When my wife of these last thirty-nine years kicked me out of the house and I quoth “for being a dipshit” the week before the fourth of July, I holed up in a little camper on the other side of town just so I wouldn’t have to lay eyes on the heifer. “What’s wrong with you?” she demanded to know, the spray of her saliva hitting the lenses of my pilot’s sunglasses like matrimonious shrapnel. I told her that honestly I thought I was having one of them midlife crises things. She did one of the most comical double takes you ever heard of before giving me the stankface, “You can’t have a midlife crisis! You know why? Because you’re already old! Your daddy died in his fifties and you’re almost about retirement age even if you already done the quit working part! You’re lazy too!” I couldn’t argue with that since it was mostly true but I be damned if I was going to let the old woman call me old. I was two years her junior!
She had been mad ever since I came back from Iraq where I worked for a government contractor called “Deepwater, LLC” bossing a bunch of Mexicans to paint stuff with the cheapest white paint known to the industry. If I stuck it out for a year, my contract said I was going to get $100,000 and boy did I need it. However, they made me go home after 4 months because the military downsized and withdrew not unlike my testicles on that fateful morn. One day me and my paint crew woke up to discover that Uncle Sam left us high and dry and ripe for execution. I about up and pissed myself when I saw how lonely that little circus tent out in the middle of nowhere was. We was a regular Trojan horse with an impressive wall around us without so much as a slingshot for self-protection. If them ISIS had known we were in there all alone I imagine I’d be talking to you without a head attached to my body. So I didn’t get all the money I planned seeing as to the short duration, and this is what Gladys was really mad about. I’d gone through tens of hundreds of dollars at the L’Auberge Casino Hotel upon my return to Louisiana. It was real sweet for how long it lasted because I was a high rolling terror at black jack and roulette.
The trailer was right across from a school with one of those black and orange “For Rent” signs on it. The old bat didn’t say much but the rent was cheap and the little camper trailer would have been the Taj Mahal in a KOA campground full of them but being in this neighborhood of fine brick, ranch style houses was irritating to some, my new landlord, Judy, apprised me. I thumbed out some cash from my fat money clip and then she begun to get real chipper like she’d been sipping the sherry with Justin Wilson—the Cooking Cajun himself.
“Ooh, what do I call you Mister?”
Well, I suppose she thought I was older than her because she wanted to call me mister somebody but I told her the same thing I used to tell the grade school children in my neighborhood years ago, “You can call me Captain Marvel.” I don’t go in for all that Mr. Ray bullspatter. She kind of frowned when I said that but she snuck another glance at my wad, which I retired to the front pocket of my Dickies. I could have said, “Ray Landry, Dahlin.” Pour it on real thick too but instead I just stuck with Captain Marvel. She clucked to herself, handed me the keys, and waddled back to her nice brick dwelling after she stuck the money in her bra where I’d seen her put her cell phone a little earlier. Cash money covers a multitude of sins, not to mention identities. She walked off real slow like there was something I wanted to look at. She called over her shoulder at me, “Next month’s rent is due at the first of the month, Mister Captain Marvel.” I wasn’t about to hither to her thither. She could cram that to whence it came.
It was lucky for me that there was a good ole boy across the road name of Mr. Glenn who was originally from Texas. He was an old guy and rode his imitation Hoveround everywhere. That thing could flat get it too. The only time he climbed off it was to plant azaleas in his yard or to take a leak. I don’t think he was old enough for WWII but he had been in the military, Korea maybe, and he talked about being stationed in Hawaii when he was young, except when he said it it had an “uh” on the end instead of an e sound. I don’t know how you’d spell it but looks like it would be something like “Hawai-uh.” He’d been a boss for construction crews and such when he a younger man. It was plain to see he’d been a helluva man when he was younger. A real John Wayne type. When he’d get irritated he’d say, pardner too. Except the way he said it it came out “pad-nah.” He ran up and down the street watching over what happened except when he had to go to the doctor or some place for dialysis. He was near blind and one time the power ran out on his scooter and he sat out in the middle of the street saying, “Help help!” He wasn’t in too good of shape these days.
Now, Mr. Glenn’s wife was a real ring-tailed tooter. She said her name was Angie but I knew that wasn’t her real name. She was from some foreign country. I made out to figure just where she was from and I’d ask Mr. Glenn all sly-like, who looked me square in the eye and said, “Florida.” Now, I was in an awkward situation, torn as I was between my curious nature wanting to know where she was from and him not wanting to tell me. “Naw sir, I mean, where is she from-from? Where her people from? “Florida,” he said again and one eye twitched open a little further like that crazy look Clint Eastwood likes to get before he shoots some punk.
