Chapter 7: Timothy 2:12
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
“The yawning caverns are many,” Dr. Elaine Colton stressed as she tried to weed out the potential for overused, cliché comparisons. “This is a semester-long course with a part two next semester. We will have some group activities, smaller individual writings, and of course, each of you will be writing a novel for your year-long project. Hopefully, you have narrowed down your ideas and have begun to outline how you will carry them through. What will motivate your characters? How will what happens move the story forward?”
Mike’s creative writing course met Tuesday nights for four hours, six-to ten. It made for a long night, and as he walked toward the bridge, thoughts of Donna kept pace until they sped up, passed him by, and turned into longing. Did she miss him as much as he missed her? Breakfast dates and morning walks to classes, her arm looped around his, hands held, doorway kisses where he could breathe of her, all conspired. The weekdays populated the calendar of the responsible, and she was a serious student. Monday night was some cafeteria dinner together and a good night kiss. The nursing program was challenging, and he didn’t want to be a distraction for her.
“Guess who?” Donna said as she snuck up behind him and again placed her strong hands over his eyes. This required her to stand on her tippy toes and press her body against his.
“Hey, I’ve been thinking about you,” he shared as he turned around, and this time, the script had been re-written, and the kiss was welcomed, long and very intimate.
“Good thoughts, I hope?” Donna rubbed her lips together and looked up into his eyes. “I wanted to meet you outside your classroom, but I got tied up. Can we go to the rathskeller and get a drink?” Donna grabbed Mike’s hand and held it firmly in place with her arm. She rested her head on his shoulder. “Did you miss me?” she asked.
“Damn right, I missed you, but I get that you’re busy.”
Donna took a long sip of draft beer, her mouth emerging with a mustache of foam which she vacuumed with her lower lip. She laughed, “I guess that looked ridiculous. I’m so tired, but I didn’t want to not say goodnight to you. Mary left this morning. She’s got a cousin in town over night, so she went back home for the evening.” A thought formed into the shape of a smile, and Donna’s hand traversed his inner thigh.
“Can you come to my room and spend the night? I’m too tired for anything else, but I don’t want to be alone. Plus, I’ll give you a special good night kiss!”
The candle flame bowed in deference with each item of clothing she shed. Her breasts gently moved with each stroke of the hairbrush, settling in a perfect symmetry as the light knock on the door awaited her. A partial opening allowed for the soft skin of her left shoulder, the jutting of a bare hip, and the curve of a smile.
He wondered how many other men in the universe, at precisely that time, had beautiful naked girls opening doors to them. As he turned the corner into the room, Mike looked at the nightstand and noticed the candle burning atop a little pewter holder that looked like a pedestal. “What’s up with the candle?”
Donna smiled a smile that didn’t seem for him, but looked at him with eyes that made up the difference. “I only burn it for special occasions,” she revealed. “This was lit for my grandmother’s funeral service last year, right about this time.”
“So is this a special occasion?”
The candlelight attached a sheen to Donna’s skin and projected her silhouette against the wall. She chose to not answer, instead pulling him into the picture, allowing her nakedness to seep through his clothing and speed up his heart. Her fingers gently unfastened his belt, and he stood before her mesmerized as she undressed him. Her nails trailed down the sides of his body, and her hands clenched his bottom as she went to her knees. He chanced a glance at the shadow they cast, wondering who they were, and he thought about fleeting moments before she took away his thoughts. Her hair felt soft, filtering through his fingertips with the rhythmic movement of her head.
“Donna,” Mike mused as they lied in bed a few minutes later, “do you believe that these are the best times of our lives?”
“Well, I believe that this has to be one of your better weeks,” she laughed softly. She added an even softer sigh, placed her head on his chest, and hugged him.
“No, I’m serious.Where do you think we will end up?”
“Shut up and go to sleep.” She hugged him powerfully.
The candle flame flickered to their breathing, hot wax trickling down its stem, landing at the base, cooling off, and becoming hard again. He leaned his face toward the night stand and blew it out, releasing its smoky fragrance. She was quickly asleep with her arm around his chest and her left leg over his lower body. He laid back his head and enjoyed her warmth and the gentle surf-like sounds that accompanied her breaths. After a few moments, there was no trace of the candle’s fragrance, and he recognized the emerging scent of Donna. He breathed of her as it grew stronger, its bouquet defying adjectival description like some newly-discovered color being commissioned to help paint the portrait of her in his life.
She awakened a little before 9:00 A.M. and listened to his breathing as she hugged him, pressed her lips against his back, and rubbed his feet with hers. She modified her spoon position by rotating her torso slightly forward, and from this vantage point, continued hugging him with her left arm, but with her right hand, she reached between her legs to touch herself.
