Read Big Bad Love Online

Authors: Larry Brown

Tags: #General Fiction

Big Bad Love

BIG BAD LOVE

Stories by Larry Brown

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Contents

Part I

Falling out of Love

The Apprentice

Wild Thing

Big Bad Love

Gold Nuggets

Waiting for the Ladies

Old Soldiers

Sleep

Part II

Discipline

Part III

92 Days

BIG BAD LOVE
PART I
Falling out of Love

Sheena Baby, the one that I loved, and I were walking around. It was late one evening. All the clouds had gathered up into big marshmallows and mushrooms, and it was an evening as fine as you could ask for except that we had two flat tires on our car some miles back down the road and didn't know where we were or who to ask. Besides this main emergency, I knew things weren't right. We were about ready to kill one another, and I've spoken on this subject once before.

Sheena Baby was LOVE, a sex-kitten goddess. I'd loved her for a long time, ever since I'd gotten rid of Miss Sheila, and I felt like I'd given part of myself away. Sheena Baby didn't hurt for me like I did for her. I knew it. I'd thought about shooting her first and me second, but that wouldn't have done either one of us any good. It wouldn't be nothing but a short article
in some paper that strangers could read and shake their heads over, then turn to the sports. Love goes wrong. It happens every day. You don't need to kill yourself for love if you can help it but sometimes it's hard not to.

If we'd had inflated tires I could've got her off over in the woods somewhere, put some Thin Lizzy on, told her how we could work it out. Told her not only to be my baby but to be my
only
baby. Later, in the dark, we could have moved together. But she didn't love me, and I could see that finally, so I decided to be real nasty to her.

I said: “You just don't want to listen to anybody.”

She said: “I've bout had it with your goddamn mouth.”

“Jam it,” I said.

“Kiss my ass,” she said.

“Make it bare,” I said, hoping she would, but she didn't, and we walked off in different directions.

I didn't know why something that started off feeling so good had to wind up feeling so bad. Love was a big word and it covered a lot of territory. You could spend your whole life chasing after it and wind up with nothing, be an old bitter guy with long nose and ear hair and no teeth, hanging out in bars looking for somebody your age, but the chances of success went down then. After a while you got too many strikes against you.

I didn't know what to do, where to go. We were miles and miles from any town, anybody who might have flat-fixer services and could perhaps send a tow truck. I could see myself walking for days, sleeping in the ditches. I knew the first man who came along would pick her up, but I doubted that the
first woman who came along would pick me up. I turned around and looked at her. Sheena Baby was getting smaller in the distance with each step, and I could see that fine ass she had wobbling. I knew she'd wobble it harder when she heard something coming down the road. She wouldn't even have to stick out her thumb since she already had plenty of other stuff sticking out, and I couldn't see myself doing without her for the rest of my life. I'd finally found the one I wanted, and now she didn't want me. I knew I'd done it to myself, staying up all hours of the night playing
Assorted Golden Hits
and cooking french fries at two a.m., and letting the garbage pile up in the broom closet, not keeping my toenails cut short enough and scratching her legs with them at night in my sleep. It looked like when you first met somebody everything was just hunky-dory, and then you got to know each other. You found out that in spite of all her apparent beauty she had a little nasty-looking wart on her ass or she'd had six toes when she was born and they'd just clipped it off and then you got to wondering about genetics and progeny. You woke up in the morning before she did and leaned over and smelled her breath and said,
Jesus Christ what the hell did you eat?
Stuff like that broke the illusion, and formed opinions were changed when you really got to know somebody, when you lived with her and saw her in the morning and noticed that the backs of her thighs had little ripples of fat on them.

I wanted to run after her, though, because I loved her the way she was and I knew that nobody was perfect, especially not me, but I also knew that when a person found out how bad somebody else wanted them it automatically turned them
off and they would begin to put distance between you, since the hunger one person has for another is seldom shared equally between them. It was sad, and it was messed up, but I had to figure a way out, because she was walking back the way we'd come, all the way back to Oxford, looked like, if she had to, and I needed two tubeless tires mounted and inflated pretty fast, or at least patched, and I needed a jack, and a four-way lug wrench, none of which I had. We'd gone out without those amenities, just for a short run to the beer store, and then picked up some Budweiser and things deteriorated from there. Went riding. Said fuck it. Decided to wait until later that evening to cut the grass. The
smallest
laid plans of mice and men.

An argument arose, one that had been brewing, about me talking to some chick a few nights past in a bar, somebody who'd seen some of my work. I'd warned her about that, about how I couldn't avoid that, and for a while she'd seemed to understand. She even suffered their phone calls for a while, various ladies calling at all hours of the day and night.

But then she got to saying, “
Another
call for you,” handing me the phone with a tight-lipped smile, pulling up a stool to watch me while I hunkered down over the phone and spoke a soft and inquisitive hello into the mouthpiece, and listening to every word. She wanted the number changed. I didn't. She wanted it unlisted. I protested. People needed to get ahold of me for consultations, estimates, I told her. They need to get ahold of you for other stuff, too, looks like, she said. It got pretty bitter. We started fighting. We'd have to make up before we could make love, and that's always a killer. It got to
killing the sensitivity between us, and once you get that eating at you, you're a prime candidate to end up chasing somebody down a road, like I wound up doing that evening.

