Yonder Stands Your Orphan

Free Yonder Stands Your Orphan by Barry Hannah

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Authors: Barry Hannah
children lived with her. Two boys, a near man of twenty, and Emma, a baby girl with the disposition of an angel and startling beauty, often baby-sat by a nearby Mennonite couple when she was out on the town. She paid little attention to her home and let her children run wild.
    She did not know where the dreams came from, but she sometimes imagined men exploding into flame, and then the surrounding buildings, sometimes as she stared at them. Perhaps it was their strutting confidence that they belonged and were needed by their place. Women also drew her anger. The ones too assured, too comfortable with this world. Going down the road in their cars and thinking everybody waited for them like dogs, tongues all out and fawning. Her imagination was the Old Testament, although she had never read it and had no god.
    In her nurse’s outfit, white stockings, white shoes, she was a form of wreckage too. When she walked away from the old men at Onward, they witnessed the struggle of her rumpcheeks in the skirt and they knew hurt, even terror, and vast pity for themselves. She did not patronize them, never called them
sweetheart
or
boyfriend
, these convicts of time.She did not mean to harm them. They were all right, they were reality, they knew their place, deaf and aiming monologues out the window and across the river at Louisiana. The democracy of the pained, the fearful, the unheard. She was gentle and content to be the young beauty among them. On whom they fastened the dopey old fogs of their desire.
    They knew full well they stood no chance with her, even had their health and worried fortunes caught her attention. She had her man, in fact two of them, the Mortimer one and the sixty-year-old one who some days quietly drove her away in a restored battleship-gray Chevrolet Bel-Air from the fifties with its Antique tag. He was a recessive man, gentle, and loved that Dee shared his bliss over the oldies from the tinny radio speaker. He had added the FM band just for her. Frank Booth was his name. He wanted old-time dates, with courting and the moon, and especially the voices of Patsy Cline and Connie Francis. And the heartbreaking teen-angel ballads with God and the chapels in them. Things had not prospered for him in his earlier years, and he wanted the softness and the victory of them now, although he was by no means a failure. He had a jewelry business in Edwards just off Highway 20. He did not want to just coo and sigh either, no, he wanted full, half-clothed intercourse with Dee on a lonesome road with high orange moons up there, and her brassiere off and her priceless white stockings. Lover’s Lane. He was sworn to this, he was sworn to stolen pleasure, so that God would barely know in the act’s hot brevity what might have transpired. Yes he was strange, but Dee liked the manners and cherished the nights, odd as they were. They made her feel young too. The man Frank, he asked permission to expend himself inside her. Asked permission. I’d be hurt if you didn’t, she’d say.

    Not until the evening they happened to sit together and cross napkins in a bar of the casino and became single-malt neighbors did they know of the other’s existence. It was a meal of crawfish lightly battered and with Chinese red pepper covering the best New York strips from Nebraska. They were having a tankard of Irish tea. This evening had begun early and rather lonesome and they could not quit drinking. Frank Booth seemed a man of more world than these parts required. He spoke of fine jewelry from his store in Edwards. Mortimer did not know jewelry except in relation to the necks and wrists and ankles of happier sluts, although he had once met up in Water Valley the poor man in a wooden shop who was compelled to make Elvis Presley’s Tupelo space clothes and rings and belts and studded capes for his Las Vegas patheticon. He told this to Booth.
    Mortimer had never heard of single-malt scotch. No real drinker, he did not

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