Apple, for Whom I Have Scoured the Universe

Tom Sheehan

     In my hurry
     I have scoured
     the universe.

     She must
     be hiding
     from me.
          —Chemkin Albus

While we are here patrolling our lives, moving about, now and then we meet, not with great frequency I must admit, most memorable people. They, in turn, haunt us one way or another until our last vision fades away, be it a turn of their face, a hand's movement in sweet gesture, a universal shoulder announcement as they change direction, or attitude, or deference. Perhaps their impacts are from what they don't do as well as from what they do.

Apple was such a person. She was a highlight marker, bright, nay, brilliant, who was on stage all her life. She knew who she was and where she was going. Often she predicated another's actions, like a cue from the side. I saw it early, yet what a mistake I had made, thinking I was rushing around on my own. All the time, I was being chased.

Now, hanging on a road sign, night worry working its way, trollops in my gut giving out names I can't remember, a single light marks a hillside, and the edge of night sneaking up on me. The arms of fatigue put forth hands that put forth fingers that touch with foul fervor. I am alone and like it less than last night in a half crowd of other loneliness. The one witness recalled, real as an open blouse, bona fide as underpants dropped the fabulous and witchy length of long and perfect legs, hangs on with her imagery locked in place. Not anything more than 100 pounds, gymnastically adroit when aboard, mouthing she was performing the orange squeeze: I am getting you ready for breakfast, wherever you end up, which will not be on me again, or vice versa. The morning-promised vice went on its rampage, the last ounce ushered into place, heady, sticky later on if only she had left it alone, but oh no, not this imagery aloft in my morning walk who cleaned as good as any kitchen lady at her finishing. Wipe down. Wipe out. How do you like those oranges, my faultless mister in the night?

Now, staring at the next light, the one on the hill known before, the climb to a barn and a gingerly small house that looks down on the sea, the exquisite and lightsome lady there, I bring back the crowded room of smells, liquor on its final legs, dregs at their last cries having found a frame to reside in, sometimes headless, and the little madam of taste that crawled up beside me at the bar, that creature of eyes emblazoned with stories, cheek bones like flint at early manufacture, lips that might stretch a river wide, sex itself having a rest after a heady ride. I'm cheap, she said, a 100 pounds of cheap that two drinks can buy for the night. I liberated myself for a nightly prison. But I'm good at being jailed, being sent off for a one-night stand or a lay-down, or however you'll have it. I never get too talkative. I don't let my mouth get in the way of anything that comes up real. Morning comes too soon, too smelly, too late for some right here, right now. There's not a good piece in this whole joint. All you've got to do is ask me.

You dress well, I said. I touched her fabric and was charged with electrons in a shocking move, a whole laboratory of jump, tingle and broadcast. Her dress, thin, blue as a forgotten bird's egg, rigged like a sail's caught a fresh wind off shore, hip marks saying a vault could be ajar, was right next door to ignition. Right there. Gas-like. Bang! Poof! How do you come across with that heat? Where does it come from? Are shock-proof measures required? Does it have a switch? An off-on switch? A toggle switch? A switch you can see in the dark? Is it universal? Global? A trip around the world? Are you switchable?

Oh, I always need to attract, she said, unfazed, not falsely shocked, not speechless for a single breath, her eyes bouncing, lit. Smallness is too cute for some people, but not taste, those nectars we know. The smile lurked again, a half lip's worth; alliterations do not alienate any matching interests.

Speaking of that, your clothes match well. You are keenly coordinated. What color, or colors if rainbowed, if I may ask, are your underpants? Do they match?

I never wear them, not out here, not out of prison. One drink and I'd put them back on if your thing is getting them off. I've known guys like that, who never get all the way home. Not really. Never really. Too much macho waiting for show. Too much vanity in the way. You know the kind who's afraid to read the sex manuals because he'd know in a fucking second how much he's missed on the way here getting to be forty and near the end. Once I told a guy four or five times he ought to read the good book on sex, and he thought I was ridiculing him or was just playing games, but I was balliky bare-ass waiting for him to come down where I wanted him desperately and he missed it all. I was lying across the seat of the car and in love I think, my nipples talking to his mouth, saying all the good stuff about attention and how he should be more alert. Only later I found out his wife was hardly the clean type and that foul odor drove him too far afield even of the cleaning lady. I don't know where he went, or if he ever went down, to Australia or any place else, but I hope he's had a good voyage. He was cute too, but even his fingers didn't know what to do, or had not paid attention, never mind his being a good talker. He called me Sam and he loved me, that I know, but could not let go the hard aversions he was trained on. When I touch it all the way every night, it's for him where I left him, on the seat of that old Plymouth convertible parked in a field at the end of a dark lane, a February chill sneaking into the front seat slyer than he was, my Mr. Wanderlust.

