Friday, August 17, 2007

The Sneakers Chapter 4. Shocks 'n Struts

Prologue: The Thrift Store
Chapter 1: Vicki
Chapter 2: Stupid pill
Chapter 3: Maze

Chapter 4: Shocks 'n Struts

Chapter 5: Shocks 'n Struts

"So that was his reaction? Go get an abortion?" Johnnie snapped her chewing gum and tore open a Twinkie. She didn't really like Twinkies, and her jeans were getting a little tight, but they were the only thing left in the doggone breakroom machine.

"Yeah. He told me I had my whole life ahead of me, and blah, blah, blah. It was all about him, really. Not me. Not the baby. I gotta admit, though," Vicki looked lugubriously around the grubby breakroom of the Shocks 'n Struts Auto Parts Store, with it's dingy, painted cinderblock walls, tall dented trash can and crumbling bulletin board, "law school does seem a bit far off right now."

"Yeah. I guess ya gotta finish at th' community college first." Johnnie smiled slyly as she addressed this observation to the remainder of her Twinkie, which she then popped into her mouth. "Well, what do you want to do?"

"You mean, do I want to abort the baby? Oh, Johnnie, I don't know. I don't know what to do." Vicki tapped the table with her fingers. "Y' know what gets me? We've been living together for six months now, and it's like he's a stranger. A complete stranger. He didn't... I mean, it's like this is all my problem and he didn't have anything to do with it."

"Well, it is your problem." Johnnie dabbed the crumbs from her lips with surprising grace. She had to use the wrapper, though, because the paper towel dispenser was empty. Friggin' Harry's too cheap t' buy paper towels. Sheesh. "I mean, of course he's a stranger. You're just shacked up. You're not married or anything. Believe me, honey," Johhnie looked wisely at Vicki, "I know."

When Vicki had come to work at Shocks 'n Struts, Johnnie had taken her under her wing. We've gotta be friends, she'd said, were the only girls workin' this dump. Having grown up in Potter's Cove, Vicki knew a lot of the long time residents. New faces trickled into the town, though; and Johnnie was one of those, having moved down from Bangor. For that matter, Harry, the store's new owner, had just bought the place a year or so prior; he'd come up from, she wasn't sure, Portland or somewhere down south. Though she was only a couple of years older than Vicki, Johnnie seemed infinitely wiser, especially regarding men. She had, Vicki knew, just given her most recent shack up the boot. Can't find a job? I don't want you hangin' around. Or so Johnnie said she'd told him.

"Johnnie, have you ever been..."

"Pregnant? Oh. Lordy, no. This girl makes doggone sure that doesn't happen."

"Well, suppose you were. What would you do?"

Johnnie glanced at Vicki, and her usual swagger disappeared. She looked thoughtful. Vicki wondered if her eyes were glistening a little, but she couldn't be certain. Johnnie let out a little sigh, as if she'd come to an unexpected but important decision.

"Sweetie, I told you a little fib. I did get pregnant once, a few years back." Vicki sat quietly, waiting. "It was some guy I knew. I was just eighteen, and he was a bartender at a place where I used to hang out up. He was cute. So, I started going back to his place with him, y' know, after the bar closed." Johnnie smiled, a sweet, slightly sad smile. She's a nice person, thought Vicki. The realization came as kind of a surprise, a little treasure she'd encountered unexpectedly. Johnnie's a nice person.

Johnnie continued. "It became kind of a regular thing, goin' home with him every night after work. I told people he was my boyfriend. We even went to a movie once."

"Charlie and I went to a movie once. Can you believe it? That was before I moved in with him."

"I can believe it, honey. That was your mistake, y' know. Moving in. Anyway, this guy, well, after awhile I thought I loved him." Johnnie gave a little shrug. "So this went on for a little while, me hanging out at the bar, and going to his place after closing. We never talked about nuthin' really. I mean, nuthin' important. I never told him I loved him or anything."

"Did he ever say anything like that to you?"

