The Last True Fan Ch. 03byNigel Debonnaire©
Dan Harris couldn't sleep well, and the reason wasn't the June Missouri heat and humidity. He'd just survived a day when he thought the woman of his dreams was going to cut off their friendship. For weeks, he had snuck off to a hidden spot in the woods to watch his idol, '70 sitcom star Brenda Keans, go skinny dipping in Peachtree Lake, the pond below his trailer park, admiring her middle aged body from afar and sneaking back just before she came up to catch him. When she asked to speak with him that morning, he thought he was busted, and she would tell him to quit ogling her or face the consequences.
But she surprised him. She needed help with a decrepit washing machine, and his handyman skills had worked wonders on her appliance and several other problems around the trailer that needed attention. Her appreciation was expressed by a personal visit, and an invitation to join her for dinner the next night.
After dozing fitfully off and on, he got up around daybreak to find a postcard of a famous painting on his counter: a nude woman lying beside a lake while a man watched her. It said he made her feel like a goddess, and a few words indicated she might be interested in more. His head was spinning as he left the house.
As he drove the OATS bus on its rounds that day, he fought to keep his attention on the road and on his riders. His route was fixed, and he'd driven it hundreds of times in the past couple of years, but he got confused more easily that day, taking a couple of wrong turns and having to turn around after a journey down a dead end. A running debate coursed through his head: she was a lesbian, and not interested in men; she was a star looking down on a simple fan who adored her; she was a lonely woman looking for company; she was a desperate woman looking for love and looking to him in spite of everything. It would be dinner, nice conversation, warm feelings and nothing more; it would end with an invitation to physical contact. "See me/feel me/touch me/heal me," was the quote on the back of the card she left that morning. His hands quivered at the thought of making contact with her sweet skin, but his mind dismissed it.
He usually finished around three, and his first thought was to get home to his observation spot looking at the nude body of his idol as she swam and sunned herself. It still brought him shame: after all, she was the star of a mid-'70s series called _Grape Stompers_, a wholesome girl-next-door who longed for a boy but never got one. In those days, you could still see a beautiful young girl as innocent and untouched. He felt ashamed to see her naked body, and several days he debated going out before giving in to baser motivations, unable to resist the opportunity to gaze at her form, despite the fact she was no longer young and undoubtedly lost her virginal appeal. But that day after work, he stopped for coffee on a blazing Missouri afternoon, to kill time before his date, both to avoid working himself into a blind frenzy ahead of his encounter, and to avoid spending anxious moments alone in his trailer home.
Josie greeted him as he entered and waved him to a seat. "Hi, Dan. How's it goin'? You feelin' well? You're not usually here this time o' day."
"Yeah, guess t'day's diff'rent. Coffee, please."
"D'ya want a piece o' pie? Got a slice of nice strawberry 'n rhubarb, no sugar."
"No, thanks, Josie,'m not hungry. Kin hardly think o' eatin'."
"Well, you'd better git an appetite for tonight. Bren's fixin' ya somethin' special."
He shook his head. This was part of the price of living in a small town: everybody knew what was going on, and what everybody else was doing. There was never serious judgement, just the simple friendly harassment that flavored everyday life. Crossing boundaries of propriety was punished by ostracism, and though many minorities got a share of unthinking prejudice left over from the 1950's, individuals who were willing to live quietly and be good neighbors were accepted regardless of where they came from or who they were. If a mosque were founded in that town but showed a willingness to set up a good booth at the fall festival and taking their turn hosting a summer ice cream social, they would be exempt from common speculations on the beliefs and motivations about people of Middle Eastern origins.
Dan shrugged as he got his cup of coffee. "I dunno what she's got in mind. She a good cook?"
Josie snorted. "In a few years, I'm gonna sell this dump and let somebody else have all th' fun. Brenda kin cook me under the table right now, an' if I got sick, she's who I want in th' kitchen of all my girls. An' she could buy me out on credit, cause I know she'd keep folks comin' in."
"You don't say."
"I do say. I hope I kin keep her; she's the best, jest the best."
She went to fetch his coffee, and he toyed with his cup, glancing at the time every two minutes, willing the hands closer to the 6:00 time he was to be at Brenda's place. The place was almost empty, and a quick summer squall drenched the open doorway, cleansing the air of humidity for a few treasured moments. Josie left it open in spite of the air conditioning, since no rain was crossing her threshhold.
