issue twelve

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(4332 words)
Corey Mesler
Our Town
[Updated monthly on the full moon]
 
       No one knows the exact history of how we came to own Blueville. The law, part of an earlier time, centuries ago, of internecine conflict and complex official writ, seems curious now, but no one, these days, questions it. Instead, we relish our ability to visit Blueville and walk around like supervisors or potentates. There is pride in ownership. It's a blessing but also a responsibility. We Whitevillians believe ourselves to be evenhanded and democratic, like the country as a whole.

One arrives in Blueville by a mere ten minute drive, down past Adams Dry Goods Store, around the corner from Phil Stuckey's cider stand, and a straight shot out Immigration Road for three more miles. One enters Blueville by passing a simple sign put there years ago by their Chamber of Commerce: Now entering Blueville (Property of Whiteville) Population: 1,207. Passing that sign is like receiving a badge of personal freedom. In Blueville Whitevillians are given free reign. It's the law.

How do Bluevillians take it? some outsiders ask. How do they take it, day to day? They are mostly inured to it. Like most laws it soon became part of the warp and woof of daily life. Sure, there have always been disgruntled, unhappy Bluevillians. Why don't they move away? it is often asked. I don't have an answer to this except to say that Blueville is their home. One doesn't leave one's home easily. And, really, it's not like we have them locked down in some brutal martial law. Their lives are ones of riches and freedom, personal goals and love for a larger purpose. We don't demand that much, to be honest. If we are running low on potatoes and the grocery store is crowded, it is just simpler to enter a home in Blueville and grab a sack. Or if one wants a drink, and it is Sunday, the homes of Blueville become our favorite watering holes. We always say thank you. Maybe not always, but more often than not. We are polite owners, for the most part. I believe this.

Once Raymond Wise entered a home in Blueville - some of us knock first, some of us don't - and the husband and wife were apparently having a fiery argument. Ray, with his well-known shit-eating grin, said, Excuse me folks but I really need a snort. He found the bar readily enough - a globe which snapped open on a clever hinge - and fixed himself a scotch and soda. The couple stood in silent acquiescence. Their fight still boiled between them like a cloud. Ray thought about leaving - this is what he told me - but instead, on an impulse, he sat down with a second drink. Go ahead, he said.

Sheepishly at first, they re-began their argument. It centered, as so many do, on money, on its lack. One understands its power to disrupt. The couple, if shy at first, soon warmed to their antagonism once again, and began to really tear into each other. It was first-rate sport, Ray said. After watching them for a good fifteen minutes - the fight by then was losing steam - Ray rose and walked over to the perspiring couple.

He shook the man's hand. He bussed the wife's cheek. "Feel better?" he asked. They allowed as to how they did.

And Ray left.

Most encounters run along these lines. Time-honored, it is by and large a blithe lifestyle.

Of course, there is the pricklier sexual dimension. Many Whitevillian males think of Blueville's female population as a great pond to fish in. Their women seem like prizes, though the prizes are easily acquired. Some Whitevillians, it must be said, think instead that the women in our other town are like cattle. To these bitter few they are used for sport, for quickies. This can be ugly but every law has its naturally dangerous outer limits. The law, let's be clear, has served everyone well for hundreds of years.

Take the case of Anthony Barth. Anthony, it was well-known, liked a good shot of booze. He liked one many times a day. And he was happiest when going house to house in Blueville mixing his drinks with abandon. He would have snort of whiskey in one house, a snifter of brandy next door, a Black Russian at the two story house in the cove. He wandered like a tippling gypsy. One evening he found himself in a small elegant bungalow on Bungalow Lane, in search of a Bloody Mary made with pepper Stoli. Inside he found a young couple, the Bensons. Mark and Cindy Benson. Some say Anthony had already had too much to drink. Some say it was just a natural reaction to a beautiful Bluevillian.

The Bensons were watching Jeopardy on a large-screen TV. Anthony hated large-screen TVs, for whatever reason. After helping himself to a drink in their kitchen (they didn't have pepper Stoli, which may have fueled Anthony's irritability) he strolled nonchalantly into the living room and stood watching Jeopardy for a moment or two. His attention was slowly drawn to the Bensons. More correctly to Mrs. Benson, a shapely brunette with an overbite that was as sexy as a shadow. From his vantage point Anthony could see a good bit of Mrs. Benson's creamy cleavage. He took another swallow of his drink.

