"Dude. This is gonna be good. We're gonna have fun tonight, I promise you. Two bros back in action!
And if Zephyr's friend is anything like her, boy...you're gonna owe me big time."
"Don't bet on it," Junior said. "Coupla beers. Kick back with my buddies if they're here. That's all that's on my agenda for tonight."
"Man, that's weak. But I'm not even tryna hear that bull. You'll be singin' another tune when the tamales come through."
"Now if she's ugly—"
"Would you cut it out already?"
"She won't be ugly. Trust me. But if she's not for you, for whatever reason, gotta gimme a heads up."
"Oh, uh, hey Goldie. Mornin'."
"What time'd you get in last night?"
"Dunno, kiddo. Guess a few hours ago."
"Then why are you up so early?"
"Hold up." Rhett stopped Junior when he spotted the girls in blue. "Shit! Ain't that? Can't be. Junior, look. That's Sandy's other daughter?"
"Virginia? Yep, that's her."
"But what's she doin' here?"
"How the hell should I know, man? Out for a good time, I guess. Same as you."
"Us," Rhett said.
"I ain't got no date coming."
"Whatever. Whoa, is that dude pushin' up on her?"
They both saw what she was wearing, didn't they? Why was he asking stupid questions?
Junior sniffed the air. Ah...tobacco. But where? Which way nicotine, which way? Junior was hit by a sudden craving.
He sniffed and sniffed at the air.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Rhett said, "I was tryna ask if you think we should do somethin'. About Sandy's kid and that dude."
"We? No. You do somethin' if you got to. She ain't my stepdaughter."
"Mine either, asshole."
"Whatever you say. I say she wore that dress so she knew damn well what she was wantin' to get into."
"Hey, wait, you don't ever go to the truck stop, do ya?"
"Uh, no. The rest stop? What for?"
"Keep it that way," Rhett said.
"I mean, I guess if I needed something from the store...Huh? What are you even talking about?"
"Nothin', nothin'. It's just, uh, those guys get wild is all."
"One of 'em even—" Rhett started laughing, "one of 'em—" he could barely get it out..."I don't know what was in that beer!
It had to be a helluva lot more than liquid courage. He musta been throwin' back some straight up crazy juice! When he upped
and popped out a ring..." Rhett laughed so hard he reared back and hit his head on his bedroom door. "*Ow!* But that girl..."
"Listen," Junior said, "I don't know what to tell you. You wanna score some brownie points at home
but don't forget that girl is your boss's granddaughter, too. You narc on her, she narcs on you,"
"But I didn't do nothin'."
"All the more reason to send her packin'."
"Yeah. You go ahead and try that, Stepdad. Let me know what happens."
But while Rhett was debating and procrastinating dudes kept circling the fresh meat and then outta nowhere...!
"...that girl, she don't know Dude from a hill o' beans but she was ready to jump in his truck and go be Mrs. Hillbilly when she saw bling."
"Aww, it's kinda sweet, though, if you take out the drunk part, that one of the truckers decided to propose to his girl in front of everyone. She said yes?"
"What? No. Goldie, you listening? Wasn't nobody's girlfiend, not his, anyway. She don't even know the dude—I just said—It was whatchacallit, I don't know 'er name.
That girl. You know her. The one with the babies. Got two too many kids. Heh, like me. Goldie, you know 'er. Her and her boyfriend moved to town like a month ago."
Goldie hadn't even considered he was talking about one of, one of her friends.
"Yeah, her. Ginger."
"I mean, she said no, but she sure didn't want to! I swear, y'all women, boy...always tryna lock a man down, any man come around.
Even when he's blitzed outta his mind. She's just lucky she had—" but Rhett didn't want to mention Virgie.
"Uh, she just lucky she had some kinda sense knocked into her before she did somethin' real stupid."
Virginia made the girl leave. It took a few tries, she bounced from guy to guy.
But the whole time him and Junior hung back. Rhett wasn't sure that's what they shoulda done but, um, he had been keepin' his eyes open.
"Okay, cool, see. Everything's cool. I'm gonna go hit up that dude for a smoke. He got to have some extra cigs. Got to."
"Ay, who's that?" Ginger whispered.
"Oh, wait, never mind, I seen him before, he's—"
"A big fat nobody, like I said."
Virginia stared him down with that Daytona stare, daring him to say somethin'.
Almost made him feel like he was the one caught out here where he had no business being.
But, whatever, right?
Like Junior said, she looked like she was wantin' to get into somethin' and it's not like she was a little girl still, not in that dress. Wasn't she
Dixie's best girlfriend? Plus, she could handle herself. Right? And, regardless of all that with them dudes, Rhett was sure so could her friend.
Matter o' fact, everything about that one was flashing warnings like, dude, she will surely make a sucker outta you and any others come too close.
So keep on walking.
Just too bad for one stuck home with those kids while she was out here that he didn't know how to read a...situation.
"You know Gavin's not her boyfriend," Goldie said.
"Gavin. And Ginger. They're not a couple."
"Boyfriend, baby-daddy, whatever."
"No, but I mean they're—"
"Kinda like me and Sandy, then. We ain't no couple neither but we're, like, together, y'know, here, cuz we hadda pool our resources for the kid.
