By Richard Van Camp
The horror show began the exact second I told the truth. This was right after Janette came to town. Single Mom. Body of a stripper.
Kevin was like, “Check out the yummy mummy.”
“Yeah,” I said.
I always thought women with short hair could only ever be cute. I was wrong. She’s white, French. She even sparkled in French. Just listening to her in the Northern line-up warmed The Hammer nicely. The prized ivory of a white woman has put me in the worst kind of heat. Then Wendy’s masturbation incident happened, and I lost everything around me.
I saw Janette that aft getting out of her car as I cruised down Candy Lane in my Dad’s old truck. She saw me. She was playing hopscotch with her girl and smiled as I drove by for the fiftieth time down her street. God Bless Candy Lane. She stopped to pick something up, and it was the way she bent over that got me. Her shorts were so tight they cupped her ass and I could see her pubic mound. I had to keep on driving, pull over by the airport, turn off and empty myself in gushes onto the high grass. I came squadrons.
The school was still closed until they found a new principal, and this was my life: Jonathan hated me. Nobody waved back; the girls I grew up with ignored me. Fuck them all.
Donna kept calling. She wanted me so badly. She had been cute but that was about it. She had let her hair grow, and that sharpened the curves of her cheeks. Her eyes had gotten darker over the years, like her Mom’s, and she was still sort of pretty. And she had those tits. Her ass was a little fat and she was short. I couldn’t get her legs over my shoulders if I tried. Funny how she fazed me with those words outside the cafe after the showdown with Jon—“You’re a hero”—’cause I was anything but….
Janette, for some reason, had chosen Doug the Slug Stevens as her bull. I couldn’t believe this. The Slug raped his fourteen-year-old babysitter years back. That’s how he lost his kids. How the Slug got Janette was beyond me, but I was gonna sink his fuckin’ boat just like I sunk the principal’s.
Donna was knocking on my window last night at two. Her folks were Cree and let her run wild, I guess, whenever and wherever she wanted. She did three taps, waited and did three more. I waited until she left and stroked one off for Janette.
In the morning, Mom brought me a CD as I was combing out the back stoop of my mullet. Jonathan and I grew them on purpose because we were holdouts for the ’80s.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“You tell me,” she said. It was a CD case: Samantha Fox’s Touch Me.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Well somebody left it for someone here, and I know it wasn’t intended for me—and it better not be for your father.”
I opened it up and saw that Donna had written her name on the inside sleeve. “I must have dropped it last night.”
Mom looked at me, stared at me actually. Her eyebrows rose, then lowered. She swept the back of her hand with her palm and this was a move she used to make when she still smoked. She was nervous. “We need you to clear out that brush in the back yard. Snow’s coming soon and it’ll block the skidoos.”
I figured we were back to business. For a while there, I knew my folks were worried about me. After the social worker came and the RCMP took my statement, I wouldn’t leave the house. No one called. The weight of my own clothes on my body made me feel like an old man, and it felt like someone was doing a handstand on my shoulders, pushing me down. I worked out twice a day in the basement, stayed in my room for hours just listening to Van Halen, The Cult, The Outfield. All I did was read Playboy and try to plan my future sex life: sex with Janette, break her heart, then move on, find someone younger for sex in an elevator, the Mile High club, sex in the bathtub, sex in the shower, sex outside, sex in the rain, sex in the snow, sex out at the cabin, sex on the trapline!
These days, the only someone who calls is Donna, but at least I’m out and about. The one good thing that happened—and the only reason I’m out and about—is I got a call from Mr. Henderson aka Boss Hog over at Northern Lights Log Homes.
“I heard what you did,” he said. I could hear chainsaws in the background. “I need a log peeler who’s willing to work hard before the snow comes. After that, we’ll see if we can train you on the crane. The money’s okay. I can’t compete with government, but you’ll at least learn how to build your own log home. What do you think?”
Mom and Dad were watching me, and I knew Dad had put the word out that I needed an arrow of light to fly my way.
“Sure,” I shrugged. “Why not?”
So I worked all day, peeling logs for Boss Hog. The last thing I wanted to do on coffee break or lunch was ask questions or try to learn about building log homes. The first two days I forgot to bring gloves and shredded my forearms peeling the spruce and pine. After a while I didn’t feel it much anymore when the bark bit me. The good news was I was doing push-ups and pull-ups when the boss wasn’t around and I got tanned at the same time. To my surprise, that Samantha Fox CD was pretty good. I put it on low and got to work. To my even bigger surprise, Janette drove by in the government truck. I pinched my helmet a few times through my pockets so The Hammer’d swell as she drove by.
I stood up and smiled. I had my shirt off and was sweating something fierce. She smiled back when I flexed the pecs and even turned her head to look directly at me when she came by the second time on her way home from work. Nice.