"Mor' coffee puhlease, Josie," a familiar voice growled from the far back corner. Turning, Dan saw his service buddy and neighbor Alan Drake sitting in as far away from the door as possible, drinking from a huge mug. Alan's presence was in Josie's was as normal as Paris Hilton guesting on a Pat Robertson program. He was a mountain of a man, 6'5", 425 pounds and resembled an aging grizzly bear, but that day he wore a clean plaid shirt, jeans, sneakers, his hair was slicked back and his beard relatively neat. He glanced at Dan and nodded, inviting him over. "'ullo, Dan. How's it goan?"
"Not bad, Dan, not bad," he said, wandering over to sit across from his neighbor. "What brings ya here?"
"Meetin' ma son."
"Your son? Din't know ya had one."
"Yeah. 'e's comin' by ta pick me up; he kin't find ma trailer."
Josie came by to refill their cups, Dan's taking half the pot. "Ya want a piece o' pie, Dan?"
"Yup. Take thet strawbury 'n rhuberb."
"Comin' up." Josie retreated to the kitchen, returning with the pie moments later. "Don't eat it too fast."
Dan chuckled once and contemplated the food. For a moment, he seemed to forget how to use his fork, but recovered in time to cut his pie. He savored eat bite in a manner that seemed alien to him.
"Where's yer son from, Dan? Who's his ma?"
"You 'member when we was stationed down at Moody Air Force Base in Georja?"
"Yeah. Awful place."
"Yup. Well, I found this lil' gal named Edna over in Valdosta jus' after you got transferred to Ramstein. Short, not much ta look at, but big, tasty, tasty hooters and real hot to trot. Sucked my dick better'n a vacuum cleaner." Alan took a quick look over Dan's shoulder to see where Josie was, and ducked down to talk more conspiratorially. "Dumped her after a'coupla months: bitch started talkin' 'bout gittin married.. Few months ago, boy called me up and asked if I was his Paw. Said I din't know, so he asks for a, a, a DNA test. No problem, jus' swabbed my cheek out a lil', 'n he called back last week to say he's ma boy an' he's comin' with his wife and fambly."
Dan shook his head. "I din't know ya had kids, Alan. How many kids didja have? You saw a lota action 'round th' Air Bases."
"Four I know. Used ta see me when they was little, but they all hate me now. Ain't been by fer years, and they's drunks like me. Junior here makes five. Boy done all right, said he's a Baptis' preacher wit five kids 'n three grankids. They's comin' by on vacation anyways, 'n wanna git ta know me."
"A Baptist preacher?" Dan reflected how finding a father who was a confirmed alcoholic would sit with a man of the cloth. His friend must be eager to make a good impression, and was probably meeting his son and family in town to avoid having them see his hopelessly disheveled trailer. "Who'da thunk it?"
"Yeah. Mebbe they's some good genes in me yet."
Dan gave his old friend a dubious look. "You gonna behave?' Alan shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, maht try wunst. They's comin' with 2 little kids, roun' 4 and 5, so I gotta behave 'round theyum."
"Yeah. To think ya got respectable relatives."
Alan snorted into his coffee cup and took another bite of pie. Dan looked at him amazed, since his comment would have gotten a rise out of his old acquaintance before. "Yup, Dan. I dunno. "Anyways, ma Doctor says I gotta cut back, so I'm gonna try wunst."
"Good fer you, Dan." He sipped his coffee quietly as Alan finished his pie, and took a long, dangerous pull from his own tankard. The rain faded and passed; the sun struggled to reclaim dominance of the sky.
Putting his mug down, Alan leaned close to Dan, coffee almost defeating the last of his beer fumes. "Yeah, you should be so lucky with that lil' girl cookin' fer ya tonight," his eyes started to dance and his lips puckered, "Mebbe it's time yer teeny weenie got sum action. Gonna try ta fucker?"
Dan looked away, blushing, and the door opened. The newcomer could have been Alan's brother, as tall as Alan, much thinner, in his mid 40's, clean shaven with close cropped dark hair. He wore a short sleeved white shirt, with a huge cross around his neck, rings on his fingers, a huge Rolex, and dark slacks and shoes. Looking around, he found his target and made his way over. "Good afternoon, sir. Are you Mr. Alan Drake?" Alan looked up suspiciously and nodded. "I'm Al Miller, I called you a few months ago."
"Yup. So you're ma boy?"