So I get it. Don't make it no better, hell, it makes it worse that she was out there ready to ditch Dude and stick him with raising those babies!"
"I don't...I don't think that's what happened."
"Were you there? Well, were you?"
"All right then."
"But-Gavin's-her-brother," Goldie got in real fast before he started back in on telling her half a story - he never told
a whole one in his life, but she'd learned how to fill in some of the details. It wasn't hard, she knew how her brother was.
"No shit? Thought I heard he was the father."
"Well, he's not," Goldie gloated a bit at being able to set him straight.
"And she's not their—"
"Brother, huh? Well, that's good for him. I mean I was, y'know, keepin' an eye on the situation.
But I wasn't sure if I should just jump in. She don't know me from a hill o' beans either..."
Junior was no damn help.
Rhett just stood there looking stupid, he knew he was looking stupid, but what the hell else was he s'posed to do?
If Virginia would just leave already! But she didn't, not right away.
"Good night, Rico," Virgie said.
(which was already more than she could bring herself to say before Rhett and Junior got there so not exactly "nobody", eh Virgie?)
Ginger laughed at her but she was all for a change o' plans, she had a kinda score to settle.
She could forget that, though. Point made, Virgie snarled at Rhett once more and tugged at Ginger's elbow.
"Aw, darlin'. You really going?"
"Looks like it. Later, Gator," Ginger called behind her as they headed off home.
Rhett couldn't believe his eyes.
Drunk bastard had no kinda pride.
"Hey, uh, pardon me, dude. Think I could bum one of those off you?"
He sat up and tossed him a crumpled pack.
"Thanks, buddy," Junior said before tossing it back.
"Junior was smoking again? But he quit! He promised Mary! And he was doin' so good...Wasn't he?"
"Hey, what Mary don't know won't hurt her."
"But he quit for her and for the babies."
"Look, everybody got something. So happened Junior was feenin' for some nicotine. He could be out doin' way worse. Right?"
"I guess so. Hanging out with you..."
"Damn right! And anyway I say she was in the wrong in the first place for expectin' a man
to give up his habits that he likes but she don't, just on her say so. Don't work that way."
"Maybe, um, maybe a married man shouldn't be spending so much time with his single buddies. Cuz there's the
temptation to, you know, to start thinkin' he's still the same guy as he used to be before. And he's not anymore."
"Word of advice, kiddo. People don't change. Not cuz of no piece o' paper."
"But it's not the piece of paper, Rhett. Or the ring. It's the, it's the reason why you get 'em in the first place."
"Trust me when I say: Men don't change. Take David..."
But Goldie did not want her brother's take on her relationship.
Not that he was listening. "You like him the way he is, right? Good. Don't ever expect him to be nobody different."
And the thing of it was, it was like Junior was back to bein' Junior from the minute he lit up.
"Ahh. Mary's gonna kill me if she finds out but, man, she just doesn't understand."
"Eh. Forget all that. It's kind of a sausage fest out here but there's a coupla chicks runnin' around. And they look horny as hell. Gonna get your uptight ass laid one way or another."
"Hey, I get plenty laid already, thank you."
But Rhett wasn't buying that line Junior was sellin'. No man in his right mind voluntarily settled for one when he could have two or three or four. It wasn't natural!
"Ain't you wasted enough already?"
"Cain't a man drown his sorrows in peace? My baby done left me high an' dry."
"Your baby. Riiight..."
"My dark-haired darlin' of the night. Most beautiful girl I ever did see...She was gon' be my wife."
"Ya think so, huh? That girl?" Jake flicked his ashes at Gator's feet and went back to his hot dog.
"Better pray you're a black-out drunk that's all I can say."
"Ohh, Sally...I'm s'sorry Sally, baby. She was so dang pretty. I never, I say I never meant to betray your faith in ol' Gator, Sally."
"Would you shaddup already."
"Pretty...pretty...pretty girl, all on her lonesome. I couldn't help m'self, Sally. I swear I couldn't. You don't need ol' Gator but
oh, that beautiful girl, Sally girl, she needed me to take care on her. You un'erstand that dontcha, Sally? Dontcha?"
"I said shaddup! There ain't no Sally here."
"Hey! Hey!!" Jake banged on the table. "Shaddup already! Why don't you go...somewhere else. Go walk it off. Shit, go find Sally."
"Sally," he whimpered one last time.
That was definitely not Sally walking up.
"Ouch, hot! Hot!" Rhett threw down the plate. But at least they weren't burned.
Zephyr Zany wasn't a girl he had to impress much, at least not while their clothes were still on, but it
was kinda halfway like a date so, y'know, the least he could do was make sure she was fed...first.
"Hey. Yo, Junior, she's coming now, that's her. She's by herself, though, so..."
"Whatever. Dude, I told you already, I don't cheat on my wife."
Zephyr came straight over. "Look what the wind blew in!" Rhett greeted his, uh, 'friend'.
"That only gets funnier after the 150th time, babe."
Hey, he coulda talked about how she blew him away instead but, y'know, he was savin' that one for after.
"Gator. Gator, you're not heading out yet, are you?"
"Just, just need some air. Tha's'all, darlin'. Gotta get some, uh, some air."
"Gator? Hey, hold up, relax for a minute. Go chill out by the fire or something. C'mon."
