Time to Pet the Dog
by Jon Vreeland (art by Alycia Vreeland)
Judy stood at the top of the stairs. Her blue dress swaddled to her bare white feet and barely covered her tiny breasts. She smoked a long filtered cigarette held by a long piece of black plastic and she drank an apple martini. Billy walked up the stairs and held his whiskey and whistled Bye Bye Baby through his fiery lips.
“We have to leave in ten minutes,” he said.
“Well that should be plenty of time shouldn’t it?”
“Very funny, I’ll smack ya if you don’t shut it,” he told her half serious.
“Come on let’s go,” she said and went into the bedroom.
“I’ll meet you in there, give me a second.”
Billy gave her a kiss on the lips and walked back downstairs and grabbed a dark-orange rose from the vase in the kitchen then walked back upstairs and gave it to Judy.
“For you my dear.”
“Gee for me? Gee thanks honey.”
“Of course baby,” he said and let his pants drop to the soft white carpet.
“Let me ask you a question, William.”
“Of course, anything.”
He knew something was up, but held her from behind anyway.
“Do you give her roses too?” Judy asked, then unclasped his arms and turned around.
“Her? Her who baby?” Billy tried to ignore the not-so-arbitrary comment.
“You know what I’m talking about! Don’t you lie to me Billy!”
`“I don’t I really don’t baby, I swear on my life.”
“Wow you must not really care about your life,” she said and laughed, “you’re such a damn liar! And don’t call me baby you son of a bitch!” She choked up as she fought back tears.
“Judy what the hell are you talking about?”
“I saw you last Thursday so don’t lie asshole! I saw you you son of a bitch!”
“Judy calm down. Please. Or the neighbors will call the cops so please!”
“I DON’T CARE!!” she screamed and started to cry. “I saw you walking with her Billy!” Her face wet with tears. “You were on the beach with a really young woman, or girl rather.” Judy’s eyes rolled as Billy stared at the floor. “She had long black hair and you were holding her hands and it was as if the two of you were in some new and exciting love, basking in the joy of a fresh relationship. I hadn’t seen you that happy ever! Not in a long time at least, not since the time when we used to walk on the Belmont pier, when we did stuff. I sat and watched you hold her like you used to hold me Billy!” Her voice raised then lowered again. “With passion. And you know what Billy? I was almost jealous. I was almost jealous of your young and pretty, yet borderline illegal, mistress.”
Billy stared at nothing, a guilty man at best. “And I why weren’t you?”
“Yeah I was jealous sure. But only for a small, short, diminutive minute. I was almost sad. I was almost very sad like a lost little school girl who had gum in her hair. But I knew that it wasn’t real. I knew you were only in love with the prize a man desires after a long passionate kiss Billy. A man with no heart or soul couldn’t possibly love another human being with any kind of zeal. And you Billy. You haven’t a heart or a soul. You are hollow inside. Hollow and immune to love while I drink my gauntlet of tears.”
“A gauntlet? Really?”
“Yeah and you like it because you never have to feel the excruciating pain of your heart being ripped out of your chest and you never have to cry when someone lies to your face when all you’ve done is be totally honest and faithful with them.”
Judy left the room and went out the front door and walked through the dark neighborhood. The moon and all the houses were dark except one. At the end of the street a man sat on the porch in a rocking chair. He wore a black jacket and what appeared to be red pants. He rocked in the solace of his shadowy veranda.
“Well hey there little lady,” the man said as he stood to his feet.
“Judy tried to pass quickly. “Oh…hi…how, do you do?”
His hair was silvery gray and his eyes as red as his pants. “Well I am just fine thank you.” He perspired, a little on his forehead and upper lip. He held a drink over ice in his left hand. And a cigarette in his right. “What’s your name darlin’?”
“My name is Judy.”
“Wanna come in for a drink Judy?”
“Um, I don’t know if I should, my boyfriend is—”
“Oh just one little drink,” the man interrupted. “It ain’t gonna hurt nobody, I don’t bite.”
“Okay, I guess one drink won’t hurt,” Judy said, the cliché making her think twice. You won’t bite? That’s all you could think of. Still, Judy approached the man and his ancient looking—dingy-yellow—home.
“That a girl,” he said reaching his hand out. “Come on in sweet thing and we’ll just relax, scouts honor,” and held up two fingers like a good little scout.
She followed him inside where the house old and musty and the curtains were black and the walls a shriveling grey. The dark wood-floor creaked and the windows were caked with dirt and a pair of green eyes peered from under the couch and purred softly.
“Would you like a drink?” the man asked.
“Coming right up doll face.”
“Oh don’t call me that I look dreadful.”
“The salt only stings when we bleed though.”
“Oh my do you play?” she said then changed the subject and pointed to the black baby grand piano in the corner of the room.
“Why yes I have been playing my entire life. I use to play in a church when I was married to…” he paused a moment and took a sip of his drink, “…to that woman.” His mood temporarily declined.
“Well please will you play me something? I just love the piano, my…nevermind,” she stopped and decided not to tell the stranger about Billy and his enormous talent on the piano, and how he never plays for her anymore like he used to.
