I used to post these non-poetry WIPs on the Stories Page of the blog, but I’ve decided to share parts of them here now. Stories like Another Day, which I’ll send out to the world someday, I guess. I’d appreciate hearing what you think of these samples.
I checked my teeth and tie in the bathroom mirror, something I always do before a speaking gig. Just making sure nothing stained or hung on them.
Taking a step backward from the row of white sinks in this hotel conference area men’s room, I scoped the front of my pants. I wanted to be sure there was no stain or something hanging out of there after using the john. After all, I am a professional.
Giving my zipper one last security tug, I stare intently, confidently, at the guy on the other side of the glass — the guy who the crowd in the ballroom across the hall came to hear. I give a wink big enough for the back row to see and say, “It’s Showtime, baby.”
Reflected in the mirror, I see the fellow walking out of the stall directly behind me stop dead, blink, and return to the comforting warmth and safety of the chamber he just left. I turned just in time to hear him slide of the lock and see him lift his feet from view of anyone outside the stall door.
“Whoooo,” I yell. That howl psyched me up every time, whether I turned it loose before one of these speaking engagements or sprinting out of the stadium tunnel when I played for the Gamecocks at the University of South Carolina.
I push open the men’s room door and step out into the maroon-carpeted second floor hallway of the St. John’s Inn here in Myrtle Beach. I can hear my audience-to-be’s hum of conversation and clinking of tableware behind the large double door across the hall.
Hmmm, that’s an awful lot of noise for 50 people. But they always were a talkative bunch.
This afternoon, I once again would be addressing the Low Country chapter of Goose & Gander: The Society for the Preservation of First Wives and First Husbands. Actually four out of every five of the attendees will be first wives, a sad, Book of Lamentations-quoting, and often bitter lot of church ladies from up and down the Grand Strand. But when they got a few cocktails in them, they more often than not turned into a prowling, pawing mob of howler monkeys in heat.
“Larry, how are yoooooo-eww?” I’d heard that greeting sing-sung to me by maybe ten different women in the bar the last two times I addressed this group. One of them, Audrey Whiteapple from nearby Florence found how I was — better than her ex, Claude. Or so she claimed as she wept to me in the uncomfortably long, but fair’s-fair post-coital quid pro quo cuddle.
Claude told her she was less than he had expected after eight years of marriage.
“That’s eight years of mopping up his muddy floors after him coming in drunk from hunting – he said–and eight years of scouring the skid marks out of his saggy-ass boxers and ten years of doing every vile, terrible thing he asked me to do, too, Larry,” Audrey said. Yeah, vile, terrible things like what she next suggested we do. The following morning, those vile, terrible things required me to steal a set of sheets from a housekeeping cart and surreptitiously swap them for the percale Jackson Pollack she left behind.
I limped and my lips were numb for a week after that.
I wonder if Audrey’s here this afternoon.
I’m not in this business for any real money. That was what the NFL was supposed to be for. So I guess I don’t feel too badly about the perks of the speechifying business. Being Larry Jenkins–one-time Second Team All-Southeast Conference quarterback–and ONLY being Larry Jenkins, has left me with few career options. Especially after I wrecked my throwing shoulder my first training camp with the Browns. But I knew the truth. Five-foot-eleven free agent quarterbacks who can’t throw the deep out pattern, even before they blow out their labrums, aren’t going to make it in the NFL. Even in Cleveland. The injury gave me cover back here in the Carolinas.
I wasn’t too good at math—I had tutors and a couple of exam-taking stand-ins back in college—but even I could add two and two and come up with an answer to my post-athletic career. I decided to trade on my erstwhile fame and program-cover looks for a living.
I learned to use words like “erstwhile” from the Dale Carnegie course my agent made me take while I was rehabbing my shoulder. He knew a loser when he saw one, too.
So here I am, twelve years after throwing my last ruptured duck incompletion in a meaningless scrimmage in someplace called Berea, Ohio. I have become a Toyota/Kia sales associate for my Uncle Lamar and a mid-rung, well lower mid-rung, motivational speaker for myself.
So if I can catch a little affection from some woman who used to hang my face inside her locker and inside her teenaged dreams, well, maybe we both are getting what we need out of life. At least for that moment….