Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I love Penny. (Part One of Two).

"Portsmouth Potbellies, getch'er Portsmouth Potbellies!"

The aged crate with "ORANGES" emblazoned across the side wobbled beneath her, every stomp of her tiny feet threatening to pitch her to the dirt below. She thrust her arms high above her head and sucked in as much air as her lungs would allow before shouting, with all the force of her cracked, dusty voice, "GETCH'ER PORTSMOUTH POTBELLIES RIGHT HERE."

She found herself confused. She was the greatest saleswoman Lang Tang Motors had ever seen, a star employee with a plaque hung in her honor for every month of the year, yet not a single customer had approached her to purchase a pig. With a huff, she dismissed the haunting idea that it could be because she had no pigs to sell; it didn't occur to her that it might be because she had no customers in the first place, standing atop this used crate of oranges in the middle of a field.

Dissatisfied, Penny climbed down, slipping on the slick surface of the wood and crashing into the mud below. "Oh, alright, Clancy, you can use the vacuum on me if that's what you're going to do!" she cried as she got to her feet, mud and earth-stuffs clinging to all parts of her. She deliberated the merits of a line of work as a mud saleswoman as she dragged her crate with her through the muck, searching at her feet for the road she'd left behind many hours ago.

Night was falling fast and the crows conversed between themselves about this lump of a woman, dressed in pink and white rags (and now, caked head-to-foot in thick, grey mud), careening through their field making airplane noises. As though in agreement, the crows took to flight and abandoned the field for another day; they simply didn't care for the looks - or the smell - of this old crone.

"Not no way, not no how, gonna find some screws and make me a cow," she sang.

A road emerged from the barrenness of the field, marked only by a lonely line of telephone poles stretching from horizon to horizon. Penny stepped onto the gravel and surveyed her options; to the left, nothingness, and to the right, more nothingness.

"Eeny-meeny-miney-moe," she began, using her forefinger to tick off each option. "Catch-a-nigger-by-his-toe, if-he-hollers-let-it-snow, birthday-cake-for-Jimmy-Joe. My-dead-husband-told-me-to-choose-the-very-best-one-and-you-are-not --"

Headlights appeared on the horizon to her right, routing the impending darkness of nightfall in their high beams. Penny thought it would be a great joke to surprise the driver, so she hustled into the street and quickly dropped on all fours beside her crate. With a few grunts and curses, she lifted the crate over her head and crawled beneath it, concealed between the sides of the sick-smelling box. She could hear the crunch of gravel-beneath-tire grow louder as the vehicle drew nearer, and she softly giggled to herself. What a wonderful surprise this would be.

The crunch of the gravel grew very loud for a moment, then stopped. Light poured in through the cracks in the crate, and Penny peered into the blinding illumination eagerly, her warped fingers caught hold across her mouth to keep her giggles from falling out. A car door opened with a rusty squeal, then shut again with a bang.


"Jesus-sakes-Christ," came a gruff, beer-whetted voice from outside.

"Surprise!" Penny shouted as she threw the crate off herself, leaping to her feet. 

The silhouette seemed scantly taken aback by finding an elderly woman hiding beneath a crate meant for oranges in the middle of the road in the middle of Nebraska - or, if he did, he was quite gifted at retaining his emotions outwardly. This, of course, made Penny quite sad.

"And what do we have here?" the man said, his breath wet with whiskey.

"A surprise, you dimwit. Haven't you ever had a surprise party before?" Penny demanded, striding up to him and jabbing a finger at his chest. She eyed him suspiciously. "You ain't one of them buttbandits, are you?"

"Fuck no," the man replied. "Crem here likes the pussy. You still got a pussy, ya'old bitch?"

Penny shook her head. "Misses Buttersocks died in the war."

The man made an "ah" sound and looked her over. "Well, hidin' in crates is no place for such a fine lady. You want to go for a ride in my truck? Cost ya a blow."

"Oh, my poor Misses Buttersocks. She had the brightest blue eyes you've ever seen," Penny reminisced as she hobbled toward the pickup. "Then she built that space rocket and flew off into the stars, never to be seen again. I saw her last Saturday at the market, but of course she acted like she didn't recognize me. I think she was fucking my husband."

Penny hoisted herself into the passenger seat and closed the door. The man - Crem, as he identified himself - climbed into the driver's side and slammed his door shut. He quickly stabbed his finger at a button on his door, causing both child-safe door locks to slide into place.

"You're taking me to see my husband," Penny said.

"Where is he?" Crem asked as he put the truck into gear.

"Heaven, with all the other niggers."

"Yeah, lady," Crem said with a drunken guffaw, his fingers - slicked with red ooze - slipping on the steering wheel. "Yeah, I'm taking you to see your husband."

They drove off, leaving the crate by the side of the road for the field mice to make their home.