A Little Bit of DeathbySlirpuff©
I could feel her warm breath on my face. Even with my eyes closed and just coming out of a dead sleep, I could tell we were almost nose-to-nose. I slowly opened one eye and confirmed what I already knew. Light reddish-brown hair, big green eyes, and a small nose, is what I saw before immediately closing my eye hoping against hope she hadn't seen it—no such luck, I'd been caught.
"Daddy, I know you're awake. I'm hungry," my daughter, Tina Marie, said, lying on my pillow next to me. She had the strangest habit of coming into my bed in the morning, lying down on my pillow and watching me until I would wake up. She has scared the hell out of me on more than one occasion. Do you know what it is like to open your eyes and see someone staring back at you? The first time she did it, I almost had a heart attack. Now it was just something I kind of grew to expect. I'm not saying I liked it, but what was I going to say to her, "Don't do that anymore?" Like that would have worked?
"I'm still asleep," I said in a soft raspy voice, which was about all I could muster. "Wake me in an hour, then we'll have breakfast."
"Daddy, you've got to get up," she said, now kneeling on the bed pushing at my still sleepy body. "You promised to take me shopping today, remember?" Stressing the word remember.
"I thought your grandmother did that?"
"She only bought me underwear and stuff like that. She said it was high time you learned how to dress a girl. Daddy, please, get up," she demanded.
"Thanks, Mom," I said quietly under my breath, while my daughter kept trying to rock me awake. On the next push I slipped my arm under her stomach and rolled her over onto her back. "It looks like someone needs a Stomach Claw," I said, tickling her stomach and sides. "Oh no, not the Vulcan Death Grip!" I shouted, grabbing both her sides. Laughing joyfully, Tina tried to get away from my craziness.
You see, a million years ago my dad and I used to watch professional wrestling on television. There were these two wrestlers, one of whom would do what was referred to as The Stomach Claw and the other did the Vulcan Death Grip. Both were basically the same wrestling move. The wrestler would grab his opponent, make a move to get him on his back, and then in front of a screaming crowd, he'd grab his opponent's stomach or sides with both of his large hands. It was all staged but the announcer played it up to the hilt.
"Oh no, not the Stomach Claw," the announcer would scream, and the camera would pan to the wrestler with an intense and horrific look on his face. His opponent's face would be all contorted, as if in excruciating pain, all the while slapping the mat with his hand at which time the attacking wrestler would release him, then stand up and parade around the ring. The referee would hold the gloating wrestler's hand up over his head designating him the winner. It was so fake, but my dad and I loved it.
We would be wrestling around on the living room floor, when he'd grab me and say, "Oh no, not the Stomach Claw," then tickle me until I was about to pee in my pants. My mother would try her best to put a stop to it, but that never seemed to go the way she wanted.
"You two are going to wreck something, and I'm going to be very angry," she'd yell, chastising us both. Did it work? Not a chance. My dad usually ran after her while she continued to yell, "Vic, I'm warning you." So he would tickle her instead of me. Afterwards they would kiss and hug, followed by my dad giving her a swat on the ass. They were in love.
My dad was career Navy. Although they lived in the Midwest, five years after they got married my dad joined the Navy. He was gone a lot, being a mechanic on a destroyer, which he called his tin can. The first couple of enlistments my mom traveled from base to base, following my dad whenever he'd get transferred. However, after twelve years she found a small house in Minneapolis close to her parents. She got tired of not having any roots and wanted a place to call home. My dad was gone a lot but when he did come home, it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.
It wouldn't be the type of life I'd want, but it worked for them. I had a sister, Jenny, who was ten years older than me, and a brother, Tommy, who was just over eight years older; I guess you could say I was the oops child. They were supposedly done making babies, but my dad came home on leave, guess one thing led to another and that's how I came into the mix. It shocked the hell out of the two of them, especially since they had given away all of their baby stuff years ago.
