It’s a Saturday, and Mr. James Lott is seated in his
favorite chair in the living room, reading the newspaper, or pretending to read
it. His eyes scan the page, he
knits his brows, he rolls his eyes, he stifles an interjection. He turns the page with a loud fwap!
the sound of someone shaking out a
carpet. His wife Lizzie is
pottering about the kitchen, making gingerbread and singing softly to
herself. The doorbell rings.
“I’ll get it, honey,” says Mr. Lott.
A young couple stand on the porch.
The girl is skinny, with long black hair and blue eyeshadow. One arm winds like a vine round the
fleshy arm of a tall husky fellow.
He has the body of a boy who stopped playing football a year ago but
didn’t stop eating: strong, tending to thick. A shock of blond hair starts in several directions from his
scalp. He is chewing a fruity gum
with his mouth partly open, occasionally resulting in a sticky pop.
“Good morning!” says the girl. “How
? My name is Sawndra
And this is my boyfriend Burchard,” she says, her voice rising at the
end of her sentences, as if she and Mr. Lott were trading in secret
“Everybody calls me Bubba,” says the boy, grinning.
“Bubba and me are here,” says the girl, her voice dropping, “because we have an
man’s ishew,” says Bubba.
“You see, Mr. Lott,” says Saundra, “me and Bubba are in luv,
ain’t we, Bubba,” and the ivy twines a little
closer. “And we’ve been doing, you
know, the thing that people in luv
Mrs. Lott pokes her head out of the kitchen and calls, “Jim, who is it?”
“I think it’s a couple of fornicators.”
“Again? Tell them we don’t want
“I’m sorry,” says Mr. Lott, “but I really don’t see what this has to do with
me, so if you’ll excuse me, I really did have some work something Saturday,
“Oh but sir, we won’t take up any time a-tall! See, Bubba and me we’ve been doing, you know, and we don’t
want anything to happen, because Bubba he doesn’t have a job, and I been
studying to be a cosmetician,” she bats her eyelashes, “and it just wouldn’t
do? So we need,” she says,
glancing to left and right like a spy, “cowndoms.
“Jumbo,” says Bubba, “with Extra Rib Action.”
“Oh Bubba, you’re such a tease!”
“We call ’em Bubba’s Rubbas.”
“You need but why?”
“Oh, Mr. Lott,” she says, like a teacher explaining addition to a first grader,
“what do you think? They cost a
lot of money. A whole pack a week!”
“Sometimes two-three days,” says Bubba.
“And I just think it wouldn’t be fair to bring a child into the world. It would not
be right, because I have been dreaming of being a
cosmetician all my life, and I just know that no child of mine would want to
bust up my dream, and come between me and my destiny and my Bubba.” She sniffles a bit and ducks her head,
turning it into Bubba’s ribs. More
ivy. “So we are here with a bill
for the next six months of our cowndoms.
“The Jumbos cost a little more,” says Bubba.
“I beg your pardon!” says Lott.
“Why?” says Bubba. “Whatcha do?”
Mr. Lott knits his brows. He rolls
his eyes. He stifles an
interjection. “Why you listen,
if you want to fornicate, there’s nothing I can do to stop you. Go
ahead and fornicate if you like. I’m not the law. But I don’t see why I
should have to
pay for it!”
Bubba tilts his head and glares. “What
does California have to do about it?
What are you, some kinda furriner
? Don’t you know the
Constitution!” He pokes his finger
at Mr. Lott’s chest. “Don’t you
know that all men are created equal?
In some respecks, that is.”
“I am not
going to shell out one
penny for your whatever you call them,” says Mr. Lott. “Get off my porch. Go mess up your lives on your own
dime. Or haul your rear ends into
church for a change. Go
bungee-jumping. Take up cribbage. Just get off my porch!”
The girl starts wailing. “You’re a
beast!” she cries. “What kind of
man are you, waging war against a pore defenseless woman!”
Bubba steps forward and grabs Lott by the lapels. “I don’t take it kindly when somebody starts a-wagin’ war
against my woa-
man!” He shakes the man back and forth, while
the floorboards of the porch creak.
A police car, by chance driving by, comes to a noisy halt. “What’s the matter here!” says the
policeman, his belly bulging over the holster.
“This man here, this man from California,” says Bubba, “is a-wagin’ war against
“Okay, pal, hands up and face the wall.”
He frisks Lott. No
weapons. “Now what are you all
fighting about? What’s this war
“He,” cries the girl, breaking into a prolonged wail, “he
won’t pay for my propalatics!”
” says Bubba.
The policeman nods. “What’s the
matter with you,” he says to Lott, “you some kind of troublemaker? Come on, you’re going downtown with
me. We got some questions to
ask. We got our eye on types like
you.” He starts to drag Lott down
the front steps, the man’s bedroom slippers slapping against the treads.
Mrs. Lott appears in the doorway. “Jim,
where are you going?”
“To the police station, dear.”