Delivering The Goods
Our delivery was on the north side of the lake. About half way there, Harley started in. "So, you and Sandra, huh?"
"It ain't nothing, Harley. Just flirting."
"She's a looker. You ever cheat on Aven?"
Aven's my wife. We got married right out of high school. Our youngest just left the nest, so it's only the two of us again after all these years. "Now, Harley . . ."
"I'm just asking."
He pulled out a bottle of pills and tossed one down.
"Viagra? What the hell?"
Aven and me used to go out with Harley and his ex-wife Clarice, before she became his ex-wife. Harley's a big man, but Clarice was a bigger woman. We haven't seen her since the divorce and her move to New Mexico last year. Harley claims she joined a Wicca commune. So far as I know, Harley hasn't had a bird in his sights since she left.
"I'm taking it now, so I'll be ready later. I've got a cyber date later on."
I kept my eyes on the road. "You got a what?"
"You don't know about that?"
"Harley, I'm a married man. I don't date."
Well, turns out Harley doesn't really date either. What he does is visit a chat room on AOL. He met a woman name of CheriMist4657. They'd progressed from the chat room to private chat. They were both saving up for webcams.
"Yeah," he said, "It can get pretty hot sometimes. I'm going to ask Cheri to get nekkid tonight."
It was more than I wanted to know about Harley's personal life. "Harley, this ain't real. This is just playing around."
He sounded hurt. "It's real to me."
"I'm just saying for all the time you spend in chat rooms you could try to meet someone in person."
He hawked up a big one, rolled down his window and let her fly. Now he was pissed. "Ain't everyone can have what you and Aven's got."
Harley had a way of getting to the quick of the matter.
We figured it was for one of those big houses all the NASCAR drivers were building. Turned out to be some crew chief's garage—not his house—his garage. Not the driver, just his crew chief.
The owner met Harley and me at the door with a bottle of gin in one hand and a good looking woman in the other. He was in a bright green Speedo and cowboy boots and she wore this black swimsuit that was no more than a swatch of spandex on top, a thong crawling up her behind down below and five-inch heels. Eleven in the morning and that bottle of gin was half empty.
The fellow introduced himself as Les and his wife as Dolly. It was just the two of them living in this place with more square footage than the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The garage occupied its own lot next door.
Harley peeked over my shoulder into the expanse of the house. "Hot damn," he said under his breath.
"Where you want your windows?" I asked Les.
"We'll set 'em out next to the garage. Come on, I'll show you."
We followed him and Dolly across the drive. She teetered a bit in her heels and Les had to take her elbow.
"Right here," Les said, "Just unload 'em right here. You want to take a tour?"
"We call it the GarageMahal," Dolly giggled.
"It's some garage," I told him.
"GarageMahal," Harley repeated. He was just getting it. "Yeah, I want to see."
"C'mon." Les led us inside.
"Whoooeeee," Harley said. "This is really something."
And, it was. I'm talking three stories. The first floor for automobiles, the second floor for boats, and the third floor for a workshop you never seen the like of—table saws and band saws and overhead drills I would've killed for. He even had a wet bar, a wide screen TV and a fireplace. The windows we were delivering were replacements. There was something about the originals Dolly didn't like.
"Nice," I told Les and Dolly. "Real nice."
"Y'all want a snort?" Dolly lifted the gin bottle.
"Oh, I reckon not while we're working."
"Suit yourself," Les said.
"Maybe later," Harley reassured him. His eyes were all over Dolly. She wasn't doing anything to discourage him.
"Well," I said.
"Yep," Les agreed, and he and Dolly headed back to the house while Harley and me unloaded those windows.
When we finished, I carried the receipt back to the house for signature. Les opened the door. He had a shit-eating grin on his face and Dolly was behind him laughing like a hyena. She tried to straighten up but couldn't.
Les signed the receipt with a flourish. "Ya'll want to see my Jacuzzi?" He invited us in.
"I'd like to," Harley ventured.
I could've slapped him. "I reckon," I said, although it was definitely against company policy and not the kind of indulgence I normally allowed myself on delivery jobs.
"What do you think?" Les waved his arm as he led us through the house.
Ten thousand square feet and not a stick of furniture in sight. I almost told him it wasn't bad for a basketball court, but thought better of it. Out back was a pool, a 360 degree view of Lake Norman and a Jacuzzi the size of North Carolina.
