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The Maintenance Man

She's way out of his league, or, is he?
 Love understood as the desire of good for another is in fact so unnatural a phenomenon that it can scarcely repeat itself, the soul being unable to become virgin again and not having energy enough to cast itself out again into the ocean of another's soul. (James Joyce)

My name is Charlie Flowers, and yes I was teased about it a lot in high school. Until I met my wife to be, more about her a little later, I had never considered it, but I think my name may have had something to do with the way I turned out psychologically and emotionally, even socially. If you remember that old Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue” you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about.

I never went to college, never learned how to drive a car let alone owned one, never played football in high school, never gave my slightly less than five inch dick a second thought, and never worried much about what other people thought or said about me. I was and remain my own person; Jack Kerouac could have written a book about me. I was a physical clone of my dad: five-seven, 148 pounds, unruly brown hair, a fast smile, and a steel hard body.

We never had much money, but dad made sure there was always food on the table, clothes on our backs, new shoes every Christmas, and a loving home.

Dad worked for Ardmore Building Materials: rock, sand, hollow block et cetera. He always worked hard, too hard as it turned out; he died of a heart attack brought on by overwork at the age of forty-three. His death made life hard for mom and me. There was some insurance from the company he worked for, but mom did have to get a job. One upshot of his death was my mom's determination to see to it that I didn't die young like my dad did. There would be no second generation working for ABM.

In high school I dated some, I was fairly good looking. Got serious with Betty Biggler—and she sure was. But upon graduation I had to get a job, and they were scarce at the time. My mom helped out there though. The building she worked in as a receptionist had openings on its maintenance crew. I was hired three weeks after graduating; my nineteenth birthday was only a week away.

Being on the crew was rewarding for me. Jack Spires, the crew boss, knew everything there was to know about keeping a high rise office building operating at maximum efficiency. Our job, as one of the four full time maintenance crews, was to keep our floors of the building clean and running smoothly, and, as unobtrusively as possible. I was a quick study and learned as much as I could from Jack and that was a lot: carpentry, electrics, welding, plumbing, and yes how to swing a mop and make the building's bathrooms shine. Oh, there were other floor crews, mostly women, who took care of the office cleaning and the like; but none of them handled electrics, plumbing, carpentry and stuff like that; that was our job.

I may not have gone to college, but I sure as hell twernt no ignoramus. My lineage may have been one hundred percent blue collar, but I saw that as a plus.

My interests outside of work included girls, reading, music, and Okinawan martial arts. I learned the latter from a neighbor who took pleasure in teaching a few of us neighborhood boys what he knew, and it was a helluva lot. My love of good books and classical music came from my mom. My success with girls was a direct hand-me-down from my dad; he got hit on more than my mom did, and she was a mighty nice lookin' lady for damn sure.

After my thirteenth year on the job at the Hobbes building Jack retired, and I took over as crew chief. I was thirty-one and making forty grand annual; times were good.

******

I was sitting in the fifth row at the Cultural Center behind a bunch of men dressed like undertakers most of whom were escorting women too young for them. I didn't own a tux, but I was wearing my best dockers, long sleeved white shirt and tie, and my corduroy sports coat. I looked pretty good, I thought, but I did stand out.

It wasn't so much that I noticed her; it was more that she noticed me. Like I said, I kinda stood out dressed as I was. It was intermission as I recall now, and I had just gotten a cup of joe from the refreshment table in the foyer. I had stepped out onto the adjacent patio and was sipping it when she came up to me. She had laughing eyes that were absolutely captivating. Her dark, two-inches above the knee evening dress had to have been created to go with her hair and complexion. She was gorgeous.

"Hi, my name's Marylou, Marylou Keynes," she said extending her hand. I took it.

"Mine's Charlie," I said. Suddenly I was FFT: flustered, flattered, and turgid. This was a very high tone gal, I thought to myself, way out of my league economically and sure as hell socially. Hell even I could see her dress was worth more than all of the furniture in my living room—including my new sound system.

"You enjoy opera?" she said.

"It's not opera," I said. "It's a concert featuring operatic arias sung by some pretty good performers. I love the music, but not so much the operas per se."

"You know a lot about this kind of music?" she said.

