“Wrong" by Todd Grimson, page 3

        I didn't know what room Patti was in, though it had to be one of these in front, so she could see the screen. Back across Division, down past Jimmy's Hut, I saw some kind of action, huge figures moving, in color, shadows and colored lights in silvery rain. I looked at the big drive-in sign. I looked at the sign with the name of the motel. The "No" turned off, next to the neon orangey red Vacancy.
        I heard my father's voice. I knocked right on the door, the wet blue door. I heard another voice, Patti's I guess, and then my father opened up. He looked surprised to see me, there in his undershirt, his hair sort of mussed up.
        "What're you doing here?" he said, and I just shook my head. I wanted to hit him, he must have felt it, I wanted to kill him but I could not. Behind him, in the bed, Patti had the covers pulled up to hide her nakedness from me. I didn't like the way she looked, but it didn't matter. It struck me how much taller I was than him, though that meant nothing. I was still raw, I didn't know how the world really worked.
        "Why don't you come in out of the rain, you big lug?" he said now, changing on me. "I was just coming over to get you. Patti, uh, has been wondering when I'd get off my ass and bring you back."
        "I'm taking off," I said, and I walked off into the rain. I walked all the way home. Two hours, soaked to the skin.
        When I was twenty-two, I had quit school and been fired from a couple of jobs, then I quit one down at Davis Welding after three days. I was living in a shitty apartment, and when my car broke down my mom called my father and got him to lend me his Chrysler New Yorker so I could use it to look for work. Actually, I was content being on unemployment for a while, but I liked driving the Chrysler, even though it was way too big and used a lot of gas. It felt good to drive it, especially at night. Even though it was a big car, it cornered well, it was surprisingly easy to parallel park. It was sort of like one of those fat men you see sometimes who are agile and light on their feet. My father had another car, a new mulberry or dark-red Buick. He was married again, his fourth wife. Another barmaid.
        I was driving down on Williams Avenue one day, on the way to visit my sister, when I saw this girl – she had to be a prostitute – who really stopped me dead. I was a little wary, as this is the black part of town and I didn't know it very well, I didn't really know where I was, but I drove back around and came by to see her again. She was a white girl, standing on the corner of Monroe. There were other, more obvious whores, in short skirts and such, at other corners along the one-way street. The whole scene was perversely exciting to me. This girl looked like a sad madonna in some painting from the Renaissance. She wasn't dressed up, just wearing jeans.
        I came back at night, and didn't see her, and then about a week later drove by special and felt really exhilarated when I saw her again. I drove by several times. It was a weekday, about 4:30 p.m. She looked unhappy, and still wasn't dressed anything like a prostitute. She wore blue jeans and a brown jacket, and her dark brown hair was up under a watchcap. She could have been a poor girl waiting for a bus, except for the fact that she was standing at Williams and Monroe.
        I drove around the block up ahead, by a closed-down ribs place, and some black guys in a white Lincoln Continental pulled up by me, and the driver said, "Y'all see somethin' you like?"
        I went away. The Chrysler was conspicuous. How many times had I come around? I didn't have any money. Besides, that wasn't what I wanted, to be a trick.
        I told myself I was just curious, I wanted to talk to her, she looked too intelligent to be living this degraded type of life. I thought about her all the time. I wanted to save her, at the same time I must admit I was excited by the idea of her with her tricks.
        I tried to imagine her daily life. She would live in a house with other young whores, eat fried chicken and potato salad and cornbread, soul food, and have a black pimp who fucked her, enslaved her and beat her up. Was she a heroin addict? Yes, probably. I wasn't sure. It seemed likely though. To numb herself out while giving blowjobs and being fucked in the ass.

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