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The Red Vest

A stolen red vest transforms a lonely man who meets a lonely woman in a bar and sparks fly
Chester suddenly stopped sweeping. He leaned the broom against the bin of sheetrock screws, hung the dust pan on the hook by the paint brushes and turpentine, leaving the pile of dust and debris in the middle of the wooden floor and without a word to his boss, Norman, walked out of Nichols and Son’s Hardware Store where he had worked for the last five years. The bell over the door jingled when Chester opened it and jangled even louder when he slammed it behind him.

The urge to quit his job had been building for months, but he would shove the thought aside and mutter to himself, “How can I quit? What would I do? I’m stuck!” He heard how bad the economy was from the six o’clock news, people losing their jobs, their homes, the worst recession since the crash in twenty-nine they said, but Chester didn’t care anymore. He had to get away. He was fed up with his life, the boring job, the emptiness, the loneliness. He wanted to feel alive and most of all he wanted to be in love; he wanted a girl friend but felt helpless and had no way to make that happen. Most days, it was all he could do to get up and go to work. Before leaving home that morning he almost called Norman to say he wasn’t coming in but came anyway, hating his reluctance to do something daring. He knew he was trapped in a rut and wouldn’t be able to take this much longer. He was desperate.

Several times he started to tell Norman he was quitting and giving two weeks notice but lost his nerve. He needed the job. His mother’s disability check and his eight-fifty an hour was all they had to pay the $500.00 a month rent for their tiny, shabby apartment above Dominic’s Pizza Shop. Then there was the electric and telephone bills, his mother’s prescriptions for depression, the monthly payment to the dentist for the root canal he had, leaving barely enough to buy the simple meals they ate--even with the food stamps his mother received.

Chester wished he didn’t have to live with his mother. “Damn, I’m thirty-five. I should have my own place, a family, a car,” he’d say to himself while taking the bus to work or lying in bed at night looking up at the ceiling. He didn’t want to spend the next twenty years working in a hardware store, but he saw no way out.

Norman was Mr. Nichol’s son and with the way business was, there was no chance for advancement. Norman was a year older than Chester and graduated from Thomas Edison High School the year before Chester. Mr. Nichols, now in his seventies, came in once a day to check how things were going, count the money in the register, shaking his head in disgust then leave, hardly paying attention to Chester. Norman was lazy, except when his dad came in. He’d read the newspaper at the counter telling Chester what do, wait on the occasional customer that came in and usually took a long lunch break.

The hardware store had been there for forty-five years and was barely making ends meet because of the Home Depot that had opened just outside of town.

This was a dead-end and the one year of community college didn’t qualify Chester to do much more than maybe work at the super market or at one of the gas stations which were all self-serve now--though some had convenience stores. He could be a cashier, he guessed--not much of an improvement over the hardware store. He thought about joining the army but hated that idea, especially with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then what would happen to his mother. Though she was fifty five, she was depressed and took a variety of pills that kept her in daze.

Over the years, she'd had several part-time jobs that didn’t last long because of her mental condition. The last job she had was a year ago working for a florist but again she got fired for being chronically late or not showing up. She divorced his father when Chester was ten. He was an alcoholic, rarely home and when he was around he went off on tirades, throwing chairs and turning over the kitchen table. The last he heard, his father was in Las Vegas working as a black jack dealer. Chester never even got a birthday card from him and his mother rarely spoke of him and when she did, she’d get upset and start calling him that son of a bitch or something like that.

Chester was chubby, his brown hair was thinning and he had a bald spot in the back of his head. He rarely smiled except when he waited on customers and said, “Have a nice day,” as he handed them their change and a receipt. He’d then sigh and go back to dusting the top of paint cans or counting the screws or doing whatever Norman put on the list for Chester to do.

“Why don’t I have a girl friend,” he’s say to himself while sweeping. “Even Donald Evans has a girlfriend. What’s wrong with me?”

He thought about women a lot, wishing one would smile at him or look at him. He had a crush on Rita, the cashier at Larry’s Bakery where he stopped for a doughnut and coffee before going to work. She always wore tight t-shirts and jeans or a mini skirt and she’d always say, “Hi Chester” and smile but he was too shy to say what he wanted to say which was, “Hey Rita how about you and me having a date?”

He liked looking at her body while she reached for the chocolate covered doughnut he liked or sometimes the blueberry muffin and fantasized making love to her. Often he would go in the bathroom in the back of the store, soapy up his hand and masturbate thinking about Rita. But on this day, he had it and suddenly in a burst of nerve walked out, leaving the dirt in the middle of the floor.

After storming out of the hardware store, Chester walked the three blocks to the Greyhound Bus Station and bought a ticket to New York City. The bus would be leaving in ten minutes so Chester went into the men’s room to relieve himself. He looked in the mirror while he washed his hands and hated the way he looked. “I’m fat,” he muttered, looking at his belly hanging over his wrinkled khaki pants. He moved his face closer and could see the beginnings of wrinkles around his eyes.

His skin was pale and looked worse in the florescent light. He unbuckled his belt and tucked in his long sleeved red and green plaid flannel shirt. He took a deep breath, tightening his stomach muscles so that his belly looked flat. He turned sideways wishing he could always look that trim. He remembered the look of men in the Playboy ads or on CSI, his favorite TV show and on Dancing with the Stars--his mother’s favorite. He let out his breath and saw his stomach bulge forward, rolling slightly over his belt.

Chester had fantasized many times about coming to New York, going into a bar and picking up a chick and having a night of romance and mad, passionate sex like in some of the stories he read in the Playboy magazines he kept under his bed. He imagined a gorgeous blond with a tight slinky dress, looking into his eyes, playing with his hair, her leg touching his leg, her hand on his thigh then whispering in his ear that she’d like to take him home with her. Sometimes the woman had blond hair, sometimes black, sometimes it was Rita, but always they were all over him, looking deep into his eyes.

