By Lionel Roy
For: Bangari Fiction: I Am Archibald, Scribe of S-tan
Say It Right
Say It Right, by Nelly Furtado came on, loudly, as Sheila entered from behind the curtain. Something about the way he looked at her made her bolder, more adventurous. She could feel his eyes on her as she hooked the pole with an outstretched arm and spun. She wanted to show him that she was worthy of him, that he was worthy of her. He stopped briefly, bought a drink and headed towards the stage, all the time, not taking his eyes off her. He managed to secure a table quite near the front, he put his drink down and continued to watch. He acted differently from all the other guys in the club. They were cheering, shouting, whistling and throwing money like confetti, it rained down on her, with outstretched hands, it was tucked into her thong, and pressed into her hands. She smiled and strutted and accepted the applause, almost never breaking eye contact with Jem. He sipped slowly from his drink seemingly unaware of the noise and lights around him. The music stopped and she struck a pose and winked at him. Her mind was made up –now it was up to her heart to catch up.
She wiped the sweat off her skin as she entered her room, back stage. It was going to be a very good night, she thought. For the first time, she had really, really enjoyed herself out there…Because she was dancing for someone other than herself. A light knock on the door broke through the relative silence backstage.
“Yeah. Come in.” Sheila said as she brushed her hair in the mirror.
Lars came in, followed by Jem.
“He said he knows you.” Lars mumbled.
She smiled. “Some bodyguard you are. He could be a psycho.”
A look of alarm crossed Lars’ face and he reached into his coat jacket.
“…But he’s not. So no need for the Rambo act!” She said, getting up and kissing his cheek, effectively dismissing him. He looked at Jem, sternly, and then made his way out of the room muttering slightly. She felt excited yet uneasy under the intensity of the silence that stretched between them. Then they spoke at the same time.
“You were awesome tonight.”
“I wasn’t expecting you.” They laughed, and the ice was easily broken. “You hungry?” he asked shyly.
“Yeah, I am, and I got a few hours before I go out on stage again. What are you hungry for?”
He looked at her with a cheeky smile “Amongst other things…pizza”
“With extra pepperoni and onions?” She asked.
“Well I was thinking pineapple and black olives, but not a dealbreaker. Let’s go so we can get back.”
“Anxious to see me dance again, are you?”
“You and some of those other hotties!” She looked at him, raising her eyebrows, not knowing what to make of that last comment.
It was delicious. She sucked her fingertips trying to get the last taste of pepperoni, pre-cleaning the grease off them before finishing the job, more properly, with a napkin. “I hope you didn’t mind me coming to see you dance…unannounced” He said, finally broaching the subject and not quite meeting her eyes. “I was just trying to surprise you” She blushed slightly as she sipped her seltzer water.
“Nah. It was kind of nice. I think it was my best night. I had such a blast tonight!”
“So do you….fancy a drive?” he asked suddenly bold.
“Sure. Where are we going?” She asked as she counted out a five, and about eleven ones, pulling them out of her purse, like stuffing out of a couch pillow.
He winked mischievously “Not telling.”
Jem held the keys up in front of her face, signaling her to take the Mustang for a spin. This was also a test to see if she was able to drive. He thought it was strange that she didn’t seem to have a car of her own, when, after all, he just saw what less than an hour of work paid in her world. Probably about the same as in his, but he would have to work a little bit less naked, and a lot higher off the ground, slapping shingles down on a roof in the sweltering heat. Nobody ever cheered and whistled when he did it either. Shit, I guess I missed my calling! He thought as he was starting to see more and more why she did what she did. “I don’t drive” she said shaking her head.
“Oh, okay.” Jem said shrugging his shoulders. This was going to be a night of broadening a certain stripper’s horizons, as well as his own – and a lot of fun for both of them if it all went well.
