Forty Two.

AAA Approved.

“How deep you think this river is?” I asked Joe as we stood on the bank a few miles north of the interstate.

Joe watched air bubbles rise as the stolen car sank. He shrugged, “Deeper than a Mustang.” When the bubbles stopped, we piled into our new ride, a tan Caravan with fake wood paneling.

We drove west until dark, then Jane and I cleaned up at a rest stop near Funkstown. Joe, Sadie, and Billy Boy laid on the floor in back, half sleeping, half just staying out of sight. Before we left the rest stop, Billy Boy swapped tags with another car. We got back on the interstate and searched a secluded motel.

When I saw a flickering neon: “$29.95 Single,” I pulled off, “How’s that look?”

“I don’t know…,” Jane squinted. “The sign says it’s AAA approved.”

“I mean, does it look secluded?”

“It looks deserted, Sweetie.”

“Perfect.” I parked out front and we went in. There was no one at the desk so we rang the bell. When no one came, I rang it again.

“Hello. Helloooooooo,” Jane sang.

Then I sang, “Come out. Come out, wherever you are…

Jane smiled, “And meet the young lady who fell from a star.” The door in the back corner opened and an old man stuck his head out.

“Hi,” Jane said leaning over the counter. She stood and grabbed my hand. “We’re on our honeymoon and we’d like a room.” She batted her eyelashes.

“Hold on.” He barked and slammed the door. He came out a minute later, adjusting a hearing aid and fumbling with his glasses. His eyes, made huge from the glasses, got bigger once he saw Jane’s tits. He didn’t even notice me, just talked directly to Jane’s chest.

“You need a room?” He asked quietly, half to himself, half to confirm he heard correctly. He opened the guest registry and scanned the columns. The registry looked as vacant as the parking lot.

While we waited, the door to the back room creaked open. The TV was on and he had been watching Benny Hill. I saw some trophies on the dresser, and medication on the tray table next to a gold Lay-Z- Boy. A Beagle laid next to the chair, shifting his gaze from Benny Hill to the old man.

“So you need a room,” he repeated, “What size?” He was still staring at her tits.

“Some double D’s.”

The old man flinched, looked over his glasses, not sure he heard right, then, certain he hadn’t, asked again, “What size?” He cleared his throat and looked at me, noticing me for the first time. He shifted his weight and pushed his glasses up on his nose. He looked at both of us again. “What size room do you need?”

Jane smiled. “A double, please.”

The room was small, just big enough for bed, dresser, and end table. We couldn’t all stand at once. Billy Boy checked the drawers for free stuff to steal. Sadie scanned the motel service card. “No room service.” Jane smiled. “Sorry. Elvis has left the building.”

Joe called out, “Billy Boy, you’re on burger run.”

“Can’t we go to a restaurant tonight, Joe. Please, Joe?”

“No. We’ll find a diner in the morning, if you behave… Now go get us food. And don’t forget onion rings this time.” Joe stroked his hair then inspected his hand. “I need a shower. I gotta shit, too.”

“Me, too. Me, too.”

“Food first. Go.”

“Shit. Shit. Shit.” Sadie grabbed a magazine and leaning back against the headboard.

Jane laid on the bed next to her. “I shat this morning.”

Joe went into the bathroom chuckling and mumbling about Bambi dropping dainty turds in the Enchanted Forest.

“And turn on the fan in there,” Sadie called to Joe.

In the morning, we all showered again, just because we could. Some shat again, too. Then we left to find a restaurant. The closest we got was a drug store diner.

“Man,” Joe held the door for us, “these places still exist? Shall we?” Jane was the last through. Joe slapped her ass as she passed. I guess he couldn’t resist, she was looking good: black cut-offs, tight tank top, and those fuck-me pleather boots.

The rest of us were in jeans and t-shirts. Joe’s was sleeveless to show his tats. The big one on his shoulder was a tribal spiral. He said it symbolized life. He wasn’t into reincarnation, just believed shit kept going round and round.  When I said we were on a carnival ride to Hell, spiraling into the belly of the beast, he joked it wasn’t the belly but the asshole.

The waitress came to our table with a coffee pot in one hand and a Camel light in the other. She was a hundred years old and so was her makeup. She had big hair, a raspy voice, and squinted as we ordered. Her pen shook and when she didn’t squint, her face ticked. She smiled when she caught me staring, “What’ll you have, Mister?”