He counted her warm breaths against his back and felt them growing closer together. After several minutes, she reached over his hip, and he felt the knowledge of her hand, its warm precision a mixture of tentativeness and firmness that seemed to measure his response. Through the hazy stillness of a wordless morning, he turned around to kiss her and held her closely to him, feeling the sustenance of her body’s warmth and firm breasts. A tiny gust of breath bent over her lips, and a smile broke under her closed eyes as she stripped off their covers with her feet and turned on her back, the fingers of her right hand making ringlets in his morning hair. An apologetic ray of sunlight had seeped through an opening in the curtains and settled on her body. As he reached for her, he saw the shadow of his hand form over a breast, its touch met by a finite movement of her skin, a dimpling, a puckering, a fascination. Little wets spots formed and glowed as his mouth trailed downward, kissing her, tasting her and watching her breasts rise and fall, but she pulled him back up after too few moments, wrapped her legs around his back, grasped him, and positioned him. “I need to feel you inside me,” her whisper just soft music for the morning.
He pushed forward lightly and felt himself slip inside her world, holding his breath and straining against the immediate pleasure that enveloped him and threatened to put him over the top.
She pulled him closer, kissing him. They stayed joined that way, kissing and hugging until like a bather braving the water, he grew accustomed and began a slow, rhythmic movement. She tuned into the wet sounds her body made as it was penetrated. She timed her breathing to match them and moved her hips to better direct the pace, the overwhelming need to feel open then filled governing her, the familiar sensations at the base of her spine suggesting. Her fingers became entwined in his wild hair, and she raised her hips to feel him more forcefully, but the sudden weight of his body fell upon her and paralyzed her, the synchrony and rhythm were gone, and she felt him quivering, heard him groan, and held him to her, kissing his cheek, stroking his hair as he filled her with the force and volume of his youth. They held each other for several minutes afterward, breaths growing longer, heartbeats slowing, the delicate scent of their lovemaking hovering like a mist.
Donna lay quietly with a slight upward turn of her mouth and watched as Mike dressed himself, knelt by her bedside, kissed her cheek and her forehead before quietly leaving and shutting the door. She rose from the bed and opened the drawer to her nightstand, sifting through items until she found it, her hand, small and delicate against its girth.
“Girl’s best friend,” she whispered softly as she lay back down. Closing her eyes and sighing lightly, she touched it to herself. In moments, she felt the crimson forming, slowly sprouting from her chest and grasping at her neck. Warmth channeled through her body, her muscles tightened, her beautiful lips parted slightly, and breaths came rapidly. Donna’s head lurched back and pressed into the pillow as the crimson completed its journey and flushed her sweet angelic face.
“Nothing but net!” James Waters proclaimed as he released his jump shot from the corner. Mike zipped him a chest pass as James took his next position around the horn, and he released a high arching shot with high-velocity backspin that fell through the net again. He repeated this success several more times, culminating with a jumper from the opposite corner. “It’s gonna’ rain!” he yelled. “It’s gonna’ rain!”
“Water, looks like you’re ready for prime time, and practice doesn’t start for another couple of weeks,” John complimented him.
“Yeah, Man,” Mike chimed in, “I could feed you all day and watch that shit all day. That was fucking pretty, Water J!” Mike walked up to James, slapped hands with him, and with James’s hair in braided rows and being in sneakers, they were the same height.
“Thanks, Bro, but it won’t be the same without Eggs this year.” James looked at John, looked at his foot, and shook his head. “Man, that ankle got that fucked up?”
“Yeah, Water, I can do open gym and shoot around with you guys, maybe play intramurals, but they won’t clear me medically. I’m done. The good thing is because I got fucked up in a game here, they are covering my last two years. Your ass is going to have to play for mine.”
“Speaking of ass, Mike, my man!” James turned his attention. “Bro’, you got some game, but you ain’t got no ass. There ain’t no way you can box out anyone when you ain’t got no ass!” he continued riding Mike.
“Yeah, you’re funny as shit, Water,” Mike answered. “I guess that’s why my ass will be in the stands watching your ass ride the bench.”
“Shit, nigga, sheeeeit. It’s junior year and that three hole is mine! Speaking of your ass, Ros, have you been losing a little weight? That cute little Donna chick’s got you wrapped around her little finger, Bro! You look a little tired. Let me know if you need any help, and I’ll free mine up from the holster.” James grabbed and kneaded his crotch area. “All Nine’s Club, Baby!”
