I was fourteen years old before ever I found out that It was worth money.
It happened like this. Every day of the school year, rain or shine, I had to walk three miles home. I couldn't exactly take my time, because I knew I had to clean up the house spick and span before Papa got home from working in the pulpwood, or else take a beating. He did seem to enjoy whipping on a girl, laying me across his lap to hike up my skirt and let down my pants and then going to it with the bare flat of his hand. Sometimes he got so carried away with himself he couldn't seem to stop, and so I would move sore for a day or two afterward. I don't think he ever brought blood, but he sure knew how to blister a girl's cheeks for her.
The first mile was along the high road that ran from Pass Robin to Mobile, Alabama. Along that stretch, I was with other girls and boys, them all laughing and talking and carrying on the way young folks do. I did little of the laughing, though, and not much more of the talking, because I was ever serious-minded; most of the time I walked alone ahead of the bunch, or alone a dozen steps behind. I enjoyed it just the same, except when one or another brash boy would range up alongside, smirking and grinning, and I'd have to speak nasty to discourage him. I didn't ever carry boys on my mind, like the other girls seemed to do. The idea of a boy never was a burden to me. Or a joy.
The last two miles, I turned off into a country road that wound off into the pinewood barrens. I liked that part of the journey best of all, because, all to my lonesome, I was able to think my own thoughts.
A paved road, but just barely, full of potholes that never got fixed, and with the underbrush hanging close along the drainage ditches. A body could watch squirrels flitting back and forth, little grey ones and great big fox squirrels that was a reddish in coat, and often a coon prowling the ditch bank. More than once I saw deer, too, browsing out from cover; I would stop to look at them, and they would raise their heads to look back, their eyes big, their bodies so still you wouldn't think anything could be that still, until suddenly - it was always so sudden it made a body jump, because they didn't seem to have to get ready at all - they would leap into the woods, the flags of their tails flying.
Other families besides me and Papa lived down this lonesome road, in the Five Crossroads community that had just the one little store. The men all cut pulpwood for the paper mill. But I was the only child amongst the Five Crossroads families that went to high school; there was a whole flock of kids in grammar school, but they rode a school bus, and besides, it was a different schoolhouse.
Papa, naturally, couldn't see the sense in the idea of a girl getting a higher education when, as he said many and many a time, all she'd ever do was get married and hatch a passel of younguns. Said, "A sixth-grade education, which taught me to read and write and figger, has done me in my lifetime, and your mama, when she was alive, couldn't read or write nothing but her name. She managed to raise you all right, didn't she, without all that book-learning?"
I wouldn't have been so stubborn about high school if he hadn't been so dead set against it, I reckon. Not that I didn't enjoy it; geography was my favorite subject, because I could sit and dream about them faraway places, and what kind of person I might be had I been born and raised there instead of in these pine-barren backwoods, where nobody even tried to farm anymore, and the only work to be had was cutting pulpwood for the paper mill.
I hadn't even been to Pass Robin more than half a dozen times in my life, at which times Mama would give me a quarter for the picture show. Mama had died of the malaria, then, and Papa didn't even happen to think how much a girl could enjoy a picture show once in a great while. So I hadn't even been to town for some time.
So there I was this particular day, moseying along the road to home, minding my own business and thinking my own thoughts, when I learned the big secret. There was but little traffic on this road, so when I heard the noise of a car coming, I stopped to turn and look. It was the bread truck that made a regular weekly run to the Five Crossroads store. The fellow driving it was standing up, because there wasn't no seat behind the wheel, and the sliding doors was open to keep the inside cool in the heat of the day.
As it passed, I raised one hand to wave. Just beyond, the truck come to a sudden stop, and the driver leaned out to ask, "Want a ride?"
"Just waving howdy," I told him.
It wasn't the old fellow who had been driving the bread truck ever since I could remember. I had thought it was him, which is why I had waved in the first place. He hadn't ever stopped, though.
This new fellow laughed. "Well, come on and ride anyway. It's too hot to walk."