"Wait, did whatsisname leave already, too? Or is that—oh. Never mind. No, I'm hearing things, I guess.
C'mon, Gator. Let's you and me go sit down over there. No, no, that way, back over there, buddy."
Zephyr didn't seem to mind bein' surrounded by guys. She was cool like that. Up for whatever. Down for whatever.
No muss, no fuss, no maintenance. But she had kinda left his boy high and dry. What gives? What happened to her friend? Junior was
being cool about it. Actually, he was sittin' there looking relieved, like an idiot, but c'mon. Rhett had been really trying to be a good buddy!
"My sister got held up. I'm not even gonna get to see her, she's got to head straight for Bigg City."
Sister? Damn. Damn. Damn. Rhett didn't know the girl she was bringing was her sister. He knows he's been all 'ain't no fun
if my homies can't have none' but if Junior really didn't want her, uh, he prolly coulda ended up crossing one of the list, y'know.
Had him a Zany sandwich.
Well, hell, he woulda been the sandwich, coulda been the meat between those two, heh, patties.
"My friend was—"
"Good morning, Goldie. Rhett."
"Hi, Ti-Ti." Proxy wriggled herself around in Sandy's arms to have her say.
"I, uh, I'm not really hungry."
"We go eat bre'fast. Come."
"Proxy, she's talking."
"Unh? Why? No,Ti-Ti. No talk to him."
Sandy sshed her and tried to switch Proxy to her other arm but Proxy pushed up again.
"Proxima. Goldie is not your dog, she's not Poochie. Goldie is your aunt. You don't tell her what to do."
"Ti-ti, come, p'ease. Now."
"In a minute, Proxy, I'll be down."
"No talk to him. Him bad girl, him on time out. No talking, no. Come. Come now!"
"Proxima! What did I say? Turn around before you fall. Now, what did Mama just tell you?"
"Bad Girl!" she got in one last one before Mama whisked her away downstairs and stuck her in the time out chair.
Now Rhett knew a thing or two about a bad girl himself. Good girls were too much work and they embarrass you and cut off your woohoo supply just cuz they
feel like it, all the while still makin' demands on your money and your life. No, give him a bad girl tonight. Or at least a no-muss, no-fuss, no sayin' no kinda girl.
One for now and maybe a spare for later.
Pick up one for Junior, too. Cuz no matter what he said, tryna be the bigger Mann, that Mary-Mary was the ultimate good girl gotcha.
Girl like that'll fuck up your whole lifestyle if you ain't careful. Before he knew it instead of her being more and
more like a Mrs. Mann he'd be the one turnin' into Homer Junior...Mr. Homebody Land. Not a good look, dude.
But lucky for Junior he had a friend like him! And there was nothin' but low-maintenance chicks there for the makin'! Ask that dude in the red shirt.
Rhett had almost forgot all about that but that dude had his now and later trailin' him around all night!
"It was crazy, I tell you, from like as soon as I got there there was this guy with these chicks all over him, man..."
"...they'd just be followin' him around. One make out with him over here. The other one catch him over there. And at one point I saw 'em standing there all
together, swappin' whose turn was it. Guy musta been in his glory that night. He'd be tonguin' one down and turn around and let the other one get hers in."
"Goldie, whatchu talkin'? That man had his pimp game on point!"
"The menagerie was in check. Got me to thinkin'. I mean, he wasn't even, like, nuttin' special, see.
And I'm a Hart, y'know. I'm Rhett Hart, baby! C'mon, Go-Go Goldie-Ranger. You know how that goes."
"Anyway, the inspiration was definitely flowing. In, uh, all kindsa directions. Before you could say 'boo'
there was a, uh, another twosome goin' for the grope. Right there by our table...Heh-heh-heh."
But Rhett didn't even get to cop a feel good before some cock-blockin' dude came outta nowhere and started yellin' at him to get his hands off her.
But Rhett, y'know, Rhett wasn't havin' none o' that! Except, uh...
...except it sounded like he knew her.
"I didn't know you were in town, 'Los. How's it goin?"
"Going? How's it going? What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I think I'm on a date. I mean, nobody told me that you were in town. So...y'know...But it was good to see you."
Chicks don't ever miss a beat do they? Damn.
Now if that was him gettin' caught with one of his others, smooth as he was, he'd be startin' to stutter, gettin' ready to 'baby, please' her; y',know: 'baby, please,
don't be like that, she's uh, she's uh, she's just a friend...' and it wouldn't work cuz it never did. And here she was, telling that dude the truth to his face and
laughin' about it! But that's cuz women could get away with that, man. Imagine him tellin' these women the truth about shit. Man, he'd never get laid again!
Ah well. This might take a minute. Might as well grab a beer while he waited.
After he emptied his bottle, Rhett puffed up his chest and initiated his own game of Duck, Duck...
Gotta let 'em know.
It was her turn to chase him. If she still wanted to play.
As a rule, he doesn't antagonise no buff dudes; Rhett would have never been so bold if Junior wasn't there to—wait, Junior? Junior! Where the hell are you goin'?
Uh...well...don't matter. Don't matter at all. Rhett got this one. She knew which one she came for.
'Aw, yeah, you're a bad boy, baby. A ba-a-ad boy!'
