Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

Dale's and Yvette's

 

 

Luke LaCroix recognized the girl washing the pickup two stalls over. He remembered her name was Jill Robichaux. She wore the same cut-off jeans she’d had on the day of the barbeque at Dale’s and Yvette’s, along with a similar T-shirt that fit snugly, revealing her large breasts. Luke thought about how jealous Yvette had been, thinking he’d ogled Jill. Luke watched Jill now, scrubbing soap onto the pickup with the long-handled brush, her ass shaking with each stroke. And, yet, he didn’t feel anything. It’s not that Jill was unattractive. She was short, about Yvette’s height. But unlike Yvette, Jill happened to be filled out, perhaps stocky. He could see how she would arouse something in men who liked that kind of build. Like the men at the rice mill who were always going on about big tits. Personally, Luke preferred girls like Yvette.

 

When the man ahead of Luke finished, he pulled his car out of the stall, wet and dripping. Luke drove his pickup into the stall and parked. He got out, fed the machine a handful of quarters, and started washing the grime from the truck’s grill and bumper.

 

As he rounded the hood he saw Jill again, this time at the vacuuming station. Now wet, her little pickup showed the red color that had been layered in dust the day of the barbeque. Luke didn’t want to talk to this girl, he wouldn’t know what to say if he did, so he decided against vacuuming his truck.

 

A moment later the water shut off before he was finished rinsing, leaving the truck with a single soapy tire. “Shit,” he said to the spray handle, now emitting a pathetic drip.

 

“Mais, I hate when it does that, yeah,” Luke heard someone say. When he turned, he saw Jill standing there. Her shirt wet in spots, he noticed her breasts through the thin cotton fabric that appeared transparent in places. She wasn’t wearing a bra and he glimpsed the outline and protrusion of a nipple. She saw him looking at her and smiled.

 

“Hey Jill,” Luke said, now looking her in the eyes. “I saw you washing your truck.”

 

“Mais, and you weren’t gonna come say hi?” she said, like they were old friends and had spent more time together than the one uncomfortable afternoon at Dale’s and Yvette’s.

 

“I was gonna say hi when I got to the vacuum,” he said.

 

“Uh-huh,” she said, smirking like she knew better.

 

Luke couldn’t think of anything else to say. He wanted another look at her breasts, a longer look at her nipple, but her eyes were trained on his so he couldn’t look away. She continued smiling at him, as if relishing the awkwardness.

 

“I’m goin’ over to Yvette and Dale’s later,” she said, finally. “How ‘bout you?” 

 

Luke had come home from college for the summer to make extra money. He worked with Dale Guidry at the rice mill. Yvette was Dale’s wife. It struck Luke as curious that Jill would wash her truck only to undo everything she’d just accomplished by driving down the dusty, rutted road that led to Dale’s and Yvette’s. 

 

“Why, what’re they up to?” Luke asked. He wondered more what Yvette was up to than Dale.

 

“Mais, I don’t know,” Jill said. “There ain’t nuttin’ else goin’ on, so I thought I’d go over to their house and party.”

 

Someone honked a horn. When Luke looked he saw a man in the pickup behind him, waiting his turn for the stall that Luke was no longer using, but still parked in while talking to Jill. The man didn’t look happy. He looked ready for a fight.

 

“Pull over by me,” Jill said. She gestured toward her truck that now sat drying in the sun.

 

Luke couldn’t think of an excuse to leave, so he pulled his pickup out of the stall and parked next to Jill. She sat in the driver’s seat with the door open, digging for something in her purse. Luke walked around to meet her.

 

“Wanna beer?” she said, gesturing toward the convenience store that shared the same parking lot.

 

“I don’t know, Jill,” Luke said. “I was gonna head home.”

 

“C’mon, just one,” she said. “I’m buyin’.” She held out a handful of wrinkled ones so Luke could see she meant it. She had a hopeful look on her face that Luke could tell would turn to hurt if he didn’t accept.

 

“Okay, but only one. I really have to go.”

 

“Mais, I know, you said that already,” Jill said, and she hurried off in the direction of the store.

 

When she returned she had two 20 oz. Buds. She gave one of the tall-boys to Luke before opening hers. The beer can was ice-cold and dripping wet.

 

“I said one beer, not two,” Luke joked, referring to the big can as he opened it. Jill gave Luke a smile that made him like her. Still, he could see how she might be a bad influence on Yvette the way Dale said she was. Dale said Jill was canaille.

