Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Southern Gothic 2007

I warned you I was going to recycle some things from the old blog. Don't act all surprised.

I can hear Stephen banging on the inside trunk lid. It’s annoying, so I turn up the stereo. The Dixie Chicks sing, "Earl had to die."
I have loved Stephen since we were both 14 years old, freshman at Hoyt High School in Hoyt, Mississippi. His locker was three down from mine. Already boy crazy, I thought he was the best looking guy I’d ever seen, with that black curly hair and those bright blue eyes.
It took Stephen a while to notice me. Since he was the new guy, he got a lot of attention and I decided to bide my time. Hoyt is a small town and most of us had known each other since diapers, so new kids always were popular right away. It didn’t hurt that he played football and played it well enough to make the Hoyt Highlanders’ normally dismal seasons a little brighter. I don’t remember the cheerleaders crying at the end of games after Stephen joined the team, at least.
Stephen’s daddy had taken over old Doc Smythe’s practice. It was not a moment too soon, since everyone knew Doc Smythe had been on the moonshine for years and years and his brain was pretty near cottage cheese. Being the son of the town doctor helped Stephen’s popularity, too, of course.
I still remember what I wore on my first date with Stephen. A pair of pressed Gloria Vanderbilt jeans with loafers and no socks, a pink button down shirt and my Add-A-Bead necklace. Pure Southern Prep, circa 1982. It’s a peculiar trait among the women in my family; we can always remember what we wore during important moments such as first dates, divorce court, or a particularly good argument with our loved ones.
"Damn him," I think. The pounding in the trunk is on my last nerve. I swerve the big Cadillac over to the side of the road and leap out, running to the back of the car.
"Stephen. Knock it off. Asshole! You are not getting out anytime soon. Why don’t you take a moment and pray to God cause I am not letting you out and maybe He will! It’ll be a Goddamn miracle!" I yell at the trunk and pound on it a few times myself for good measure.
Getting back into the car, I take a few deep breaths and light a ciggie. I exchange the Dixie Chicks for Sheryl Crow. I can’t bear the thought of listening to a man singing right now. Sheryl sings, "A change will do you good." Damn straight, sister.
I put the Caddie into drive and pull back onto the road, spraying gravel and punching the go pedal. I have it up to sixty when it dawns on me that I have my ex-husband tied up in the trunk and it might not be a good idea to invite a visit from a Mississippi State Trooper, not known for their good humor under the best of circumstances.
I didn’t start out knowing what I was going to do with Stephen once I put him in the trunk. After two hours of hard driving, I know. We’re going to my family’s old camp. Certain hard truths are going to be spoken. Best of all, Stephen can’t pull any of his lying lawyer bullshit on me, because I’ve duct taped his mouth.
Swigging from my Dr Pepper, I cry a little bit. We used to be The Couple Everyone Wanted To Be. All through high school, all through Ole Miss, we were golden. When Stephen got his law degree and we moved back to Hoyt, I’d resisted. I wanted to go somewhere bigger, somewhere with culture and good restaurants and movie theatres, somewhere I could buy decent shoes without ordering from a catalog. Stephen wore me down, though. When we went back to Hoyt it was just like high school again, except we could drink and smoke and have sex without getting grounded.
The trouble started at Ole Miss. Stephen had always been a flirt, but Hoyt was too small for him to run around on me in high school and me not find out. At Ole Miss, he had a lot of opportunity. I couldn’t keep track of him every single second and he knew it. My sorority sisters had a name for their boyfriends chasing other girls to sleep with: The Strange. They were all looking for something new and strange.
The first one after we moved back to Hoyt was Della Raines. What a slut she was. Always wearing those short shorts, all that make-up even during the day and never wearing a bra. She hung around out at Charlie’s, the pool hall, with all the shiftless hillbillies. I’d never been in Charlie’s in all my twenty-six years until the time I was out looking for Stephen at midnight one Friday and saw his car parked outside. There was Stephen, with Della Raines draped all over him like a clearance rack suit.
Next, it was Bobbi Cutler. That was a surprise. Bobbi was one of my friends. She taught second grade and I never imagined a second grade teacher would bend over the couch in my husband’s law office and beg him to put it in, hard. I was lucky. Even though she needed six stitches and I broke her nose, she didn’t press charges. She did lose her job, that pesky moral fitness clause.
