Monday, December 9, 2013

Songs and Stories

By Lisabet Sarai

The screen door slams
Mary' dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again
Bruce Springsteen – "Thunder Road"

It's one of those summer nights when I just can't sit still. The air's soft as a whisper. The smell of Ma's roses filters in to the kitchen where I'm washing up. Cars rush by out on Highway 9, rumbling like a faraway storm. There's an ache in my chest, a sweet pain that swells whenever the DJ puts on a slow song.

Pa's in the den, snoring already in front of his game. In the front room, I pick up my book, put it down, pick it up again. I can't concentrate. I turn up the volume. The music burrows into me and takes me over. I twirl on the worn old carpet, until I'm gasping and dizzy, but I can't dance away this restlessness.

A breeze wafts in the front door, ripe and full of secrets. I don't believe in magic but I feel it anyway. I remember Ma's warnings, months before the cancer took her. Keep yourself to yourself, gal. Don't you go falling for some fast-talking kid who fancies he's a poet.

The porch light's dead again. The night calls me. Still swaying, I answer. I step outside, close my eyes, take in a lungful of summer perfume.

I see him then, huddled under the street lamp. Spindly, all angles - not grown into his height yet – and full of rebellion. Fists shoved in the pockets of the jeans that hug his narrow hips. Too-long hair, the color of sand, falling into his eyes. Scuffed work boots and a tee shirt that's none too clean. A book tucked under his arm. Shoulders hunched up and lips pressed into a thin line. Staring at me like a man who hasn't eaten in a week.

He doesn't say a word. He doesn't have to. I know who he is – I've seen him at the car wash where he works, and in the diner, blindly shoveling bacon and eggs into his mouth, lost in the pages of some novel. I know what he wants.

The breeze stirs my hair. A shiver runs through me, as if the night weren't warm as bathwater. It turns to a tingling, a vibration, a hum, like the engine of the world turning inside me. Keep yourself to yourself, gal, my mind says. Go back inside. You can write in your diary later.

My body says something else, and for once, I'm tempted to listen.

For him? After all the nice boys I've refused? Skinny, without a dime to his name, nothing but that souped-up Chevy he spends all his free time polishing? Those hungry eyes, though, drill into me and rip all my reasons to shreds.

Why not say yes? I can almost hear him, that gravelly, power-filled, self-confident voice of his, so at odds with his half-baked appearance. He has a band, I've heard. I can imagine him making music.

Say yes, his eyes plead. Haven't you waited long enough?

My cheeks burn. Sweat stains the armpits of my blouse. Blood pulses in my secret places, hot as July, overwhelming the chill of fear.

He pulls a hand from a pocket and dangles a set of keys. They glint in the street light. He grins, half mocking, half embarrassed, and jerks his thumb toward the alley running behind the house.

The liquid night tugs at me. The wind sighs. The song ends. He holds out his hand.

Say yes.


  1. You've managed to capture the sights, sounds and smells of our developing hormonal years in this mesmerizing scenario. Hot nights and hot rods indeed.

    1. Thanks, Daddy!

      I miss that part of youth. I remember it, vividly. And Springsteen - especially this song - can always evoke those feelings.

  2. i just want to say something silly here. Springsteen rocks! i liked the voice in this piece, Lisabet. it goes well with the song. i don't know whether you're a fan of covers. i'm a big fan of such. i like to hear a song reinterpreted by someone else. a really great Springsteen tribute CD is "Light of Day: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen" It came out in 2009 & features folks such as Elvis Costello & Patty Griffin. :)

    1. Springsteen does rock! Both literally and figuratively! I don't think your comment could possibly be viewed as silly.

      This song came out when I was in college - about the same age as Mary, I'd guess. It spoke to me then. It still does.

      (I've heard about that album, btw, but never listened to it. My listening is stuck in the 70s and 80s for the most part!)

  3. Yes, this Jersey boy has always been partial to Bruce. Years ago Momma X went up to him in a hotel we were staying in Verona and charmed him out of an autograph.

  4. Hi Lisabet!


    How times have changed. Who would have thought a guy whose first name was Bruce and last name was Stringsteen could ever be sexy? but there it is. I see this guy, right off the cover of Darkness at the Edge of Town. Looking exactly like the kind of boy every girl wants and the kind that makes every father go look for his shotgun.


    1. I rather wonder whether women's tastes have changed. All the heroes in romance novels are muscular and "ripped" (and they all have smooth chests - yech!) I've always found the dark poet/tortured rebel type incredibly sexy, personally.


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