"A little. I was raised on it. My mom liked it," I said. "I guess I got my taste for it from her."

"Your mom? What's she do?" said Marylou.

"She died last year," I said.

"Oh, I'm sorry, really." I nodded and shrugged. "Can I ask? What do you do for a living?" she said.

"I'm a crew chief at the Hobbes building downtown," I said.

"Sounds impressive. What kind of crew?"

"Janitorial," I said.

"Yeah right," she laughed.

I just smiled. I was used to it.

"What do you do?" I said.

"I'm a lawyer. As it happens, our firm's offices are in the Hobbes Building too: Hartfield and Lomb, H&L. How weird is that," she said.

That stopped me. This gorgeous gal worked where I worked.

We talked for the fifteen minutes of intermission, and she challenged me to call her. She handed me her business card after pulling a pen from her purse and writing her home number on the back. I'd never call her of course; it was clear that we traveled in totally different circles and " . . . never the twain shall meet," as Kipling had said. Or, a least that is what I thought at the time. I was wrong and wrong on a lot of levels.

******

Brody and I had just finished scrubbing down the woman's head on the fourteenth floor. I was just collecting the yellow caution standard when she walked by on her way to an underwriter's office on that floor. My back was to her. I was yelling at Brody to get his freakin' butt moving when I heard a female voice call my name. "Charlie?" said a very soft female voice.

I turned and Brody was standing there staring at the woman as though mesmerized. She was wearing a tan power suit and a beautiful necklace of what had to be real pearls. Her three inch heels were oh so damn feminine.

"Marylou," I said. "Surprise, surprise." I smiled at her obvious discomfort.

"You—you really are a janitor," she said quietly, as though still not quite believing it.

"You betcha," I said, still smiling, "and proud of it."

"Of course—I mean—well, of course." She offered me her hand and I took it. We shook. "You haven't called me."

I started to laugh. "Now, what would your big shot friends on the 20th say if you went out with a lowly janitor," I said.

"Wha—I—"

"Exactly," I said. "Marylou, you are one hot female, but it wouldn't work. Just let it be."

She looked pensive. "Charlie, call me. I want to go out with you."

"You wanna go out with me. A charity date maybe? Be kind to riffraff week maybe? Brody, did you get the memo? Is it be kind to the riffraff week do you know?" I said.

She looked as if she was about to cry. "Charlie, I admit, I did think that way about you when I saw you in here cleaning, but, I'm really not like that. Call me, I mean it," she said. "Or—or—or I'll sue you."

"Okay, don't cry for chrissakes. You wanna go out. I will meet you out in front of this building at 5:30 tomorrow evening. You get off at five right?" I said. "If you don't show don't sweat it; I'll understand."

"Okay. But, why don't you pick me up at my place?"

"I don't drive. And I don't wanna know where you live, not yet. Or you where I live. Here in front of the building at 5:30. That'll give you a chance to freshen up in those fancy quarters you've got up there. Oh, by the way, jeans, heels, and a shirt or blouse or something—bra optional," I said grinning broadly.

Her eyes bulged at my boldness. "Where are we going?" she asked.

"You'll see; it'll be fun. That much I can promise you," I said.

******

She was on time. In fact she was there before I was. She looked around thinking I might have stood her up. I had seen her when I came down the stairs of the mezzanine. She heard my hello from behind her. She turned. "Hi," she said.

"You look good," I said.

"You're still in your working clothes."

"I'm gonna change shirts and clean up when we get there," I said. "I go there a lot, I got clothes there. It ain't fancy dancy, but it's convenient for me. You know, a lot of cowboys and blue collar types just getting off shift. Like I say, it ain't the Ritz, but it's loud and fun."

"Whatever," she said, not knowing what else she could say. A taxi pulled up to the curb.

"I called it," I said. "It's too far to walk."

She shrugged. On the ride over I could see she was thinking. This had to be a first for her. I had the feeling she'd never even met anybody from the working class before let alone dated any such.

"Feel okay?" I asked.

"Truthfully, a little strange. I hope you’ll cut me some slack tonight," she said.

"More like I will work with you to cut a rug," I said laughing. She laughed too, banishing her nerves, I hoped.