He’d place two cigarettes in his mouth and light them, handing one to the woman then he’d blow smoke rings at the ceiling and snap his finger at the bartender ask for another bourbon on the rocks and a martini for the lady. There was one Playboy girl of the month named Vanessa that he’d jerk off to and dream about, but Chester at thirty-five was still a virgin. He thought about the prostitutes he’d see in tight hot pants or short mini skirts on State Street when he borrowed his cousin, Walter’s car but chickened out. Anyway, where would he get the fifty bucks he heard they charged for a blow job in an alley?

The bus ride from Bayonne to New York took a little over an hour. This was his third time in New York and he didn’t know his way around. He got off at Port Authority and walked outside into the crowded, noisy street and humid air. Now that he was here, he didn’t know what he was going to do. He couldn’t just walk around all day.

Chester walked down the street. People rushed by him in both directions and he noticed every other person was talking into a cell phone. He saw women carrying shopping bags, a man standing on the curb with a brief case, his hand waving for a cab, people waiting for the bus at the corner, a fat woman pushing a shopping cart with a plastic bag filled with soda cans and plastic water bottles. He noticed her going through a trash receptacle by the curb. It was noisy and everyone seemed pre-occupied as they walked by, not looking at him.

“Why should they look at me?” Chester thought as he weaved in and out of people on the crowded street. “I’m nobody,” he muttered. “I might as well be invisible.” Everyone seemed to know where they were going. “Where should I go now that I’m here?” he asked and continued walking, noticing his chubby shadow on the sidewalk or in one of the department store windows.

Suddenly, he stopped and looked into the window of a men’s clothing store and saw a red vest on the plastic torso of a mannequin. It had three gold buttons and Chester imagined what he would look like in it. He looked up at the sign above the door, “Garfield’s Clothing--for Men of Distinction.” He couldn’t take his eyes off of the red vest and wished he could afford one. “I bet it’s really expensive,” Chester thought, staring at it. He then felt the urge to go into the store and try it on and find out how much it cost. “Why not?” he asked himself, putting his hand on the door handle, glancing back at the red vest then took a deep breath and walked into the store.

Inside, he looked around at a neat pile of colorful sweaters. He walked past a table with white dress shirts and another with wool flannel shirts. He noticed a glass counter with a dark velvet lining and an assortment of cuff links and another display of neck ties with knots as if they were being worn. Along one side was a long rack of suits and in the middle of the floor was a tall mannequin of a man wearing a pin striped blue suit. The mannequin had slick black hair, a sharp chin and red lips painted into a smile. Then he saw the red vest on a hanger towards the rear of the store.

A salesman wearing a blue blazer with a handkerchief in the pocket came up to Chester and asked, “Can I help you, sir?”

“No, thanks, I’m just looking,” Chester responded, noticing the thin neatly trimmed mustache. “Just looking,” he repeated wondering what he would look like with a mustache.

“Well, if you need any help, I’d be glad to help you,” the salesman said, smiling, “I’ll be over there if you need my assistance,” he added, pointing to the counter with a sleek computer register, unlike the large clunky silver plated register he used at the hardware store. “Just ask,” he smiled and walked away.

Chester nodded and walked towards the rear of the store to look at the red vest. He glanced at the price tag and gulped, “Fifty-two ninety five.” He stared at the number, “Holy mackerel--that’s expensive,” he said out loud, glad that no one was around to hear him.

Chester looked at the red vest wanting to put it on. He turned and saw the salesman walking over to a customer then looked back at the vest. He swallowed closing his eyes trying to muster up the nerve then taking a deep breath, took the vest off the hanger, unbuttoning the gold buttons and put the vest on. It was snug and Chester had difficulty with the three gold buttons but took a breath, pulling in his stomach, making it fit perfectly and walked over to the three way mirror. He could see that it clashed with his plaid flannel shirt and strained at the buttons when he let his belly out.

“Man, what a great vest,” he said staring at himself, cocking his head slightly. “It’s not perfect with this shirt but it’s not that bad either,” he said, cocking his head to the other side then turned to face the other direction, admiring how he looked. “I just have to have this vest,” he said, tugging at the bottom and noticing the bald spot on the back of his head reflected in the mirror. “I’m really getting bald,” he muttered, wincing at the sight, realizing he never saw the back of his head.

He looked at the price tag again, knowing he only had thirty-five dollars and didn’t have a credit card, but the more he looked at himself with the red vest, the more convinced he became that he looked handsome. “I look dapper,” he said narrowing his eyes looking into his eyes in the mirror and knew he had to have the vest.

He started to think of a way he could steal it. Chester had never stolen anything in his life and the thought of getting caught terrified him. “I can’t do this. This is crazy,” he said and started to take the vest off but then looking at him self in the mirror, hesitated. “I just know I’ll catch the eye of some chick and she’ll fall in love with me in this vest,” he said to himself, his fingers on one of the gold buttons.

Chester looked towards the front of the store and saw the salesman waiting on an older man wearing a tan trench coat. They were talking and nodding. Just then the salesman lifted up his finger as if to say, “Just a minute” and disappeared into the back room.

“This is my chance,” Chester said, then without hesitation, took a deep breath and rushed towards the front of the store, passing the man in the trench coat, opened the front door and left, wearing the red vest. He quickly ripped off the price tag, wrinkled it up and placed it in his pant pocket and rushed breathlessly down the street, zig-zagging past people, expecting to hear the salesman yelling at him or police sirens wailing, but he kept his head down and walked as fast as he could and didn’t slow down until he had crossed the street and was halfway up the next block.

