Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Moving to Florida : Part I, chapter 4 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

It was two weeks after the prom—right after Lily’s graduation ceremony—when Lily and Leonard left Georgia. They spent the time between these two events preparing for their new lives, with Lily arranging to get money for their trip while Leonard made fake birth certificates and drivers licenses. He changed his name from Leonard Bay to Leonard Bodine; Lily Bay, in turn, became Lily Paisley.

All this time Jimmy kept showing up at their door, flowers in hand, asking to see Lily. He’d call her on the phone every couple of hours and each time she’d decline to take the call. He wanted to fuck her again.

Lily, of course, refused to do so. Refused to even see him except for a few minutes one Saturday night during which she returned to him his high school ring. He’d given it to her on the night of the prom, which was, to Leonard’s satisfaction, the first and last time Jimmy would ever fuck her.

On the night before they left a UFO was sighted over the woods near their house. Lily and he were right there at the time it was seen, but even if it had been hovering right above them, flashing its multicolored lights and letting loose some otherworldly whoops and sirens, Lily and he, each facing the ground as Leonard fucked her in the ass, wouldn’t have noticed a thing. And while they were driving out of town after her graduation, Lily and he joked that the UFO would be the explanation for their disappearance. That it had returned the following day, whereupon its occupants abducted them, spiriting them from Lily’s car as they were en route to a graduation party.

There had to be some explanation, no matter how strange it was, because they left Athens without a word to anyone. They’d decided that they had to leave it completely behind. Its faces, its buildings—and all the shadows they created—were to be banished from their memory. The only thing they would keep were their moments alone. Moments when there was no world, just the universe they’d invented.

So as they set out from Georgia they fabricated stories to go along with their new identities. Stories which, however fanciful they may have been, were at least more believable than the UFO scenario.

It came to be that he, Leonard Bodine, was born twenty-one years ago in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He was the only son of Donald Bodine, a rancher, and his wife Carmen, who once represented that great western state in the Miss America Pageant, and who would have won if not for a horrible mishap during the talent competition in which she accidently gouged her eye out with a baton. Lily Paisley, Leonard’s bride to be, also twenty-one years of age, came from Galveston, Texas. Her father, Arnold Paisley, was a baptist minister; and while there wasn’t anything noteworthy about her mother Anne, aside from her great beauty, it was worth noting that Anne’s brother was Jimmy Webb, composer of the songs “Up Up And Away,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” and of course, “McArthur Park”—a song which was inspired, in fact, by the brief infatuation he had with his young niece. It was in college where Lily Paisley and Leonard Bodine met, at the University of Miami, where they took classes for a year before dropping out. After leaving college they moved to the Gulf side of the state, to the town of Fort Myers. Which was where Lily and Leonard actually found themselves five weeks after leaving Athens.

That they settled in Florida was simply a matter of circumstance. They had been driving all over the country—it was their honeymoon—just going wherever their impulses led them. They first went to Reno, where they got married, then on to San Francisco and Los Angeles. After that they drove east to the Grand Canyon where they decided they should visit both Rock Springs and Galveston, as these were supposed to be their home towns. Because the places they wanted to see were often in opposite directions, they ended up driving back and forth across the country several times. And although they could have drawn up a set itinerary, they enjoyed moving about in this aimless manner. To be able to decide ten minutes before arriving in Denver that they also wanted to see New York City was preferable to having fixed travel plans which, although that would have saved them money, would also have diminished the sense of freedom they felt after leaving Athens.

By the end of their fifth week on the road they were on the Gulf Coast of Florida and their money was running out. They’d been to New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle. They’d seen Niagara Falls, Plymouth Rock, the Bonneville Salt Flats. They’d played slot machines in Nevada, gone on roller coaster rides in Texas, camped out in the Arizona desert. Leonard had finger fucked Lily in some thirty states, she’d sucked him off in four different time zones, and together they had peed on the beach on two different coasts. But now, after all that wandering, all that driving—all the fast food dinners and mornings waking up under the sky—it was time to settle down.

They sold Lily’s car, and with the money put down a deposit and paid the first month’s rent on a small apartment on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers. Now they needed jobs, something that would give them enough money for rent, food, and an occasional night out. They didn’t need much. They were, as they say, young and in love.

Within a week Lily found a job at a flower shop down the street from their apartment. The owner of the shop, an old widower in his sixties, on hearing the name Lily, decided it was fate. To have a woman named Lily working in his flower shop was only appropriate, he thought—though of course Lily’s beautiful face and body weighed heavily in his quick decision to hire her. Lily and Leonard were sure that when her boss went home that night he went to sleep and had wet dreams in which he saw himself misting the smelly flower between her legs. Dreams from which he awoke, out of breath, as from a seizure, when all it was was a nocturnal retreat into childhood. A longing for his better days.

With Lily settled in her job, Leonard went out looking for work of his own. Because he was young—too young to be out of school and working—he grew a beard.

