I’m writing this short story for Chuck Wendig’s blog, “terribleminds.com” for The Flash Fiction Challenge Random Song Title Palooza. Enjoy.
HEY GOOD LOOKIN’ (Title of a song by Hank Williams)
Story by P.S. Joshi
It was 1956 and we were fifteen, in 11th Grade. We were grown up, according to us, but not according to my dad.
Charley was tall and looked part greyhound, with black hair puffed up in front. It then swept back into a gloious DA, what we kids called a duck’s ass. My hair was dark brown and drawn back in a pony tail. We both liked Hank Williams’ songs. Charley’s favorite line was, “Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin'”. I was just 5 foot 3 inches and always tying to diet. Or as great aunt Lucy called me, “a big, healthy girl.” I cringed every time I heard her say it.
Our dads had moved up to Akron, Ohio, to look for work in the rubber shops. We had all that in common, but it wasn’t enough for my dad. He couldn’t stand Charley.
“Mary,” he’d say to Mom, “Sue Lynn is just too young to date just one boy, especially Charley.”
Mom looked at it as the lesser of two evils. Either I dated one boy she could trust with my virtue, or others she wasn’t sure of. Charley was less than perfect, but she did trust him. Actually, he was scared of my dad who had a gun collection mounted on the wall of the den. Charley’d been partly raised by his grandparents in the mountains of West Virginia, and had a healthy respect for a good squirrel rifle.
I thought it was cute when he used words like “youins” and “holler”. Dad winced.
Now I doubt dad would have ever killed a boy. He might have beaten the hell out of any, literally, if he found they went to far with his baby. He’d been a boxer in the U.S. Navy and had the cauliflower ear to prove it.
I adored Charley, which caused Dad to age about ten years over the months we dated. He used to hide behind his newspaper while we sat on the couch and cuddled.
When Mom told great aunt Lucy, the old lady said, “Is he going to act that way with every boy Sue Lynn dates?”
Mom told me Dad said, “Look at the way she looks at him.” She mimicked the disgusted tone he’d used. I don’t know why she told me. She sometimes had a weird sense of humor.
Dating a boy who works part-time in a gas station meant going on cheap dates. The roller rink was a favorite. Driving around in the family car, visiting friends, was another. Drag racing on a lonely stretch of road the sheriff and his deputies didn’t bother with was a third.
This third alternative ended with the horrendous accident where a buddy of Charley’s overturned and became a paraplegic. Seat belts were unknown at the time. The girl with him, a friend of mine, walked away without a scratch. It’s funny how that happens. After that, the sheriff had to regularly check that stretch of road. Parents had become militant.
We substituted Bill Hoskins’ dad’s den after that. Bill wasn’t all that popular before, but that changed when his dad built their den and put in an old jukebox full of rock n’ roll records. The man had inherited money and used it to keep his son home, at least part of the time. We spent a lot of happy hours partying in that place. There was always pop in the small fridge under the bar. Bill’s dad wasn’t a drinker, but if you had a den, you had to have a bar. It was a law or something I guess.
For boys who had their own cars, there was a fourth choice, kissing and hugging parked on the local lovers’ lane. They had to watch for the sheriff though.
Once a month, there was an additional activity, a dance in the school gym. It was called a sock hop, and for a good reason. The school had expensive wood on that floor because basketball was popular. The principle didn’t want a floor that had cost a lot to be damaged by kids’ shoes, so we had to take off our shoes and dance in our socks. It was really more like slipping and sliding than hopping. No wonder the “mashed potato” was a popular dance. That slippery floor caused one of my accidents.
We used to run gym relay races. There were rubber mats around the floor edges so people who came to watch basketball games wouldn’t walk on the floor. The problem was, the mats were just layed there, not fastened. No one was supposed to run on them.
One gym period, I ran onto one and pitched forward, slamming my head into the doors under the stage. If I’d hit the edge of the stage, I might not be here today. I actually saw stars. Before that, I thought it was just a saying. I accomplished two things: I scared the daylights out of the physical education teacher; I gave myself a thumping headache. No ice was applied. We were expected to rough it in those days.
Charley and I dated part of the 12th Grade, then broke up. It was probably for the best. We were too young to plan our futures together. He had gone to visit his grandparents in West Virginia, and became interested in the daughter of one or their neighbors. The man liked Charley, and his wife was a good cook. I heard much later that Charley married the daughter, and moved to West Virginia where her father found him a job.
While Charley was in West Virginia, a handsome boy, now my husband, a football player, moved into the neighborhood. I’d lost weight, he noticed me, Dad liked him, and Mom trusted him. It all worked out well, but I’ll always remember Charley. I hope he had a happy life.