Katie Letcher Lyle

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Alumnae Affairs

Viva Short Story

from Viva Magazine, July 1977

“We cannot fight for love as men can do;
we should be woo’d and were not made to woo.“
--William Shakespeare


I opened my eyes, closed them, and then opened them again. He was still there, staring down at me with eyes like blue stars, looking kind of blurry but very sexy, in khakis and a white T-shirt. “Jesus. Do you come with the room?” he asked.

I felt the damp heat of the night coming at me in waves like panther’s breath as I tuned in the world. Without opening my eyes again, I dragged together the shards of information I needed to make this sensible. Okay: broken car, hardly any money, the lady of the house saying, “Two-fifty for the sheets, that’s all you have to pay, but don’t let my husband know. The room’s rented to a ballplayer, but he’s off in Chicago. You can sleep there, but just don’t let my husband know. He’d kill me.” She rambled on, “He’s with the Chicago White Sox, just took the room the other day. They have a farm team that practices here every summer. Don’t worry. He hasn’t moved in yet. Won’t be back until Saturday at the earliest. Just don’t tell my husband, or Lord help us.”

I was ready. Did I come with the room? Well, it had to be the ballplayer. I opened my eyes, and the hazy vision was still there. I reached for my glasses, poking them in behind the pink curlers. Apollo? Romeo? Take me, my mind cried. It is not night when I do see your face.

“You’re supposed to be in Chicago,” I said, my voice cotton batted, adjusting my glasses. In focus, he was even better. Then I remembered I was naked. I was afraid to move as he stood above me, staring with a good deal more interest than most people ever had at my pathetic breast bumps and hammock-slung pelvis, my skinny tan legs and puckery appendix scar.

“Rained out,” he said. “How the hell did you get in here?”

I gathered indignation along with wakefulness. “That woman,” I said. “Your landlady. She assured me you were gone. Why, I’d have never—”

“Oh, shut up,” he said. “You wanna fuck?”

My big chance! I sat up and grabbed at the clean top sheet, pulling it up over me, and swallowed hard. “Are you crazy?” I asked.

He sat down on the sofa across the room and leaned back, splaying his legs out in front of him. “Not as I know of,” he said. “Listen, if you don’t want to fuck, then get out. I wanna use the bed. One way or the other.” He ran a large beautiful muscled hand through the golden waves of his hair and worked in his ear with his forefinger.

“Look,” I said, “I’ve paid for this room for tonight. I don’t have any place else to go. My car’s down the street being fixed, but it won’t be ready until some time tomorrow. Why don’t you go and sleep with one of your friends, or teammates, or whatever they are.”

“Do I look like a fag to you?”

He certainly didn’t. “What you look like to me is beside the point. That woman made me promise not to tell her husband that she had let me stay in the room.”

“Aha!” he said loudly, bringing the chair to the floor with a crash.

“Shhhh! Aha what?”

“That proves you’re here illegally.”

“It doesn’t,” I said. “I just don’t want to get her in trouble. She gave me a break.”

I sent thoughts winging in every direction to see where I must go, what I must do. My car. Maybe it wasn’t locked up, maybe I could sleep there. The motel that I’d gone to first. Sixteen dollars I didn’t have. But the desk clerk who’d suggested Mrs. Brown’s Tourist Home had been very nice. Maybe if I showed up now, homeless, pathetic.... I had never had a lot of trouble making people feel sorry for me.

“Would you like a beer?”

Deus ex machine! Saved! I smiled at him dazzlingly. “I love beer! By the way, I’m Mary Martha Enderly, but I’m called Sandy because of my hair—that’d really be terrific. Great. I’d like to go get dressed and brush my tee—”

“We can fuck later,” he said.

I got up, pulling the sheet from its moorings, tucking it around and around myself. He was enormous; he could rape me, he was crude, and the idea—oh, I couldn’t even think the word comfortably—tightened me up like a locked safety-deposit box. Dry as the Sahara. It was too bad, my big chance, because he sure was beautiful. “Uh—” I realized that I had nothing to call him. “What's your name?”

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