“Huh? Oh, cheese omelet with home fries, please. Thanks.”

“Same here. Same…same here.”

“I’ll have two eggs over easy, French toast, coffee.”

“Oh yeah, me too. Wheat toast, please.”

“Pancakes, bacon, coffee, OJ.”

The food came quickly. There was no one else in the diner but two high school girls in the corner.

Someone’s cutting class,” Billy Boy sang to himself. They were bouncing and giggling, and sharing a magazine. Billy Boy stared like a dog at the dinner table. “I’ll be right back,” he said with surprising confidence, and without stuttering.

“So,” Joe looked at Sadie and Jane, “what’s the plan?”

Jane perked up, “You’re gonna like this one.” They gave us the details of our next caper. I considered calling Billy Boy over to hear the plans, but it was nice not having him in the meeting. It meant no stupid questions and no having to explain things twice. He never listened anyway.

We finished eating and paid the check. I looked over at the corner booth. Billy Boy was sitting between the girls and sharing his hurt hand. They were touching and kissing it. He looked at me and smiled. He didn’t look like a spike-haired weasel anymore. That smile reminded me of Joe. He turned back to the girls.

We left him, hoping he’d remember how to get back. As we crossed the lot and started along the tracks that passed the motel, I had a strong feeling we would never see Billy Boy again.

The next morning Sadie and Jane walked into a pharmacy holding hands and whispering to each other. They were dressed in cut-offs and tank tops. Sadie wore a leather vest over hers. Jane wore her fuck-me boots.  The pharmacist was a short Asian man, with graying hair that swooped his balding forehead. He wore a lab coat and thick-rimmed bifocals, which he wore low on his nose so he could scan the store from his station. He spied Sadie and Jane at once and met them at the counter.

“Heeyyy.” Jane said, leaning and whispering. “Me and my girlfriend have a little problem, and we’re hoping you can help.”

“Yes, Ma’am. How can I help?”

“Why thank you, Sweetie.” Jane continued, “I bought this little present for my girlfriend, Eloise,” she motioned to Sadie. “But I don’t think we’re using it right.” Sadie only agreed to play along if she didn’t have to speak. She would have preferred to just beat the tar out of the pharmacist and take the money, in fact she suggested it. But Jane loved roleplay, and Sadie did it for Jane. So Sadie reached into her bag and pulled out the big black dildo they used to scare Elvis, back in Tennessee.

The pharmacist’s eyes bulged when he saw it. He looked around to ensure no customers were near. There was no one else in the store. “What seems to be the problem, ma’am?” he stammered slightly.

“I don’t know.” Jane took the dildo from Sadie and dropped it on the counter. It landed with a thud. “It’s just that…, after Eloise fucks me with this for an hour or so, I get sore…, and we have to stop…, and I don’t like to stop. We like to fuck me all night long.” Jane’s eyes sparkled when she sang it. “She likes it, too. Don’t you, Eloise?” She reached over and pinched Sadie’s cheek. Sadie smirked and squinted at Jane, then leaned close and whispered, “You’re gonna pay for this, girl.”

Jane laughed and pretended Sadie said something naughty. “Oh, Eloise.” Sadie smirked again as Jane picked up the dildo and tapped her playfully on the arm. The pharmacist looked around the empty store again and cleared his throat.

Sadie grabbed Jane and started kissing her, mostly just to shut her up. But Jane countered by grinding her pelvis on Sadie’s thigh.

The pharmacist cleared his throat again, and checked the store again…, and stammered again, “Well, uhm, let’s see…” He thought about the problem Jane posed. “Regarding soreness, uhmm…, are you using lubrication?” He asked as they kissed.

Jane disengaged from Sadie. “No,” she said, wiping the corner of her mouth. “I don’t need it.” She gave Sadie another quick kiss, then gently bit her lip before pulling away. “Not with Eloise around, at least. She really churns my butter, if you know what I mean.” Jane squeezed her thighs together for emphasis. When the pharmacist stared at her crotch, she knew she had him. She squeezed her thighs together again just to torture him. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe we should try some lube. Have any?”

“Um, yes,” he answered, still staring at her crotch. “Um, yes. Yes, we do.” He looked up, embarrassed. He shook his head a little to clear it. “Let me show you.”

“Thank you.”

