When Yvette enters the Moulin Rouge, she notices Lucious Jones sitting by himself at the bar. Without asking if it’s okay, she takes the stool next to his.
“You gonna buy me a beer or what?” she says.
When Lucious sees Yvette sitting there, he gives the room a quick looking over.
“Don’t worry, he ain’t here,” she says.
“He’d kill me if he caught me talkin’ to his little princess.”
“Mais, what you think he’d do to me?” Yvette says.
Lucious smiles, showing his green teeth. He mashes out his cigarette in the ashtray and when the bartender looks his way Lucious gestures at his beer.
“So why you steppin’ out on him?” Lucious says.
“Now don’t go gettin’ any ideas in your head,” Yvette says. “No one said nuttin about steppin’ out on anyone.”
“Okay, so why you talkin’ to me, then?” Lucious says, taking the bottle of beer from the bartender and handing it to Yvette.
“Cuz I’m mad at him, that’s why.”
“That’s a good enough reason for me,” Lucious says, and he clinks his beer bottle against hers, toasting the reason.
“Here’s to Dale,” she says, and she sips her beer.
“So he really ain’t here, then,” Lucious says, glancing over his shoulder again.
“Don’t worry, he’s at home,” Yvette says, amazed at the fear Dale instills in other men. Even men like Lucious Jones who, while not as big as Dale, is tall, rangy and can be dangerous. She notices the five-inch gutting knife folded and sheathed in the rawhide snap-case attached to his belt.
“So why you mad at him?” he says.
Yvette wears a white denim skirt and when she catches Lucious gawking at her bare thighs, she tugs at the hem of the skirt and crosses her legs.
“I’m mad at him cuz he’s bein’ a big asshole.”
“Why you tellin’ me somethin’ I already know?” Lucious says, sipping his beer and gazing deeply into her eyes.
“Why y’all hate each other so much, anyway?” she says. “I mean he gets along with everyone else at the mill.”
“Dale hates me?” Lucious acts shocked.
Yvette laughs at that, at the face he makes when he says it.
“Seriously,” she says.
“Fuck if I know,” he says.
Yvette doesn’t say anything. She swivels slowly around on her stool, scanning the dark, smoke-filled room for familiar faces. She’s had a beer with Lucious Jones. She’s talked to him and she knows that would be enough to piss off Dale if he ever found out, and it makes her feel good. Now she looks for someone else to talk to. When the stool stops swiveling she notices a shot glass on the bar, filled with a clear liquid. She wonders if it’s gin. She still isn’t over an experience she once had with gin and tonics, she’s doesn’t think she ever will be. She doesn’t want anything to do with gin ever again.
“What’s that?” she says.
“Peppermint schnapps,” he says, holding another shot glass filled with the same liquid.
“Peppermint schnapps? she says, contemplating the liquid that looks thicker than gin, more syrupy.
“Yeah, peppermint schnapps,” he repeats. “Here’s to Dale,” he says, waiting for Yvette to join him. They clink glasses and then both toss back the shots. Lucious slams his glass down on the bar and makes a nasty sound, sticking out his tongue. “Damn,” he says. “Been a long time since I done schnapps.”
“Mm,” Yvette says.
“You like it, uh?” Lucious says, sounding pleased with himself.
“Yeah. It tastes like peppermint,” she says.
“Mais, baby, that’s why they call it peppermint schnapps,” he says, and he laughs. “Hey, Premeaux,” he says to the bartender. “How ‘bout two more, uh?”
“I don’t know if I should,” Yvette says, licking the thick peppermint film coating her lips.
“C’mon, Yvette. You said you like it.”
“I do, but I don’t usually drink the hard stuff.”
“Hard stuff? Shit, there ain’t nuttin hard about it, Yvette. It’s peppermint schnapps. It’s like candy.”
Yvette doesn’t know if she can trust him. She feels she can’t. But she remembers Dale telling her once not to trust Lucious Jones, and remembering that makes her want to trust him.
“Okay,” she says, and they both toss back the shots, this time without toasting Dale or toasting anything, without clinking glasses. Nothing this sweet can be all that bad.
“That one really got him,” Lucious says, slapping the bar hard with his hand. He makes the same nasty sound, again sticking out his tongue.
Yvette notices Lucious looking at her mouth and she realizes she’s licking the schnapps from her lips, and she stops.
