Copyright© 2003 by Carlos Malenkov
I had a dish washing job that summer. It was back in '65 and I had just graduated from Northeast High. Viet Nam had started to heat up and sooner or later a draft notice would arrive in the mail. Meanwhile, I figured I could earn a couple of bucks and maybe, maybe even lay enough aside to pay for a semester or two at the state college. Not that I cared much about school or book learning, but I didn't much care about anything else either. Until that summer.
There were two of us back there in the dingy backroom of that dingy roadside diner. The wheezing ceiling fan periodically annointed us with blasts of dust and dead flies. Dense clouds of rank-smelling steam gave the place its distinctive atmosphere. We called it the Swamp.
I was the one in charge of the pots, scraping congealed grease off the heavy cast-iron griddles and frying pans, and cleaning the remains of cement-hard mashed potatoes out of dented aluminum cauldrons. Marnie did the plates and silverware in a chipped ceramic sink the size of a washtub. The ancient electric dishwasher sometimes lent a hand -- on the infrequent occasions when it was working.
Marnie was probably still in her early thirties, but she looked older. Much older. Her hair was starting to streak gray and her face was wrinkled and a bit leathery. She had been married twice and had three brats in school. She didn't have much in the way of formal education, but she was surprisingly well-read and had a lively intelligence.
Ah, the conversations we had. I felt completely at ease in her presence. I could talk to her about anything without worrying about making an ass of myself. There was more to the world than baseball and hot cars and girls, and Marnie was the one who first gave me a glimpse of wider horizons.
"You really oughta stay in school, Dave. How're you gonna make something of yourself unless you put something inside that empty head of yours? You're smart, I can tell. Why're you wasting yourself in this shitty little dump of a town, anyway?"
"Because, well, I was born here and anyway where'm I gonna go?"
She just stood there and smiled. She had a luminous smile.
Well, we got to be quite good friends. I told her my troubles and even got to the point where I could talk about girlfriend problems with her.
Girlfriend problems? I wished I had them. Girls had been avoiding me like the plague. Unsurprisingly, I was still a virgin. Virgin? I had kissed a girl exactly once, and that was more of a brother-sister kiss than a passionate one. For that matter, I was still kind of fuzzy about, you know, the "birds and bees" stuff. This was back in the early 60s, you see. The Dark Ages. Before universal sex education. Before universal sex.
"Dave, look. You're not ugly or anything. It's just that... well, it might help if you took a shower every once in a while, and maybe even brushed your teeth. You know, take care of yourself, show a little pride in your appearance. Learning a few of the -- what we used to call 'social niceties' -- that might not kill you either."
I didn't know quite what to make of that, but gradually it got through my thick skull. I stank and had bad breath. And I was a clod. That might just explain a few things.
It stung. I gritted my teeth as I scraped the remains of half a dozen Blue Plate Specials into the plastic trash barrel. I stank.
"Oh, it's not all that bad, Dave. You're young. You'll learn. By the time you're my age, you'll probably have gone through quite a few wives and girlfriends. And besides, underneath several layers of dirt -- and your youthful ignorance and clumsiness -- you're actually kinda cute."
"Damn it, Marn, you're just saying that to take the edge off the kick in the the teeth you gave me a minute ago. Damn you! Damn it all! Just about all the girls I've ever known think I'm poison, and you're saying it's all my own damn fault. How the bloody hell do you expect me to feel? Grateful?"
"I'm sorry. Dave, I have an even worse flaw than body odor and bad breath. I'm an insensitive bitch. A bitch! You're basically a good guy. And you're my friend. We've helped each other over many a rough spot in these few weeks we've known each other... and here I am crapping all over you. Now I feel like shit."
We stood there silently for a few minutes -- I scraping away at an encrusted pot, and she industriously scrubbing a sink full of dirty dishes. Then she turned around and looked at me. She had a twinkle in her eye.
"Let's see if I can make it up to you in a small way. Hold on to your hat."
She turned around, and then, and then... dropped her skirt, bent over... and flashed her bare behind at me. Christ, those full round globes! I couldn't stand it. I had to do something. I had to --
At that very moment we heard loud footsteps in the hall. Mr. Biggins! "Bigshot" Biggins himself, head fry cook and owner of the joint. When the door creaked open, we were both busily doing our jobs, sudsing away merrily as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Well, that was pretty much the end of it. Marnie continued being friendly, but that was the last of her bare ass that I saw that summer. She coolly rebuffed any suggestion that we might... whatever. It was as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened that one hot and sultry afternoon in the backroom of the diner.
All the rest of that summer it tormented me. Those plump buttocks, and that mysterious line of shadow in between, and just a hint of red. I could see it with my eyes shut. That magnificent naked ass. If only...
We went our separate ways, Marnie and I. The last I heard of her, she had remarried and moved out west somewhere. I hit the books. Hard. The more I heard about the fun and games and jungle fighting out Nam way, the less I wanted any part of it.
That ass. Those bare cheeks haunted me. That gleaming round ass popped up in my dreams and I found myself obsessing about it when awake. My fantasy of the "perfect woman" had an ass like that. The hell with the rest of her, just as long as she had that ass.
Well, I finally lost my virginity to a woman with a big, plump ass like that. Livia was a grad student at school.
Yeah, I wound up in college after all. For a while I considered studying mechanical engineering, of all things. Why not? After all I had gotten pretty good at fixing the balky old dishwasher at the diner. But, by then I had discovered a special aptitude for finding hidden patterns in stone. I began to sculpt.
Livvy and I were lovers for about a year and I almost fell in love with her. I would have, too, if it hadn't been for the memory of Marnie... and that beautiful ass of hers.