Johnnie laughed. "Nah. He never said anything like that. Our relationship was, you know, just physical." Vicki giggled, and clapped her fingertips over her mouth. "That's OK," Johnnie continued, "I laugh about it, too. Better' n' crying. So, after a few months of this, well, I was pregnant. How 'bout that?"

"What did you do?"

"Hmmpf. I told him, of course. His reaction was, well, it was like Charlie's. Surprise, annoyance, like why're you tellin' me this." Johnnie's face became serious. "Right up front, though, he said he pay for the abortion. So, down to Planned Parenthood I went, and had the abortion."

"Did he go with you?"

"Nah. Didn't even ask. He paid for it in advance, though. Over the phone. He put it on his credit card."

"Then what?"

"Then that was the end of it. I stopped going to the bar, and stopped going home with him." Johnnie's eyes were full now, no mistaking it. "Y' know, my mother started me on birth control pills, when I was in high school. She took me down to the doctor, and got me a prescription. She never told me not to have sex. We only talked about it once. She said I was a beautiful girl, an' she knew I was gonna go out and do it. That's what she called it: doing it. She couldn't stop me, she said, but I had t' be careful."

"Well, would you? Not have had sex, I mean, if she'd asked you?"

"Maybe. I dunno. It never happened, she never told me not to, so I don't know. But if she'd said something like I just shouldn't do it, maybe if we'd talked about it, an' she told me why I shouldn't do it, well... she told me not to do drugs, and I didn't do them. Anyway," Johnnie wiped a single tear, "Vicki, I wish I hadn't had the abortion. I don't know what I would've done, maybe put the baby up for adoption. It was wrong, Vicki, what I did. I had that life inside of me, and I killed it. Me." Johnnie's eyes were dry now, and she searched Vicki's face intently. "But, y' know the other mistake? I shouldn't have created that life to begin with. Not the stupid pills, I mean..."

"You mean you shouldn't have had sex."

Johnnie laughed. "You're a smart cookie, you're learning, quicker'n I did. That's right. I shouldn't have had sex. Not with that guy, not with any guy, not unless we were married." Johnnie looked hard at Vicki, a penetrating stare. "Sweetie, can you believe it? My mother never told me that. I wish she had. My teachers never told me that. All they ever did was talk about sex. Sex, sex, sex, from the earliest I can even remember. You went through all those sex ed classes."

Vicki smiled, a wicked smile. "Yeah. It wasn't just the classes, though. Everything at school was about sex, straight sex, gay sex, oral sex, anal sex, birth control pills, birth control shots, rubbers on bananas, it's all you ever heard, it's all you saw, it's all you ever talked about. I sort of figured there really wasn't anything else to life, to the world, but sex. No wonder we were always charged up."

Johnnie laughed. "It's sure all I thought about. But you know what they did in my grandmother's day? They just didn't have sex until they were married and ready to start a family. And, they didn't talk about it all the time. They talked about other things, did other things. Imagine that." Johnnie shook her head with a laugh. "Imagine that."

"OK, ladies, lunch is over." Harry called from out front. "I need some help on th' counter, and Johnnie I need that power steering pump over t' A&J's soonest. Let's go now..."

Johnnie rolled her eyes. "The moron. I've talked to posts smarter'n him." The girls stood up, Johnnie bouncing her crumpled up can off the wall into the trashcan. She looked seriously at Vicki.

"Sweetie, I know what you're going through. I know what you're feeling. But you shouldn't abort that baby. I don't know what'll happen if you don't; it'll change your life sure. Mebbe you'll give it up for adoption. I don't know. But, sweetie, trust me. You have a heart. You abort that baby and you'll be sorry for the rest of your life."

Vicki nodded. "I just feel so confused."

"I know. But they're just feelings. Not important. It's not what you feel that's important, Vicki. It's what you do. You remember that."

Vicki gave Johnnie a hug. "Thank you, Johnnie. I need a friend."

"We all do." Johnnie patted her back. "C'mon, ladies," she mimed. "Lets get going."

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Copyright 2007 Timothy P. Collins
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