"Name's Tony," Anthony said. "You're TV is big so your brains must be minute. Or other body parts, perhaps."

Mark Benson smiled at their guest. "Mark Benson," he said. "And my wife, Cindy."

"Cindy," Anthony said, rolling the name around in his mouth.

Cindy could feel his ogle and her cheek was aflame.

"Cindy," Anthony said. "Stand up, won't you?"

There was a crackle to the silence in the room, broken only by Alex Trebeck's plummy voice.

"Stand up, Dear," he repeated.

Cindy rose slowly. Anthony set down his drink.

"Dance with me," he said. And he took Cindy's limp hand in his large, meaty one.

They moved into a few clumsy steps. Anthony hummed as his hand sought her lower back.

"You're about the sexiest thing I've seen in Blueville," Anthony said, stepping back for a frank appraisal of the stunning Mrs. Benson.

"Thank you," Cindy said.

"Tony," Mark Benson said, rising.

"Sit back down, Mark," Anthony said. "I have developed a sudden lust for your wife."

Cindy smiled. Mark Benson went back to Jeopardy.

"Take your dress off, Cindy," Anthony said. "I wanna dance in our underwear."

"Ok," Cindy Benson said.

Cindy slowly unzipped her dress and stepped out of it. Her underwear was the kind of brief, seductive wear wives save for "special nights." Apparently Anthony had interrupted a special night. His luck was the luck of the drunkard.

He began to paw Cindy Benson, kissing her neck. His hands roamed over her entire delicious torso. Anthony pressed his erection against the small but pleasing Mrs. Benson. Mr. Benson swallowed heavily. "Venezuela," he said to the TV screen.

"Let's go to the bedroom," Anthony said.

"Ok," Cindy squeaked.

"We can do it here, if you'd prefer," Anthony said.

"Whichever," Cindy Benson said.

And so it transpired that Anthony loved Mark Benson's wife right in front of him. And he really loved her. Afterward he kissed her long and hard and went home to his wife.

This could easily have been the end of it but Anthony had acquired a great need for the lovely Mrs. Benson. He returned time and time again and soon he and Mark Benson became quite chummy. Mr. Benson was law-abiding; it was one of his most admirable traits. Now, many weekends, the two men go fishing in Hurston's Lake, or they play golf at the country club, the Whiteville Country Club, that is. And Cindy learned to love her new man, almost as much as her husband. This relationship is extant to this day.

Then there was that scamp, Eustis Pepper, a nineteen-year-old with a nose for trouble. Even in Whiteville he was always in Dutch with the law. Drugs, a few minor break-ins, assault and battery. And Eustis used Blueville as his personal palace of sin. He walked into homes and took the women there as if he was born to rule the fairer sex. He was notorious for taking men's daughters or men's wives into their bedrooms and enjoying them carnally and then grabbing something from the icebox on his way out. Every age has had its Eustis Pepper and the laws are not very clear on how to deal with his kind. The best that could be done was to lock up Eustis for every infraction he committed in Whiteville. But as soon as Eustis was released from jail he headed for Blueville for another round of home-visits and droit du seigneur.

Let this be said for Eustis. He is gentle in his ministrations. He has never hurt anyone and, from all that is told of him, he is uncommonly tender with his Blueville women.

Just one example. At a high school football game between Whiteville High and Blueville High, held in Whiteville Stadium, Eustis espied a cheerleader from the Blueville side, a blond young lass named Ethel. Ethel Voyles was the object of many men's lust. She was perky and moon-faced and full of pep. Soon she was full of Pepper.

After the game Eustis followed Ethel and her friends back to their town and to their local burger pit, the usual after-game hangout. Eustis approached the group of teenagers in one of the booths and his eye was steady on young Ethel Voyles. The football players and other cheerleaders in the booth saw the wolf-like glare and grew quiet. They recognized the gangly Whitevillian.

"I think I'm in love," Eustis said to Ethel.

"Hi," Ethel whispered.

"I'm Eustis. I've from Whiteville," Eustis said.

"I know," Ethel whispered.

