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The River Rubicon
By WILLIAM HUNT
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 William Daniel Hunt
All rights reserved.
In a starbright night. Beneath the chattering cicadas, I held her. I, Richard Eason. Or Reason as she called me, contracting an initial and a surname into a metaphor. The song of the cicadas was loud and full. It swallowed us. The camp's lone streetlamp our bedroom candle.
"Reason, honey," she says grasping me, an ear in each hand.
"Yes, Lefay," I push myself up a little to look into her eyes.
She pulls me back down and squeezes me. Tight and luscious. I squeeze back, our bodies moist with sweat. We roll over and Lefay slowly slides down my chest, hanging onto clumps of chest hair with her fists as if she were descending a ladder.
"Mmmmmm," she says.
We roll over and she pulls me down by the ears and my heart follows. We embrace and I rise to kiss her gently. I work my way down her neck with my lips then back up and passionately and deeply on the lips again. Nearby a woodpecker plays his rat-a-tat-tat machine-gun tune on some beleaguered oak tree.
"How much longer can you stay?" I ask.
"I'll have to go soon."
"Stick around, Lefay," I implore her.
"Can't do it, Reason. I've got a business meeting tomorrow back in Atlanta. Besides, I don't want to wear out my welcome." She touches her finger to the tip of my nose and smiles.
"There's no way that could happen, Lefay. You might wear out me, but not your welcome!" I roll off of her and slide my arm around her. She rolls over on her side and pats my chest with her fingertips.
"Poor baby," she kisses my chest and runs her tongue down my stomach, "poor, tired, baby."
She looks up at me and lifts her head high. She tosses back her long black silky hair like a proud mare. Her smile and her green eyes beam down on me. She kisses my body again and her hair descends upon me gently like a shroud.
She works her way down. She goes even lower and though I am dog tired, desire wells up in me again. I am parched. But Lefay pulls it out of me, that final shred of desire.
This time love is long and protracted. Forty-five minutes to an hour. I am relentless, driving out the savage beast.
Lefay rises from the blanket and stretches high—reaching out to the heavens of this starbright night. She spreads her legs wide and stretches broadly again. I catch her silhouette in the lamplight and hold it. Her sweat-covered breasts full and glistening in the lamplight. Her body firm and athletic. She has molded it magnificently in her twenty eighth year. In her apartment in Atlanta this past spring she had a set of light dumbbells and used them frequently. She has sculpted her body and now it adorns my nightsky. In the sheen of Lefay's perspiration I see the stars and the lamplight. And I almost see myself.
"Mmmm, baby," Lefay says, "You are the best."
"No, Lefay," I say, "You're the best. You are better than best."
Lefay smiles at me, her bright white teeth fluoresce in the night. She takes the palm of her hand and presses it against her collar bone. Then slowly slides it down, over her breasts, onto her flat stomach and just a little bit further. Then she flicks her hand and showers me with the sweat she has collected. She leans and anoints my face.
"This is the essence of me on your lips, Reason. Keep it with you."
I stand up quickly and we embrace. I kiss her softly on the forehead and track my way down the bridge of her nose with my tongue and kiss her lightly on the lips. She kisses me in return only more deeply and moves her tongue along the front of my teeth. We are wrapped around each other and caressing. Passion is rising in me again though I am beyond tired and gone. Our lips part and I embrace Lefay.
"Ugh! You're gonna squeeze the stuffin' out of me, boy," she says jokingly.
"I'm just trying to hold on, Lefay. Trying not to fall off the edge of the world," I pull away and try to smile at her.
"Hold onto me, babe and we'll fall off together." Lefay says.
I hold her face in my hands and kiss her hard. Her hands slide down my back sensuously and she grabs my buttocks, thrusting them towards her. I grab hers and shove it toward me with mock passion.
She kisses my chest then gets down on her knees. I stand with my hands on her head, caressing her hair. I tilt my head back towards the nightsky. The stars surround the lamplight like a distant aura. I move my hands down to Lefay's shoulders and then down to her breasts.
I go to my knees and kiss her and we embrace, thigh upon thigh, chest upon chest. We kiss hard and I lean Lefay back to the ground and she draws me near and then in. This time it is ferocious. Though we are both spent we go on and on and on. Drive out the savage beast.
I lose track of time and can not tell if the fury has been but an instant or an eternity. Lefay is writhing beneath me and thrashing. She grabs me by the shoulders, digging her fingernails in and rolls me over forcefully onto my back. We go on and on and on in perpetual motion and I lose track of losing track of time.
"Reason, baaaaaby," Lefay says, her nose to my nose.
"Lefay," I whisper.
She kisses my nose then slides her hand down my chest, gathering a palm of sweat. Lefay flicks at me and slaps my face as if she were applying after shave.
"Baby you are sooo good. You are one relentless sumbitch. I knew there was a good reason why I was going out with a college boy."
"A graduate student," I say, "I ain't a college boy no more."