 

“So, whatcha think, you? You goin’ over to Yvette and Dale’s or what?” she asked again, like Yvette and Dale’s was a bar or a restaurant and not someone’s trailer.

 

“I already told you, they didn’t ask me over. I can’t just show up.”

 

“Mais, why not?” Jill said and she sipped her beer. In her hand, the can looked a lot bigger than the one Luke held, because she was that much smaller than Luke.

 

Luke envisioned himself showing up unannounced at Dale’s and Yvette’s with Jill. He wondered how pissed off Yvette would be. Or would she be pissed off at all? Luke wondered how Dale would react. The big man probably wouldn’t care. Dropping by alone might draw suspicion, but Luke would be showing up with Jill and that might seem natural. Besides, Luke knew how Dale felt about Jill. If Luke went he might actually be doing Dale a favor, playing the part of an ally against the antics of Jill and Yvette who were always teaming up against the big man. And that’s why he would go, knowing it wasn’t really the reason at all.

 

*  *  *

 

Luke rode with Jill in her pickup to Dale’s and Yvette’s, still sipping from the tall-boy. The hot July air rushing into the truck’s open windows didn’t feel as hot as when they’d been standing around in it at the car wash. The stereo was on, tuned to the town’s country music station. The music had been playing loud that whole time and Jill turned down the volume.

 

“So what’s up with you and Yvette, uh?” she said.

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Luke said. 

 

Jill was Yvette’s best friend. Luke knew they talked all the time. Still, even if Jill suspected something, even if she knew, it was none of her business.

 

“Mais, don’t go actin’ like nuttin’s goin’ on,” she said, glancing at Luke for a second before returning her eyes to the road. “Me, I can tell somethin’s up.”

 

A part of him wanted to confide in her—he had no one he could talk to about Yvette and all that was going on between them. But he didn’t know this girl or her intentions. 

 

“I only know Yvette because I work with Dale,” Luke said. “I’ve been out to their place for lunch a couple of times and then for the barbeque when you and I met.”

 

Luke watched Jill driving the pickup. He wasn’t sure why, but he’d always marveled when watching girls drive. They didn’t appear as casual as men. Girls seemed more deliberate, the way they drove with both hands on the wheel. Luke marveled now, watching Jill work the stick, her smooth legs working the clutch and gas pedals. Her cut-off jeans had hiked up a little the way they do on girls when they sit on a car seat. He wondered how she could stand to have the ice-cold beer can between her bare thighs. He decided there was something exciting about that, and he looked away. He didn’t want to feel that way about this girl.

 

“Mais, c’mon, Luke. I know somethin’s goin’ on,” Jill said again. “You’re such a liar, you.” She said it in a way that was more flirtatious than accusatory.

 

“You don’t know,” Luke shot back, matching her tone.

 

“Shit, I know a helluva lot more than you do any day a the week,” she said, now laughing. Then Luke couldn’t help it and he laughed too.

 

*        *       *

 

They’d been driving for a while when Luke realized they weren’t heading toward Dale’s and Yvette’s. For all intents and purposes, they were just riding around town, going in big circles.

 

“I thought we were going to Dale’s and Yvette’s,” Luke said.

 

“We are, just not right away. I told Yvette I’d be over a little later, so I thought we’d just ride around a while. Why, you got a problem with that?” she said, flirting again.

 

“What if I do?”

 

“Mais, you better watch it, yeah, or I might just have to go and show you,” she said, and they both laughed as before, no longer able to keep straight faces.

 

While idling at a red light in town, Jill took a long sip from her beer before returning it to the place between her legs. Luke thought her inner-thighs looked a little pink from the cold can. He wanted to ask her how the big can felt down there, if it felt cold.

 

“Mais, we’ll get us another beer and then head over, okay,” Jill said, as if picking up on Luke’s uneasiness.

 

But Luke wasn’t uneasy. Not anymore. Not the way he’d been at the carwash. He felt comfortable with Jill now. He liked riding around town with her drinking beer the way he used to with friends when in high school. There was little else to do on a Sunday in the small town and he’d forgotten that simple pleasure. A part of him missed it and he was glad to be revisiting it.

“So, you know Yvette long?” Luke asked. “You two go to high school together or something?”

 

“Yeah, we graduated together,” Jill said. “We didn’t really hang out much in school, though. It was only after we got out that we started doing stuff together.”

 

Luke could see why Jill and Yvette hadn’t been friends in high school, just as he could see why they were friends now. A girl like Jill would covet a friend like Yvette in high school. Just as someone like Yvette would eventually gravitate toward a girl like Jill who wasn’t threatening in any way to a girl like her.