"Let's go," Eustis said.

Ethel made some of her friends scoot out of the booth so she could exit. She glanced back once at them, a tight smile on her round face. Eustis took her hand.

They drove to a dead end in a new subdivision in Blueville. Eustis left the headlights on and they climbed out of his beat-up Volkswagen.

"C'mere," Eustis said, moving into the beams of light. They stood on a dirt lot where a house was to be built. "Kiss me," Eustis said.

Ethel kissed him as best as she could.

"Now give me your underwear," Eustis said.

Ethel hesitated for one moment and then she reached under her cheerleader's skirt and handed him what amounted to one layer of underwear, the one seen by anyone watching the lithe teen do the splits or climb the cheerleading pyramid.

"The other, too," Eustis said. His knowledge of the ways of cheerleaders was laudable.

Ethel handed him a wispy pair of purple panties.

"Yes," he said.

"Now cheer for me," he said. And she did, complete with twirls and leaps and pirouettes.

"I am head over heels," Eustis said when the routine was through. "Now let's make love," he added. And they did, right there in that dirty lot.        

Lest one think that only the male populace of Whiteville enjoyed Blueville's availability I offer the story of Kitty McClure. Kitty, who was married to Doug McClure, Whiteville's Mayor. Kitty of the Whiteville Book Club and Kitty of the Kittycat Knitting Circle.

Kitty McClure was a horrible cook. Doug used to joke that Kitty not only couldn't boil water she couldn't put it in a pan. Dinners at their house were usually take-out unless Doug did a pasta. Take-out, as you might guess, was often take-out from a home in Blueville.

Kitty's timing was impeccable. Evenings she often could be seen roaming the streets of Blueville between 5 and 7. She seemed to be able to sense when something savory was ready to be served. As if an alarm had gone off, she would approach a house, rap lightly on the door and enter.

"Hello," she would call. "Kitty McClure from Whiteville," she would sing out.

And, approaching the dinner table, she would smile her sweet smile and look over what was being served. "Roast beef," she would hum, or "Mm, eggplant casserole." And she would pick up the dishes and place them carefully in the large picnic basket she carried with her. And then, invariably, she would add, "Ooh, I almost forgot. What's for dessert?"

"Thank you," she would say, backing out. "I hope you find something to eat."

"Don't worry about us," the family would say.

Or, "Nice to see you, Kitty."

Or even, sometimes, "We're honored you find our food worthy."

This goes a long way toward explaining Doug's ever expanding waistline. He ate well, did Mayor McClure.

Then there is the merry tale of Candy Luper.        

Candy would not date Whiteville men though she had many suitors here. She saved herself exclusively for Blueville men, whom she took into her arms as often and as readily as Eustis Pepper sought his various conquests. In her way she was as notorious in Blueville as Eustis, and her visits were greeted with almost universal delight, even by the wives of Blueville, who had taken quite a shine to the demure Candy. She was well-liked in Blueville.

It started this way: Candy began visiting our other city after a pretty bad breakup with that dodgy roué, Dr. Hank Morgan. Her first visit was done in tears though she quickly understood that a whole other world was opening to her, the world of guilt-free sex, a concept, frankly, she had previously never considered.

Her first visit was to the home of Brad and Jennifer Hood. Brad was also a doctor but this is mere coincidence. She knocked on the Hoods' front door. She stood and waited.

"Hello?" Jennifer Hood said, upon seeing the red-eyed Candy on her stoop.

"Do you have a husband?" Candy asked.

"Yes, I have a husband," Mrs. Hood answered.

"I'm from Whiteville," Candy said.

"Oh, oh, I see," Mrs. Hood said. "Come in."

Dr. Hood was just coming out of the bathroom when Candy walked into their living room. He was zipping up his fly.

"This is a nice home," Candy said.

"Thank you," the Hoods said together.

"I guess I want something," Candy said.

"Uh huh," Jennifer Hood said and waited.

"Your husband is very nice," Candy said.

"Thank you," Brad Hood said.

"May I fuck him? " Candy asked, politely.

"Of course," the Hoods said together.

"Yes, then," Candy said, and snuffled one last tear away.

Soon, Candy was visiting Blueville regularly. She enjoyed the freedom, the wide clean streets, and the lovely variety of men available. Once she even ended up at Cindy and Mark Benson's home.

