When Lonny Morton walked into a bar, folks noticed. He was big and handsome. He was six foot five, two hundred and seventy pounds. He had short blonde hair, young looking smile, and biceps the size of most men’s chests. His hands, closed, looked like sixteen-pound sledgehammer heads and opened could grasp a man’s head like a softball. He took care of himself, worked out regularly. He was bronzed from working outside all the time and his steel blue eyes reminded some women of a twenty-seven-year-old Paul Newman.
Annette was sitting at a table watching as Lonny moved to the bar, smiling at the easy way he spoke. She noticed his body, of course, the way his arms were carved and taut without flexing. She imagined how easy it would be for him to pick her up and lift her high above him, his strong hands on her hips.
“Who the fuck is that?” Annette’s husband Mark had seen her looking at Lonny, had seen that look last a beat longer than he felt necessary. Mark was slight and grey, a wisp of hair combed over and matted to a scalp perpetually covered by a ball cap, which also covered a brow that seemed frozen into a scowl. Mark was a man who still brought up his three years in the Navy thirty years ago because for the thirty years since he had been a yard jockey at a furniture warehouse and the only thing that bored people more than his stories of banging girls in Australia was his stories of moving shipping containers from one part of the parking lot to another.
Annette rolled her eyes. “For god’s sake, Mark.”
“Well, the whole goddamn bar seen you drool over him. So who is it?” Mark sat back down beside her and spoke loud enough that the table next to them turned.
Annette let out a little exasperated sigh. “Mark, please keep your voice down.” She smiled at him. “You know damn good and well who that is. That’s Clay and Velda Morton’s boy, Lonny. I taught him for two years and just hadn’t seen him since. Alright?”
Mark looked at her. “Uh huh.” It was true, Annette had been a substitute teacher after the carpet factory moved overseas and she lost her job. Mark tried to do the math in his head, as to whether she might have been working when Lonny was still in school but couldn’t be sure. He took a slow draw on his beer, looked over at Lonny, now standing with a group of young men at the bar. He then stood and started making his way to them.
“Mark!” Annette started to stand, sat back, started again. “Mark!”
By then Mark had walked up to the bar, patted Lonny and another young man, Will Dawson, on the back and started a conversation. It was hard enough for Annette to see them through the Friday night crowd, and no way to know what they were saying. Mark was leaning against the bar now, facing Lonny, away from her. She watched, horrified, as Mark threw his thumb back over his shoulder and Lonny, a head taller than her husband, looked at her and grinned. Annette felt her eyes widen uncontrollably, before she gathered enough composure to smile as she brought up her hand to wave. By then Lonny had turned his eyes back down to her husband, and as she lowered her hand she saw him shake his head and shrug. Annette was almost shaking when Mark patted the young man again and started back.
Mark sat back down at their table, grinning, and took a long pull of his beer.
“What the hell was that about?” Annette demanded.
Mark leaned back in his chair, directed his bottle towards the young men he had been speaking to. “Nice kids,” he said. “Especially your boy Lonny.” He turned towards her. “Did you know he failed his army physical?” He took another drink.
“Yeah. We was just talking.”
He turned to her. “He doesn’t remember you at all, honey.” Mark smiled and held his gaze. “No idea who you are.”
Annette felt her cheeks redden, her eyes well with tears. “Excuse me.” She grabbed her hand bag and started towards the bathroom. Mark grinned and didn’t watch her leave.
Moments later she was in the back parking lot, having used the perpetually broken emergency exit. Annette felt the breeze on her face and began crying more freely. She felt a sob coming and fought it back. She whispered, “asshole” to the thin air as she pulled a cigarette from her bag. “Asshole,” she said again. She sat on a little bench under a cottonwood tree out of the parking lot light and smoked.
Five minutes passed and Annette was on her second cigarette when the back exit burst open. Will Dawson came backing out, drunk, laughing and yelling at someone just inside. He put a hand to the back wall and unzipped his pants. Annette rolled her eyes as she heard his stream of piss hit. While he was zipping up, the door swung open again. Lonny walked out and relieved himself as well. While he was zipping up he saw the cherry from Annette’s menthol brighten in the darkness.
“Oh, shit,” he said. “I’m sorry; didn’t see you there.” Dawson looked at her and giggled. “Oops.”
Annette smiled, though they didn’t know that. “Boys will be boys, I suppose,” she said. “Y’all know the door doesn’t open from this side, don’t you? You’ll have to go around the building.
Dawson looked at the door. “Fuck.”
Lonny began walking towards her. “What are you doing out here?” He walked over. “Oh,” he said. “I was just talking to your husband.”
“So what are you doing out here?”
“Just some fresh air. I’m headed back now.”
The three of them walked carefully along the back wall and then a side fence, laughing and grabbing each other’s hands trying not to fall. When they reached the lit front of the building, Lonny held the door for Annette. Will Dawson saw someone in the lot and stumbled off towards them, so Lonny came in after her, careful not to bump his head on the door frame. Annette turned to him, gave a smile and a wave, and walked towards her table.
She sat down, drank the last swig of beer, and said to a waitress passing by, “Hon, can you get me another?”
Mark was animated in his anger. “What the fuck is going on?”
Annette turned to him, feigning confusion. “What’s that?”
“I saw you come in with him, goddamnit. Where the hell have you been?”
“Who? Oh, Lonny? We were just out back.”
Mark’s hands curled into fists as Annette continued. “I’m going to stay at Momma’s house tonight. Well, at least tonight.”
“What the hell were you doing back there with him?”
Annette smiled, leaned over to him, kissed his cheek. “I fucked him, honey. I fucked Lonny out back against the wall.”