Chester loved the way the red vest made him feel even though it was a little snug. He felt handsome, classy and bold. He felt women were looking at him as he walked. He could feel them turn to admire him as he walked past, even though they didn’t. He whistled. He put his hands in his pocket. He kicked a Starbucks paper cup that was on the sidewalk. He patted the head of a little boy and smiled at the mother, “Nice lad you have there,” he said. He leap-frogged over a fire hydrant and started to do the same to a parking meter, but changed his mind. “I love this vest,” he said to himself as he walked, somehow feeling transformed.

After crossing another street, he stopped in front of a bar called the Kit-Kat Club. He looked up at the sign then at the solid black door and brass handle. He looked at the small window next to the door with a blinking neon light that said Kit Kat Club. Chester tugged on his vest and decided to go in. It was dark and empty except for two men watching the ball game on a TV over the bar.

He then noticed a woman sitting by herself at the other end of the bar and decided to sit down on the red leather stool three stools away from her. The bartender came up to him and wiped the bar in front of him, “What can I get you?” he asked, glancing at the red vest and plaid flannel shirt then back at Chester.

“Bourbon on the rocks,” Chester said, remembering he hadn’t had bourbon since he went to his friend Eddie Kozinki’s wedding four years ago at the Polish American Club. He noticed the bartender had a small black goatee, a thin mustache, long sideburns and a gold stud in one ear. He had a black vest over his white shirt and a narrow black tie.

Chester glanced over at the woman and she looked up at him then quickly turned away. “She’s not exactly the girl of my dreams,” Chester thought, wondering if he should speak to her or wait for someone more beautiful to come in.

When his drink came, placed on a small square napkin, Chester nodded thanks to the bartender then glanced over at the woman again. She had dry straw-like reddish orange hair that came down to her shoulders and curled up slightly in the back. She wore rouge, heavy mascara, bright red lipstick and had dark bags under her eyes. Her black dress was low cut and even in the dim light he could see her bare shoulders and arms were heavily freckled. She had dangling earrings and a thick gold necklace on her neck. Her tiny black purse was on the bar.

She looked over at Chester then took a sip of her drink. Their eyes met then both looked away. “She’s not that bad,” Chester thought, lifting his glass, watching the ice cubes swirling before taking his first sip, wincing at the harsh taste. He glanced at himself in the mirror on the wall in back of the two rows of bottles watching himself sipping his drink, looking at the red vest, then glanced over at the woman again. She looked back at him, a smile flickering on her very red lips then took a sip of her drink.

Chester cleared his throat and somehow found the nerve to ask, “Mind if I join you?” He was surprised at his boldness but thought, what the hell and brushed some imaginary lint from his red vest.

“Sure. Why not?” she answered flickering another smile, nodding.

“So, you gotta name?” Chester asked as he settled on the stool next to her.

“Wilma,” she said, taking sip of her drink.”

“Wilma, huh,” Chester repeated. “Nice name.” He paused before giving her his name. He looked at her. “Mine’s Charles,” he lied, surprised that he gave her that name. “I’m in New York on business, trying to wrap up a big deal.”

“Oh, I see,” Wilma responded, nodding. “What’s your line of business Charles?” Wilma asked, taking a sip from her drink, looking at him over the rim.

“Real estate, buying and selling, selling and buying, you know what I mean.”

“Sounds important,” Wilma said, nodding. “I mean you must be keeping busy selling houses.”

“I also sell yachts. You know to rich people. So what do you do?”

“Well, I’m between gigs now, but I’m a singer, a jazz singer.”

“Really, wow, a singer. Do you sing in night clubs?”

“Yeah and I’m working on getting a recording deal--a CD. Almost got one but they was crooks.”

“I know what you mean,” Chester said, nodding. “The world is full of them. Crooks, you gotta be careful or you’ll get creamed. But I am always one step ahead,” Chester said, noticing Wilma finishing her drink. “Say, can I buy you another drink or something, Wilma?”

“Yes, that would be very nice of you, Charles,” Wilma said, smiling and looking into Chester’s eyes.

Chester looked up and swirled his finger to the bartender to bring Wilma another drink, pointing to her glass. At the same time he again glanced into the mirror and saw himself and the red vest, ignoring the plaid flannel shirt. “Well, isn’t this something,” he thought, admiring the way he looked in the red vest sitting at the bar with a woman next to him. “Man, this is the life,” he said to himself.

“So, Wilma, what kind of songs do you sing?” Chester asked, lifting his glass to his lips.

“Well, you know, jazz, love songs--Irving Berlin and Cole Porter mostly, stuff like that.”

“Nice,” Chester said. “Yeah, Berlin’s great. Didn’t he write, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game?”

“Maybe,” Wilma said, “Maybe that’s one of his tunes. My favorite is, ‘My Love is Here to Stay’--not sure who wrote it though, but it’s so beautiful and it makes me think how great love is, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do,” Chester said. “I really do know what you mean,” Chester nodded. “Love’s great. So have you ever been in love, Wilma?”

The bartender placed a Bloody Mary in front of Wilma and nodded to Chester, “I’ll keep a tab, okay,” he said as he picked up Wilma’s empty glass.

“Great,” Chester responded, nodding to the bartender. “And don’t worry I’ll take good care of you at the end. I’m a big tipper.”

The bartender nodded in return, glanced at Wilma then went back to the other end of the bar where he was washing glasses.

“So, Wilma, have you ever been in love? What about your love life?” he asked, “any special guy in your life?”

“Nah, not at the moment--no one special,” she laughed, shrugging her freckled shoulders. “I’m free as a bird, so to speak.”

