Disclaimers: See Part 1
A Special Note to Our Readers: Hoosier Daddy is a work in progress. You will likely notice a few inconsistencies here and there as you make your way through the online version of the story. We have made some tweaks and subtle adjustments to the plot, most specifically to timelines. For this, we ask your indulgence, and promise that in the final, published version of the book, everything will make sense. If not, we reserve the right to blame our editor.
Disclaimers: None. All of the characters are ours.
Violence/Sex: No violence, but some quirky sexual encounters and lots of big trucks. This story does involve a consensual, loving and romantic relationship between two adult women. It's not graphic, but if sexual encounters in bathrooms or behind lemon shake-up stands offend you, you may want to consider another story selection -- or at least one that isn't set in Indiana.
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Copyright: Ann McMan and Salem West, April 2013. All rights reserved. This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any format without the prior express permission of the authors.
The V.F.W. hall was like a flicker's nest when we got there. T-Bomb drove around the building a third time to be sure there wasn't a vacant parking space she'd somehow managed to overlook on her first two passes through the lot.
I was starting to feel a bit queasy. Being hunched up between two car seats in the back of her minivan wasn't helping. Neither was the fact that her air conditioner was only blowing stale, lukewarm air. Apparently, the motor on the passenger seat wasn't the only thing in her van that wasn't working right.
“Can you just, please, find someplace to park? I don't think I can ride around in circles anymore.”
She glared at me in the rearview mirror. “Don't you barf back there. I only just got that mess cleaned out of the carpet from Luke's chicken pox.”
Luke had chicken pox? Great.
“When was he sick?”
She waved a hand. “About two years ago.” She slammed on the brakes and threw the van into reverse. “This is ridiculous. I'm parkin' at the bowling alley.”
“What?” I was having a hard time hearing her over the Def Leppard tunes she had blasting.
She didn't answer, so I decided to ask her to just let me out so I could get some fresh air and try to regain my equilibrium. Before I could get the words out, T-Bomb had slammed on the brakes again and laid on the horn.
“Hey!” She rolled down her window and leaned out to holler at somebody. “You can't just stop in the middle of the dern road like that! Move on over to the side so the rest of us can get by. Oh…hey, Wynona. I didn't see it was you. Why're you drivin' the church bus? Is Carleen still off on that mission trip to El Salvador?”
I couldn't hear Wynona's response, but somewhere behind us, another car horn started blowing.
“Well, great day.” T-Bomb looked in the rearview mirror and gave whoever it was the finger. “Why is everybody in such a dang hurry?” She leaned out the window again. “I gotta get movin' so this person behind me can get on with his important business. I'll see you inside, Wynona.” She rolled up her window and hit the gas, careening around the church bus on two wheels. Gravel flew everyplace.
“Jeez, T-Bomb!” Since I didn't have a seat back to grab hold of, I latched onto the ‘oh shit' handle dangling above the sliding side door. “Are you trying to kill us?”
T-Bomb was now wheeling into the Gibson Lanes parking lot. She barely missed sideswiping a pea-green Electra 225 that was parked across three spaces.
“Look at how that doo wop parked.” She roared into a space and screeched to a stop. “Who in the heck does he think would want to hit that ole' piece of junk?”
I was slumped down in the back seat, holding my head in my hands, waiting for the world to stop spinning.
T-Bomb was already outside, hiking the strap of her massive bag up onto her shoulder and tapping on the window with her keys. “Ain't you comin'? I thought you was dyin' to get outta there.” The door of the van rolled back. About two-dozen stuffed animals tumbled out onto the pavement. One of them was a Tickle-Me-Elmo, and it started giggling and writhing around as soon as it made contact.
“Lord, god.” T-Bomb bent down and started scooping up the toys. “You look kinda puny. We better get you on inside.” She tossed Elmo back into the van, but he was still cackling and begging her to ‘do it again.' She rolled her eyes. “That damn thing drives me to bedlam. Donnie bought it for Laura because he thought it was funny . Funny, my derriere. Are you comin', or not?”
“I'm coming.” I twisted out of my niche between the car seats and stepped down onto the pavement. It felt better to be outside, even though it was still hot as hell. The bowling alley was hopping, too. It looked like half the teenagers in Princeton were out, enjoying their last few nights of freedom before school started. It was hard to believe that the summer was already winding down. Soon, the oppressive heat would give way to blistering cold, and the whole cycle would start all over again. It felt to me like the weather was part of the massive, general conspiracy that defined my life these days.
I reached inside the van and grabbed my backpack. “Let's get this over with.”
“Well, dang. Don't sound so excited.” T-Bomb closed the door and locked it.
“Sorry. I'm just not in a great mood.”
“I'd like to know what in the hell else is new? You ain't been in a good mood since them agitators showed up.”
We were walking across the parking lot toward the V.F.W. hall. The sun was hanging low in the sky, and it was like a bright, orange ball. Tomorrow was going to be another hot one. “It's not that,” I said.
“Well then, what in fire is it?”
I shrugged. “I just feel like my life is going no place.”
T-Bomb laughed. “Hell. Join the damn club. Whose life is going anyplace? Mine? Luanne's?” She waved a hand. “Anybody's in this damn hayseed town?” She paused. “That El DeBarge just has you all tied up in knots. I don't know why you won't quit stewin' and just do somethin' about it.”
“What do you mean?”
T-Bomb gave me the same look I'd seen her give her kids when they insisted they weren't the ones who dropped overcooked broccoli on the floor for the dog.
“You know exactly what I mean. You need to quit actin' like a chickenshit and take a chance.”
“Are you kidding me? Take a chance on someone who's probably going to be leaving here for good in a few days? Why? That'd be about as smart as hooking up with another Misty Ann.”
T-Bomb stopped walking and turned to face me. “It ain't the same thing at all.”
I held out both arms in frustration. “I don't know what you want from me? It's clear that I can't do anything right.”
“Well, you can quit actin' like a moron and get your head outta your butt. Who cares if it don't last forever? Nothin' in life worth havin' lasts forever. Ain't you the one who told me that? Ain't you the one who told me that it was better to have real love for a little while than never to have it at all?”
I sighed. “I was talking about that time you fostered the dog with the heart condition…not about getting involved with somebody who has no intention of staying around here.”
“Well that dog didn't have no intention of stayin' around here, neither. And he ended up livin' with us for nine years.” She shook her head. “You got no way of knowin' what might happen or how things might work out. I seen you with El DeBarge…I think she trips all your triggers in just the right ways. And she's not like all them other ones…she's smart. And nice. I don't think she'd do you wrong. Not on purpose, anyway.” She huffed. “Lord knows, you hooked up with some doozies in your time.”
“Hey. It's not like you always grabbed the brass ring. Remember Andy Clodfelter?”
“Oh, hell.” T-Bomb punched me on the arm. “ Randy Andy. Eighteen hands and no brain.”
“Well…at least none of his people ever ended up in jail.”
“That's true,” I agreed.
“Well, I wound up okay. Donnie Jennings was a big ole nerd, but he turned out to be a good catch.”
“Yeah. And who pushed you to take a chance on him when you wouldn't give him a second look?”
“Okay…so now it's my turn to give you the same advice.”
I really hated arguing with T-Bomb. It was like going twelve rounds with Rocky Marciano. I always ended up on the ropes.
“Can we change the subject?”
She started walking again. “Chickenshit.”
“Hey? I heard you, okay?”
She looked at me. “You did?”
“Good.” She smiled and pointed toward the side entrance to the V.F.W. hall. “Cause I see a fine-lookin' agitator standin' over there by that caterin' truck, talkin' to Grammy.”
“Oh, god.” My anxiety returned with a vengeance.
T-Bomb grabbed hold of my arm. “Come on. What don't kill you makes you stronger.”
I wasn't sure I agreed with her. But at least I had one consolation: the post's famed “Blue Vel-Vet Lounge” was sure to be open, and ready to meet all of my adult beverage needs.
“Here you go, honey.” Betty Greubel stacked an impressive tower of spicy chicken tenders on my plate. “You want some extra hot sauce with these?”
I shook my head. “Just some baked beans, please. And maybe some of that coleslaw?”
I wasn't really hungry, but I knew I needed to eat something. I decided to take a pass on the fish. I didn't really care for catfish, and I'd heard other people in line saying that the ocean perch wasn't as good as the walleye they served last year. Apparently, walleye was just getting too expensive.
