After they smoked the joint they sat in the meat room and drank some bourbon.

“Don’t get too messed up,” Bill said. “You have to drive home.

Marie sat on the stainless steel counter where Mary always sat. Bill sat on the freestanding cutting block he used to cut meat. He had cleaned and scrubbed it when he’d finished cutting meat in the afternoon. Henry Lee worked on his counter where he had a butcher-block top. Henry Lee had scrubbed and cleaned that station.

Since Bill was facing her, since they were high and drinking, Marie allowed her dress to slide open. She finished unbuttoning it so that on top all she wore was her white bra. On bottom she was naked since she’d removed her panties. The panties were still in her pocket.

She was holding the bottle of bourbon and took a drink. She sat with her legs tightly crossed, perhaps waiting for a signal from Bill as to how to conduct herself. Meanwhile, after she drank, she leaned forward and passed the bottle over to him. While he was drinking, she reached into her pocket, pulled out the panties and tossed them onto his lap. He laughed and held them up. They were plain white cotton panties. He took a quick sniff then tossed them back to her.

“Should I put them back on?”


“Well, should I uncross my legs?”



“What you have in mind.”

“You really want to know what I have in mind?”

“I don’t know. Do I?”

“I better whisper it to you. Give me another drink first.”

Marie slid down off the counter and walked the couple of steps to where Bill sat. She took the bottle from him and helpd herself to a good swig.

“I told you, don’t drink too much. You don’t want to get stopped by the cops. When all is said and done, you’re a black girl driving home late at night.”

“And you’re a white boy gonna protect me.” She took another long drink and would have kept drinking if Bill had not taken the bottle from her.

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“You wouldn’t leave me in the crapper.”

“Yeah? Remember that one time I drove you home?”

Marie was so messed up that time Bill was afraid to let her drive home, so he’d driven her himself. When they got there, her husband was waiting for her at the door and smacked her right there for coming home with another man. Bill had thought then that maybe he’d done it like that so as to challenge Bill, to see if Bill would do anything. He felt bad about it, but didn’t get out of the car. He felt even worse that they were completely innocent, that she was getting hit for nothing.

“I told you, he ain’t home and won’t be home till tomorrow. And it don’t mean shit to a train.”


“Still nothing.” Marie put her lips close to Bill’s ear and whispered things to him. She did it slowly and deliberately and when she was finished whispering, she kissed his earlobe then nibbled on it gently.

Bill slid himself down off the butcher block and took Marie in his arms. He held her close to him so that their bodies pressed against one another. He didn’t want to stay. He had planned to go straight home and to get there at what for him was going to be a relatively decent time. He didn’t want to get involved in anything with Marie. He didn’t want a lot of things, but then again, there were some things he did want.

“Just hold me awhile,” Marie said. She reached between them to settle Bill against her down there the way she wanted. But she did not press for him to do anything other than hold her.

“I’m just so awful lonely,” she said.

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