded.

"If I haven't ruined it already." she whispered, wiping her eyes again.

"You haven't ruined the evening." I said.  "You must be this tall in order to ruin this evening."

I held my hand to my side indicating the height I expected of that comment and it came out to be somewhere about as tall as Cody was.  Lacey reached forward and slapped my arm playfully, trying not to laugh but doing so anyway.

"So ... you think I'm a hobbit?" she asked, looking at me.

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Hobbits are cool." I said.

"Try being a hobbit and saying that.  I hate being short.  Can't help it.  Just the way God made me." she chided.

"Look ... Lace ... I'm just trying ..."

"Read any Tolkien?" she asked suddenly, interrupting me, nodding and looking up at me.

"Uh ... I saw the animated "Hobbit" on TV when I was a kid, maybe ten years ago.  The Rankin Bass one ... does that count?"

"Nope.  Not the same." she said, smiling and firmly shaking her head.

"No.  I guess it isn't.  Can't say I've ever read any Tolkien."

"You seem like someone who reads so ... why not any Tolkien?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Tolkien was a bit before my time, probably closer to your time.  Fantasy was never my thing.  I'm more into science fiction.  I'm more into "Star Wars" than "Lord of the Rings."  Darth Vader would kick Sauron's ass and that little pansy sword "Sting" doesn't have anything on a lightsaber ..."

I pantomimed a lightsaber being ignited along with doing the best lightsaber sound that I could make.

"We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!”  I said in my best imitation of Gollum's voice that I could remember from the old Rankin Bass "Hobbit" television special.

"You're talking about the One Ring ..." she muttered.

"No ... the plans to the Death Star." I said.

Lacey laughed out loud, bringing a hand up to cover her mouth.

"I thought you hadn't read any Tolkien!" she said.

"Not a lot, not all the way through.  Bits and pieces, enough to know it wasn't something that I wanted to slog through.  Saw the cartoon, got kind of interested, started to read the book and ... never finished it.  I did like "The Lord of the Rings" animated movie, it was a lot more serious than "The Hobbit" had been, then I saw the Rankin Bass "The Return of the King" on TV and I guess that was about as deep into Tolkien as I really wanted to go.  Sorry if that's more shallow than you were expecting."

She smiled then nodded, looking away back toward the theater.  Her expression turned to concern and ... doubt.

"Hey ..." I said.

She ignored me.

"Hobbit smells ... nice." I said in my Gollum voice, leaning in closer to her.

She smiled but still looked away, ignoring me.

"We could go on a dates with the nice smelling hobbit ... or we could just eats nice smelling hobbit!"

Lacey smiled, slowly turning to look at me.

"You think I really want to go on a date with Gollum?" she asked.

"No ... that would be what Wanda is doing tonight." I said.

Lacey laughed.

I stared at her ... just stared at her until she turned her head to look at me.  Her lips cracked into another smile.

"What?" she asked, looking up at me, expectantly.

I stood back from her, back from the fender, folded my arms and spoke.

"Well ... Now that we've set some kind of boundaries and started talking like two adults, do you think that maybe we might try to salvage something out of this blind date because I'd really like to, if I could."  I said.

"You would?" she asked.

"Yeah.  I would, Lacey Meyers.  I really would."

"Lace." she said.  "Remember?  No one calls me Lacey."

"Did I finally earn that credit with you?" I asked.

"Yeah.  I think you just did.  The night is still young though.  You might still be a stupid dickhead like your friend.  Just so you know ... I'm still holding my opinion of you until this is all said and done." she said.

"Fair enough." I agreed.

I looked at my watch.  We could still go in and watch the movie and I explained that to her which would mean that I hadn't just burned ten bucks on tickets for something we weren't going to watch.

"Come on.  Let's go watch a movie."

"Uh ... Do we have to sit with your stupid dickhead friend and his woman?" she asked.

"No, we's do not." I said, I said in my Gollum voice.

"Do we have to sit anywhere near them?" Lacey asked, laughing.

"No, we's do not." I said, Gollum voice again, reaching up to put my hands under her arms and help her down off the fender of the Trans Am.

"Good!" she said.

We started walking back to the theater ... and that's when I noticed that Lacey was smiling.

"You're smiling." I said.

"Just remembering the look on your face when I asked you if you were planning on getting lucky with me in the backseat of your TA tonight."

"And ..." I asked, curious.

"Ha!  You should have seen your expression.  Priceless.  You didn't know what to say when I said that." she said as she laughed.

Lacey had a great little laugh.

"Second base." I said.  "Never stole third and never brought it on home."

"Second base.  Uh huh.  Bet it wasn't for lack of trying."

"Joy.  I'm telling you the truth.  We shared a couple of kisses.  That was it.  There was a time when it might have but ... it didn't.   It never went any farther than that

"A couple of kisses?  Just the lips or full tongue?"  Joy pressed.

More memories of Lacey.

It was our fourth date in three weeks, Friday night, late, nearly midnight.

"You know ... I keep going out with you." Lacey said as we stood in the parking lot of her apartment complex.

"Yeah.  I kind of picked up on that.  Picked up on that the second time we went out.  Careful or you might make it a habit." I said.

"I guess when I'm around you ... you don't notice me being short."

"Isn't really a problem with me." I said.

"Says you ... the giant."

I shrugged my shoulders in indifference.

"And ... why are we having this discussion?" I asked, not understanding.

