She shoved him roughly in the shoulder and then shoved him again. She couldn’t stand seeing him just standing there like a noodle in front of the closed door of her daughter’s bedroom. Not another two seconds could she abide it.
“My baby in there, she’s hurting is all,” said the woman to the young man. “She’s your wife, my little girl. Your wife, she’s in there and she needs you.”
“No,” he said. “I can’t. Not again. Not no more.”
“Are you a man?” She held up the Palmetto Credit Union Preferred Customer calender in her hand, with the days crossed and the temperature marked with a pencil, always the same temperature. “By my good Catholic reckoning its her time abed. That makes it your time, sweetie.”
“I can’t get it up. Not this time.”
“Oh - you can get it up when you want to. We both know that.”
“Jesus Christ - “
“Don’t we both know that?”
She moved in, poked the spiral wire corner of the calendar under his chin like the tip of a knife. “You don’t say no to mama, not in my house. Sweetie. Its my baby’s time. I will be a grandmother. I will have a grandchild. Now you do your duty to her.”
“Ruby,” said the young man, looking gray-green. “You gotta be shittin’ me by now. I can’t.”
“You git abed. What happened to her, it ain’t her fault. Its the Lord’s wrath. Because we was wrong. My little girl is hurting and she needs her husband’s seed inside her field.”
“Seed? Ruby, that field’s gone bad.”
”Are you a man? I know men. I know men clear through. Man would fuck a hole in a tree if a tree stood still. I know you.” The room was warm and small. Straw smelling air blew in off the drought toasted cornfield outside in the summer heat of the open window. A dragonfly clung to the screen and was gone. “I know you, sweetie. Don’t I know you clean through?”
“It was a different time, Ruby. It was a different world.”
“Honey.” She shook her head maternally at her wayward son-in-law. “Times don’t change. No, they don’t. You can talk to me. I’m your wife’s mama. That makes me your mama too. Talk to mama. I was a married woman 27 years. There’s nights I know, the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. A man wants to show up and it just lays there on him like a dead dog. But you a young man. You just scared is all.”
“That girl, she’s dangerous like she is.”
“Performance anxiety’s all it is. A clear case of performance anxiety. All men gets it. Nothing to be ashamed of, honey.”
"You ain't hearing me?”
“All men gets it.”
“You’ll see I’m right,” Ruby said, speaking slowly and softly, putting her hand on his arm. “You go in that room now and see my little girl layin’ there waitin’ on her husband. She’s all wet and good. All head up and ready. Waiting to feel you movin’ in her deep inside, all warm, skin on skin. She open up her dress for you and let you get a good look at ‘em. Don’t you like that? Sure you do. You and me, we both know that. Any man likes that.”
“You got to stop this. Somebody’s got to stop this thing.”
“World needs children more ‘n ever now. Look at me, sweetie. Nothing to be scared of in that room. Woman in that room loves you and wouldn’t hurt you.”
“That woman ain’t there, Ruby - “
“Woman in that room there. You and her, you the light of the world now. The world needs healthy babies - ”
“You got the hardest damn cock, Ulysses. You got a real hard cock when you want it. Your cock harder than her daddy’s when you had it in me. You got a cock like a hammer handle. You got the hardest, hottest, meanest, drivingest damn cock any woman ever felt humping in her. You know what’s good? Women, we talk among ourselves. Here’s what’s good. She told me about you. She did. She told me how she likes it how you hold both her shoulders tight in your hands like you do just when you’re about gonna come. Holding her shoulders tight, like you steadying her in place for that hot, hard thing a yours moving in her, moving in her, moving good in her. You come good. Real good. I felt it every time you came in me. Every time. Felt your splash deep in me. A woman feels that little hot spurt of love, she love you holding her shoulders tight while you lie on her then she feel that hot little love splash way deep in her belly, make her feel like a woman. Satisfy you. Satisfy - your appetites. I do love me some grandchilden, Ulysses. I surely do. You owe me. We owe her. For our sins against her.”
She moved in close and pressed her sweating body against his. He took a step back and she pressed in harder. “Remember?” The staleness of her unwashed clothes now that water was scarce, the musky scent of her body reached his nose and stirred him below. “Remember how it was?” He closed his eyes, felt the movement of her hands and agile fingers descend to her blouse. The snap of buttons being undone for him. Clothes pulled down for him as she wiggled them off her shoulders.