I stood there holding my books, thinking about it. Bound to be cool with the doors open that way. On the other hand, I might get to see a deer if I went quiet and took my time. Before I was done considering, though, I found myself walking around in front of the bread truck and climbing up on the other side. So something had already made up my mind for me.
There was a little jump seat, which I climbed up on after putting my books on the floor. As he started off, I hiked up my skirt to feel the breeze on my legs. He was driving considerably slower than when he had come up behind me; I reckon it was because he was looking at me more than he was watching the road.
"How old are you, girl?" he asked.
"Fourteen," I said. "Why?"
His eyes were bright and sharp at the same time, and I saw him wipe his lips with his tongue while he kept on looking at my bare legs. I guess he was dry in the mouth or something.
"Oh, come on, don't lie to me."
"No reason to lie, not that I can see," I told him. "Believe it or not, I'm fourteen, right on."
"Well, you're the prettiest fourteen-year-old girl I've ever seen. I always was a fool for blond hair and blue eyes."
I've always liked my eyes myself; spent many an hour gazing at them in a hand mirror. I hadn't ever seen anybody with eyes so blue as mine, or that exact shade of softness. Maybe it was because I was pretty dark-skinned to flaunt white hair and blue eyes, though it come about naturally enough; I got the olive tone to my skin from my papa, who's a lot darker than me, and I got the blue of my eyes from my mama. Don't know where the white hair - what the fellow called blond - had come from, nor didn't know why it should be anything special, when all it had ever got me was to be called "Cotton Top" when I was little.
I didn't exactly know how to answer to a nice compliment like that. So I just smiled to myself and didn't say anything. I noticed, though, that he was driving slower still, and he had stretched one arm to lay his hand on the seat back close to my shoulder. Just easy like, you know, like he didn't know he was nigh unto touching me.
"Won't this thing go any faster?" I said. "I like to feel the wind on my legs."
He made a short, sharp laugh, sort of nervous-sounding. "Why are you in such a hurry to get home?"
I looked at him. "I ain't in no hurry to get anywhere," I said. "I like it wherever I'm at. So I don't need to be in no hurry. I just want to feel the breeze blowing up my skirt."
I don't know what it was. Maybe it was what I had said, though I didn't mean anything by the spoken words; in actual fact, It was the farthest thing from my mind.
Maybe he only wanted to take it that way. We were just coming into a tunnel of trees, in which there was a turnout where an artesian well bubbled up out of a rusty old iron pipe. It was here that I so often saw the pretty deer, come to drink the water, I guess, though people used the place, too, to eat lunch maybe, because there was Coke bottles and old paper sacks scattered here and there. It was darker under these bigger trees, and sort of damp and cool after the bright sun.
He swung the bread truck into the turnout and stopped. He sat still for a minute, not looking at me. I just sat there, watching the bubbling water pouring out of the artesian pipe. Ferns grew around the little pool, half mud and half water, that surrounded it; somebody had laid planks out across the mud so people could get a drink of that cold water.
His voice was so jerky I couldn't hardly understand the words. Though they were plain enough.
"How about It?"
I sat there and looked at him. A fine-looking fellow, all right, not like the men who have to work in the pulpwood and wear overalls and get old before their time. Not like Papa. He was tall and slim, and he wore a pair of white coveralls that was just as clean as clean could be. He had his name written in thread above his breast pocket, and over the other pocket was the emblem of the bread company he drove route for. Just as fine a looking fellow as you could hope to meet.
He jerked himself around toward me. His eyes were dodging my eyes, but his hand was true. He laid it right between my legs, bare from where I had hiked up my skirt to enjoy the breeze.
"Listen, you can't lie to me about your age. You know what It's all about. So how about It?"
He hadn't planned to sound mean about it, I knew - he was a nicer fellow than that - but he didn't have control of his voice and so it come out sort of nasty-sounding. I noticed, too, that he was trembling all over; he couldn't help it, he wanted It so bad. He hadn't even had a drink of liquor, either, but was cold stone sober. I knew, because I can smell liquor a mile and a half on a fellow's breath.