“You, how about you, Charles,” Wilma asked, taking a sip from her Bloody Mary, smacking her lips, “have you ever been in love?”

Chester took a sip of his bourbon and thought a minute. “Yeah, once or twice but you know I’m so busy all the time with my business deals and traveling and all that, so I haven’t found the right one to settle down with. You know what I mean.” He paused and looked at Wilma.

“Yeah I know what you mean,” Wilma answered, nodding. “I do.”

“But I’m a real romantic,” Chester continued. “You know I buy flowers, usually roses and take gals dancin’ and out to dinner, you know, dates, goin’ to fancy places. I like being romantic.” He paused and took another sip of his bourbon, feeling his head spinning from his drink. “I like showin’ a woman a good time.” He paused realizing he was getting drunk. “I really like that, you know, being romantic.”

“You look like a romantic kind of guy,” Wilma said, glancing at his red vest. “You look like you’re a real gentleman, not a bum like a lot of guys these days who only want one thing, you know what I mean.”

“Well, thank you, Wilma and yeah I do know what you mean. I’m not like that at all,” Chester said, clearing his throat, shaking his head, feeling dizzier. “I try to be a real gentleman. I mean I don’t take advantage of women, although I have had many chances, you know, have affairs. But I’m not that kind of guy, you know what I mean. I have too much respect for ladies like you so I never take advantage, even when, you know, they come after me.”

“Well, that’s because you’re a real gentleman. You’re like a knight in shining armor, aren’t you Charles? I mean, you seem like a person with real class.”

“Well, thank you, Wilma. You seem like a lady with real class, too. I can tell because I know about class being in business and all,” Chester said, glancing at himself in the mirror, his eyes a little blurred. “I know real class when I see it.”

He picked up his glass, swirling the ice and took a big sip of his bourbon, finishing it and lifting his glass up to the bartender for another round. He turned to Wilma, “Howz about you, ready for another drink,” he asked, leaning towards her.

“Sure, why not?” she said, nodding, finishing her drink. “Yesh, I think I could go for one more,” she said, trying not to slur her words. “Thank you, Charles.”

Chester pointed to Wilma’s glass so that the bartender would bring her another Bloody Mary along with his second bourbon.

When the drinks came, Chester picked up his glass and raised it, clicking it against Wilma’s glass. “Here’s to you getting a record deal.”

Wilma smiled. “And here’s to you and all your deals,” she said, clicking their glasses then both took big sips of their drinks.

Chester noticed it was getting dark out and wondered where this afternoon would end. “It’s getting dark already, Wilma,” he said, looking towards the small window at the front of the bar. “Time sure goes fast.”

“Yesh it does,” she slurred, “but that’s ‘cause we’re having such a good time getting to know each other,” Wilma said, nodding, holding her glass to her lips.

“You’re right, I’m having a good time gettin’ to know you,” Chester said.

“Thanks,” Wilma said, touching Chester’s hand. “That’s so sweet of you to say.”

Chester looked at her freckled hand on his, the red nail polish. “This is something,” he thought putting his hand on top of hers.

“So where do you live?” Chester asked.

“Not too far. I got an apartment about two blocks from here,” she said. “It’s small but its home.”

“Nice. So you live around here,” Chester responded, nodding. “That’s nice living close by.” He took another sip of his bourbon glancing at himself in the mirror wondering if she would invite him over, imagining being in her apartment and listening to Frank Sinatra and candles and a big brass bed.

Wilma gave Chester’s hand a squeeze. “You’re quite a guy, Charles,” she said, looking into Chester’s eyes.

“And you’re quite a lady, yourself,” Chester said, looking at Wilma, liking how their eyes met.

“So, you got plans for later?” Wilma asked, taking another drink. “You mush be busy or something,” she added and smiled, waving her hand back and forth in front of her face like a fan, “Hey, I’m getting a little woozy.” she added, chuckling.

“Plans,” Chester repeated. “Nothing I can’t cancel,” he answered, looking into Wilma’s eyes.

“That’s good,” Wilma said.

“Why?” Chester asked, bringing his drink to his mouth, tilting his head back, finishing his drink with a gulp then slamming the glass heavily on the bar.

“Well, like I said, I live two blocks from here. Would you like to come over for some coffee? I got some Danish too.”

“Now that shounds good,” Chester said wishing he wouldn’t slur. “I think I’d like that,” he added, feeling this might end up like he hoped, even though Wilma didn’t look like Venessa in his Playboy magazine.

“Let’s get out of here,” Wilma said. “I’ll make us some coffee and we can talk more, you know, get to know each other better.”

“Yeah, I like that idea,” Chester said, standing up, wobbling but managed to put his hand on the stool and faced Wilma. “Let me help you off the shtool,” he slurred, reaching for her hand.

“Well, thank you kind sir,” Wilma said, taking his hand. “You are quite a gentleman,” she said as she slid off the stool and fell against Chester’s chest. “Opps! Sorry about that,” she said, stepping back and smoothing Chester’s red vest. “That’s such a nice vest you have there, Charles.”

“Thanks, Wilma,” he said, as he put his hand in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He threw thirty dollars down next to his glass and saluted the bartender. He realized he only had five dollars left and his ticket back to Bayonne.

As they left the dimly lighted bar, Wilma put her purse under her arm and held onto Chester’s other arm. He glanced at himself in the mirror just as they stepped away from the bar, staggering slightly towards the door. He liked how it felt to have Wilma’s arm around his arm, how she leaned into him.

Chester opened the door for Wilma and noticed it was pouring rain outside. “Uh-oh,” Chester said. “It must have just started raining, probably just a shower.”

“Maybe we should call a cab,” Wilma suggested.