She shrugged her shoulders this time, a move that kind of added a bounce to her step part way.

"Maybe I've been on the defensive so long that ... if we don't talk about ... it ... I have to."

I nodded.

"You know ... you just get used to everyone pointing out something about you and then when you meet someone like you who doesn't point it out ... you start wondering why they aren't pointing it out." she said.

"Maybe because it doesn't matter to me?" I asked.

"There's that ... if you're being honest with me."

"Is there a reason not to be honest with you?" I asked.  "Have I given you a reason like that?"

She shook her head.

"I guess ... everyone wants something from someone ... so ... what do you want from me?" she asked.

"Sex." I said.

Lace came to a full stop in the parking lot and I kept on walking.

"Really?" she asked ... shocked and ... confused.

"Yeah.  Never fucked a Hobbit before.  Thinking it might be a challenge." I said with a poker face as I kept walking.

There was a second pause by her ... I got maybe six steps ahead of her.

"Seriously!?" she stammered.

"Probably need a step stool ..." I said, trying not to laugh.

Her expression was priceless.

"..." she said in a hoarse whisper that I couldn't make out.

"No." I said flatly as I kept walking.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Lace growled, stomped her foot then hurried to catch up to me.

"You know, Christopher ... That's what I like about you ..." she said, falling into step beside me as we walked onto the sidewalk in front of her apartment.

"What?" I asked.

"That just when I think I've got you figured out ... I find out that I really don't have a clue about what goes on inside that head of yours."

"Is that a bad thing?" I asked.

"No.  It's a good thing." she said.

We got to the front door of her apartment and she started to get her door key out.

"So ... do you want to do it toes to toes or nose to nose?" I asked.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Sex." I said.  "There's that size thing to consider and I was just wondering if you prefer being toes to toes or nose to nose ..."

Lace turned around and whopped me with her purse, twice and we both started laughing.

"See?  I never know when you're being serious ..." she chided.

I stood there, looking at her ... brown eyes, Linda Blair poofy hair ... just a little woman.


"I had a lot of fun tonight." I said. 

"And are you being serious now?" she asked.

"I'm being serious.  I had a lot of fun with you tonight."

"I did, too.  It's a lot nicer when it's just the two of us ... and your stupid dickhead friend isn't with us."

I nodded because she was right; being with Lace was a lot of fun.

She unlocked her apartment door, walked into the darkness and turned on the light to the living room then turned around to face me.  I stood there, at the threshold of her front door, leaning up against the transom, arms crossed.  Lace was just a really attractive little woman.  Feelings in me began to stir, some noble, some less than so and some just plain leacherous.  There was a pause between us, unexpected, like a record skip, and almost as uncomfortable.

"..." she began.


"Goodnight." I said.

"Goodnight ..." she said softly.

"I may stop by and see if you want to go to lunch later this week ... maybe bring you something to eat there at the dealership."

"That would be nice." she said.

Gears turning.

Each of us trying to figure out what to say, what to do and the right way to say it and do it.

"Yeah ... well ... goodnight." I said, turning to leave.

"Christopher?" she said, my back to her.

"Yeah?" I asked, stopping, not turning to face her, still not sure.

"I'm just ... short.   I'm just a little woman.  Can't help the way God made me." she blurted out.

I sighed and let my head go all the way back, eyes closed.

"Lace.  Doll.  We've been over this.  What you are ... it doesn't matter to me." I said.

"Can't help the way that God made me." she said again, almost like that was the best thing she could say or that was somehow her pass on what her life had dealt her in the game we all played from cradle to grave.

I sighed and turned around to face her then took three steps towards her.  She backed up one step and I squatted down in front of her.

"I don't know if I like it when you do that ..." she said.


"It seems ... I don't know ... condescending ... like you're reminding me of what I am."

"A little woman?" I asked.

Now I was looking up at her, slightly, but just enough.

"Yeah.  Just a little woman."

I leaned closer to her ... she didn't pull away.

"Does everything on you work just like a regular woman?" I asked.

"Uh ... yeah.  Everything works on me just like a regular woman." she said, leaning in closer, her voice fading to a whisper.


"Everything?" I asked her in a whisper, leaning in closer to her in turn.

What the hell was I doing?

"Everything."  she whispered, leaning in even closer to me.

What the hell was she doing?

"What about your lips?" I asked, moving in even closer.

"Especially my ... lips." she said, smiling, moving in closer.

"I don't believe you." I said, smiling, curious what turn we'd taken and how far down that road we were going.

"Try them for yourself, hot shot." she whispered, shutting her eyes.

And the instant hung there, caught between decisions, damned if I did and damned if I didn't so I made my decision.  I reached up, took her head in my hands and I kissed her on the lips ...

... and do you know what?  

She wasn't lying about that!

Her lips worked perfectly!

"We kissed ... but that was it.  That's about as far as it went." I said.

"Uh huh." Joy said, looking at me in a way that was chiding.

"Joy, I swear!"

I was defensive.

Why was I getting defensive about something that happened two years ago, something that happened before I ever met Joy?

"Swear?" she asked.

"Swear." I said, holding up the Boy Scout sign, three fingers raised, pinky and thumb touching.

"On your honor?" Joy asked.

"On my honor." I said.

Joy looked at me, her eyes to my eyes, searching, looking ...

"I believe you." she said.

I nodded and somehow I felt ... relieved?

"We never ... got very far ... together." I said.