He led them across the store. Sadie grabbed the dildo and followed.

“We don’t carry many, but we should have something.” He stopped part-way down the feminine hygiene aisle. “KY, Astroglide. Here’s Vaseline, but it’s oil-based. You shouldn’t use it with rubber.” He moved further down. “We also carry replenishing ointments.”

“Oh my.” Jane looked at the box, “How does that work?”

“Basically, you insert the ointment, prior to sexual contact and it keeps you lubricated for the, uhm, duration.”

“Jane opened the box and pulled out the tube and applicator. “So, stick this up my pussy and squeeze?” She held the tube in front of her crotch and demonstrated. The pharmacist stared again.

“And if necessary,” he added, breaking his stare, “you can also use lubrication on the marital aid.” He tried to sound professional, but his shaky voice and shiny forehead gave him away.

“Marital aid? Oh, you mean…,” Sadie handed her the dildo. “Just smear lude on this and it will slide in and out easier.” Again she demonstrated.

“Yaaanah,” the pharmacist tried to answer.

“Let’s see. I want to do this right.” She opened the tube and squeezed some onto the dildo, then stroked it to spread the lube. “Like this?”

The pharmacist was lost. His shiny forehead was beading. His mouth hung agape. He hadn’t checked the store in ten minutes, hadn’t even looked away from Jane.

“Then we can fuck me all night?”

“Uh…Uh…Uh.”

“Thank you for your help, Sweetie.” Jane held up her glistening hand, “Oh my, I’ve made a mess.” She giggled.

Sadie rolled her eyes. “Can we go now?”

While Jane fucked with the pharmacist, Joe and I cleared the registers, even found the bank bag under the counter with yesterday’s deposit. Joe managed to grab some pills on the way out, too.

“Is he here?” Joe asked as we rushed into the motel room to check for Billy Boy.

“Nope.”

“Fuck. Fuck. This ain’t good.” Joe pounded a fist into his hand.

Sadie stood at the door. “We can’t wait. We shouldn’t even have come back.”

“Yeah, I know. I know. Fuck him. Next time he’ll know. Grab his bag. No evidence. That fool might get busted and snitch.”

When we got to Hancock, Sadie and Jane got their own room. Sadie said she was sick of cramped quarters. Joe just shrugged and threw his bag into our room. “I’ll be back. I gotta swap tags on the minivan.”

Our room had dark paneling and orange shag carpet. The floor sagged so much the bed crept out overnight. In the morning we had to push it back to get in the bathroom, which sagged in the opposite direction. It also had a metal shower with a leaky valve. Between the pinging shower, the creeping bed, and Joe’s snoring, I didn’t sleep much. When I got sick of reading, I watched old movies on cable.

Each morning, we took turns getting breakfast. For dinner we called Domino’s. By the third day, I was bored senseless. Joe just slept or popped pills and stared at the wall. I kept going to Sadie’s room. She and Jane were never bored. She said they spent a week in a room once. I wouldn’t last that long, not after prison. It didn’t seem to bother Joe, though, at least not those first few days.

With Billy Boy gone, there were fewer distractions, and with us holed up, we had time to think. When Joe wasn’t stoned and staring at the wall, he thought about Sadie and Jane. At first he liked his girlfriend having a girlfriend, especially one hot as Jane. But when he saw them together, all the time, without him, he began to resent it, and resent Jane. When they first got their own room, he was cool with it. They needed some space. Joe wanted some, too, until he saw he was being replaced.

By the fourth night, we were done. I stared at the TV for so long it could be off and I wouldn’t notice. In fact, it was. Joe turned it off to tell me something, but I didn’t hear him. Actually I heard him, but I thought he was the TV. Ok, I admit, I took some pills. I had to. I couldn’t stand the isolation. Now Joe was trying to talk to me. When I realized the TV wasn’t on, I got confused. Then I saw Joe pacing at the foot of the bed, on the verge of a tirade.

He noticed me barely notice him. “Hey, Mann. Snap out of it. I’m talking to you.”

“Huh?”

“I said, we gotta talk to the girls. This shit is out of hand.”

I scanned the room, “What shit?” I checked the TV again.

“The chicks, Mann, the chicks. There’s too much attitude around here.”

I scanned again, “Where?” Am I missing something? “What’s up? You out of pills?”

“Yeah, but irregardless.”

