Taylor muzzled her laugh for later when she could truly enjoy it, watched Percy edging his stalk-this-swine-of-a-town Saab up next to her El Camino. What an ass! He was the only guy she knew who actually circled the neighborhoods with a boom box on top of his car canvassing as a proud representative of this deathtrap smudge on a map.
Knee-trunks were what Taylor noticed first when Percy’s corpulent self twitched and wrenched itself out of the car. They were two vast trees, well planted and architectural like the rest of him. She could count the belly bulges, ring-by-ring, exploding out of his sweaty shirt that showed how close he was to the political cord. But, she had the goods on him. He wasn’t the only freak she had ever met who needed to be president and pimp.
Percy saw her standing there with her hands on her hips and a smirk on her face and grew slightly paler. He straightened his tie, shook out his trousers and tucked in his overstretched shirt. His smile spread like the whore that he was. The bucolic bullshitter opened his expansive mouth and said “Speak of the devil,” as he trudged and wheezed toward her.
“Devil?” Taylor screwed up her face and smiled. “Now isn’t that sweet. Two ex-wives, a new version at home, a whole landfill of kids and how many girls you been doing on the side, I can’t seem to keep up? Amazing you can still catch them.” Percy smiled and straightened the white carnation on his suit coat. Taylor looked him up and down and grinned. “Let’s see if you can find yourself a new specimen to work over at the wedding. Something young and republican that’s got a thing for the pseudo-politicians?”
“You never seemed to mind before. What do you say we take a ride around the block for old times sake? It isn’t every day our beautiful baby girl gets married.”
“I’ll pass, you fat fucker. It’s already hard enough for me not to throw up on you.”
Taylor’s red dress fit snug against her hips and Percy smacked her on the ass when she walked by. It was an old Serbian Orthodox cathedral that looked more American Baroque than European, but Chloe fell in love with it watching the sun above St. Lazarus rise and fall when she was a kid. Sneaking out at night to evade Daddy’s drunken fumblings and ending up at the church. Falling asleep on the soft concrete next to the Virgin Mary. Then peppermint schnapps and LSD. Little girls and dancing. Big boys and blood. Then God and mapmaking. Baptism and Brown Eyed Girl. Then Derek. Waiting in line for hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup while she buttered two hundred wheat rolls and put them back in the wicker basket. This was what she wanted. What she knew.
Taylor liked being smacked on the ass and Percy knew it. They met at a campground deep in the panhandle two weeks before he became the Mayor of Pensacola. Two years before he represented Florida’s 1st congressional district. There was sand on her teeth and her tits. The women’s shower room was closed so they were both waiting in line for the men’s.
“No need to waste water.”
Every time Percy and Taylor were together it hurt. Biting, choking, smacking and fucking. He wanted her to have an abortion but never asked for it. His father was a swamp man. Raised on snakes and gators and herbal concoctions from the Florida bayou. On Percy’s eighteenth birthday, his father gave him the Havisham Family Book for the Living, which contained, among other things, backwood’s abortion remedies. Mugwort and Pennyroyal. Cotton Root Bark and Black Cohosh, in Taylor’s Chamomile tea everyday for nine months. Chloe was born a year into his first term as Congressman. Irregular heart arrhythmia. Under-developed lungs. Chloe Havisham. 4lbs. 9ozs.
Chloe loved the idea of being saved and resurrection. Daddy used to call her C, but Daddy hadn’t called her often enough since the eighth grade to call her anything much at all. She was never anyone’s little girl, and couldn’t stand the sight of the motherfucker anyway. He smelled like stale perfume and strip clubs—something she wouldn’t realize until she spent that year on her own. She never understood love the way her friends understood love. Her high school football team passed her around a little bit the year before she left. It felt like the way she thought love was supposed to feel when she was a girl, muffled and sweating down the hall. When Chloe met Derek in San Diego, Chloe died and was reborn. Derek, like her mother, made his life’s work out of saving things, and Derek would be the savior neither her mother nor Jesus ever would be.
Somehow Percy and Taylor ended up in the boy’s bathroom, just inside the entrance of the cathedral.
“You don’t like him, do you?” Taylor asked, straightening her dress and trying to make the best of last year’s lip gloss. She could see the cracks beginning to form around her mouth as she stared in the mirror—cracks not so detectable ten minutes ago.
“You know very well who. And wash your face for god’s sake, you look like the philandering swine you are. It’s my only daughter’s wedding—you can’t possibly understand what that means.” The past formed the memorable venom she felt welling now on her tongue.
“Let’s do it right here in the church crapper, babe? We ended up in the boy’s room alone again, how about that?” Percy put out his arms. “For old times sake? Can’t take a shower together, but I’d sure like to wrestle you out of that burning hot dress you’re wearing!” Taylor smirked at him.
The cracks around her mouth had now become crevasses. “I think Derek’s perfect for Chloe,” he said, smug toned, slipping the Windsor knot in his tie back into place. “He reminds me a little of you at that age.” Her eyes fixed on the reflection of his as he continued. “He has that same leaky little heart you always had. God save him.”
