The Journal of David Hill|
02/25/2005 12:35 a.m.
Since women think of us all as horny boys, I don’t know if women are able to make subtle distinctions. But the men know. There are degrees. What follows is a cautionary tale. Additionally, it is true.
When I worked as Business Manager for the Gazette Leader during the eighties, I co-worked with a bun-haired clerical woman named Dora. At the time, she was a matronly 60 year old and I was in my late twenties, so she had what might be considered a motherly fondness for me. I liked her as well, though it was in that somewhat polite and spaced way that often occurs when friendships cross generations.
Whenever Dora left work for the day, she always flipped her hand and said “Cheerio, all,” and when I made an off color joke, as is my habit, she shook her head and chuckled, “David, honest to goodness, you are a pip!” To which I would accuse her of calling me a “pimp.”
Every couple of months, she would suggest that we go to lunch at a nearby diner as a “treat.” Dora’s husband had died a few years back, and she now lived on a wage that hovered barely above the minimum (I did the payroll). Her husband had left her next to nothing, so Dora was forced to live quietly and humbly in a room at her uncle’s home.
I always remember the week that the uncle asked her to leave. Dora walked around work like a blank faced zombie. Fortunately, a cousin finally agreed to take her in. (Just for the record, I was conscious of the feeling that I might need to offer her a room, but I was holding out to the very last.)
Dora had a son named Eric, who I met through her.
Eric worked as an apprentice for a heating and cooling company in Sea Isle City. Each day, he commuted thirty miles northward up the coast in his 1962 Ford Falcon. With its faded black paint, polka dot rust spots, and misfiring engine, this car was a head turner. Due to the Falcon’s unreliability, Eric was always in danger of losing his job because of high absenteeism.
Alas, it now needed a new fuel pump, and the nearest distributor was just inland from Atlantic City, some forty-five minutes away. I agreed to drive him there the very next Saturday in that chilly March of 85.
Eric, a stout and horse faced fellow, was not particularly striking, but we were able to comfortably pass time discussing Philadelphia sports teams and rock bands, though our tastes in the latter were decidedly different. After picking up the car part, we still had an afternoon before us.
“Say, I know this great topless club in Philly. Primo babes!” he suggested.
During my college years, I had attended topless clubs; perhaps a half dozen times. In those days, I ran with a group of guys, so I often traveled in the wake of the majority. I had no real qualms about anything, so long as it did not violate my moral code. I will say this: Whenever I was in one of those clubs, I always felt sorry for everyone there.
Philly was too far, so I declined, but I am an agreeable fellow. When Eric suggested a nearby though lesser club that he knew of, I shrugged and said, “Sure.”
The club turned out to be more of a dark and dank neighborhood bar, but there were two alternating topless dancers, though they were droopy with marshmallow bellies, a bit past their less than “primo” prime. Excluding Eric and I, there were three other sad-eyed patrons.
While one dancer flounced on the tiny platform that elevated her above eye-level, the other dancer called out in a slurred, smoky, playfully kidding voice, “Your cunt is stretched wider than the Grand Canyon!”
Eric truly loved it there, as evidenced by his drinking eyes, and a grin broad as a billboard.
After an hour, I had seen enough. It took several insistent “Let’s goes,” to pry Eric from his perch.
Several months would pass before I linked with Eric again. It was now summer, and an aging and locally famous comedian was to appear at The Wharf, a club at the northern tip of Wildwood. Many employees from the Gazette Leader would be there, as would I. Though I no longer recall how it came to be, I gave Eric a ride to this event.
During the evening I learned that Eric had lost the apprenticeship. The old Falcon just couldn’t cut it, so he was now unemployed.
We sat through the hack comedian with the generic brand of humor, which fully explained his limit to “local” fame. After the show, we sat at the bar with two ladies from the newspaper.
Ellen, who was sleek, sleazy, and known to be loose, was editor of the entertainment guide we published during summer months. Shelly was an emotionally needy ad salesperson, and Ellen’s roommate. While I didn’t dislike them, I can’t say I ever enjoyed their company.
They invited Eric and I back to their place to watch television. I politely declined.
“Man, this is an opportunity. You sure you don’t wanna’ go?” he incredulously asked.
Eric went home with the two ladies. I simply went home.
Though I never heard of the outcome, that is, whether or not Eric enjoyed the sexual relations he so clearly desired, the fact that I never heard makes it clear enough. The invitation to “watch television” was that, and nothing more.
A year had passed, and it was the summer of 86. I felt trapped in Cape May County and the limited tourist town opportunity it provided. By autumn, I would be gone. By way of his mother, Dora, I learned that Eric now had a lady friend, Lisa. The events of her life had been somewhat unfortunate. She worked as a waitress to support her three small boys, each conceived with a different man. I guess one might say she was a very fertile girl.
In early September, with the tourist season waning, I was parked on the road’s shoulder, gazing across the dirty Delaware Bay, as was my habit. A primer gray Chevrolet Wagon pulled alongside and tooted the horn.
Behind the wheel, Eric beamed with the contentment of a king (I don't believe he knew , yet.). Lisa was at his side, drained, sickly, white and sad faced. In the back seats were three small jelly faced boys staring blankly at me. We rolled the windows down in our respective vehicles, exchanged a few tid-bits (I leaned he remained unemployed) but soon the traffic backed behind Eric, so he drove away with a wave.
In October, Dora again wore the blank face of a zombie. Recognizing the look from her earlier crisis, I asked if anything was wrong.
“Lisa is pregnant.” She shook her head in the slowest and saddest way of a mother. “They don’t plan to marry.”
Horny Boy, Horny Boy, what have you done?
As for the rest of us, are there lessons to be learned from the lives of Dora and Eric?
Yes. Yes there are.
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