"Any particular reason why?" she asked.

I saw a chance to take control of the conversation, to steer it in my direction so I muttered something.


"I was scared to do anything more than that with ... her." I whispered.

"You?  Scared of a four and a half foot tall woman?  What were you scared of?"

Reel her in, I thought, because she just walked into it.

"I was scared that I'd split her in two, right up the middle ... Riiiiiiippppppp." I said, holding my palms together, making the sound then parting my palms." I said as I looked up at Joy, poker face.

Joy mouthed the words then threw her head back and laughed out loud, shaking her head.

"You got me." she said.

I nodded.

"Seriously?" she asked.

"No." I said as I shook my head.

"No, seriously ... you never fucked your hobbit?"

I shook my head.

"Just ... kissing." I said.  "There was some mutual curiosity, some attraction but I don't think that either of us were willing to go where it would have had to go if we were going to get that serious.  That just wasn't who we were, it wasn't what we had and so it never went that far ... "

"But she was a good kisser?" Joy asked.

"She was a really good kisser."

"For a hobbit?" Joy asked, smiling.

"For a hobbit." I said.

Joy nodded, smiling.

"She wanted ... she needed more commitment than I thought I had to give.  When I met Lacey it was late in the school year and there was a good chance that I wasn't going to be staying in Jackson so I didn't ..." I trailed off.


"You didn't want to start something you couldn't finish." Joy said softly.

I nodded.

"I didn't want to lead her on.  Wouldn't have been fair to her or me, to get either of our hopes up on something that probably didn't have any future and wasn't going anywhere.  I'm not real big on one night stands." I whispered.

Some regret there.

Could have.


Lacey had been ... different.  I think we both knew something was there or something might be there but ... we both were smart enough to also know that it might just all be a daydream and who invested in daydreams any more?  


I hadn't thought about Lacey in almost two years now ...

"So ... how many one night stands have you had?" Joy asked.

"None." I said.  "Kind of plan on keeping it that way, too."

... Third week in April ... 1988 ... lying on the bed in her apartment, lights on, fully clothed ... I guess we were just finally getting around to something that we had started earlier today ... maybe even weeks ago when we first met.  I was just picking up on her cues, her body language, her subtle hints ... Lacey had been acting flirty all night ... really touchy ... teasing ... testing.

... walking her to her apartment door like I always did when our time together was coming to an end ... waiting on her to turn her key in the lock, to open her door ... her turning to me, raising up slightly to give me a kiss goodnight, me bending over to meet her ... the smell of her perfume, her closing her eyes this time ... a tremble in her stance ... her arms going up around my neck ... she'd never done that before ... the feel of her purse against my back then me just picking her up in my arms.  She gave a little gasp, wrapping her legs around my waist as I pulled her to me and carried her into her apartment. shutting the door behind us and locking it while I still held her.  Her head next to mine, slowly nuzzling me, up and down, her cheek against my neck, against my cheek, her lips on my neck, kissing me, rubbing her face against the stubble on my cheek, nuzzling me.

She never said a word ... it was like this was something she expected me to do, something she had already approved of and was just waiting on me to figure out that she wanted me to do it.

I carried her straight back to her bedroom ... to her bed and put her down on it gently.  She kicked off her sandals and slid over on the bed as I took off my shoes and lay beside her, moving in close to her, face to face.  Her hand came up to my face, touching, caressing and my hand went to her face ... just ... touching her ... touching each other, softly ... slowly ... my hand to her cheek, my hand to her neck, tracing her collar, her necklace, moving back up to her cheek, her ear, across her forehead, moving a wisp of her hair out of her face ... her hand coming up to cup my hand ... to guide my hand ... all the while her eyes were closed, her mouth slightly open, her breath coming fast and quick, her chest rising and falling in rapid, short falls.  

The sound of her breath coming fast and quick.

The smell of her perfume.

Her eyes shut.

A little tremble through her body.

A deep sigh from her as my finger traced down further across her chest, dipping towards the valley between her full breasts.  If there was one thing that Lace had going for her it was a nice rack up front and a full bottom out back.  She may have been a little woman but God had padded her in all the right places.  There was the feeling then ... deep down inside me, knowing I could have her ... knowing that we had come to that line ... knowing that she was waiting on me to cross that line ... when her eyes opened and she stared into my eyes ... her eyes ... pleading silently ... I'd seen those eyes all too often this year on someone else.

Debby Lee.

Fuck me eyes.

Lacey snuggled in close to me, pulling me into her, her own hands took on a life of their own.

She began to reciprocate my affection, my attention to her, build on it.

Lace began to take charge, pushing me over, moving over on top of me.

Her hands roamed ... moving past any boundary that might have existed.

This was going to happen ... here ... now ... with her.

I'd pushed her button.

I'd turned her on.

She was ready and willing.


This was about to happen.

Her perfume was intoxicating.

The feel of her Linda Blair puffed up hair in my hand, running through my fingers.

The sounds she was making became more desperate ... soft whining, whispered begging.

She fell into me.

Our lips met.


Our tongues explored each others mouth as our hands went up and down each others' body.



Our first real, deep kiss.

She was all woman.

The sounds she made.

The permissions she gave in half-whispers.

The stuff she asked me for.

Fevers built.

Passions began to boil.

Two writhed together as one there on her bed.

"I want you." she whispered, reaching down to unbutton my shirt.