"Proxy good girl, Ti-Ti"
Goldie stifled a chuckle at that announcement as she sat down. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. Me good girl. No for time out, no. On'y for to eat," she defended her restraints. "Ready bre'fast?"
"I'm still not very hungry, Prox. I might just have some orange juice."
"But Mama cook."
Goldie shrugged her shoulders.
Pop wasn't home so she wasn't feeling as territorial over breakfast this morning but still, she thought they had worked out, like, an unofficial schedule for the kitchen. Guess not.
"You eat." Proxy decided for her. "Mama cook good."
"I trust you had a good night."
"Oh, uh, yeah, it was cool. Being cooped up with Mary and the twins all the time ain't no good
for him or her so, y'know, I, uh, agreed with Junior that we were overdue for a bros night, y'know."
"You were with Junior last night?"
"Yeah. Who you thought I was with?"
"I'm sure I don't know."
Flagrant disrespect aside, Carlos couldn't take Rhett as a real threat but he also wasn't done complaining about him.
"This clown? You couldn't find nobody better than a clown to mess around?"
"He does make me laugh...But he's not the only one. You're acting pretty funny right now."
Junior wasn't no damn bodyguard. Rhett was the one screwin' around with...who the hell knows, who even are these people? They're not the truckers he knows.
It's not like he would stand by and let them jump his friend but as long as Rhett was determined to be always woohooin' some other dude's wife or girlfriend then
a black eye was a fair price to pay every now and then. Or it wasn't and he should leave that girl alone. But either way, Junior wasn't jumpin' in the middle for him.
Nah, but Rhett knew what he was doin'. Kinda. He didn't know who Carlos was to Zephyr but he knew that tonight she was still putting out all the signs.
Like maybe she wanted to teach him a lesson. So okay. He'll be her visual aid. Even better, one o' them hands-on displays.
"So, uh, I don't know if my boy's got daddy duty tomorrow but just in case I don't, y'know, get to see you later, thanks for coming out."
Rhett kissed her cheek and walked away. No way she wouldn't follow!
Whoo, your pops got game, yes sir!
"Rhett! I can't step away from the stove right now, can you please bring Proxy's bowl in to her?"
Eh. Goldie didn't need to hear none of this next part no way.
It looked like Junior was finally getting into the swing of things himself.
That redhead was definitely up for whatever and Rhett was lettin' him have first crack at her but if he was gonna
keep sniffin' around that dude, begging for some smokes—trying to act like he was some kinda boy scout all cuz
he had a wife now then all bets were off. So he better step up his game while Rhett already had his hands full.
"No offense but you don't look like a trucker."
"Oh, I'm not. I'm a townie. I live other side of the bridge. It's just, I know some of these guys so sometimes
I come out this way to kick back, have a good time. How 'bout you? You having a good time yet, Junior?"
"You, uh, you know who I am?"
"Small town. I'm Carrie, by the way...Carrie-Anne. But that sounds so country bumpkin that I—"
"No. Uh, I like it. Carrie-Anne."
Zephyr ditched that zero real quick once he went all Suavemente...(Besame!)
Dame un beso...something. Dame un beso suave.
Que yo quiero sentir tus labios...
I don't remember no more
Kiss me crazy
Cuz I'm the best...
"What's that you're humming?"
"Huh? Oh, nothin', nothin', baby. You, uh, you just got me on vibrate."
"Ooh. I like that!"
The thrill of outdoor woohoo was ramped up even more with her ex or whatever, one o' her other bang-buddies or whoever he was bein' only a few feet away, gettin taught a lesson 'bout who comes first.
Ha ha! Get it? Get it? Rhett cracks himself up!
The outhouse didn't even stink or nothin', it smelled like pine needles...Boner bonus!
Proxy's screeching interrupted Rhett's reverie.
"Come! Ti-Ti! Come back! Eat! Eat bre'fast. Now!"
"Proxima," Sandy chastised on cue from the kitchen. "That is not talking nice. You don't tell Auntie what to do, remember. Auntie tells you."
With Goldie there with them she actually wasn't as fussy this morning as per usual. But she was just as loud.
Rhett didn't know about that one.
He remembered Goldie at that age. She was all sweet and smile-y. Like Una. Una took after them. Sweetness ran in their family. (HA!)
But those girl hormone chromosomes, or however you wanna say it, had already kicked up in her. Musta come from Sandy. Because she was one demanding little woman, boy.
It was like one day she didn't say jack and the next she had opinions about everything! Like she'd been savin' 'em up, waiting on what, though, he had no freakin' clue.
But wasn't she too little to be crazy already? Yeah, she was too little. Those words...just words. Like on repeat.
Rhett held back with her bowl for a second, watching her as she was fussing out loud.
With those balled fists and tiny arms flailing for no reason. Talking to who-the-hell-knows.
"Mama tell Proxy. Grump tell an' tell Proxy. Ti-Ti tell Proxy...Who Proxy tell?"
"Here ya go."
Whatever. "Sandy!! The baby wants you to feed her."
"I'm still cooking, Rhett. I'm sure you can handle it."
Hmph. She should know. Rhett always knew how to handle his lay-dez.
"Don't forget the door."
"Get the door."
"You can feed yourself now, kidlet, can't you?"
"No. No-no-no. Proxy—Proxy can...no."
