The Tale of the Topless Dancer, the Baby Clown, and the Cross-Country Heist …

Someone reminded me of this recently… worth a rerun.

In the end it was the rain that did it.  Her breath stopped short that morning as a thread unraveled in the middle of her chest and let go. Water kept falling everywhere-all-the-time-non-stop and she instinctively knew one more day of it would finish her.  That and the asshole she lived with.  Him more than the rain, because when things were new and intoxicating between them the incessant rain had felt nurturing and cocoon-like and hadn’t sent her mood into the toilet.  Zoe had to face it, The Asshole was the cause of her angst, and just like that she couldn’t wait one more second to get far, far away from him.

Fragments of escape possibilities, the kind every smart woman hangs onto for eventualities, jumped around in her head.  When the guy shopping for groceries who persuaded you into his bed on sight… or had it been the other way around… lets you know, none too subtly, that you’re replaceable… a girl has to start reviewing her options.  There weren’t many, she didn’t even have a car, but she was pretty sure she could recruit Teresa and Bobby Lee, whose jobs happened after dark, to help her with the plan she was hatching.

Turned out things were currently loosey-goosey for her day-tripper friends. They’d just been hanging out ’til the next opportunity, and picking up a U-Haul day-rental sounded like a fun little diversion.  So while The A-hole was away on a job, she and Teresa and Bobby Lee – who was strung out enough to let the girls do most of the work, not that he was all that helpful under primo conditions – loaded her stuff, what there was of it, into the truck.  Zoe was possessed by a sense of urgency – go, go, get it done, get out of here – but it wasn’t easy keeping her helpers on task, especially with her brain zinging like a sparkler. Teresa was wearing her customary 6-inch heels, and although Zoe had to admit her friend was as skilled at navigating her spikes on the ground as she was on the pole, all she wanted was to keep moving and be gone before he got home, leaving no trace of herself behind.  

In the kitchen she made a snap decision not to leave him so much as a fucking knife and fork.  She was done.  Finished.  Tired of being played, tired of living at the frayed edge of the law, tired of people she didn’t know showing up at her house at all hours, sleeping there, drinking her beer like it was water, stinking up her bathroom, leaving everything for her to clean up.  And the guns – she was weary of all the firearms. The Big A, until recently The Desired Beloved, kept a .357 Magnum in the bedroom, handy but out of sight, and that had been preying on her thoughts more and more, not because she especially feared finding herself on the business end of it, but because – HOLY GOD – she had a small son who was nothing if not curious.  Her SON!!  Her almost-four-year-old Jacob was at the circus with his second mom, her closest friend, and she had to figure out a way to pick him up on her way out of town!

The rain took a smoke break, they wrapped up the load-out, and she got ready to say her goodbyes, but Bobby Lee had other plans.  By now, the three of them had tacitly acknowledged that this was no day trip, and Bobby Lee, the proverbial good-hearted gangstah, who would find himself cooling it in prison not long after, was reluctant to let her set out cross-country without a companion.  So when Zoe rolled out of the driveway, ensconced in the passenger seat was Teresa, decked out in her CFM spikes, little ankle socks, and one of her eclectic outfits.  The three extra thongs she carried in her battered model’s bag would have to suffice for the duration.  And of course more stilettos and their adorable sock friends – a girl goes nowhere without options.  The tops and little shorts and scarves and vests she favored for covering her lusciously-acceptable assets took up barely any room, and what self-respecting artist leaves home without her makeup?  TRIP. ON!!

The day was getting away.  What if he came home, saw what she’d done, and started tracking her down? The girls navigated their way to the circus, located Jacob laughing with his friends Izzy and Marc, and whisked him away as unobtrusively as they could considering that he was having the time of his life.  Second Mom had taken the boys down to the floor for face-painting and not only was Jacob in clown-face, he’d won Best Award for the incredible look he’d given himself.  Irony of ironies, it ended up as a full-page photo in the local paper, but not until after the little entourage was halfway across the country.

It must have been a hilariously harrowing trip from the coast to the heartland… the falling-apart country girl, the miniature clown who declined to have his face washed in any service station restroom, and the drop-dead-hot topless dancer.  God only knows what Teresa cooked up to keep Jacob entertained with along the way, but she’d never been accused of lacking in creativity and she had a nurturing streak.