We arrived at the Dirty Dozen at around 6:15. The DD was a sawdust joint catering to country western wannabes. The dancing had already started, and I pulled her out into the line dance even before we found a table or ordered drinks. I was still in my work clothes, but the song was mine, I'd change and clean up when it was over. She was a little messed up at first with the footwork, but she was soon into it.

The dance ended and everybody yahoo'd and returned to their tables while a slow dance was played for the romantically inclined. I led her over to a table near the back. I wanted to be able to talk to her, and that would have been impossible near the bandstand.

I sat her down, and before I settled in, I signaled to Lorilei, my favorite supplier of yellow pepsi, to bring a pitcher while I ran into the back room to make myself presentable. I returned in minutes: I think it was a record in terms of time elapsed.

'You did good out there," I said, returning to the table. "You looked like a good 'ole country girl."

"Not really, 'fraid I'm a city girl," she said. "But this is nice. Glad you brought me."

"Well, I'm glad you're glad."

The rest of the evening we danced and hoorah'd with the crowd and then it was time to go home.

I walked her to her door; I now knew where she lived, and she didn't wait for me to initiate things. She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a serious kiss. I returned it.

"Wow!" I said, "and on our first date too."

"Just wanted to make sure you'd ask me out again, mister. I really did enjoy myself," she said.

"Next Friday night?" I said. "Pick up at the Hobbes same as tonight."

"You got it. Can I choose the place?" she said.

"Seems fair to me," I said.

"Good, seven o'clock," she said. I nodded. She disengaged herself. "Oh, and I'll drive next time. Okay?"

"Okay, if it will make you happy," I said. She smiled and blew me a kiss goodbye.

The next several days was work, work, work same as always. Marylou had gotten under my skin. But, I hadn't seen or heard from her at all since our previous date. But, on Thursday, the day before our next date, that changed.

Brody and I were again cleaning the heads on the fourteenth when I heard a familiar female giggle. I saw Marylou with a man in a small alcove a little ways down the corridor. A potted plant outside of the men's room we'd just cleaned hid me from view pretty completely. Brody was still inside the washroom reloading our cart and dumping the mop bucket before joining me to do the women's restroom.

"So you stood me up to go out with a janitor? Is that what you're telling me, Marylou?" The man was tall, maybe six-five. Hell he was almost a foot taller than me. The suit he was wearing was expensive, probably some big shot lawyer, I thought. The suit made it hard to gauge his weight, but he was definitely a super heavyweight.

"Yeah, and so what! You don't own me Brad. He made me laugh. He might not be much, but he was interesting: a change of pace, if you know what I mean."

"Did you fuck him? That would piss me off," said Brad.

"No. I felt his cock through his pants a few times though. He's just a little guy when it comes to his equipment. Still, I might try him out just to see what it's like," she said. "But, don't sweat it, big boy, you still have first dibs."

They laughed and moved off toward the elevators at the other end.

As they waited for the elevator to arrive, I heard Brad make one more comment. "A fucking janitor for chryssakes! Stood up for a fucking nothing janitor!" They both laughed. She took his arm and let him lead her into the elevator that would rocket them to the 20th.

Brody finally showed up with the cart. "Okay, lets' do the other one," he said.

"Yeah, let's get it done," I said, as he pushed the cart toward the little girl's room.

I had a lot to think about. I wondered, having heard what I'd heard, if she'd even show up for our date the next day. But then, I decided that I wasn't going to go out with her anyway. I could give a rat's ass what people thought of me. But, a guy likes to date girls that at least respect him, and she clearly didn't respect me. She was just slumming. I wasn't in to being a slum. Still, I was curious to see if she'd show up. I figured out what I would do and how I would handle the situation.

******

She was a few minutes late. She pulled up in her Mercedes and motioned me to come on and get in. I just stood there. She wrinkled her brow and looked me askance. I just remained still and waited to see what she would do. She turned off the engine, got out and walked around to me as I leaned against the building. She was clearly confused.

"Do you want me to help you to the car and hold the door for you?" she said, sounding a little miffed.

At first I didn't say anything. Then she started to flush, I could see she was getting angry.

"I decided not to go," I said.

"What! Why?" she said.

"Well, I might not be much, and my little guy ain't exactly a cruise missile; but I ain't into being somebody's change of pace."

