Sunday, February 5, 2017
Excerpt from Those Eyes
This is why he was standing in the middle of the local jewelry store, eyeing some gorgeous ring that he couldn’t afford.
The ring was a beautifully crafted, one carat diamond ring, with what appeared to be raised rose petals on the sides. He wondered something.
“I wonder something,” he told the jeweler.
“Yes sir?” The jeweler asked him. The jeweler was a short, portly man. One that probably measured the same in diameter as he did in height. He was well-groomed, from his polished wing tips all the way up to his perfectly coifed hairdo. He had a pencil thin mustache, the kind that John Waters were to wear, had he been wearing his mutacsche back then. Sorry. Mustache is a hard word for me to type quickly. His shirt was buttoned all the way up to the top, with a nice little tie dangling down. It made people wonder just where he got a shirt with a neck size that big, and just where he got such a short tie. He smelled of Old Spice, which was the smell of the year.
“Can I have things carved into the top of it? Like put an R on one side, and an H on the other side, right underneath the rose petals?”
“Absolutely, sir. We pride ourselves on our custom crafting here.”
“Great. So how much will the ring come to altogether?”
“Um, let me see...” he flipped the price tag over. “Ah yes, thirteen hundred dollars.”
Now for those of you thinking, hmmm... not bad for a one carat diamond, remember that this is the fifties, and thirteen hundred dollars back then was enough to buy a couple of record albums, a block of cheese, and a small farming community.
“Oh,” Ronnie said, and he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. Back then, people would be foolish to carry that much cash around with them, but then again back then, people were foolish. Just look at the hairstyles. Anyway, Ronnie was foolish enough to have a silly hairstyle, but not foolish enough to carry around that much cash. Actually, he wasn’t even foolish enough to have that much cash ever. So he did the next best thing. He reached into the part of his wallet where he kept his credit cards. Just then, his heart sunk when he realized that it was empty. Somebody must have stolen his Visa card. His heart lifted a little, though, when he realized that nobody stole his Visa card, there was just no such thing in 1956.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have that kind of money,” Ronnie said.
The jeweler looked at him with the most peculiar expression. “Sir, forgive me if I seem rude in saying this, but I know who you are, Ronnie Jones. What do you mean you don’t have that kind of money? Your father is the richest man in town, as far as I know, and you’re telling me you don’t have any money?”
Ronnie didn’t know why, but he felt completely insulted. He needed to teach this guy a lesson. He pulled his arm back and punched the guy right in the stomach with all the strength he had. Since the jeweler had his head turned, and since he had such a fat stomach, he never noticed. Ronnie’s hand just sunk into his belly like he was gutting a fish, and then it slid back out.
He thought he’d try a different approach. “Listen, I’m not really comfortable asking my dad for money. He always tells me, ‘a penny saved is a penny earned, but a penny not earned never existed in the first place.’ I mean, sure, I’ve asked him for money to go the store, and maybe to grab a bite to eat, but this is a ring for my girl, man. I kinda wanted to do this on my own.”
The jeweler looked at Ronnie with a mixture of empathy and malevolence, “I completely understand. In that case, there’s nothing we can do for you.”
“Don’t you guys have some sort of credit program, or a contract with a private loan agency, or something?”
“You must be joking, right?” the jeweler said. “We are a local neighborhood jeweler. We’re not Tiffany’s. Now get the fuck out of my store until you finally buckle and ask your pop for some greenbacks, daddy-o.”
And with that, Ronnie slumped his way out of the store, desperate to get that ring, but not so desperate that he’d ask his dad for one dime.
“So how was school today, son?” Ronnie’s father asked. He was one month from graduating- Ronnie, not his father- and right now school was the last thing on his mind.
“Fine,” he answered.
Ronnie’s father was a tender, kindhearted man, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by the looks of him. He was probably pushing 278, but he wasn’t fat. Not for his six foot four frame. He was a big man, but he wore the weight well. Like the jewelry store clerk, he always dressed nice for work, but unlike the jewelry store clerk, he wasn’t a jewelry store clerk. Instead, he just happened to be the owner of the largest grocery store chain in the country. It was a family-run business, as many things were in those days, and when Ronnie’s granddad finally had both feet in the grave, it was passed on to Ronnie’s father, whose name, coincidentally, just happened to be Freddy. Ronnie planned on working in the store when he graduated, starting as a bagger, and quickly working his way up. His father was going to give him a promotion every month until he was the general manager. This would teach him the ropes of each position a little, and give Ronnie a feel for what it was like to be the low man on the totem pole. Or what it was like to be the low man on the totem pole that got quickly promoted every month.
