21 Praises to Tara
And now for the first time in his fifty years, Mark Keeler had an actual live woman inside his home. He marveled at his good fortune, not seeing the room through her eyes. Overjoyed, he made no excuses.
Tara looked around her in disbelief. She held on to a little dog, clutching it so tightly that it whimpered. She set it down and it immediately began dragging itself across the dirty carpet by its ass. Tara looked on fondly.
"Oh Scooter," she said.
The room was fetid and beyond cluttered like a giant magpie's nest and smelled like a combination of mildew, chicken noodle soup and rancid body odor. Towers of record albums were stacked precariously to the ceiling and on every available surface. The light bulbs in the old fashioned fixtures were yellow and dim. Not that her apartment looked or smelled any better. Plus this was a house. With additional buildings. Tara removed her rabbit fur coat and slung it over Buddy Holly's face.
"So do you own all this lover?"
"Yeah. Well my brothers do. My parents lived here. I took care of them until they died."
"What about those buildings outside?"
"Yeah well, they're full of records."
"I see you like music."
"I like records."
"Are they worth anything? Do you sell them?"
"Well let's listen to one and dance a little."
"Well, don't you like music?"
"No. I like records."
Tara was in the bathroom peeing and Mark went into the bedroom to straighten up. He brushed the skanky covers on the huge walnut bed with its carved surface rubbed black in places from many hands. Scooter followed him into the bedroom, whining. Mark tried to pat the little dog but it snapped at him and began rummaging on the floor for tidbits to eat. As Mark was throwing some dirty clothes into the closet one of his big blue heart pills, a serious blood thinner, tumbled out onto the floor. Scooter immediately ran up and gobbled it down.
In the bathroom, Tara tried not to put any of her weight down on the toilet seat. She was drunk, but not that drunk. She remembered the wad of money he had. She thought it was in his pants pocket now. But she also considered the long game. What if she stayed with him and married him. When he died she would inherit this land and these buildings. It could be the beginning of a new life for her. She stood up and looked into the oily, smeared bathroom mirror. Overcome, she staggered back and spewed fourteen drinks into the toilet as Scooter whined loudly outside the bathroom door.
Mark Keeler sat on the edge of his bed, wondering what he was going to do when Scooter died.
Tara emerged from the bathroom, her eyes Dracula-red and the front of her blouse streaked with alcohol vomit. Mark didn't see any of it. He looked up at her expectantly, like a small boy and what was left of her heart melted for him. Scooter squatted in the corner, pissing, then continued to drag himself around the room by his ass. The house moaned and groaned and creaked.
It was a relief for Tara to plop onto the hard sour smelling bed. Mark shivered when she went to kiss him.
Mark felt his heart pounding and the Fear came to him that he would die.
The yellow light. The blue night. It was May 22.
"Turn out that light lover and I'll give you that hummer I promised you."
"What's the matter lover? How come you won't get hard for Tara?"
"Ha. Huh. I..I don't know. I.."
Somewhere far off there was scratching noises.
And now that he had a real naked woman in his bed—oh how unbelievable!—Mark did not know what to do. He had thought and dreamed about this moment his entire life. She had put her mouth on him and it had felt cold, icy cold and he had waited all his life to know what that felt like and now that it had happened he had failed to rise to the occasion. He listened for Scooter. All he heard was the train going by.
"I guess I'm too drunk," he said laughing. Tara agreed and snuggled up to him, instantly falling asleep and snoring in his face.
In the night Mark Keeler could not sleep so he watched his bedroom shadows and listened for the jingle of Scooter's tags. His stomach rumbled and he slowly rose and threaded his way through the record stacks to the kitchen, where he opened the dim fridge and took out a very old jar of mayonnaise. He dipped his hand into the mayo and sucked on his slimy fingers greedily. He took the jar with him back to bed and lay in the darkness clutching the cool glass and licking the rim.
He sat up after hearing a loud, bizarre sound. His chest filled with dread, and he wanted desperately to stay in the bed, to fall asleep so that he wouldn't have to deal with what he knew was in the other room. But the sounds happened again...then again and he knew he had to get up. Still cradling the mayonnaise jar he walked back though his tunnel of record stacks into the old spare bedroom. It now contained broken furniture piled to the ceiling, along with old books and manuals his father had liked to collect.
The room was blue and magical with moon glow, but turned flat and yellow when he flipped on the light. Scooter was hunched over in the corner, and looked up at him eagerly. Scooter seemed okay; and flooded with relief, Mark picked the little dog up with his free hand. A glob of mayonnaise fell from his mouth onto the top of Scooter's head and reflexively Mark licked it off. Scooter looked up at him and sneezed, a fine pink spray of blood covering Mark's face and dirty t-shirt. Mark dropped the convulsing little dog and left it retching, his little muzzle covered with bright pink foamy blood. Scooter blinked in the light and his eyes met Mark's for one horrible moment. His back legs splayed apart and deep black blood came out of his back side, slow like lava.
Lying awake next to a sleeping naked woman, Mark Keeler's mind was a locked room. He watched the night shadows on the ceiling. He stayed very still. So still that he could no longer hear his heart.
The bedroom was now dusty and bright. Mark had no curtains. Tara awoke and her head pounded. She was disoriented and did not know where she was. She looked around her and saw the pillars of records and remembered, in fragments, the night before. She remembered Mark's face, the wad of cash money, drinking at Roasty's, a bumbling hand job in the car, records, the blue night filling the bedroom, puking in a dirty toilet.
Tara wound her way through the record stacks into the living room where she found Mark sitting in a collapsed easy chair, drinking a warm beer. He looked up at her and his eyes were wide and needy and she remembered how he had shivered with lust and fear. She decided to go for the long game. This sad man was her future.
The sunlight was streaking the air between them. Dust particles danced in the shaft of light. It was their moment to shine.
Mark looked at her longingly.
Tara looked at him.
Her face was puzzled.
"For months Gloria had studied Karl. She knew now that it was her feeling for him which was lending enchantment to her life.",
William r. Struby, (CC by-ND 2.0)