"Huh? What are you talking about," she said, raising her voice.

"Oh, I suppose I should be flattered that you stood up Brad to date a janitor; but frankly I require at least a little respect from the girls I date. No matter what Brad thinks, or you either, I ain't no joke lady. Anyway, I ain't goin'. Call him, the night's still young. You can both have a real good laugh tellin' your highbrow friends all about it," I said.

Her face paled. Clearly her memory was kicking in. "Oh my God!"

I turned and walked off. I felt pretty good. It was only later that I began to feel—well, not good. I had no reason to feel bad; I knew that. I hadn't done anything wrong, and it made no sense for me to be down. But—the woman—she wasn't just a woman, she could have been "the" woman. Ah hell, it made no sense any of it!

******

The next few days were hard on me, and Brody and the boys on the crew noticed it.

"Okay, sport," said Brody, "what's goin' on? You're clearly out of it, and it's affecting our work," he said.

"Nothing, I can't handle," I said. "I'm just not feelin' too good."

"Yeah, I get it. You're not feelin' too good. Women'll do that to a man," he said.

"Shut the hell up, Brody. I'll handle it my way, okay?" I said.

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Charlie, I asked around. Yeah, I know it's none of my business, but I asked around anyway. That broad sleeps around. And I mean with almost anybody. If it's got a cock attached to it, she's probably tried it."

Brody backed off and held up his hands in mock defense when he saw my look.. Oh, I knew he probably was right, but hell, I weren't exactly no virgin either. So what if she got her rocks off with a variety of men. I really didn't give a damn, at least not at that moment.

It was later that day that I got a call to come to the boss's office in the basement. I knew we were scheduled to get some new equipment, and we sure needed it. I figured the boss wanted to see me about that. I was wrong.

I looked at my watch, 3:00. I was on time. I went in. The boss's chair was turned backwards facing the wall. When I coughed, he swung around to face me. But Cass Walters had changed. He was now a beautiful woman!

"Ms. Keynes," I said, somewhat flustered.

"Ms. Keynes? We've kissed, Charlie. You can call me Marylou."

"I was called down here to talk to Mr. Walters," I said. "But, it looks like I was set up. I was wasn't I?"

"'Fraid so, Charlie. I had to speak with you, but I know you wouldn't have come up to the office or to my apartment; so I asked Cass, Mr. Walters, to help me out."

"You know Cass?" I said.

"Oh yes, Charlie. He and my father were in the army together, Vietnam actually. Our two families have been friends forever," she said.

"Charlie," she began, "obviously you overheard me and Brad Carlson in the corridor last week. I can't tell you how bad I feel about the things we—I—said. They were inexcusable. Horrid actually. I can't believe that I was such an asshole. Brad on the other hand is a professional asshole."

I couldn't help laughing at her way of expressing herself.

She looked down, a serious expression painting her face. "I am here to beg you to forgive me for what I said. I have no excuse. I have felt so bad since that afternoon that I haven't been able to work effectively. I really like you Charlie. If you are good enough to do that, to forgive me, I promise to make it up to you."

I looked at her. Hell, I thought, she's a human being; she makes mistakes too. I could list more than a few of my own for damn sure. My problem was that I knew that I really wasn't in her league. If I did go out with her again, sooner or later, as sure as the sun rose in the east, we'd come up against that stone wall of class-ism that I saw exhibited in the corridor that day. Even if it wasn't expressed outwardly the whispers would be there, about that there was no goddamn doubt.

What I couldn't figure out was why she had picked me, why she wanted to fool around with me in the first place. For sure I was not into assuaging her guilt only to be dumped, gently of course, somewhere down the line once she realized that it wasn't going to work.

"Marylou, I do forgive you. I've done and said stuff I wish I hadn't too. But, it's more than that. One, I don't have all that big an ego, but I absolutely demand respect from my dates, really from anybody. Your friends, well, they are never going to be my friends; they don't respect guys like me. And, I hear you sayin' that you're sorry and didn't mean the things you said about me, and maybe that's so; but really, I don't think you ever could really respect a guy who swabs out toilets; it just ain't you, and it's obvious.