“Nah,” Chester said, knowing he didn’t have enough money for a cab. “A little rain won’t hurt us,” he said, closing the black door and stood under the entrance, looking out at the pouring rain. “Let’s make a run for it.”

“It’s comin’ down pretty hard,” Wilma said, sticking her hand out, feeling the heavy drops.

“Come on, a little rain won’t hurt us,” Chester repeated, wishing he had money for a cab but anxious to get to Wilma’s apartment.

“Okay,” Wilma said. “I guess a little rain won’t hurt us.”

“Come on,” Chester said, stepping out into the rain and started running.

Wilma followed right behind him, running the best she could in her heels then stopped, bending down to take off her high heels, “Hey wait a sec.”

Chester turned as Wilma held up her shoes, “Okay,” she yelled--her hair and dress soaked.

Thunder rumbled over head, the rain rolling down Chester’s face, his wet hair sticking to his forehead. He saw Wilma holding up her shoes, her hair wet, her dress clinging.

“Come on, we can make it,” Chester yelled, noticing people standing in doorways and under awnings looking at the two of them running, stepping around puddles in the pouring rain. “Maybe this was a dumb idea,” he thought seeing how soaked they were. Wilma caught up with him then pointed down the street with her shoe, dangling from her fingers, “This way,” she shouted. “Not much further.”

Puffing heavily, rain drops dripping from the tip of his nose, he nodded and continued running, noticing more people standing under awnings and doorways looking at them--the only ones on the sidewalk dashing, stepping around puddles, drenched.

“Here we are,” Wilma said, pointing to a doorway in between a tattoo parlor and a small market with fruit and vegetables in the window. Chester noticed a tiny oriental man looking at them out the window behind the words Korean Market written in red letters.

Wilma shifted her two shoes from one hand to the other, opening the front door just as it stopped raining. “Looks like it’s stopping,” she said as they entered the building. They stood in the entranceway, under the glare of a light bulb above their heads, both of them soaked, dripping water and creating a puddle on the dirty tiled floor.

“I’m freezing but here we are,” Wilma said, her orange hair hanging like wet pasta coming out of a pasta maker.

“Yeah, we made it,” Chester said, looking down at his drenched red vest and khaki’s now brown from the wetness, his hair sticking to his forehead. “Nothing like an adventure,” he said, looking at Wilma, holding her wet shoes, her soaked dress, clinging to her, dark mascara dripping down her smeared rouged cheeks.

“Right,” Wilma responded, “but look at us, we’re soaked. She reached to touch his wet vest, “Lets get upstairs and dry off,” she said, opening another door. She glanced at the row of mailboxes on the wall. “I’ll get my mail later.”

Wilma took out a key from her small wet pocket book and opened the other door. Chester followed. “I’m on the second floor, just follow me,” she said, holding her wet shoes and walking barefooted up the steps, the seam of her nylons crooked. Chester noticed how the black dress clung to her ass as she climbed the stairs.

“This is great,” Chester said to himself excited to be going to a woman’s apartment in New York. “This is a dream come true,” he thought, following her down the hall to her apartment. “This is so romantic,” he thought watching her opening the door, ignoring how wet they were, glancing at his soaked red vest, her black dress tight against her breasts, the smudged dark lines around her eyes, the mascara staining her rouged cheeks.

“I’ll get you a towel,” Wilma said, closing the door then rushed down a narrow hall to the bathroom.

“Thanks, guess we gotta little wet out there,” Chester said, his hair matted to his forehead just above his eyes. He stood in front of the closed door, looking around the tiny apartment, noticing a small white Formica table with three wooden chairs covered with red plastic seats. The table sat between two windows, one with an exhaust fan in it, the other with its shades down to the sill, a small couch with a green wooly cover draped over it, a black and white checkered recliner chair in the corner faced a TV, a small kitchen with a counter dividing it from the living room, a bookshelf on one wall with lots of seashells and small plaster animals--a rabbit, a dog, two ducks with tiny ducklings following. He walked over to a photograph on the wall of a little girl standing between a tall man wearing a fedora hat and a short woman. “I wonder if that’s her with her parents,” Chester thought, moving his face closer.

Just then, Wilma came in wearing a pale green robe and pink fluffy slippers with little bows, drying her hair with maroon towel, handing another grey towel to Chester. “Here Charles, dry yourself off, I might have another robe and you can get out of your wet clothes. Don’t want you catching cold, you know.”

“Thanks, Wilma. I am kind of wet,” Chester said, pulling his wet vest away from his wet flannel shirt.

“I’ll put up some hot water for coffee then see if I can find that other robe,” she said, wrapping the towel around her wet hair as if she had just come out of the shower, her green robe loosely tied, the pink slippers flopping as she walked into the small kitchen. “Then we can make ourselves comfortable, howz that sound,” she said, turning on the flame under the tea pot.

“Sounds good,” Chester said. “Hey, nice place you got here.”

“Its home, been here two years now but once I get a record deal, I’ll get a better place--this will do for now, though.”

“I got a pretty big place in the country,” Chester said. “I used to live up on Riverside Drive but the neighborhood’s gone down hill so I got out while the getting was good. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do know what you mean. It’s getting pretty bad around here,” Wilma said coming out of the kitchen. “Now let me see if I can find you a robe or something.”

“Take your time, Wilma. I won’t shrink,” Chester said, chuckling at his joke, watching her go down the narrow hall to a room across from the bathroom.

“Good, we wouldn’t want you to shrink would we?” she shouted back at him. “Stay right there and I’ll see if I can find that other robe I’m pretty sure I still have. Be back in a sec.”

“I bet that’s her bedroom,” Chester thought, wondering if they would eventually end up in her bed.