"Well, you're my college boy—independent of your bad grammar," she rolls over on her back, lying supine and cuddling herself beneath my arm. She springs up after lying there for a second as though she has forgotten something important and gives me a peck down south.
"Thank you," she says.
She lays down again by my side then pulls half way up and supports herself with her arm. Lefay puts her hand on my chest and playfully strokes. "I thought you said you were too tired," she says.
"I thought I was," I say.
"Mmmm. Younger men!" Lefay says as she rolls onto her back and stares up at the sky.
"Did I tell you the one about the Viking orgy?" I say.
"No. But why do I have the feeling that I'm going to hear about it now."
"This orgy had been going on for days and days and this Viking guy opened a bedroom door in the castle to find a beautiful blond lying naked on the bed. He held his hands on his hips and said, 'Hi I'm Thor.' And she said, 'You're thore! I'm tho thore I can't even pith."
"Thath's a good one, Reason. Are you there?"
"Yeth, are you there?"
"Yeth. Decapitate a frog for me and I'll see if I can still pith," Lefay says.
"Cruelty to animalth. Thath's the kind of thing that really pithes me off," I say.
Lefay rolls over and pecks me on the lips, "You're a funny boy, Reason."
"And you, Lefay, are a funny girl."
I peck her on the lips and gaze at her too long—until it makes us both uncomfortable. We both look away.
Lefay stands and together we pick the blanket up off the ground and shake it. Lefay makes a medieval dance out of folding the blanket, curtsying before stepping forward to fold. She sings a medieval tune with a brogue
"When I a young maiden, A young maiden fair Sat by the still waters Beside the lee shore You came my sweet prince On your fast white steed And carried me off In your arms for to breed."
Blanket folded, she tucks it under her arm like a girl headed out for a picnic.
"My girl, shall we be headin' off the meadow now?"
"Methinks so. Hast thou not had enough for one night in the glen now, lad?"
"Aye, have I ... I'll be looking forward to the next time we have a chance to do this again. Do you know when that might be, lassie?"
"Methinks in a fortnight. Yea a fortnight. Can ye come over to Atlanta then?"
"A fortnight ... I'll be playing my lute for the king and queen just before that. If the king doesn't have my head, I'll be there."
"If the king should take off your head, will you ask them to send it to me?" she says. "Will do my heart good going into play for king knowing that you would be saving my head as a keepsake."
"I'll cherish it always," she pecks me on the lips and then grabs the back of my head as she were holding a skull, "Alas, poor Reason. I knew him well."
I do my best to look Yorik and skull-like.
"Something for the mantle place to rekindle memories," Lefay says. "And that way, lad, you'll be with me always. If not in body, at least in spirit. If not in spirit at least in bone."
I hold Lefay's waist in my hands, "What did the peasant woman say when her husband got out of bed in the morning?"
"I give up," she says.
Lefay leans back and groans.
I kiss her on the lips, "A fortnight and I shall be with ye again, lass."
"As the beggar once said, 'A fortnight and I'll be back in your alms again,'" Lefay says.
"Apparently a bad sense of humor is contagious."
"Sexually transmitted, I suspect," Lefay says, "In a fortnight I'll be getting another dose."
"From the one you love the most?" I ask pointedly.
Lefay does not answer. Irritated.
In the lamplight, Lefay's body reflecting the lamplight like the river answering the moon ... a long trail shining from the horizon to your eye. She has turned and is staring at me and I must snap out of it.
"A fortnight then," I say.
"Yes, a fortnight," there is anger and steel in her reply.
I should not have said it, hinted that I wished she might love me. Hinted that I might be asking that question. I should not have thought it.
I slip the blanket under my arm and Lefay and I together follow the lamplight towards the cabin. Lefay is accustomed to walking barefoot around Virginia-Highlands in Atlanta and moves easily over the stones and the exposed tree roots. I, however, am not so skilled and move slowly ouching along the way as though I am stepping on hot coals. Lefay moves with ease, free-spirited, and has to wait for me.
We get to the cabin and I open the screen door for Lefay. She puts her arm around me and pats me on the back, giving me a slight hug. She kisses me lightly on the chest.
Together we enter the cabin I built, or I should say rebuilt—a great wooden phoenix rising from the ashes. Lefay, ahead of me, is starting to hum a tune which I cannot place. Then she starts to sing
"I went down to the Audubon Zoo And they all axe fo you The lions and the monkeys They even inquired about you"
"Do you know that one, Reason?" Lefay spins and smiles eagerly.
"That was playing on the juke box in the Acme Oyster Bar down in New Orleans when we met, wasn't it?"
"You got it, babe. That's the one. Do you know it?"
"Hum it for me and maybe I can fake it." I sit down at the piano Tanny and I had moved into the cabin not long after we finished the construction. It was the first thing to go back in. It has a honky tonk sound. When I get our of graduate school and start making money, I'm going to get it fixed. Maybe even buy a new one.
Lefay starts singing the notes slowly and I pick them. It is a two cord song which goes back and forth between the tonic and the dominant. I add in a pinch of Jelly Roll Morton and I've got the tune rockin' with a barrelhouse stomp.
