Tart But Not Too Tart

The stewardess hands me a copy of the New York Times and a wetnap.

“Pretty messy,” she says.

“Kosovo?” I say. There’s a headline about yet another NATO threat.

“No,” she says. “The ink.”

I arrive in San Antonio in 100-degree heat but by the time I step out of the cab at Verna’s place the rain is falling in sheets. The driveway slopes to her carport, and Verna is in her bare feet, sloshing around in the water which has pooled there. She doesn’t see me. She climbs a stepladder and probes her eavestrough.

“Hi,” I say, scaring her, and when she falls, she falls right on top of me, knocking me squishily onto the grass. Her chest ends up square in my face and her legs are straddling my waist.

“Lordy!” she says.

“Couldn’t you wait till we got inside?” I say, and she laughs and kisses me and extracts herself.

“You taste like lemon,” she says. “I like it. Tart but not too tart.”

We step under the shelter of the carport. Her cats approach me tentatively until a clap of thunder sends them both scurrying back inside the house. We follow them in. Verna undresses on the way, throwing off her gloves in the porch and leaving a trail of wet clothes until she’s only in her underwear when she disappears into the bathroom.

I sit on the couch listening to the sounds of the rain outside coming down hard, and inside, the water of the shower pulsing her clean. The rain is beginning to flood the porch. I can see it seeping up from the floor and flowing right over the doorstep.

She emerges clean but her porch is dirty, the water surging toward her stored belongings and then receding, leaving black marks like the fossils I saw on my last visit.

“Jeezuz,” she says, nodding at the porch. “That’s a first. Though I guess you never know how much it’s goin to be. Sun, light rain, a flood, whatever. Duhdn matter,” she says. “It’s all fine. Better’n a pleasant little life in the loveless suburbs.”

She sits down beside me on the couch. Her toenails are brilliant red.

“You smell much too good,” I say.