THAT SWEET YOUNG ‘THANG’by John Richmond
They didn’t go looking for anything, no, they just wanted to listen to some good music, but the moment she walked in the door- everything changed.
Their decision to go was one of those last minute things, borne out of the need to do something- besides nothing and stay in the condo- but at the same time their minds kept coming up blank when they tried to think of what it was they could do.
The two of them- Steve and David- paced the rooms, throwing possibilities back and forth until they landed on something that was of interest to both of them- music. And, what cemented the decision was their remembering that some good friends were opening at a club, a little further out on West End.
So, with that settled, they made their way to the strip mall, parked, went in, sat down and ordered a couple of Budweisers.
They drank and listened through the first set, decided that they’d leave after the second- but that was until they saw her walk through the door.
She was young- but still old enough- smartly dressed in a brown leather coat, designer jeans and heels, with a great body and shoulder-length red hair. Alongside of her was what could easily be described as an- at least- octogenarian, managing along with a walker and an oxygen tank.
At first, Steve didn’t think of them as being together. No, it wasn’t until she stopped to help him along- while putting her hand on top of his- that it dawned on him.
“Hmm,” he uttered soft and low and looked over at David. “What do you think?”
“About her?” David replied.
Steve laughed, ever so slightly. “No, not about her- we know about her- she’s a sweet young thang,” he drawled in a suggestive way. “I’m asking, what about that?” he continued, gesturing toward the two of them with a slight move of his head.
David watched her help the old man along with- he noticed clearly- considerable care and empathy.
“Ah, man,” David finally managed in an uncertain tone, “maybe it’s her grandfather. Or once upon a time he was a big shit in Nashville, and we either don’t know who he is or because he’s so old that we just don’t recognize him.”
“Right- maybe,” Steve replied with a definite touch of skepticism.
She stood there, scouting for a table and then- while making more than passing eye-contact with Steve- she decided on one on the far side of the room.
Yet, instead of taking the most direct- and obviously shortest- path to it, she led, guided, if you will, her partner on a way that would take them right past Steve and David’s table.
Steve watched her as she navigated her partner ahead of her through a near-like maze of tables and chair legs.
“I guess it’s easier to push him ahead of her than drag him from behind,” Steve thought to himself.
It wasn’t until the old man passed him and she was right next to his chair, did she make serious and prolonged eye contact with Steve before moving on.
After she passed, he took serious note of how well she fit into her skin-tight jeans.
“Very nice,” he said in an approving tone and a touch of an appreciative sigh.
Once they were at their table and just before she was completely seated- but after she had helped her partner negotiate the move from the walker to the chair- at that last moment, she looked up and over at Steve and shot him an ever-so-secret smile.
Steve nodded slowly, then turned some portion- but not all- of his attention to what was going on on-stage.
It was after they had finished their second round of drinks, and the waitress was asking if they wanted a third, that Steve decided to up the ante.
“Sure, we’ll both have another, and,” he paused to look over at the redhead across the room and then back at the waitress, “why don’t you give them over there,” he motioned with his head, “whatever they’re drinking.”
“Will do,” the waitress said, with a knowing inflection in her tone, after glancing over at the woman and back at Steve.
Steve watched the waitress walk over to the other table to inform them of Steve’s intent. Both of them, she with a nod of her head and her partner with a slightly raised, trembling hand in acknowledgement, sent their respective “thank-yous.”
Now, Steve shifted his focus to the woman’s partner. He was old, much older than he looked at first glance when they walked in the door.
“The guy’s got to be in- at least- his late eighties- if not nineties,” Steve apprised himself.
He continued to observe the man breathe in a labored manner, taking sips of his drink- it seemed- whenever he was up for it. Occasionally, he reached over and touched the walker and the oxygen tank, almost in a reassuring and comforting way.
Yet, although he looked as if he was taking in the music- and the scene- every now and then, the man would glance away and stare off into the distance with a far-away look in his eyes.
“Boy,” Steve continued to himself, “talk about the walking dead.”
Steve now turned his attention back on her; how she talked, touched, helped- and even laughed with- the old man. And, as much as they were obviously mismatched, Steve perceived something warm and personal occurring between them.
Oh, there were no obvious and demonstrative acts of intimacy, no kiss on the cheek, no stroking of hair, no gentle touch of the face- but, from what Steve saw, he could easily imagine.
As the night of music progressed, the initial reason for being the club continued to recede into the background. It pretty much accelerated away when Steve decided to reposition his chair, ever so slightly, so that all he had to do was shift his eyes- instead of turning his head- in order to see the band or look at her.
He especially watched each time the waitress served them two more drinks; both the woman and the old man- after being prompted by the woman- raised their glasses in thanks.
Steve and David gestured in kind, after which Steve wondered about how to get to the next step- finding out who she is.
Suddenly, the man began to struggle in his seat. At first, Steve thought that the man was experiencing the beginning of some sort of medical emergency.
Quickly- yet discreetly- he reached over and tapped David on his upper arm. Once he got his attention, he gave him the head-nod in the direction of the other table.