 

On the way out of town, they stopped off at Gilbeaux’s for another beer. Luke bought two more tall-boys and a six-pack for Dale. Arriving unexpectedly probably wouldn’t be a big deal in Dale’s eyes, but showing up with beer couldn’t hurt.

 

As they headed south, passing rice fields and pastures dotted with cattle, the clean, aromatic smells of the country filled the cab. Jill turned off the main road and onto the mile-long dirt and gravel driveway. Just as Luke had imagined, the little truck didn’t take the beat-up road well. It fell into the pot holes rather than riding over them the way a full-sized pickup would, and the truck kicked up a large column of dust, a chalky-white contrail following in their wake.

 

The road cut through the middle of a vast rice field. When they got to the double-wide, which sat beneath a cluster of century oaks, they pulled in behind Yvette’s Honda. They remained in the truck while the dust cloud caught up to them before passing over the trailer. Dale’s truck wasn’t there and Luke wondered if the big man was working overtime that weekend.

 

Beyond the Honda, Luke saw Yvette in the sideyard, lying on a towel. She wore a yellow bikini. As Luke craned his neck to get a better view, Jill turned and noticed him looking. She didn’t say anything and got out. Luke got out and followed with his tall-boy and the six-pack in a bag under his arm.

 

“Hey,” Jill said, walking toward Yvette.

 

Yvette still hadn’t stirred. She lay on her stomach facing the other direction. When she turned her head to acknowledge Jill she saw Luke.

 

“Hey,” Yvette said, rising to her elbows.

 

“I brought company,” Jill said.

 

Luke waved.

 

“Mais, I’m not blind, me. I can see that,” Yvette said. She got up as if not wanting to but having to. She put on the pair of blue jean cut-offs that were on the ground next to the towel. Luke couldn’t tell if Yvette were mad or just in one of her moods. Jill didn’t seem to know either.

 

“We brought beer,” Jill said. 

 

Luke held the bag out for Yvette to see.

 

Yvette went inside the trailer. She left Luke and Jill outside.

 

“Think she’s pissed that you brought me out here?” Luke said, still holding the bag of beer.

 

“Mais, who knows,” Jill said. “I swear, you can’t never tell what that girl’s thinkin’. She’s weird like that, her.”

 

When Yvette came back out she wore a T-shirt over her bikini top. She’d pulled her black hair together with a rubber band and now had a short ponytail. New color showed in her face and on her arms and legs from the sun. “Mais, you know you can put that in the fridge, yeah,” she said. “Unless you like hot beer.”

 

“Don’t be a smart ass,” Luke said, still trying to gauge Yvette’s mood. Luke went into the trailer and put the beer in the refrigerator. His hands now free, he lit a cigarette. He wasn’t sure if it had been a good idea going out there. He wondered again where Dale was.

 

Luke looked out the kitchen window and saw the girls still standing in the yard. Yvette held the towel over her arm as she said something to Jill. Jill stood with her hip cocked in a way that made her look defiant. She didn’t seem to like what Yvette was saying. Luke thought about staying in the trailer a while longer to let the girls sort out whatever it was they thought needed sorting out. Instead, he walked out of the trailer. When the screen door slapped shut behind him the girls stopped talking. As Luke walked toward them Yvette left Jill. She walked quick-legged back toward the trailer, passing Luke without looking at him. He could hear the screen door whine open then slap shut as she entered the trailer. Jill looked mad, like she still had more to say and hadn’t been allowed to say it. She walked quickly toward the trailer, following Yvette. As she passed Luke she rolled her eyes. The screen door whined open then slapped shut.

 

Luke wished he’d come in his truck and wasn’t stuck out there. He moved toward one of the lawn chairs under the trees and sat down with his tall-boy. It was a lot like the day of the barbeque, only Dale was away now and Luke wished the big man were there. Now it was Luke who needed Dale as an ally against these two girls.

 

Jill came storming out of the trailer. 

 

“C’mon, we leavin’,” she said. 

 

A moment passed and when Yvette didn’t come out of the trailer Luke knew she wouldn’t be. He moved toward the truck where Jill was already getting behind the wheel, in a rush, like the day of the barbeque. She started the engine and shifted the truck into reverse and Luke believed she would leave him if he didn’t hurry and get in. Before he could close the door, the truck was already off in a cloud of dust, throwing gravel as the tires bit into the rutted driveway.

