OK... As I said the other day, I feel like I'm going out on a limb here. Very few people have read any fiction I've written, much less a story which happens to not be my particular favorite. In any case, a few days ago, I posted this poem. It was an ode to a teenaged Vegas elopement and the bar they visited soon after. After thinking about it, I figured it was the perfect companion piece or sequel to a short story I wrote eons ago about the same subject. If anything, the only thing I can say is that they ultimately belong together at this point. First this story, "The Two Elvises" which I'll post in three parts, and then the poem from the other day - Honeymoon at the Atomic.
"The Two Elvises" - Part Two
They met a year ago when Carol's dad met Stu's mom at The Drink Cart, a small bar inside of the main terminal in Chicago's O' Hare Airport. Stu's mom, Bette Holmes, was an over-the-hill flight attendant whose days were numbered. It's not that she was incompetent or belligerent to passengers, but simply, she wasn't the youngest flower in the bouquet anymore. Years of flying cross-country have begun to take their toll. And after training an endless number of pretty young girls to work with her on the plane, she knew, from watching them bounce up and down the aisle with their bubbly smiles, peddling earplugs and magazines, that she was through. When it got slow, she'd sneak into the bathroom and gaze in the mirror, inspecting the wrinkles that resembled the topography she often flew over.
It didn't stop there. Her golden brown hair that once flowed in wavy strands now resembled frizzled hay. The eyes, once bright and optimistic, now peered with darkened suspicion. And the hourglass figure that used to make male passengers melt behind their Newsweeks, evoked the shape of a bowling pin. It was obvious -- what little looks she did have were quickly whisking away, like the dry leaves in a late autumn breeze.
So in drowning her sorrows after a long flight from LAX, Bette met Roger Nichols, a copier salesman, just back in town from his company's annual convention.
When the subject of family came up, Bette said, "I have a son. Stuart. Just turned twenty."
"Really?" Roger said, sounding surprised. "My daughter's gonna be twenty on March 7."
Bette smiled, as if they were sharing the same secret. "They'll drain you, huh? Drive you batty. What's her name?"
Roger saw the face of his baby girl. "Carol," he answered, pulling out a small snapshot from his wallet. "Isn't she a doll?"
"Oh yes," Bette said. "Stu would love her..."
So Stu and Carol were introduced about a month and a half later at a Labor Day barbecue held on the grounds at Roger's company. At first Stu thought Carol was a little primadonna, with her shoulder shrugging and one word answers. But he soon realized, after knowing her a bit, that's how she acted when she was nervous. As for Carol? She thought Stu was a typical jock, sophomoric and stupid at the same time. But after she got to know him, she realized it was his free-spirited nature, easy-going and relaxed that made him appear so juvenile.
"You live in town?" was the first thing Stu asked her. After Carol answered yes, he was stuck and really didn't have much else to say. Neither did she. The initial small talk of young love can be excruciatingly scary and the lack of chit-chat between these two kids were perfect examples. When Roger jogged over and asked them what they wanted from the grill, a small part of Stu and Carol were relieved. They thought they were saved, but Roger, not wanting to intrude, took their food requests and went back to the barbecue. They were back at square one.
"So..." Stu said stumbling for something to say, "is that your red Miata?"
She nodded. "I got it used about a month ago. You like it?"
"Who wouldn't? Is it a stick?"
She crinkled her nose. "Yeah, but I can't really drive it that good," she said. "I stall alot. It took me a half hour to get here today because I had to find a way with no hills."
Stu knew this was his area. "Carol, you've come to the right guy. I've been driving five-speeds ever since I got my license."
"Do you have any pointers?" she asked.
A young man's cockiness overcame Stu. "The way I can teach you, you'll be driving NASCAR by Friday."
So there was the common ground. He helped her drive like Mario Andretti and she let him take her out a couple of times after the lessons. Usually it was to Friendly's for ice cream. Once they tried to buy beer, but got carded by some kid working the register that was younger than them. Stu called the kid a prick and they left the store.
They eventually became friends and it wasn't soon after, that their hormones got the best of them. It was only natural, therefore, that things became sexual.
When their folks announced wedding plans, it was Thanksgiving night and Stu and Carol didn't quite know how to deal with the fact they would soon be related. Both of them just stared into their plates filled with beets and turkey to the point where their parents wondered if they were ill.
"What should we do?" Carol asked later over the echoes of a football game.
"Stu flicked on MTV and put the volume louder so their parents wouldn't overhear and said, "Do you think we should stop seeing each other?"
"Stop seeing each other? Stu we're gonna like see each other every day. This is serious."