His hand was scrabbling between my legs, so I slid forward on the seat to make him free of his need to touch me there. His breath sucked in as he worked his way through the flour-sack drawers and his finger found the warm place he was seeking after.
He put his other arm around my shoulders, holding me close. My cheek rubbed against the clean fabric of white coveralls as I leaned against him, giggling a little because his hand, like a soft little loving animal, was so busy working and probing, and because I liked this fellow who was so tall and clean and with not a breath of liquor on him.
His voice was strained, but at least it had lost the meanness. "Come on. Let's get in the back of the truck."
It was right then that it come to me. Just out of the blue. It was like something had lit up inside of my head, showing me something I hadn't known before, like when all of a sudden you understand fractions for the first time. It was a simple thing, but so new that I was trembling inside with the discovery.
It was, you see, that he needed It so bad. Menfolk always need It, so they'll do anything, say anything, to get It.
So I just opened my mouth. And I told him.
"You'll have to pay me."
It put a stop to him. Even his hand. He didn't move it away, though, only stood there gazing down into my face, his eyes startled and wide.
Then he did remove his hand; he even took a step away. "Well!" he said in a sharp breath. Then: "Why should I pay for It? You like It as much as I do."
"Because you want It so bad," I said. I smiled at him. "You'll pay me. I know you will. Because you're a nice fellow with money in your pocket."
"Don't you want It, too?"
I moved my shoulders. "Don't make no nevermind to me."
He stood there, not saying a word. So I leaned down to pick up my books. Which brought him to taw.
I hadn't thought about it, but I didn't hesitate. "You'll have to give me a quarter, or I won't do It," I said. "A whole quarter."
He laughed then, putting his head back and laughing hard, showing white teeth. "Hell!" he said. "Get in the back of the truck."
Putting my books down, I did as I was told, waiting while he unlatched the back doors so we could climb up into the body of the truck. It smelled good, all the fresh bread lined up on shelves on each side of the narrow aisle. I walked down the aisle, the fellow so close behind me he was almost touching. I stopped, and without turning to face him, stepped out of my flour-sack drawers, folding them carefully on an empty shelf.
When I turned, he put his arms around me, holding me close, and I could feel his old Thing hard against my leg. He was shaking again, so I held him around his waist, trying to calm him down. It didn't seem to help, though; he only turned his body sideways so he could put his hand on me again, ruffling up the dress to reach my nakedness. I let him do it, thinking about the quarter more than the feeling of his fingers, wondering how it was that the idea had come to mind so all of a sudden. That's how the best ideas always seem to happen, though, ain't it?
He was panting with the need of It. "Lay down," he said, his arms urging me down.
I looked at the floorbed of the truck. "I don't want to get my dress dirty," I said.
So hungry for It, he was past such considerations. His arms were pressing me backward, so that I had to struggle to keep my feet. But though I may be no bigger than a minute, I'm pretty strong. So I got away from him.
"I don't aim to lay down on no dirty old floor," I said. "I want you to know that I have to do my own washing of my own clothes."
He drew back, paying attention. "Take it off, then."
I shook my head. "I have to wash myself, too." I shook my head harder, to show him I meant what I said. "You'll have to do It standing up."
"When I'm giving you a whole quarter?" he said. "Not on your life."
"All right," I said, reaching for my drawers. "A quarter ain't worth having to wash my dress all over again. Not to mention ironing it." I never did wear a dress or anything else, without ironing it so neat and clean and starchy. I was proud of always wearing clothes like that, no matter how much work it entailed.
"Then I'll lay down, and you can get on top," he said hastily.
I looked at him dubiously. "Can It be done that way?"
He put his hands on my breasts, squeezing hard. "It can be done lots of ways," he said happily. "That's one of the best. Don't you know that?"
""I ain't never done It in no such a way," I said. "But all right, I'll try it. I just don't aim to get myself or my dress dirty, that's all."
I had to laugh secretly to myself then, because he didn't have any intention of getting his pretty white coveralls dirty, either. No sir. He proceeded to take them off and lay them up on a shelf, and only then did he take off his shorts and lay down buck naked on the floor.