“Look at me. Sweetie. Look at mama. Don’t look away, look at my eyes. That’s right. Just look at me. Nothing else, just look at me. Now look down at me. Look what women got. Look at these. Get a good look for inspiration. On account of your performance anxieties. Put your hands on ‘em. Don’t look around. Look at me, dammit. Now your hands.”
He was looking. He was remembering. Now he was holding and remembering, falling under her spell. He was weary of fighting. He let his senses go to her.
“Put your lips on ‘em, Sweetie. I know you want to, you can. Go ahead. That’s it. You can do it. Now, the other one. You sweet man. Put your lips all over them.”
“Why can’t it be you?” he whispered, pressing his face into her damp skin. He opened wide, flattened his tongue and sucked her whole breast into his warm mouth and held it like huge fruit tasting her bitter-salty, rigid nipple tapping on the back of his throat. His strong arms wrapped around her and crushed her tight to him. The wheezing breath of his nose was hot on her skin as he sucked with his whole mouth around her breast.
“Because it can’t,” she gasped, rising on tiptoe to meet him. Her left hand twined in his hair and gathered him possessively. “It can’t.” Twining his hair in her fist to hold him tight as she pressed her chest into him drawing him deeper into her possession of him. “Babycakes done called your name.”
Her other hand reached down and caressed his swelling cock under his jeans.
“Let mama help.”
She unzipped him, unbuckled him, opened him. Reached inside. He was almost ready for her daughter. Good. Very good.
She lifted his cock out. It was stiff enough, but she wanted to see it the way that she remembered it. Hard as a hammer handle. Stiff as a fence post. It was a beautiful phallus, heavy, circumcised and bald. Thick and brutal. She smoothed the skin back with her fingers gently as she settled onto her knees.
She spit in her hands.
“Mama, maybe we shouldn’t do this.”
He said it every time. He never meant it.
She slicked it top to bottom with wet fingers, pulled the skin back tight and spit on the red knob of it and slicked it with her palm hard and roughly, palming his knob which made him grind his teeth with the intensity of his pleasure. Rubbing his knob in a circle with her palm, heating it up good, always made his cock huge for her. Made it hard as a damn hammer handle, it did. She could feel his urge building to take her down and just have it out with her right down there hot and heavy on the damn floor, polishing his knob till he was all dick and no brain. She pulled his cock to her so that he staggered, overwhelmed by her power over him. She placed it in her lips, dwelling on the unwashed saltiness for a moment. It was the hardness that moved her everytime. It was the unrelenting, threatening stiffness of it that made her weak in the knees and weaker in the will. She squeezed it hard with her fist. Slapped it a little like a cat swatting a ball. Hard. He was hard enough for Annie now.
There were sounds in the field outside. Ulysses’ eyes were closed in her trance of lust. She looked past him beyond the window and a dead walker was stumbling blindly through the corn, bits of dead skin dangling from his skull. He’d likely fetch up on the barb fence wire and stick on it. There’d be time later to walk out and put a shovel blade through his neck. Once you got the head off clean they stopped moving.
She reached around him and opened the bedroom door.
The huge smell of rotting meat, days old, staggered them.
Annie had been at the flea market shopping for what had been her idea of antiques. Mostly dishes and old soda bottles. Ulysses and Ruby were sitting on the old sofa watching a Gary Cooper movie. They had noticed each other almost from the day Annie and Ulysses had noticed each other. There had always been an unspoken state of sexual truce, of cautious understanding. There had been contact too. If they bumped too close past each other in the narrow hallway or touched knees under the table there were a flurry of quick earnest apologies.
That deeply familiar sofa with its friendly old cushions that sagged in the middle like an old horse with the material memories of all the butts they had contained, had a way of involuntarily colliding bodies together in the middle so that they had to make a conscious effort not to land in each other’s laps. Warm bodies that wanted to be chaste, could quickly be seduced by dim rooms and flickering screens. It became easier to just put his arm around Ruby. It became easier for Ruby to just let herself sit close, thigh touching thigh, then head on broad shoulder in that restive afternoon full of light and time and distant thunder, and a sensuous laziness that hinted of naps and soft beds, lying very close side by side in the summer heat.
He cuddled her, with his warm, confiding, bedroom baritone chattering about the movie, the corn crop and this and that, humming close to her ear as she snuggled back.
And in that forever air a man just forgot.
Forgot his obligations. Forgot his fear of reaching over the line. Ruby’s loose blouse, which, if you looked just right, revealed the dark stippled rim of a forbidden nipple. He tried the nipple. She did not resist. Only raised her eyes to look him stern and straight while his hand remained under her clothes. To chastise him. Or defy him to go further.
