Saturday afternoons Claude and I watch old horror movies in bed and drink bourbon, I know the first thing he’s gonna ask me for is the oral.
“Okay,” I say, “but did you clean it?”
“I just did.”
“’Cause I’m not going near it unless it’s clean.”
“And if I do that, you need to do something for me.”
“I know.” He puts down his glass. “Anyways, I’ve done it before. I ain’t afraid of it.”
Still, when he starts in it’s like a bird pecking at a tree. Stab, stab, stab. Fumbles to find my clit with his stubby fingers.
“Treat it like a kiss, Claude. Put some softness into it.”
“Start with the clit.”
“You don’t have to tell me what a clit is.”
When I pull down his boxers it smells all freshly soapy down there. I build it up, a breath at a time—pull his whole prick in slow, let it all out. Lips, tongue, two fingers around the base of the shaft, gently with my thumbnail, a few kisses between the wiry hairs on his balls. Trace the vein on the side of his prick with the tip of my tongue; tap it lightly like I’m dabbing a spot of jelly off the back of a spoon.
When he’s about to come, I back out and let it shoot onto the bedsheets. I’m fifty-eight—I’m not swallowing nothing. When we’re done I relax in bed and he fixes us grilled cheese sandwiches. Afterward we wipe our hands on the sheets and he falls asleep in his underwear. I’m wrapped in a nightgown already, my silver hair up. I watch him snoring, his rolls and folds, dyed bronze goatee and pinky rings, and imagine what we’d be like together in our prime, young and beautiful, the whole town jealous when they saw us out together.
When we take our walks Sunday mornings, Claude dresses up just like we’re going out for dinner. We must make quite a sight: him in slacks and suspenders, big belly buttoned under a plaid dress shirt, and chunky me in my purple sweat suit and pink high-tops, shades, hair tied up in a bandana like I’m a retired biker mama.
Sometimes as we walk through the trailer park he puts his arm around my waist like he’s proud to be out with me. “You look like a million bucks,” he says.
“You look like at least a thousand,” I tell him. I look. “Well, maybe eight-fifty.”
It’s been a couple months now since he started spending time at my place. Beth Simpson lives two trailers from us; when she catches me out alone, she starts asking questions.
“Who’s this new guy I seen you with Berta?” She wrinkles her nose. “He’s not a bad-looking man.”
“His name’s Claude.”
“Where’d you meet him?”
“Is he from around here?”
“He was staying with a friend.” I pretend to cough. “Well I’ll be seeing you around,” I say.
I don’t tell her the rest of it: “His wife threw him out. He likes the way I go down on him. Right now he’s got nowhere else to go.”
His wife doesn’t want him back, that’s been pretty well established. One day we make our way down I-93 to pick up his stuff at her place in Meriden. Not the best neighborhood, but a nice house with a couple of apple trees in front.
They’ve already got his stuff on the lawn under a tarp—nine or ten boxes and some plaid shirts on hangers draped over the top.
“She’s keeping the furniture,” his daughter Daphne says, as Claude looks over his pile. She’s short and sturdy, like Claude, and has his wet sparkling blue eyes.
“She says you still owe her for the overdrafts.”
“I’m working on that.”
“That’s fifteen hundred. She says cash only, no more checks.”
“She just wanted me to tell you.” She comes over to kiss his forehead before we leave. “I’ll call you, okay Dad?” she says. “Be good.”
We load everything in and drive off without looking back. When we’re back in town he says, “If the dump’s open let’s get rid of this shit.” Which we do: boxes, shirts, hangers and all whoop! into the landfill, except for a shoebox of family pictures he brings home and slides under his side of the bed.
“There’s only one reason these guys are interested in you, Roberta,” my mother used to say, and my grandmother, and even my sisters, before we stopped speaking to each other. So thanks to them I have that in mind every morning when I wake up beside him, which I have to ignore, because who has time when I have to do my makeup, blow out my hair, iron an outfit, get myself to work, live my life?
At night in bed if he’s drunk enough he’ll start some deep relationship talk, like that’s what he’s been thinking about all day.
“It’s not gonna be all drama you know.”
“You’re not always gonna need to pay for everything.”
“Don’t worry about it Claude.”
“I got some other things to offer.”
I’m leaning my head into his chest, looking across the bedroom, and he’s stroking my shoulder. “We’ll get there Claude,” I tell him. And what do I mean by that? “We’ll figure things out.”
His hand is resting on my hip; sometimes I feel it go limp as he drifts in and out. Just before he falls asleep he says, “You’re a special lady, Berta.” His tone is all bourbon and sleepiness, as if he’s half-dreaming already, though I don’t know him well enough to imagine what he dreams about. “Never seen anyone do it like you do,” he tells me, letting his voice go husky and loving, and I don’t have the heart to let him know I’ve heard it all before.
Timothy Boudreau’s work appears or is forthcoming at Fiction Southeast, Small Print Press, The Fictional Café, and Typishly, among others. His collection Saturday Night and other Short Stories is available through Hobblebush Books. Find him on Twitter @tcboudreau or at timothyboudreau.com.