"Oh, you need a spoon, dontcha. Okay, I'll get your spoon."
"No! No-no-no-no-no. No you. Ti-Ti? Ti-Ti, p'eeaase! Eat bre'fast me!"
"Oh. Gold-ay! Better get in here. Your niece wants you."
Saved by the scream.
Sandy looked like she was wanting to pick her brain. Awk-ward!
Speaking of awkward...
"What the hell, people. Occupado!"
"Rhett? That's you?"
"Junior? Hey, get the hell outta here, man, I'm busy."
"Oh." Junior laughed.
"Busy gettin' busy, dumbass. Go piss behind a tree or somethin'."
Rhett better know what he was gettin' himself into with that one. Seemed like he was playin' with fire. Just cuz. Just cuz she was there, just cuz he could.
But anyway Junior did go find himself a tree and then he went and grabbed himself another beer.
Without even realising it, he was staring. But not at Carrie-Anne.
There were no lights on at the house, his, uh, old house, his dad's house.
Sometimes it seemed like several lifetimes ago since he got kicked out and wound up sitting in practically this exact same spot waiting for his mom to sort the shit out.
And sometimes it seemed like only yesterday, like he might could go back if he only said he was sorry and promised not to pilfer no more of his dad's stash of cheap tricks.
But, uh, there was Mary. And the babies, you know. Junior loved lotsa stuff about his life the way it was.
But he still wasn't lookin' forward to that first run-in with his new...stepmom.
Just the thought was enough to stress him out. Jake said he would hook him up with a coupla cartons the next time he came through Widespot
but that wouldn't do. Junior was ready to buy him out, however many packs he had on him now. Just to have, you know. Cold turkey was too hard.
Whoa, hey. Looked like somebody was in trouble...Double trouble. And for once it wasn't him!
Yeah, he did it. (And would do it again! Just give 'im 20 minutes. Heh-heh-heh.)
But this time, for the first time, he was the one on the other side of the game.
No need to whip out excuses or apologies. Big Pimpin' just keeps it movin'...
What the hell was that? This music filtered into his memories. But nobody was singing. But he heard it.
♫Al pasar la barca
me dijo el barquero
las niñas bonitas
no pagan dinero.♫
Who the hell was that singing?
Oh, back to real life, back to the here and now...
♫Yo no soy bonita
ni lo quiero ser
yo pago dinero
como otra mujer.♫
♫Al volver la barca
me volvió a decir:
Las niñas bonitas
no pagan aquí.
♫Yo no soy bonita
ni lo quiero ser
tome usted los cuartos
y a pasarlo bien.♫
Somebody was always singin' at this kid. Badly.
But at least when baby sis did it it was kinda cute.
The first time he heard Sandy singin' at her...damn. That off-key wailing really kinda did it for him in the sack
but if the kidlet had any music in her then Goldie did have the right idea cuz it was gonna take a Hart to bring it out.
♫Y al volver la barca
me volvió a decir,
me ha gustado a mí.♫
"Ahh, not quite morenita, though, huh, Proxy? You take after tu mamá there. But that's okay. Because we all say...:
♫Yo no soy bonita
ni lo quiero ser
Arriba la barca
de Santa Abuela Angel!♫
Yay! Proxy, say Yay!"
"Unh. Him." She pointed up. "No yay—no yo yay to him."
"Oh, hey, Rhett." Goldie aimed her bear at him. "Do. You. Want. To. Sing. With. Us?"
"Aw, come on. Proxy wants you to sing with us."
"Well, I don't know any songs."
"Liar," she said. "Liar, liar. Pants. On. Fire."
"Would you can it with the bear voice. I'm not in the mood for no sing-a-longs. No more sing-song sing-a-longs
today, okay, kid," he said to Proxy. "Oh, hey, y'know, you didn't even get to hear the rest of the story."
"What story? Oh that, your night last night, there's more?"
"Oh yeah. I'm tellin' you, truckers are some funny people."
So...as he was saying...
Rhett was ever chivalrous.
C'mon, what was he s'posed to do, anyway?
Some other chick had whistled 'Los over and Zephyr stood there standin' off with that one so, uh, yeah, catch ya later, babe.
Rhett had been a busy boy but before he goes, he, uh, never did land a spare for later. And a trucker chick was probably a wild ride, too.
But which one? That one? Not bad, not bad...
"And I was 'bout to leave, right, but there was this chick that was talkin' to, uh, to my friend's friend...And I don't know. She never even looked my way,
that's for sure. She was all laid back, low-key, like low-low-key, didn't comb 'er hair, drives a truck...you know what I'm sayin'. But that's kinda hot. Real hot."
"I mean and she was there and everything. One o' these days...y'never know. And it's like, if I can charm the pants off a lez—"
"What's her problem?"
"Uh...she's a feminist."
"Y'okay, Prox? You sleepy?"
She stopped mid-wail and promptly propped her head up again to deny any such accusation. It was not naptime yet!
"Maybe you shouldn't say stuff like that in front of her. Like about women who aren't Sandy."
Goldie tried to whisper her name but there was no point. Proxy was all ears. And Rhett liked to hear himself talk.
