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Authors: Joel Thomas Hynes

Down to the Dirt

BOOK: Down to the Dirt
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Down to the Dirt
Joel Thomas Hynes

For Sherry and Percy

1. The Missing Middle Finger

So comes along Miss Glenda Devereux in late July of that year, snatchin’ up the job in the little canteen at the fish plant. Just in time to collect her stamps for the winter. She caught me tryin’ to swipe a pack of Rothman’s off the shelf while she was clearin’ up the lunchroom.

—Are ya that hard up for a smoke? The size of ya.

She gave me a couple. We had a game of Crazy Eights. She told me she’d left her husband the year before, and his brother Billy, who drove a forklift for the plant, had hooked her up with the job here in the Cove.

She’d just turned twenty-six. She had two boys, an eight-year-old and a toddler, and it was the third move they’d made so far that year. But this one was gonna be a brand-new start for them. Although, when it came to the Cove, I couldn’t quite see where she expected this new start to take her. With only one shop and one club, there was shag all to do. The shop’s hours depended solely upon the moods of the old fella who ran it, and he didn’t even sell ice cream. The club was only opened on Friday and Saturday nights and then shut down altogether from January to March. A brand-new start.

They moved into Mrs. Mary-Angus’ house, a massive turn-of-the-century two-storey just over the road from where I lived. The clapboard was in rough shape, the foundation crumbling and overrun with sting-nettles. Surrounded on all sides by giant maple and spooky black spruce trees, it was a hard place to have to walk past after dark. Glenda was delighted with it though. Lots of space for the youngsters.

About three months before Glenda showed up, the previous owner, Mrs. Mary-Angus, had been carted off to St. John’s in an ambulance. She was declared a danger to herself after she sliced off all the fingers on her left hand while cleanin’ her electric lawnmower on the front step. She’d tried to pick a clump of old grass out of the mower while it was still runnin’. She got the grass out, but the mower didn’t want to give it up without takin’ something in return. Wrap-pin’ her hand in a dishtowel, she calmly walked across the road to her neighbours’.

—I’m after havin’ a little accident.

The towel was unwrapped to expose the spurting, bloody stumps that only minutes before had commanded four mildly arthritic digits. An ambulance was called and Mary-Angus was rushed to St. John’s.

The neighbour’s son-in-law went across the road with a baggie to collect the fingers in case they could be reattached in St. John’s. He claims he found the index and the ring finger, old tarnished wedding band and all, still twitchin’ and squirmin’ on the porch floor. He found the pinky stuck to the blade of the mower, and he searched well past dark for the other one, the middle finger, but never found it. Myself and my buddy Andy spent a good many evenings afterwards on our hands and knees scourin’ the grass in her yard, jumpin’ up all excited over bits
of stick, cursin’ over chicken bones. We couldn’t find it either. Not two weeks after her little accident, Mrs. Mary-Angus died in her sleep in the hospital in St. John’s.

I never saw much of Glenda beyond the scatter-quick chat in the canteen durin’ the last of that summer. I was busy cuttin’ tongues, swimmin’ and smokin’, ridin’ bikes and tossin’ rocks at the girls. But in the fall I started droppin’ in on her in the evenings after school. She was grand about it too. Her youngsters were always gone off with their dad from Thursday to Monday. Myself and Andy would go there to smoke in peace, sick of havin’ to hide up in the woods out of it. She didn’t treat us like children either, but more or less as friends. Maybe she was glad for the company. She bought us beer on Friday evenings, gave us a few draws now and then. Once, I tried to tell her the story about Mary-Angus but she made me stop, afraid it might spook her out in the nighttime.

Back then it didn’t take Andy and me much more than two or three beer before turning into loud-mouthed little shits, at which point Glenda would remind us that she had a Friday night to prepare for and so should we. On one of these occasions, when we were most gracefully told to get out, she was standin’ at the sink with her back to us while we were pullin’ our jackets on. She was wearin’ a sleeveless sports top that made clearly visible the strap of her bra. I leaned in and grabbed it, drew it back like a bowstring, and let it snap against her bare back. She let out a yelp.

—Take that thing off, girl.

Andy snickered as he slipped out the front door.

She didn’t look too amused when she turned around. I figured
I was in for it. She grabbed me by the wrist and hauled me into the back room. No doubt she was gonna belt me across the face, but she didn’t. She did not. She pulled me towards the couch and whipped up her top, her small boobs pokin’ out beneath the wiring of her bra.

—Is this what you wants, Keith?

Well, it was a far cry from what I expected. What I
wanted
was another thing.

Her nipples were dark, like rust, and swoll up for some reason. Before she had a chance to straighten herself out again, I bent down and sucked one into my mouth. It was hard and salty. I felt myself stiffen. She smirked and pushed me away.