“What?”

“The chicks, Mann, getting their own fucking room, hanging out over there.” He pointed at the adjoining wall. “And if we want something, we gotta go to them? What the fuck?”

“I don’t know. I don’t mind.”

“What do you mean? The chicks are taking over the gang.”

“The gang?” I scanned again. What the hell did I miss?

Joe sounded desperate. “This was our thing. The words. The music. The whole fucking show. All ours. And the girls come along and shake their asses and try to hijack the whole shebang.”

Shebang. What the hell was he talking about? And what the hell is a shebang. He must still be high.

“She’s my girlfriend, Goddamnit,” he screamed at the wall.

Oh, I realized with sudden clarity, he’s jealous. As soon as I thought it, a slight breeze swept the room, and the lamp got brighter too. At least, it seemed to. I’d never seen Joe jealous before, but I was certain that’s what it was, and it wasn’t very pretty, especially on top of pills. Actually, it was pretty pathetic. And, kind of silly, too. But I didn’t tell him that.

I didn’t think Joe cared enough about anything to get jealous. But there he was, ranting in front of the dark TV, throwing punches through the wall, cursing the girls and life in general. Some of it coherent, some drug-addled, but all of it illuminating. I had to resist chuckling from the two thoughts I couldn’t suppress: this was far better than TV, and I wished Gina could see it.

“Everything was fine ‘til she came to town,” Joe mumbled as he dropped in the chair and leafed a biker rag. “AAAAhhhh,” he grunted and threw the magazine at the wall, then jumped and flew out the door.

I sat stunned. What the hell was going on? Why the hell was he upset? Where the hell is the remote? I stared at the blank TV for a moment. I thought he liked the idea of Sadie and Jane together. Now he can’t stand it? They weren’t trying to take over the gang. They just liked being together. They weren’t trying to run anything. But Joe wasn’t around to hear my thoughts.

I spent the afternoon contemplating what was bothering Joe. I gave up trying to figure it out, and just concluded he needed to get laid. And as soon as I said it, I knew it. That was it. Joe hadn’t gotten laid in a while, a long while, since we left for this trip and probably longer. In fact, he and Sadie hadn’t even hung together. In fact, they barely even talked. Sadie always talked to Jane. No wonder Joe’s pissed, Sadie’s ignoring him. “Maybe Gina’s right. Maybe Sadie isn’t happy. Maybe Joe knows it. Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t. What else is new?” I said aloud to myself.

Again I had more questions than answers. I needed to talk to Sadie, but Jane was always with her. Maybe that’s what Joe meant. It was just out of character for him to show it. When he sat in the chair fuming, his hands shook. He never shook. He was Joe Cool. And he never yelled, barely spoke above a whisper. That’s what made him dangerous. He was cool as a cucumber, until he attacked.

It was strange to see Joe upset, sitting there, flipping pages and fuming, trying to grasp thoughts and feelings. When his hands shook, so did the magazine. When he noticed it, first the magazine, then his hands, he screamed and flew from the room.

I assumed he was outside, walking around or sitting against a tree, but I needed to make sure he was all right. It was dark and crisp out. The street lights glowed yellow across the gravel. I looked around but couldn’t see him. I checked behind the motel, at the edge of a stubbled cornfield. He wasn’t there. Our car was in the parking lot and he wasn’t in it, so I checked the only other place.

When Jane opened the door, I heard Joe inside. “We’re wasting money getting two rooms. Why you guys need your own room anyway? You avoiding us?”

“Look,” Sadie glanced as I sat on the bed, “if it’s about money, I’ll pay for it.”

“What?” Joe erupted. “You have money?”

I looked away. The TV was off so I stared at the Bible on the nightstand, while they argued over my head.

“Whatever. I don’t need this grief.” Sadie shrugged and tried to walk away. Joe stepped in front and kept arguing. “What money?” I looked at Jane sitting across the room. We both got up and crept out. As I latched the door, I heard Joe plead, “Come on baby, what’s this all about?”

Jane and I hung in my room, then went back to check on them. Sadie was reading and Joe was gone. She didn’t know where, and didn’t care. So they went to bed and I went back to my room. I had trouble falling asleep, then had bad dreams about snakes and rats and Billy Boy. Joe came in sometime in the early morning. I heard the door open and felt the bed creek. A moment later he was snoring.

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