But it was more a bird’s nest than a beard. Scraggly and ill shaped, it made his eyes look smaller, his nose seem wider, and his mouth became a crack in a buzzard’s egg. Although it added years to his face, when he looked in the mirror he saw the face of a criminal. An arsonist, a thief, even a murderer—all were possible in his tiny eyes, while his nose signified his crude origins. And as for his mouth, it was one which would never speak the truth.

It took some time, but after fashioning his beard into a tidy goatee he found that he looked older but honorable. Setting out one morning with his new face, he had a job at a liquor store by noon of that day. One of the benefits of being an employee at the store—in fact the only benefit—was that he got a discount, and although he didn’t drink, Lily did. So he got into the habit of bringing home a bottle of wine every few days.

Lily would have a glass or two with dinner, which she always prepared since Leonard had no skill as a cook. Then once a week he’d take her out to eat, usually at the noisiest place he could find. They’d sit in the restaurant and play with each other under the table while waiting for their meals to be served. After dinner they’d go to the movies where, if the film got boring, they’d make out like teenagers who didn’t have a place of their own.

For their first few months in the apartment they didn’t have a television. All they had was Lily’s portable radio and tape player, which she had remembered, at the last minute before leaving Athens, to bring with them in the car. She didn’t, however, remember to bring any of her tapes, so all they had to play on it was the tape that was inside when she took it. But that tape, Tommy James & The Shondells’ Greatest Hits, was one they especially liked, in particular the song “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

Sometimes they’d take the tape player with them and walk a mile or so to the river. They’d found a secluded spot on the river bank where they’d make love while listening to Tommy James sing,

And so we’re running just as fast as we can
Holding on to one another’s hand
Trying to get away into the night
And you put your arms around me
As we tumble to the ground
And then you say, “I think we’re alone now...”

Sometimes when it was raining they’d leave the tape player behind. Still, they’d pretend to hear the music while they danced naked and slow, their fingers in each other’s ass as they peed in the shallow water. And when there was a thunderstorm they’d lay down low at the water’s edge. Leonard would suck on Lily’s nipples, wrapping her hair, which looked dark and mysterious in the rain, around the back of his head. Then he’d move in and out of her, slowly at first, then picking up speed as the storm grew stronger. They’d fuck like wild animals, their screams blending in with the sound of thunder, their bodies flashing with each burst of light. When they were done they’d lie back, exhausted, letting the rain, falling steadily on their bare skin, invigorate their bodies until they were ready to fuck again.

When they had enough money, and had bought a small black and white television, they were disappointed to find that The Beverly Hillbillies was only on during the day when they were at work. But then, in the evening, they discovered The Brady Bunch, and came to like this show even more than The Beverly Hillbillies.

Because on this show there were three boys and three girls whom they could pretend were not just step brothers and sisters but actual blood relations. They imagined elaborate brother and sister orgies with Jan Brady sucking off Greg, taking Peter’s dick in her pussy and Bobby’s dick in her ass, while Marsha and Cindy did lesbian golden showers on each other. They saw Greg peeing on Marsha while Peter jerked off on her tits as she sucked off Bobby, with Cindy and Jan in another corner of the room sticking black rubber dildoes in each other’s pussy. They saw Marsha and Jan eating fried eggs off of Bobby’s ass as Bobby ate out Cindy who was jerking off Greg, while Peter finger fucked both Marsha and Jan who were now rubbing egg yolks over their tits as they each yelled, “Now do me like a six-pack you fucking fuck.”

The combinations were almost infinite, and the night The Brady Bunch was on was a night when they always stayed home.

Overall, Lily and Leonard had a perfect married life, and the only thing that could have made it better was if they didn’t have to work and be separated during the day. Because even though they had no friends in Fort Myers—and associated with no one except when they were at work—they couldn’t get enough of each other. They were happy that they’d run away and gotten married, with Lily skipping college and Leonard dropping out of high school. Because in doing so they’d gotten a head start on life.

So while many of the girls in Lily’s class were now in college, taking courses and going out on dates with frat boys, she was with Leonard, her husband. And while Leonard’s classmates were doing lab experiments in school, going out on dates and trying to score for the very first time, or just hanging out at the pinball arcade, he was working, living with his beautiful wife, and making love every night.

It was fine with him that he was missing out on those teenage years, that so-called age of “exploration and discovery.” Because ever since he was ten he knew that he didn’t want to subject himself to the horrible process of adolescence. Like a boy who had grown much older than his years, and who knew much more than he should, he wanted to pass it by—but of course the possibility of that happening seemed to be nil. And like a boy who was moving along more slowly than everyone else, he thought that skipping his awkward years was a fantasy he could never fulfill. Yet with Lily and the town of Fort Myers, in the phallicly shaped state of Florida, he had.
Note: Alternate chapter title: Drink the Muddy Water in the Vaseline Stain.

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