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Paying Up
Published by Wickerkat on 2009/5/31 (2222 reads)

The collection of memories spits in my face every time I open the trunk

Paying Up
by Richard Thomas

The yearbook sits in the trunk of my 1967 Camaro, moonlight reflecting in the royal blue. Rusted out wheel wells and torn black leather seats mar an otherwise classic beauty. The dented silver book sits next to a half empty case of warm Coors, six road flares, and a red rag speckled with sawdust, stained with motor oil. The collection of memories spits in my face every time I open the trunk, which is why I put it there.

It isnít mine.

Running my hand along the warm hood, I head toward the entrance of The Dollhouse. I finally tracked her down, and am not sure what itíll become. Butterflies with razor blade wings flit around in my stomach slicing at my guts. I finish off the pint of Jim Beam and toss it into the weeds that line the gravel parking lot. I hitch up my blue jeans and stomp closer to my baby. Worn out combat boots, gray at the edges, soles cracked and frayed, propel me forward as I shake the cotton out of my head, praying for strength.

Doesnít work.

ďHey pops,Ē the doorman says, nodding his bald dome. ďNice wheels.Ē
I slip him the $10 and walk on by. He doesnít know me, but he thinks he does. At least he doesnít call me grandpa. I prefer silver fox when asked, but nobody does. The ladies like it, because they think I have money. I donít. Why else would an aging stud like myself be here. I donít give off the molester vibe, not any more. Tan skin, callused hands, and a beaten up old oxford, they donít say much.

They say enough.

Itís every strip club Iíve ever been in. Mirrors, always a sale on mirrors. College punks up close, dropping the singles on the stage like they mean something, eager to get a face full of tits. Not that I can disagree, really. The bass pumps, my heart with it, and a bar lines the wall to my right. Shiny bottles full of distraction, a whiff of baby powder as a young filly saunters by, white eyes and curious smile. Her body is lost on me. I am a puppy to her, safely on a leash, yet dead inside.

ďBud,Ē I say at the bar.

I toss another ten spot, and take the cold drink. It goes down fast, and eases my pulse. Sheís on the center stage when I walk in. There is no mistaking her. Long brown hair, doe eyes, her motherís shoulders, wide and thick, worn down to nothing, in a glittery black thong, her ass shaking back and forth. I look away fast, a gut full of shrapnel.

ďBud,Ē I say, tossing out more green.

Over to the stage, and I canít hear anything. Deafening silence. She wonít know me. Iím counting on that.

ďDarla,Ē the disc jockey says, ďgive it up for Darla, one more song, come on guys, show her you care.Ē

I sit down, the wad of bills in my hand, damp already. She wonít take it any other way, I know that. Iíve tried. She hates me with all of her black little heart, and I deserve it. Itís my entire paycheck for the week. $220. It doesnít look like much. I finish the beer and stand back up. Canít do it. I leave the money on the stage, and head for the door, and I can feel her eyes on the back of my head, boring in, questioning, a crooked grin on her face. I donít get to see her smile. I donít get to talk to her. Darla is not her name. Not her birth name, anyway.

I stand at the back of the Camaro, tears streaming down my face, and I turn to vomit, spraying the rocks and my shoes, not for the first time. Straightening up, I take out the yearbook. High school, back when she was still innocent, and I was just becoming a stranger. I stare at her doe eyes and crooked grin. And apologize to my daughter one more time.
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