She coughed. She couldn’t help it. The first day or two the stink of the dead attracted hungry dogs and cats, believing in the kindness of all humans, and so to their doom. Which kept the walkers fed. Rough on the animals.
She turned him towards the door. “Go to her, she’s waiting on you.”
But he was already bending over, starting to gag. He unloaded part of his breakfast on the carpet and the sight made the bile rise acidly in her throat as well. She shook her head violently, slapped herself. If he went on too long his cock would sag. A limp dick was too hard to revive. She reached into a pocket and took out a small tube of Ben Gay cream and stuffed a ferociously minty smelling dab in each nostril and then up his nose too. She took his shoulders and shoved him inside.
“Not supposed to shut the damn window,” she muttered. “Who shut the damn window on her?”
His wife, her darling daughter who - according to the calender was in her fertile time, at least in better days, was tied to the bed with leather horse tackle. Hands and feet. Not the mouth. She’d chew through leather and dislodge her teeth on it from her decomposing gums. The bed was getting soggy with her draining juices. On the bed beside the chair was an old towel, blue with mold, and a tennis ball.
Annie turned her head at the sight of them and her eyes sparkled like a cats in a light. Her mouth opened showing twisted teeth, her lips long gone. She was naked. She was always naked. Always available. Always untouched. Almost always.
“He’s ready for you, honey.”
But he wasn’t. He was losing his erection fast.
“Lord, Ruby I can’t do this again.”
“Lord yes,” she said. “The Lord’ll give you strength. I’ll give you strength.” She spit on both palms and went down on her knees.
She took his sagging cock in her mouth and pulled him to her.
She covered her teeth with her lips and bit down on it and sucked on the tip until she felt it swell. She slicked her hands up and down, twisting on the shaft, up and down. Twist. Up, down, twist. He wasn’t fighting back now. He was under her spell again. She felt it. She had tamed him for a while.
When she stood he was almost swaying, looking a little ridiculous with his eyes half closed and his resurrected cock standing straight out of his open pants.
“Now let’s get this done,” she said, “because my man’s waiting on me too.”
“I ain’t asking you to nothing I ain’t gonna do. I want me my grandchildren. Now you do right by her.”
He removed his jeans. He was naked from the waist down. He looked towards Ruby’s exposed breasts and she pushed them out for him. For inspiration. After all, poor boy, Annie had been been laying in the hot air for days and someone had closed the damn window. She was getting pretty ripe.
He took the towel and the tennis ball. He dropped the towel over her mouth. Over her champing teeth. He squeezed the tennis ball tight between them. He closed his eyes and stroked his phallus, remembering Ruby. Remembering the afternoon when Annie had been off in town at the flea market. He climbed onto the bed, took up the position between her knees and lowered himself onto her.
Ruby had laughed, slapping at him as he had pressed her back against the arm of the sofa and lowered himself onto her. “Don’t! Don’t!” But he did. “Want to go for it?” he said. And when he had both her breasts out all the way and she laughed and said “Don’t!” he did anyway. And there they were, in the room. Two people alone. A woman who was not his wife. And her breasts were . . . Out.
“Don’t you want to go for it?” he said and when his hand was finally under her dress and his fingers up her pussy and her pussy was out too, she had whispered “We need to stop this, sweetie. It’s just all kinds of wrong.” But they didn’t.
He opened his eyes, with an effort made out Annie’s slit and tried to stuff his cock inside. It wouldn’t go. He felt her rotten flesh starting to tear a little and drew away. “Can’t,” he said.
“You got to wet her up,” said Ruby.
He spit in his hand and reached for her vagina.
“Not like that,” snapped Ruby. “You know not like that. You know how. Like you used to for me.”
He looked at Ruby. There was no mercy in her face. He looked at Annie, his wife. He licked his lips.
It was his beastliness that afternoon on the sofa that seduced Ruby. The beastliness that seduced her for many reckless afternoons after that. His male beastliness and his primal male energy and the thrill of feeling herself lusted over so illicitly by somebody at last and the danger of being taken at any moment in any place and roughly plundered by his beastliness and then discovered in their sin. On the afternoon of the sofa the beastliness of his powerful arms lifted her, having by now undressed her, the wet of her pussy on his fingertips still, carrying her down the hall to the bed Ruby shared with her second husband Bill who was also away, and throwing her down hard upon bed, shaking the room, tearing off his clothes, showing her his hard veined cock and then quickly mounting her like a beast, shouting her name eleven hard plunging seconds later when he came deep inside her, his face straining red with the raw beastliness of his pleasure. How he wanted her, this beastly gorgeous man. He stayed hard and called her name again when he came the second time ten minutes later. And then thirty minutes later, and would have taken her again except they heard Annie’s car coming up the gravel driveway and jumping up laughing had hurried down the hall weeping for fig leaves to cover themselves with.