“Yeah, you’re another Long Dong Silver, Water J. Maybe that salami you got between your legs is why you jump like a white boy!”
“Whoa,” John laughed, and then got distracted.
An older-looking male, about six-feet tall with tattooed arms and a bodybuilder’s physique inserted himself into the conversation. He had his hair in a ponytail and a basketball under his arm. “Hey, you guys going to talk shit or play?”
“Hey, Man, don’t you live up on six with us?” John asked.
Little John McCann laughed, showing off two gold teeth in the front and some deep crow’s feet under his eyes. “Yeah, Man, I’m just shittin’ y’all; name’s Little John.” He slapped hands with the trio.
“Hey, Roomie’,” James invited, “why don’t you shoot around with us?”
For the next 30-minutes, the group took turns shooting and complimenting one another on their games.
John took notice of Little John’s jump shot. “Hey, Little John, where did you learn to shoot like that?”
“Did some hard time. Played some pick-up in the yard. You either shoot like this,” and he swished a 20-footer, “or you crash the boards. The guards are the refs, so they don’t blow the whistle too often. That’s how I got these pretty teeth; they got a good dental plan in the joint.” He flashed a sinister golden smile. “I worked on my J, so I can eat something besides Jello.” There was prison yard gravel in the texture of his laugh.
John and Mike left Little John and James to continue their pursuit of open-gym fame and decided to go to the weight room to see Kurt. When they arrived, he was in between bench press sets on the Universal machine.
“Noooohs,” John neighed out his greeting, “how are those pecs coming along?”
“Fine, but they’ll never be as good as hers.” Kurt nodded toward the back portion of the room where Carol supported an Olympic bar across her upper back and was squatting.
“Fuck me,” John said with surprise. “She’s got to have close to 200 pounds on that bar, and look at how deep she’s taking it!”
Carol wore black spandex shorts that outlined her taut beauty at every angle and highlighted the length and strength of her legs. She wore muscle in a way that made her even more feminine as it spoke to realized potential and power transcending the soft and the warm. She thought nothing of grunting as she pushed her body, and the gray tank top could not hide the sweat that matted it to her chest and stomach. The sweat became even more visible on her forehead and her face as they approached her.
“Hey, Frazier,” John started. “Let me know if I ever piss you off, and I’ll apologize right away for sure.”
“How much weight is on that bar?” Kurt asked. “I don’t think I could do that much.”
Carol took stock of her admirers and weighed the innuendo that exceeded anything she ever could load onto a bar, but patience was not part of her workout regimen that morning, and she had an immediate retort.
Looking at John, she started. “I found out why they call you Eggs, Carver. Word gets around. I’ve been doing a lot of forearm work recently, you know, to improve my grip strength. Maybe you could let me test it on your balls. I promise I’ll stop once you start crying.” She looked him straight in the eye and received no answer as John looked at his shoelaces, and then she turned her attention to Kurt.
“To answer your question, Kurt, I have two forty-five pound plates on each end of a forty-five pound Olympic bar. I know you’re not a math major, so let me help you. It adds up to 225 pounds. Girls’ legs are every bit as strong as guys’, so you still get to keep your man card, and squatting keeps my ass tight.” She slid a hand along her bottom for emphasis. ’I know you know that because word has been that you’re an ass man. Keep dreaming.”
In all this, Mike was speechless. He was transfixed by the sweat that had formed around Carol’s breast area and trickled down to her midsection. He caught a brief glimpse of a flattened stomach with defined musculature that sneaked out of the bottom portion of the tank top. Her bra strap was visible from every angle, and he admired her unabashed presence in a male-dominated domain.
“Hello, Mike. I’m up here,” Carol started on him. “Really! Do you even know the color of your girlfriend’s eyes? It would be nice for you to look me in the eye when we talk. Love my boys from floor six. You got anything?”
Over-matched, he opted for something generic. “It looks like you’re working up a good sweat, for sure.”
Carol breathed deeply and exhaled. “Mike, I like you. Let me give you something to chew on as it relates to your comment. Yeah, I’m sweaty. Yeah, I’m not wearing any makeup, and it’s possible that I don’t smell like you’d want me to, all perfumed and girly. Right now, I may even stink a little bit. I’m sorry, but have you ever thought that women sweat as they bring little boys into this world? Without that sweat, you wouldn’t exist. Oh, and by the way, my breasts that you keep staring at every time we talk, feed the boys so that they can grow up into men. We’re the first to wipe your asses, clean up your piss, and powder your teeny dicks. You got anything to say, Mike?”
On their walk back to the dorm, John broke a prolonged silence between them. “Boy, I guess she showed us who’s boss!”