Her hands moved with confidence, each button not more than a simple hand motion for her to undo and then my shirt was open, spread wide, and Lace was rubbing her hands up and down my chest, her fingers moving through the hair on my chest.  I lay there and let her explore me.  

Her hands were fumbling, desperate, working faster than her brain, driven by desire.

My belt came open with the slap of leather, my jeans unbuttoned, my fly unzipped and her hand slid down into my pants, petting me.  It would be so easy ...   My own hands were imitating hers as our mouths smashed into each other, our tongues wrestling in each other's mouth.  There was no thought ... no conscious action ... we were on automatic, building to the inevitable.   My hand down her pants, petting her.

All woman.

We were so close ... 

I was so close to doing something that I'd told myself I wasn't going to do ...  

and ... 

I didn't.

Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.

"I want you, Christopher." she whispered.

Our mouths met again, tongues wrapped around each other's ...

"God, I need ... this." she whispered.

"I want ... this." she whispered again, nibbling on my right ear.

Words I'd heard before.

From someone else just a few weeks ago.

What would it have been like ... what would my life be like right now if I had met Lace instead of Debby Lee at the start of the year.

Lace was on me like a horny fox.

I was so close to doing something I told myself I wasn't going to do ...  

and ... 

I didn't.

Could have.


Suddenly I was ... tired.  I was tired of all of this repeat nothingness.  I was tired of something that I needed to have meaning being completely meaningless.  I was tired of disposable relationships and sex for sex's sake.  I was tired of looking for something to fill whatever void I perceived to be in my life.  I was tired of needing someone to make me feel good about being me.  It was a strange moment of realization and ... like that, that's when I started to slow down.

I began to slow her down.  

She thought I was guiding her to what I wanted her to do and then she realized that I was slowing her down, gently pushing her away.  At first she didn't understand what was happening then she realized that it just wasn't going to be ... not like it had seemed like it was going to be.  I could have had Lacey that night ... I could have had all of her.  I could have had her tonight and tomorrow and the day after and anytime that I wanted because there was just this feeling that Lace had given herself to me and that she was willing to be mine.  We'd crossed a line.  I could have had everything she had to offer but it would have been cheap, meaningless and empty and that was three things that I just didn't care to lose myself in, not anymore.  Suddenly I'd had my fill of cheap, meaningless and empty things in my life.

I'd had enough.  

I'd lost myself in others way too much.  

I'd tried to fill a void in my life that didn't really need filling.  From where I lay there next to her, her hands on me, my hands on her, I felt like a used car salesman taking advantage of her ... trying to sell her a lemon of a deal knowing full well it was a lemon of a deal.  If I lost myself in someone it had to mean something, it had to have something other than just here and now.  I couldn't lie to myself and I didn't want to lie to her.  I could have ... but I didn't.

Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.

"Sorry.  We ..."

"What?" she asked, smilng then starting to unbutton my shirt.

"I ... can't." I said.

I had no words for what I was feeling ... just the feeling that I didn't need to do this and an even bigger feeling that I shouldn't.  Just because you can doesn't mean that you should.

"Wait ... You're ... serious?" she whispered.


She looked up at me ... hurt?



"What ...?   What's wrong?"

"It's ..."

"Me?" she asked, louder, her look one of concern.

"No!  No, it's not you!"

"What's wrong then?" she said, more a command to tell her than a question.

"Lace ... I'm leaving next month ... in May ..."

"May?  Wait ... You're leaving?  Why?" she asked.



I wasn't sure that I had a real good answer to that question myself.

"I'm moving back to Hattiesburg.  Going to go to school down there.  I won't be in Jackson any more, won't even be close.  This ... what you and I have ... it isn't what you think it is."

"It isn't what I think it is?" she asked, starting to get defensive.

"It isn't going to be what I think you think it's going to be and I don't want to lead you on.  I don't want to hurt you." I said.

Lace seemed to think about that ... her expression went from confustion to ... understanding ... to looking like I'd just punched her in the stomach.  I felt bad ... I felt like I'd just fucked a hobbit and it had nothing to do with sex at all.

"I don't want to start something ... that I can't finish.  I don't want to lead you on.  Wouldn't be fair." I said.

She bit her lower lip and turned then, away from me, her head on the pillow, just staring at the bedroom wall.

"God!  I can't believe this ...  God!" she whispered, the last blasphemy louder than a whisper ... a lot louder.

"Lace ..." I started but I found I didn't have any other words than that one word to say.

I hoped it was enough even though just saying her name felt like the most inadequate thing to say in the history of inadequate things to say.

"Should have known.  Never fails.  It never fucking fails." she muttered.

"Lace ..."

"Story of my life ..." she whispered but I don't think she was talking to me anymore.

"Lace ... talk to me ..."

"Look ... Just ... go." she said.

This wasn't going to get any better and it had the potential to get a lot worse.

"Yeah.  Probably better if I did." I whispered.

I didn't want to take advantage of what she thought we shared ... of what we might actually share ... of what we might actually have between us if having her like this, if having all of her, all of what she was offering me, was going to hurt her in the next few weeks.  When you gave yourself to someone it had to mean something ... at least to me it did and so ... that night ... then and there ... I told my lizard brain exactly what it could go do with itself, got off of her bed, put my shoes on, kissed her on the forehead and let myself out of her apartment ... and out of the rest of her life.  I remember looking back once, seeing her laying there on the bed, on her stomach, facing me, her legs raised behind her, a wisp of her hair hanging down over her face.