"Girl, we don't move in the same circles, and for the record, I like my circles better than yours. I'm not going to ever fit in with the crepes and caviar set. I think you know it too. Sometime in the future you'd have to choose, and you'd choose what you're used to, and that wouldn't be me and mine," I said.

"Charlie," a trace of upset had crept into her voice, "I came here today to beg your forgiveness. You can have mercy on this poor soul of mine, or you can kick my pretty pink ass the hell outta here. But Charlie, don't you ever presume tell me what I think or predict how I will act. You don't know me that well, Charlie. And, in spite of my acting the way I did last week, I’m really not like that.. I only ask that you give me the chance to prove it. Will you do that, Charlie? One chance. If I blow it well”—she looked at my shoes—"you'll still have those size eight boots to kick me to the curb with. What do you say?”

I was shaking my head.

"Charlie, I take it back, maybe I am a snob. I don't know. And I know I'm not making any sense. What I can tell you is, if I am a snob, I don't want to be one anymore; the cost is much too high, and I am not willing to pay a price that high. Come on, whaddya say?"

I hesitated then I spoke, "Marylou, I have a bad feeling that I'm going to regret this, but okay. You're right. I don't have the right to presume whatever the hell it is that you will or will not do in the future."

She spun out of the chair and came quickly around to me. She wrapped her arms around me and kissed me so hard on the lips I was afraid my recently completely dental work might be compromised.

"That was nice," I said. "Now, it's my turn." I kissed her gently and lovingly.

"Hmm, I liked that," she said. "Tomorrow, a party, I think it is still my turn to choose where we go. As I recall you stood me up last time. I intend to show you off."

"What kind of party," I said.

Her face showed some concern. "Hmm, yes, it is going to be formal. I assume you don't have a tux," she said.

"You assume correctly," I said.

"No problem, I'll rent you one," she said airily. "I know a place."

"Marylou, I don't . . ." I started.

"Let me handle this one, okay. You're my handsome guy. I want to show you off. I especially want Brad to wish he were you. Just leave it up to me. Okay?"

"Okay, it's against my better judgment. But, okay." I had a bad feeling about this, but it was her show.

******

I arrived at her apartment early as she had requested. When she opened the door in response to my knocking my entire body turned to stone except for my little man; he turned to tungsten alloy.

She was totally naked except for her high heels and her stockings. Her shaved pussy completely stunned me. Her smile brought me back to the present. "Jesus, you're beautiful!" I think I said.

"Come in, Charlie, unless you want to share me with the community," she laughed.

Closing the door behind me, she marched across the room and posed for me. I couldn't take my eyes off of her slit. She was amazing. In her heels, she was three inches taller than me. She looked like Hippolyta reborn.

Recovering from my near coma experience, I asked, "I thought we were going to a party?"

"We are, but we're going to have our own little party here first, if you don't mind," she said.

"Mind? I don't mind. Why would I mind?" I said, my voice actually squeaking.

Marylou giggled. "Good, because I need you tonight," she said. She crooked her finger at me, "Come here sailor."

My rubber legs somehow got me to her. She placed her hands under my chin and looked into my eyes. She kissed me. Our bodies had not touched. They did now. She leaned forward and wrapped two of the softest arms imaginable around me. We kissed again. I had to lean my head back a little to kiss her; she looked down at me, into my eyes.

She stepped back and took my hand. She led me into her bedroom.

The room was large. A queen size bed, covered with a yellow comforter, dominated the center of the room against the far wall. A vanity stood across from the foot of it. There was a walk-in closet, the door to it partially closed. A divider wall cut off the view to the bath on the right. And a large bay window, with the curtains pulled closed, filled the remaining wall.

We embraced once more and she beckoned me to follow her to the bed. She lay on it and waited smiling up at me. She was so beautiful. Her dark brown hair splayed out from around her face. Her lips were cherry red. Her eyes were dark and indescribably perfect. Her breasts stood out from her, small and perfect and firm. She smelled wonderful.

I stopped a few feet from the bed and undressed. I had to feel her naked body against my naked body. Disrobed, I stood for a moment and gazed at her. My cock stuck straight out from my body and pointed directly at her. She reached for it as I stepped closer. She grasped it and pulled me to her mouth. I knelt above her, over her face. She licked the glans and then let the shaft slip between her lips and into her mouth; the warmth of it affected my mental processes like few things I had ever experienced in my entire life. The woman was not merely human; she was something else, something on a higher plane; it was intense.