Insert untimely description of Ronnie. Ronnie was what kids back then called a “greaser.” He almost always wore a white T-shirt with his leather jacket, which was so beat up from it being so old, and from his wearing it every day. His parents offered to buy him a new one, but he quickly refused. He liked the beat-up look. It made him look tough. He wore jeans all the time. Sometimes, on days when it was too hot to wear his leather jacket, he would roll up an empty package of cigarettes in the sleeve of his white T-shirt. He didn’t smoke, nor did he condone smoking. Ever since his great-great-great-great granddad died, those horrible memories had haunted him, and from that day forward he vowed never to touch a cigarette. At least not while standing in front of a runaway train, as his great-great-great-great granddad did. There was always a comb sticking out of his back pocket, and he’d check every once in a while to make sure it was sticking out. If it wasn’t, he’d reach in and pull it out just a tad, so everybody could see he had one. Not that he ever used it. He wore his hair slicked back greaser style, a little puffy so it formed not quite a pompadour. He looked like he should be busy ditching school and working on cars. Not that he didn’t love cars; I think all boys did in those days. He took great pride in his souped-up Ford. And even though he was a greaser, he was not a grease monkey. He took his car to the mechanic if it needed fixing or any special detailing.
The mechanic was a dirty old man, and it gave Ronnie the shivers every time he touched his car. So Ronnie always asked that his son Shawn do all the work on it. Shawn was an okay kid. He and Ronnie weren’t really friends or anything. Shawn was too busy being friends with Rotten Jim Applebaum. You may ask why I am rambling, and I tell you that for once this is significant, so thanks for reading.
Anyway, back to the story...
“Anything exciting happen today?” Freddy asked.
“Uh...” Ronnie thought about spilling his guts right there at the kitchen table, but that would have been nasty, especially since what they were eating looked a lot like guts. Ronnie’s mom was a fine housewife, except she couldn’t cook for nothing.
Ronnie also thought about figuratively spilling his guts. About the ring. About how he needed thirteen hundred dollars to buy the thing. About how much he loved Helen. About everything. He knew that if he did that, his dad would give him a blank check right there on the spot. He knew what Ronnie felt for Helen. Hell, she pretty much felt like family anyway. His parents adored her. In fact, his father would have probably said that a one-carat ring wasn’t good enough for her. Why not go for the two-carat?
But Ronnie couldn’t speak. Asking his dad for the money would also be the hardest thing he could ever do.
“I’ll leave you alone to your thoughts,” Ronnie’s father said. “Obviously you have a lot on your mind.”
And with that, they spent a nice, quiet meal together for once.
The next day, Ronnie was even worse. He couldn’t concentrate at all through school. He only had one thing on his mind, and that was the ring. Oh, and Helen.
And speak of the devil, here she comes right now.
“Hey Ronnie,” she said, slipping her arms around him in a big hug.
He was instantly snapped out of his daze. “Hey Helen. I missed you yesterday. How was your trip?”
“Oh it was okay. I just wish you could have come.”
“Ah... I had some stuff to do. Anyway, I’m glad you had a good time. Listen; let’s do dinner tonight at Louie’s. I’d like to talk to you about something.”
“Is something wrong?” she asked.
“Oh no, not at all,” Ronnie said, and gave her a kiss. “Not at all....”
Helen was definitely the best looking girl in the school. Ronnie had no idea how he got so lucky to get a girl like her. She had the sexiest body, with a rack out to there and legs that just wouldn’t quit. Accompanying that luscious body was the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. The kind of face you’d see on a porcelain goddess or in the movies. The kind of face you would never see on a spider monkey. She had the most gorgeous, flowing red hair and the most hypnotic green eyes. Besides the fact that they were beautiful, there was something else about those eyes. Ronnie felt like he’d been looking into them eyes forever, and he knew he’d always be looking in them eyes. What they had was more than just love. In those days, there was none of the new-age spirituality mumbo jumbo that floods the world today, so there was no term for this feeling, but had Ronnie known the word, he would have said they were soul mates.
Helen’s style was a little eccentric. She wasn’t into wearing dresses. She wore pants and shirts that were way too big and baggy. Her T-shirts were usually printed with something. Today she was wearing a T-shirt that said “SLAYER ‘98 TOUR”, whatever that was. She was also wearing a silver chain necklace with huge links; the kind you’d find attached to a padlock securing somebody’s Doberman. She had seven earrings in each ear, which was unheard of. Yeah, she was weird, but she was popular. And he was glad that she wore clothes that were too big for her. That meant that only he knew what was underneath. He watched her as she walked away, picturing her beautiful ass inside those baggy pants.
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