Copyright© 2015 by Bill Offutt
Bud's payday habit was established with his first brown envelope and hand full of cash from Ray Ryan's Bodyshop out on the Pike. But now that he was married and had obligations, he only spent whatever he had above an even number at the tavern. Four or five dollars worth of cold beer and hot sausage, some juke box tunes and a few games of pin ball or skid bowling, with perhaps a small bet on the side, his weekly favor to himself. The other money he made working at the high school, the money that his wife didn't know about, usually went for condoms, candy, cigarettes, Revlon lipstick or some sort of pretty thing for whichever Winsor girl was willing to fall on her back and let him plow her while she popped her chewing gum.
Shortly after Jeanne came home from the hospital with their first son, she met him at the front door one evening with a pair of his Jockey shorts in her hand.
"What's this?" she asked, poking out a faded red stain with her forefinger.
"Don't know," said Bud squinting at the lipstick smear. "Paint maybe. We did a maroon car last week. Looks like primer."
"How would you get paint on your underwear?" she asked, feeling both anger and embarrassment.
"I don't know, maybe in the bathroom," Bud offered quickly. "I've probably got paint or lacquer on most of my work clothes now. I'm tired, worked hard today, don't bother me."
"Looks like cheap lipstick to me," Jeanne said.
"Aw Jeanne," Bud cried, handing her his lunch box, "no it ain't, honest. It's just rust red primer."
"It better not be lipstick," she said, sticking out her jaw.
"Now don't go on like that," Bud said. "It told you it was paint." He pushed past his wife and went to the refrigerator and got himself a Gunther beer.
Jeanne followed, his underpants in her hand and when he turned from finding the bottle opener she was standing in the middle of the narrow kitchen, angry and unhappy.
Bud pushed her aside and the young woman went into their bedroom and slammed the door. "I'm not fixing you supper," she yelled through the door. He howled, cursed, stomped, and begged. She told him to go away, that he was waking the baby.
Bud turned on the radio, tried to find a ball game or some hillbilly music, gave up and left the apartment, half-filled beer bottle in his hand. He headed for the bowling alley.
The next Friday when Ray Ryan gave Bud his pay envelope, he said, "I raised you a dollar a day, Bud. You've come along fast. How 'bout doing me a favor?"
"Sure," Bud said, eager to open the small brown envelope and see how much money he had.
"Joe's wife's hauling him off to see her folks down in Norfolk. Would you like to drive the stock car this Saturday."
'Geeze, you sure? I've never done any kind of racing."
"Nothing to it. You slide into the curves, accelerate out and try not to let anybody hit you too hard. Joe's down at the Dew Drop, go talk to him. I'm going up to Delaware to play the horses, or I'd do it myself."
Bud nodded; excited about the idea of driving the company's beat up '32 Ford three-window coupe with the big V8 engine, twin carburetors, tubular bumpers, roll bar and wild orange and blue paint job. He had been to a few stock car races, had even talked Jeanne into going to one, but he had never even considered driving.
Joe Fisher, whose specialty was leading, filling in holes and creased dents, explained the car's idiosyncrasies and warned Bud to watch out of a red Oldsmobile that another body shop had been beefing up. "That's thing's heavy, got angle iron in the front," Joe said, "he'll knock you sideways if he can."