Lace was watching me.

The look on her face a mixture of disappointment and sadness, of hurt and anger, of understanding and ... respect ... and knowing.

She knew.

She knew that it was easier to get over not having done the wrong thing than it was to get over actually having done something wrong.  When you were a guy, at least a guy like me, at least in my life, sometimes just because you could do something didn't mean that you should do something.   I'd learned that ... maybe I'd learned that this year ... maybe I'd learned that again this year.  Damned if I do and damned if I didn't ... but it was better not to have done something bad than to have done something bad just because you could do something bad and because it wasn't bad for you.  Hurting her now, before all of this snowballed into something hollow and meaningless was going to hurt her a lot less than if I let this happen and then left.  

Sometimes doing the right thing sucked.

Sometimes, just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should ... and sometimes not doing that something hurts just as much or even more than if you actually did it ... but that's the price you pay for doing the right thing.  The problem with the world was that it cost a lot more to do the right thing than the wrong thing ... and I guess that's just the way it had always been and probably the way it always would be.  Being bad was easy and it paid higher dividends quicker in life.

I paused at her front door to make sure that it would lock behind me.  I felt like I should say something but there really wasn't anything else to say.  I turned to look at her one last time ... she was on her back, staring at the ceiling of her bedroom.   Her arms were folded across her chest and I thought I saw a tear track down her cheek.

Yeah, I'm a bad man for trying to do the right thing.

I closed the door and tried it behind me.


And ... that was that.

When I drove away from her apartment Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were playing "I Hate Myself For Loving You" on Z106.7 FM.  It seemed an appropriate song for the events of tonight but I didn't know if it was meant for Lace or for me or if the gods of rock and roll were just mocking me across the air waves.

I never called Lace again, never went by the dealership to bring her lunch or visit with her and my phone never rang from her either.

A few weeks later I was gone ... way down south back in Hattiesburg.


Another detour off a path that I had more or less already made up my mind on taking.

And now ... two years later ...


I was ...?

Back on course?

Off on another tangent?

Doing it all again?

Spinning my wheels?

Going nowhere?

Slow or fast.

Story of my life.


Lacey ... a small woman and not a small amount of regret.

Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.

A chance not taken.

A choice made.

"Hey, Cowboy?!"

The sound of fingers snapping near me, fingers snapping like pistol shots.

I came to the here and now, the present.


Memories faded.

"Hey!  Where did you go, Cowboy?"

I shook the memories of Lacey away.  I hadn't thought about her in a year ... or two ... because it was always the same thoughts that I had when I thought about ... or remembered ... any of the women that had mattered to me.

What might have been.

What could have been.

Damned if I did and damned if I didn't.

Chances not taken.

Choice made.


What was a twenty-three year old single woman who worked at a car dealership in Jackson and was working her way through night school looking for in an eighteen year old freshman college student?  What was an eighteen year old freshman college student looking for in a twenty-three year old single woman who worked at a car dealership in Jackson and was working her way through night school?

Nothing of any real substance, probably.

Nothing of any lasting potential.

A fling.

A waste of time.

A distraction from someone else.

A diversion from what else was going on in my or her life.

Two people going down a dead end road when they both knew it was going to be a dead end road ... and one of those people choosing to get off the ride before it became a wreck.


"Earth to Cowboy.  Come in, Cowboy."


"Just ... thinking." I said.

Joy nodded.

"You went deep on me.  Real deep.


"Totally shut me out, there."

"Sorry.  Just ... thinking."

Just ... stirring up the dust.

"About her?  About Lacey?"

I nodded.

"Thinking ... or ... remembering."

And there was something in Joy's voice ... like she understood as well.

"Little of both.  Her.  The past.  Chances had.  Choices made.  Dust.  Forget it ... I was just stirring up some dust."

Joy nodded, resting her chin on her folded arms on top of the table and looking at me like she was trying to read some kind of book written in a foreign language.

"Okay.  This is the story that I really, really want to hear, Cowboy." she said.

"Why do you want to hear this story?"

"Because I like your stories and because I want to hear the story about the Cowboy and the Hobbit." she said.

"The ... The Cowboy and the Hobbit?" I asked.

"Hell, that's as good a title as any to the story ... or do you have another title for that part of your life?"

I thought about that.


I didn't have a title for that part of my life.  In fact, I hadn't really considered what Lacey and I had as any kind of story ... more just something that happened between two people for a little while.  Not much of an adventure, just two people going out with each other every now and then, two people having fun and one of those people was kind of tall and the other one was kind of short and the tall person was a guy and the short person was a girl and guy and girl things happened and ...  I mean, the top of her head came up to my chest line and that was if she was in her heels or standing on her tippy toes.

She was just a little woman ... Couldn't help the way God made her.  

A little woman, all woman and everything worked on her just like any other woman.  


She promised me that.

I could have found that out on my own ... but I didn't.

I chose not to.

Choices made.

Chances had.


I shook my head.

Lacey and I had had something ... but was it a story?

"Never thought of me and her together as any kind of story to tell.  The Cowboy and the Hobbit.  Hmmm.  Not going to be a very long story." I said.

"Might not be a tall tale either ..." she mused.

I laughed, despite my hardest intention not to.

"Well, if it isn't a long story maybe you can tell me another story ... maybe you can tell me a long story." she said.

I nodded.

