Thursday, April 08, 2004

stories of buddy don:
story writ to play with point of view


Burned


 


"I just don't think I'm ready to settle down," Brad said, pulling at his wispy little moustache. "I'm just too young."


"Twenty-six?" Brad's girlfriend Marianne asked under her breath, shaking her bowed head and then tossing her long blond hair back over her shoulders with both hands.


"Don't you think you ought to light that thing, Jim? You've let it go out again." Brad coughed loudly, dryly, into his hand.


Both Jim and Brad were sitting on the floor. Jim leaned forward onto his knees, bent over his crotch, pulled back the denim flap and struck a wooden match against his zipper. Jim was nearly thirty, but he looked older. His hair had always been thin and fine, and in recent years it had begun the slow retreat toward the back of his head. Thick brown patches remained above his ears, and an insubstantial tuft of it had set up a desperate rear guard action in the middle of his head. This he wore long and let hang awkwardly into his face.


"Too young to be married?" Jim said, holding the match in front of him and turning to his right to smile at his wife, Tammy, who rolled her blue eyes toward the ceiling. "I think you got the wrong idea about marriage, Bro'. It's really not as bad as you think. In fact, it's the happiest state known to man."


"Really," Marianne added. Jim turned to his left and met Marianne's green eyes for a moment. She did not smile, so Jim dropped his eyes and continued.


"Well, there comes a time in your life when you got to take responsibility for your actions. I mean, let's face it, I'm no angel myself —"


Both Marianne and Tammy laughed.


"Amen, Bro'," Brad said, again thoughtfully pulling at his moustache. "But you've always been quick enough about tying the knot."


"Yes, I was once. But I went through the jungle myself, and, if I do say so, I did all right there." Jim looked down at the half burned match as he said this. Marianne caught Tammy looking at Brad. Then she caught her eye, and each woman smiled. Brad looked at the ceiling.


Jim lifted the match to the joint, which began smoking but did not light. He raised it to his lips for a moment, then paused. It was still unlit.


"But I swear, Bro', I was never happy there. That wasn't really what life was all about. I'd seen both worlds, you know, when I remarried."


"Yeah, I know," Brad said. "Let's see can you light that number."


"I swear, man, I'm happier now than I ever was. Tammy and I are like partners. No matter what happens, we're together. It's like having this great friend to go through your whole life with, and like, you never have to worry about lots of things, like women and things, ever again. You're really free when you're mar — ouch!"


Jim jerked his hand sharply and the blackened bit of match fell to the carpet, smoking lightly.


All four of them laughed.


 


 * * *


 


Tammy wanted to laugh when her brother-in-law, Brad Lundy, said he was too young to settle down.


His attitude about women really stinks. He ought to rent them out by the hour.


She took a drag off her cigarette and spied him carefully. A tall, lanky hunk, actually, with curly brown hair and that little boy's moustache, he is attractive. I can't deny that he could get all of the women, probably, that he could ever want. The bastard.


Tammy snuffed her cigarette into the ash tray at her left. As she did so, she watched her thin, awkward husband light the match against his zipper.


I wonder if little boys ever grow up? He must have tried that trick a thousand times at least. I guess it makes him feel like a man. Lord knows, he's no macho. So different, these brothers, the one so strong and physical, the other so thin, so cerebral, so fragile. Still, that's what I love about him: he can be weak with me.


What's this now? What's he saying?


"Too young to be married?" Jim said, holding the match in front of him and turning to his right.


Yes, honey, I know your brother is a callous bastard. It's nice the way James understands me. He must know exactly what I'm thinking.


And he's right about marriage being the happiest state. At least there one can find a little security with a lover. You can protect each other from the temptation of people like Marianne, poor woman. I wonder if Bradley the Macho knows about Marianne's unsuccessful attempts with Jim? Surely not. He'd never settle for something someone else had rejected.


Tammy looked over at Marianne. What was Jim saying now?


" . . . let's face it, I'm no angel."


