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"Well, what do you think?" asked Moira.

The sitter snorted and dragged her sleeve across her nose. "Looks like you picked it up in some alley." She sniffed and turned away. "Smells like it too."

Moira dropped the threadbare blanket back across the top of the laden shopping cart and laughed with delight. "That's exactly where I did get it! Found it under a pile of newspapers. It's freezing out there tonight. There were lots of others, but this one. . . it was exactly what I had in mind. Perfect!"

"Perfeck! Shoot! You got the last one at the public library," the sitter said. "That'n stunk too, but thisn's worst. You oughta put it back where you got it. You got plenty already. Go on and put it back." She turned and flapped her hand at the burdened shopping cart. "It ain't agonna last. You won't get more'n two-three month out'n it. Get rid of it. Get you a nice new one, last you a time. A nice lookin' one, like the one you got at the park. Purty thing. Don't know what you want with this ole thing anyhow."

"No m'am," said Moira, shaking her matted head. She grasped the handle of the shopping cart and rocked it gently. It slipped out of her weak grasp and rolled slowly across the room, coming to rest against the wall. She plunked her vast buttocks down heavily on the sofa, toed off her worn sneakers and put her gnarled feet up on the coffee table, wincing. Shrugging out of her torn and crusted jacket, she hiked her ragged skirt up over knotted, scabby knees, revealing thick legs veined heavily with purple. "I don't want-" A spasm of coughing interrupted her. "-don't want any more new ones. Boring. There's something about this kind. They've been places, seen things, done all kinds of things. . ."

"'Deed they have," returned the sitter disapprovingly. "Nasty places! Ugly things! Cain't tell where-all they been in their time." She shuffled over to the cart, lifted the blanket and sniffed. "Shew! Been at the liquor too. Ole wino!"

"Well, I'm keeping it." Moira said with a mutinous toss of her head. She raked her straggling white hair back with stiff fingers and swung her thick legs sideways to the floor with a sodden thump.

"Well, you got to keep it someplace I don't hafta be smellin' it," the sitter said. "'N I don't want it in with the other'ns. You give it a good scrubbin' first thing, you hear? I ain't agonna have it stinkin' up the place. You keep it on the porch till you give it a good cleanin', hear?"

Moira chuckled, but the chuckle brought back the phlegmy, hollow cough. The sitter scowled at her until Moira heaved herself up from the sofa and leaned over the wastebasket, spitting heavily into it.

"There!" snapped the sitter. "Box o' tissues sitting right there, and you got to spit in the trash can. What makes you do thataway? You'll be spittin' on the floor, next thing. Bad comp'ny. . ."

Moira gestured her away and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. "Oh, hush up. I'm starving. Go get me some dinner." She shrugged, as though her huge, pendulous breasts pained her sloping shoulders, scratched her armpit, and dropped back onto the sofa. She cleared her throat noisily, but coughed up more phlegm. She spit into a tissue.

Muttering under her breath, the sitter marched herself off toward the kitchen. Moira's stomach growled. The sitter had been in the kitchen cooking when Moira arrived with the shopping cart, and it smelled wonderful-rich, delicious, and fresh-not like the stale, half-eaten sandwiches and rotting fruit she had been dining on for the last several days.

Her nose told her that dinner was going to be moussaka. She limped over to the walnut sideboard and took out a bottle of Remy Martin and a snifter fragile as a soap bubble. Pouring generously, she cradled the shifter, warming the brandy in her twisted, arthritic hands, and took it back to the sofa. When she swung her dirty bare feet back up onto the coffee table, she noticed, over the fragrance of the Remy Martin, that they were riper than rotten fish, flabby, dead white, and wrinkled, and the toenails were ragged and filthy. One of them, the left big toenail, looked like it had been stubbed. It was cracked into the quick and although it had clotted by now, it had been bleeding heavily into her sneaker. She probed it, and noticed that it hurt. She was going to have to start paying more attention to the feet.

She inhaled the warm fragrance of the brandy with acute pleasure, and sipped a little. The sitter poked her head through the kitchen door. "Ain't you gonna git changed fer supper?" she chided. "I ain't havin' you in my kitchen smellin' like that." She shook her head. "I ain't even dishin' up till you git cleaned up." She scowled, pulled her head back into the kitchen, and Moira heard her rattling pans and clashing china. "You hear me?" she called through the door.

Moira swallowed the last of her brandy and got to her feet. "Oh hush-I hear you! I'll be ready in a minute."

* * *

The sitter was gathering up the last of the dishes as Moira topped up her glass of wine. "Now ain't that better'n what you been eatin'?" she asked, grinning with self-congratulation. A great sitter, she was also a great cook, and Moira considered herself lucky, even though the sitter tended to get above herself and was more than insolent. But she was worth it. You had to make allowances for her kind of talent.