"Yes, sir. I'm your son and you're my Father."
Alan stood up slowly, and the younger man grasped his hand so hard Alan winced. "Good ta meet ya, Son."
"Meredith's waiting outside in the van, and the little ones are anxious to meet their great grandfather. Sweet Jesus, it's like I'm looking at my twin, but. . ."
"Ah know, son, ah know, I'm a bit overweight. Din't watch what I eat, ya gotta be careful 'bout thet. Runs in th' fambly."
"And you've had a hard time making a go of it on your service pension?"
"Yup," he cast a sidelong glance at Dan, who hid his face in his coffee cup. "Life's tough out here. Always bin thet way."
"Well, ah, ah, Dad, we'll see what we can do to straighten that out. You're not going to die in poverty if I can help it: you're going to be glad we found you. Life is going to change for you starting today, I promise you that, Dad. Everything will be all right. Come on, we're going out to the cabin: Meredith's going to fix a wonderful supper and we'll play with the kids until the sun goes down."
Dan gave Alan a skeptical look, to which his friend rolled his eyes. Uncertainly, he wallowed after his long lost son as if he were leaving for prison.
It was thirty minutes before his date when Dan returned to his trailer. He darted back to take a quick shower, then put on a clean Western shirt and jeans, but put on sneakers rather than his boots. He debated which footwear to wear all the way home, going back and forth between his usual cowboy boots and sneakers. When he was sure it would be a platonic date, he was going to wear his overalls and boots, but when he had hope of more, he leaned toward jeans and shoes he could take off easily. At the end, he decided he could keep his options open without raising his hopes too much. Shaking hands made tying his laces a five minute adventure he hadn't endured since he was in kindergarten.
Alan's dark trailer gave him a bit of needed calm as he crossed the small trailer park. There were always three trailers there as long as Dan remembered, Alan helped him get in fifteen years earlier. The third trailer, which Brenda now occupied, had seen a parade of inhabitants over the years, most harmless except the last one who almost blew it apart making Crystal Meth. He couldn't believe the transformation she worked on a lodging that seemed about to fall apart. Alan's presence was usually benign, but given how much he's watched Brenda's movements since she moved in, Dan was glad he was gone that night.
The other great debate he had with himself was what to bring to dinner. He couldn't arrive empty handed, although she left him a note saying to just bring himself. Flowers were a bit much, especially since she grew better flowers than any he'd seen at the stores in town. Wine was a possibility, but having lived in California, he was afraid her superior knowledge of wines would make any choice of his foolish. He was already giving her produce from his garden every day. A brown paper bag held his final choice: a six pack of Michelob, the classiest beer he could afford.
He knocked on the door, and an angel answered. "Hi Dan, right on time. Please come in." She ushered him into the immaculately kept trailer, and sat him at his little kitchen table across from the galley. "I'll put this in the refrigerator, oh, Michelob. I don't how long it's been since I've had a Mick."
Brenda Keans, comedy actress from the '70s was average height and build for a woman in her 50's. Her once dark hair was now completely grey, and her frame held 15 more pounds than it did in its prime. She was not chubby, but voluptuous. Her legs were smooth, and her nails painted a light shade of pink. Her skin was sunkissed; she wore a blue halter top and black shorts, her feet bare. It seemed she had visited the beauty parlor that day, her face wore a tasteful amount of makeup and gold flecks adorned her perfectly shaped ears.
"How was your day, Brenda?" he started, desperate to find a topic.
Brenda bustled around her little kitchen, making final preparations: burgers sizzled, knives disassembled fresh vegetables, and salad bowls grew laden with a cornucopia of earthy delights. "Oh, not bad. I could get used to this life, it's very peaceful at its core, even more than the mountains of New Mexico. I miss civilization, so to speak, but with the Internet access at the library I can keep up with everything I need to. Heck, with Facebook, I've gotten back in touch with people I knew all the way back to Fort Smith, Arkansas. People are so nice here, nicer than anyplace I've been. Josie's just a saint; I think I'd lay down my life for her."
"Lots of folks think th' same way."
"I talked to Alan, and gave him a ride into town when I got back from work."
"It was so sweet, he was sitting on his stoop, all cleaned up and sober. Like a lost puppy looking for a home. His long lost son's coming to town, and he really wanted to make a good impression."
Dan laughed. "Alan's feeling old. He never used to want to make a good impression on people, unless he wanted to get them into bed."