Mike also had been recounting their group undressing but decided to steer the conversation elsewhere. “Man, I’m going to love Wednesday’s this semester. It’s my day off from everything. I can clear my head and just drain jumpers and relax.”
“That Little John dude seemed pretty cool.” John followed the cue. “He can play a little, too.”
“Yeah, do you think he might be a guest on the show Sunday night?’
“Word, I was thinking the same thing. Number one, it would be a way to welcome him to six and spice up the program a little bit.” His eyes looked upward.
“Yeah, but the guy’s a little creepy, though. I still want to see what the fuck kind of living arrangement they’ve got over there and who the fuck this Toots chick is,” Mike shared. “Hey, you never told me about your date with Mary.”
John exhaled and started, “Mary’s the kind of chick you marry. She’s a good Catholic girl. Donna could have stayed in the room because I got a good night kiss on the cheek, but I got another two dates, so there’s hope.”
“Where you guys going?”
“Well, the second date already happened. We went to church, probably right around the time that Donna was making you see God!” he laughed.
“So, what’s on tap for this weekend?”
“We’re going to church again. It’s a good thing that it’s my ankle that’s fucked up because if it were my knees, I’d be screwed.”
Laughing together with good fortune, they slapped hands and headed to their rooms, with John going through Mike and Kurt’s side of the bathroom, saving him the time of unlocking his door.
Lying down, Mike fidgeted with his basketball, fingertips putting backspin on it, trying to come close to, but not hit the ceiling, the pretty backspin that Coach Jeff always complimented.
“You know, Mike, I fully expect you to make varsity your freshman year. That shot is too pretty to keep on the bench. I can’t wait to go to your games.”
At twenty-nine, Coach Jeff worked as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and drove an El Dorado convertible. He was single, tall, handsome, athletic, and a role model to the boys on his county league team. His clean cut brown hair continued with a mustache that was the envy of all the boys, some even trying to sprout one of their own, trying being the operative word. To top it all off, he could do something none of his fourteen-year-old charges could do; he could dunk, really dunk a basketball.
On two weekdays, right after school, and every Saturday, that El Dorado would pull into his driveway, usually with a couple teammates in back, ready to take them to practice in style. Mike would lie in bed, putting backspin on his basketball, trying to come close to, but not hit the ceiling, all while awaiting the reveille car horn signaling the coach’s arrival. Too young to be his father, too old to be a big brother, Coach Jeff filled the void in-between, that spot where a boy needs guidance, encouragement, and someone who believes in him.
It was one of those weekdays in late March. The school was let out early because heavy rainfall from the previous days had combined with winter’s thaw and allowed for the possibility that the lake would crest. For a junior high student, the possibility of flooding was welcome relief from whatever the last two periods of the day held. Mike watched the lake during his walk along Jefferson Avenue. The waves seemed to be rolling tightly and quickly, smashing into one part that had a seawall and sending spouts of water onto the street. The houses closer to the street already had front yards flooded, and some of the streets along his walk had straight lines of water coming from the lake and across Jefferson. His street wasn’t one of them, and his house probably would be far enough away, but nature was unpredictable according to his science teacher Mr. Z who had offered that morsel while gleefully waving away his students.
Coach Jeff’s car was in the driveway when Mike had made it home. It was two o’clock, a good two hours earlier than normal, but Coach could make his own schedule, and maybe he knew school was letting out, and maybe he was gathering the guys for an earlier practice, and maybe he was using the bathroom when Mike entered, and maybe his mom was downstairs doing the laundry, and maybe that wasn’t the two of them visible through the slight opening left in the bedroom door, providing fleshy vignettes and primitive sounds that made him wish he was blind and deaf. He raced out of the house unnoticed, down the street, eastward toward the lake where he could watch nature’s fury.
The backspin still was tight and pretty, and he coulda’ been somebody. He tried to pick out the seams as the ball left his hand and came down, but he couldn’t. So he let the ball hit the ceiling and stop spinning.
After dinner that night, Donna and Mike went for a stroll in the commercial district of downtown Northwood. The night was Midwest September crisp but hinted at late fall with its intermittent breezes. As they walked along the cobblestone streets and looked into store windows, a horse-drawn carriage passed them with no passengers, the clip-clop of its hooves sounding like castanets. Like a large pumpkin, the moon peered between a few stray clouds and seemed to be looking directly at them. She clutched him to her as they walked along, holding his hand by wrapping her arm around his, adding a sense of security to a dating rite.
