Fall 2010, Volume 9

Fiction by Marcy Luikart


Sweat, hot sweat under her breasts, soaked through the light blue chambray, like leaking milk, wasted. Jackie stopped in the middle of the road. The corn was burnt as brown as her arms and legs. She rubbed the sweat away with her shirt. A hawk soared above her. It was a long road, stupid to walk it, but the car was in the shop and she needed a break, a break from the squeak of the rocking chair, as Miss Adams wound her yarn into hard, tight balls. So Jackie walked. She walked as if a thousand eyes were on her, and she liked it.

She heard a car behind her, the tires crunched the gravel. She stepped off the road into the waist-high grass that grew in the ditch, just as a red and white Chevy convertible, waxed as shiny as a bell pepper, emerged from the clouds of dust.

“Hey, Jackie, great ass.”

Jackie walked slowly over, reached up, and pushed a loose strand of hair out of her face. She twisted ever so slightly and leaned against the car.

“Dave Delaney, you shitface, what do you think you’re doing out here in the middle of the day?”

He grinned at her. It was a lopsided kind of grin, all on the left side. “Don’t call me shitface, girl, don’t you like my face? I like yours.”

“You are too cute for your own good, Mr. Delaney.”

“C’mon, honey, give me a kiss.” He leaned over the side of the car, crooked his index finger onto the top of her shirt, and pulled her toward him.

She looked down and ran a finger over the chrome door handle. This is life, she thought. This is where I belong, in a red and white convertible, sizzling the vinyl seats.

“Where you going hot stuff? Can I give you a lift?” Jackie smiled—he wanted to give her a lot more than a lift.

“No. Not now, Dave, another time. I got to get some stuff from the Taylors.” The muscles at the back of her leg tightened, “I mean it, another time.”

“Sure, babe, catch you later.”

The dust swirled around where he’d been, like some conjuring trick. An illusion she thought. That’s all.

She looked up. The hawk followed her.


It was a two-mile walk to the Taylors, who were Miss Adams’ nearest neighbors. Miss Adams didn’t like to go out, so she hired Jackie to run her errands and keep her company.

Miss Adams didn’t approve of the Taylors. She didn’t approve of the old, rusted fenders hidden behind the barn, or the crabgrass that grew in their vegetables. Jackie stopped in front of the tree-lined drive. The sweat on her arms chilled. She looked around for Jonesie. Silly name for a dog. She whistled. She’d always wanted a dog that came when you whistled. Sometimes Jonesie would, if he felt like it.

Something came at her through the trees. Not Jonesie, she thought. Jonesie was light on his feet, like a deer.

“Mr. Taylor, is that you?” No one answered. Jackie turned back toward the open road, the light shimmering like a pond on the blacktop. “Who is it?”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jonesie behind a tree, his hackles raised. She turned away from him toward the light and heat ahead.

“Jackie, don’t leave,” a familiar voice oozed at her.

“Why, Mr. Taylor... you startled me. You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”

“Just a little surprise, girl.” His face was swollen in a grin. “So, what are you doing here? Does Miss Adams need some more sugar?” Beads of sweat dripped down his face onto his shirt. The outline of his navel was clearly visible through the canary polyester. “We got lots of sugar here.”

“I just need some eggs this time. You know, for a cake.” Jackie pulled some loose bark off the white birch tree as she leaned against it, the roughness massaging her.

Jonesie hung back, watching from a distance.

“Well, you walk on ahead to the house, little girl, and we’ll fix you up real nice. We got nice, fresh eggs straight from the hen.” His eyes were on her. She walked a little faster—the carrot in front of the horse.

In front of the house, Jackie stopped to smell a rose.

“You sure can walk,” wheezed Mr. Taylor as he caught up. “Well, why don’t you come on in?”

“That’s okay, I’ll just wait out here.” She didn’t want to go inside, where it smelled like Mr. Taylor; she wanted air and the trees.

She whistled. “Hey Jonesie, come here, boy.” He moved toward her. “It’s okay, boy, that’s it, come on.” His cool nose brushed against her hand. “Want to come home with me, boy?”

Mr. Taylor came out of the house. Jackie heard Mrs. Taylor yelling about stingy neighbors. “Here you go, Jackie, our best eggs.” His arm brushed her breast as he handed them to her. “Don’t forget to let us have a taste.”

“Sure, Mr. Taylor, and thanks.”

Stupid pig, she thought.

Jonesie trotted beside her. He followed her to the side of the road, then stopped. “You want to spend the day with me, boy?” She walked on ahead. “It’s okay, come one.” But Jonesie had gone.