Jem headed for Old Town. He planned to put himself on the spot first. This was a cool place to walk around, visiting all the different shops, checking out the classic cars…and there was another attraction: The human slingshot ride. This thing used cables and springs to catapult people, strapped in an open double seat, 365 feet in the air. Then after a free fall downward, while flipping and twisting, the brave riders would bounce a few more times and then be lowered and let off.
Sheila had no idea, but for a guy that was not afraid of much –Jem really didn’t have a single phobia…this ride frightened the bejesus out of him. He was truly terrified of it. His daughter had tried to get him to go on it the last time he was down here, but as ashamed of his lack of courage as he was, yet at the same time, impressed with his daughter’s bravery, he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. It was a fear that he was going to face down and conquer, tonight. How impressed he would be if Sheila, like his teenaged daughter, wasn’t afraid of it. How he was wishing at the same time that she would want no part of it – letting him off the hook.
As Jem pulled in, he was debating if he should torture himself with putting it off until after they walked around and shopped a little, or if he should immediately just go for it, like ripping off a Band-Aid.
“I love this place!” Sheila exclaimed, excitement causing her voice to go an octave higher. “Hey, let’s go on the sling-shot!” His stomach flipped and the pizza immediately wanted to make an exit at this beat-to-the-punch suggestion. He just wasn’t sure what door it was going to use.
“Ah…Yee-ah. Right now? You don’t wanna digest first?” Am I a friggin’ lilly-assed whimp? He didn’t ask that last question out loud.
“C’mon Jem, Let me take you on this ride. It’s awesome!”
“Okay.” His legs weakened, and he felt a little light-headed as they walked down the street, toward the ride.
He thought back to 1989 when Wifey I was pregnant with their first child. She was six feet tall -A full head taller than Jem was. She put on a normal amount of weight, but as he didn’t know any better then, he mentioned that if she was a boxer, she would fight in the heavyweight division. He also made some stupid comments, of course just trying to be funny, about the doctor having to put a scale under each foot and add the total… When Jem was twenty one he didn’t have the meat on his bones that he does now. He would have needed to gain five pounds to be a welter-weight. He also lacked the older husband’s wisdom to know that you never comment on your wife’s weight gains, joking or not, especially when she’s pregnant with your kid.
As they walked through a New Jersey Mall, shoulder to shoulder, index fingers hooked, loosely holding hands, a group of four or five black kids, about fourteen, started pointing and laughing and calling out from the above level down to them. “Sheeez so beeeg and heeez so lid-dill” they teased with a New Jersey ebonics slang twang. Jem was getting pissed.
“Why don’t you let that sore under your nose heel ya little bitch!” He snapped back as they kept walking. He looked up at Wifey I to see her smiling. It didn’t bother her at all. His anger instantly subsided. The teens went on making fun, and he told them to shut up a couple more times, but now, he was smiling too.
Wifey I had an attention addiction. She was a glutton for it in any form. When it led her to infidelity, twice, it broke them up. But the upside of that addiction was that she loved to stand out in a crowd. She even got Jem to somewhat enjoy the thrill of turning people’s heads when walking around in public. Not because they were somehow freaky in a geeky way. As a matter of fact, she was a very attractive girl before, during, and after the pregnancy, and still is to this day. It was just because they were physically mismatched, out of the norm. She considered it chic, pointing out Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. She may have done some terrible things that broke Jem’s heart, but she never made him feel small.
Walking the cobblestone streets with Sheila, together but not fully together, watching out of the corner of his eye as heads turned, wondering if it was because she was black and he was white, or because she was tall and he was short, or because she was twenty four and he was forty one, or if it was just because they were one hot couple that definitely stood out in a crowd, made Jem feel like a giant – or instead, a giant slayer, like the young King David with his sling-shot. As Sheila handed the guy some cash, and they were strapped in this human sling shot, he was visibly trembling, but ready to conquer a giant fear. “Ya ready Jem?” she asked squeezing his arm as she did.
“No-o” he replied with a down then up inflection in his voice. Then, sudden g-force caused red hot, screaming, murder-terror to envelope his horrified mind as he squeezed his eyes shut and desperately tried to put himself out of his body.