 

Luke saw that Jill was crying. As the truck picked up speed on the deeply pocked road, he had to hold himself down with a hand on the door frame. His beer was agitated and spilling all over his lap and he tossed the can out the open window. The thought of getting in a wreck and being mangled crossed his mind as the little pickup hit a large pothole, launching them both toward the ceiling. The truck jerked to a violent stop as Jill’s feet left the pedals before returning, one foot inadvertently hitting the brake. Jill found the gas pedal and they were off again and jerking down the road, in the wrong gear at that speed.

 

“Goddamnit, stop the truck,” Luke shouted, suddenly mad, feeling as if someone had slapped him hard in the head for no good reason.

 

Tears streamed down Jill’s face. Now with the right feet on the right pedals, and after shifting to first, she began driving again.

 

“Sorry,” Jill said.

 

“What the hell happened back there?” Luke said.

 

Jill shook her head.

 

“What?” Luke said.

 

“Mais, you wanna do it, you?” Jill said.

 

“What?”

 

“You wanna have sex with me?”

 

Luke didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say.

 

“I mean it,” Jill said. She stopped the truck and shifted into neutral. She looked at Luke, waiting for a response. When he still didn’t say anything, she added, “Right here, right now if you want.”

 

“You’re crazy,” Luke said.

 

“No, I’m not,” Jill said and she pulled off her T-shirt to show she wasn’t crazy. But that somehow made her appear to Luke as if she were crazy.

 

Luke stared at Jill’s breasts again, the way he did at the carwash. Only this time it was because he couldn’t help it. They were right there. Keenly aware that they were two distinctly different objects, he could no longer consider them a single entity the way he did when they were confined to the T-shirt.

 

Jill sat there as if expecting Luke to react the way every other man had ever reacted before him; the way a man is supposed to react when a girl pulls off her shirt as an invitation to sex in a little truck on a hot dusty road in the middle of a rice field. Seeing that he wasn’t reacting in that way, her eyes began welling up.

 

Luke took Jill’s T-shirt off the gear stick and handed it to her. The moment when he would’ve reciprocated had passed and Luke knew he wasn’t going to do anything. As if understanding that at precisely the same moment, Jill took the shirt from Luke. He could tell she was hurt, no longer because of anything Yvette had done, but because of what he wasn’t doing now.

 

“I’m sorry, Jill,” Luke said. “But not like this.”

 

Jill put the shirt back on with more difficulty than when she’d pulled it off.

 

“Why not,” Jill asked, seeming to dread his answer.

 

“Because you’re pissed off,” he said.

 

“Is it because you don’t think I’m pretty?” she said.

 

“Please don’t think that, Jill. I think you’re real pretty,” Luke said, and it was true. He did think she was pretty. The more he’d gotten to know her that day the prettier she’d become. She was a sweet girl. A little misguided, maybe, but beneath it all a good person who happened to not be his type. “It’s just that I’d be taking advantage of you if I did anything with you right now. Does that make sense?”

 

She nodded. It was probably better than the reason she’d dreaded hearing. 

 

“Well, I guess we should just go then,” Jill said. She put the truck back into gear, and they again began moving toward the main road.

 

Luke watched Jill shake her head.

 

“I’m sorry, Jill,” he said. He couldn’t think of anything else to say.

 

“She said you wouldn’t want to.”

 

“What?” Luke said.

 

“Mais, one minute she’s tryin to set us up on a date—it’s why we were both at the barbeque—then the next thing you know she’s changin’ her mind.”

 

“I didn’t know,” Luke said. “She didn’t tell me.”

 

“And don’t try and act like you didn’t sleep with her neither,” Jill said, “because she told me y’all did.”

 

“She told you?”

 

“Yvette said I was crazy if I thought I could get you,” Jill continued. “She said she knew you and that you wouldn’t ever wanna be with a girl like me. Mais, I don’t know that I was ever after you. Not like that, I mean. You’re not my type. But when she said that I had to try.”

 

Luke didn’t say anything.

 

“Mais, I guess she was right,” Jill said, and the tears began streaming down her face again.

 

“Wait a minute, Jill,” Luke said. “Stop the truck.”

 

Jill slowed, then stopped the truck. Her chin dropped to her chest, and Luke felt sorry for her. He moved over on the seat to hold her. He thought about asking her to take off her shirt again.

 

 

 

 

 

David Langlinais’ second short story collection (also by UL Press) launched in October. His work has appeared in GHLL, South Dakota Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Los Angeles Review, Prick of the Spindle, Dos Passos Review, Big Muddy, The MacGuffin, Raleigh Review, and others. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and daughter where he works as a freelance copywriter.