When she got back to Miss Adams, the reflection off the shiny, red surface of Dave Delaney’s convertible nearly blinded her.

“I couldn’t wait, sweet baby. God, all I thought about was that wicked little ass of yours. Please, baby, how about now?”

She sensed the dark hair on Dave’s chest beneath the tight, white tee shirt. “Your timing sucks, lover boy. Miss Adams needs her eggs.”

“Screw the bitch, I need you.” He leaned over to the passenger side and opened the door. “Come on. I know a real gem of a place over by the Millers’ pond. I want to see you swim naked.”

Jackie pulled her hair back from her face. “You want to see me swim? Yeah, right.” She got in and slammed the door shut. “I got to be back soon, though. She’ll call the Taylors to see where I am.”

Dave Delaney grinned as he pushed his hair back. “Hell, she won’t bother.”


Jackie watched his hands as they held the steering wheel; the veins pulsed with tension and purpose. She undid her bra and slipped it off under her shirt, easing the straps out through her sleeves. She felt like a hawk riding in the convertible as the wind blew away the heat and sweat. Dave turned to her and smiled. “What you gonna do with that?”

She smiled, “Watch.” Then she held the bra over a finger and let it blow like a wind sock onto the road, where it lay empty.

“I like that.”

“Yeah, I knew you would.” She laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes.

The car stopped. Dave leaned over her, his chest rubbing against hers. “We’re here.”

“I know.” She felt as if she were still moving, still flying off somewhere. A hawk. If she opened her eyes, it would all disappear, so she kept them closed. His hands were touching her, as if she were the wheel and he was steering her. A strong smell of rotting hay and lily of the valley mingled with the sound of moving water. She pushed her hand against his chest. “Let’s swim now.”


By the time she got back to Miss Adams’ house, it was dark. Dark inside and out: no lights anywhere except for the fireflies. The heaviness in the air muffled breath and sound. She had the excuses ready. No eggs at the Taylors, so she went to town; she had fainted by the side of the road; aliens had abducted her. Stupid excuses. How about, she was swimming naked in reflections of willow trees and lost herself in Dave Delaney’s groin. Yeah, that would work.

She opened the door slowly, so it wouldn’t creak in case Miss Adams was asleep instead of angry. The refrigerator hum screamed at her. Sweat covered her palms. The bedroom door was closed. Jackie opened it. “Miss Adams?” Jackie turned on the light. Miss Adams lay on the bed.

“Miss Adams, are you okay?” Jackie crossed the room. “Miss Adams.” The only answer was the drone of a trapped fly. “Miss Adams.” Jackie shook her, but Miss Adams didn’t answer. “Damn.” She lifted the receiver and dialed 911.

There was nothing for her to do. They told her to wait. Miss Adams shared her pillow with a picture in a gold frame. Jackie read the inscription. “To Emily. All my love, Stan.” Jackie stared at the black and white face. Stan. It was a picture of Stanley Taylor. A young Stanley Taylor in army fatigues. Stanley Taylor before the sweat, before the fat, before he’d gotten old. And Emily. Miss Adams was Emily.

Jackie opened the bedside table drawer. She took out a lace handkerchief, some bottles of pills, a hairnet, and a package of letters wrapped in a pink ribbon. Jackie tossed them on the floor. She slid her hand under the pillow and pulled out an envelope filled with ten hundred-dollar bills and a diamond ring.

The fly landed on Miss Adams’ face. Jackie picked up the Bible from the bedside table. It was heavy and soft. She swatted at the fly. “Stop it. Leave her alone. God damn you, leave her alone.” A glass by the side of the bed spilled. The water soaked a dark patch into the woven bedspread. Jackie put the money in her pocket, then lifted Miss Adams’ hand and slid the ring onto her finger. She sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the dead face. It was so much easier to stare at a dead face than a live one.

Jackie went outside to wait for all the people who come to take care of things like the dead. The balmy summer wind felt like Dave Delaney’s hands on her body. She rocked on the porch swing and whistled a soft, low whistle. Out of the trees came Jonesie, good old Jonesie.


BIO:  A writer and bookkeeper, Marcy Luikart has studied with Shelley Lowenkopf, Catherine Ryan-Hyde, and Jewel Parker-Rhodes, though it could be argued that her background in tax preparation taught her far more about "creative fiction." Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beginnings, Bellowing Ark, Connecticut Review, The Iconoclast, and Pangolin Papers. In 2003 she won first place for fiction at the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference.