Become a Fan
By Patrick A Lennon
Monday, September 04, 2006
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Two teenagers grow up in a hurry when they meet a bear.
©2005 Patrick Lennon
At Metropolitan Zoo, bear cubs scampered through the outdoor pit and tumbled like furry basketballs next to their mother. As David watched them, his memory flashed back to 1954.
He and Jack bagged groceries and stocked shelves at the A&P on East Maple Street after school and on Saturdays. In spite of obvious differences, they became friends.
Jack was a senior in high school; David was a sophomore. Jack combed his hair in a ducktail and his Levi's hung low on his hips with a comb protruding from the rear pocket. David's hair was cropped and shingled. His father cut it on the back porch with hand clippers, which plucked more hair than it clipped. David wore baggy gray flannel trousers that never held a crease. Through the rolled-up sleeves of Jack’s Tee shirt, you could see the red bull's eye of Lucky Strike cigarettes. His oxblood penny loafers sported shiny copper pennies, while David wore sensible sturdy shoes. Jack hid his blue eyes behind smoky Ray Ban’s and was Centerville's answer to Errol Flynn, as he zipped around town in his red 1940 Ford convertible loaded with teenage girls. On Sunday, David and his family attended church where a hawk nosed preacher with a splotchy complexion warned teenagers of eternal damnation if they engaged in pre-martial sex and didn't read the Bible every day.
David expected to tend the fires of hell, because of his powerful and passionate interest in girls and the December 1953 Issue of Playboy, featuring Marilyn Monroe, under his mattress. Not yet sixteen, he was saving money to buy a car. He wanted one like Jack’s but a lustrous yellow.
At the A&P, Jack flirted with high school girls who helped their mothers with the weekly marketing. As he bagged groceries, his devilish grin and dancing blue eyes telegraphed temptation and a good time, the mothers' eyes signaled danger to their daughters. David studied Jack's every move.
One evening after work, Jack offered David a ride home. They stopped at the Burger Palace, met some girls that Jack knew, and talked with them for nearly two hours. The girls seemed surprised that Jack and David were friends.
"Where have you been?" David’s mother asked, as he came in the door.
"The Burger Palace."
“Who were you with?”
"Jack? Is he the boy that has the red convertible?"
"Did you meet any girls?"
"Friends of Jack." David answered.
"When your father gets home, I’m going to tell him about you running around with Jack. I don’t approve of him and neither will your father."
Later that evening as the family listened to the radio in the living room, his father quizzed David. "Where did you and Jack go after work?"
"The Burger Palace."
"In his car?"
"Did any girls go riding with you in the car?"
David's father paused, glanced at his wife and continued. "I don’t want you to run around with him. He’s a bad influence."
“I've seen Jack at the A&P,” his mother added, “he's too old for you."
"I agree.” David’s older sister said wistfully, “he is very mature.”
David continued hanging out with Jack and didn't tell his parents.
A week later, dressed in Levi’s and wearing a pair of Ray-Ban's, David reported to work at the A&P. Virginia, a buxom checkout girl with stringy blond hair and an Alabama twang, smiled at him. "You really look cool in those sunglasses,” she said, cracking her chewing gum.
"Isn't your hair getting a little long?"
"Sort of,” David mumbled, as he explored the hint of a duck tail with his fingers.
"Pretty soon, you'll look just like Jack. He's really sharp."
Virginia was nineteen and married to Clyde, a much older rawboned cracker from North Georgia, who rolled his own cigarettes, wore a shabby Stetson, dirty Levi's, plaid flannel shirt and cowboy boots. He owned a wrestling bear and the bear smelled better than he did. On weekends, he trucked the bear to carnivals in Georgia and Alabama.
Bear wrestling lured hundreds of spectators who paid a dollar to watch young rednecks goaded by their friends wrestle the bear. Clyde offered a twenty-five dollar prize to anyone who could last five minutes in the ring with the bear. The de-clawed and muzzled bear was ferocious, and it rarely lost.
On a rainy Saturday night, Virginia asked Jack for a ride home after work. David noticed her wink, when she mentioned her husband was out of town. After work, Jack, David and Virginia rode to her small farmhouse on the edge of town. She suggested Jack park in the rear so nosy neighbors wouldn’t notice his car.
"Would you boys like a cup of coffee?" She asked.
David waited for Jack to reply.
"If it's no trouble.”
They dashed through pouring rain to the rear door and into the kitchen. Virginia rinsed stale coffee from a blue enameled coffee pot, filled it with water, spooned in coffee and put it on the stove.
"If you’ll excuse me, I'll change into some dry clothes."
The two boys sat at the kitchen table and smoked Lucky Strikes as they waited for her to return.
"David, if it looks like Virginia is hot to trot, I'd appreciate it if you made yourself scarce."
"You can count on it.”
Virginia strolled into the kitchen wearing a sheer peignoir and high-heels with cranberry colored feathery tops. She combed rain from her tangled hair. David detected an odor of lilac and noticed fresh lipstick and rouge.
She placed three mugs on the table and as she poured coffee, her peignoir slipped open revealing her naked body. "Oh gee, I hope I'm not getting you boys too excited."
David wanted to tell her that she excited him, but he had mysteriously lost his voice. Virginia replaced the coffee pot on the stove and sat next to Jack. She smiled and fingered a strand of hair that drooped over his right eye. He toyed with the pink satin ribbon on her peignoir.
Uncertain what might happen, David mumbled with a tremulous voice, "It’s stopped raining, I think I'll head home."
"See ya later, pal,” Jack said.
David left by the front door and as he walked across the yard, pondering Virginia's naked body, he spotted Clyde's truck parked in front of the shed next to the house. He was unloading the bear, and he gripped a chain shackled to the bear's collar. When he saw David, he yelled something that David did not understand, but it was definitely not friendly.
The bear saw David. Its eyes glowed like reddish-green coals in the harsh glare of the yellow yard light. It rose on its hind legs and snarled. It was a savage sight and David froze.
"Sic'em," Clyde commanded and the bear charged.
"Oh, God!" David muttered. He raced into the house and skidded to a stop in the kitchen, where Virginia sat on Jack's lap. She faced him, with her legs entwined around the rear of the ladder-back chair. He stopped fondling her breasts and glared at David, whose sudden appearance also annoyed Virginia.
Too embarrassed to be shocked, David dashed for the open front door and when he reached it, he screeched to a halt when he saw the bear lumbering up the porch steps. Clyde, holding the chain, followed the bear. David spun around and screamed, “The bear!” He raced back to the kitchen.
Clyde bellowed, "Sic'em!"
The bear roared.
Jack bolted out of the chair and dumped Virginia in a heap on the floor. He vaulted over her and sped out the rear door, which David slammed shut in the nick of time. They scrambled into the car and sped to town.
For a few minutes, neither said anything as they gasped for breath. Then Jack laughed, and David could not hold it back. They laughed all the way to the Burger Palace.
Monday afternoon, Virginia came to work with puffy red eyes and a purple bruise on her cheek. Jack and David walked over to her cash register. As she sorted coins and bills into the cash register’s compartments, she said, “Don't worry. Clyde doesn't know who was there. He’d probably kill you if he found out and I won't tell him."
"I’d appreciate that,” Jack said.
"Did Clyde beat you?" David asked.
"I ran into a door."
A week later, Virginia moved to her sister's house in Tuscaloosa. David vowed that he would never fool around with a married woman, especially if her husband was as big as Clyde and owned a bear. Besides, he had discovered Judy who just moved into the house next door.
Site: Paradise Lost
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