The band was loud. Paul leaned over the bar and ordered his usual dirty martini. As the bartender turned away to make the drink, Paul turned to look over the crowd. He spotted Janice, she never missed a Clawing Maul gig. She was the lead guitar player’s wife or girlfriend. He had never asked. He waved. She waved back. She was a large woman to begin with and the pregnancy had blown her up more. Paul turned to get his drink and ordered a sparkling water for Janice. She was a real sweetheart. Never a word of complaint, much less an unkind one. The only woman Paul had ever met that he could say always had a genuine smile. Nothing artificial or forced. He paid for the drinks, and started to knife his way through the crowd.
“Hey.” Paul greeted her.
“Hey. Sit down. It’s been a while."
“Yea, I missed the last couple of times the Maul played. Here I got you a sparkler.” He placed the water in front of her.
She looked up with that engaging smile as he took a seat. “Forget that. It’s time for one of those.” She pointed at his martini.
Paul was stunned. She was always so careful. She hadn’t had a drink for months. “But what about the baby?”
“The baby’s off the tit. I couldn’t get used to it. The poor kid was starving.” Janice reached over and took Paul’s martini and slurped down a large gulp.
He was staring at her lap asking himself could there be another baby? A second child waiting his turn?
“It hasn’t shrunk.” He looked up. She was still smiling. “It’s as if my body wants to stay pregnant.”
“You mean you had the baby?”
“Yea a month ago.” Janice took another swig. “What’s with you? You look like you spent the day in a tanning booth.”
I should have, Paul thought. “I’m sorry.”
“Fat ladies are fat.” She shrugged and took another sip. “You better take this before I repeat my mistake.”
“Mistake?” Paul wondered what else did I say?
“Yea. Even fat ladies get pregnant.”
“Ah, well, yea, of course.” Geez, how could he think she was still pregnant!
“Don’t be embarrassed. Just because John and I are big doesn’t mean we can’t find a
way to make it happen.”
“I’m sure. I just…just” made a jackass of myself again.
“Couldn’t picture doing it with me?”
“No no. I mean. Yes yes. I can picture that.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t mention it to John.”
“That you want to do me.”
“Oh…that.” I gotta get off this roller coaster.
“Come on. Smile. I don’t want to do you either.”
Another curve and I’m going to throw up. “Why not?”
“A skinny boy like you? You’ll be stabbing me with all those bony joints of yours.”
Gawd, how am I going to escape? “Well maybe I have one bone you’d really like.” Idiot, why did you say that?
“Now you’re embarrassing me.”
“Sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“Well, it wasn’t me. You’d know if I came over you.”
Oh, this has got to end. “I’m sure I would. Can we call a truce?”
“No. This is fun. Fat ladies like me don’t get many opportunities.”
“Opportunities?” Why did I ask that?
“Opportunities to make men blush.”
Oh thank God. “It will take me an hour to recover.”
“An hour? I can get off three times in three minutes.”
“Oh no. We’re not getting back on that bus.”
“When did you get off?”
“In your pants? What fun is that?”
Don’t say anything. Just sit here.
“Oh. The games over? You don’t want to play?”
Careful. “You got the better of me.”
“Well, I’m sorry. But you weren’t really all that good.”
“Ah, come on. I tried.”
“Next time keep your hands out of your pants.”
She’s not going to let this go. Paul held his hands up.
“Well, at least you can get your hands up.”
Change the subject. Ask about the kid. “So. With the kid on formula you were able to get out of the house. That must feel good. What, you have your mother babysitting?That’s a grandmother thing.”
“My mother is dead. Breast cancer.”
No no no no no no. How could I step into that one? “Oh, geez, I’m sorry. I…I shouldn’t have assumed anything.”
“She didn’t make it to forty-five.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“Why? You didn’t kill her. Cancer did.”
“But… I…” don’t have a clue what to say.
“Oh come on. Get your foot out of your mouth.”
Paul looked up at Janice and tried the forlorn, bad puppy look.
“It’s alright. How would you know?”
“You forgive me?”
“For the Mom thing? Yea. For the kid thing? Hell no.”
Whoa. Now what? “You’re right. That’s unforgivable.”
Janice scrunched up her face as if near tears. “I tell you what.”
“I’ll forgive you if you do something for me.”
“Move next to me.”
Paul scooted his chair next to hers. “You need a hug?”
Janice’s hand found his beneath the table. She squeezed it. “No.” She was staring into his eyes. She lifted his hand and placed it on her leg.
This is getting weird. Why are you doing this?
“Do you like fat girls? Fat girls like to be touched.” She moved his hand under her dress.
This can’t be going where I think it is. “Janice. What are we doing?”
“You embarrassed me. Now you’re making me happy.” She moved his hand farther up her leg as she spread them apart. Her eyes did not let go of his.
You’ve got to be kidding! “Please Janice. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not good enough for you?”
“It’s not that.” What the hell is it? She moved his hand to the spot. Her underwear was dew damp. Paul’s eyes darted around the room.
“No one is looking at us.” The band was playing loudly. People were surging to the dance floor.
I can’t do this! “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” He tried to remove his hand but she held him by the wrist.
“Because I… I… need a drink.”
Janice released his hand. Paul stood up. “Ok. I’ll settle for a Harvey Wallbanger. Unless you’re too embarrassed to walk around in that condition?” Janice tapped the protrusion in his pants. “You like fat girls!”
There was that smile.
Doug Van Hooser is an active playwright in Chicago theater. His fiction and poetry can be found in Red Earth Review, Chariton Review, Poetry Quarterly, and Sediments a Literary Arts Magazine among others.