Stephen and I finally got divorced after twelve years of marriage because I just couldn’t take it anymore. The final straw came when some woman kept calling the house asking for him. When I’d say he wasn’t home, she’d say, "Well, hon, give him a message. He’s going to be a daddy." It was all a lie, of course, but it riled me up so much I couldn’t get past it and filed for divorce.
This being Hoyt, of course, I ran into Stephen all the time. We started talking again. We dated again. I fell in love all over. I was head over heels.
Until this afternoon.
Thinking I would surprise him, I went to his office with a pitcher of fresh brewed ice tea and homemade lemon cookies. I went up the back steps, avoiding Myra, his two hundred-year-old bad tempered secretary, and opened his office door. And there was Kasey Lewis, a town cop, with her face buried in Stephen’s crotch and his hands tangled in her tacky bleached blonde hair.
Instead of freaking out, I slipped off my sandals and tiptoed over to where her gun belt was thrown on the floor. I took her gun out of the holster. I pointed directly at Stephen’s head and cleared my throat.
They didn’t hear. I cleared my throat again and said, "You have the right to remain silent," in my sweetest voice.
Kasey whipped her head around so fast, I thought she was going to bite it right off.
"You. Stand up," I told her.
"Miss Lizbeth, it’s not…" she started to say.
"Shut up. Get out," I said. I started shoving her out the door and down the front stairs, still naked, lipstick smeared all over her chin. Let her explain that to Myra.
"Lizbeth," Stephen said. "I’m so sorry. Let me explain"
Still pointing the gun at Stephen, I thumbed the safety off.
"You’re not talking," I told him. "You’re listening. And you’re coming with me." I gestured toward the back stairs and he stumbled down them with his pants still undone and halfway down.
When we got to the car, he made as if to get in on the passengers side.
"Nope," I said cheerfully. I popped the trunk. "Get in, lover boy."
Stephen looked at me blankly. Still pointing the gun at his head, I opened the tool kit in the trunk and took out a piece of rope and the duct tape.
Now, two hours later, I was at the camp. I unlocked the chain and drove the Caddie slowly up the rutted two track. Stephen had stopped banging a while back.
Before I open the trunk, I go into the camp and turn on the lights. I open a bottle of the fine red wine my daddy stores in the cellar. After a deeply satisfying glass, I go out to the car and pop the trunk. Stephen blinks at the flashlight I’m pointing at his face. I notice he has been crying. This doesn’t move me since I figured out years ago that Stephen could cry on demand if he thought it would help his cause. This was effective with juries, but not with a pissed-off ex-wife who was wise to his theatrics.
I point the gun at his head again.
"I’m going to untie your legs so you can walk in. Don’t try to run. I’ll chase you down like a bug and shoot your ass to kingdom come. All right? Nod if you understand."
He nods and I undo the ropes on his legs. I heave him out of the trunk with pure adrenaline and he falls onto the hard gravel. I prod him a little with the heel of my sandal. It feels good to see him wince. I keep the gun pointed at his head as he walks down the path to the camp door.
Once inside, I motion him into the tatty chair next to the fireplace. I sit on the couch, the bottle of wine next to me on the end table. I pour another glass and sniff it.
"Daddy has such good taste in wine," I say. I walk over to Stephen and stick the glass under his nose so he can smell it. He fancies himself a connoisseur. Actually, he couldn’t tell Bordeaux from Beaujolais.
"Why do you cheat, Stephen? Why? I’m a pretty lady. I was a perfect girlfriend to you. I have been a perfect wife to you. There is not one thing you are missing in your life. And you still cheat."
I light a ciggie and watch his face. His eyes are large and pleading but like his crying, it doesn’t move me.
I pat the gun on the cushion next to me. "I ought to just shoot your ass. Get a jury of twelve women and I wouldn’t spend one day in prison. All I wanted was for you to love me and for us to get out of Hoyt the shithole. You convinced me to move back, so we did. I put up with all your cheating. I forgave you. I believed you. I thought you were going to change. I thought we were going to get married again and instead, I’ve just lived a Goddamn honky tonk country song."
I realize I’m crying again so I stop looking at Stephen and sip my wine. I look at my perfectly manicured fingers holding the wineglass and they’re trembling. I finish the wine, stub out my cigarette and pick up the gun.
The blast is deafening in the small confines of the cabin, but I’ve never in my life felt so relieved.

2 comments:

Ronni said...

I love this!

osolostgirl said...

Lisa, this story rocks.

Nadine