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Just to Touch

By Charlie Geoghegan-Clements.

John picks up his can of Pabst. It’s silver skin sweats in the sunset and is sticky with the pollen that blows across the windows of every parked car in the neighborhood. “It’s not like anyone’s using any of it. The houses are abandoned.” He looks at Wes and Scott. “They’re not our neighbors. Nobody lives there. It’s just a development.”

Scott shrugs, “I could use some grass seed. Cheryl keeps bitching at me to get some from the garden store, but this is free.” He takes a last huge swig on his beer before opening another. “Let’s at least go down there and see what they have, right? Nobody’ll care if we just look.”

They fill a cooler with beers and get into John’s pickup to drive the couple of blocks to the new condo development. The buildings, all new paint and ungrown gardens push up like saplings as the truck crests the hill.

“You fucker with your new truck.” Wes grunts and pops open another beer. “I should’a had that promotion.”

“You just don’t know how to kiss ass like our boy John here.” Scott reaches from the back cab and hits John hard on the shoulder.

Wes laughs and turns to look over his shoulder at Scott. “You could’a put in all those extra hours if you weren’t busy slaving over Cheryl all the time.”

“I just do what she says so she’ll shut up once in a while.”

John scratches his ear and turns on the wipers. “Fucking pollen.”

John parks the truck in the center lot of the development. The houses are built in a U-shape around a courtyard with a volleyball court and pool. They are all two-storied buildings and identical: fully furnished and unsold, waiting.

“Fuckin’ hell! It’s like a rich old folks home.” Wes tips up his beer and sits on the hood of John’s truck.

“I figure we can easily make a trip without anyone noticing.” Scott nods his head and throws his empty into the back of the truck. “Then maybe we can come back and see what else we can find.” Scott grabs a new beer. “I’m gonna go look in that shed and see if I can get Cheryl her fucking grass.”

“What’ll we do if anyone shows up? Say Scott needed some seed for his wife?” Wes raises the brim of his hat and clears sweat from his forehead.

“We’re not gonna get arrested for taking some junk. And it’s not for my wife.”

John steps next to Wes and Scott. “I want to check it out and it’s my truck and my license plates that’ll be responsible.”

“I’m gonna try and get one of those nice double decker grills. Good thing John’s got this big truck for us.” Scott slaps the roof of the truck.

“I knew I worked for something.” John says. He pulls a flask out of his shirt pocket, “For strength?”

Scott takes a prybar from John’s toolbox and busts the lock on the main shed. He comes out victorious with two bags of grass seed, one on each bulging shoulder. Wes and John root around the backs of the houses and put two propane canisters in the back of the truck. The three men laugh into the dusk and run haphazardly around the abandoned buildings.

“I got a box of nails!” Wes yells.

“I got about ten back at my house,” John says.

“These are free.”

Scott throws the bags of seed into the truck and walks back to the nearest house. “If Cheryl can have her fucking grass, which I’m gonna have to fucking plant, I’m getting my grill.”

“Cheryl need anything for the kitchen?” John calls after him.

“What, are you her husband too?” Wes throws an empty at John and reaches into the cab for a replacement.

“I’m the only one here smart enough to not get married. Fuck you two.”

Scott returns victorious and lowers a grill into John’s truck. The three men pant and take turns on the flask.

“We’re out.” Scott shakes the flask. “Let’s go back and see what we got.”

The three men pile back into the truck and drive away from the nearly vanished sun to John’s house. They make a little pile out of their goods: propane canisters, Scott’s new grill, the bags of grass seed, a box of nails and some yard furniture.

“Who the fuck took a kiddy pool?”

“I’m gonna fill it up in my back yard when it gets hot this summer,” Wes smiles.

“Idiot,” Scott spits. “John, what else do you have to drink around here? There more whiskey inside?”

“Yeah. It’s next to the sink. Isn’t Cheryl going to worry about you not being home for dinner though?”

“She’ll have her grass. Fuck it.”

“You gonna be able to drive home? I don’t want to wake up in the morning to you two fighting on my porch again.”

“Christ. I don’t need two wives. You want a drink?”

“Yeah, bring the bottle.”

The three men rest in deck chairs passing the bottle back and forth.

“It looks like a night’s work here.” John tips the bottle up and holds it out to Wes.

“Boys. I’ve gotta go. There ain’t shit but shit and I’ll be knee deep in it if I don’t get home before Linda.”

“Drive safe you fuck. God knows you won’t be safe when you get home,” Scott snorts.

Wes gets into his truck and honks his horn. John and Scott watch Wes’ headlights drop below the arch of the hill and John leans back in his deck chair.

“Well. That fucker’s gone to better places.”

“Gimme that bottle.” Scott grabs out and takes a deep pull. “You got the life, John. A new promotion and no family to spend it on. Just yourself and a bottle of whiskey.”

“And your ass sleeping on my porch!” John takes the bottle back from Scott.

“Nah. I’ve got to get home soon or that bitch’ll have my balls.”

John scratches at his nose and laughs.

“What the hell are you laughing at?”

“Looks to me like she’s already got your balls.”

“If she could have ’em as much as she wanted …”

John gets up and turns the ignition in his truck. The radio comes on loud and John turns it down a bit. He looks at his dusty shoes and scratches his palm against his cheek. He slowly draws shapes in the pollen that covers the waxed roof of his truck and turns to Scott.

“So you’re a real Casanova huh?”

“Man I can’t even give it to her as much as she wants it.”

“That so? That ain’t how she tells it.” John takes his palm away from the smooth surface of his truck.

“What the fuck have you been talking to her about it for?”

“When you were in Atlanta to see your brother.”

“What about it?”

“She walked over here. Said she heard a noise and got scared. Asked if she could spend the night on the couch.” John walks back towards the porch.

“That fucking whore!”

“So we drank some beers and she got to complaining.”

“She wouldn’t know a fucking if it jumped into her.” Scott imagines his wife laying in the bed of John’s new truck, beads of sweat dripping out of her close cropped blonde hair and onto her face, her cut-off jean shorts riding up her tan thighs in the early night.

“Well… she was practically gagging for it,” John says.

“You son of a bitch.” Scott grabs the bottle from John’s hand and walks away from the porch light.

“What’s a man to do? I was drunk and she was begging for it,” John calls after Scott, and starts to stand but he falls backward. “What’s a man to do?” He smirks to himself. Before falling asleep on his porch John looks over at his new truck and smiles.

In the morning when John wakes up on the porch his head feels trapped in a diving bell. His tongue is stuck to the top of his mouth and the sun is clinging to his soggy skin. He stands and sees his truck. It shimmers and is perfect everywhere except for the windshield, whose shattered remains litter the oiled vinyl of the front seats. Two bags of grass seed have been pored into the cabin. John walks over to the truck and turns off the radio. His hand lightly touches the warm and smooth roof metal and he thinks of Scott’s wife sleeping on his couch, drunk in the early night, he thinks of maybe reaching out his palm to meet her thigh just below her cutoffs.

clements

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlie Geoghegan-Clements has spent most of his life in New England. He now lives in Georgia and attends Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program. He has most recently been published in Marco Polo Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, Versal, Litro Magazine and his poetry was included in the Dzanc Best of the Web 2008 anthology.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, August 30th, 2010.