“That one really got who?” she says, feeling a dizzying wave wash over her. It’s an unfamiliar buzz, one that makes her feel warm all over and inside. She isn’t sure yet if it’s a good or a bad feeling.
“Dale, that’s who,” he says. “C’mon, Yvette, you ain’t already forgot what we doin’ here, uh?” Lucious waves to the bartender for two more shots. “We gettin’ back at Dale, remember?”
Yvette thinks of Dale now. She pictures him back at the trailer, sitting in his recliner, stoned and drinking beer in front of the TV. He’d not even turned to acknowledge her when she told him she was going out. There was a time when he would’ve thrown a fit if she’d gone out on a Tuesday night. But then, there was a time when he would’ve gone with her, not letting her go alone. Dale doesn’t seem to care what she does anymore. But if he knew what she was doing now he’d care, and when the two new shot glasses filled with schnapps are put on the bar, she throws hers back without waiting for Lucious. For a moment, she forgot he was there.
“Awright, baby, that’s more like it,” Lucious says and he tosses back his own shot.
Yvette can see why Dale doesn’t like this man. Lucious always seems like he’s up to something. She can tell he’s up to something now. But he’s fun. He makes her laugh. And, besides, he’s buying me drinks, she thinks. He’s buying me peppermint schnapps.
“Man, I can’t get over how good this is,” Yvette says. She brings the shot glass back up to her mouth where she holds it upside down until the last of the schnapps slowly collects, then falls in a single droplet onto the tip of her tongue. The warm feeling inside her grows warmer and she decides it’s a good feeling.
“I gotta plan, me,” Lucious says.
“How ‘bout another round?” Yvette slurs.
“No, what I was thinkin’ is we get us our own bottle. That way we could get back at Dale all night long.”
Yvette smiles. “You are so canaille,” she says. “I can see why Dale hates you.”
“So that’s my plan, whatchya think?”
“They’ll give us a whole bottle,” she says.
“No, I was thinkin’ we could pick us up one at Guilbeaux’s.”
“Then what?” she says.
“Then we drive around drinkin’ it.”
“And that’s all we gonna do, uh?” she says.
Yvette says she will agree, but only if he lets her drive. After a minor objection, Lucious follows Yvette to her car in the parking lot. She always thinks it funny seeing men who belong in pickup trucks in cars. Especially compact cars like her Honda. And Lucious, with his tall, long-limbed body, is no exception.
“You okay,” she laughs, seeing Lucious with his knees pressed against the dashboard. He looks like he’s never been in a car before. She can tell he feels out of his element and that’s just what she wants.
They stop at Guilbeaux’s liquor store on Charity Street and she waits in the car. When he returns with a pint of schnapps, she’s disappointed.
“That’s it?” she says. “I thought we were gettin’ us a whole bottle.”
“This is a whole bottle,” he says.
“No, a whole bottle,” Yvette says. “You know, a big bottle like the one they had at Moulin Rouge.”
“You mean a fifth? Baby, this’ll be all we need to do the trick. Trust me.”
Lucious slides awkwardly back into the car, for an instant snagging his knife case on the upholstery. He shuts the door and cracks the seal on the bottle. He takes a sip, then hands the bottle to Yvette who eagerly waits for it.
“I swear, I love this stuff,” she says and then swallows a mouthful of the thick peppermint liquid.
Yvette notices Lucious watching her lick the sweetness from her lips again.
“Mais, you like it, uh?” he says. “It makes you feel good, don’t it?”
Back on the road again, Yvette makes it a point to drive through town, keeping off of back roads. Typical of a Tuesday night, the small town is dead. Many of the traffic lights are already flashing yellow or red and it isn’t even eleven o’clock yet.
“You wanna get high?” she says.
“You got some?” he says.
“Not on me, but I know where we can score a joint,” she says through a growing smile that makes Lucious smile back.
“Where at?” he says.
“You’ll see,” she says, giggling.
As Yvette backtracks through town things become blurry. Now when Lucious hands her the bottle she no longer takes the big swigs she took earlier. They haven’t talked in a while and only speak when she pulls into the parking lot across the street from the rice mill.
“What we doin’ here?” he says, looking up at the lighted windows along the four story building that fronts the mill.
Yvette scans the few cars and trucks in the parking lot that belong to the sparse crew working the graveyard shift. She knows Dale is at home, but still she wants to be sure. She has to close one eye to see clearly.