As the ride mercifully came to an end, and Sheila’s rodeo “woo-hooing” tapered off, and Jem realized that he had successfully, maybe even miraculously held back number one, and number two, he prayed that he wouldn’t throw up while he wondered, why I do this shit to myself? But that was it. The giant took the stone right between the eyes. Jem won. It felt good to know that he would never have to do it again, unless his daughter forced him to redeem himself, and accompany her for a ride. Never again would the stupid thing mock him whenever he drove by it.
They finished a couple beers while listening to a pretty good reggae band, then strolled back to the car. After opening the door for her, he went around to the driver’s side and jumped in over the door ‘Starsky and Hutch’ style, plopping in the seat hard, but gracefully. She didn’t look that impressed but gave him a polite smile just the same. He wasn’t trying to impress her with his physical agility; He was really just trying to entertain her with physical comedy. He thought. Note to self: Sheila -not a big fan of slapstick. He drove for a long time toward a secluded place where the next adventure on this already mind-blowingly exciting date was to take place.
There was that sultry look again, this time with her chin down and her head tilted slightly to the side with her three quarter profile revealing that same pretty face, but at a different angle. He kept taking his eyes off the road to behold it. “So did my dancing excite you Jem?” she asked in a tone and a rhythm that made it seem like the sultriness that was on her face had seeped into her vocal chords too, and Jem thought …not as much as you asking me like that right now.
Instead, he asked her with a twinkle in his eye, “What do you mean? Like, did I get a raging boner?”
“Jeremy!” she exclaimed, backhanding him in the ribs with a quick left. He flinched and then laughed.
“You know Sheila, I don’t know how it is for other guys, but I’ve got a shy bladder”
“A what?!” she asked dragging out the question in that singsong way that black girls do. Man, I like black girls, he thought.
“Like when I go to take a piss, if some other guy steps into the urinal on the side of me before I can get my pee valve open, it stays shut and I can’t piss no matter how hard I use the powers of my mind to open that valve”
“That is weird Jem.” She said in a very matter of fact tone. “What does that have to do with seeing me dance?”
“Well, it’s a lot like that. You looked incredibly hot up there tonight, as you do, even with all your clothes on, but in a room full of other guys, I don’t get aroused or anything…No offense.”
“No. It’s all right. I think I see what you mean.”
“Now, if it was you and me alone, well that’s another story. If you were moving around like that, in that same outfit, and the deed was about to go down, the thing would be harder than Chinese arithmetic! In about two seconds I’d be able to cut glass with it.” He expected that statement to earn him another shot in the ribs, but this time she used her hand to cover her mouth as she looked down the road ahead and let out the cutest little embarrassed giggle he ever heard. He soaked it in, and then chuckled a bit himself. Then, he cleared his throat and said “Which brings us to another topic that’s probably going to convince you that I really am weird.”
“Too late Buddy, you’re weird. I’m convinced” she quipped. He smiled and laughed through his nose a little and then continued,
“I’m not like a lot of other guys that I know. I don’t like to just jump in bed with a girl. It’s a lot because of religion. I mean, I’m not uptight, I know a lot of other Christians who sleep together after a few weeks of dating, but…
“Well how much time you looking for Jem?” She asked in a tone that was either ridiculing or genuinely concerned. He couldn’t tell, and it made him very self conscious.
“Well when do you think it would be appropriate?” he asked, hoping she would give him a better idea of what she was thinking because he was clueless, and feeling real stuffy and uncomfortable, and regretting that he brought it up, especially the way he did. It seemed staged.
“According to our religion, not until we’re married. And until you are not married…don’t even think about it!” Ahhh, relief. Just like getting in a hot shower after a hard day’s work. She’s so cool he thought. He had a feeling she wasn’t an easy girl. Just what he was hoping for. “Well I’m sorry hon, but I can’t promise you that. I’ll be thinking about it twenty times a day! We’ll talk about it again when the constable brings the divorce papers.”
