Poop and Tendencies
It started out with chitter-chat, at the backyard barbecue at Clete and Juanita's house. The ladies sat at the picnic table on the patio with a dozen candles glowing between them on the splintered wood a scene that might bring the word "coven" to mind. The guys slouched around in a semi-circle of lawn chairs out on the Tiki torch-studded grass around the smoking barbecue and the sizzling meat, like a pagan ritual to carnivorousness.
Things were genteel in the beginning, the girls talking floor coverings, and could they arm-twist their men into doing the dirty job of it so they could save on the cost of labor. The men talked cars and football, and in lower tones about women who were not their wives; and as Clete lifted the lid on the barbecue smoke full of crisping chicken roiling forth into the deepening twilight Ellis remarked, out of hand, that Nadine seemed to be getting a bit snockered, and that, under different circumstances, he might take the advantage of the situation to try to cut her out of the herd.
"Hey, man, that's my wife you're talkin' about," said Chuck Malone.
"And a fine-looking woman she is," Ellis replied, as the lady in question blared, "Fuck 'em! Just fuck 'em!" from the patio, apropos of who knows what, from the men's vantage point out on the lawn.
"Hey," said Clete, closing the lid again. "They got a bottle of tequila over there."
The guys gazed over. "'Deed they do," said Bob.
"Nadine, babe," Chuck called out to his wife, as Ginger, Juanita's chihuahua hunched herself up on the grass in front of the barbecue to poop on the lawn, "Ellis says you got a nice ass!"
That stopped the girl talk cold, as the ladies all turned in unison to regard the guys; and Nadine, cold-eyed, tilted the tequila bottle back and took a hit, as Ruth, Ellis' wife, glared and asked, "That's what he says, is it?"
"I said no such thing," Ellis protested. "Bob's drunk; that's the beer talkin'."
"The way I hear it," the normally demure Juanita said as she wrestled the bottle away from Nadine, "is that Ellis is more interested in guys' asses than he is in girls'."
Ellis shot a look at Clete. Ginger straightened, kicked some grass over her steaming leavings and tip-toed back to the patio. Bob and Chuck snickered. Ellis told them to shut up, then said to Clete: "I thought we agreed to keep that thing quiet, partner."
The "thing" that Clete was supposed to keep quiet and he did, except of course he told his wife Juanita all about it, and that she now related to the rest of the gathering with a bit of uncharacteristic malice (tequila talking) had to do with a recent sojourn Clete and Ellis had taken to Tijuana so Ellis could have a bad molar pulled by an affordable dentist. The extraction, as Juanita, her eyes shining, told it, put Ellis in a fog of pain, and had Clete steering him toward a taxi rather than risk the walk back to the border. But Clete, Juanita cackled, picked his ride poorly, and ended up with his swollen-jawed friend in the back seat of a rolling love nest, one in which the "love" was for sale.
Juanita's tequila-fueled description of the taxi-borne love interest couldn't do true justice to the luridness of the scene; and only Clete, clear-minded at the time, with most of his teeth in his head, had a true grip on the truth of the situation. And the truth was this: Carlita Carlos, originally slouching in the front seat as the gringos approached, was decked out in a wraparound leopard-skin dress, slit up the side and hugging her torso low, down off her shoulders. She wore a wig of immense dimensions, a platinum blond bird's nest affair, and eye shadow and lipstick as bright as the neon lights blinking on out on Avenida de Revolucion, with a subtle speckle of dark bristle poking through the ghostly white powder on her jaw.
She said, "Hi fellas," in a voice almost comically deep-toned to Clete, a man not suffering the aftershock of a traumatic extraction. Ellis, his perceptions blurred by the pain and the sedative the dentist had given him, was oblivious.
Carlita sized up the situation immediately. She'd suffered numerous extractions herself every last molar in her head. Sympathetic to Ellis's plight, she demanded of the taxi's driver, her brother, Raul, that he wheel the cab over to the pharmacy for some codeine, and the liquor store for some tequila. Then, being a girl who liked a good time, she demanded of Raul that he drive them around the city, so she and the gringos could kill a little pain.
Though the kindness of Carlita had been relayed to Juanita by Clete in his telling of the story to her, she completely left it out as she told the tale to the backyard barbecue crowd. She painted the stiletto-heeled guy in faux leopard skin wraparound dress as simply salacious, disgustingly perverted and hungry for cash. But she did make sure to include the fact that Ellis, coming out of a pain-induced fog into an even hazier one produced by the alcohol and drugs, planted more than one sloppy kiss on the Carlos/Carlita's cheek, wrapped his arm around her bare shoulders and hugged her to him in that back seat and called her a damned good and damned beautiful woman for procuring the chemicals that eased his pain.
Clete, who had remained relatively sober (he had to drive), told hot-lips Ellis the truth of the situation later, on the drive up Interstate 5.
Everyone at the barbecue, except Ellis, of course, got a kick out of the story of the clueless dumb ass kissing a dolled-up guy, the ladies laughing until their sides ached, Nadine wondering aloud through her amusement wiping a tear away with the back of her wrist how Ellis had kept these "tendencies" under wraps for so long.
"What are ya talkin', tendencies?" he protested over the rolling giggles of the girls. He jumped up from his lawn chair, sending it toppling, and he demanded, "Come on out here, Nadine, I'll show you what my tendencies are!"
"Right here on the lawn?" Clete said, as Dora, Glenda, Juanita and Bob made encouraging noises, indicating that a situation involving Nadine joining Ellis by the barbecue for a demonstration of his tendencies was a fine and noble idea, while Ellis' Ruth and Nadine's Chuck glowered.
Nadine pushed herself up from the picnic table's bench. Dora swatted her ass and said, "Go get him, girl!" Nadine, putting some extra swing and sway into her walk, oozed off the patio in the direction of Ellis, as Bob slipped out of his lawn chair into an old playground, trick, hunkering down on his hands and knees behind the man who was hellbent on a demonstration of his status as a heterosexual, as Nadine, with a mouth-watering come-hither look, reached out for the man. And when he went to take her in his arms, she, quick as a snake, lunged at the last second and gave him a little push, sending him toppling, big-eyed, over Bob, onto his fat butt onto the lawn, his arm thrown out for a handhold glancing off the barbecue, knocking the lid askew.
The congregation howled. Ruth and Nadine high-fived, and Bob rose to his knees and looked at his hand and said, "What the hell is this?" at a dark smear on his palm. He wiped the mess on his shirt, then smelled it, finding out, an instant after the realization hit the rest of the crowd, that he'd put his hand down dead center in Ginger's pile of creamy poop.
"Aw, shit!" he wailed, leaning back down to wipe it off on the grass, as the crowd exploded into laughter anew, Ellis the loudest of them, grateful for the shift in attention away from the question of his tendencies, to a focus on the man who would, for the rest of the evening, be referred to as Shitty Bob.
Published August 2006