That's funny, Tammy thought, laughing out loud as she caught Marianne's eye. What a cat! With those green eyes, that sleek body. I'll bet you'd still love to get your claws into my Jimbo. And I don't blame you. Fact is, I feel for you, your kind that is. You end up with Brad, who'll never be anything but a callous bastard chasing skirts. He's been through how many different women now? And you're no different, honey. He'll leave you when the next pretty face looks his way.


But don't get any ideas. I'll protect Jim, believe me. He's as innocent as a two year old, my baby, and I'd kill to protect him from any further suffering. He needs me. He told me, with words, with tears, and tears never lie —


"Ouch!" Jim cried. Tammy started from the couch to stamp the burning match if necessary, but it was already out. Then she laughed.


 


 * * *


 


"I'm too young to settle down, Brad said, pulling unconsciously at his moustache. He stole a quick glance at Tammy. Not his type. But tough. I love the way she sits, so damned feminine. And those blue eyes! Damn, they could melt you. I've always been kinda partial to auburn hair, anyway. But those tits of hers — they're basically missing. Give me a lady with lungs, any day.


I wish Jim would pay more attention to what he's doing. He always lets the joint go out while he's preaching.


"Don't you think you ought to light that thing, Jim? You've let it go out again."


God, my brother. He's living in never-never land. Married again? Not that this one isn't an improvement.


Oh no, here he goes with the zipper trick. Good, it worked for once. Now put the match to the joint and pass it over.


No, he's got to talk first.


"Too young to get married?"


Damn, I wish he'd leave me alone about that. Can't he see I'm not the marrying kind? Sure, it's just the thing for him since he's always been the ugly one. God, look at him now, that stupid hair falling in his face. He looks like a clown, a stupid clown. Oh well, that's what marriage does to you, makes you a damned clown.


What do I need marriage for anyway? I can get all the sex I want without it. Better sex, too.


Brad glanced at Marianne, who was laughing with Tammy. Must be a private joke. Women anyway! Why would you want to sign your life away to just one woman? I bet if old Jimbo'd ever had anyone like Marianne, he'd change his tune. Woman'll fuck your brains out. I wonder does Tammy? Naw, can't imagine it. Must be funny, the two of them in bed. I bet ol' Jimbo's cock's as skinny as he is. Must be like getting stabbed for Tammy. Shit, a woman wants strength, passion, control. God, I just wish Jimbo'd heard Marianne last night: she was wicked. She loves it when I hold her down and pump as hard as I —


"Ouch!" Jim cried, causing Brad to lean forward to pat the match out if necessary.


I swear, that guy. He didn't even get the joint lit in all of that. Brad couldn't help laughing.


 


 * * *


 


Here he goes again with that too-young-to-settle-down business.


"Twenty six?" Marianne said under her breath. Of course, he chooses not to hear me. I sometimes wonder if he hears anything I say. At least Jim — oh no!


Jim leaned forward onto his knees, bent over his crotch, pulled back the denim flap and struck a wooden match against his zipper.


So he's still doing that! Oh, Jimmy, how can you ignore me now? After everything we went through, I should hate you, I know, I should utterly hate you, your thin little arms, your thin hair, but, oh Jimmy!, how I would love to touch your thinness again. No one ever understood me the way you did, no one. Surely you know I'm not interested in that boob, your brother? God, what an animal. But Jimmy, I'd do anything just to get near, and when he said his name was Lundy, I couldn't . . . what? What is he saying?


" . . . got the wrong idea about marriage, Bro'. It's really not as bad as you think. In fact, it's the happiest state know to man."


"Really."


Yes, that got his attention. He thinks I approve. Oh, Jimmy, you still have the sexiest grey eyes, Jesus, look at me Jimmy, can't you see how I feel? That's it, drop your eyes. Let's hear what you've got to say for the holy estate of matrimony.


"Well, there comes a time in your life when you've got to take responsibility for your actions . . . "


Yes, Jimmy, how well you say what you cannot do.


Marianne could not help laughing out loud.