"This here's something," Harley said. His eyes hadn't left Dolly's ass since we walked through the door—it was as hard and ripe as an autumn apple.
"Ain't it," she said over the shoulder, eyelashes fluttering.
"This way to the hot tub," Les pointed out back. "Ya'll want a beer? We done finished off the gin."
"Sure," Harley said.
"I reckon." I figured one beer couldn't hurt.
Now that Jacuzzi was something. You could have had a real party in there, cup holders for twenty people and squirty jets all around.
"Hot damn," Harley said. "I love y'all's Tiki torches."
"This is amazing," I agreed. Me and Aven had thought about selling our place in Charlotte and moving up to the lake. Not a place like this, but maybe a cabin on a nice lot.
"Hop in," Les said. "Make yourself to home."
"Heck, yeah," Dolly said.
"Well, we didn't bring our swimsuits," I told them.
"We can go in our skivvies," Harley volunteered, and I could have shot him.
"Heck, yeah," Dolly said. "We're all friends here."
So, Harley and me got down to our skivvies and Les got us a beer and we all slid into that Jacuzzi. I have to admit, nothing feels better on sore muscles than a Jacuzzi.
"I'm so glad y'all came to deliver those windows," Dolly said. "It's just been me and Les here all week by ourselves. We're about to go crazy."
"Ma'am," Harley said. "This is the nicest delivery we ever made."
We ended up drinking a case of beer, smoking a couple of doobies Harley had stashed in the truck's glove compartment and ordering out from Pizza Hut. After we finished the pizza, Dolly asked Harley if he'd like to see her tits. "Shit, you been looking at 'em all afternoon," she said.
Harley's jaw dropped nearly to the ground and me and Les just about died laughing. I thought she was just kidding until Les spoke up.
"Show 'em to him, Hon," he roared.
Sure enough, she ripped that top off quicker than lightning. Those boobs were firm and round as cantaloupes. Her nipples stood out like half-inch bolts.
"Now that cost a pretty penny," Les said. "I'll tell you what."
"Worth ever bit," Harley said, a faraway look in his eyes.
Dolly shook her titties at him. "Well, honey, if you like these. You'd probably like the rest of the package."
"Yep," Harley said, not sure where this was going.
Les guffawed loud enough that it echoed across the cove. "Shit, Dolly, take him on inside. Ya'll have a good time."
I felt a shiver run up my spine and gave Harley a look. "I don't think . . ."
Harley reached for Dolly's hand and pulled her with him out of the tub. "Hell, this ain't no time to think."
I stared at the sunlight on the lake while Dolly and Harley laughed and cavorted and made their way inside.
"Well," I said.
Les shrugged. "Shit man, it don't mean nothing. We're all just having a good time here."
"I reckon," I said. Les leaned back and looked up at the canopy of trees above us. He confided to me that he and Dolly liked to swing. "You and your missus ever get into that?" Les asked.
"Not much," I said.
Well," Les said, "you don't really know how much you love someone until you've shared them with another person."
"What I heard."
"You love your wife, don't you?"
"We've been married twenty-five years. If that ain't love, I don't know what is."
"I'll tell you what love is," Les said. "Love is helping that other person be all they can be. I'd drink Dolly's snot, if she asked me to, if I thought it would make her a better person."
"Well," I said. I was drunk and stoned and suddenly tired. I'd never thought of love like that.
While Harley and Dolly were inside, me and Les drank beer and talked about NASCAR. Things sure had changed since the old days. Used to be just a bunch of good ole boys and shade tree mechanics. Now it was big corporations and hi-tech machinery. He said they even had a school for it over in Mooresville. You learn to build them cars, fix 'em or drive 'em just by going to school. I told him the same was true of trucking. Just when you think you got it figured out, something new comes along.
After a spell, Harley and Dolly came back out to the Jacuzzi. Harley slipped into the water next to me, but wouldn't look me in the eye. He'd changed into one of Les' swimsuits. Dolly wore a heavy terry cloth robe. She sat down behind Les and rubbed his shoulders.
"MMMmmm, mmmmmmm," she murmured.
Les smiled and patted her hand. "I love you, Baby," he said.
"I love you too," she told him. Her robe fell open and a perfect fake breast spilled out.
"Well," I said.
"Yeah, I reckon." Harley agreed.
We stayed just long enough to be polite, then said our goodbyes and made our way to the door. Les slapped Harley on the back.