They were both about to get up and go over to help, when they saw the woman stand up and help the man into a standing position behind his walker. Next, she pointed in the direction of the restrooms, said something to him, gently squeezed his forearm, then watched him make his way across the club and around the corner to the men’s room.
Once he was out of sight, she sat back down for a moment before she glanced up at Steve and smiled.
Steve kept his eyes on her as she stood, again, and pull at the cuffs of her leather coat, before heading toward their table. She walked purposefully, confidently- even invitingly- exuding a sense that she had more than enough time to do what she intended to do. The three of them greeted each other with smiles after which she began.
“You know, I came over to thank you guys for buying us drinks,” she offered as an opening gambit.
David nodded, acceptingly, knowing that her “thank-you” was almost exclusively directed at Steve.
“Our pleasure,” David replied.
“Definitely, definitely,” Steve concurred, “no problem.”
There was an infinitely short pause, but it was enough time to give the three of them enough time to size each other up.
It was Steve who continued.
“Sure, I mean, in today’s day and age, I think that it’s outstanding that you would take your grandfather out for an evening of music.”
The woman looked from Steve to David and back again at Steve, with a smile.
“That’s very nice of you to say that, but, he’s not my grandfather,” she said with a slightly- and almost imperceptibly- larger, more knowing smile.
“Oh,” Steve said, now straightening up in his chair as if he had heard the incredible.
“All right,” he continued in a sort of self-correcting tone, “your father. I think it’s great that you took your father out.”
This time, she flashed a sheepish smile at Steve.
“Well,” she sighed, “he’s not my father.”
Steve tilted his head in feigned, confused uncertainty, looked over at David before looking back at the woman.
“H-m-m,” Steve uttered thoughtfully, “if he’s not your grandfather and if he’s not your father, then-“
-he paused to take in the moment and allow the obvious to dangle amongst the three of them, before he finished his sentence-
“- who is he?”
With that said, Steve picked up his bottle of beer, took a sip, leaned back and made himself comfortable in his chair.
The woman took a deep breath, puckered her lips, then released a slow and controlled sigh, before she said as simply as possible, “He’s my date.”
“Ah!” Steve exclaimed as he brought his bottle back down on the table and brought himself up to a forward sitting position.
“Well, that explains everything,” he said, as he reached into his pocket, took out his wallet and removed a business card.
“Here,” he said offering the card to the woman, “in case your date doesn’t make it back from the bathroom, call me and we’ll go out to dinner.”
She took the card, read it and asked, “Is it Steven or is it Steve?”
Steve looked from the woman to David and back, again. “Steve would be good.”
“Okay, Steve” she affirmed, then quickly glanced back toward her table before opening her purse.
“I’ve got just the place for this-“ she began while she put his card in her wallet, “-and, I will take you up on that dinner invitation, but in the meantime- here.”
With a smooth and fluid motion, she took her own business card out of her purse and handed it to him.
“That’s me and that’s where I work. I take lunch starting at twelve-thirty. Can you be there, tomorrow?”
Steve looked at the card, read it, looked up at her and said, “Pamela, twelve-thirty it is,” and proceeded to put the card in his coat pocket.
Again, she looked back at her table- and beyond toward the bathroom.
“I’d better get back,” she told them.
David nodded while Steve simply said, “Sure, sure thing.”
She turned, stopped, turned back and asked, “You will be there- won’t you?”
Steve smiled and said, “Absolutely. I’ll probably even be there a few minutes early.”
“See you tomorrow,” she replied, turned, walked back to her table, sat down- and waited.
About the Author:
John Richmond has “wandered” parts of North America for a good portion of his life. These “wanderings” have taken him from a city on the Great Lakes to a small fishing village (population 200), before heading to Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and then on to a bigger city on the Great Lakes- Chicago- then, eventually, New York City. Since then, John Richmond has made his way to a small upstate New York town and has sequestered himself in his office where he divides his time between writing and discussing the state of the world with his coonhound buddy- Roma. Recently, he has appeared in Ygdrasil (Canada) (2), Oddball Magazine, Lipstick Party Magazine, Hackwriters (U.K.), Quail Bell Magazine, StepAway Magazine (U.K.), The Potomac (2), Peacock Journal, Embodied Effigies (2), Streetcake Magazine (U.K.), Former People Journal (2), The Other Story, Nazar-Look (Romania) (2), Lavender Wolves, Indiana Voice Journal, Fuck Fiction, The Greensilk Journal, The Corner Club Press, Danse Macabre du Jour, The Tower Journal, Stone Path Review, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Rogue Particles Magazine, From the Depths, Flash Frontier (N. Z.), The Birmingham Arts Journal, riverbabble (2), The Writing Disorder, Lalitamba, Poetic Diversity, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, ken*again (2), Black & White, SNReview, Voices de Luna, The Round, Syndic Literary Journal, Slow Trains, Forge Journal, and is forthcoming in Birmingham Arts Journal, Voices de la Luna, and Pudding Magazine.