He licked his lips again and his mouth felt too dry. The Ben Gay was masking the smell okay, but nothing could save him from the taste to come. He ducked in, closed his eyes and put his tongue to her dead vagina.
Ruby was standing in the doorway watching with her arms over her breasts. She dipped her head, gagged daintily and turned away. She closed the door on them.
Ruby went down the hall to the other bedroom. She stopped at the door and put another gob of Ben Gay up her nose to be safe and went in. Her husband Bill lay on the bed, trussed up in belts and horse bridles like Annie, as if he had been readied for a randy sex game. Except Bill had been a walker for awhile longer than Annie. It was he what done it to Annie.
A strange thing, his cock had become erect when he passed. This was a common thing for corpses someone said, even walker corpses.
“I’m sorry honey,” she said as she undressed. “It’s all God’s punishment for what we done by you and Annie. Let’s get it over quick. I just want to do right by you so you know I’m sorry.”
She spit in her hand and wet herself. She put a towel over his mouth and pressed the tennis ball between his teeth. “Now you’re safe,’ she said.
She unwrapped a condom and carefully rolled it on him as all the while his teeth champed and chewed on the tennis ball. She spit on the condom covering his phallus and wetted it. She straddled him and slipped him inside. “Do you love me, honey?” she said. “Do you forgive me now?”
She began to jiggle her hips up and down on him vigorously, remembering how it used to be when they were first married and fresh and new. This man who was Annie’s father and the rightful grandfather of Annie’s children.
And then. Something.
He was still inside her. She could feel him inside her.
Yet she felt . . . unanchored.
Ruby reached down and felt the rubber rim of the condom dangling freely between her thighs. She looked down at her husband’s groin. “Oops,” she said.
It was fizzy, sweet-sour and high on his tongue like a well chilled champagne from Hell. On the fourth lick an immense ammoniac puff of decay swamped his senses like rancid cheese, even cutting through the shielding smell and sting of the gob of Ben Gay up his nose. He thought about baseball scores as he licked her and licked her one more time trying to spit her out of his mouth as best he could.
When she seemed ready he lifted up, took up the position again and plunged his half flagging cock into her. She was all rank, cold, spoiled meat. The acid taste in his mouth was of his own breakfast fighting to rise up his throat.
Annie’s busy mouth had stopped moving. His late wife lay very still as if she were accommodating his weak thrusts. His manhood stiffened up. He came quickly. Like many things, it wasn’t so bad if you didn’t think about it. He spurted and pulled out instantly. His cock was alive with a writhing blanket of semen soaked maggots that dripped off onto the sheet in clumps. He frantically wiped it on the stained, foul smelling sheet. Annie was struggling with the tennis ball in her teeth again, lying still no more, trying to get at him. He climbed down and sat on the floor beside the bed with his head in his hands for a long time. Her straps were coming loose. He let them come loose and waited. His lips moved silently with a prayer. Or possibly a curse.
Her feet touched the floor as she tottered over him.
Ruby scooted off Bill, opened her legs quickly and gingerly took the condom in her fingers and lifted it out of herself. He was in there alright. She flicked it across the room. “Bill, I can’t do anymore to make up for you,” she said. She climbed off of him and sat on the bed. She began to weep. “I can’t carry it no more. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, what I did. I’m sorry you found out. I’m sorry you went out and got bit. I can’t carry it no more. I’m so sorry.”
He struggled against the leather straps. One was coming loose. She reached over and tightened it. “We done been through it. Did all we could to make up. This is hell we’re in. I reckon now we had it coming but not you and Annie. I can’t carry it. But you got to know we got a nice grandbaby on the way. For you, honey babe.” Her eyes stung with tears of relief. Clean and human. “If we’re all damn lucky he’ll take after his daddy and not his mommy.”
She closed the door on him and went down the hall to Annies' room. It was quiet in there, though she sensed something going on. And then she made out the wet sounds. She listened hard, hoping. No. Not kissing sounds. Chewing sounds.
She sat on the floor and thought of the shovel leaning on the broom closet. And the pick axe next to that. And then nothing. She was tired. She watched the door knob as it turned.
How do they still know how to turn a knob, she wondered.