I stood looking down at him. His old Thing was as slim as a pencil, so neat and pretty-looking, not a great ugly club of a Thing with black hair all around it. His hair was red, and curled tightly, and the Thing was just as red as fire, and I could see a pulse jumping in it, making it jerk. A nice Thing. And him without a drop of liquor in his head to urge him on, either.
Still and all, I had to make sure of myself. So when he said, full of impatience, "Come on, come on, damn it," I said, "No, sir. I want my quarter first."
See, I already knew that part of it, too, without having to be told by a wiser head. Get your money first, that's what I figured, while he was in the need of It, because after he got his satisfaction, he might not be so ready to shell out the cash. Afterward, it wouldn't seem like nearly so much worth what it cost.
"For God's sake, you little whore, come on, and be quick about it," he said angrily.
It was the first time I had ever heard the word, and I didn't know what it meant. Still, from the tone of his voice, it got my back up.
"I ain't no whore," I said. "I just want my money, that's all."
He laughed then, like he couldn't help but laugh. "It's in my coverall pocket," he said. "Get it yourself."
He had a whole pocket full of change. I held it cupped in the palm of one hand while I picked out a shiny new quarter; then I poured it carefully back into the pocket. Holding the quarter tightly in my hand, so I could feel it sharp-edged against my palm, I hiked up my skirt and began tying it around my waist.
He looked at my legs. "Take off your dress," he said. "Aren't you going to let me see you naked?"
I shook my head, kneeling down over his hips, not knowing how to do It but doing It anyway, slipping myself over his old Thing slow and easy and then just resting there, watching his face.
"Nice?" I said.
"Oh, God, yes," he groaned.
I let myself feel his Thing for just a minute, watching his face work. I sort of liked It this way, because there wasn't any big man-weight crushing me down; I was such a tiny girl, a body could feel smothered sometimes, and the heavy liquor breath in my face so I couldn't breathe. This way was so nice I laid out on him, pillowing my head on his chest, and just let my pussy take over and do what it ought to do. What, I must admit even to myself, it wanted to do, because it was making money hand over fist.
So I worked on him and he began to breathe heavier and he began to arch, and I kept on working until he was thrashing under me, pounding up at me in the throes of his manhood, and I laughed, I actually laughed, when his old Thing gushed its juice, and kept on gushing, and I could feel how the muscle throbbed in me and kept on throbbing, slower and slower and slower, until he was still at last and I lay quiet on him, his arms holding me, my head snuggled to his nice clean hairless chest, and we were quiet for a minute.
He made to get up finally, but I said, "Wait a minute." So he waited a minute, and I don't know how I knew it would do him good, but I put my mouth on the nipple of his chest and sucked at it like a child will suck, while he put his arms around my head, holding my mouth hard against him whilst I flicked his nipple with my tongue.
So his old Thing grew ready again, and it was nice to know that I could make it hard again, for that's a woman's power over a man, when all is said and done. This time I went so easy, letting him take his time, and it was loving and gentle and kind, and when his old Thing let it go again, it was so nice for him I could read it in his face and in his eyes and the way his arms held me.
After I was sure he had finished, I sat back on my heels whilst he gazed at me, saying over and over again, "Good God, girl. Good God, where did you learn to do It like that?"
I said, "I ain't never done It on top before. It's nice, ain't it?"
He kept on staring at me, lying there naked in the sight of my eyes, like he couldn't believe what he had just felt. Pure wonderment dwelled in his face.
I stood up and got busy shaking out my dress, smoothing the skirt down over my hips and pushing my hair back into place. It was sort of sweaty in the back of the truck, with the doors closed and all.
"You're really only fourteen?" he said at last.
"I told you. Ain't no reason for lying," I said. "I got to go now. Thank you for the quarter."
He got to his feet, so slow about it I knew he didn't want to believe he had already used up his payment.
"But you . . . you're not . . . you've done It before, I know you weren't . . ."