One day they flagged me over just as I was leaving the trailer for my morning constitutional to give me some homegrown blueberries. They both called out to me, “Mr. Captain, Mr. Captain!” Anyway, she let it slip her family was going to be visiting from the Philippines. Speaking of flags, they liked that I hung out the red, white, and blue on the metal flag holder attached to the trailer. Let people know what’s what. Mainly, I would sometimes get overwhelmed by a powerful feeling of patriotism when I’m drunk but it seems to dissipate as I return to sobriety. Angie herself had a strong accent but she let it be known that she didn’t like foreigners coming into our country.
Staying up all night watching infomercials for erectile dysfunction, real estate sales, and vitamins makes a person start to wonder about the future. I decided Captain Marvel needed a whole new persona or outlook on life so the first thing I did was jump in the truck and head to the Goodwill to see if I could find a white or powder blue Seersucker suit with hopefully a little mint green bowtie. Why, I could see myself drinking one of those root beer and ginger ale drinks and speaking with one of those cute Georgia southern accents everyone loves so much in the movies. My old persona was played out and it was high time I became someone new anyway. Hell, I might even shave because it hit me that what I really need to find was one of those sugar mamas to keep me in the style I had not grown accustomed to instead of that other heifer with her stretched out tramp stamp mean-mouthing me all the time. Barring that, not being able to acquire the Seersucker, I’d just stick to my kind of natural rockabilly look I’d painstakingly developed throughout my fifties. I was blessed with the natural sideburns for it and that says a lot.
On a Friday night, I made sure I looked tight in my fifties garb for the senior citizen dance since I hadn’t any luck finding the seersucker. Even slicked my hair back. I was sure to find me a sugar mama in that lot. Bring on those ‘old money’ or nouveau riche saber-toothed cougars! I pulled up into the parking lot and a few people were outside smoking cigars in Hawaiian shirts and a couple were sucking hard on those electronic cigarette dealios. All the men had white hair, or no hair, except for a couple that were busy fooling themselves with dyed jet black hair or a toupee here and there. Not that I don’t have my fair share of white hairs myself but I knew that compared to these duffers I’d look like a teenager. Hell, I still looked young. I’d been carded a number of times into my late forties because I was blessed with a baby-face by God above. He knew I’d always be poor so he made me goodlooking instead.
“What’s shaking, Jackson?” I asked one old man who was staring at me like he’d just seen me on an episode of 48 Hours.
“You sure you’re old enough to go in there, young man?” One old-man with a thin, well-oiled mustache laughed like he’d just told the most hilarious joke of all mankind.
“They been asking me that my whole life, Jeeter,” I said.
“Oh well,” the mustache man said, “there ain’t nothing in there but women so old their titties are full of sawdust.”
“That’s all right,” I winked. “I came to play hot potato with all the gals I can.”
The whole group of them guffawed and tittered at that one.
These men were of a certain age and disposition that allowed them to call a bra a “brassiere” and not make a funny expression afterwards.
“Do you jitterbug, junior?” A lady with white-hair piled up like blue cotton candy asked.
“I ain’t bragging,” I said. “But I do it all. I’m what you might call a full service swinger. I can do the mambo, the watusi, rumba, and even macarena if you insist.”
I’d taught myself these dances by answering an infomercial with VHS tapes. The kind with the three easy payments you always hear about. I made two of them anyway before I changed addresses. I’d get teenage gals, bored housewives, and latter day Lolitas to practice with me when I lived in the Flip Flop Apartments. I watched all these Cuban guys dancing with beautiful women, and I do mean WOMEN all night long so I decided I was a fool not to teach myself these dances.
Another old gal shrilled, “He’s all yours, Frieda!”
Frieda about come unglued with giddiness I’d never seen in women half her age owing to the Shakespearean innuendo of my words. I thought men-o-pause made them halting and old biddy-like but not this one—she was a genuine saber-toothed cougar. She wasn’t like some of them younger women I knew. You know the kind that are always bored with life and give you those constipated looks when you hold the door open for them. ‘I know what you’re after,’ their evil eye looks say. Now a woman like Frieda has a lot to give, and she ain’t through giving it all yet. She’d already been through that aforementioned stage of females who think they’ve done seen it and had it all and don’t want none of it no more. She’s ready for a young man to keep up with her. I just hoped she had the pocket book and matching bank account to cover me. My disability check hadn’t come in yet and when it did I’d have to unhook my old lady’s claws from it or she’d have spent it up in a minute. In another year, I’d be able to partially retire. I didn’t want to mess around and die and not know the sweetness of retirement. For now, if I couldn’t make my life as a gigolo take off, then I’d have to think of another get riche quick scheme. And, I only call it a schema because I felt like time was shooting out the ass end of an hour glass like the proverbial sands on that old soap.