Chester unbuttoned the wet red vest, taking it off, feeling it clinging to his wet flannel shirt then dangling it from one finger, looking at it hanging limply, glancing at the gold buttons then draped it over the back of one of the chairs as if it was a shoulder. He then bent down to untie his wet laces and took off his soaked sneakers and wet white socks, then standing up unbuttoned his flannel shirt, pulling it out of his pants just as Wilma came back carrying a white terry clothed robe over her arm, the maroon towel around her head looking like a turban.

“Look what I found--hope it fits. My sister, Jeannie left it here,” she smiled, holding the robe and handed it to Chester. “Take the rest of your wet clothes off and put this on and we’ll have some coffee and get nice and comfy.”

“Great,” Chester said, reaching for the robe then putting it down on the couch while he took off the wet flannel shirt revealing his white undershirt before slipping on the robe, realizing it was too small, straining at his shoulders, the sleeves high above his wrists and above his knees. “It’s a little small but it’ll do,” Chester said, looking at Wilma then down at the robe, holding his arms straight out, the robe sliding higher on his arm.

“Sorry,” Wilma said, nodding, “Well at least you’re getting out of the wet clothes.”

After tying the belt in a loose bow over his belly, Chester turned his back to Wilma, pulling down the zipper of his wet khaki pants, lifting one foot, wobbling, trying to hold his balance while he pulled down the other leg then dropped his soaked pants to the floor next to his sneakers, his wet white socks looking like two dead fish washed ashore. Standing barefooted, he turned to face Wilma, the robe just above his knees and hairy calves, realizing he was naked underneath except for his white jockey shorts.

“Thanks for the robe, Wilma,” Chester said looking at her standing in her green robe, pink slippers and maroon towel covering her hair.

“Hey, that robe doesn’t look too bad on you Charles, a little small maybe,” she said, looking him up and down, noticing his bare feet and thin hairy legs. She tightened the loose belt on her robe then went into the kitchen just as the tea pot whistled. “Sorry, all I got is instant,” she said.

“That’s okay. No problem, Wilma. I like instant coffee,” he said, picking up his wet pants from the floor.

She poured the hot water into two mugs, added the instant coffee and stirred. “You want milk with your coffee,” she called from the kitchen area.

“Yeah milk and some sugar.”

“Hey Charles…mind if I call you Charlie,” she asked, pouring the milk.

“Sure, lots of my friends call me Charlie. Charlie’s okay.”

“Come on and take a seat Charlie and I’ll bring us some doughnuts,” she said. “I know I said Danish but this is all I have.”

“No problem, Wilma. I like doughnuts,” he said, sitting down on the red plastic seat. “I often treat my secretaries to doughnuts when we’re working on a real estate deal or something like that.”

“I bet you’re a good boss,” Wilma said, carrying two coffee mugs and balancing a small blue dish with two doughnuts on one of them. “Bet you didn’t know I used to be a waitress, did you?”

“Wow! A waitress, really,” Chester responded, nodding.

“Yeah, in a diner--did it for years before I started singing in night clubs.” She put the coffee mug in front of him. “Here you are, sir--that’s what I’d always say when I was a waitress…sir.” She sat down at the table, crossing her legs, the robe opening slightly revealing her thigh. “Bet you’re a good boss,” she repeated, looking at him.

“I try to be. I want all of my employees to be loyal so I treat them good, you know what I mean,” Chester said, glancing at Wilma’s thigh as the robe opened.

“Yeah, I do,” she said, kicking her crossed leg back forth, the pink slipper touching Chester’s leg. “You look like a good boss. I like a man who takes charge,” she said looking playfully into Chester’s eyes over the rim of her coffee mug.

The touch of her slipper on his leg, the way she smiled, looking at him over her mug, excited Chester. “I think she’s flirting with me,” he thought, the words, “I like a man who takes charge,” reverberating.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve had a man in my apartment,” she said.

“Really,” Chester said, nodding, sipping his coffee.

“Well then thanks for inviting me, this is a nice little apartment.”

“Have a doughnut,” she said, sliding the plate towards him, leaning forward, the loose robe falling open, revealing part of one breast.

Chester swallowed, staring at her breast then at her brown eyes looking into his, knowing where he was looking.

“Thanks, Wilma.”

“This is nice, Charlie,” she said, leaning back in her chair, her crossed legs moving back and forth, the robe higher on her thigh. “It’s really nice having a handsome man like you in my apartment.”

“I like being here,” he said, trying not to look at her thigh, but feeling an erection growing in his jockey shorts.

“Here we are just wearing robes,” she said. “I guess it was good we both got so wet.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Chester said, looking away then back at her thigh. “We sure got wet, didn’t we?”

“Do you think it was fate that we met and here we are with no clothes on except our robes?”

“I do, who would have known we would get caught in the rain like that and have to take off our clothes and put on these robes,” Chester answered nodding at Wilma, then glancing over at his wet red vest draped over the other chair, enjoying how Wilma was talking to him.

“It’s kind of sexy just being in these robes,” she said, touching his leg with her slipper.

“Yeah, it is--sexy and romantic.” Chester said, suddenly feeling his hard erection bulging in his jockey shorts.

“Say I have an idea,” Wilma said, smiling, “a real good idea.”

“What?” Chester asked feeling his arousal, remembering Venessa in his Playboy magazine and how he jerked off looking at her picture. Suddenly, a bolt of panic shot through him as he remembered he was a virgin then asked, “What’s your idea?”

“Let’s put on some music--I got Frank and a nice Mel Torme CD. We can dance and wouldn’t that be romantic. Isn’t that a good idea?”