"It wasn't ever as nice as this," I told him sincerely. "Papa always has to get hisself dog-drunk first." I wrinkled my nose. "I hate the smell of liquor. I just hate it."
"Good God!" he said, stopping in putting on his coveralls to stare at me all over again. "You mean to say your own father . . . "
"Ever since Mama died." I said. I could read the proudness in my voice. "I've been a woman frown since I was ten years old. Been having my monthlies, and all."
Ready now, I smoothed down my skirt one more time and thanked him again for the nice gift of money. He wanted to put his arms around me, but wasn't having any of that. I opened the doors myself and climbed out, got my books from the cab, and walked on down the road before he could get dressed enough to follow. I reckon I knew I'd done good, and it was time to quit.
After a while, he slowed the bread truck alongside me, leaning out to speak. "You come this way often?"
"Every schoolday," I told him. "But . . . it'll cost you a quarter every time."
He nodded, and laughed, and then his face got serious. "You mustn't tell anybody, since you're so young. If you tell, it'll get me in trouble sure enough."
"Why would I be talking?" I said. "It's my own business, ain't it?"
So he went his way, and I went mine, and I was so proud that I had found out the great thing about being born a woman. Fourteen years old, and already knew the secret that a lot of womenfolk never learn their life long - that men, when they need It, will give just about anything to get It. So these silly women, they go along and go along giving it away, and feel downright proud of such doings, I just skipped along home, the quarter clutched in my hand, and when I got there I forgot entirely to clean up the house, I was so busy marveling over that piece of money I had earned so easily. It was the first money I had ever made in my life.
My mama always said that it looked like every time something nice happens to a person, something bad has to come along to balance it off. That's been more or less my own experience of life, too; but it don't mean that you've got to act the blame fool and bring it on yourself. But it was my own fault that when Papa got home from the pulpwood, I was still sitting there admiring my brand-new shining quarter, and not a bed made or a floor swept.
The minute I heard his step on the front porch, I flew up and started in; but of course it was too late. He stood in the doorway before I had hit a dozen licks with the broom, glaring at me; it hadn't taken but one glance to show him that I had done wrong.
"I don't know what I'm going to do about you," he said in his heavy voice. "Here I done raised me the prettiest little girl that ever laid foot to the ground, and I can't persuade you to do a lick of work of your own free will."
I looked at him, already trembling inside, because that was the way he always talked when he'd taken a drink or two coming home from work.
My papa was a big man, broad of shoulder and thick of leg, hulking in his overalls twice the size of an ordinary fellow. He was dark-complected and he didn't shave but about once a week, on a Friday night when he got paid for all the pulpwood he had cut. It was always his brag that he could cut twice as much pulpwood and drink three times as much whiskey as the next fellow; I don't know about the cutting, but I believed him about the drink, all right, because I had seen him do it.
"Papa, I got kept after school," I said. "I'll have the house redded up long before it's time to put supper on."
He came on into the room and stood towering over me. I reached not much higher than his belt buckle, because I was ever a tiny thing, and a woman to boot. And my excuse only made things worse.
"Kept after school?" he said, his voice thudding at me like his hand would be doing before next Tuesday. "I guess you've been back-sassing your teachers." He shook his head, wagging it slowly in pious wonderment. "I just don't know how I could get me such a pretty little thing, and have her grow up so ornery and mean," he said. "Doggone it, girl, I ain't never seen the match to you, with them blue eyes and that white hair and just built no bigger than a minute. So why is it that you can't do as good as you look?"
"I try, Papa," I cried out. "I try to be good." I was shaking inside like that fellow had been shaking, holding me so close with his hand between my legs. But not for the same reason; I was fearful of the beating, not desiring it.
"I'm just going to have to teach you again, I reckon," he said slowly. "I purely hate to raise my hand to a pretty thing like you, but, by God and by damn, I aim to raise you right it if kills me." He stopped suddenly. "You ain't lying to me about being kept in after school? You ain't been walking the woods with one of them highfalutin high-school boys?"
