Spy

I’m a spy
In Copan, Oklahoma.
I don’t know why,
I’m like a carcinoma.

Love and Loss,
I write it down,
No matter the cost
Or if we drown

All over again,
A painful déjà vu
Of our first sin
When our souls did slew.

I’m a spy,
In the past I dwell.
I’m like a die
Cast into a well.

I’m a spy.

In the 1960s, Copan was a tiny, rustic speck in the great cultural landscape of our country. It was like Earth compared to the galaxy, or the galaxy compared to the universe. Its insignificance in the scheme of everything was so great that it’s almost unimaginable. Yet the very thread on which the universe spins ran straight through that place and it was there that great truths were discovered and it was there that the depths of loss were plumbed.

Excerpt

Linda was an attractive, freckle-faced woman with a voluptuous body and an appetite for Wild Turkey whiskey. She and Gene would often bring a bottle into the station and we would all proceed to get smashed, drinking it straight, washing it down with 7-Up. And when we did this she would be downing twice as much as everyone else, repeating that she loved the stuff because it “doesn’t take your breath away like cheap whiskey.” When she appeared at the screen door the day I was performing collection duties for Al, she looked like she had been drinking the stuff that does take your breath away for the past several days. Her already full face was puffy and tired, her eyes were bloodshot and jaundiced, and her short, sandy hair was matted and oily. She was wearing very short cutoff jeans with the top button missing and a stained T-shirt stretched tight over her large breasts. I could see her nipples beneath the thin cotton.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“Albert sent me to pick up the check,” I answered, using Albert instead of Al since it was the form of his name they always used. “He said he called.”

“I didn’t talk to him.” Linda picked a package of Winstons up from a cluttered table next to the door and shook one out. She pulled a lighter out of the front pocket of her shorts and lit the cigarette, inhaled deeply, then blew a thick stream of smoke out of the corner of her mouth.

“I’m just doing what Al asked me to,” I said, feeling strangely awkward and uncomfortable as she took another drag on her cigarette and French inhaled, opening her mouth slightly and drawing the white smoke up and into her flared nostrils.

She then did something that caught me so off guard I could only stand there and stare while my mind tried to comprehend what my eyes were seeing. Using one hand she grabbed the front of her shirt and slowly pulled it up until her protruding brown nipples were completely exposed and staring me in the face. I was stunned, scared and transfixed by her unexpected move and remember the tan areolas covered nearly the entire front of each breast.

Once before, when I was maybe eleven, I had seen a woman do this same thing and, at the time, I had no idea what it meant. I was tagging along with my brother and Bobby Campbell at a parking lot carnival in Bartlesville. We were playing the ten cent crane games, the little cable-operated buckets you tried to maneuver by cranking a loose knob on the front of the glass case in usually failed attempts to win worthless treasure such as toothpick holders shaped like cowboy boots, miniature spy cameras that used a film you had to mail to a place in New Jersey to get developed, and pocket radios that looked like transistors, but were really only cheap crystals – the kind that used no batteries and could only be heard through an ear piece. It was getting late in the afternoon and Bobby was supposed to be home at a certain time. None of us had a watch so he asked the woman running the cranes, “Excuse me lady, do you have the time?”

Without hesitating, the woman, who I only remember as being red headed and wearing, what else? a T-shirt, bent over the row of cranes and lifted it up, briefly exposing smallish breasts that were covered with freckles. “I’ve got the time if you’ve got the money,” she said.

Bobby turned to my brother, his mouth open and his face screwed into a big dumb question mark. It was probably the same expression I had on my face as I stood there in front of the Drumheart’s screen door.

Linda took another drag on the cigarette and this time blew the smoke through the screen into my face. “Gene’s not here,” she said. “Want to come in and wait for him?” Her breasts were still exposed, the shirt lewdly hooked over the top of her fleshy orbs in an erotically trashy manner.