After I was born my dad came home as often as he could. And after his next four-year enlistment, just as he had promised my mother, he packed it in after doing nearly twenty-five years. He got a job as a large engine mechanic, and life at home over the next ten years was pretty normal. Jenny finished school and went on to college for a couple of years before marrying herself a doctor. Tommy wasn't much for school, but procured a good job working at a corrugated box plant. He was making decent money, moving up the ranks, and finally marrying his high school sweetheart. Me? Well, at sixteen I had the world by the tail. I had somehow made the varsity football team as a sophomore, procured me a beautiful girlfriend, and a bunch of friends. Like I said, life was good. Then my world took an ugly twist.
"We are moving to Florida," is how my dad phrased it at a Sunday dinner when the rest of the family was there. Sadly, our family no longer included my grandparents. My mother's mother and father both died several years back.
"What?" is kind of how we all reacted.
"I've been offered a good job at the naval shipyard in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm sick and tired of all the snow and cold weather during the winters here. I want to be warm for a change. Hell, who wouldn't want to move to Florida if they got the chance?"
"Me!" was the first thing out of my mouth. I gave him all the reasons I should stay, even begging my mom to let me live with Tommy and his wife until I graduated high school, but it made no difference, especially to Dad.
"Steve, it's not the end of the world, for goodness sakes. Think about it, sun, sand, and the beach, it doesn't get any better than that," my dad said, trying to convince me it was the right move. I didn't like it, but in the end I didn't have a choice.
Cultural shock is the only way I can describe it. Jacksonville was not Minneapolis, and although it wasn't all that bad, I really missed my friends back in what used to be my hometown. The ocean and beach were nice, but the kids weren't nearly as friendly as the ones I'd left behind. When I went to the beach there was enough flesh showing I think I walked around with a constant hard-on for the first three months. That made Florida more bearable.
When they told me I talked funny, I just looked at them thinking, "I talk funny?" It was like I had just stepped into the movie Deliverance with Burt Reynolds. When I made the football team my junior year that made a big difference. Everything, it seemed, revolved around football in one way or another. I got my first experience that year at just how big a rivalry could be when the Georgia Bull Dogs played the Florida Gators in Jacksonville. Hell, they shut down the high schools early so we could go to the rally downtown. Like I said, they take their football seriously in the south.
Even within the state itself there were rivalries. The Miami University Hurricanes, University of Florida Gators, and the Seminoles from Florida State, all were in the football top ten every year, and the times they played one another, watch out.
Senior year I got an early Christmas present—my brother and his family moved down south to be with us. My dad helped get him a job at one of the paper plants. Although he wasn't making quite as much money, the lower cost of living, and no state income tax more than made up for it. We were almost a family again.
A twisted knee my senior year ended my football career, what there was of it. Luckily my grades were good enough so I could go to any college I wanted. I ended up at the University of Florida. I was now a Gator.
I loved college life. But as my dad put it, "You're there for a reason, and I'm not paying good money for you to party." That was the lecture I got every time I came home. Let's just say I did him proud and leave it at that.
I dated on and off throughout college. In my senior year I was really stuck on a girl named Connie. I was starting to think it was getting serious until she got a job in New York, which finished it for me. So I just dated a little, got a job with a large insurance company back home in Jacksonville, and life went on. Family, work, football, and casual dating filled my days and nights. I bought a small condo in a part of Jacksonville called Arlington. It was only a few miles from the beach. I had the bachelor pad I always thought I wanted.
When my brother Tommy's youngest daughter, Christie, was in a school holiday play, it was a non-issue we'd all be there for opening night. Though on a Friday night it was the last place in the world I wanted to be.
My mom said the play was cute. I just thought it was two hours of my life I'd never get back. We all went backstage to get his daughter, that's when I met her elementary school teacher. Lana Jean Collins was her name and she was something else. There were a couple of dozen kids screaming, laughing, and begging for her attention, while she did her best to take care of everyone's issues, or tried to anyway.
Christie came running out of the dressing room. "Dad, wasn't I great?" She was beaming. "Come over here, you've got to meet my teacher," she said, dragging my brother across the room. "Ms. Collins, this is my dad."
She stretched out her hand, saying it was a pleasure to meet him and what a wonderfully talented girl his daughter is. Christie then proceeded to introduce her teacher to our entire clan. When she got to me, I shook her hand, and I guess I forgot to let it go—I couldn't take my eyes off her.