I felt myself building to a climax. I started to pull out, but she denied me and I spurted inside her warm mouth; she swallowed it all.

"Your turn," she said. I didn't have to be told twice. I slid down her body and she splayed her legs for me. I stared at her most secret place and moved close to it, not ready to touch it yet; I wanted to experience being close to it smelling her musk, gazing at her pinkest place. I licked her slit from base to clit. My tongue played with her clit and she began to squirm: she was clearly very sensitive. It was some minutes before she began to stiffen and jerk. "Yes—yes—oh my yes!" she said in a guttural voice totally alien to anything I had ever heard her utter up to that moment. She screamed her orgasm as it swept over her. Her juices poured from her pussy and smeared themselves on my face; I made no attempt to wipe them from me; I wanted her smell to remain as long as possible. God! how I loved this woman. Yes, loved!

We lay gathering ourselves for the next round. The party was forgotten for the moment; there was only the two of us bathed in sweat. We existed in a different and timeless reality. I coaxed her onto her belly. For a minute I massaged her back; then, gently forcing her legs apart, I knelt once again between them and lowered my face to her anus. I buried my face in her.

She attempted to look around: I had surprised her, but then she relaxed and I had my way with her. I licked and kissed her butt hole until she started to wiggle her fanny in impatience.

My cock was dancing over her just as I slid it into her pussy as she lay passive under me. I drilled my whole almost five inches into her and she oohed and ahhed as it passed from her labia into the walled muscle of her vagina. I began pushing and pulling in a studied rhythm. I could see her grasping the sheets above her head as she reacted to me. Soon I was punishing her loins pounding her relentlessly. She stiffened yet again as she orgasmed just before I did. I emptied what seemed a quart of semen inside of her. I collapsed on top of her and after a moment rolled off and onto my back. She rolled over and looked at me.

"It seems you know what to do with that little fellow of yours," she said. She had not realized that she had just belittled the size of my penis. But, I took no offense since none had been intended. My cock was what it was, and it certainly wasn't anything in terms of size, but I had brought her to orgasm; that was enough for me; I felt good.

I looked at the clock. She saw me and looked too. "I guess we should be getting ready to go," she said. She actually sounded disappointed.

I watched her get up and stride toward the bathroom, her butt swaying from side to side as only the female butt can. She returned in some minutes; she hadn't showered. She seemed to read my mind, "I want the smell of sex on me when we go to the party," she said. "I want that asshole, Brad Carlson, to know I've been fucked and to eat his heart out because of it. I'm proud you are my boyfriend, and I want him and everyone else to know it."

“Boyfriend?” I said. I was conflicted. Why was she so interested in teasing, perhaps torturing, Brad? Was I really her boyfriend or just an instrument to punish an ex-boyfriend. I decided to believe that the cup was half full.

"Of course. You don't imagine that I let every animal with a dick do me do you? You have responsibilities now, young man, I'm your woman to love and protect, and, obey." She laughed. "But, we'll talk more about that later. Right now you have to get your clothes on. They're hanging in the closet there." She pointed to the walk-in. "Anyway, hurry up."

I thought about what Brody had said, about her being the town slut. Maybe it wasn't true. I pushed such thoughts from my mind. "Yes, ma'am," I said, gladly obeying her. I was as happy at that moment as I had ever been.

******

There were no fewer than a hundred cars and limos parked in the secure and reserved parking area of the R.P. Standard: a hotel and convention center favored by the upper crust of the city's professional community. Tonight's gala was an annual affair meant to bring together the powers of legaldom to share and be shared among each other. Sharing what was a question. Some cynics would have said each other's spouses and significant others.

Marylou had gotten me a tux to wear. How she had guessed my size and preferences was a mystery only she could have answered, and I didn't ask.

Herb Gilchrist, a guy I knew from the Hobbes, met us as we meandered among the tables looking for a place to settle in. Herb was a stock broker who did his thing on the twelfth floor; he was also an honored member of the bar, though inactive in that capacity since turning moneyman. We'd talked some over the last couple of years and he'd steered me into investing a few bucks in the market, nothing big, just some safe stuff suitable for a guy watching the pennies. I liked Herb. He'd advised me to just leave my investment alone, through good times and bad, and I'd so far followed his advice. I was looking forward to using it to help with my retirement someday. That my "someday" was more than thirty years off would work for me, he'd said.

