Lemon and Cut


Lemon and Cut rolled in the new hay, still green and full of lice.  Cut stopped and popped loose a condom, new to him, newly expired.  Lemon wondered about the berry scent of it, helped him get it on.  Salvage store special.
      Grasshoppers, so many hundred bright green ones, fled buzzing to patches of taller weeds.  Cut got an upset stomach, thinking of his household.

--

      Ruth, Cut's wife, was home tending quickNoodles, dealing with all the smoke.  A kid had left a lid on a burner, and the melty smoke was acrid and everywhere.  Ruth's eye makeup was about gone now, her face red and wet and blue-striped.  A drop of the blue-gray stuff had dripped from her chin, a minute ago, as she stirred in fake bac'n'bits to a salad.
      The two kids were outside, one riding a half-broke plastic tricycle with the Incredible Hulk's head raging on one wheel basin, and the other mowing, actually, the grass.

--

      Cut's volleyed bawds, Lemon thought.
      Cut's hammering cock, thought Lemon.

--

      Ruth was about out of domestic tricks, but the food was hot and set out in a yellow bowl on the bar, and it was time for her to drive to town.  Her eight o'clock, tonight, was to deal with the uses of the fan brush.  Her canvas, safely draped at the community center, was of a nest of alligators mating or fighting.
      Ruth yelled at the other kid, and the kid stopped mowing, shifted down to neutral and braked the machine.  "Supper's out," Ruth said.  "Tell Daddy," Ruth said, but knew Cut might not make it home tonight.  Her daughter nodded and crunk up again, sweat shining on her homemade neck tattoo.  All the trappings of rebellion, Ruth thought, such a pastel personality.  Ruth liked to think that Cut maybe met with his buddy up the road, or his buddy down the road, but she kind of knew better.

--

      Cut pulled out before he came, smarter than the expired condom, kissed Lemon's chin, and pulled on his jeans after sloughing off the slick rubber into the grass, on one side.
      "I'm 'on go."  Cut stood over her, a low, bow-legged victory crouch, hands upon hips.  Lemon rolled onto one side, like she'd go to sleep, but Cut pulled her up and led her to her pile of clothes.  Her thin and raggedly frame sagging like gauze in the pale last sunlight.  Cut helped dress her and shoved her into the car, and, so she wouldn't be too late, drove her right to work and put her out in the parking lot.  He said "Baby, you angelic as a motherfucker."

--

      Lemon was wearing a string of Mardi Gras beads ("But nice ones," Cut had said), glass beads, and they bounced above her breasts, on her chest, under her loose shirt, as she worked over the fry baskets.  And Lemon wore a small brass pin, a bucking cowboy with hat in hand, on her uniform baseball cap.  Cut, himself, had given her that.  Fry popped all around her, crackling in amber oily bursts.  She checked the stainless gauges.  She emptied done chickenStrips into paper plates.  She'd have liked to have traveled again, but this time, she imagined, to an Arab land.
      A manager there, when she'd gone into the cooler for a break to nab a bite of fresh kiwi, was counting crates and grabbed her ass.  He made smoochy lips.  She frowned sharply, said "Lawsuit."  Back on the fry line, she did stoichiometry in her head.

--

      The other kid got through mowing.  Just dusk, grit and dust and grass seeds were all over, in her clothes and in her elbow creases.  She went to her room and pulled off her tee shirt, which said "Biggest Dyke".
      She ate and made sure her little brother did, put a plate away for Ruth in the refrigerator.

--

      Cut went home, surprising his children, and ate Ruth's plate.
      Teevee was not so good.  Just murder stories.

--

      Way back, after painting class, Ruth stopped at the chicken joint for a basket to-go.  She ordered, and in a minute, the girl Lemon brought up the tray, asked "Drink with that?"  The little cowboy pin on her hat, pewter-gray in the red light.
      Cut's pin, Ruth remembered.  Like his, like Cut's pin, there on her hat.  Just something she'd seen in his black box of memories, a few times, over the years.  "Just the chicken," Ruth said.  She stared at the girl, and Lemon creased her brow and smirked, squinted, asked "I know you?"

--

      Cut had got down in the floor, fell asleep in the teevee light.  He was small and crinkled under the flashing blue.  His daughter had muted it and gone to bed.
      He woke to Ruth coming home, the tires crackling on gravel, the engine revving up just before she shut it down.  Squeak of door.  Cut thought about going to bed, covering his head.  He needed a bath.  He thought of getting to the shower real quick, before she came in.  But in she walked, Cut on the carpet.  Ruth walked past him and punched the power button, and the room went dark.  She sat down Indian-style by his head.
      "How was painting?" he asked her, and she told him her problems with finding a good gray-green.  Viridian, they agreed, is a pretty word.  The kids were asleep, but Ruth wanted to scream.  She grabbed a fist-full of carpet.  She wanted to scream that it could be okay, or that it would be if he'd just level.
      Ruth told him about the chicken she ate, about the pretty, pale girl with the mole on her chin, and Cut got her drift.  He licked his bottom lip.  He thought about leveling with her.  The fluorescent tube above the kitchen sink hummed and popped and died.  "Light blew," he said.  They both knew, they both knew, that they both knew.  Cut picked the sleep from his eyes and made no sound crying.
      Later, stiffly in bed, neither able to sleep, Cut, in a rough whisper, asked Ruth about painting.  She told him everything she knew about it, until the sky lightened between the blind-slats.
      A toilet flush.  Their youngest was stirring.  
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