“Absolutely,” the man said and handed her the martini he had whipped up for her from the bar in the living room where they now sat: him at the piano, her on his old and dusty, faded red couch.
Judy stayed and listened to the man play for over an hour amid the roar of Billy’s black Lincoln Continental that circled the block a dozen and a half times, the engine irate. She drank three martinis and by midnight the world was soundless, just the man who played his old black piano and sometimes sang along. Old songs like, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” show tunes that didn’t exceed the year 1962.
A little after midnight Judy walked home under a starless sky that looked like rain. Billy stood outside their house and smoked a cigarette and held his drink in his left hand. She was more frightened with every quiet step and thought to return to the man’s house but she continued towards Billy and their yellow home, her fingers crossed, hoping he wasn’t drunk..
“Where have you been?” he asked halfway sober, not too drunk.
“On a walk, why do you care?”
“Where were you, goddamnit?!” Billy almost yelled, but gritted his teeth instead.
“On a walk, don’t worry about it!” She snapped back
“Judy, baby, I’m sorry about the girl. Nothing happened I swear. It was just a walk.”
“Whatever Billy. You want to cheat on me? Fine…but Karma is a bitch.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he said.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
They stood there a few more minutes and argued in the front yard while the man with the piano hid behind the neighbor’s black Cadillac with his hand in his pants, while his other reached for the dribbling sky. Not knowing the man was only 50 feet away, masturbating, Judy and Billy kissed and felt each other up before they went inside and made love on their green carpet in their large living room, under an old crystal chandelier that hung in utter silence and beauty.
The next morning Billy walked to the bar to get a couple of beers. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a cigarette and lit it with his silver Zippo.
A lady’s southern accent called out. “Hey sugar, you got one of those for me?”
Billy looked around. “Yeah sure.”
“Well come on over here honey and give it to me then sugar.”
“Where are ya? I don’t see ya.”
“Number two sugar.”
“Oh I see you.”
A lady stood in her doorway of 36 August Drive, apartment 5. She stood behind an old dirty screen door like she was waiting for someone to walk by, anyone. She wore a light red bathrobe and smoked a joint and drank a drink and her robe landed just above her knees and bare feet and her black toenails chipped and showed the white she had painted underneath, but tried earnestly to cover up.
“Come on in sugar,” the lady said and took a drag off the joint, then handed it to Billy. He walked inside and looked around. The place was small and full of Salvation Army bric-a-brac. He noticed the piano and was eager to play in front of a new audience instead of Judy.
“Here’s your cigarette.”
“Oh thanks sugar,” she said and set it down.
“Need a light?”
“No thanks sugar,” she said before saying, “I have a confession to make.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?”
“I don’t even smoke. I saw you walking and wanted to talk to you,” she said.
“Oh I see.”
“Aren’t I pretty?”
“Uh…yes, you’re very pretty mam.”
“Oh don’t call me mam it makes me feel ancient.”
“Don’t I look like Marilyn Monroe? People tell me I look like Marilyn Monroe.”
Billy tried to agree: her hair was blonde and short and her skin olive, a nice contrast. “Sure okay.”
Billy sat next to the piano as she mixed two drinks from the bar. He hit the low E with his left pinky; Marilyn let out a little yelp.
“Oh I love a man who plays the piano.”
“It’s a beautiful instrument, and the color matches your eyes.” “I haven’t slept in a few days. I must look dreadful.”
“Oh no you look just fine mam. I’m sorry you can’t sleep. Maybe this will help.”
Billy played while she stood close behind him and when he turned around her robe was at her feet. She slowly slipped her pink laced underwear down her olive skin and onto the floor and he could feel her hard nipples rub the lobe of his ear.
“Don’t you think I’m pretty? Don’t you wanna fuck me?”
She straddled him on the bench of the black piano and moaned and screamed like an old witch. She clawed at Billy’s back until blood dripped down into his butt crack then she bit his lip and drew a deep reddish black then licked the blood with her slobbering tongue.
After they had sex Marilyn tried on dresses for Billy while he drank and smoked. He watched her dress and undress before they did it once more. Then Billy was ready to go.
“Oh well I’ve gotta get going now.”
“But don’t you think that I’m pretty?”
“Yes of course I do I just have to go. I have to uh, work today,” he lied.
“Well if you don’t think I’m pretty just say so and I won’t try and make you stay and kiss my ugly face you stupid asshole!!” she said as Billy back pedaled towards the door, her severe lack of sanity had his tongue-tied. “Joe my love! Don’t go Joe, I miss you Joe, I love you Joe!!” Marilyn cried, still on her knees, her head buried in her hands.
Billy closed the screen door and walked down the street. He felt tainted, violently sick as he thought of what he had done. I had sex with a lady who thought she was Marilyn Monroe, and me Joe DiMaggio. I cheated on Judy. My sweet, sweet Judy. He lit a smoke and headed across the road to get a drink, his original plan. The place was empty, just a lonely bartender scrubbing an already clean glass behind the sad, vacant bar. The television cackled. Billy pulled out his wallet and set it on the table. The next thing he did was turn off his phone. He didn’t want to talk, listen, or even think about anything or anyone, anymore.
“Bud please. And a shot of whisky.”
“Bottle or draft for the beer.”
“Coming right up.”