Mary Burk didn’t have much on top so she had to work her booty. Fourteen years old and still no period. Her mom told her breasts wouldn’t really develop until that happened and in the meantime, she should make do with what she had.
“When Aunt Flow is late,” her mother told her, “It means you’ll be taller, and thinner than your classmates, and then those boobs will come on like gangbusters and if they don’t there’s always plastic surgery.”
Mary wondered if any of her friends had mother-daughter talks like the ones she had with Ellen. That’s what Mom wanted Mary to call her now.
“So we can be girlfriends, right?” Ellen said. “Now let me show you how to move that ass.”
According to Ellen, there wasn’t a man alive who could resist staring at a fourteen-year-old booty. “Even the gay guys will turn their heads. Girls too, but for a totally different reason.”
Mary’s skinny jeans were way too tight for comfort, but she didn’t let that slow her down. She practiced walking through the food court at Penn Square Mall moving her booty in a perfect figure eight the way Latina dancers did on Dance Sport. Guys were looking all right, just like Ellen said.
She could feel her thong panties working their way into places where nothing should ever go. She could sense the eyes of the dirty old men and the nerds on her bottom, and if she was not mistaken, some junior and senior eyes were locked on too. Success didn’t feel all that good, at least physically, but Ellen promised the skills she learned now would pay dividends later on—whatever dividends were.
Mary didn’t know why it was a good idea to have men leering at her booty, making them want to see it naked, to touch it, even to smack it, but Ellen said she’d understand all that later on. Meanwhile, it was important to learn how to make guys want her, and that was going pretty well.
I wonder what dad would think? Mary asked herself as a nerdy sophomore with a lip piercing and eyes that didn’t track the same accidentally brushed his hand across her bottom before she realized what was happening.
Did Mary’s father turn his head to watch teenage girls strut their stuff in the mall? God, she hoped not.
A scruffy kid about her age watched her from across the mall. He’d been watching her for some time now. He might have been Asian, or Mexican, or maybe Indian—lots of those in Oklahoma—but whatever he was he didn’t wear designer jeans, his sneakers were cheap, and there were sleep wrinkles in his Harley Davidson T-shirt.
Thief was the first thought that came into Mary’s mind. It made her feel a flash of shame. Who was she to judge, a teenage girl practicing slut-skills in a mall. She made a quick turn so she could get a better look, but he’d already disappeared into the crowd.
Another teenage boy brushed passed her, too close for comfort. Touched her bottom. Didn’t apologize. Didn’t even pretend it was an accident. One quick grope and he moved on.
Frottage. That was Mary’s vocabulary word for the day. Nothing she could do but put a name to the act, but she turned and watched the boy retreat anyway, hoping lightning would strike.
And then it sort of did.
The scruffy boy who might have been Asian, or Indian, or Mexican stepped out of the crowd jabbed the groper in the groin, hard enough to send him sprawling.
All because of me. Maybe things were getting out of hand. Ellen warned her that could happen. “The Guys are bigger than us and stronger than us, but the poor things minds get clouded with testosterone when they turn twelve or thirteen, and they never quite get over it.”
Guys with the highest testosterone levels are easy to spot. They’re the ones in the muscle shirts with tattoos and cigarettes and a smell of rut they can never seem to wash away. They are the easiest to hook, according to Ellen, but they are dangerous fish.
That’s the only kind of fish Ellen went after, but she recommended Mary start off with lower octane guys, “The ones who know they’re not really good enough for girls and probably never will be—like your Dad.”
Mary considered finding someplace private with a mirror where she could practice her orgasm face for a while. Ellen said that still needed work. Then try the walk again when the atmosphere cooled down, maybe on the lower level near the arcade where the less aggressive boys hung out.
“You can spot the safer guys by locking eyes with them,” Ellen told her. “If they don’t look away—you walk away.”
Vicarious experience. That’s what Mary got from Ellen and she learned the name for it too. Probably an SAT vocabulary word. Having a slutty mother was useful on a lot of levels.
Mary watched the guy who’d groped her writhing on the floor. No one stopped to help him or to ask what happened. They just walked around.
Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Kind of hard to tell, really. Of course, the violence was appalling, but having a guy come to her defense made Mary feel like she just made the highest score on a math test or had a poem published in the school newspaper. The Asian-Mexican-Indian kid probably wanted to have sex with her and that was pretty disgusting, but having a guy fight for her felt pretty good.
Even though it wasn’t much of a fight.
So Mary decided to practice her orgasm face later. She made the mall circuit one more time. Walked through the upper level doing her booty thing, aiming it at the guys with nice haircuts and designer jeans without snuffbox imprints in the back pockets, and she picked up quite a following. She heard their whispers and knew they were talking about her and that felt good even if they said some pretty nasty things. Then she walked through food court toward Dillard’s department store and she heard some distinctly masculine footsteps behind her.