Betty plopped a big, white dinner role atop of my mound of food. “You come back as many times as you want, honey. You look like a bit of home cookin' would do you some good.”
I looked down at my plate. It had enough food on it to feed a family of five. I gave Betty a small smile. “Thanks, Mrs. Greubel. This looks like plenty.”
I left the food line and noticed a couple of arms waving at me. T-Bomb, Grammy, and Luanne had commandeered some seats at a table near the stage at the back of the room. I walked over to join them.
“Why are we sitting way over here?” I asked.
Grammy gestured toward the long table on the stage that was loaded with placards advertising all the giveaway items. “Because this is where the raffle's gonna take place, and I wanna be close in case I win that spa day.”
“Spa day?” I blinked at her. “You want to go to a spa?” That didn't sound like something I ever thought she'd be interested in. I picked up one of my chicken tenders and took a bite. It tasted like it had been dipped in fire. Betty must've pulled this stack from the nuclear option bin.
“Not for me, ” Grammy said. “For Fritz.” She held up her wad of raffle tickets. “It's from Darleen's Pampered Pets out in Poseyville.” She read the description printed on the back of the ticket. “ Treat your best friend to the ultimate spa treatment. Your winning ticket entitles the pet of your choice to a deluxe wash, clip, nail trim, and anal gland treatment by one of our I.P.G. Certified professionals. Note: ferrets or other rodents are not eligible for this prize .”
“Anal gland?” T-Bomb asked. She looked at me. “Does Fritz still have a problem with that?”
“Lord, yes,” Grammy replied before I could answer. She fanned her face with the wad of tickets. “It's righteous.”
Luanne was shaking her head. “I never have known a Golden Retriever that didn't suffer with that affliction.” She reached for her glass of iced tea.
T-Bomb chuckled. “Hey? Friday? Remember that time you tried to do it?”
I looked at her. “Do what?”
She made two fists and pushed the tips of her thumbs together. “You know…pop his butt gland.”
“I think that's ‘express' his butt gland,” Luanne corrected, “not pop.”
“What- ever .” T-Bomb was cackling now. “Friday watched these videos on YouTube about how to do it, and then she cornered poor Fritz.”
“T-Bomb…” I held up a hand to try and shush her. “People are trying to eat.”
“You shoulda seen the look on that dog's face when she started messin' with his bung hole.”
“She just kept pinchin' at it and squeezin' at it, and nothin' happened—except poor Fritz was lookin' more and more embarrassed and like she was tryin' to kill him.”
Luanne was chuckling now. People at the next table kept turning around to stare at us.
“T-Bomb,” I hissed. “Shut up with this… people are trying to eat. ”
She ignored me and continued on with her story.
“Finally, she gave up and let go of him—and dern if ole Fritz didn't decide to let it fly.”
I was mortified. Even Grammy was laughing hard enough that she had to take her glasses off and dab at her eyes with a paper napkin.
But T-Bomb wasn't finished. “That mess just flew all over her. It shot outta his bum in a big ole stream and soaked her from stem to stern.” She looked at me. “I thought we were gonna have to douse you in tomato juice to get rid of that stench.”
Luanne was laughing so hard she had tears running down her face. I closed my eyes. There was no way this could get any worse.
“Is this seat taken?”
The low, sexy-sounding voice came from right beside my ear.
I was wrong. It could get worse…a lot worse. I opened my eyes and looked at El, wondering how much of T-Bomb's story she'd overheard.
“Please tell me you didn't hear any of that,” I pleaded.
“Of what? That sordid tale of animal torture?”
I sighed morosely. “Yeah. That would be the one.”
“Nope.” She gave me one of her cover girl smiles. “I didn't hear a thing.”
T-Bomb leaned across the table toward El. “Well…it all started when Friday decided to watch these YouTube videos about….”
I cut her off. “She was kidding , T-Bomb. She heard you the first time.” I gestured toward the rest of the hall. “I think everybody heard you.”
“Why don't you pull up a chair and join us, honey?” Grammy asked El. “Jill? Get quit sittin' there lookin' like you lost your last friend and get this girl a chair.”