"Like the kid even knows what I'm sayin'. Yeah, she talks, but don't put too much on that. Babies are like those birds, parrots or parakeets, whatever. They repeat
the sounds cuz it's good practice, like doin' scales, but they don't understand worth a damn. Not when they're this little. Only thing she really knows is 'no'."
"You see. So anyway..."
Junior was like a dog with the wrong kinda bone. He was back to pestering his nicotine connection to see if he could get his expensive-ass brand with the cloves.
Even Rhett knew that was a long shot. And if he was stupid enough to give him cash up front? Prolly wouldn't ever see that dude again.
"Whatcha doin'?" Goldie always kept one eye on Proxy. Because Rhett hardly ever did. "No-no. Remember, Prox?
Gramps gonna get ya if you mess with his records. Play with Señor. The bear, see him? You can play with him."
Proxy did not want to play with him.
Golde didn't know it but she already crawled into her room to play with him most days. But here was someone new.
Proxy was a good girl, though, she sat nice and scooted over, as close as she could without getting told 'no-no'.
She said hi to the girl over here and to the girl over there and she chatted away until she ran out of things to say.
And then she sang.
♫Yo no yo no-nita
Yo no yo no so...♫
Proxy sang Ti-Ti's song for Grump's singing picture girls. To the best of her recollection.
They called that dude Snake-Eyes. Looked about right. Somebody else had said Jake the Snake.
Rhett didn't know what none of that was about but he did seem kinda shady in his way. And if he ripped Junior off, well,
okay, he didn't live in the lap of luxury no more cuz Candy's schemin' ass had stole his daddy's love but Rhett was sure
Junior could still afford it. Junior was Junior, he couldn't really be all the way cut off. Cuz, like, how did he buy his store?
"Your priorities are so jacked," Rhett joked with Junior but he was only half-joking.
"Mine? Yeah, okay. Whatever you say."
They were walking away and all of a sudden the snake flipped the bird. Rhett had to turn around, like all the way around, to see who he
was talkin' to because it better not be him! But it was crazy, these truckers and their hangers-on were crazy, just flippin' people off...
"Goldie, what? I mean, outta nowhere, he was just like Fuck You." Rhett demonstrated with a little extra oomph on the gesture.
"I get it. C'mon, cut it out. I get it. But, I mean, why was he so mad?"
"Who the hell knows? I don't know that he was mad. Just wanted to start some shit, maybe. Just 'Fuck You'." Rhett demonstrated again. "Outta nowhere."
The animated conversation had drawn attention from another corner. It was more interesting than the bear or the girls.
Proxy fiddled with her fingers. She tried them all.
None of the ones on her other hand would stand up alone and even on her this hand she had to hold all the littler ones straight.
Except for her thumb, she could put her thumb up but no-no-no that didn't seem right. But her this one. This one stayed up. "Fuh."
"Uh, what's that ya got there, Prox?"
"Finger. One finger."
"That's right. One." Goldie put up her pointer finger, too. "Proxy is number one. You are one years old. Year? One year old? Well, anyway, Proxy is one. One."
No-no-no. Proxy already knew how old she was. "Fuh."
"Goldie, would you come on here and leave the kid alone. She was finally sitting quiet and I was just gettin' to the good part."
"What? What she say?"
"Rhett. Now look what you did."
"Oops. Well, whatever, she can't say it right. So listen. So the dude flipped him off, right, but then I feel somebody comin' up on me!"
Rhett had kinda figured, like, after what went down in the outhouse that he wasn't really gonna get outta here without some kinda confrontation.
Junior better stop playin' mediator for some stranger and be ready to swing, like, if his brother came runnin' up, too, to defend Zephyr's 'honour'.
"Goldie! Now where are you going?"
"There's a phone right here, y'know."
"But it might be David."
It wasn't David.
"Ginger? Uh, hey."
"'Sup, girl. Whatchu doin' today...?"
"Say 'gain. Me say, too."
"I won't either. And you better not let your mother hear you."
No-no-no. No right. How forget? Watching dem as talk an' talk. Now Proxy not 'member.
"There's my Proxy baby. What's the matter?"
"Unh?" She looked up. "Mama..."
"Has Dada been ignoring you?"
"Yeah!" she jumped to agree, "He no p'ay me."
"Pay you? What the—hey, looky here, kid, I pay for you."
"No." Proxy's sharp brows angled down into a perfect V formation. "No-no-no-no-no."
"Oh, yes, I do. And believe you me you ain't come cheap!"
"No! P'ay me! P'AY ME!!" Proxy lunged for Ti-Ti's bear and tossed it at his head (y'know, so he would understand.)
*Her verbal skills have far outpaced her motor development so she missed. But trust me when I say Proxy Hart is working on her aim.*
"*Oof.* What the hell?"
"Oh, Dada wouldn't play with you."
"No." Proxy pouted. "Took Ti-Ti, too. Talk-talk-talk," she repeated the phrase she'd once heard Grump use about her.
"Aww, and they ignored Mama's baby? But that's okay."
"Him did it."
"So you're not gonna say nothin'? 'Bout her throwin' shit?"
Rhett gave the beat up old teddy bear a little kick when it tumbled down to his feet.
"Why don't you tell her it's not nice to throw."
But he didn't.
"We play nice. Nice, Proxima. We must be gentle with the baby bear."
"I Baby Beawr!"