"Steve, you can give her hand back to her whenever you're finished with it," my brother said with a laugh. It was only then that I realized I still had her hand in mine. I think I turned a dozen shades of red, stumbling over some type of apology before releasing it.
"No problem," she said, smiling at me. "But since I'm right handed I'm going to need it for at least a little while longer."
We all said what a lovely play it was, and hoped to see it once more this weekend.
"Kind of nice looking, isn't she?" my brother asked, walking out to the parking lot with me. "And single too I understand, but I guess you already noticed she wasn't wearing a wedding ring, seeing as how you couldn't keep your eyes off her."
"She's all right, I guess," I shrugged. My noncommittal reply obviously fooled no one. My mom snickered elbowing my dad, telling him that's exactly what he had said about her.
She was more than all right, at least in my book. Her strawberry blonde hair shone under the stage lights, and her deep green eyes had put me into a damn trance. I couldn't take my eyes off them. I didn't have a chance to look at the rest of her but would the next time we met, and there would definitely be a next time.
I went to that play again on Saturday night, followed by the Sunday matinee. I made it a point each time to go backstage with Tommy after each performance to pick up Christie, hoping to catch another glimpse of her teacher, Lana.
"Steve, you must be a real play junkie," she said, with that singsong southern twang in her voice. She was a real southern belle, born and raised in Alabama, Bama as she called it. Sunday I made my big move.
Christie came out of the dressing room just as I started talking with Lana. I quickly asked her if she was doing anything later that night.
"The only thing I want to do tonight is get off my feet, slip into a hot bath, and forget about this long weekend. Why don't you ask me some other time when there isn't so much going on?" I wasn't sure if this was a brush off, but tonight wasn't going to happen.
It was almost three week later before I took another shot at her. I figured after the holidays things would have slowed down a bit, so I looked up her number and tried again.
"Lana, this is Steve Moore. We met at the holiday play, I'm Christie Moore's uncle." There was a short pause. Then.
"I remember you. You came to all three performances, and if my memory serves me right, you asked me out on Sunday."
"At least I was memorable."
"That you were. What can I do for you?"
"Well, if you're not busy this weekend, maybe you'd like to go out to dinner or catch a movie or something?" God I hoped I wasn't sounding too desperate.
"That would be lovely. What kind of food do you like to eat?"
"Almost anything." I'd never really been asked that question before. "Why don't you pick the restaurant?"
"You sure about that? " Now she was starting to scare me. How bad could it be, food is food, right? No, wrong. Being from the Midwest grits wasn't normally on my menu. Hell, I'd never even heard of grits before we moved south. Cream of wheat was as close as I'd ever come to it, and don't get me started on greens or hog jowls. I guess there were a few items I didn't like to eat, and over the period of three weeks I found out two other things: one, I really liked Lana, and two, she was a southern girl through and through who liked down home southern style cooking. How she stayed as thin as she did I'll never know.
Lana was a shade under five feet six inches and topped the scales at a hundred and twenty pounds fully dressed. She didn't have big boobs or a round booty, but what she had was more than all right with me.
On our fourth date we went to a church dance, we were the chaperones. We'd talked a little about religion, her being a Southern Baptist and me being Catholic. To me it wasn't an issue, but to her religion was a big part of her life. I'd stopped going to church years ago when I was too old to get in trouble for skipping mass. Lana, on the other hand, never missed.
It didn't take me long to realize why she was still single. She let it be known from the get go there was going to be NO SEX before the honeymoon, and I do mean none. There was kissing with and without tongue and hugging with clothes on, but you could forget about petting, any oral, and don't even think about bringing up the word intercourse. I was getting frustrated, but I was handling it, in a manner of speaking.
After our sixth date I brought her home for one of our Sunday family dinners. Dad was barbequing chicken breasts on the grill and Mom and Tommy's wife, Ruth, were in the kitchen making potato salad and baked beans.
"Steve, why didn't you tell me everyone was bringing something. I could have made something," she said, looking at me a little cross. "Mrs. Moore, I never would have come empty handed if I'd known. At least let me help you while Steve helps your husband." My mom looked at me and smiled. Lana continued, "Mrs. Moore, you have a lovely home. The next time I'll make sure we bring something to share," she said, glaring at me before I could totally escape. I guess I was dead meat.
