6.02 / February 2011

No Witnesses

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Mrs. Loveall is a hypochondriac who keeps her medicine cupboard completely stocked for every pain killing need-Percocet, Vicodan, Oxycontin, Flexeril, Dilaudid. After about five minutes of being let inside, Mrs. Loveall reveals the contents of her medicine cupboard to Marcus along with her current degree of bloating, the swollenness of each knee, and the threat level of her arthritis. Today arthritis is at code orange.

Marcus sits on Mrs. Loveall’s couch; his sweaty hands fidget with a stack of The WatchTower pamphlets. On the side table to his right, Mrs. Loveall places a glass of sweet tea on a cork coaster. A pile of undissolved sugar sits at the bottom of the glass. In the deeply air conditioned room, Marcus feels the dampness of his cotton shirt turn cold. Mrs. Loveall lumbers over to her recliner, and lowers herself. She is a round woman with surprisingly shapely legs littered with spider veins. She’s wearing long polyester black shorts and a baby blue smock reminiscent of a cafeteria lady. She sits barefoot with her legs crossed at the ankles, and out of a short glass of gray water, Mrs. Loveall fishes for her dentures.

“Give me a sec,” she says as she places the upper dentures into a wide toothless mouth. “Did you know that I am the only person still alive who’s had this surgery?” Mrs. Loveall touts her claim to fame, and lifts up her smock to reveal a blue stitched scar smiling across her belly.

“What surgery is that?” Marcus looks outside the window to his bicycle.  The popped back tire is softening like a tube of licorice in the July heat. Marcus directs his mind to statistics. The average number of miles per Watchtower giveaway. The total elevation climbed in feet.   The number of sips required to drink the average 12 oz. glass of iced tea. Sixteen more Watchtowers to go today. It’s his second day of witnessing, and this time without his fiancée Julie. He is dressed in the traditional Jehovah’s Witness gear-white button up long sleeve shirt, perfectly pressed black pants, and a black tie. He feels like he looks more like a Geek Squad employee.

“Double bypass surgery,” she says.

“Heart surgery?” Marcus asks.

“No, no, intestinal.” Mrs. Loveall touts, proudly. Dr. Blass took out all of my small intestine, and I only have about 6 inches of my large intestine left.”

She takes her thumb and presses her slipping dentures to the roof of her mouth. Marcus’ eyes search for something safe to look at. The room has an old tube TV, a black wood burner stove, and several shelves of ceramic knick knacks like little Dutch boy figurines, random salt and pepper shakers and a pair of boob coffee mugs. Marcus’ eyes pause for a moment on the paperback romance novel perched on her left thumb. On the cover of Destiny’s Folly is a Fabio-inspired man holding a woman whose back is arched pure ecstasy. Her long dark hair entwines with Fabio’s bleached out highlights in a gusty wind.

“I…I see, uh, well, I’d like to show you some Scripture about Jehovah.”  Marcus starts.

“Now everything I eat goes right through me.” Mrs. Loveall interrupts waving Destiny’s Folly up and down. The pages flap like bird wings swooping from her mouth to her lap and up again.

“I imagine it would,” Marcus says. He reaches over to the iced tea, and throws down a gulp. Some of the sugar finally makes it into his mouth this time.

“Now, would you mind if I tell you a little about Jehovah?” He holds up a pamphlet that reads, “Let Us Abhor the Wicked.” Marcus pulls his back up straight and smiles. But Marcus has little hope that he can capture Mrs. Loveall’s attention or persuade to her to attend a Bible study at Kingdom Hall. That would make Julie so happy. Marcus imagines Julie bragging to her father. Marcus recruited a new Witness in just two days. Julie, Julie, Julie! That sweet angel who used to visit him weekly when he was in the State Pen.

“No, no, of course, not, go on.  Jehovah. Right, but…” Mrs. Loveall says, and then points to her feet which she shyly rubs together, “but would you mind doing something for me first?” She fishes one hand into the side pocket of the recliner and pulls out a long pink handled Avon foot file. Mrs. Loveall cranks up the footrest, and with a loud pop the cracked and cratered mileage of her life lay out before Marcus. She extends the foot file out to him.

Marcus had done worse in the State Pen for things, much worse things, but he’s legit and clean now. Right? And Julie. From the moment he saw her through the bulletproof plate glass, wearing her crisp white cotton shirt and pleated skirt, he knew. She smelled like the only fresh thing that had walked into his life.

“What do you think, sweetheart, interested?” Mrs. Loveall waves the Avon foot file it like a magic wand, like she’s Glenda the Good Witch cooing the munchkins to come out of hiding, like she’s the Pope blessing the throngs of Catholics from his Vatican window.

“Show me to your room, so you can lay down,” Marcus says. He takes his half glass of iced tea and coaster off the marble side table, and follows the hunched over Mrs. Loveall as her body makes audible creaks and pops into her bedroom.
The bedroom is small, with a closed roll-top desk on the far wall and a long bureau across from it. A flat panel mirror hangs above the bureau which is a show case for Mrs. Loveall’s collection of complimentary casino items: bar soap from the Showboat, shampoos from Caesars, lotions from Harrah’s, shoe shine buffs from Bally’s, and frosty printed tumblers from the Taj Mahal. Taped to the mirror are a few Polaroids of Mrs. Loveall standing in front of slot machines.

“I won a thousand on that there machine on just one pull,” she says matter-of-factly. Mrs. Loveall sits down on the floral printed duvet cover of her full-sized bed, pulls her feet up, and then rolls on to her stomach.

“You gamble much?” Marcus asks, snidely.

“I enjoy games.” She grins.

Her dry cracked feet hang down like albino bats from the bottom of the bed. Marcus sets his coaster down on a white wicker nightstand, and carefully places the iced tea on top. He positions himself on the corner of the bed wielding the pink handle of the Avon foot file like it is a blacksmith hammer, and that he is the finest blacksmith in town.

Marcus empties his glass of the last of the iced tea, which is now all sugar. It goes down smooth. Gingerly lifting Mrs. Loveall’s right foot, he cradles it in the crook of his elbow. Marcus imagines how Julie’s body will feel to him on the wedding night-the fullness of her ass in his hands, the weight of her breasts on his chest, the tart taste of wax as he tongues her small ear. He begins to rub Mrs. Loveall’s crusty heel.

The WatchTower, Mrs. Loveall, is our semi-monthly publication which honors—”

“Harder, please.” He sees her head bounce with each stroke between the pages of Destiny’s Folly split open on her pillow. It is at this precise moment Marcus realizes that he will do what is necessary; there are no witnesses here. Marcus stops reciting the memorized script that Julie’s father taught him. He pushes the pink handled Avon foot file down hard on the heel, and then grates the file upward with a firm fluid motion. A heavy powder of white flakes begins to fall and soon drifts of it are aloft in the chilled currents of the bedroom.

Claudine R. Moreau is coasting on cruise control through the Suburban Dream with her husband, daughter, cat and dog in a mini-van adorned with stick-figure family decals on the back window. She teaches physics and astronomy at Elon University, and gets her knickers in a bunch when people confuse astrology with astronomy. Her writing has surfaced recently in Neon Magazine, Segue, and Oysters and Chocolate, and is forthcoming in Tar River Poetry.
6.02 / February 2011