"Well, yes, that's right, but we must be gentle with the baby bear and with Auntie's bear. And with Dada, too."
Proxy looked from the Mama to him in disbelief.
"Don't you worry," Sandy said, scooping her up, "Dada will be sure to play with Proxy later."
"Right now you and I are going to go read our book and take our nap."
"Okay, I'm back. So what happened next, after you thought the guy was gonna grab you?"
"He did grab me!"
"Yeah, but I mean, he grabbed me and like shoved me outta the way."
Rhett had been ready for him, too...
...but better that dude than him. He swung on him and the dust went flyin'!
"They just started fighting? That's crazy."
It was crazy. The commotion drew a crowd.
And nobody knew what the hell the fight was even about but nobody cared.
But the best part of all was that 'Los lost. To that guy. Like, he lost!
"So the moral of the story is: don't start no shit...unless you know you can finish it."
"Um, okay. I mean, I still don't get it."
"But, um, cool story, bro."
Goldie paused and pivoted back to face him before heading upstairs. "But," she said, "Señor Oso says: Eso no es todo, mijo. I know!"
Rhett couldn't help a little laugh at that because even with the stupid bear voice she still sounded just like Ma.
She always used to say that to him. She was always right, too.
Rhett couldn't help a little laugh at his rival's expense either after he got his ass handed to him. Didn't see that coming, did he?
Shoulda prolly kept his mouth shut but aw man. It was just, it was funny!
And it just got...
Now big bro (or little bro, Rhett didn't know) had to run over and hold him back before Carlos got knocked the hell out again. But while he was
holdin' him back Jake the Snake went ahead and sucker punched him. "Ha-ha!" Rhett laughed his head off. He left him right open for that!
"You see something funny?"
Wait, what happened here?
"Because if you do, cabrón," Rico spat at his feet, "you should say so."
"I, uh, I..."
Yeah, that sucked; with Zephyr being all nosy, too. No need to share that part and worry Goldie. But Rhett wasn't no punk or nothin'.
Dude just caught him off guard is all.
And he wasn't, y'know, he wasn't reckless. He had no beef with bandana dude, he had no beef with nobody. He was just along for the ride.
"That's what I thought."
Part of him wanted to go ahead and press his luck and see what happens if they all got to brawling. He prolly wouldn't get the worst of it then and it'd make a cool ass story.
A rumble with the truckers. Or, hell, any ol' bar brawl. Another time maybe. (*hint, hint?*) Like when there wasn't such a clear and direct pathway between his face and that particular fist.
Or maybe not.
Damn. They all hadda have felt that. Carlos hunched up in the air with that last punch and fell straight down to his knees.
"Yo, what's the matter with you? You gonna take that?"
"Aha," Jake said as he recovered his cigarette and puffed it back to life, "let that be a lesson to you. Waste not, want not."
Carlos groaned, clutching his gut. This last round had done for him.
"Can't you see he's down? What are you still talking smack for?"
"He knows what I'm talking about. Don't you, Amigo?" Jake clapped him a few times on the top of the foot to which Carlos gave a feeble kick.
'Bandana' backed off, all the way off, like, in shame o' his loser brother but Rhett kept his cool, cuz he wanted to keep his face intact; he didn't laugh.
It was hard to do, too! In his head Rhett was laughin' his ass off at that two-time-loser, three-time-loser if you count Zephyr.
But now she was lookin' at him all sympathetic. What the hell was that about? She was hootin' them on when the guy sucker punched him in the face!
Fickle as fuck, that girl. But he already got his. So whatever.
"I said get the hell off me." Carlos kicked again.
"Yep, shoulda conserved your energy."
"Hey, Goldie-girl, I just had to get out of the house for a minute. Gavin's in one o' his dictator moods. He's so dramatic, I swear."
"So. Helluva night, huh?"
And it was. Rhett had gotten him some on the sly and hell if those awkward splinters weren't worth it!
Forget that guy Jake cuz he was the one snaked the girl away from, away from Pretty Boy Floyd*—got knocked out in the first round!
And that fight! First he got some action then he got to see some action. What's even better,
he's the one shoulda been, coulda been, prolly woulda been on the other side o' those fists!
And if it'd'a been him, well, Junior was s'posed to have his back, s'posed to, but with that dude's crazy as shit brother in the mix...hell, at least it woulda been Epic!
But anyway Rhett was ridin' high, dude. He'd got lucky. Twice! Heh-heh-heh.
"Same time, tomorrow, bro?"
But Junior'd had a different, less exciting kinda night. "Doubt it. I mean, you know...I don't know."
*Actually the nickname of a bank robber, not a boxer, but how could that possibly matter when it sounded so right in his head?
Rhett had responsibilities, too. He knew that. But he didn't see any reason a coupla carefree nights (or days, in Sandy's case) should take over his whole life.
Sandy had been givin' him 'tude, today, though, all day, so he went to check on her.
She probably wouldn't like it if he went out again tonight but that was the good thing about those repressed housewife types.
She would do like she did today, throw a bit o' cold shoulder his way and maybe even corner him later to work out some o' her tensions
between the sheets, but one thing she wasn't gonna do was start a fight. So he was gonna go ahead and do what he liked.
Doing what you like is how they rolled out there by the side of the road.
