Berta Morgan: Puppy Love (short fiction)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised in Indiana. If that is not southern enough for you, my Indiana relatives liked to call me “half breed” because my daddy came from Kentucky and married my Hoosier mama. We spent every summer near Sterns, Kentucky with the hillbilly side of the family where I learned to make biscuits and pork chop gravy. Later, I lived near Copperas Cove, Texas and helped my sister build a miniature horse ranch.
Shelby Parker was the most beautiful woman who ever walked the streets of Harrisfield. In fact, she might have been the most beautiful woman in the entire Midwest. Like every other male, Fred fell in love with her instantly. He was twelve years old and she was thirty the first time he laid eyes on her but that does not change anything. She was beautiful and Fred loved her passionately.
The night Fred first saw her was slow at the diner. He was lackadaisically sweeping the floor when he heard the screen door slam and looked up to see who would come in at closing time. A tall woman in a green silk dress stood just inside the door. That dress covered her from chin to knee but somehow let you see exactly what was under there. It was one of those dresses Chinese women wore in movies with a slit up the side nearly all the way to her hip. She had on mile high heels that exactly matched the green in her dress and the green of her eyes. The dress featured red dragons breathing fire and a silver dragon’s head button right at the point it was needed to be decent. She was thin but she had curves and that straight tight dress outlined every one of them.
She stood there a minute and then opened her purse and took out a pack of Lucky Strikes. After she lit her cigarette and exhaled, she looked at Fred through the smoke. “Could you get me a coke and point me in the direction of the owner?” she asked as she sauntered up to the counter so close to Fred that he could feel the heat of her body.
“Uh, sure. The owner is in the cooler out back and will be here in a minute. Are you selling something? Just to let you know, Lizzie doesn’t much like salesmen,” Fred explained over his shoulder as he filled a coke glass with ice.
Lizzie walked in just as Fred set the icy Coke on the counter. “I can take it from here, Fred. You go sort pop bottles out back and then go on home.”
As soon as Fred slammed the back door, Lizzie angrily hissed, “Why in hell are you back in town?”
“That is my business, Mama. If it bothers you I can leave right now,” Lizzie’s daughter stood up and headed for the door.
“Where did that lady go?” Fred asked as he hurried back into the diner.
“I don’t know or care. Go on home Fred and tell your Daddy to give me a call,” Lizzie answered.
Fred thought about the beautiful woman all the way home. Still thinking about her, he walked into the living room and found his Dad looking intently into the face of the woman in the green dress. Without moving his gaze, he said, “Fred, say hello to your mother.”