A Hundred Gourds 4:3 June 2015

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Tom Sheehan - USA

A Sailor's Consecration or, Better Yet,
The Consecration of a Hash House Waitress

Just pronounced ex-Navy and having breakfast in a drab diner in Idaho, road dust claiming him as much as it did his Ford convertible parked like an abused antique, he met May Hustings slinging hash, air full of morning’s riches. She was tall and neat for a waitress, hair pinned back yet evoking promise in its loosing. Corded neck movements, supple, graceful but fully pronounced as a woman’s, brought early hungers, caught him staring from the booth. Their eyes locked, gave decoded announcements, and then, not to embarrass the other, allowed to wander. Initial signals had been illustrated; acceptance duly noted; breasts like hammerlocks, he thought, thighs like shipboard's ice cream logs.

stopping at his 27 year bank
then at a lost motel
he let her sleep
bare on thousands of dollars

Between the awed two-some the attractions were limitless, yet essentially bound up in her desire to get out of the one-horse town and him being as horny as three months at sea, each of them airing their broadcast. She nodded at other men, "They noticed you when you walked in here, sized things up. Three or four of them by the window pegging you right off the bat after you parked your car. It's how they thought they might have been once, way back. You know, when they had it all together, not like now.” She punched the last comment with futility's odd gesture. “They sure know the swagger, the instincts in your tote bag. I saw signs myself, you coming across the parking lot after tossing a travel bag from the back seat into the trunk. The strut’s personal, your name on it. Says you’ve been around, know things, places.” She looked about, dropped an empty hand in a peremptory salute, and said, “More’n this.” She paused, said, "I'm allowed observations, I earned them."

a hundred dollar bill
stuck too close to her
he kissed it away
she did not care what she lost
but what she had gained

A hundred jobs she’d had coming here to this diner, long hauls, short hauls, no cemented romances. When he got out of his car, the old tingle began, the good stuff rearing its head. Where it started she never knew, but it seeped around on its belly, touched here and there, then leaped for her core. More than once since he'd come into the diner she swore she touched herself secretly, a phantom hand, like amputees' phantom pains. It brought a smile to her face he'd remember.

once during the night
after knowing him again
head to toe and front to back
she woke with a start
when she heard a far siren

Her more’n this gesture he loved, loneliness with it, so innocent, so open. A sense of grace filtered her movements. Not in a long time had he been impressed by a lady.

“You always go at it early in the day? Trade talk, making me sociable and easy, digging for a tip? You don’t have to do anything for a tip. You dress this place up from the git-go. Ought to put your name up in lights. Drag farm boys in here from miles around. Empty the hills of cowboys, glow boys, weed whackers. Restless, they'd all come with hope.”

Filling up the room
money seeping under her
slight noises were made
as when she stirred
marking him every which way

“You’re as smooth as I thought,” she answered, “and a peck of trouble with it.” The tie-back of her hair promised again a softness once let go, a perfect pillow matting. It matched an elegant ankle bracelet out of place in the A. M. diner. It was pure gold, he knew; from a far mountain's lode of riches. It was one of the first things he noticed in the diner, that most intimate promise a woman deals with daily, a thin, delicate letter opener, bearer of ultimate secrets. He wondered how long it'd be before he could look sideways at the bracelet, measuring, seeking the inscription. Perhaps it'd say, in Navy, “Welcome aboard, Captain.”

On the small bureau
at the old Moosehead Motel
his bag sat empty
In dawn's light they filled it up
left a hundred dollar bill . . .

With that thought, jumble of arms and legs, early motions of a morning erection came and went, as if an electrical plug had been pulled from a socket. Yet she was no stray, not at all, having a carriage, using lessons accrued in employment. He could tell she was alert to everything going on, early morning talks, cigarette coughs, rough faces broadcasting rough evenings, eyes coming out of long nights, nights breaking mornings loose in an occasional repetition. An early stain worked her pink shirt beside her left underarm. In morning's hash crowd, eggs and bacon floating grease in thick layers, like pages in a book, one breast rode its early titillation behind a damp spot on her shirt. Duke knew the code, waited to reciprocate, respond in details.

printed money bands
left behind
life's devilry renewed
one moment lost and regained
all that future in their hands

He liked her eyes first, before her hips sent messages walking away from coffee's first pour. The pink dress rode her the way silk rides prisoners, hips engaged. He imagined two ships on the tide change, maybe in Honolulu, Singapore or in the Leyte Gulf, with a hawser swinging music, a beat; and then this woman whenever she comes from landside. She returned with home-made hash and two-over light; he cast the twenty-seven-year leave eye. She thrust her future at him, every flank and curve and wanton need life had given her for escape, waiting for a holy nod.

silence flowing its weight
in the room his breath
as steady as a ship’s wake
she went back to sleep
with money's new smell.

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