Even when it was way past time for some folks to pack it in and call it a night.
"The party ain't over, boys. Don't tell me you're ready to go, already."
"Yeah, man. It's late. Gotta get home to the wife and kids."
Rhett almost smacked him. Except he woulda got smacked back and who needs that—but was he stupid or something?
"How are you getting back to the other side of the bridge?" Junior asked her. "Your buddies are all plastered."
"Don't I know it. But that's what these handy-dandy tents are for. Sleeps three easy. Sometimes more."
"Ah, well, uh, carry on, Carrie-A—oh, uh, Carrie." She winked at Junior. "Come on, Rhett, let's, uh, let's go. Rhett...Rhett?"
But Rhett was in a whole other zone and he was just gettin' to the good part. She was movin' her mouth and they were both making some kinda sounds...words but all he'd heard was ORGY!!
He was staring so hard that they could all feel him eye-humping Carrie-Anne but good.
And that was just for a start.
"I said snap out of it, man." Junior elbowed him. "Let's go."
Rhett jumped off the side of the last couple steps and threw up his arms.
Besa! Besa! Besa!
"Oh, damn it, Goldie. Thanks for puttin' this song back in my head..."
Because of course it was her fault. Even though that's not what she was singing.
I'm so 'suave'...
I can do you crazy
Cuz I'm so 'suave'
Why fight it, the music was in him.
Rhett danced one step forward and two steps back through the dining room, in a different kinda zone, playing the booty bongos on his fantasy woman.
He didn't know what her face looked like but that's not the part of her that mattered! Pow! They were makin' some beautiful music together!
Besa! Besa! Besa!
Bang, he threw in a pelvic, boom, thrust or two.
"Damelo!" he said that out loud that time. Jolted himself out of the fantasy.
"Hey, Goldie, I was think—"
Whoa. Not who he was expecting to see.
"Oh, he's cute," Ginger said, before laughing so hard she could barely catch her breath.
"The l'il drummer boy."
Goldie spun around. "Rhett?"
But he'd spun around, too, trying to ease on out of there as discreetly as could be. Didn't work.
Rhett heard that.
He didn't know what to make of that girl. She was friends with Goldie? Baby sister Goldie? That's crazy.
"You could teach me to play drums like that?" she teased.
Whoa. No. No-no-no-no-no.
Rhett decided to act like he didn't hear that. Those, uh, no. Little girl bongos were way off limits.
"He only plays piano."
Thanks, Goldie, that's right. Say it again. Only play piano.
Whatever went down last night, like with that Gator guy, whatever she and Virginia got into...he didn't do it.
Only plays piano!
He liked his lay-dez sophisticated. Like him.
"Wife and kids, man? Wife and kids! You're a fucking idiot, you know that," Rhett started in as they resumed
making their way back to home and hearth and domestic bliss and all that bullshit but Junior ignored him.
"Hey, hold up a minute."
Junior paused to light up from the stash he scored off Jake. While he could, you know.
"So, uh, tomorrow, huh? Sounds like a plan, man. Sounds like a plan."
I had intended to intersperse the rest of the rest stop scene from the guys' perspectives as we've already seen how the night started from Virgie's (and we're just not going to take too close a look at it from Ginger's but if you noticed something...amiss then you'll know what Gavin meant when he said she was hard-headed and why he was determined to get Daytona to hire him on there) but it's been a really long time and I don't remember how I planned to handle the chronology wonkiness for the Harts nor did I want to be coming back to this yet again when it's time for Junior's chapter. Still, there are things that I wanted seen. Hope it was amusing!
Oh, and you may have noticed that the littlest Hart has got a serious case of sibling rivalry going...with her father. But as of yet that concept (father) does not compute. It's largely his fault. But it's not all his fault. More on that and the full Proxy Experience™ in the chapter proper. Chronologically, this would have been after the scene at the lake with Penny and Una but before the bonfire and before the garden party. Before Sandy decided that Proxima needed a 'real father' (as much as she herself needed a 'real man') and set out to go win back Hamilton. We'll see how that goes. I won't say when because I don't know but, as always, Happy Simming!
Gah, one more thing: Goldie and I (and Angel, of course, because that's where she got it from) took a liberty or two with the lyrics to "Al Pasar La Barca", not enough to mention actually (and Rhett stomped all over "Suavemente" and really "yo quiero sentir tus labios" is the only reason he knew any of it at all) but I wanted to point out that Angel deliberately left out the part about pretty girls going bad; and, while she fully believed in her beauty and that of her girls (leaving out also "como soy tan feo", refused to say it), she still liked the idea of letting them know that it was theirs and not for some random man to set the price on. Sometimes that means you pay your own fare or you'll end up paying more later. So it's telling that Goldie remembers the words still while Candy most certainly doesn't. (I didn't figure a translation would be needed but, just in case, the gist is that when getting on a boat the boat dude says to the girl that pretty girls don't pay, to which she responds that she's not pretty and doesn't even want to be, she'd rather pay her money, take it and have fun with it. And she stands her ground, even when he tells her she's just his type. So, as you see, pint-sized Candy so did not retain any part of that message. Every time any man told her she was too pretty or too hot to pay for whatever was going, she completely agreed. But we'll see how Goldie and the next gen Hart women fare when it's their turn to embark.)