I ran behind the biggest log pile and jacked off in jets to blast a web of fury and hysteria all over the logs behind the woodpile outside the work site. I surprised myself with how great it felt to come, the relief of it all, but the force and burn didn’t fade. It just got better and better. I got quite the tool here that’ll last me for life and lead me through a field of women.
Later, at coffee break, I walked into the office.
“Who’s Donna?” Boss Hog asked as he looked up.
“A friend,” I said, putting my gloves and hatchet away. “Why?”
“Tell her to quit calling here,” he said. “She’s called twice today.”
“You got it,” I said, and blushed in front of the guys.
He paused before getting into his big ass Duelly. “She wants you to meet her for fries and a Coke after work.”
Harold, Boss Hog’s oldest son, grinned. “How ’bout fries and a cock after work?” The crew howled like wolves and I looked away. Goddamn him. Fuck he had a big buffalo head. Why didn’t he get his front teeth replaced?
And goddamn that Donna….
“Don’t call me at work anymore,” I said on the phone.
“I want to see you,” she said.
I was drip drying from the shower. The tan was coming along good. I was trimming my muff with Dad’s moustache scissors. I wanted to have the perfect V, like what I saw in Mom’s Playgirl. “Not a good idea,” I said.
“Remember when we used to go out?”
“Not really,” I said. “Bye.”
Janette drove by one more time in the government truck checking the mail for the college. There were four roads to the post office. She chose the road that I was always working next to, which was the slowest. Was I imagining this? No. She looked back, waved and smiled. I waved, stepped out on the road, watched her. She tapped her brake lights twice just to let me know that I wasn’t imagining us.
I was gonna fuck her so hard it was gonna be brutal….
I re-read all of my Dad’s Playboys, couldn’t find one Playmate that even remotely looked like Janette. Snuck one of Dad’s condoms from the bathroom and came back into rubber.
Donna called during supper, twice. Mom told her to call back after seven.
“Is that Barb’s daughter?”
I scooped a big chunk of caribou into my mouth and nodded.
“I always wondered what happened to you two.”
“Mom,” I said, “we were in grade five.”
Dad nudged me under the table with his leg. “You know,” and I could tell I was gonna get a speech because he pulled out his favourite toothpick and moved to his chair by the woodstove. “I don’t know how they do it in Africa, but here in the north, it’s the bulls who pick, hey?”
“Here we go,” Mom said and rolled her eyes.
I got up and poured Dad a coffee and made one for myself. I even put on water for Mom’s tea. “Go on.”
Dad put his coffee on the rocks, by the woodstove. “Love only works if it’s the man who chooses.”
“Hmph,” Mom said.
“Now, Norma, hear me out. If a woman picks a man, it never lasts. It has to be the man who chooses. When a man chooses, that’s when love lasts.”
“Oh baloney,” Mom said.
“Think of the caribou, Norma. It’s not the cows who pick. It’s the bulls. Think of the moose, the bison. That’s nature workin’.”
“I chose you,” Mom said.
Dad stopped and looked at her, and the house fell quiet. My Dad smiled and reached out, “Norma, you just made my day. Son, disregard everything your old man just said.”
They laughed and went for a kiss. I saw the eagle feather quiver that Mom made Dad on their wedding day. It was filled with eagle feathers they’d collected together over the years when they went camping. Then the phone rang. They looked at me. Dad got up.
“I’m not here,” I said.
“Maybe it’s Jonathan,” Mom said. “You never know.”
“Yeah right,” I said.
Dad answered it. “Hello?”
He listened and covered the receiver: “You here?” and motioned by pointing at the receiver and mouthed: “It’s her.”
“Nope,” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Cruisin’.”
Candy Lane betrayed me that night. The Slug’s Chev was parked outside Janette’s house. The only light on at 10:15 couldn’t have been her daughter’s. Fuckin’ guy. I revved my motor outside her house. Nothing. I revved it some more until the neighbour’s lights turned on and her neighbour poked his head out. I didn’t stop. I kept revving again and an outside light popped on two houses down. Just when I thought the motor was gonna blow
through the hood her curtains moved. It was Doug. I peeled out and sped away.
Saw Donna walking down Main Street, swerved down a back road even though we both knew we saw each other. It was true—we did used to go out.
Grade five—she cried at a party and her cousins surrounded me: “You’re really mean, you know,” they said.
“You think you’re so cool,” Dolly said.
“What did I do?”
“Yeah,” Jonathan said. “What did he do?”
“Donna likes you, okay?” Dolly said to me. “Are you happy now?”
I knew Donna did. And the whole school did too the day she wrote my initials on her runners where everyone could see. After a week of nagging from all of her cousins, I agreed to go out with her—if she’d just stop crying.
“Okay,” I said as we sat on the playground fence. “Here are the rules. If we’re going to go out, you can’t walk beside me.”
“Okay,” she said.
“We’re not going to hold hands.”