“Yeah, that does sound romantic,” Chester answered, realizing the last time he danced with a woman was at his friend, Eddie’s wedding and that was with Mrs. Kozinski, Eddie’s mother. “Yes, let’s finish up our coffee and put on that Sinatra record you have. Did you know he was from Hoboken--not far from where I used to live in Bayonne.”

“Yeah, I think I knew that. Well, I’ll put some Frank on,” she said, getting up, touching his shoulder as she walked past him to the black plastic radio and CD player, her touching his shoulder and brushing his neck with her fingers sent a jolt through him. He took a quick sip of his coffee, watching her walk, her slippers flopping, noticing the slight swaying of her hips in the green robe then the roundness of her ass when she bent down to get the CD from a lower shelf. “Man, she’s sexy,” he muttered to himself, his hard erection straining his jockey shorts.

She put on the CD, pressed the button then flicked off the light switch, darkening the room, the only light coming from the florescent light in the kitchen. “Come on Charlie, let’s dance to Frank,” she said, looking into Chester’s eyes, walking slowly towards him, smiling, her hands held out in front of her reaching for him.

Chester stood up and walked towards Wilma, reaching for her, the terry clothed robe tugging at his shoulders, the sleeves above his wrists, the violins from the music filling the room and Chester trying to hide his erection and awkwardness as he walked barefooted towards her, the robe above his knees and hairy thin legs.

When she put his arms around him, pulling him closer, he put his arms around her, unable to hide the hard erection in his jockey shorts or not hear the soft moan she made when she felt it on her stomach.

“I love this song,” Wilma whispered in his ear as they started swaying in the middle of the living room to Frank Sinatra singing, “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

Chester could not believe he was dancing in a woman’s apartment to Frank Sinatra and wondered if she had a brass bed like in his fantasy. He swayed with her, moving his bare feet next to her pink slippers, feeling her breasts pressed against his chest and his erection throbbing against her body.

“Mmmmmm,” Wilma moaned, feeling his erection and his arms around her. “This is nice, Charlie. You feel so good and you’re such a good dancer.” She then moved her hand down to his ass pulling him against her.

“I think we’re going to have sex,” Chester thought, liking how she was holding his ass, feeling his lust growing like it did when he looked at his magazines, but suddenly growing nervous, wondering what to do with a real woman, trying not to panic.

As they danced, moving slowly around the room, Wilma’s cheek against his, Chester glanced up at the clock in the kitchen, noticing it was nine-fifteen and suddenly remembered the last bus back to Bayonne left at ten-thirty. He suddenly remembered his mother probably wondering where he was. He always came home by six for dinner. He then saw the wet red vest draped over the back of the chair, his wet khakis draped on another chair, realizing his clothes were far from drying.

Wilma was humming into Chester’s ear, her hands on his ass as they swayed in each others arms, taking tiny steps, her hands on his ass encouraging him to lower his hand to her ass--which he did, feeling the soft roundness through her robe, his erection rubbing against her body, his arousal becoming more intense, not sure what to do about it then suddenly surprising himself, he took her hands off his ass and lifted her hand over her head, took her finger in his and stepping back, twirled her slowly in a small circle, smiling at her, remembering seeing someone do that in a movie.

“Oh Charlie,” she said, smiling, “You’re such a good dancer.”

“Thanks, Wilma, so are you,” he said, pulling her back into his arms.

Frank had stopped singing and it was just the violins playing, the lush sound filling the darkened room. Wilma put her arms around Chester’s neck, grasping her hands, pulling him closer, looking into his eyes. He did the same, following her lead then slowly lowered his hands back to her ass as they continued swaying to the music, the tight robe straining on his shoulders. Then Frank started singing again and Wilma sang into Chester’s ear, “I’m in the mood for love, simply because you’re near me.

“You have such a nice voice, Wilma,” Chester said, unable to believe this was him, dancing with a woman singing in his ear, violins playing, Sinatra’s voice, Wilma’s words, her body rubbing against his erection, getting him more and more aroused.

“I feel your bad boy,” she whispered, moving her hand from his neck to his ass rubbing harder against his erection. “Such a big bad boy,” she whispered, the breath of her words in his ear made him tingle.

Her rubbing against his erection made him squeeze her ass and rub against her harder then suddenly, Wilma cupped the back of his head and kissed him hard on the lips and instinctively he did the same, their lips pressing harder, getting fierce forcing their lips against their teeth, hurting. They continued kissing, holding each other even after the music stopped. Wilma moved her hands inside Chester’s robe, grabbing his ass through the jockey shorts, while he did the same, following her lead, grabbing her bare ass, suddenly realizing she was not wearing panties.

Her tongue opened Chester’s mouth and he did the same thing, learning from her what to do, his tongue swirling with hers, their kissing turning into madness.

Suddenly, she pulled her mouth away, gasping for air and he did the same. She then took his hand and pulled him down the hall to her bedroom and he could see Wilma taking charge, turning into a wild, wanton woman.

“She may not be beautiful,” Chester thought, “but who cares.” They went into the darkened bedroom, the only light coming from the hall and he saw the bed, the brown headboard, “So what if its not brass,” he thought as she threw open her robe and pulled him down on top of her, wrapping her legs around his back, her arms holding him to her body, kissing him and lifting her ass off the bed thrusting against his throbbing erection while he did the same, humping her as hard as he could, his bulge bursting to break out of his jockey shorts.

“Give it to me,” Wilma yelled. “I want that bad boy!”

Realizing how much more experience Wilma had, he humped her while she grabbed the elastic band of his jockey shorts and pulled them down over his ass. He liked that she was leading the way, taking charge, going after what she wanted then he took over, pulling and wiggling out of his jockey shorts, pulling them down his legs and over his feet then tossed them across the room. He then got up on his knees, taking off his robe and tossing it on the floor, his big erection standing straight out over her. He looked down at her, seeing the dull red bush between her legs, her eyes looking at his hard erection and the excitement shooting through him when she yelled, “Take me!”