I did as I was told, and made space for El between my seat and Luanne's. Luanne watched this interaction with interest. She had that look on her face that meant she had nothing to say, but was about to say it anyway.
I was right.
“There's one thing I can't figure out,” she said, waving a half-eaten dinner role at El.
“What's that?” El asked her.
“We seem to see you two agitators almost everyplace—but you don't never say anything to us about signin' on to your union crusade.” She shook her head. “How come? Ain't we the types you're tryin' so hard to convert?”
El thought about that. “Of course you are, Luanne. But…” she looked around the table at each one of us. It felt like her gaze lingered on me a moment longer than the others, but that could have just been wishful thinking. “I don't know…I don't have many opportunities to make friends or feel like I truly belong anyplace. I guess, for a change, I wanted a chance to see what that felt like.” Luanne didn't seem to have any response to that, so El continued. “Of course,” she smiled and touched Luanne on the shoulder, “if you'd really like to hear my spiel, I've got about a dozen pamphlets and my iPad out in the car.”
“No thanks, honey.” Luanne held up a meaty hand. “I think I'd rather be an unenlightened friend than one of them wild-eyed converts.”
El laughed out loud. “I think I'd rather keep you that way too.”
Luanne seemed satisfied with that response—which surprised me. She didn't normally take to strangers so easily.
El gestured toward Luanne's pile of raffle tickets.
“So what else are you all bidding on?” She waved a hand toward the stage. “Personally, I've got my eye on that set of yard gnomes.”
Luanne nodded. “They are pretty unusual. You don't much see the ones with guns.”
“That's what I thought,” El agreed. “They make quite a statement.”
“I never had much use for that tacky stuff,” Luanne said. “But I guess some folks take all them amendments to heart.”
“Well if you ask, me, that's carrying your right to bear arms a bit too far.” Grammy clucked her tongue in disapproval. “I don't want to live in a fortress.”
“They ain't packin' real weapons, Grammy,” T-Bomb explained.
“Does anybody have any extra napkins?” I asked. I'd already used mine up trying to wipe the residual hot sauce from the chicken tenders off my fingers.
“Well, I've got my cap set for that swimmin' pool.” Luanne shoved a stack of paper napkins toward me. “It'd be nice to sit and relax out beside that water on these god-awful hot nights.”
“Ain't that the truth?” T-Bomb agreed. “And this looks like a nice one, what with that redwood deck and Coral Sea vinyl liner.”
Luanne was nodding. “It's one of them Esther Williams pools.”
I picked up another tender. But this time, I held onto the edge of it with a napkin. El was giving me a curious look.
“They're hot,” I explained.
“Why don't you use your fork?” she asked.
“Because you don't eat them that way.”
“Oh, I didn't realize there was a chicken tender etiquette.”
I nodded. “It's one of our unwritten codes of conduct. Kind of like the two-fingered wave you give everyone while driving.” I demonstrated the wave. “Or our monthly tornado siren tests. Or the fact that we eat potatoes at every meal—no exceptions.”
El looked down at my plate. “I don't see any potatoes.”
“That's because I'm a renegade who flaunts convention.”
“Oh, is that the reason?” She smiled. “I wondered.”
“She's always been like that,” Grammy chimed in. “Our Jill has never taken the easy path.”
El seemed to consider that. “No, I don't expect she has.”
“Yeah,” T-Bomb nudged El. “Especially when it comes to Fritz's personal hygiene.”
I rolled my eyes. “Very funny. Don't you have to go check on Donnie and the twins?”
“Hell, no.” She held up her cell phone. “He just texted me to say they were still at the Otters game.” She looked at El. “It's ‘Run the Bases' night, and the kids are all out on the field going bonkers.”
“They'll be fast asleep two minutes after he gets ‘em in the car,” Luanne said.
“Yeah.” T-Bomb slapped her phone back down on the table and speared another hunk of fried catfish. “Then they'll be up half the night barfin' up hot dogs.” She glanced over toward the next table where Betty Greubel was refilling some condiment bowls. “Hey! Betty!” she hollered. She held up a nearly empty plastic bowl. “Can we get some more of that tartar sauce over here?”
Betty gave her the high sign and mouthed that she'd be right over.
Luanne was studying El again. “Where's that partner of yours?” she asked. “Don't you all usually work these events together?”