I pointed at her. “Ever.”
She was smiling, glowing with happiness.
“You can’t call my house and you’ve got to stop crying.”
She sniffled. “Okay.”
She tried to touch my hand, but I pulled it away as if burned by water. “I’m not kidding, Donna. That’s strike one.”
Fuck, I was mean to her. She’d follow me around the playground and I’d shoo her away or ignore her all day. Then she’d cry and I’d have to talk to her. One hug usually made her happy, but then she’d hold on for dear life and I’d be like, “Okay, you can let go. Okay? Okay!” I had to kill it as summer came. Who knew what tourists would be coming for summer vacation bringing their daughters with them?
God, did Donna cry. Her cousins used their bodies to circle and shield her from seeing me. The bell rang and I slunk by. She yelled out to me, “But what was strike two and strike three?”
Her mascara was all over the place. It was too sad to look. I just kept walking. Then the strangest thing happened. She ignored me. Who did she think she was? That summer nobody hot came to Simmer. I’d see Donna in the park and I’d be like “Hi.”
And she’d look to her cousin and say, “Did you hear something?”
Dolly popped her gum and was like, “Nah.”
The only time she acknowledged me was at the Northern. One time, I was helping Mom shop and I saw Donna with her Mom. While our Moms decided to have a high school reunion in the dairy aisle, I walked up to her. “Hi,” I said.
She walked away without saying a word. Her eyes flashed fiercely as she looked away.
“Hey.” I followed her but she sped up. I bolted after her and she was trying to hide in the baby food aisle. I had her. And then I said the stupidest line of my life. Right there, across from the Cheez Whiz, I said the stupidest thing I ever could have said and I don’t even know why I said it: “Don’t walk away mad, okay? Just walk away.” I even had my hands out for full effect.
She rolled her eyes and blushed. “Whatever,” she said, before walking away.
When I came around the corner, there stood our Moms. I could tell by their eyes that they’d been watching us and were disappointed that I returned alone. How cheap. This had been a set up.
Donna tapped on my window at three am last night. I was rock hard and tempted. Gotta cool it with The Hammer. Got raw spots where I shimmied that sting when it gasped for air. It would have been a nice night for a walk with her, to talk and stuff, but I thought it was best not to lead her on.
I couldn’t believe she walked all the way across town to stalk me. That was a lot of pussy power making her do that. I always wondered what it was like for a woman to feel horny with nothing to get hard with but their pink erasers. Maybe the pull I felt for Janette was the same pull Donna felt for me?
Goddamn that Janette. Stopped cruising down my street at work. I was desperate all day. Went behind the log pile and measured The Hammer with a tape measure: a little over seven and a half. Not growing, not shrinking, just was.
Then—then! I slammed my frickin’ thumb with the back of the hatchet by accident. God, the pain! It throbbed with agony that did not let up.
“She’ll turn black,” Boss Hog said at the first aid station, “and fall off pretty quick.”
Harold handed me an ice pack and shook his walrus head. “You should have a new thumbnail by the time grade twelve starts.”
I looked out the window and winced as a new wave of throbbing came for my thumb. At least Donna had quit calling work.
Just as I thought all was lost, I cruised down Candy Lane and Janette’s car wasn’t there. I raced across the potato field and sped down Main. Sure enough, her car was outside. The Slug’s. There. In the car. They were sitting and yelling at each other. The Slug looked like he was barking at her, he was yelling so loud. I cruised by, but she didn’t see me. Things were looking up.
“Dad,” I yelled as we cleared the last of the deadfall. “Tell me about Doug Stevens.”
Dad turned off his chain saw. “The Slug?”
“Bad dude. Nasty temper. I told you what he did to his babysitter.”
“He gets a lot of women, that guy.”
“But how? Is he rich, or what?”
“No more than the rest of us.”
“So why do women go after him?”
“Funny how that works. Women just can’t seem to get enough of a mean man. Isn’t he seeing that new woman? What is she—French?”
Dad already knew. He and his pallies got together every night at Stan’s house and had a couple cold ones. They listened to Waylon, shot some stick. I couldn’t wait until the day they invited me to join them for a drink. They knew, I was sure, all about Janette and the word was out, you could bet, that I had it for her something fierce.
“What’s it take, Dad,” I asked, “to break a woman’s grip on a man?”
Dad stopped and looked at me. He looked at my build and read my eyes. “A good fight can settle things pretty quick. Women respect that. But you’re a little young for her, don’t you think? Why not go for the one who’s calling the house?”
I wrinkled my nose. “Too young.”
He nodded and said nothing before starting the chainsaw back on and getting to work. Doug was a dirty fighter, mean. I was worried. I knew I couldn’t beat him. Fuck, I was only seventeen….
Excerpted with author’s permission from the short story Love Walked In, from The Moon of Letting Go by Richard Van Camp, Enfield & Wizenty, 2009.