Suddenly he lunged forward, stunned and excited by her demand, forgetting about the last bus and his mother as she grabbed his throbbing penis, squeezing it and started rubbing her pussy with it, moving it up and down, “Ohhhhhmygod, ohhhhhhmygod, I want you!” she screamed, lifting her hips off the bed.

No one had ever touched his penis before or talked to Chester like this and he was quickly out of his mind, not caring about anything other than this hot body under him, the hand gripping his throbbing cock, rubbing the head against her soft wet pussy lips, the excruciating sensation bringing him closer to exploding, trying desperately to hold back and not climax too soon.

Suddenly, he reared back and thrust as hard as he could, entering her, feeling the tightness gripping him, her screaming inspiring him to thrust harder and faster.

“Give it to me,” she yelled lifting her ass off the bed.

Thrusting harder and faster, grunting, feeling his body tensing, he suddenly exploded, just as she screamed, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Take me!”

But it was too late. He shot his load into her with three thrusts, shouting “AHHHHHHH!” in ecstasy as he climaxed and suddenly collapsed on her, feeling her body under him, panting, gasping, holding him to her, his limp penis still in her.

Neither of them spoke, breathing heavily but he knew he had climaxed before she did and could feel her wiggling under him, wanting him to do more, feeling her pussy gripping his soft penis then releasing it. She tightened her legs around his waist trapping his deflated penis against her pussy. He could feel her frustration but didn’t know what to do.

“Sorry,” he whispered, wishing he could have lasted longer.

“It’s okay. You were wonderful,” she said, rubbing his back as she held him in her, squirming under him.

He then rolled off of her onto his back, laying his head on the pillow. She turned and placed her head on his shoulder, half of her body on his chest, one leg over his soft penis, her breasts pressing against him.

“Well, here we are Charlie,” she whispered in his ear then kissed his cheek.

“Right,” Chester said, swallowing, not sure what to say or do.

“This is so romantic,” she whispered.

“Very romantic,” Chester repeated, remembering scenes from movies where two lovers lay in bed, sharing a cigarette. “This is very nice,” he said, “just like in the movies.”

“You’re right,” Wilma said, “It is. You got me so hot. You’re such a good lover.”

“Thank you,” Chester said, sensing she was frustrated. “I always try to be.”

He felt her hair just below his mouth and he kissed her head, smelling her hair.

“Nice smell. Your hair smells good.”

“Oh, my shampoo, it’s just Head and Shoulders, nothing special.”

“Well, it smells nice.”

So Charlie, are you glad fate brought us together?”

“Yes. Good old Destiny,” he responded, amazed that he was in bed with a woman.

“I agree.”

“It’s getting late. I wonder if my clothes are dry. I’ve got a ten-thirty appointment.”

“Oh, ten thirty, an appointment, really,” she said.

“Can’t miss it,” Chester said.

“It’s just about ten, now,” Wilma said, glancing at the red numbers on the digital clock. “Oh Charlie, you’ll never make it, your clothes ain’t going to be dry yet.”

Chester lay back on the pillow thinking about his dilemma. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t stay here even though I really want to but I don’t have any money and mom is all alone probably worried sick and here I am in bed with Wilma.”

Wilma played with the hair on Chester’s chest.

“This is nice being in bed with her,” Charles thought, “but I really gotta get going or I’ll miss the bus.”

“Too bad you have to leave,” Wilma said, rubbing his chest, kissing his shoulder.

“Okay, I have to get going,” Chester suddenly said, bucking and lifting Wilma. “I have to go.”

Wilma slid off of Chester, looking up at him. “Oh don’t go, Charlie.”

Chester leaped out of bed, shoving Wilma aside and ran down the hall into the other room and over to the chair where his clothes were drying. Wilma came after him, wrapping herself in her green robe as she ran.

Chester remembered he had left his jockey shorts in the bedroom, “What the hell,” he muttered as he put on his wet khakis. He put his hands in the pockets and for some reason pulled out the insides of the pockets, feeling how wet they were and the price tag from the vest fell on to the floor.

“Oh you dropped something,” Wilma said and dropped down on her knees to pick it up. She glanced at the small ticket in her hand and saw $52.95 and handed it to Chester. “Here, Charlie, it looks like a price tag or something.”

“Oh right. Thanks,” Chester said, taking the ticket and putting it back into the wet pocket, tucking it in.

He put on the wet plaid flannel shirt then bent down to put on his soaked socks and sneakers.

“You can’t go out in those wet clothes, Charlie,” Wilma said getting up on her feet. “You’ll catch your death,”

“I can’t miss this ten thirty appointment, Wilma,” Chester said tying the wet laces then standing up. It’s really an important meeting.”

“Oh, Charlie, stay! Don’t go.”

Slipping on the wet red vest, sucking in his belly, trying to button the three gold buttons. “Sorry I have to run,” Chester said, moving towards the door, his hair a mess.

“You can’t go to an important meeting wearing wet clothes.”

“I know but I have to,” Chester said with his hand on the door knob. “It’s really a meeting I can’t miss.”

“Charles, you look ridiculous!”

Chester looked back at Wilma, her words in his ears, feeling the wetness of his khakis, his flannel shirt heavy on his arm as he lifted it to wave. “I’ll be back, Wilma.” Chester yelled, “I’ll be back,” he shouted again waving back at her as he ran down the hall to the stairs. “I’ll be back. I promise!” he shouted louder as he dashed down the stairs to the street, wondering if he would make the bus back to Bayonne.

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