"Maybe I can.  Or maybe a couple of short stories that take a long time to tell." I mused out loud.

I paid for our lunch then walked Joy out to her Monte Carlo, opening the door for her and holding it open while she stood there, leaning on the door.

Inches separted us and those inches might as well have been light years.

"So ... we're on for tonight?" I asked.

Joy nodded and mouthed the words "Uh huh" silently then sat down in her old Monte Carlo and I closed the driver's side door for her.  She rolled down her window as she started her car and turned on her air conditioning.

"Nine o'clock."  I said.

"I'll be there." Joy said.

"If you're not ... I'll sit on the steps and wait for you." I said.

Joy smiled, cutting her eyes at me.

"How long will you wait?" she asked.

"Until you show up ... or until they arrest me for vagrancy." I said.

Joy laughed.

"See you tonight, Cowboy." she said.

"Yeah.  Looking forward to it."

Joy cut her eyes at me ... sultry eyes ... just a flash that sent my blood racing.

"Tell you what.  I'll even stop by Sonic and get you a tea.  One of those big ass sweet teas that you're always drinking ... you know, the one that you can go swimming in ..." she said.

"You're going to bring me sweet tea tonight?  Jeez.  Is that some kind of bribe?"


"Jesus!  You really want to hear that story, don't you?" I asked, smiling.

"I really want to hear that story, Cowboy.

"Your time to waste ..." I said.

"Spend it like I want to.  See you tonight." she said.

And then Joy drove away and like that we went our separate ways like we usually did, like we always did.  I watched her drive slowly out of the IHOP parking lot, pause for traffic then slowly accelerate away on down Hardy Street.  

I had stayed after class to discuss the semester assignment with my teacher, Rachel.  It was my last class of the day and I liked Rachel, as a teacher, because she made learning fun and because I could kind of be the class clown sometimes which seemed to tickle her to no end.

"That's a Lacey Meyers statement." Rachel said to me when I told her what I thought my assignment progress was so far.

"A ... what?" I asked.

"What you just said ... that was a Lacey Meyers statement if ever I heard one."

"Okay.  Who is Lacey Meyers?" I asked, confused.

"Oh!  She's a friend of my daughters.  Lacey's petite, real dynamite in a firecracker.  She works at a car dealership in the service department, putting herself through school, mostly at night.  You should go and ask her out.  You'd like her."

Well, that was ... sudden.  I wasn't sure how I'd gone from talking to my teacher about my semester project to being told that I needed to ask one of her daughter's friends out.  Still, if the picture of her daughter on her desk was any indication of the kind of friends that her daughter might keep things weren't looking too bad in that regard.

"I might like her ..." I said.  "Not sure she'd like someone like me."

"Oh, you two will get along fine.  Lacey's like you ... always got something smart to say in a funny kind of way."

I shrugged my shoulders, being kind of wary of any matchmaker crap going on in my life.

"Tell you what ... I'll talk to my daughter tonight, tell her to talk to Lacey for you, set the two of you up so you can go out."

What the hell?  All I had to lose was some time and some money on a Friday night ...

Two days later I parked my '79 Pontiac Trans Am in a vacant spot near the service department of the car dealership ... not really knowing what to expect.  At that point in my life I was being pulled in two different directions; stay at Hinds, salvage what I could of these two semesters, finish up my two year degree (and see where things were going to go with Debby Lee) or go back to Hattiesburg, enroll at Jones County Junior College and see what life had to offer me in that direction ... 

... and then there was this; a third option, a blind date set up by a teacher of mine with one of her daughter's friends; a twenty-three year old woman who worked at a local car dealership as a salesperson / parts department counter worker while she was going to classes part-time at Milsaps to earn a BS degree in business.  Her name was Lacey Meyers and that was about all I knew about her other than my teacher said that I'd like her and that Lacey was ... petite.

I had a pretty good idea of what "petite" meant but I was curious if my idea of "petite" and my teacher's idea of "petite" were the same ... or anywhere close.  I stepped out of the '79 TA, locked it up and started walking into the service / parts area.  The late spring afternoon was still warm and humid, radiating heat from the dark black asphalt of the parking lot which had been newly striped and still smelled strongly of paint.  Summer wasn't here but it was on its way, hints of that were early and strong.

I realized again that I hadn't really made up my mind what I was going to do with my life, at least not at that exact moment in time; everything was in a flux, just this big morass where the pros and cons of each decision all were hitting me about the same and with the same frequency.  Even after coming to see me at my apartment and spending the night with me twice now Debby Lee hadn't gotten back to me on where we stood so maybe I needed something else to take my mind off of what I was struggling over or maybe I needed to go out with someone else, someone new, in order to put things into a different perspective.  Anyway, it was just a date, a blind date, and at the worst it was only going to be a few hours and a handful of cash spent.

"She's petite ... you'll like her.  Real dynamite in a firecracker." Rachel had told me.  "I'll talk to my daughter and set things up."

I stepped up to the parts counter ... there was no one around.

I waited, patiently.

No one was around and the only sound was that of the mechanics in the work bays behind me, slightly muffled by the glass enclosure that separated the parts department from the service department, and something else ... something that sounded like ... static.  A constant hiss like a badly tuned radio station or gas escaping from a nicked pipe.  I saw a pair of speakers in the corner and decided that was where the sound of static was coming from.  I looked around ... there was no one but I guess they served those who stood and waited so I was patient.

"She's petite ... you'll like her."