They drove through a huge, desolate development that was under construction, heading toward an orange grove behind it, where the next adventure was about to unfold. As Jem got off the pavement and pulled onto the dirt road, Sheila was looking a little uneasy.
“Where are we going?” she asked without sounding at all frazzled, but the look on her face gave the opposite impression.
“We’re about to do another fun and exciting thing together –like the sling-shot ride, maybe not as scary”
“Out here in the middle of nowhere?”
She didn’t say anything for a good minute or two. He could tell her mind was scrambling, and that it was probably dawning on her that even though it didn’t feel like it, she only knew him a total of three days. He stopped the car about thirty yards from a pile of burning orange trees. It was mystifying to him, how that looked. The branches were all grayish-white with ash, illuminated by the blue light of the moon. There were no visible flames, and there was so little smoke that although they could smell it in the air, it couldn’t be seen rising from the pile. Deep in the center was the red-orange glow of the embers that had burned all day and now, into the night, unattended. He sat and stared at it for a good thirty seconds over the drivers side door with his back turned to Sheila, not realizing until he turned back to look at her that this made her even more uneasy. She had her hands in her lap, clasped together with her shoulders rolled forward, every ounce of her body language telling him that she was truly afraid.
Jem smiled at her, and although she meant to smile back, instead, just raised her eyebrows. He reached under the driver’s seat, and felt around until he felt the rubber handle, grasped it, and pulled out his Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum. Its stainless steel barrel gleamed in the moonlight. Sheila gasped, spun around in her seat and pressed her back to the door, her eyes huge as she stared at the gun without blinking; Jem thought, she’s probably wishing her big goofy bodyguard was here right now.
“Chill out woman!” He commanded with a smile.
“What the hell are you doing?” She asked.
“What’s the matter?” He played a little stupid, like he couldn’t understand why she might be so edgy right now.
“I hate guns” she said evenly, eyeing the gun with a mixture of fear and disgust.
“Why? What did a gun ever do to you? Here, hold it.”
“I don’t wanna. I’m totally sketched out.”
“C’mon, just take it” he prodded as he thrust it in her direction. She reached for it cautiously and just before her fingers touched it, Jem said “Eh!” Causing her to pull her hand back sharply like she just touched a hot iron. “First thing you do if someone hands you a firearm, is you ask them to open the action. Ok? Go ahead… say it.”
“Open the action” she said playing along without being sarcastic. He liked that.
“Now with a revolver, this is the action right here where the bullets go. That’s called ‘the cylinder’” he said pointing to it. He flipped it open, putting his finger through the frame, offering it to her again. “See, this is how you hand someone a pistol. Like this. See how you can tell it isn’t loaded this way?”
they both got out of the car, and he went around to the trunk and grabbed some bullets. He handed her six of them, and told her to slip them in the cylinder. He told her to close the cylinder, warning her to always keep the barrel pointed down range…even if she knew it wasn’t loaded. Jem positioned her into a stance, between the car and the burning brush, and then stood behind her, touching his nose and mouth to her shoulder. She smells like heaven, he thought. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and adjusted her hands on the grip. She instinctively put her finger on the trigger.
“No hon. Never rest your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire.” He almost moaned in her ear.
“Oh, okay” she whispered.
“Now aim for the embers. Look through this notch in the back sight and try to get the front sight inside it. You see?”
“Got it? He dropped his arms letting her support the pistol herself. He rested his hands on her shapely hips, noticing that her arms were muscular –in a feminine way. The moonlight highlighted her triceps, and with her arms held straight up and out her shoulders were full, rounded and defined. He thought was there any part of this girl that was flawed? He didn’t think so…
“Yeah, it’s heavy” she complained.
“Well try to keep it as steady as you can, take a breath, hold it, and squeeze the trigger, slowly, without jerking it.”
Bang! It went off. Sheila smiled. “Cool” she said.
“Kind of an adrenaline rush, huh?”
“Yeah. Can I shoot it again?”