They managed to get across the state line before the truck started breaking down and losing A/C.  With no other choice and facing potential defeat, they pulled into the first U-Haul place they saw, where not only did the gracious employees put them into a brand new truck, they transferred the load for them.  Meanwhile, Teresa nabbed the paperwork from the office and had a private moment with it in the Ladies, changing just enough numbers to keep law enforcement in the rearview mirror for as long as possible.

Okay… back on the road.  Drive, catnap, get junk food… drive, catnap, get junk food… straight through to the middle of the continent.  Zoe wished Teresa would get behind the wheel once in a while, but she trusted herself more so she kept her mouth shut.  Mile after mile over the next two days, through dark and light, her mind was occupied with the immediate past, the slightly-unhinged present, and the murky future.  “How – really, time to be honest here – did you end up as a 21-year-old single mom living with a big-time coke dealer who finances his operation by stealing and chopping high-end cars?  I mean… really. Let’s talk.” Despite being more adventurous than most, she’d always seen herself as a good girl.  And notwithstanding a couple of rough patches with drugs, binge-drinking, and heartbreak, resulting in a few ill-timed decisions and close-call extrications, she still knew she was a good girl.  She just needed to get away from a bad situation and clear her head and she’d be fine.  She had to get clean, too, a process that was already underway since she and Teresa had fled with only so much stuff.  Zoe knew she’d be crashing about the time they reached their destination and this wasn’t going to be pretty… but when you need time and a fortress, you head home.

She didn’t call ahead, her reasoning emotion-driven … what if her mom or dad sounded dismayed at the news that she was on her way back to the farm?  What if that much warning was all they needed to head to the mountains?  What if they said, We can’t do this, you’ll have to figure it out on your own.  She knew, worn down as she was, that anything less than love and acceptance at this point would break her, so she kept her foot jammed in the gas pedal and her eyes on the road.

Halfway through the third day out she turned in at the farm, her little clown asleep in a crumpled heap on the seat, his face paint smeary and faded, and the dancer folded up against the door looking shaky and shop-worn.  And surprise, surprise, no mom and dad. Genuinely stunned that her instincts had been right for once, and so exhausted her knees would barely keep her upright, Zoe decided to pull a Scarlet and think about it tomorrow.

Sure enough, show up on the morrow they did, the parental units, visibly distressed to see a U-Haul truck in the yard and their daughter and grandson right there in the flesh, big as life and twice as natural.  Oh WELL, Zoe thought, so much for ready acceptance and a port in the storm… time will have to be my friend.  Wonder how much slack they’ll cut me on that?

As it turned out, slack-cutting was in Zoe’s favor but Teresa had to go. One look at her exotic, tall, blonde, stacked loveliness, legs all the way to her ass, starting with the six-inch stilettos and those baby-doll socks that promised everything, and Zoe’s mom decreed that Teresa would need to be on the next flight out.  She was.  They drove her to the airport the following morning, however much her dad may have inwardly wished for a week or so to get acquainted.  Back to the coast ma’am, end of story, thanks, and all that.

Zoe and her dad off-loaded the truck into an outbuilding, and after a couple of days had passed he asked, “Shouldn’t we be getting that truck turned in?”

“Well, no,” Zoe said, “it isn’t going back – that’s… the rest of the story.”

So at dusk she filled it with gas from the farm tank, and with her mom and dad following she drove, drove, drove, drove, far out into the countryside, parked it where it would eventually be discovered, and in the pitch dark carefully wiped it down, leaving it unlocked, keys in the ignition. While she industriously removed DNA from the truck, her dad was fretting and urging her to hurry.  He kept saying “I just know we’re gonna get caught.”

Her mom finally said “Oh, hush.  You’ve watched entirely too much TV.” That and her general enthusiasm over the night’s shenanigans almost moved Zoe to forgive her for her initial coolness.  But no… not ready yet, and she had too many overwhelming things to figure out before she’d know who she was again. So she crawled into her parents’ back seat, fell asleep on the way home, and proceeded to lie on their couch in a fetal position for a couple of weeks while life took a vacation.

Eventually one morning she woke up to sunshine and her old self-mocking mantra popped into her head, “Good girls go to heaven.  Bad girls go everywhere.”  Well, hell, she thought… I’d better get going.

And she did.

{Not exactly fiction — you can’t make this shit up.}

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dee A Poe
    Sep 14, 2020 @ 12:11:15

    Well worth a rerun – I do believe I might have missed it on the first go-round. Great storytelling!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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