March 8th 2011: Sometimes lies are for the better

21 Westwood
, by A.K. Small

I turn tricks in my finished basement. I don’t call it that. After all, I’m U Conn educated and know the word cliche. Instead, I wait for my husband’s loafers – their predictable clack-clack, growing faint on our newly tarred driveway. When he’s gone, I take Sammie and Jill to the end of the cul-de-sac. After the orange doors of the school bus shut and Sammy mouths, “I love you,” against the glass, I wave to the circle of stay-at-home mothers and rush home to my first visitor. My schedule’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday. One client per day. I set the limit a year after Jill was born. Back door only. Hundred bucks a pop. The men I entertain are from the neighborhood. I met them at my first garage sale. It’s true, I decide, as I brush my teeth in preparation, that golf club residents and members of the Westwood Hill Association buy at yard sales. I think they seek something sacred from their next-door neighbors. As if Susie Clay’s old wicker basket on Pilgrim or Eve Kurns’s outdated crib on Steel might bring them something.

Cade’s my Monday visitor. An anesthesiologist, who never looks me in the eye. His wife Sally Samson is a PTA guru. His son, Damien, a pest in Jill’s kindergarten class. They live two streets over and drive Suburbans. But every Monday, in his running gear, Cade jogs along the side of my fence and tramples the plants. I wait with a coffee cup, my back, resting against granite countertops. I wear the same outfit, jeans with a man’s shirt, because Cade obsesses over breasts and buttons. If the kids are sick, I never open the back door. I take down my welcome sign instead. By 8:35 a.m., he’s got me pinned, legs up, on the basement floor. Our coffee mugs, handle to handle, the only things intimate, pushed against the musty wall. He always says the same thing. “You want some, don’t you?” Then, he bites each shirt button off and spits it out. One button on top of the next. Week after week.

As I watch a graveyard of buttons pile up near the furnace, I plan to buy new shirts with my husband’s money. “Yeah, I want some,” I whisper.

“Damn Baby. Talk dirty.”

By the time, Cade has bitten off the final button – the one that hangs low between my hips – our time is almost up. As a last hurrah, sweaty from his run with coffee breath and a Viagra hard-on, Cade likes to hook his front teeth onto my nipple.

“Don’t spit those out,” I sometimes say.

With shorts around his ankles in June or tights in December, Cade bounces up and down until he yells, “Yes Jesus! I’m flying!”

No wonder, this man puts people to sleep.

I always usher him up the stairs. Once he turns his mug upside down in the sink, I slouch on the first step of my basement. Money bulges from my pocket. With windows open, I close my eyes and focus on his athletic soles – the crunch-crunch on broken plants. When he’s gone, I think about my Wednesday visitor, Tom Pain, the head of Pain and Alarm Systems and Sammy’s Little League baseball coach. How Tom stays mute as if afraid to be caught on tape.

What about me? What am I afraid of?

Something big. Like silence that slips away or words that finish in -ness: loneliness, emptiness, sadness. I crave one of Cade’s anesthetic agents. Something to numb. Because inside my empty house, as I reapply lipstick, I know that on Saturday, when the sky is postcard blue, when the kids bounce on the neighbor’s trampoline, and when my husband shines the tip of his golf clubs, I’ll sneak down to the basement, scoop up all the buttons near the furnace. In the artificial light, I’ll swallow them up to gorge myself on their clickety-click, or on any sound. Any sound at all.

*

A.K. Small is a graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s studied with mentors such as Ann Hood, Caroline Leavitt, Rosellen Brown, Roxana Robinson, and Dave Jauss and is currently at work on a novel titled THE RULES OF ADULTERY.


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