Brenda chuckled. "I'm sure he wouldn't mind that now, but I set him straight and he understood. He told me about how he grew up in an orphanage, and he ended up here after getting a small inheritance from his long lost uncle."
"Well, Alan's kindofa lost puppy looking for a new home. I don't know how long he'll put up living with a Baptist minister 'fore he goes crazy. Hasn't draw a sober breath in years. He reformed a couple of times in the service, and didn't least more than a month either time. I have a feeling he'll be back before long, working through a case every other day, before the 4th of July."
"You may be wrong," she said, turning to shrug her shoulders. "I know how tough that addiction can be. But he may make it this time."
"Oh, I don't doubt he'll give it a good try. He's 70 now, and really doesn't want to die alone. But he's damned independent, and if he gits tired of making nice, he'll be back."
She looked at him, concerned. "Do you worry about that too, Dan? Dying alone?"
Dan looked down at the table. Brenda pulled a beer from the refrigerator, opened it, and put it down in front of him. He stared at it. "I don't think anybody wants to die alone, Brenda," he said in a low voice. "Not likely these days, probably end up in a nursing home."
"But still alone, even with all those people around."
"Yes." He took a sip from his beer, and sat there. "Yes." After a moment, she collected the salad bowls and put them on the table. "Dinner's served. What kind of dressing do you want on your salad?"
The conversation moved to harmless things as they ate. After picking at a couple of bites, he began eating with gusto, because the food was the best he'd had in recent memory. She ate a little less than he did, but with enjoyment savoring his food. From time to time, she looked deep into his eyes, searching for something, but when he caught her she would break away.
There was cherry pie for dessert, but he was full and expressed an interest in having the pie at the end of the evening, like his family did when he was small. There was only one place to sit in the small living room: a couch on the far wall. She beckoned him to take his place, and after finishing the dishes, she put her hands on her hips.
"I've got a treat for you, Dan."
He started and blinked. "What, Brenda?"
"At the end of our series, we had four episodes in the can when we were canceled. They were never shown on network television, or anywhere else as far as I could tell."
"Wow, I din't know that."
"A friend of mine sent me a DVD earlier this week. I thought you might like to watch them."
"Oh Brenda, that's wonderful. Sure, put it on, I'd love to see it."
After loading the DVD player, she took a seat next to him and activated the playback. A whiff of her perfume reached his ears, sweet and slightly tangy, and her skin glowed slightly from the heat. A window fan struggled to combat the humid air. He put his arm on the back of the couch behind him, to make himself more comfortable, although part of him returned to his teenage years at the movies, when he played the common game of snuggling up to his date by degrees.
She didn't play the game at all, settling into his side immediately with her head pillowed in his armpit, her body relaxing into him. He laid his hand on her bare shoulder and she wiggled to welcome it.
The shows began, and seeing the familiar cast in new situations had him laughing quickly. Brenda was a brunette in her 20's: the show usually dressed her in sweaters and skirts that highlighted her then thin waist and perky breasts. The lead actress, a character named Carrie, was a blonde who wore more revealing costumes that highlighted her perfect body, and the actors were all pleasant looking young men. One had gone on to a major motion picture career that was still at its peak, and the other men worked on several movies and TV shows over the years.
Brenda used Dan's amusement to make more and more frequent contact: a slap on his knee, a stroke of his chest, a touch of his hand. His arm descended rather quickly around her shoulders and squeezed her from time to time.
After the show was over, they sat still against one another. "Brenda, where's all those folks you worked with now?"
"Well, the men have had pretty good careers, as you probably know. The actress who played Carrie did a few more series, and married one of the sound editors. The rest pretty much stayed in the business."
"Were they easy ta work with?"
"The boys were a blast, we used to play poker all hours of the day and night. Carrie was a royal bitch who had a problem with anything that looked bigger than her ego. I think they dressed me and the other girls down to help make her look better, and the writers put her in more situations where she got the attention. I think that's the reason we went off the air: Carrie was leading the Network around by their collective balls, and didn't care what was best for the show."
"Did she sleep with the bosses?"
"Oh, yes, she was on call you could say. Anytime an exec wanted a blow job or a hand job, she was on her knees under their desk. On the weekends, she would go out to the mansions for parties, or on cruises out to Catalina. One Monday she came in sunburned from head to toe, front and back, and it was a joy to see how much she suffered when they put on her makeup and wardrobe."