“Sure, but say ‘fire.’ Get the lingo down there – Annie Oakley.” She laughed, then concentrated and fired another round.
“Ahmm. This is fun!”
“Oh. So now you’re friends with guns? Ya don’t hate ‘em anymore?”
“I guess not”
“Well fire the last four, then let’s get outta here before somebody thinks it’s not just some kids lighting fireworks.”
She finished them off, hitting her mark as sparks flew from the embers, and then handed him the pistol, with the action open, Index finger through the frame, just like he showed her. “I’m proud of you” he said. “You’re a natural!” He handed her the keys, and said “now for some driving lessons…Just down the dirt road and out of the development. I’ll take it from there. It’s time to get you back to the club.”
The air was cool, fresh and fragrant as it swirled around their heads. She had always wanted to ride in a convertible, and the reality was far better than what she had imagined. Sheila glanced at Jem taking in his dreamy smile, long eyelashes and fluttering hair. She sunk into the crisp leather seat and sighed. She was relaxed now, in a sleepy way, and was looking forward to getting her shift done and going home and crawling in bed. Before she knew it, they had stopped and she was being softly shaken awake.
“Hey, we’re here” his whispered voice broke through her late night nap. She looked at him and smiled.
“Thanks” she said. She got out of the car and headed towards the door. Jem followed close behind her. They paused when they got to the door and she pressed something into his hand. He looked at it while Sheila kissed his cheek and reached for the door to pull it open, and let herself in, as she said, “Call me.”
Jem was thrilled to have her number, and her decision along with it. He guessed that they were officially ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ now. But he wasn’t having any more of this peck-on-the-cheek noise. He gave the door a gentle push against her pull, closing it again. “Will you step your pretty, black butt back here, and kiss me like this was one of the best dates of our lives?” She smiled, hesitated just long enough to make it romantic, like a scene from a movie, and took a step toward him. He put his right hand on her cheek, his left on the small of her back and met her lips with his. They parted, and then went in again, this time with their mouths more open. Her arms were over his shoulders and she held the back of his head in one hand making gentle circles with her fingers. Jem put both arms around her and pulled her close as they kissed each other deeply.
He was a good kisser, she thought, scratch that, he was a great kisser. The atmosphere crackled with intense passion as their hearts beat in synchronicity, a rhythm fitting only to the unique excitement felt when a romantic connection is made with that first kiss. She ran her hands through his soft hair which caused him to moan softly. Slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, they broke off the kiss.
“That good enough for you?” She asked cheekily. He sighed and opened his eyes slowly, meeting hers.
“I’m not sure, I think you may have to do it again so I can make up my mind” he said smiling. She giggled as he leaned in again. She drew back slightly. “Easy tiger, let’s save it for next time,” she instructed.
“So there will definitely be a next time?” He asked.
“Not if you ask silly questions like that, there won’t.” She said, giggling again.
“I mean, are we now officially dating?”
She pretended to think and said with a straight face “I’m not sure, I haven’t made up my mind yet.” A look of confusion crossed his handsome features. That moment of hesitation, filled with worried hope, was all she needed. She pulled him in for a final kiss. His soft lips parted without hesitation as did hers. Man, he tasted great too, she thought.
“I hope that answers your question. Goodnight Jem” she said over her shoulder, as she pulled open the door and disappeared into the phantasmagoria of music, lights and voices, that spilled out of the club.
“Night” he whispered as he turned, making his way back to his car.
Click title below to go to chapter 5:
- Book Review: Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go (debrakb.blogspot.com)
- Nelly Furtado Releases “Big Hoops (The Bigger The Better)” (fresh1027.radio.com)
- Nelly Furtado unveils behind-the-scenes pics of new video ‘Big Hoops’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- Review: Nelly Furtado – Big Hoops (Bigger the Better) (matthewalexandermultimedia.com)
- Nelly Furtado: JJ Music Monday! (justjared.com)
- Jem and the Holograms (shanehalbach.com)