That really scared me, because he hadn't ever spoke any such suspicion before.
"You know I don't like them old boys!" I yelled at him. "You know I won't have nothing to do with them, even when they try to walk with me, and carry my books, and all. I don't give 'em the time of day, Papa. You know I wouldn't give them the time of day."
"I'd better not hear of it, or you won't sit down for a week," he said. "You're a woman grown, you know, been having your monthlies since you was ten years old. Open your legs to one of them horny boys, you'll be bringing me home a bastard to shame me in front of the neighbors."
"I wouldn't do no such a thing!" I cried out. "I don't even like them old boys!"
He wiped his broad hand across his big face. "Good God, the burdens of a father with a motherless girl to raise," he said. "Knowing there ain't a man in creation that could look at you without wanting to do It to you. No man worth salt, anyway."
I began to get a hope that this sidetrack to his mind might save me. But as I watched him walk across the room to where he kept his jug of whiskey, my heart sank. It was going to be bad one this time, after all.
He lifted the jug of piney-woods rotgut and taken a hearty swig. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and took another sample, smaller this time, just for the taste. Though how he could stand that old taste of whiskey, I don't know. I never could bear the smell of it, myself.
Putting the jug on the table, he turned to study me for a long minute. Then he walked to a straight chair and sat down.
"Come here," he said.
"Papa," I said, begging him.
"Come here, I said."
I knew it wasn't no use. I could feel the numbness in the muscles of my legs as I moved to stand beside him. Even sitting in the chair, his face was on a level with mine, so that I couldn't help seeing into his eyes. The spark showed, all right, glowing deep and yellow, the way the eyes of an animal will glow. He had a real beast in him, I knew well, that he couldn't always keep on a leash, and this time, maybe because of the quarter still clutched in my hand to hide it from him - if he saw it, he'd sure God want to know where it had come from - I knew for sure he'd let loose all holds.
His big hand fitted firmly into the small of my back, pushing me down across his legs. I gritted my teeth, waiting while he lapped my dress up into the small of my back and pushed down my pants to bare the flesh. He laid his hand on my ass, so big it just covered me all, and rubbed it, circling, like he was petting me instead of punishing.
"God knows I hate to have to whip you like this," he said. "But I got to raise you right."
I knew it would only make it worse if I said anything.
His hand lifted and hung, hovering. "Ain't that right?"
"Yes, Papa," I said, and then cried out sharply as the big hand came down so hard it must have raised a welt.
I had tried once to outlast him by not crying or whimpering; but it had drove him so crazy that he nigh beat me to death. He wanted to hear my repentance loud and clear, so when he hit me the second time, I didn't try to hold back, but squalled like a cat.
The hand started patting me again, moving up and down, his fingers trailing in the crack, and while he did it he kept on exhorting me, talking about what a beautiful woman I was growing to be, and how I had to be lovely in soul as in body, and then he hit me again. I started crying helplessly, gulping the strain out of my throat, and my flesh was aching from the last blow and from waiting for the next, and under me I could feel his Thing rising to a stand, like it always did when he beat on me in such manner. I used to wonder why whipping me took him that way, when he hated so to do it; but it was such a natural part of the punishment by now that I didn't even wonder about it anymore. I hadn't ever seen his Thing, only felt it under me in his overall breeches whilst he was beating the sinfulness out of me.
It was rough this time, all right. He just kept on and kept on until I felt like I couldn't stand it another minute. I lay just limp with anguish, my head hanging down, and I was so sore the petting hurt nearly as much as the whipping. I knew I wouldn't hardly be able to walk tomorrow morning.
But there happened inside of me a funny thing, this particular time. I still had my quarter in my hand, you see, and even while he was working on my salvation so hard it was killing me, I kept my mind fixed on what I had learned today. It was a bright and shining thing in my head, just as new and pretty as my first earned quarter itself, and so somehow the whipping didn't tear me up like it had always done before, but sort of like it was happening to somebody else instead of me.
When he was through at last, I stood up, my skirt falling to cover up my shame, as he called it, and looking into his face, I didn't flinch from seeing what I saw.