"Hey, Charlie, I see you've come to join us snobs and hypocrites," he said in a voice that only the three of us could hear.

"Wouldn't have missed it," I said. "Let me introduce you to my date. Herb, This lovely lady is Marylou Keynes. She's a refugee from the 20th," I said.

The look on Herb's faced was one of surprise—or something else. He seemed to catch himself.

"Nice to meet you, Marylou," he said. "You a receptionist up there with the barracudas?"

"No, 'fraid not. I'm one of the barracudas," she said, smiling like a tigress on the prowl.

"Oops! Blew it again, didn't I," he said.

Marylou just laughed, "No, Herb, in fact that's one of the nicer things people say about us these days."

"Look you two, come sit with us. Been saving a couple of seats for some good people. And Charlie, you and anyone with you qualifies," he said.

Jane Gilchrist was a card. She knew more off color jokes than Redd Foxx. In between bouts of laughter, some pretty fun dancing, and quite a bit of serious drinking I found myself introduced to at least half a hundred lawyers, including Brad Carlson who exploited the opportunity to ask Marylou to dance.

I had danced with her for several numbers, but I soon found that I had to share time with her with several other men, more than one of which knew who and what I was and clearly held me in controlled contempt. That I didn't give a damn probably showed through. The good news was that I was a better dancer than any of them, I mean a lot better. These guys had to get out more.

Herb and I were on a drinks’ run for our little group and just returning when Marylou was escorted back to the table by a youngish lawyer named Rick something.

"Short, poor, uneducated, and a janitor, Marylou? You have got to be kidding! You should've been my date tonight," laughed Rick. He looked up to see me standing two feet away with the drinks in my hand.

"Oops," he said, as he slipped away unembarrassed, but definitely amused. I held his gaze for a moment as he retreated. I wasn't at all offended. I was used to assholes who didn't know me assuming a lot; he was definitely one of those.

Marylou looked up at me and smiled. She turned in the direction of Rick who was yards away already and flipped him the bird. We all laughed. We otherwise didn't even mention him or his manners.

The evening was going well, that is until about 11:00, when an incident occurred that was going to have instant ramifications.

"You are a wonderful dancer, you know that boyfriend," said Marylou.

I had to blush. Five other people heard her and they all looked at me. "Thanks," I said. "I try."

Looking to my left I saw a commotion at a nearby table. A server, an older man, maybe sixtyish and Mexican by the look of him, was obviously frightened and was trying to apologize to—Brad Carlson!

Brad was standing in front of the man thrusting his finger repeatedly into his chest. "Marylou, excuse me. I'll be back in a second," I said, and strode off the few yards to the scene of the action.

I came up slightly to the rear and to the right of the big man. Reaching, I shoved his hand away from the waiter's chest. "You're drunk man. Let the guy go. He ain't doin' you no harm," I said. My hackles were raised, but I had made no offensive action to that point.

Brad turned to me and smiled. "This is not the concern of the cleanup crew," said Brad. "I'll be sure to let you know when it is."

I moved directly in front of him interdicting his assault on the Mexican. He continued to smile at me and used the same finger he had been poking into the old man to poke me in the chest.

I heard later that he had gotten two or three pokes in before I smothered him in a storm of punches that left him lying semiconscious and babbling on the floor.

Marylou was cut off from me by the crowd as a dozen hands held me back, restraining me from doing anything further to the helpless law dog.

The police eventually arrived, cuffed me, and led me off. I didn't see Marylou till the next morning.

My jailer, a woman, had put me in a cell by myself. She'd heard I'd flattened a lawyer and for some reason that had bought me some credibility with the badges. I even got a cup of coffee late into the night as I sat in that lonely box wondering how I had gotten myself into such a mess.

I was hauled into a small room reserved for inmates and their lawyers sometime early in the morning. I was wearing a yellow inmate jumpsuit when Marylou arrived. I had no idea where the tux I had been wearing was.