Moira finished her wine and patted her lips with a buttercup yellow napkin, her slender fingers white against the embroidered linen. Her pale cheeks dimpled charmingly when she smiled. She patted her flat, smooth stomach. "Delicious," she said. "Your usual standard-perfection."

"Well, then," growled the sitter, concealing a grin.

Moira set the wine glass down. "But I can't sit around digesting it. David's taking me to the theater. he'll be here in about-" she consulted the diamond watch on her wrist, "-half an hour."

"Half a hour?" The sitter threw up her hands. "Half a hour?" And you never told? Ain't hardly even got time to git ready! You got somethin' fit to wear? I swan! Half a hour!" She hoisted the empty casserole, grabbed the wine glass, and bustled out to the kitchen. "You jist go on and git changed. I got to get some vittles ready fer when you-all git back, then. Mr. David, he likes his vittles."

Moira laid the napkin down and rose. Her pointed tongue darted out to lick her lips, savoring the taste of the moussaka and the fresh asparagus with Hollandaise she'd just enjoyed. She had eaten hugely, and was perspiring a little. But she had been mightily hungry, having been on such short and unappetizing rations.

She pushed her long dark hair back from her delicate face. It really was too long, she thought as she glided toward her dressing room. Possibly she'd have it cut. A feather cut would suite the pale, heart-shaped face and huge, deep blue eyes. The sitter would probably scold, but it was Moira's hair, after all. Moira's slender white fingers, the nails so carefully tended and polished an opalescent pink. Moira's delicate feet, high-arched, with tiny, pearly-nailed toes.

In her dressing room, she regarded her body in the full-length mirror with satisfaction. Untying the sash of her white satin robe, she let it fall open and felt a familiar thrill as she faced the mirror. Gazing intently at her reflection, she raised her hands to the swell of the small, firm breasts. The nipples hardened, and she caressed them with her fingertips. But a glance at her watch told her she hardly had time left to get ready for the theater and for David. She opened the doors of the closet and considered her generous array of garments. But there was really not much choice. Moira undressed, and began to change.

* * *

The sitter had gone to bed when they arrived home after the play. David, usually so compliant, had uncharacteristically insisted on going on to Pietro's from the theater. Moira merely laughed, and gave in gracefully. He was usually so deferential that she was almost glad to see him show some spirit.

Moira was pleasantly weary and relaxed as she carried the tray from the kitchen to the living room in strong, tanned hands. Tired, yes, but not that tired. Late as it was, there was time to indulge David. David loved these hands of hers, the solid waist, the crisp, short cap of auburn hair, the firm golden hips with no tan lines, the wide scarlet mouth. He had taken off his jacket, and he looked up smiling as she set down the tray, reached for her and pulled her down to him. Ignoring the sitter's late-night feast, he deftly moved to unfasten Moira's gown and bury his face in her lush breasts.

He grasped her breasts, eyes as full of wonder as though he'd never seen them before, and his mouth came down greedily to her nipples, urgent teeth savaging them, making Moira cry out. There was no deference, no hesitation in his lovemaking tonight. This seemed to be another David, she thought, moaning as he stripped her quickly of her gown, leaving her in garter belt and stockings, and pulled her roughly to the cushioned sofa. Wasting no time on preliminaries, he rolled her over onto her stomach and positioned her on her knees, open and defenseless. Definitely another David, but Moira found that she loved the change.

* * *

The sitter peered cautiously around the edge of the door. She shoved the living room door fully open and marched over to the uncurtained window. The late-setting moon shone brightly in. The sitter jerked at the curtain with one hand, holding her chenille bathrobe shut with the other.

She scowled. "I hope you ain't gonna lay there all night like that," she said reprovingly. "You ain't got enough clothes on to wad a shotgun." She shuffled over and picked up the rumpled gown. Clutching her bathrobe close, she bent over again, puffing, and picked up the garter belt, scowling at the ruined stockings. "Just look at them stockins! And you ain't et a thing of all them cakes I fixed. Shameful waste, I call it. Well, get up from there. time you was in bed."

There was a deep sigh from the sofa. Bare, taut skin gleamed slickly in the moonlight. "I'm too tired to move. I'm sleeping out here."

"Out here?" shrilled the sitter. "You ain't sleepin out here on the davenport with all them good beds in there! You ain't ever slep' out here."

"Oh, hush. And go on back to bed. Things change."

The springs of the sofa squeaked softly.

"Yes, m'am, they do that!" the sitter agreed, yawning, and went to get David a blanket.

- Jane Gallion  [4004 BC]

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revised 24 November 2005