"You think you can do better now?" he demanded.
"Yes, Papa," I said.
He heaved a sigh. "It's the only way I know how to do with a girl like you." he said heavily. "Lord knows I hate to put a hand to your pretty body in such anger. Now, kiss me, and get about your work."
He always wanted me to give him a kiss of forgiveness, so I put my arms around his shoulders and laid my mouth on his mouth, tasting the whiskey and smelling it, too, so that I had to hold my breath. His big arms, coming around me, held me close before he shoved me away.
"Now, get about it," he growled, and went to take another drink as a reward for his labors.
As I went about the housework and the cooking of supper, I took the chance of washing out a mason fruit jar and drying it carefully and lining it with Reynolds wrap, so nobody could see what might be inside. I took it into my bedroom and dropped the quarter into the jar. It rang against the empty bottom. For as much as a minute I stood gazing down on its lonesomeness, thinking how heavy the fruit jar would be once I had it filled with quarters.
I meant to fill it. Yes, sir. Now that I had got hold of the secret, I didn't aim to let it get rusty for lack of use. I put the fruit jar up on a whatnot shelf in the corner of my room, crowded otherwise with conch shells and carnival prizes.
I was deathly afraid it wasn't over for the night yet, but the other would have to happen, too, because Papa kept on pulling at his jug of rotgut while I cooked supper, sitting out in the cool of the porch at an angle where he could see me as I worked back and forth across the kitchen. It sure looked like it was shaping up toward one of those long nights, all right, and I hated the very idea, even while knowing there wasn't anything I could do about it.
I found myself wishing that Papa would get married again. He had got married once, a good while after Mama had died. She was a nice lady, too, who I had known all my life and would have been proud to call Mother if she had wanted me to. But she didn't last but for the second of one of Papa's big drunks. She gave him the chance, all right, endured the first one, in which he used her unmercifully, even beating on her the way he beat on me, one time even chasing her out of the bedroom and throwing her down on the floor and taking her right before my eyes. It was just lucky he caught her before she got to the high road, or there might have been a scandal. But she told him the once was enough, and when it happened again she calmly packed up the things she had brought to the household and went home, and we never did see her again.
We ate supper together, silent like always on a night like tonight, and I went to bed early, laying there
sore of body in the darkness, waiting to see what would happen. I listened to him out there on the porch in his own separate darkness, not knowing if he had quit the drinking after supper. He always talked to himself, drunk or sober.
After the longest while, though, I heard him go to his own bed, take off his overalls and shirt, and lie down with a tired grunt. I knew then that it was all right. I wouldn't have to endure him coming to me in the dark, fumbling naked for the bed to lay his body on top of me, so big and heavy I was just smothered under him, to where I couldn't breathe, his big old Thing pounding at me until I'd be as sore in front as I was behind. And all the time his breath, the very pores of his body, reeking with the liquor, so that I choked every time I had to take a breath, and there wasn't nothing in the whole world but the stink of his breath and the weight of his flesh, and his great Thing thrusting up into me like the blind beast it was, seeking to raven and to destroy.
It wasn't that that I hated, the most, though his old Thing would have been something mighty to poke into womankind - I never had seen it, he always came in the dark and left in the dark - because it was blunt and thick and almost scalding in my tender flesh. It was afterward I hated so much, when he cried so pitifully it sounded like he was dying, beating at his crotch with his own heavy fist while he cussed the evil that was in him.
No matter how I tried to soothe him, petting him with my hand and telling him what a good papa he was, it only seemed to make it worse, until he finally passed into the whiskey sleep, still laying heavy and smothering, so huge on my tiny body; and when I woke up the next morning, he would be gone, not just from my bed but all the way out of the house, gone without breakfast to his day of hard work because he couldn't face me in broad open daylight after using me so in the dark.
But it hadn't happened, not tonight, and I was glad clear through, because I had made up my mind. From now on, any man that got to put his old Thing into my sweet pussy would have to pay hard cash for the privilege, if I had my way about it.