“I said I knew where to get us a joint,” she says, “and this is it.” She can hardly speak without a lot of effort and for the first time she understands just how drunk she is.
“Who you gonna get it from?” he says.
“What would you say if I told you I know where Dale hides his stash at?”
“You know where he hides it in the mill?” Lucious sounds incredulous.
She nods, smiling.
“We gonna smoke Dale’s weed?” Lucious says, smiling back and showing his green teeth.
“He brought me here when we first started goin’ out. It’s up in one of those tin sheds on the roof,” she says.
“You mean he hides it in a doghouse?”
“If that’s what they call them, yeah.”
“Son of a bitch,” Lucious laughs.
“I don’t wanna smoke any,” she says, “but I thought you might get a kick out of it.”
“I knew he smoked in the mill. I just never knew where.”
“He thinks no one knows where it’s hid at, but I do,” she says.
“Damn, Yvette, you just full of surprises, uh?”
They enter through the side entrance, at the loading dock paralleling the railroad tracks. Yvette has to rely on Lucious to help her walk and he quickly leads her through the noise and smells of the mill to the small three-man elevator. On the fourth floor they move to the steep plank-staircase leading up to the doghouse. He has to follow Yvette in case she falls backwards. Once in the tin building he makes a seat for her on a pile of raw rice. She holds the bottle of schnapps, but no longer drinks from it.
“He hides it there,” she says, pointing at the wall. She has to raise her voice to be heard over the motor mounted and droning in the rafters.
“Where at,” Lucious says, looking at the wall.
“Behind there,” she says. “You have to pull it open.”
Appearing to finally understand, Lucious bends back the sheet of corrugated tin, revealing the stud-frame and the small lozenge box. Lucious opens the tin box and produces a joint. “Well, looky here,” he says. “Dale already went and rolled us one.”
Yvette sits on the pile of rice, her body growing more limp all the time. She isn’t sure if it’s because of the Schnapps or the warm stagnant air of the doghouse, but she’s begun to sweat. Her skirt has hiked up a little and the raw rice clings uncomfortably to the moisture on the backs of her thighs. She has to concentrate to follow what’s going on. For an instant, she thinks she might vomit. She thinks she might pass out.
Lucious plops down onto the rice next to Yvette. He lights the joint and pulls on it hard. She sits mesmerized by the sounds of the mill, by the rhythmic thumping she feels beneath her on the rice.
Lucious hands Yvette the joint. “Here,” he says, still holding in the smoke, so talking funny, in a tight voice.
“Nuh-uh, I’m good,” she says. “I already can’t move.”
“C’mon, Yvette. It’ll make you feel good.”
“I already feel as good as I wanna feel.”
Lucious takes another hit on the joint and, after blowing out the smoke, he leans in toward Yvette. “Do a shotgun, then,“ he says, and he places the lit end of the joint into his mouth. Careful not to burn his lips or tongue, he blows the smoke out the other end. A tight, steady stream of smoke shoots toward Yvette’s face and she instinctively breathes it in. She takes in as much smoke as she can before falling into a fit of coughing.
Some time goes by and Yvette isn’t sure how long they’ve been sitting on the pile of rice—it could’ve been five minutes, it could’ve been two hours—but suddenly she realizes the kindness that has been in Lucious’ eyes all that night is gone. In its place is a flat, cold indifference.
“You ready to get back at Dale,” he says, not smiling.
“I thought that’s what we been doin’,” she says.
“No, baby, we ain’t even begun to get back at him the way I wanna get back at him.”
The mill has come alive and she can feel it all around her. She lies paralyzed on the rice and Lucious crawls on top of her, pinning her down.
“Drinkin’ with me in a bar might be good enough for you,” he says, “but it ain’t for me.”
“C’mon, we went and passed us a good time tonight,” she says. “What you wanna go and ruin it for?”
“Yvette, we still gonna pass a good time,” he says. “You’ll see.”
That’s when she notices the gutting knife in his hand, its five-inch curved blade open. She can’t move and she feels the indentation in the rice her body makes deepen as his weight presses down fully upon her.
David Langlinais’ work has appeared in 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. His second short story collection, “What Happened to All the Dogs?” (UL-Lafayette Press) launched last year. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and daughter where he works as a freelance copywriter.
Editor’s note: This selection is from a work-in-progress, as was a previous excerpt, “Dale and Yvette’s” https://ghll.truman.edu/ghll30/Langlinais%20Dales%20and%20yvettes.html