THREE STORIES by SAMUEL STEVENS

Summer Evening

 

They stood on the porch. He leaned on the railing, into her. She was poised away from him in a pink skirt and bikini top. He had bought them for her. The humid night air hugged their skin. They were sweating. Moths strafed around them pining for the porch lights.

“I can get a job at the plant,” he said.

“Daddy’s the head of the bus company,” she drawled.

“You say that to everything now and didn’t say that the night we met dancing.”

She crossed her arms and glanced at the front door. Music from the radio piped out from the half open windows.

“I’ve got a good job already and the skills to get a better one.” He swiped a moth away from his face. He almost yelled at the little bug. “Can I talk to him?”

“No. And the pastor wouldn’t agree to it to begin with.”

“That pastor’s—”

“That’s a lie and Daddy says it’s your Roman tricks to suggest such a thing and that he didn’t vote against Al Smith for no reason.”

He ran his hands through his dark hair and looked at his watch. “I have to go. I have to work in the morning. Can I call you before then?”

“I already got a train ticket for doctor.”

He looked at her up and down and she stood askance from him. He batted another moth away.

“God will understand,” she said as he left. “That’s what the pastor said.”

Her father came out onto the porch. He watched the boy’s car drive away. “I wanted to talk to him, will he be back tomorrow? He’s a good young man.”

“No,” She said, batting a moth away, “he’s not coming back. I need to go to bed now. I’m going to see a friend in the city tomorrow.”

Her father looked at her, and she kept her eyes at the ground. They lingered for a moment until they went inside. Her father turned off the porch light.

 

 

 

Sunday, 1926

 

He sat on the sidewalk. Across the street the congregation at the church streamed out. They gathered outside, talking to one another.  Their children ran up and down the slight hill the church sat on.

He had pawned his jacket. He had the money but the stores were closed. He did not want to think about the puffy, red face he saw in the mirror each morning now.

He put a hand in his pocket and felt the wadded up bills and coins. Some people did not even have that.

His ex-wife stood with the young pastor with the soft face. He made eye contact with the pastor, and then with some of the other members of the congregation.

They looked away and went to their cars.

 

 

 

Automat

 

She sat at the table sipping the burnt coffee in the automat. She kept her head low and shoulders hunched up. It was warm in the roadside stop, the wind outside was cold and biting, but she left her heavy coat on. She felt naked when she took it off. The bright light in the place hurt her eyes. It seemed like a hospital. She sat in front of the wide window that showed the dark highway and bus stop outside.

The boy that worked there, wiping the tables and restocking the machines, kept looking at her. She kept her eyes on the white table. He worked an automat at two o’clock in the morning and probably liked to leer at the women that came in. He stared out the window every few minutes. He had bags under his eyes.

Her last boyfriend had been a jerk like the ones before that. She shivered and gathered her coat around her. He was a writer. He went off overseas. Good riddance. She did not think about the ones before him. They had been bad for her too. If they were good she would have stayed in love with them.

She rubbed her eyes because of the bright lights. She was the only customer in the automat.

She was going to California. She was going to become an actress. Her father was upset at first but accepted it now. Her last boyfriend told her to take typing lessons so they could save money. He was an asshole.

The boy working made eye contact with her when she glanced up from her coffee. He smiled. He opened his mouth to speak. She got up and went outside to wait for the night bus.