Excerpt from “The Professional”
I left Mary’s house in sweat funky clothes and my Afro looking like I’d been attacked by a rabid spider monkey. I had three folded twenty dollar bills tucked into my gym sock. The money was the last thing on my mind. I was tired but wired. I felt good; I felt like I could take a running start and go airborne and fly the six blocks home.
I’d just had real sex. Good sex. None of that sneaking around kid sex, doing it on couches and in the back seats of cars, or even some motel room on prom night. Nope, I’d been with a real woman, in her bed, free to take our time and do it however we wanted to do it. Free to take my time and enjoy her body and to make her look even more beautiful when she got off.
I walked without seeing my surroundings, instead seeing in my memory Mary’s beautiful nude woman’s body. I remembered the feel of her, the smell of her, and the taste of her. I remembered how she’d looked when she was lost in her bliss—even more beautiful. I’d done that to her.
I didn’t feel proud of myself. It wasn’t about my ego. I’d discovered a new thing: How beautiful a woman looked when her body was in control.
I missed that look already, so much that I wanted to turn around and go right back to Mary’s house and make her look that way again. Two weeks seemed like two hundred years away.
I used a cigar box to stash my spare change and cash, when I had it. When I was back in my room I took inventory of my savings.
My coin change totaled six dollars and seventeen cents. I had twelve dollars in folding money in the cigar box. Another six dollars in my wallet. There was a check in box too, written to me by Aunt Alicia. That was for one hundred dollars, to take care of my needs while she was in the hospital.
I retrieved the sixty dollars I’d gotten from Mary from my sock. Thanks to that money I wouldn’t need to cash Aunt Alicia’s check right away. I put two twenties in the box and kept the third to buy a few groceries later. I jumped in the shower, and while I was bathing did the mental math.
For the time being I was good to go on having a roof over my head. I’d asked Cam how much he would charge me for rent when the time came, and he’d said one twenty-five a month, including utilities. He told me that working in Housekeeping at the hospital, I’d bring home about one-seventy every two weeks, more if I worked the evening shift, which paid ten cents more an hour. That meant that most of one paycheck would be eaten up by rent. I still had to eat, and buy clothes sometimes. I couldn’t imagine how I could afford a car.
In the space of just a couple of months my life’s plan had changed drastically. Until this spring I’d thought that I’d be spending the next two to four years in college, still living at home, and that the biggest concern of my life would be studying. But through no one’s fault I’d been thrust out into the real world.
I appreciated that Cam was hooking me up with a job because I was going to need the income. But I couldn’t see myself being a janitor for very long. I wanted more for my life than that. I had another option, one that I wasn’t wild about, but that considering the circumstances, was something to fall back on.
Since the war in Vietnam was over, some of my friends who weren’t going to college were enlisting in the military. That seemed like a decent deal. If I enlisted I’d have a steady income. The government would put a roof over my head, clothes on my back and give me food to eat. And I could use the military benefits to get a college degree. It was an option, but one I had to wait to act on, if that’s how I wanted to go. I didn’t want some recruiter trying to meet his quota by pushing me off into basic training while Aunt Alicia was still alive.
If the doctor’s prognosis was right, Aunt Alicia wouldn’t make it to Thanksgiving. That was four months away. Cam had my back for the short term, but soon enough I was going to have to find some way to live.
I had one hundred eighty-four dollars and seventeen cents to my name, and not counting another ten dollars every two weeks for doing yard work, no prospective income for the next four months.
That was not living.
For the next two weeks I couldn’t get Mary out of my mind, but by the time the awaited Saturday morning rolled around I felt pretty calm. I dressed in basketball shorts, a wife beater and Pumas. Remembering Mary’s advice, I also folded a pair of flairs, a tee-shirt and underwear and stuffed them into a paper bag. I figured using my gym bag might look too obvious to anyone seeing me going onto her property. It was too much like luggage.
To get my strength up I made scrambled eggs with cheese and burned some hot links. I wolfed down my breakfast, then headed next door to give Aunt Alicia a hug and kiss before I left to mow Mary’s yard.
Cameron no longer gave a shit about nosy neighbors and propriety. When Aunt Alicia came home after her surgery he said he couldn’t trust her to be still and rest. He took his vacation and made her stay with him so that he could keep an eye on her.