Oh, Jimmy, you always were the preacher, but you could never lie, so why do you try? When did you take responsibility with me? And that little wife of yours, I just bet she loves to hear you sermonize. Little Miss Goody-goody, won't even smoke a joint with us. Look at her staring at you. She doesn't know you at all, does she? Yes, smile at me, Sweetie, isn't your hubby cute? Don't you just love the way he preaches nothing but the truth? I wonder if you'd smile if you knew about us? Has he ever cried with you? Have you ever raised blood on his back? No doubt you're too sweet to make a man bleed, aren't you dear?


What? What the hell is he saying now? Never was happy in the jungle? I suppose that means me? His little tiger? I'll put you back into the jungle where you belong, you little monkey. I'll show you how hard it is not to worry about a lot of things, like women, you just wait. You never could resist —


"Ouch!" Jim cried. Marianne laughed.


I hope it burns. I hope it burns.


 


 * * *


 


Jim had been uncomfortable all evening long. Imagine, his little brother showing up with Marianne. I thought she'd gone to California. And she's as beautiful as she ever was, maybe more. Why must I be such an animal? I'm happy with Tammy. She's perfect for me. Why, then, can Marianne cause my body to go crazy? My heart feels like exploding. I just wasn't ready for her. You'd think little Brad could have warned me. I guess he didn't know. How could he? Bad enough that Tammy knows as much as she does. What's that?


"I just don't think I'm ready to settle down," Brad said. Look at him tug that moustache. It's really funny. He's so big and strong, but he's got no hair on his chest or his face to speak of. I may be bald, but . . .


I wish he would marry Marianne. That way she'd be off my hands for good. Ah — what am I thinking? That way she'd be that much closer, that much more tempting. I've got to say something before I light this.


"Too young to be married?" Jim said, turning his gaze to his wife. She hates the little punk. Good old Tammy, solid as a rock. It's nice of her to be so kind to Marianne. Of course, she thinks we never had anything between us. Look how she rolls her eyes. Nothing but contempt for Brad's being unwilling to get serious and settle down.


"I think you've got the wrong idea about marriage, Bro' — " I've got to say the right things now, for Tammy's sake. And I believe what I'm saying anyway. I am happy. I am. I am. I am. "It's really not as bad as you think. In fact, it's the happiest state known to man."


"Really," Marianne said. Jim turned to his left and met her green eyes for a moment. Was she asking a question? Or backing me up? I know you, Marianne, I know what you're thinking. It's a question. Damn you! I am happy! Marianne did not smile, so Jim dropped his eyes.


"Well, there comes a time in your life when you got to take responsibility for your actions. I mean, let's face it, I'm no angel myself —"


The women laughed.


"Amen, Bro'," Brad said.


Shit, I blew that one. Surely they don't think I'm that bad!


"Yes, I was once. But I went through the jungle myself, and, if I do say so, I did all right there."


What am I saying? There was Judy, my first wife, a child, a foolish adventure. Then, seems like it was years later, years of frustration — I hated women! I swear, they can be so cruel — but then I met Marianne, my little tiger. No, don't even think it.


"But I swear, Bro', I was never happy there." Surely Marianne knows I'm lying. I was never happier, but it couldn't work with her; she's just too wild. "That wasn't really what life was all about. I'd seen both worlds, you know, when I remarried."


I hope that convinces someone. Of course, Brad doesn't hear a word of it.


Forgive me, Marianne, but I've got to say this for Tammy's sake.


"I swear, man, I'm happier now than I ever was. Tammy and I are like partners. No matter what happens, we're together." Oh, Marianne, you do know better, don't you? "It's like having this great friend to go through your whole life with, and like, you never have to worry about lots of things, like women‑‑" Oh, Marianne, you've got to forgive me. And I know you will. I'll see you again, I know. You may have run away last time, but this time we'll —


"Ouch!"


Damn, I've got to watch what I'm doing. He felt himself blushing. Everyone was laughing at him. He chuckled politely before putting his burnt thumb into his mouth.


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