At 10:00 o’clock, they ordered a bottle of Chardonnay at a quaint cafe. They drank outside the establishment on its limited space and watched other people walk by and cars slowly pass, engines lightly humming to honor the privacy of thought. Mike took in Donna as he absorbed the wholeness of the evening. She smiled at him, and her hair gently blew and sifted through the fingers of a breeze. There was light in her eyes, and her chair was parked so closely to his that they may as well have shared one. Her hand rested on his upper thigh, and she kissed him on the ear and whispered, “Thank you for being in my life.”
While Kurt had turned in for the evening, Mike was contemplating his time with Donna, a time so fast-moving, intense, and alive, that he wondered briefly if she were real, a thought reserved for that compartment of thoughts that precedes the illogical state of dreams.
Mary answered the door when Mike knocked. “Oh, hey, Mike,” Donna’s brushing her teeth. Let me get her for you. Why don’t you come in?”
“Thanks, Mary, but this will be quick; I’ll just wait out here.”
“Boy, you just can’t get enough of me, can you?” Donna joked when she saw him.
“Come here,” he said as he held out his arms. Donna slid into the space he created as though it were custom made and wrapped her arms around him, squeezing him tightly.
“Why did you come back?” she asked as her head pressed against his chest.
“I forgot something.”
“And what might that be?” she asked playfully.
“I want to thank you for being in my life, Donna.”
“That makes me happy to hear, Mike.” She held him firmly, feeling both their hearts drumming, and then the music followed.
He stood to their left, just outside his open door, strumming an acoustic guitar and wearing cut-off shorts and nothing more. His quadriceps were fully defined and poured into his bowling pin calves. His torso looked like it belonged on a comic book hero, but it had its scars. Beneath his taut and pronounced pectoral muscles was a wallet-sized tattoo of black prison bars with flames beyond them. A message, too small to be discerned from a distance, had been inked below in Old English font. Below this and under his left rib cage was a thick protruding mark of about four-inches in length with a brownish tone that didn’t match the rest of his skin. Little John McCann serenaded them.
“Love is a burnin’ thing,
And it makes a fiery ring.
Bound by wild desire
I fell into a ring of fire.
I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire.”
“Hey Little John, you play a mean acoustic, and Johnny Cash’s got nothing on you, man,” Mike said as Little John concluded his brief performance for them.
“Yeah, had my door open and couldn’t help but see you two lovebirds. Learned to play guitar in the joint too.” Little John blew Donna a kiss as she gently excused herself by thanking him for the song. “Yeah, Bro’, more than six years in the joint. Went in January 2, 1968, and came out this July 8th. Six years, 187 days. You can’t feel the heat of a woman’s body behind 20-foot concrete walls. She can’t take you places you haven’t been when Plexiglas is in the way. You can’t smell her when the air you breathe is the re-circulated stench of captivity. That beautiful young lady that I just sang for, let her keep you on that short string, Bro’. Lead us not into temptation. I also read the fucking Bible in the joint, ah, ha, ha, ha!”
It had been a long day of varied stimulation, and Mike lay thinking of Donna and the beauty and kindness of her eyes. They were brown with a halo of distant light.
What she was doing out so late on a weeknight was anyone’s guess and not the security guard’s business. He was tasked with buzzing her in, and as she signed a roster, her perfume lent life to the re-circulated air, and her passing gait gave purpose to vision as long hair swayed in sync with hips and kept time with the beat of high heels on linoleum, all providing rhythm for the brown fall dress as it traveled along her body.
Little John McCann had his head down as he sat alone in a lounge area, dialing a phone number. The clapping of her heels drew his attention, and his head followed her as she passed on the way to the elevator. Having lost his concentration, he hung up the phone and struck a match for his cigarette, illuminating his rutted face. After a long drag, he settled the cigarette into an ashtray and resumed dialing.
There were the initial pleasantries typical of a generic conversation, exchanges of greetings, inquiries about third parties, and other mundane mentionings covered under the umbrella of etcetera. Then, it took on more of a business-like or fact-finding tone.
“Nah, nah, I’m just fucking with them to keep them off-balance. I got to have something to keep me amused while this goes down…..” Little John picked up his cigarette and took a drag, a long ash finding the tray as the orange ember glowed.
“Yeah, the little guy thinks he’s the BMOC…..The brother, you know, gets easily distracted; he’s too fucking busy…..Fred? What can I say about fucking Fred other than he knows to keep his mouth shut.” He took one more drag and crushed out the cigarette, attending to the muffled voice on the other end for a disproportionate time before speaking again.
“These young fuckers are willing to believe anything and really get into some shit. Listen, Bro, I gotta book. We’ll talk some more tomorrow, all right?..... Yeah, bye.”