"Didn't you think that our parents getting married was a possibility? I say we do nothing. They fell in love. Why can't we?"
Carol thought about it. Stu was right. "Should we tell them?"
"No," he said. "They'll find out soon enough I guess."
So Bette and Roger wed about three months later in a quaint bed and breakfast ceremony and technically, you could say, Stu and Carol became step-brother and sister.
The family moved into a quaint tudor in the Chicago suburb of Englewood Heights. To the naked eye, Stu and Carol looked like any other step-brother and sister - the hogging of the bathroom, the fight for the remote control and even the quarrel as to who would take the garbage out wasn't uncommon. But behind closed doors, the two were falling deeper in love.
If Bette and Roger went upstairs to bed, then Stu and Carol would descend to the basement where a finished off den gave them all the privacy they needed. And for the evenings when Bette had overnight flights and Roger had sales meetings five states away, the kids played house, doing everything young couples do.
And it was those little things that almost got them caught -- like the time when Roger noticed the fireplace had been used when no one was supposed to be home. When he saw all the mood music scattered about, he just had to ask Stu, "Didn't you go skiing this weekend?"
Stu thought quick. "Bobby's water pump busted and my car wouldn't have made it that far, so we had to cancel."
"Did you have a date?" Roger asked examining the back of a Barry White CD.
"Not really. Some girl I knew from high school came over and she got a little cold, so I lit the fireplace."
"Was Carol here? Didn't she cramp your style."
"Luckily she went out with her friend Jackie and slept over there."
"I hope you scored at least."
Stu smiled. "I sure did Roger. I sure as hell did"
"That's what I like to hear kiddo," his stepdad said as he walked out of the den. "Do it while you're young 'cause gettin' old is a bitch."
Their luck, though, had to run out sometime. One Saturday morning -- when Bette always did housework -- she found something very odd and alarming. While emptying Carol's trash basket next to the bed an electric blue Stallion brand condom wrapper fell to the ground. It was Ribbed. She'd been home for the past three days and hadn't seen any boys come over to see her step-daughter. It didn't set right especially since her husband used the same brand. She thought about it a little more and came to the conclusion that something funny was indeed going on. She saved the wrapper and decided to show it to Roger when he came home from work.
"I found this in the trash today, Roger," Bette said throwing the condom wrapper in front of him as he sat down at the kitchen table.
"The kid works fast," Roger said to himself, but still letting Bette hear.
"What?" Bette asked, not understanding.
"Hon, don't worry. The other day Stu asked me if I had any extra rubbers. The kid's been seein' some girl lately and I've been asking him how it's been going. I guess he's starting to trust me a little."
Bette didn't know how to tell him so she just blurted it out. "I found it in Carol's bedroom."
"You found it where?"
"I was cleaning her room when I found it in the trash."
Roger's face turned beet red. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking..."
Bette sat down and fanned herself with a coupon circular. "Rog, no one has been in this house for a couple of days and unless you've been sleeping with her, I think our kids may be --"
"I'll kill him, Bette."
"Let me talk to him," she said. "Just calm down. Maybe there's a good explanation for this." She knew, however, there couldn't have been. There was a protocol, a decorum, that was broken. Nothing could fix it now.
About three hours, later Stu came home from work and Carol was up in her room on the phone. When their parents called them down to the kitchen, Stu knew they were caught. "What do we tell them?" Carol asked, petrified.
"Let me handle it. I'll do all the talking. Don't say a word."
But Carol did and Stu reacted to their parents like any twenty year-old would -- with angst and anger perpetuated by just the right amount of fear that makes people do the craziest of things.
"We love each other," he said. "You guys fell in love, why can't we?"
"Because, you little shit, it's dysfunctional," Roger snapped. "Did you ever see Marsha Brady sleep with Greg?"
Stu walked towards the door saying, "I don't have to take this."
Roger trotted after him and spun his stepson around and said, pointing into his face, "We are not done talking. Get back into that kitchen."
"Then get out!"
"Roger!" Bette screamed. "This is my child! Now, let's just all sit and talk about this."
"Daddy!" Carol piped in every couple of seconds during the confusion. She finally said when all was quiet, "If he goes, so do I."
Roger grabbed hold of his daughter's arm. "You're not going anywhere."
It was at that point where Stu drew his line in the sand, pushing Roger as hard as he could, clutched Carol's wrist and dragged her out of the house with him. "I love you, mom" was the last thing he said before slamming the door. All he heard as they ran down the walkway was his mom crying from inside.
TO BE CONTINUED ...