“You mean Tony?” El asked. Luanne nodded. El looked around the hall. “He's here. The last time I saw him, he was hanging around over by the bar, talking with a bunch of retired vets. He was in the Marines,” she explained. “They're probably swapping war stories.”
T-Bomb turned around on her seat and looked toward the bar. “You mean them old codgers back there holdin' up the wall?”
T-Bomb started cackling, and El gave her a confused look.
Luanne intervened. “Honey, they ain't swappin' war stories.”
El looked back and forth between the two of them. Then she glanced over at me.
“Do yourself a favor and don't ask,” I cautioned.
“Anybody seen Ermaline?” Luanne asked in a singsong voice.
“Hell,” T-Bomb was still laughing. “I think everybody's seen Ermaline.”
“ All of Ermaline,” Luanne added. “If there was a god, they'd all go blind.”
Grammy shushed them all. “There is a god, and he don't much like this kind of behavior.”
“Well, I don't imagine he much likes that kind of behavior, neither,” T-Bomb jerked a thumb toward the table where Ermaline sat, directly across from Tony and the group of vets.
“Ermaline can't help that,” Grammy whispered. “She has a medical condition.”
“A medical condition?” Luanne repeated. “No disrespect, Grammy—but refusin' to wear panties ain't due to no medical condition I ever heard of.”
“What?” El looked at Luanne in bewilderment.
“She don't wear no panties,” T-Bomb explained. “That's why them men are planted over there like bean poles, all fixated on her.”
El looked at me.
“I told you not to ask,” I reminded her.
El was shaking her head. “I've missed a lot living on the road.”
“Yeah,” I nudged her arm. “Lucky you.”
She smiled. It made me feel warm all over. “Lucky me,” She repeated.
Betty Greubel showed up at our table, carrying a gallon-sized vat of tartar sauce. She was squeezing her way along behind our chairs to reach the empty bowl, and stopped between El and Luanne.
“Hold that bowl up for me,” she said to Luanne. “It takes both of my hands to hold this dern thing—them Turpin girls always fill ‘em up way too full.”
Luanne started to reach for the bowl, but something caught her eye.
“There she goes!” she called out. “Show time!”
We were all startled. “What are you yammerin' about?” T-Bomb asked.
“Over there!” She threw out her arm to point toward Ermaline's table but, instead, succeeded in hitting Betty—knocking her completely off-balance. Betty stumbled and danced to the side. She was putting all of her effort and concentration into keeping the vat of tartar sauce upright, and her fancy footwork reminded me of one of those competition gymnastic routines. And I had a premonition that she wasn't going to be able to stick the landing. At the last second, I reached out and pushed El forward, clearing a path for Betty to crash into me, instead. She did, too—with a vengeance. What felt like two quarts of tartar sauce sloshed up and out of the tureen, and liberally soaked the back of my head and neck. I could feel cool globs of it running down the inside of my shirt. I didn't even bother trying to stand up. I wouldn't have been able to, anyway, with Betty sprawled across my back. The rest of the container of sauce was now congealing on the floor beneath our table like a lake of lumpy mayonnaise.
“Well, dang.” T-Bomb was never one to allow a conversational vacuum to linger. “Talk about your curb service.”
Luanne was trying not to laugh. “I guess you'll have to use ketchup on your fish, now.”
El was on her feet, and trying to help Betty stand up. “All you all right?”
“I'm fine,” she muttered. “I shoulda worn them crepe soled shoes—these fancy ones just are just too slick on these linoleum floors.”
Grammy was out of her chair, too. “Let me walk you back to the kitchen, Betty. I'll get a mop to clean up this mess.” She looked down at me. “You're a sight, Jill. You better get on to the restroom and try to wash that mess outta your hair.” She looked over at T-Bomb. “Do you have any other clothes in your car?”
T-Bomb nodded. “I got some of Donnie's work shirts in there. We had to have new name patches sewed on at the cleaner's.”
“I'm awful sorry, Betty,” Luanne apologized. “I was just tryin' to tell everybody that Ermaline was fixin' to uncross her legs.”
Betty huffed and reached down to pick up her empty container. “That girl just needs to have her ears pinched back. It ain't no call for nobody to act like such common trash. She was raised better'n that.” She looked at Grammy. “Ain't that true, Wilma?”