I was cool with that. I didn’t want Aunt Alicia trying to cater to me just because I was there. And, I wasn’t a kid anymore, but Cam was better able than me to take care of her. Anyway, she was his woman. If she were my woman I wouldn’t trust somebody who still smelled like schoolbooks to be responsible for her care and comfort.
On my way next door I sat the paper bag containing my extra clothes next to the divider wall. I’d just put it down when Cam opened his front door.
“I was just coming to get you,” he said. “Got breakfast ready over here.”
I hopped the wall onto Cam’s side of the porch, glad that he hadn’t seen the bag, which might have resulted in questions. When I stepped into his living room I got hit in the face by humid heat. “Is your air conditioner broken?” I asked.
“It works, but that chemotherapy drained the heat out of her blood,” Cam said. “She said she feels like she’s freezing so I’ve got the heat on for her. She doesn’t have much appetite either; kind of nauseous.”
Aunt Alicia was sitting at Cam’s kitchen table, wearing a quilted robe buttoned up to her neck. The weakness in her eyes and the dark circles under them broke my heart.
It wasn’t fair. If the fucking doctor was right she wouldn’t live to be thirty-seven years old. I felt guilty for worrying about what I was going to do with the rest of my life when my aunt had to be worried about what waited for her after her life was over. Soon.
She gave me a weak smile and said, “Come and eat before you go. Cam made omelets. They’re almost edible.”
Aunt Alicia’s nausea notwithstanding, Cam could cook okay and so could I. But even with our combined culinary skills, without Aunt Alicia doing her thing in the kitchen the amount of nontoxic, decent tasting food prepared in the house was going to drop by about ninety percent.
I leaned and kissed her on her cheek and said, “I already ate. Just wanted to come say I love you before I go plow the back forty.”
With humid eyes Aunt Alicia said, “I love you too, sweetie. Tell Mary I said hello.”
I turned away before she could read anything on my face.
Even carrying my nondescript paper bag I felt guilty as I neared Mary’s house. I stole looks around like a criminal, but at just after eight o’clock in the morning on a Saturday the only sign of human life in the area was Mary’s neighbor Faith’s kids across the street, in their yard. They were too busy fighting over a Big Wheel to notice me.
Mary’s back door was closed. After what had happened the last time I wasn’t sure if there was a new protocol, so I stuck to the normal script. I dropped my bag off on her back porch, went to the shed where she stored her mower, gassed it up got busy.
As always, I mowed her front yard first, then the sides. I kept my eye on the house as I worked, but didn’t spot Mary at the windows. I was anxious to see her naked again, and finished those areas in record time. Getting to the back yard was a relief. I didn’t have to think about somebody passing by and seeing my anxious erection pushing out the front of my shorts.
When I finished the back yard and was rolling the mower back to the shed I saw that her previously closed back door was open.
In spite of being anxious to get my hands on Mary again, my legs felt watery and electricity boiled in my stomach as I knocked on the screen door frame. From beyond the kitchen Mary called for me to come in.
She was sitting on the end of her living room sofa, casually swinging her crossed leg as she flipped through a TV Guide. The shades and curtains were drawn, and she read her magazine under the glow of an end table lamp. She hadn’t made my fantasy real by being buck ass naked, but she was wearing a see-through black lace slip that was more see-through than lace. The lamp’s amber light highlighted her brown skin showing through the lace.
Her nipples were in the same condition as my dick. They poked through the spaces in the lace. I remembered the feel and taste of them, and my mouth watered so profusely that I almost choked when I swallowed.
Mary arched her foot toward her coffee table and said, “There you go.”
I followed the line of her leg to where her toes were pointing, to where three twenty dollar bills lay on the table.
My dick sent words to my mouth before my brain could stop them and I said, “I wasn’t going to say anything.” My lust warned that if Mary thought she had to pay me fifty dollars a pop, eventually the cost wouldn’t be worth it and she’d stop giving me some.
“It’s not for that,” she said. “This is so you’ll do what you did last time.”
“With your mouth.”
“Oh.” She was paying me to go down on her? Maybe she’d pay a drug addict to get high, too.
“Why don’t you run up and take a shower and come back down here? I put towels out for you.” I noticed what looked like a bedspread folded on the other end of the sofa. Following my eyes, Mary gave me a hot smile and said, “I’ll be waiting right here for you.”