“I’m going to call the police!” she said, to scare him a little. But Grant had no fear of the law. Half of the cops in town bought cars from him.
Jane went at him. Everything in her, all that tiredness, the heat, the dishes, the nights of sitting in a hot car listening to his complaints, the way he treated Keith, his eyes when he pinned her down under his body like she was nothing—turned him into an object to destroy in any way possible; fists, claws, she tore at his clothes.
In all this blind anger, she could feel him fighting back as well. Grant managed to encase her fists inside one of his large hands, then he shoved her to the floor. She scrambled up before a boot made contact with her face. It shocked her that he’d been about to hurt her so viciously, but she always knew he wouldn’t stop once provoked. Finally, finally. And now that she’d started something, he was ten times worse than she’d imagined. She felt like she was in a tornado with objects smacking at her, and she couldn’t control anything: her thoughts, her movements, her eyes, her words.
Keith appeared at the doorway. He began to sputter. Grant left her to go beat at him, and all Jane could think was to grab the knife. A whole lifetime passed while she looked at it there in the chipped and stained porcelain sink.
Grant shoved Keith away and approached Jane. “Whoa now, put that thing down. Put it down.” How he could go from beating his own child, to sounding so rational, really surprised her. It made her bitter, because he was protecting himself.
It was a shock to him. It was his house, after all. He’d made all the payments. But the only thing beside money that he’d contributed, was the dark obscurity of loneliness and fear. For one second Jane thought about his childhood and what it had been like—the whippings, the strict father and silent mother—and she knew it wasn’t his entire fault.
“Get out,” she repeated, much calmer. “I don’t want you in this house anymore.”
The man paid for his items with a small wad of cash pulled out from his back pocket. His jeans were dirty, ripped, unkempt. His hair was wild and unharnessed. He kept looking at Jane, but she didn’t know what to say anymore. Before he left he turned to her with another glance of expectation. She didn’t know what he was waiting for. Finally, she said, “See you around.”
He returned with the same. “Yeah. See you around.”
Jane experienced a deep and damning frustration. She watched him leave.
“Who is that guy?” Keith asked.
“Someone I know.”
“You know him?”
“Well, not really.”
She paid the clerk with her own tidy supply of cash, and she and Keith exchanged the cold store for a sweltering parking lot. The thick smell of exhaust stained the air. A rumble faded somewhere off to the west.
“Ma, are we ever gonna get a car?”
“Someday, I guess.”
“I wish we had one now. Don’t you?”
They passed behind Grant’s lot, quiet and heads down. The sun scalded Jane’s neck like a hot iron. A few dandelions poked through the chunks of gravel. She made sure not to step on each one. But Keith didn’t have the same concern, he crushed them with the toe of his sneakers.
They stopped at an ice cream stand to buy soda.
“What would I do with a car?”
“I don’t know, but I know what I’d do with one. Do you think Dad will ever let me have something from his lot?”
“I’d drive it everywhere. And I’d take you all over town so you didn’t have to walk.”
“I like to walk.”
Grant’s Chrysler was parked near the rear entrance. She used to follow him inside, some days, while he went about business. She’d always been quiet; always felt like a tagalong. She’d cleaned his coffee mug and swept the floor. She’d even brought plants a few times. He forgot to water them, and they died. Each one. The orchid; the African violet; the Wandering Jew; the fern; the aloe. Dead. Grant wasn’t good at keeping delicate things.
It was good to remember this.
“I’d like to make love to you,” Eric said. He leaned an arm over the curbside mail drop, and looked at her with those sometimes hard, sometimes deer-like eyes. “I’d like to take you home and put my lips all over your breasts and touch your body. And I want to whisper things and make you feel happy. But I don’t want to scare you. And I don’t want you to run away.”
Jane felt something in her shrink again. She didn’t know how to respond when another person came at her like that. She heard herself say she wasn’t interested, but thanks for the offer anyway. It was all very polite. She watched him shake his head and laugh again, but he wasn’t really laughing. He said, “You live in a Dogma,” and threw his cigarette to the street and walked away.
Jane watched him approach the Harley, his back to her. It was over. She’d put the final fistful of dirt into their ‘would-be’ something or other—there wasn’t a name for it, but Jane knew whatever it was, she’d ended it.
The motorcycle roared loudly. It stirred something inside of her—some long held denial that had kept everything in place. She didn’t want him to go away; she didn’t want to be alone anymore. She’d been alone her whole life—through her entire marriage, even with Grant sitting across the table, and beside her in bed every night—she’d been alone. She didn’t know this man, but she knew she wanted to know him, and if she didn’t do something, he’d be gone. Those tattoos told her he was a free spirit, and those kind of people never stayed in Stultz. Something always ran them out eventually. And here she’d be the rest of her days, lonely and stuck; arid and dry just like the postcard. A permanent fixture until the end.
It’s 1976, Jane and Keith Day are like the night-blooming cereus with its fragile petals that only come out after dark. Jane’s never bloomed; for years she’s blanched under husband Grant’s jalapeño words and firecracker fingers. She longs to discover the true ways of love—to be touched and approached with gentleness and desire. Keith is fourteen and aches for his father’s approval, to be taught the ways of manhood, to learn how to drive, to grow—just enough—to look down, not up.
Eric Church is the injured Vietnam vet with nothing to lose. He’s a rule breaker; he says he’ll teach Jane ‘things;’ he speaks of Billie Holiday, and motorcycles, and all that philosophy. Most of all are his tattoos: Nevada, New York, South Dakota. Jane wants Eric and doesn’t know how to tell him, but if she doesn’t, he’ll jump on his Harley and leave town.
Suzanne Brandenburg is the hot housewife who’ll ‘Hot Damn!’ your heart out, and Keith is falling in love. He wants her to want him and is determined to make it happen.
Jane and Keith have been hiding in the dark too long. They’re THE MOONFLOWERS, and their time to stand in the sun is now.
The Moonflowers is available for both Kindle and paperback: Amazon