I left for the sanctuary of the back patio. I simply never thought about bringing anything. I never brought anything.
After dinner the women were talking amongst themselves, clearing the table, and putting the food away, so Dad took Tommy and me out back for a cold one.
"Looks like you've got a live wire," Tommy said with a snicker. "And I can't wait to see what she brings next time."
"Hey, she's a great cook. A little too country at times, but she hasn't poisoned me yet," I responded, valiantly defending my girl.
"Well, your mom likes her, that I'm sure of," my dad said, finishing his beer. "So unless you like this girl a lot, I'd keep her away from your mother because you know how she get's when she likes someone. Hell, I thought she was going to dump you for Connie before she left for New York. She has a habit of adopting people she likes."
"Dad, I really like this girl a lot, but she's really religious and more than a little conservative."
"Conservative?" my dad asked.
Before I could answer Tommy put in his two cents worth. "Dad, that means that Steve hasn't even gotten beyond first base yet, and by the sounds of it, isn't going to any time soon." He laughed, but my dad didn't.
"Steve, if you're just looking for a piece of ass I don't think this is the girl for you. I think this one is looking for something permanent, if you know what I mean."
That's how Lana worked her way into my heart and my mom's. On more than one occasion, after a disagreement with Lana, my mom would bluntly tell me that if I screwed this up she would never forgive me.
"In that case Mom, why don't you marry her instead of me?"
"Don't get smart with me young man, you're not too old for a good ass whipping."
"Mom, you've never in your entire life given me an ass whipping," I said, grinning at her.
"Well, it's not to late to start." I could hear the agitation in her voice.
Once, during a family dinner, both my mother and brother were giving me unsolicited advice concerning Lana.
"Everyone needs to back off and let him make his own mistakes, that's the only way he's ever going to learn," my dad piped in, looking at my mother and brother.
"Yeah, let me make my own mistakes," I replied, glaring back at everyone with a little disdain.
"Yeah, let my little brother screw it up, and then when he crashes and burns, we're just going to have to pick up the pieces and put him back together."
"I'm not going to screw it up!" Well, I wasn't planning on it, anyway.
We dated for almost eight months before she'd even let me have the serious conversation I'd tried to have with her for the last two.
"Lana, I'm in love with you. I want to plan my future with you in it."
"Steve, we hardly know each other."
"I know all I need to know."
"What's my favorite color, my favorite food, my mother's madden name?" she replied all too quickly.
"Royal blue, stuffed pork chops, and not a clue. But, we have the rest of our lives to find out the other answers together.
I took me two months, and a little help from my mother, to convince her I was serious and deeply in love with her.
I thought about all the cute ways I could ask her. Wrap up the ring in twenty boxes, put it in her glass of wine, or set it on the top of her dessert at a fancy restaurant. None of them felt right so I just came right out and asked her, ring in hand, at our favorite Mexican restaurant.
When she said she needed time to think about it I was crushed. That night I walked her to her parents' front door, got a great kiss goodnight, turned around and started slowly walking back to my car, trying to figure out what my next move should be.
From over my shoulder, and before I could even turn around, I heard Lana call out, "I've thought about it, and yes, I'll marry you."
I bridged the distance in three steps, grabbed her, and swung her around on her parents' front porch, gushing that she'd made me the happiest man on earth.
"Just because I've said yes, don't you even think about what I know you're thinking about, Mr. Steven Moore. I'm coming to our marital bed pure as the new fallen snow. You understand?" I understood, but wanted it to happen as soon as possible.
Weddings don't happen overnight, not with Lana, her mom, and my mom planning them. There seemed to be a million details to work out, not the least of which was the honeymoon.
"Steve, just nod your head yes when they ask you a question, and we'll all get through this with as little pain as possible," was the advice my dad gave me. "If she asks if you've got any second thoughts say no, even if you do. And remember, she's always going to be right from the moment you say 'I do,' so learn to live with that fact." I started to say something but he stopped me cold. "After over fifty years of marriage to the same woman I must have done something right, just believe me when I tell you your days of being right are over." He smiled. I started to get worried.