—Go on out of it now, you. Save it for your girlfriend.

I never told Andy what happened. I came out of the house, my jacket covering the little bulge in my jeans, and I gave him a big shove. He shoved back and we wrestled and kick-boxed our way up the road towards the weekend.

That same night at the games room where we hung out, I had a good look at all the different breasts around me. Tried to decide on the shape, size and colour of nipples. I listened to the b’ys talkin’ about havin’ felt up this one and how some other one was all for it. I couldn’t fathom the notion that any of these girls, girls my own age, could possibly have concealed in their bras treasures as fine as the ones Glenda had shown me. Long before my curfew was up I considered takin’ off back to the Cove to see if she was home. Glenda. Twice my age. Probably just havin’ me on, havin’ a good lark at my expense. But I couldn’t get her out of my head. When I went home to my room that night I gave myself a good tendin’ to. All I saw was nipples.

Normally I’d spend Saturday afternoons over to Glenda’s place, smokin’ stogies and havin’ a laugh. I made my way, out of habit, down the path to her house. Halfway there I stopped. Couldn’t go in. I’d spent all morning thinkin’ about the past evening and I s’pose I was afraid she wouldn’t acknowledge what’d happened. I couldn’t risk it.

The next Wednesday I ran into her comin’ out of the shop. She had her two little fellas with her. She smiled and asked me where I’d been hidin’ out.

—I didn’t scare ya off, did I, Keith b’y?

That was it. The nod I wanted. I told her I’d been workin’ on a paper for school but was plannin’ to drop over the weekend. She told me to come on over the next evening. The b’ys would be off with their father. No problem.

When Andy called after school on Thursday evening I told him I had to go down the Shore to the dentist. He wouldn’t go in to Glenda’s without me. And I couldn’t have told him the truth. I didn’t want to have to explain it to him, convince him. Plus, I figured I was better off keeping my mouth shut. I didn’t know if anything was going to happen or not, and if it did, it wouldn’t exactly be the sort of thing to go around braggin’ about. She was twice my age after all.

I splashed on some of my father’s cologne, brushed my teeth, combed my hair, and took a good look at myself in the mirror. I wasn’t that bad lookin’. My complexion was pretty clear and I liked my hair. Some of the b’ys in my class had stubble on their faces but I didn’t. Never had to shave in my life and it was maybe less than a year ago that I’d first noticed hair growin’ down around my bird. I went to bed one night, same as always, and when I woke up the next day I’d gotten hairier. My legs too.

Around that time I had my first orgasm, not by accident either. I’d spent the whole day at school tryin’ to stay in my seat so’s not to draw attention to the poker in my pants. They were joggin’ pants too, so no matter how I adjusted myself, or tried to hook it up under the elastic of my drawers, it still stuck out. By the time I got home that evening I was in pain. I locked myself in the bathroom, ran the taps, and flipped through the lingerie section of the new Sears catalogue. Before long my head was swimmin’ with muddy images of bras and pantyhose. I didn’t know exactly what it was I was s’posed to be doin’, just that the more I pulled and squeezed at myself, the better it felt. The better it felt, the more I pulled and squeezed. Everything started to go black, the muscles in my legs jammin’ up on me. And then that thick, gunky relief. Fireflies danced all around me. I collapsed onto the floor, delighted and suddenly anxious. I tore the ruined page out of the catalogue, brought it downstairs and put it in the stove. Goodbye, my love.

It took ages to get to Glenda’s that evening. She lived not five minutes away but it felt like I’d walked for miles by the time I got there. Despite the dirty October wind, I was sweatin’ all over. But I strolled on in as usual, like I owned the place, and planked myself down at the table. Sparked up a smoke. She offered me a drink of rum, under the condition that I didn’t use any mix.

—Only b’ys uses mix. Sure you’re not a b’y anymore, Keith.

I took the drink and flattened it. She giggled soft and pulled the curtains closed. We had another drink, this time more civilized, and then she took the bottle out to the kitchen.

—We’ll save this for later. You’ll be no good to me sure.

No good? Now what did that mean? How will I be no good? She turned off the porch light. The clocks had gone back not long before and it was already comin’ on dark. She smiled at me when she passed back through the room and then creaked her way up over the stairs.

What do I do? What’s goin’ on here? Is she just gone to the bathroom? Is she gone for a nap? Does she want me to follow? How foolish am I at all, to think that she’d actually…

—Keith? You stayin’ down there by yourself? Come up, I wants ya.