“Save him? From WHAT?” The cracks were becoming more obvious. She zipped up her purse. His belly shook with a haughty scoff. “Daddy’s little girl, of course.”
Time had a way of revealing things we didn’t want to see. Taylor thought of the way the sun felt upon her face as she walked out of the men’s shower all those years ago; she thought she had been reborn. She hurried out of the men’s room. A familiar feeling came across her face in the form of light shot through the stained glass mural of the Virgin. She touched her hand to her face, the cracks now dissipating. Off to find Chloe.
The tamburica orchestra’s bridal entrance song was already trickling through the pillared cathedral entrance. Just as Taylor slid into the pew’s gentle butt-grooves left by centuries of typical sit-and-stand Serbian Orthodox ceremonies, Chloe’s silhouette filled the doorway. The sun-bleached red carpet’s warmth was wicked up through the hems of her alabaster gown, over her wingless bird arms, lighting her bosom and cheeks with a ruby pinch. Derek faced the altar and Taylor was sure she could see his buttocks flex and relax in anticipation, alternating cheeks bopping along to some Balkan beat bred in his slavic blood.
“Where’d Percy slither off to now?” Taylor fumed through tightened lips to some old bat sitting next to her in a feathered queen of England hat. She thought he was right behind her and he’d disappeared again, as usual. Chloe’s fingers fluttered nervously at her side as her gaze flickered over the pews, searching for her father’s fleshy chassis. She met her mother’s dark canonical glare and saw the dread in her sharp brow, her chipped pout. Taylor heard that obnoxious titter of his when he told a bad joke, somewhere up there. How could they have missed Bigfoot’s looming figure making his way up and down the side aisles, shaking hands and handing out business cards, working the pews for his next election. Taylor rolled her eyes when he lingered over a cheap young Barbie doll up front. The music petered out with a long-drawn string tickle, and as silence poured into the cathedral and heads darted to and fro looking for the hold-up, Chloe’s heart skittered. Her knees softened and she fought the buckling sensation, puffing stagnant church air in thin quick streams.
Her mother’s sandalwood perfume coursed through her nostrils, but the arms that ladled her were not Taylor’s—they were monstrously arboreal and pulpy. “Upsy-daisy, C. Better a hot head than cold feet.” Her father’s hand fanned her face like a palm frond. She inhaled deep, the scent of her mother mingling with her father’s sweat. It was an intoxicatingly animalistic musk that enveloped her in a rosy bubble and shielded her from consequence. Percy was a sentinel escort down the aisle; much was forgotten in the easy way Chloe’s hand nested in the crook of his arm.
Derek and Chloe made their third and final circumnavigation around the altar in onion-domed crowns, hands fastened in the matrimonial cloth. Chloe gasped as she glimpsed her father rubbing a strange woman’s ass with his palm-frond hand and flicking his pasty tongue up her earlobe. The woman giggled coquettishly. Percy smeared a wily grin over his face while Taylor thoroughly enjoyed an effusive gush of lugubrious laughter. “Goddamn,” she said to the lady in the beastly hat next to her. “That devil’s one of the best politicians and pimps we’ll ever see.” She nudged the lady lightly. “The way he’s sucking on that girl’s ear, he just might make president.” The old, pinched face sneered at Taylor with disgust, which made Taylor laugh even louder.
This month’s contributors to Exquisite Quartet are:
Barry Graham, the author of Nothing or Next to Nothing and The National Virginity Pledge. He is the editor-in-chief of DOGZPLOT magazine. Look for him online at www.dogzplot.blogspot.com
Allison Miller, who calls herself a writer sometimes in between chasing her toddler out of the creek, rearing a small flock of chickens, and mending salmon nets. She’s never been published, lost a decade of her (un-backed-up) poetry in a sudden computer crash, and is exceedingly confused and overwhelmed by the submission process. She lives in a small, near waterlocked community in Alaska and dreams of spinning yak cashmere and writing about the people she calls home doing things she hasn’t experienced.
David Tomaloff (b. 1972) | is a writer, photographer, musician, and all around bad influence | likes: jazz | hates: jazz | photography: yes | his work has appeared in fine publications such as Mud Luscious, Thunderclap!, HOUSEFIRE, Prick of the Spindle, DOGZPLOT, elimae, and many more | he has an e-chap, MESCAL NON-PALINDROME CINEMA (Ten Pages Press, 2011) and another forthcoming with NAP Literary Magazine | David Tomaloff resides in the form of ones and zeros at:davidtomaloff.com
Meg Tuite, whose writing has appeared in numerous journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, 34th Parallel, One, the Journal, Monkeybicycle and Boston Literary Magazine. She is the fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. Her novel “Domestic Apparition” (2011) will soon be available through San Francisco Bay Press. Her blog: http://megtuite.wordpress.com