Grammy shook her head. “Judge not that ye be not judged,” she quoted.
“Well,” Luanne drawled. “I got nothin' to say about that, so I'll just say this.” She looked at me and jerked a thumb toward the bathrooms. “You better get movin' and get yourself cleaned up. There's a heap of people in here with plates full of dry catfish, and they're all lookin' at you like you're some kind of condiment Holy Grail.”
I sighed and stood up. “I'm on my way.”
“I'll go with you,” El said.
I looked at her. She shrugged.
“Yeah,” T-Bomb added. “Let El DeBarge help you out.” She chuckled. “You two have experience in bathrooms.”
I wiped a blob of tartar sauce off my neck and flicked it at her. Then El and I left the table and headed for the restrooms.
“Lean back some more.”
“I can't lean back any more—not without becoming a quadriplegic.”
“Quit being such a baby. I can't reach the back of your neck.”
“Maybe that's because I'm two feet taller than you.”
“Very funny. Squat down or something. All I'm doing is getting water all over your butt.”
“Yeah. I noticed.”
“Look, smartass. This would be a lot simpler if you'd just take your shirt off.”
“I am not taking my shirt off.”
“I don't see why not. You're going to have to take it off when T-Bomb brings you another one to wear.”
Taking my shirt off in front of her was non-negotiable.
“Just do the best you can, okay?”
More water sloshed across my shoulders and ran down into the waistband of my pants.
“Oh, this is ridiculous .” El's exasperation was starting to show. “If you won't take your shirt off, then at least prop your butt up here on the edge of the sink so I can reach better. It's not like it'll get any wetter than it is already.”
I thought about that. It did make sense...kind of.
“Okay.” I perched up on the edge of the sink.
“This has to be the smallest damn sink on the planet,” El complained. “What were they thinking?”
“It's a V.F.W. post, El. I think providing quality fixtures for the women's room was an afterthought.”
“Well, that certainly would explain this wallpaper.”
“Can you reach any better?”
I didn't really care, because this new position was working great for me. El was plastered up against me with one arm wrapped around my chest. She was scooping water up with her left hand and using it to rinse tartar sauce off my back.
“It's a little better,” she muttered. Her voice sounded like it was coming from someplace far away.
The water running down my back was ice cold, but I didn't mind at all. The proximity to her felt luxurious—worth every one of the stares and handclaps I got walking across the hall with her to get here.
There was a nearly full-length, vanity mirror mounted on the back of the bathroom door, and I watched our reflection in it with fascination. We made a curious tableau: Maggie O'Connell meets Dana Scully—with an abundance of wet t-shirts and tartar sauce as props. Even though I had starring role in this absurd drama, I had to admit that it was pretty hot. I could've sat there and stared at us all night. I guess that's what philosophers meant when they talked about “willing suspension of disbelief.”
“Do you want me to do your hair?” El asked.
My hair? I wanted her to do any part of me she could reach. My face, arms, legs, back, front, top, bottom—any of me. All of me.
“Was that a yes?” she asked. She straightened up and stood in front of me. That meant I couldn't see us in the mirror anymore, but it only took a moment for me to realize that I didn't really care. El at close range was a lot more mesmerizing than any fantasy reflection. She smelled like sweet, wild huckleberries—a sensory anomaly in the heart of a fish fry.
I was having a hard time finding my voice, so I just nodded again.
She bent closer. “I didn't quite hear you.”
El's eyes glowed in the cool blue and white light. Everything about her seemed vivid and alive. When I raised my hands to touch her, they were shining, too. We were like fireflies in a jar, moving toward each other in a small swath of moonlight.
El's hands were moving through my matted hair. I pulled her closer and wound my legs around her waist. I wasn't worried that she'd try to escape; I just wanted to feel every part of her. The sound of running water became one with the roar of blood surging inside me. Everything around me and within me was dissolving. I felt fluid. Formless. I needed to touch her. I needed to melt into her. I needed to know her as I now began to know myself. When at last I touched her as a lover, I knew that, finally, I had found my way out of the land of lost content.
El seemed to know it, too. She was both limp and solid in my arms. Her head was tipped back and her beautiful face was hot and radiant with light.
