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 are yew? My name is Sawndra Fulke? 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 intelligence.
“Everybody calls me Bubba,” says the boy, grinning.
“Bubba and me are here,” says the girl, her voice dropping, “because we have an ish-ew.”
“A woa-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 do.”
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 any!”
“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, after all.”
“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 my woa-man!”
“Okay, pal, hands up and face the wall.” He frisks Lott. No weapons. “Now what are you all fighting about? What’s this war here?”
“He,” cries the girl, breaking into a prolonged wail, “he won’t pay for my propalatics!”
“Cowndoms,” 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.”