"Well, that was an exciting evening," said Marylou. "Brad actually has to see a plastic surgeon today. It seems his face has several serious fractures. I had no idea you were such a tough guy."

"I grew up where it was a good idea to be able to fight," I said. "Listen, I'm sorry for embarrassing you like that. But—I just couldn't let that asshole intimidate the Mexican. I could see . . ."

"Charlie, shut the hell up. I have posted your bail; that's why I'm a little late. You won't have any trouble with Brad about the fight. His poking you and the old man in the chest was actually illegal; it bordered on assault, and he doesn't need the bad press he'd get for going after you, and neither does the firm.

"On another note, I'll be representing you at your arraignment tomorrow. It should be just a formality. I think I can get you off with minimal damage, but you are not to talk to anybody from the D.A's office. Refer everything to me at my office at the Hobbes. Understand?"

"Yes, ma'am, completely," I said.

"Watching you handle the asshole was actually kind of exciting," she said. "Nobody could believe it. He's a pretty big guy."

"Try very big," I said.

I was wearing my trademark jeans and three-button Henley that she’d gotten for me. "Not guilty, your Honor," I said, at the prompting of my lawyer.

"Your Honor, motion to dismiss," said Marylou.

"Grounds?"

"No contestant, your Honor. The correspondent declines to press charges."

"Declines? You're telling me that Brad Carlson declines to press charges?"

"Yes, your Honor."

"Wonder of wonders. But, I hear he needed cosmetic surgery?"

"Yes, your Honor," intoned Marylou.

"Costs of the surgery and a hundred hours," he said. "Next case."

"What did he say," I said.

"You have to pay for Brad's surgery and do an hundred hours of community service," she said.

"Jesus!" I said. "How much is the surgery gonna cost me?"

"Don't know, but at least you're out of the slammer."

"What's the community service part?" I said.

"I'll submit a proposal and get back to you on that," said Marylou. "You might have to help out at a shelter or something, but I'll get you something near your work so it will impact your job as little as possible."

"Thanks for everything, Marylou. I know this could have been a lot worse."

"Damn straight it could. Next time stop after the fiftieth punch; you damn near killed the guy," she said. "Anyway, you're welcome."

"Marylou, I gotta tell yuh, I ain't going to any more of those galas; they're just not for guys like me."

"Charlie, one bad experience does not mean you don't belong, you do. You just need . . ."

"I don't just anything, Marylou. I'm not one of them. I like real people," I said.

"And I'm not real people?" she said. "You don't like me?"

"No, I don't like you," I said.

"Wha..."

"I love you. Marylou. I know this is going to be kind of weird, but I usually get right to something when I feel the need. I feel the need now. Marylou, will you marry me?"

She looked at me with a stunned expression. "Huh?"

"I'll give you the ring tomorrow," I said. "But for God’s sake say yes!"

I was a nervous wreck. I had been planning this since the fight. It's all I could think of while I was behind bars. We'd been out only a couple of times, only spoken at length a few more, and here I was proposing."

"Yes."

"Huh?"

"Yes, I'll marry you," she said.

The words of Christopher Marlowe came to me at that moment. "When both deliberate loves is slight; whoever loved that loved not at first sight."

******

It was a neighborhood wedding, my neighborhood. Some, a few, of her lawyer buds were there, but only a few; I was glad of that. I, on the other hand, had near a hundred supporters.

The ceremony was held in the little Baptist church down the block. The reception was held at Brody's house: he had a yard that was big enough for the event. Eats were potluck and they were great, but I paid Luigi's bakery $200 for the cake, and it was good too. I think our people impressed my new wife and even some of her people. We are a friendly crowd, and we could drink every bit as well as the rich and arrogant. Marylou and I slipped out about two hours into the reception and headed out on our honeymoon.

Marylou had at first pressured me to take her to Vegas; she'd said she would foot the bill. That was our first disagreement; it did not turn into a tiff however. She realized that this was gonna be my decision and that there was no way I was going to let her pay for it, nor any chance of us going to another big city, even Vegas, for a week's time. We went camping up at Rock Creek. I wanted to be alone with her, and I wanted for us to commune with nature. It turned out to be a good choice; the both of us enjoyed the time away from the helter-skelter world of the big city. We fucked like bunnies on crack!

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