"Ya'll come back again," he said. "You can keep that swimsuit, if you want. I don't wear it no more anyway."
Harley kept his eyes fixed on the floor. "Thanks, I appreciate."
Dolly squeezed my arm. "Don't be a stranger," she said.
In the early evening traffic it took us nearly an hour down Brawley School Road to the highway. Harley didn't speak until I turned south on 77.
"They sure were nice," Harley said once we were headed back to Charlotte.
"Yes they were."
" GarageMahal," he snorted. "Did you ever hear the like?"
Well, the one about drinking Dolly's snot pretty much topped it, but I didn't want to get into that with Harley. Still, it did make a man think. I couldn't remember ever wanting to drink Aven's snot. And I can just imagine what she'd say if I asked her to drink mine.
"That was some garage," I said.
"Yessir it was. You want the details on Dolly?"
"She about turned me inside out."
"I'm sure glad I took that Viagra."
"Harley . . ."
"I know, I know. It's just she's the first woman I been with for real since Clarice. And, even for a while before the divorce . . . well, you know."
"How'd ole Les take it? Me in there with his woman."
I shrugged. "We talked about NASCAR. Shit, Harley, they're swingers. They do this all time. It ain't no big deal to them."
He sat back in his seat with a sigh. "Swingers?"
"What the man said."
"I'll be damned."
Harley shook another pill from his bottle and tossed it down.
"How many of those you supposed to take?"
"As many as I damn well please. I've still got a date with CheriMist tonight."
"Do you good to hook up with that Sandra," he said. "She likes you, Bud."
I hadn't thought about Sandra for a while. But the mention of her caused a vision of her knees to flash before my eyes. "I reckon."
By the time I get home, Aven's got dinner ready and it's not a minute too soon because I could eat a horse after toking those doobies.
Even though it's just me and her now, she still cooks like all the kids are at home. She's got fatback and fried potatoes and collard greens, and nothing beats collard greens. Especially, Aven's. I mean, the woman can cook.
She's a good looking woman, a little stouter than she used to be, but she's had three babies. When we were young, she was lean and hard like Dolly. Or Sandra. We've got a computer, sits on the kitchen cabinet. My oldest boy bought it for us so we could keep in touch with him by e-mail. I wonder if she ever goes into chat rooms while I'm driving truck.
After dinner, I help her with the dishes, then we sit on the porch. She asks how my day went and I tell her just fine. I ask about her day and she says just fine. We stay on the porch, talking about the kids who don't live with us anymore, wondering how they're doing and who'll be the first to bless us with grandchildren.
When it gets dark, we go back inside and watch HBO until we fall asleep on the sofa. Aven wakes up before me and says she's had enough. I punch the flipper and follow her down the hall.
I'm glad Aven takes a little extra time in the bathroom, so she doesn't notice that I'm not wearing skivvies. Harley tied our skivvies to the antennae of the truck to dry out on the way back from Les and Dolly's and Harley kept the truck overnight. How's a man supposed explain losing his skivvies to his wife?
I slip into bed and pretend to sleep. Aven lies beside me and reads for awhile, before turning off her light. She likes romances and stories about vampires and such. She says there's something erotic about it. But I can't see nothing erotic about sucking someone's blood anymore than I can see how drinking someone's snot's a way to show your love.
Lying there in bed, I can't sleep. Pretty soon, Aven's snoozing away, but I'm wide awake. I'm thinking about the deliveries we have tomorrow. We've got another one on the north side of the lake—lumber this time. I'm thinking about Les and Dolly in their big old empty house. I bet it feels lonely when the lights go down, even if you are with the one person in the world who helps you be all you can be. I'm thinking about Harley chatting it up online with CheriMist. What do I know? Maybe cyber love is real love.
But mostly I'm thinking about Sandra's knees. Woman's got beautiful knees, knees like the girls used to have when I was sixteen years old. I bet she'd look good in a swimsuit.
I wonder if they've got a Jacuzzi at that Motel Six. I wonder if Sandra and I could ever get so close we could drink each other's snot. I wonder if I could help her be all that she can be. And I wonder what else would I be, if I wasn't what I am?
Before I fall asleep, I reach out and place my hand on Aven's hip. It's ample. It's solid. It's given me a lot of pleasure over the years. I can feel its steady rise and fall, rise and fall. It's the most comforting thing I've felt all day.
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