Suddenly, in my mind, the word "petite" took on a whole lot of extra meaning.

Still didn't know what to expect.

There was the sound of movement ... someone was here ... in the department off to the side of the parts counter.  A petite woman walked out of the side office, looking at a handful of invoices then noticed me standing there.


"Sorry.  Didn't know anyone was out here.  Be right with you." she said.

She was petite.  

She couldn't have been much more than four and a half feet tall and a hand but she was a woman, not a child, not a midget, not a dwarf.  A woman.  A petite ... little ... woman.  Curly brown hair down to her shoulders and a little beyond, poofed on top, in a style that reminded me of Linda Blair from a few years ago.  She wore a dealership embroidered Polo type shirt, jeans and dress sandals and her proportions were nicely distributed.  It was like someone had taken a really attractive woman and reduced her to eighty percent of her original size.   Rachel had told me that Lacey was petite ... a little woman.  I'd gone to school with a little woman, my senior year, Linda.  Linda was seventeen years old, the top of her head came up to the bottom of my rib cage and she would never be any taller than she was when I'd met her.  Linda drove a Pontiac Sunbird and she literally had trouble seeing over the dash when she drove.  Lacey was a bit more fortunate in height, even if it was obvious that she'd never see another inch of altitude short of the highly unlikely circumstance of direct divine intervention by God Himself.

If this was my blind date ... things weren't looking as bad as my mind had started to play them out to be.

"Aw ... crud!" she said, looking up at the ceiling and noticing the same hissing static that I'd been listening to for several minutes now.

"Hold on." she told me as she walked to the back of the department where the two speakers were mounted.

I watched her as she squatted near a shelf, reached under and fiddled with something there.  The hiss grew louder, then softer then was replaced with the sound of the voice of the DJ on Z106.7 FM, Jackson talking about the weather and some local news.  The small woman walked back up to the counter, put her arms and hands on the counter, looked up at me and smiled.

"That's my old stereo ... Keep it around to listen to the radio when I'm at work.  Sometimes it goes off station and I'm the only one that knows how to tune it.  So ... what can I do for you?  Need a part?  Name your year, make and model."

"Are you Lacey Meyers?" I asked.

"Uh ... Yeah ...?" she said, unsure, looking at me in the strangest way since I'd just answered her question with a question of my own, breaking her concentration and her business routine.

I smiled.

"I'm Christopher.  Christopher Shields."

Her look still held confusion.

"I think I'm your blind date for tonight.  Rachel's daughter Kelly was supposed to set it up ..."

Lacey's expression was one of surprise.

"Right!  Right!  Hey!" Lacey said, beginning to understand the situation.

The DJ finished talking and REO Speedwagon's "Keep the Fire Burning" started playing.

"Wow.  Haven't heard this song in a while ..." I said.

"You like REO Speedwagon?" she asked.

I nodded, smiling at remembering when I was a lot younger ... and the song playing on the radio right now as brand new.  That felt like it was a lifetime ago even though the song was only about six years old.  A lot can happen in six years ... that was a third of my life.

"I love REO Speedwagon.  Favorite.  Band.  Ever." she said.

Seeing an angle to make things less awkward I pressed it.

"Ever get to see them in concert?" I asked.

"Once.  Way back in 1979 when they came here to Jackson.  I was fifteen and they had a band called "Missouri" which opened for them.  Still got the concert shirt ... REO Speedwagon, not Missouri.  What about you?" she asked.

"I saw them back in '85, here in Jackson as well.  They had Cheap Trick with them.  I had the REO Speedwagon shirt, too ... I didn't like the Cheap Trick shirt."

Her eyes got big.

"Wow!  You got to see them with Cheap Trick!?"

I nodded, smiling.

"Man!  I wanted to go to that concert but I was in Texas visiting my uncle and aunt that week!"

"It was a pretty good concert.  Both bands were good.  It wasn't like you had a sucky band that opened for a really good band and you have to wade through the sucky music to get to the good stuff  ... No, it was like getting two concerts in one that night." I said.


August 1985.

The month before my whole life changed ...




"So ... you like REO Speedwagon ...?" she stated.

"I like the older stuff ... Keep on Lovin' You, Riding the Storm Out ... this song is about as new of their stuff as I like." I said.

She seemed to think about that.

"Hi- Infedelity?" she asked.

I nodded.

"Got it on cassette out in my car right now."

"Well, there's that at least." she mused.  "We both like old REO Speedwagon better than new REO Speedwagon."

"Yeah, their newer stuff is starting to go soft ... way soft like Culture Club.  If they keep going soft at this rate they'll be in the same section as Spandau Ballet before long."

Lacey laughed out loud.

"Spandau Ballet!" she said.  "I haven't heard anyone say it like that before."

"Looks like we've got one thing in common so there's that." I said.

And like that Lacey's eyes lit up.

Lacey had pretty brown eyes and a nice smile.

"You're ... not exactly what I was expecting." she said.

"What were you expecting?" I asked, trying not to get on the defensive because I didn't know if I should or not.

She looked past me, over my shoulder and I looked over my shoulder, out into the service department.  Grease covered guys in ill-fitting dealership work uniforms moved around the service bays like the walking dead.

"One of them?" I asked, still looking over my shoulder.

I could see how a woman like Lacey would be in an uncomfortable situation around guys like that.

"You get a lot of that ... ?" I asked her, turning back around to try to gauge her expression.