She kept walking and I started walking after her. I was trying to get close enough to call out to her. I knew it would sound awful, and you know it would if you think about it, but I knew too that she'd probably just ignore it, keep on walking, do me like that.

It kind of reminded me of being at the Memphis Zoological Gardens one time, years before, before puberty hit me. I was walking around with a balloon on a stick in one hand, a cone of cotton candy in the other. I was just wandering, and wandered over near the bear pits, where a large group of people had gathered. They were large bears, I don't know, brown, or maybe grizzly. Something was going on, you could tell. The bears were down in a large pit with rocks and an artificial pool and an artificial cave, living out their artificial lives. People were pointing down into the pit and grinning. I pushed my way up through the crowd to see what was happening. Fathers had children sitting on their necks, holding them by their legs. There were two bears down in the pit, big fuzzy things. One of them was standing and the other one was lying on its back with its front paws up in the air, waving its head around and looking at the people. It looked a little drunk.

I looked at the bears and looked at the people and then looked at the bears again. The bear that was standing put its nose between the hind legs of the bear that was lying on its back and took a long hard sniff. The bear that was lying on its back raised its head and curled its lips out in a long tunnel
and said
ROOOOOOOOOOOO!
real loud. The bear that was standing raised its head and shifted its feet and stuck its nose between the other bear's legs again and the bear on its back waved its forepaws when the other bear took a long hard sniff and said
OOOOROOOOOOO! MOOROOOOOOO! GROOOOOOOO!

The people grinned and pointed and the bear that was standing wiggled its nose and stuck it back between the other bear's legs and took another long hard sniff and the bear on its back closed its eyes and waved its head and said
BROOO-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Then the bear that was lying on its back got up and licked the other bear for a little bit, they both did, then they slowly turned together and went into their cave and out of sight. The crowd kept looking. I did, too. The bears didn't come back out, though. I felt, even way back then, that something strange and mysterious was going on, something we weren't going to be allowed to see. The crowd drifted away after a while, in ones and twos, then threes and fours, until I was the only one left. I kept watching the dark mouth of that cave, but there was nothing to see except the black air inside it, and shadowy forms slowly moving in there. After a while I went away, too, and left them alone.

I suddenly remembered all that, going down the road after Sheena Baby, the way you will. I was afraid for some stranger to pick up Sheena Baby, because I didn't know what he might do or try to do to her. These days, you don't want to be hitching rides with strangers. There's too much that can happen. I didn't want to see anything worse than me befall her. I was bad enough, and I knew it, and I wanted to be better to her,
try and rectify things if only I could. But she seemed to be walking faster, and I wasn't getting any closer to her. My legs were hurting, and it was hot, but there was some beer in the car. She'd already passed it but I was getting closer to it. I finally reached it and stopped to take a breather beside it, and saw the cooler in the floorboard and said, Well, hell, as long as I'm here.

We'd conveniently had our two flats under a shade tree, and it wasn't bad under those large reaching limbs. It was almost cool, and the beer was cold, so I helped myself to one and sat down on the side of the road, leaning up against the car. It gave me ample time for reflection. You can figure out just about anything if you get ample time for reflection. You can sit back then and get the big picture. I opened that beer and took a long cold drink of it, then lit a cigarette, and the world didn't seem nearly as bad then. There were some other trees on the side of the road, and it was nice and shady, and there was a little ditch with some frogs sitting in it. It was kind of tranquil. I thought, Well, what if she does leave me? Is it the end of the world? No, it wasn't the end of the world. The world wasn't going to roll off its axis just because somebody had a broken heart. The sun wasn't going to stop rising. I asked myself if it would be painful. Yes, it would be painful. It would hurt for an undetermined number of days or weeks. If I was lucky it wouldn't hurt for the rest of my life, but there was no telling how long it would be until I found another one as good as her. They didn't make them like her every day. I looked up the road. She was gone.

I sat there and drank beer for a while, smoked cigarettes.
It wasn't a bad way to while away the time. I didn't know what to do about the car (it was her car). I didn't want to just leave it. I didn't know but what there might be vandals about, unlawful guys who might strip off the wheels and rip off the radio/tape player, make off with the battery. I didn't want to sit around there and watch it all night, though. So I got to looking at the car. Both the flats were on the driver's side. And suddenly the idea came to me, Why don't you just drive it like it is, but
real slow?
It was such a good idea I couldn't figure out why I hadn't thought of it before. I had read somewhere that you could drive on a flat for ten miles if you drove real slow. I knew that even with two flats I could probably drive it faster than Sheena Baby could walk, and that I might eventually catch up with her. So I got in the car and put the beer between my legs. I turned the key and it cranked right up. It was just sitting a little low on my side. I knew it looked a little ridiculous, probably, and I hoped nobody would drive up behind me and start hooting at me.

I turned around slowly in the road, testing the feel of it. It felt a little bumpy. The thought came to me that I might be ruining the tires, but I just got another beer out when that thought hit me.

I tried to see how fast I was going once I got straightened out and headed after Sheena Baby, but I was still in low gear and the speedometer was just bumping up and down between o and 5 mph. I figured Sheena Baby was probably walking about 2 or 3 mph. I wondered: Could I shift into second? I did. The tires went to slapping a little faster. The needle rose to nearly 10 mph. I smiled. I knew I'd overtake her before long.

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