I takes the stairs three at a time. I’d never been upstairs at Glenda’s before. It’s kind of dank and stale compared to the newly renovated, modernized downstairs. There’s a statue of the Virgin directly at the top of the stairs. A set of rosary beads hangin’ from a doorknob. A faded plastic holy water bowl mounted on the wall outside a room. It’s like some beyond-the-grave warning from Mrs. Mary-Angus, cleverly delivered through her dreary and blind, dismal-beige Catholic sense of fashion.

—I’m in here, Keith. Last door down.

I dips my hand into where the holy water should be, hopin’ maybe to cancel out what I’m about to do, but it’s full of cigarette butts. Glenda’s been usin’ it as an ashtray.

I turns down towards her voice. The door is closed. There’s a full-length mirror mounted onto it. I watches myself approach. My lad eager against the inside of my jeans, the new cowboy boots I begged for at the start of the school year, the tight scar on my forehead I got when I was five.

I pushes the door in and looks about. Full queen-size bed, old mahogany dresser scattered with dozens of drugstore
perfumes, hairdryer, body lotions, magazines, ashtray, alarm clock. There’s a giant mirror attached, doubling the size of the room, and I spots Glenda in it sneakin’ up behind me, a bouncy grin on her face. I don’t turn around, but holds her gaze in the mirror. She slips her arms around me from behind and starts rubbin’ my crotch through my jeans. I turns around to face her. She’s stark naked, her slinky body covered in goose bumps, her nipples just the way I remembered ‘em. I reaches down between her legs but she catches my hand and brings it up to the space between her tiny breasts.

—Did you lock up, Keith?

—What? No, I—

—Go down and lock all the doors. And stay clear of the windows.

I takes the stairs six at a time on the way down. One of Glenda’s b’ys is after leavin’ some sort of robot at the bottom. Something about the shape of its torso gets me thinkin’ about the old Atari I had when I was eight or nine. I remembers the day my father brought it home smellin’ of hard new plastic.
Pac-Man
came with it. I saw them little purple ghosts in my sleep that night and I couldn’t wait for the morning ’cause Andy had a spare
Space Invaders
cartridge he was gonna give me.

I locks the front door and then creeps round to the back one. When I glances out onto the road I spots Andy walkin’ along with Bobby O’Neill, hockey sticks in tow. I thought we hated Bobby? So, just like that, I goes down the Shore to the dentist and Andy buddies up with Bobby-fuckin’-O’Neill? I reminds myself to somehow confront Andy with this tomorrow in school.

I takes my time on the way back to Glenda’s room. Now
that I knows what to expect I feels a little calmer. It might also be a fine way to torment her. I even stops into the upstairs bathroom to wash my hands. A wink for the Blessed Virgin and I strolls on down the hall.

Glenda’s on the bed, the smell of her perfume fillin’ the room. I starts to take my shirt off but she tells me not to. She sits up and unbuttons my jeans, takin’ me into her hands, yankin’ on me. Feels like I’m gonna explode right on the spot. But she stops and lets go and I starts thinkin’ maybe she’s after changin’ her mind, or worse, that she really
is
just havin’ me on. But then she pulls me up on top of her and settles me in between her legs so that I’m jammed painfully against her pelvis. She pulls my head down towards her boobs and I goes back and forth between the two like some starved savage.

Her body is gorgeous. Bonier than I expected, but soft at the same time. Flesh. Female. She’s pushin’ up against me with her hips and I thinks I’m squattin’ her or something. Maybe she wants me off of her. So I starts to get off but she pulls me closer, pushin’ harder. I tries to kiss her then, but she turns away. So I slides my head down between her legs, not knowin’ really what I’ll do down there, but she hauls me up out of that too.

—What then, girl?

She takes my lad in both her hands and presses it off her cunt, wrigglin’ her hips up and down against it. I feels myself nudge into her, this warm new opening that I’ve found. She puts both her hands across my backside and tries to pull me into her, but I don’t go no further. It’s too dry. There’s no give. It hurts. Are you s’posed to lose your foreskin the first time? She curses under her breath and spits into the palm of her hand. A great big shockin’ gob of it. She rubs it all over the
head of my lad and pulls me towards her again. This time I slides all the way up inside of her and she lets out a sharp grunt. It sounds so foreign, so unnatural, that I’m sure I’ve done something wrong, that I’m doing it wrong. She slides her hands up to my lower back, somehow pullin’ me even closer. Her face turns funny and her jaw juts forward so that I can see the cigarette stains on the insides of her teeth. I can feel the bone of her pelvis grindin’ against me and I suddenly wants to get off of her, out of this room, out of this house. I nearly wishes I was over in the yard playin’ dinkies, buildin’ little roads in the gravel, worried about keepin’ my clothes clean.

BOOK: Down to the Dirt
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