"All the time.  Day in and day out." she said, sighing.  


"Yeah.  You wouldn't believe the pick up lines that get dropped in here." She said, shaking her head.

"Well ... yeah.  I can imagine." I said, not really knowing what to say to that and thinking that saying the less was the better idea.

"Imagine what?" she asked.

Think quick, Shields.

"I ... imagine that after they spend all day out there working on customer's cars that you're one of the nicer things they get to see."

Lacey actually blushed then.

"Oh ... Yeah.  Rachel said you might be a smooth talker." she said, holding up a finger and wagging it in front of me.

"She warned you about me?" I asked.

"That she did.  Flattery ..." she began.

"Won't get me anywhere?" I asked.

"Well, I wouldn't say that.  More like we'll see ... you'll have to make it good because I've heard it all before." she said, smiling and cutting her eyes at me and like that she seemed ... happier.

"So ... dinner and a movie?" I asked, trying to steer our conversation back to a happier course.

"Yeah.  I think I'd like that." Lacey said.

Pretty eyes and a pretty smile.

She was leaning over slightly on the counter and I swear I saw her wag her bottom back and forth, slowly, like she was tilting at her ankles, like a kitten playing, about to pounce on something that has gotten its complete attention.

"So ... where can I pick you up?"

She held up a finger in a sign for me to wait then told me where she lived, some older apartments over near North Park Mall, and she took a sheet of paper from the copy machine and drew me a map along with giving me her phone number.  We agreed that I would pick her up at 6:30PM at her place and that we'd figure out where we wanted to get something to eat then.  The better places to eat were in that area of the city so it shouldn't be a problem to find something good.  I folded the hand drawn map and stuck it in my pocket, sticking out my hand and taking hers.

"I'm glad you stopped by to see me.  Kelly said you probably would." Lacey said.

"Yeah.  I didn't want it to be a real blind date ... thought I would come by your work and meet you, set things up, give you a chance to see what I looked like and give you enough time to back out of the whole deal if you wanted to."

She feigned mock surprise and shook her head.

"Why would I want to do that?" she asked.

"Well ... in case I was one of them ... or you tagged me as some kind of real creep from the start." I said, looking over my shoulder at the employees out in the service bay of the dealership.

"I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit.  Dinner and a movie is a lot better than some of the things that I've been offered lately." she said.

I smiled and nodded.

"It was nice to meet you, Lacey.  Looking forward to tonight." I said.

"Me too ... Oh ... and it's Lace.  Just ... Lace." she said, smiling.


"Lace.  People just call me Lace, not Lacey.  Drop the "Y" on the end.  All my friends do." she said.

"Okay.  Lace.  Uh ... Have I earned the right to do that?" I asked, smiling.

"I'll float you some credit.  If you're not good for it, I'll let you know when you're supposed to go back to calling me Lacey." she said, smilng.

"Or Ms. Meyers." I said.

"Or Ms. Meyers." she repeated.

"Or not calling you at all." I added.

"Or that."

I nodded.

"Fair enough.  See you tonight.  Lace." I said, turning to leave.

"See you tonight ... Christopher.  Oh, and it is ... Christopher, right?  Not just Chris?" she said, slapping the counter top lightly and spinning in place, looking at me over her shoulder.

"It's Christopher.  Not just Chris.  Too many guys named "Chris" in the world." I said.

She smiled, still looking at me over her shoulder.




Big puffy Linda Blair hair.

Brown eyes.

"See you in a couple of hours." I said.

"Bye." she said, smiling.

I walked on out back into the service bay, a smile on my face and I swear, behind me, I heard Lacey "Lace" Meyers scream out at the top of her lungs.

"Hot damn!  I've got a DATE tonight!"

... but then I couldn't really be sure over the sound of impact wrenches striking home and luxury sedan engines revving.  At least that's what I thought I heard after the door to the parts department closed behind me.

Lacey Meyers.


My favorite hobbit.

I hadn't thought about Lacey Meyers in two years now.  Memories of her were filled with long cruises around Jackson, listening to REO Speedwagon and Foreigner and Bostom and Tom Petty and Journey on the Kenwood and just talking ... holding her hand in my gloved hand, her hair blowing in the wind of the T-tops off and windows down, the setting sun stabbing rays of diamonds and mirrors at us as we sped through the beltways surrounding the capital city.



That time back at her place.  

Almost doing something that I knew that I'd regret ... something that she would regret.

Just because you can do something doesn't always mean that you should.

The look in her eyes when I got up and left that night ... So much of my past I'd bulldozed through, I'd smashed anything in front of me to pieces and just buried the wreckage behind me in my wake, buried the wreckage under ten feet of concrete and asphalt and never much I guess with a second thought to the feelings of the others that got in the way, to the others that I'd just rolled over and past.   Was it wrong for me to live my life like I had, like I did, and not feel bad about doing it?  I shrugged my shoulders and tabled the internal argument for a time when I was feeling more introspective and more prone to debating my self.

Lacey Meyers.

Her friends called her Lace ... and for a while, for a couple of weeks there in the spring of 1988, I got to call her that, too.


Lacey "Lace" Meyers.

I hadn't thought of Lace in two years now and the memory of her brought a smile.  I could have fucked her but I didn't because I guess I cared more about her than I really wanted to admit.

She was just a little woman.


Couldn't help the way that God had made her.

Linda Blair puffed up hair.

Chances had.

Choices made.