Lefay is singing again and dancing. She bumps and grinds like a Bourbon Street stripper and dances behind me and flicks my hair with her hand.
"I went down to the Audubon Zoo And dey all axe fo you Da lions and da monkeys Dey even inquired about ya"
I turn half way around and I am watching her as she bumps and steps, bumps and steps in a lazy New Orleans style that is packed with immense sexual energy.
"Yeh, baby, yeh!!" I am her rowdy Bourbon Street audience. She gives me a seductive grin and her body basks in the glow of two candles. I had left them lit when we first went outside. Lefay is half in light and half darkness. She is at times mysteriously out of view, a moving shadow. I continue to pound away at the piano and then take over the singing, giving it my best Satchmo.
"Oooh, honey that's good," Lefay says. She jumps up on the wire spool table and does a center stage dance from there. She holds her hands out as if she has me by the hips and is thrusting me into her, with the rhythm of the song.
Lefay jumps down off the spool and steps and grinds over to me. Our eyes are fixed on one another and it brings her in on the beacon. She stands behind me and puts her stomach to my back. I lean my head back to nestle between her breasts. Lefay reaches her hands around the front of me. She is now just swaying with the music and crossing her arms on my chest. She hugs me and kisses me on the head. It is a long, pensive kiss and she is resting her lips on my head. Lefay turns her head to the side and nestles as if she will sleep. I slow down the rhythm. What I am playing now is improvisational and more lyrical and I sway with Lefay.
"A fortnight, Reason," she says.
"A fortnight," I say.
There is silence for a moment as we sway then I begin to pick out the tune that I wrote for Lefay. It is a pearly tune which puts it best foot forward on a finely-tuned, good instrument. It sounds muddled and less purposeful on the honky tonk but I play on in spite of that.
"I always love it when you play that," Lefay says, "Always."
I lilted on in the piece, playing it with the damper pedal then cascading quickly to a no-pedal, minimalist arrangement of the tune. I composed this song the night Lefay and I met. Though we both lived in Atlanta we met in The French Quarter in New Orleans in March during Georgia Tech's spring break. To be more specific, I composed the song when Lefay and I broke into a Methodist Church on St. Charles.
It was late in the evening and we had both been out alone, both on the prowl. I was sitting at the counter in the Acme Oyster Bar having a Dixie and a Shrimp Po Boy and Lefay came and sat down next to me. For a while we did not talk to one another though I had noticed her right off. Lefay had ordered oysters on the half shell and a Bud. She was chasing the oysters with crackers and beer in that order. She caught me gazing at her and she responded by lifting a shell sensuously and letting the oyster slide luxuriously down her throat. She exuded such intense sexual energy. I was becoming increasingly captivated by her and was desperately trying to think of something to say to her when she turned to me and asked if this was my first visit to New Orleans. I told her it was not. That I was from Mississippi and had been to the Crescent City a number of times. I pointed out to her that the three largest cities in Mississippi are Memphis, Atlanta and New Orleans. I was an architecture graduate student at Georgia Tech, I told her. She told me what a coincidence, that she worked at Coca Cola headquarters in Atlanta—right across North Avenue from Georgia Tech—and that maybe we could get together for lunch sometime when we both got back. The conversation ramped up to a frenetic pace from there—weaving its way between things to do in Atlanta, my studies in architecture, her work as a business executive, my musical hobbies ... and life in the seventies. A tragic omen she thought—tie die shirts relinquishing the stage to polyester leisure suits. I agreed, but failed to tell her that I owned a couple of leisure suits myself. The conversation continued smoothly as we walked over to Pat O'Brien's.
A few hours and several Hurricanes later we left Pat O'Brien's arm in arm and set out to catch a trolley, any trolley. It was well past midnight. We both wanted to find the streetcar named Desire but were told that Desire didn't run anymore, that the city had thought about putting one in just for tourists. We got on the only line still running, the St. Charles, going no place in particular.
We were both moist from the mist that had persisted that night and perfect droplets hung in Lefay's hair. Before we climbed the steps of the trolley she shook her mane like a proud lioness and the droplets slung out forever in my memory like so many glass beads stroboscopically passing through the faint incandescent light. We dropped our money into the box and moved arm in arm down the narrow aisle of the car.
We were the only passengers save a wino who had stumbled onto the streetcar, unaware of night or day or rain. We passed by him and were engulfed by the fumes.
"Whole world come a bubblin' soon!" he mumbled when we jarred his seat. He sat up and paused as if thinking for a moment. Then he stood, holding onto the seat in front of him as if it were the pulpit of some country Baptist church and stared at Lefay and me. "Whole world come a bubblin' soon. Gonna blow up. POW!!" he made an explosive motion with his hands, "Then it'll all come a bubblin', everything melting down to nothing again, just like it was before ... in the beginning."
"Entropy's going to catch up with us." I said, my drunkard eye looking into his.
Excerpted from The River Rubicon by WILLIAM HUNT. Copyright © 2013 by William Daniel Hunt. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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