Was he not averse to you or something you did or had contemplated? Was it all his fault?

I had intruded on another's family, with the father, and Mr. Wanderlust had his family broken up by the same kind of intrusion. The paired reality hit me but it was only later, after he had gone, that I cemented my own intrusion, getting what I wanted where I wanted it. The revelations do not demand too much explanation; we are what we are. I am the animal mother, the bitch leader, the caller of signals, like the unerring quarterback or like the Pace Car at Indy. I know where I am going and what I am doing, and if you're what I think you are, you won't be far behind me.

One lip curled at my understanding. Oh, yes, I like how your eyes light up at my word play, saying you are alert, that you are in the game.

You read everything at first light, don't you? I like that. There's no bullshit here. I want you on. I want in. I passed my oral exams a long time ago, in the last century.

Her left shoulder moved at further introduction, a breast easing to view, as though it were pure and virginal in its utility, its horizon never at assault, its whiteness further expanding, demanding, commanding, imagination at play, its memory on the move. I contemplated the artful exposure, my mouth stilled with silence, with admiration. Parts of an old story began to unfold, a noun leaked free, a verb, an adverb shook loose in my mind, a mystical story, outworldish, outlandish. Then, oh, fucking loveliness, right then, a fairy of a nipple stood in place, swearing its softness, elfin, impish, exquisite, truly virginal yet truly erect, saying the pot of gold was at hand. My little 100-pounder, without underpants in place, sliding effortlessly on eggshell blue silk, everything moving in place, replied: You're like the wide-eyed kid in the front row at school, the one who sucks up everything that comes his way, who gets an A in every exam and every test and every dinky quiz thrown at him except how to get out of the classroom if there is a fire. Do I read that you have missed something here? Are you not my Mr. Wanderlust come back again?

You mean, from that old Plymouth convertible, where you had shared another man with another woman?

That old altar is yet in place, locked away for the evermore, the sense of urgency that drove me there, undressed me, put me prone and lascivious, hangs about dense as a dream nearly gone over the edge, but never letting go. Always, the night temperature of that far field of that dark lane touches with its long reach, the way it slipped in through the canvas top, came up through the fabric of the seat, set my sweet little ass on fire. Oh, the subtle ironies that impale me.

I'll meet you in the barn.

We went home, by different routes, to the house on the hill, the single light still lit, the mow in the barn piled high with fresh hay, me and my salty actress.

On the way up a single leaf shone with a ray of universal light. She was never far afield no matter what old Chemkin said. I had found Apple's orchard.

Tom Sheehan's latest books are Brief Cases, Short Spans, November 2008 from Press 53 of NC; From the Quickening, January 2009 from Pocol Press of VA; a proposal for a collection of cowboy stories, Where the Cowboys Ride Forever, is in the hands of a western publisher. His work is currently in or coming in Ocean Magazine, Perigee, Rope and Wire Magazine, Qarrtsiluni, Green Silk Journal, Halfway down the Stairs, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Hawk & Whippoorwill, Eden Waters Press, Milspeak Memo, Milspeak Mentoring, Ensorcelled, Canopic Jar, SFWP, Eskimo Pie, Loch Raven Review, Indite Circle, Northville Review, Pine Tree Mysteries, and in the book coming from Press 53, Home of the Brave, Stories in Uniform. He has 10 Pushcart nominations, a Noted Story of 2007 nomination, the Georges Simenon Award, and a selection for inclusion in the Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009. He meets again soon for a lunch/gab session with pals, the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out, 93/80/78). They've co-edited two books on their hometown of Saugus, MA, sold 3500 to date of 4500 printed and he can hardly wait to see them. They'll each have one martini, he'll have three beers, and the waitress will shine on them.