Then her eyes flew open like the shutter on a camera lens. Her head snapped up. Her mouth was open but no sound came out. She had a panicked expression on her face.
“What is it?” I panted.
She was pushing at my shoulders. “Hot,” she gasped.
I tried to pull her closer again. “I know…” I said. “I feel it, too.”
“No!” El tried to move out of my grasp. “Your fingers—they're hot! ”
Oh my god…the spicy chicken tenders.
“Jesus!” I yanked my hand away. “Oh, god…I'm so sorry.”
In my frenzy to free her, my watchband got caught on the zipper of her pants. I kept yanking on it until it broke loose. I could hear the clatter of tiny links and pins scuttling across the floor. El was still gasping and breathing heavily—trying to recover from the duet of raging infernos. She dropped her head back to my shoulder. Then she started to laugh. Soon, I could feel her body shaking against mine. She was laughing so hard that it took a minute for us to hear the groaning sound beneath us. Then the sink lurched lower.
El and I looked at each other.
“Uh oh…” I began.
I didn't get any further because in the next instant, the sink ripped completely out of the wall, and El and I tumbled with it to the floor. We were dumped into a writhing heap of tangled arms and legs— slipping around as we tried to get unhitched and scramble to our feet. A geyser of cold water jetted out from the broken sink pipe, soaking everything in the room.
“What the hell?” El was trying to fasten her pants. It wasn't happening. Apparently, my watchband wasn't the only casualty of my hasty retreat.
I was on my knees now. “Oh, my god…we broke the sink!”
“You think?” El gave up on her zipper and gestured wildly toward the fountain gushing behind us. “Turn off the damn water!”
I gave her a blank look.
She stared back at me in abject disbelief.
“ Really? ”
She pushed past me and crawled through the ponding water until she reached the tiny cutoff valve located near the floorboard.
“I thought you grew up in the country?” She said, as she twisted the valve shut.
The stream of water lessened to a trickle. El sat back on her haunches and looked back at me. We were both soaked to the bone. The tiny restroom was in shambles. The persistent drip drip drip from the broken water pipe resounded like hammer blows on a coffin nail.
I sighed. “We're toast.”
El gave me a crooked smile. “You look great with wet hair,” she said.
I blushed—which seemed ridiculous considering the event that had precipitated our dilemma. I opened my mouth to render the same compliment back to her when there was a loud pounding on the bathroom door.
“Could you hurry the hell up and let somebody else have a chance?” a voice boomed. “I have to tap off.”
It was Luanne. Of course.
I gave El a miserable look. “Any ideas?”
She looked around the room. “This bathroom has an appalling lack of transom windows.”
“I know. Next time, we'll have to plan more carefully.”
We smiled at each other. I got to my feet and extended a hand to her. “Come on, we might as well face the music.”
El stood up and tried to pull her shirt down to cover the gaping front of her pants. Then she got an idea. “Hang on a minute,” she said.
She sloshed over to where the broken sink lay. She picked it up and tested its heft. “Perfect,” she said, settling it against her waist. “Let's go.”
I took a deep breath and walked over to unlock and open the door.
Luanne and T-Bomb stood together on the other side. They looked like a pair of those raffle gnomes—without the grenade launchers. I noticed that T-Bomb was holding a folded, blue work shirt.
Luanne was looking us both up and down. “What in the hell happened to the two of you? You look like something the cat drug in.”
“Why's there water all over the place?” T-Bomb chimed in.
I held up a hand. “Trust me…you don't want to know.”
El pushed past me, carrying the sink. “Excuse us ladies, we had a minor restroom malfunction.”
She walked off with squishing shoes. A rivulet of water trailed along behind her.
“What she said,” I added.
I pushed my plastered hair back from my forehead and moved on past them.
“Malfunction?” Luanne called after me. “This looks more like the damn Poseidon Adventure! ”
I could hear T-Bomb laughing. “I told you them two had experience in bathrooms….”
Their voices faded into the background. So did all the other sights and sounds inside the hall. I didn't notice the stares or comments we surely got as we made our way out. I just kept my eyes focused on El's straight back, and followed her out into the balmy summer night.
To Be Continued…
Return to the Academy