"Candy and Cindy," she laughed, upon entering.

"Yes," Cindy said. "It's quite funny."

Mark Benson was happy to meet her and soon they were double dating when Anthony was also free. They had a particular Thai restaurant in Blueville that they all liked. The Thai that Binds. Often the foursome could be found laughing and cutting up in a back booth. Like I say, everyone liked Candy.

Now lemme tell you a little about myself.

I married Gayla Wegener of Blueville. You remember Gayla. She was homecoming queen of Blueville High, her senior year there. Then she was Miss Chamber of Commerce. Then Queen of the Mayday Parade, etc. She won every available beauty contest in Blueville for years. She was unbeatable because of her mix of good looks and charm and talent. It was a three-way knock-out. She was quick-witted with the judges. She sang like Bessie Smith. And in a bathing suit she took your breath away.

Needless to say I wasn't Gayla's only suitor. Many lads from Whiteville had noted her early on, perhaps even before she was homecoming queen. She was that stunning, that outstanding. She was put on a pedestal. Even Eustis respected her and only worshipped her from afar.

How did I come to marry her? you are asking. It's a head scratcher, I admit. I have no special answer for you. I courted her with the usual tools, flowers, dates at nice restaurants, persuasive emails, and, as things heated up, love letters composed in long nights of aching desire. Perhaps it was that I didn't demand my Whitevillian rights and instead approached her as if she lived in Whiteville with me. I didn't ask anything of her that I wouldn't ask of your sister, if your sister lived near me. I prized her. That's as close as I can come.

I was floored when it appeared as if she shared my ardor, as if she returned to me some of the electric passion I was expending on her daily, nightly.

The wives and husbands of Whitevillians, even if they came from Blueville, are automatically awarded citizenship in Whiteville. This is only meet and right. Gayla was happy to leave her town behind and adopt Whiteville as her own. She was soon so popular over here that she had to start turning down invitations to committees and coffee klatches and book clubs. Everyone wanted Gayla as a member of their group.

I was happier than a poor man with a bag of gold. Did I mention how sweet Gayla was, too? She was as kind as the sun in heaven. And she shone on my life and erased its shadows and darker corners. Gayla and I were the template of bliss, the perfect couple. Our love was noticed and remarked upon. For months, then years, we lived our cheerful existence, awake to our good fortune, relishing each other's company and devotion. At night we made love like cats, with a vigor previously unknown to yours truly. It was heaven on earth.

You're waiting for the penny to fall, I can sense it. What went wrong? is the question on your tongue.

How to explain these things? After years of delight, years of connubial rightness, something crept in from the lower depths. Gayla began to experience black moods and a cloud seemed to be following her. She snapped at me sometimes without provocation. She often sat in the living room in her knitting chair and did not move for hours. She spoke rarely and when she did it was with a voice of weary isolation that frightened me. I pleaded with her to tell me what was wrong but she could not bring herself to admit failure. "It's not you," was the most I got out of her.

I asked her if she wanted to see Dr. Tickle, the town's psychiatrist. She told me that she wouldn't have anything to say to him. She really felt that the demon she was wrestling was so peculiar to her and so insidious that she was beyond the pale, beyond the help of the medical community. She felt that cut off. And she was especially removed from me, or so I believed at the time. I took it personally, though I offered only support and love. I loved her so hard it hurt me physically. I began to experience chest pains and lethargy. I fought it as best I could, wanting to stay strong for her.

Finally, one evening, after an hour or so of quiet brooding, when the air in the room seemed leaden with ill intention, I once more pleaded with Gayla to speak to me, to try and articulate what was wearing her down, weighing her down. She looked at me with red-rimmed eyes, eyes full of a cursed melancholy. And she spoke the phrase that I perhaps feared above all else.

She said: I miss Blueville.

And just that simply the gulf between us erupted as if the poles were rent asunder. This seemed an unbridgeable gap. I quaked in its presence. I had no retort, no further words of comfort for her. She seemed in that instant as gone from me as if she had been snatched and replaced with a changeling.