I’ll be damned if Frieda didn’t pay my $5 cover charge for me. Visitors had to pay a $5 and anyone under 62 had to pay an additional $4. The Pearly Gates Senior Center dance hall looked like a roller rink on hardwood floors. There was a giant disco ball hanging from the ceiling to boot. A gaggle of assorted canes and walkers was standing against one wall while the dancers themselves were on the floor groovy dancing, line dancing, Cajun dancing, two-stepping, twisting, and disco dancing. It was a regular dance free-for-all. Dancing with the Stars made everyone feel like they could dance and would look like a star doing it at Pearly Gates. My partner said she wanted to jitterbug but I found out what she really meant was a kind of less vigorous, bastardized version called the rock-n-roll. This all worked to my favor because I doubt I could have flipped her rather large posterior through the air and not come unbalanced myself and ended up with my own broken hip, mashed cloven foot, or worse yet, hospitalized. It wouldn’t do for either of our reputations if one or both of us ended up with broken hips.
I saw the hopeless faces of the women lined up in their cushioned chairs. As we boogied down past the table of these elderly vixens I heard, “That’s a good looking man! Is he an actor?”
Next another one countered with, “Yeah, but what’s he doing with that slut?”
After we had rock-n-rolled for 4 songs straight Frieda said she needed to catch her breath and disappeared to the lady’s room. I took out a handkerchief and mopped at the sweat on my brow. That woman could plumb get after it on the sawdusted parfait. Next thing I knew, a lady who I believe referred to herself with unlikely moniker of Oleta leapt in front of me and then hitched at the waistband of her green hotpants. Her enormous twin peaks, stuffed as they were in the bedazzled blouse, were monumental and thankfully immobile though she tried to convince me she’d been like that since age fourteen. “No sag, just fact!” She told me her name meant “winged one” though I found it unlikely she could get off the ground with those puppies and, of course, I had to let her know that I was Captain Marvel to one and all. She introduced me simply as “The Captain” to the raucous cheering section, which upped my desirableness I must admit, who were ravenous for new man flesh. Just one glance at all those dance veteran faces let me know I was being seriously objectified.
“He’s a baby!” One old gal cooed.
Another said, “He’s a dreamboat!” This immediately made me think of the theme song to the Love Boat television show for some reason and I began to hum it to myself.
Now, I’d never been much of a Romeo as a young man. Women my own age seemed unmoved by my pale skin, hazel eyes, and jet black hair I’d known come from a strain of Comanche Indian in my family, females given white-sounding names but it was obvious. Two of my elder brothers, who had already messed around and passed into the happy hunting grounds or some place a tad warmer, even had that red complexion to their skin and were right tall sons-of-bucks. All that being explained, older women than me had always loved me! Now, don’t ask me why. The more unrealistic a relationship could possibly be, the more likely they were to give me the eye. Love, exciting and new. I whistled a bit here but I think women who are a little older appreciate and trust a whistling man. At least, this is the conclusion I came too after relieving myself of spiked red punch every twenty minutes or so. The male geezers of paradise all walked in whistling, doing their business, washing their hands (some) so much so that it seemed like a bird-calling convention. The echo in that particular lavatory had an echo that was custom-made for whistling jeeters and bebop rock-a-billy crooners alike.
Anyhoo, some of the gals give that come up and see me sometime look even when they weren’t exactly aware of it. So then Miss Oleta 23 skidoos me out to the dance floor for some serious Cajun two-stepping. It seemed like the peanut gallery was an impenetrable chorus but I found that once one of their number was whisked onto the dance floor by a dandy male that they then became fair game. For now, they were hooting and hollering about what a whore Miss Oleta was! It was nothing for these retired ladies to share a pit stop in the restroom one minute and then refer to her dancing friend thusly, “Look at that uppity bitch!” Unless, of course, she was dancing with another woman. That was just okie doke. Those babes who had only recently retired, to the septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians, and centenarians were as googly-eyed over men as high schoolers at their first pep rally.
This surprised me at first, but Miss Oleta, like her sister-in-arms before her, seemed to not register the catcalls and insults of her sister-coven, but instead she radiated a dreamy countenance of ultimate romance that Disney would be hard pressed to duplicate in one of his princess movies. She let it slip somewhat ungracefully that she’d once been the Soybean Fair Queen of Audrain County. She sat in a convertible Corvette and waved to the crowd sitting up on top of the seat. “It’s hard on your ass,” she whispered in my ear. Real insider stuff and more I heard about fair queens and tractor pulls galore.
I observed my original mark, Miss Frieda, returning from the lady’s room with a slow dawning expression of betrayal. I began to back that ass up right to the table like the bravest lion tamer you ever witnessed considering I lacked chair, whip, and pistol when it came to the ferocious ladies. I danced with hind-end so far out and away from Miss O that one would have thought I was afflicted with some horrificent spinal disorder. I couldn’t honestly say these were the kind of men and women you hoped died choking on their own vomit because I consider myself a populist in this regard. I wasn’t here to enjoy myself. This was business. Bidness. A matter of economic survival. I needed me a retired baby mama. No baby, just mama. Capiche?
Miss Frieda cut in between myself and Miss O. She foxtrotted me off to the center of the dance floor and told me how handsome I was. Her eyes were green without a hint of hazel and yet her pupils were shaped more like a cat’s eye than any human I’d ever seen. She used those eyes to hypnotize me and I didn’t even notice the clawings of Oleta on my back but would bear the bloody scars of a wolverine afterwards.
“My third husband always told me I was beautiful before sex but afterwards he’d say my conversation was a bore and I needed a personality transplant,” but almost as proof that this was untrue she kind of lowered her hands so they were resting on my hindend. “You don’t think I need a personality transplant, do you hon?” She tapped me a couple of times to insure that I was empathetic to her plea.
“How long ago was that, Miss F?”
“Hmmm, I’d say that was about 1974.”
“Before my time,” I winked.
“Shut up!” She roared. “You’re such a baby and I’m keeping you all for myself. I refuse to share another man with Oleta Beard! You know, she takes hormone replacement therapy?”
I shrugged. I assumed that was a bad thing.
“I’m 110% natural woman,” Frieda said. “A young man like you should be able to appreciate.”
“I am very, very appreciative,” I thought I was rubbing her ass cheek but it turns out I’d been buffing up her luxury designer handbag for the last couple of minutes. It ought to shine now.
“You like that old thing?” She asked with a smile on her red, too red, lips.
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies,” I made my best innuendo eyes at her.
She laughed and beat on my chest like an old-time actress pretending to be in distress.
“You’ve have those sexy lined eyes I love so much,” Miss Frieda said. “But you have to be careful your whole face doesn’t collapse in ten years or so. That happened to my second husband just before he died.”
I said, “I have just the right amount of gray in my hair that everyone loves,” repeating that line from the commercial somewhat doubtfully.
“Oh, of course!”
We were dancing still but all this talk was throwing off my timing. I didn’t even know what kind of dancing we were doing anymore. She had thrown her arms around my neck so that her forearms touched my neck and she cast spells with her hands and fingers. My hands were on her hips and we moved back and forth, more or less in time with the music that seemed to have gone back to the Big Band era. And now, Miss Oleta came up behind me and synced her body to ours so that now we were dancing a lascivious threesome and I was the meat in this geriatric grinder. I couldn’t see Miss O’s face but if Miss Frieda’s was any indication I’ll bet it was full of violent shades of green eye shadow.
The next thing I knew Miss Frieda had thrown me in the floor and I was covered in sawdust and grime from spilled drinks that had become a kind of paste. The two, formerly ladies, were going at it in a row that ole “Hands of Stone” himself would have been proud of. From my vantage on the floor I wasn’t about to take sides, I just wanted to see a good fight. I have to say now I can’t understand why girlfriends from my teenage years sometimes tried to provoke fights between me and some other dude. It’s wonderful for your self-esteem to be fought over. On the other hand, I was all about the payday than the romance so this was a somewhat awkward detour from my nefarious plans.
“He’s mine and I love him!” Miss Frieda said.
“Love! Yeah right, heifer!”
Slap and grab. Left-right, left-right! I hadn’t seen this much action in or out of the ring in years. Miss O’s upper plate popped out onto the dance floor and then the bout was over. Miss Frieda stood there with her wig hanging over to one side. Miss Oleta was holding her teeth looking for something to dip them in and another gallant fellow came over with his glass of ginger ale to oblige. She sighed and stumbled away as if she’d forgotten all about her love for yours truly. Miss Frieda fixed me with a disgusted look. I guess she expected me to wade in and fix her rival with a right cross.
“Oh, I know your kind, sonny!” Miss Frieda said. “I see who you are! You’re the love ’em and leave ’em type.” All this, despite the fact that no loving had officially transpired. Not only that, but I hadn’t left yet. It could have been one of the blows to her head had shook something loose too.
The chorus of women at the table now all looked at me with anger and lust. I knew I had to get out of there before they tore me apart. No doubt that as soon as I left the Pearly Gates Senior Center I’d go out in the Gigolo Hall of Fame. Despite the fact that I hadn’t successfully gigolo’d anyone or received payment for my services.
I ran out the back door. I wasn’t about to be crucified for this kind of love.