Of course I knew that she was powerless. She couldn't leave me, not without breaking the law. I owned her as simply as I owned my car or our home. But, did I want her that way? Did I want my beloved Gayla as a slave, as chattel? I was torn apart by the implications of it. I couldn't face living without Gayla yet I wanted her happiness almost as much as I wished for my own. Though, in reality, the Gayla that I wanted to live with, my Gayla, had been removed from me for months before by her black depression. I wanted the old Gayla, the beauty queen, the woman who could charm the birds from the trees.

And that she wanted to return to Blueville was beyond me. How could she live in that second-rate town, that town that was only moon to Whiteville's sun? A sad reflection of a real town, in my opinion. Did she really want to return there and be subject to the whims of every Whitevillian? It seemed preposterous after the life I had offered her, after the life we had set up together. Who can fully fathom the human heart? Who understands its murkier recesses, its curious designs? We are all mysteries to each other. This is what I was led to conclude.

Now you're asking, what did I do? Could I let her go? Was my love that pure? Or would I rather hold her, in essence, as my prisoner? It was a moral dilemma and one that I was not equipped for or prepared to face. The Law was designed so that these considerations were not germane, or so I presumed. I also assumed that anyone living in Blueville would rather live in Whiteville. My beloved Gayla showed me otherwise. My saint, the woman who spoke most dearly to my heart of hearts. What to do?

My first stance was predictable. I forbade her to even think about it. I told her I loved her like an angel loves its guardianship. I told her I could not see her returned to second-class status, not a wife of mine, not the woman with whom I had pledged eternal love. I offered her any help available to assist her in getting through this difficult period but leaving me was out of the question. I stood firm and the days went by and things did seem to improve a bit. Gayla talked a bit more, about trivial things, about her day, which involved little more than sitting in front of the TV knitting. But at least she was talking to me. I thought I glimpsed a possible return to the golden days of our early marriage. At night she made love with me with a dynamism that had been absent in the previous months.

Then Gayla began to wither. She began to physically wither like a cut rose. She didn't take care of herself like she used to - that was part of it - but her skin actually seemed to grey and her eyes to lose their luster. Her hair, once an electric nest of glorious splendor, lost its sheen and lay about her face like damp tendrils. And, if it was possible, she actually seemed to walk with a stoop as if her body had prematurely aged 40 or 50 years.

Eventually, I had to let her go.

Our parting was the saddest day of my life. We both wept copiously. She pledged her love for me, her undying love. And I did the same, though every word out of my mouth felt dry and raw. The drive to Blueville was done in silence and when I stopped the car in front of a boarding house in Blueville, where she proposed to live, I got out of the car expecting an eleventh hour reprieve. I expected her to say, How ridiculous! I cannot live without you! Instead I hugged her awkwardly and watched her turn and walk away. She wept as she walked and my last sight of her was entering that boarding house, shoulders shaking. Her back to me, she never turned to wave goodbye. I never saw her again.

I heard tales, of course. Whitevillians rarely keep quiet about their exploits in Blueville and I had to listen to horror stories about the men who paraded through Gayla's new life back in Blueville. In town I became the object of great pity and my reputation took quite a thumping. I was the guy from Whiteville who couldn't keep a Bluevillian wife. One night at a drunken party I sat and listened to Eustis Pepper recount his coupling with the Queen of Blueville, as he called my ex-wife. Eustis went into every salient detail right up to the moment he exploded into her exquisite mouth. Finally, I stood up and took an uncoordinated swing at him. It glanced off his shoulder and he rightly beat the snot out of me. I returned home chastened and did not go to any parties again for a long time.

Eventually, of course, I pulled my life back together. I even started to venture into Blueville again, except that now I did it so quickly, looking neither to left or right, that it was really no visit at all. I saw little and felt less.

I did meet a nice woman here in Whiteville. She's new to town. She comes from down south somewhere and her name is Jackie Where. Jackie is a sweet thing and a lively date. We have good times together. It's not the same, of course, but one doesn't want to make comparisons in life. They are never fair. Jackie has told me that she wants to give me her all, that I complete her. She says she only wants to make me happy. She discerns a deep sadness in me and has set herself the task of plumbing its depths and eradicating it. She wants me to see that life is beautiful.

We'll see.




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This work is copyrighted by the author, Corey Mesler. All rights reserved.