She had a momentary flash of fear, the kind a mouse must feel when one of those high testosterone boys drops it into a glass cage with a snake. So she stopped and leaned her back against the wall, putting her delicious booty against the cool ceramic tiles, and she looked into the eyes of a blond-haired blue-eyed guy at least six feet tall, with a stain of whiskers on his cheeks and the smell of cigarettes on his breath and yes, there was that rut odor her mother warned her about—like someone just opened up a bear cage. He put both arms against the wall on either side of her shoulders, effectively pinning her. She wondered if mall security could see what he was doing and if they might do something about it.
“Nice butt work,” he said to her, and Mary remembered to look him in the eyes. Willing him to look away, but he didn’t. Mary knew the boy saw fear in her face and he liked it more than a little bit. But after a few seconds, he smiled and he didn’t look nearly as scary as he did before.
Which one is fake? The scary guy or the guy with the Mormon missionary smile. But he still didn’t look away and missionaries probably wouldn’t talk about her booty at least until after they said a prayer or two.
“Where’d you learn to move it that way?” He asked, and she pretended she didn’t know what he was talking about.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
He told her, “Paul.” That sounded good, one of those names you hardly ever hear on the news associated with rape and murder. He stood back, offering her a chance to escape if she wanted it. A very good sign.
She looked away from Paul’s face and brushed her eyes over his groin. Tented like a Shriner’s Circus. Way interested, maybe not in the best way, but his face looked kind of civilized when he stood a couple of feet back, and the rut smell might be at least partly one of those sport stick antiperspirant deodorants. Paul was kind of cute and he must be a senior, just like she was going for.
“You got a car?” she asked, and of course he did and it didn’t take long until he bought her an ice cream cone and escorted her out onto the parking lot like a real gentleman so she could see it for herself.
But once Mary looked inside the car and saw the beer cans in the floorboard, and the deodorizer dangling from the mirror that was a cardboard cutout of a naked woman, and what might have been a meth pipe on the console between the two front bucket seats, and what looked like a blood stain in the backseat, she wanted to go back into the mall. Paul didn’t think that mattered much because he had hold of her arm hard enough to cause some pain and it was pretty clear he was going to put her into that car whether she wanted to go or not.
“Gonna have some fun with that nice little butt,” he said. “If you didn’t want it you shouldn’t have walked that way.”
Paul pulled the back door open and was shoving her into the car, not paying much attention to the fearful little whimpers Mary couldn’t stop.
“Go ahead and cry, bitch,” he said, and gave her a little slap on the face, not hard enough to sting but it got her tears running.
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about.” He leaned Mary back into the rear seat, too far to keep her balance and even though she desperately wanted to avoid lying on the blood-stained upholstery she fell flat on her back.
Mary couldn’t do a thing but sob when Paul ran his hand down the front of her skinny jeans. She couldn’t do anything but plead when the tip of his index finger found what it was looking for.
“Please don’t do this,” she said in the exact tone she used to wheedle things out of her dad. Of course, Paul was nothing like her dad, but it looked like her ploy might have worked anyway.
The expression on Paul’s face went flat. He stood up straight so quickly that he thumped his head against the doorframe of his car. Then he dropped to his knees revealing the scruffy Asian or Indian or maybe Hispanic boy standing behind him.
The boy held a bloody case knife in his right hand. He wiped it on Paul’s shirt and fished the keys to the car out of one of Paul’s pockets, and dangled them in front of Mary.
“Mall security’s not too hot but they’ll figure this out pretty soon,” he said. “Unless you want to talk to the police, we’d better get out of here.”
“What’s your name?” Mary asked as if that made any difference.
He told her, “Daniel,” and looked away, just like her ideal guy was supposed to do according to Ellen. So she climbed into the passenger seat and rode away from the parking lot with a murderer instead of a rapist. She hardly noticed the bump when they backed over Paul’s arm.
Daniel did small talk pretty well for a killer. He drove Paul’s car through a network of highways. He provided a detailed description of city police procedure all the while.
“Must have found the body by now, but it’ll take them a while to tape the area off and take pictures and do their CSI stuff.”
Mary wondered how he knew so much about it.
“In a couple of hours they’ll put out a BOLO for Paul’s car,” Daniel said. “Is there anywhere you need to go?”
Daniel drove just like her dad. Slower than anybody else. Careful with lane changes. Careful with signals. Polite. He couldn’t take her home. Some nosy neighbor would be sure to see her get out of a murder victim’s car. That would lead to a lot of difficult questions, and Mary didn’t have a good reason for riding away from the mall in Paul’s car except that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
“Lake Hefner,” Mary said. It was big and surrounded by playgrounds and parking lots and wooded areas. Not more than a couple of miles from Mary’s home. An easy walk if she didn’t have to move her booty in a perfect figure eight.
Daniel found a secluded spot surrounded by post oak trees and underbrush overlooking the muddy green water of the lake.
Mary should have been afraid, but she wasn’t.
“Why’d you save me?”
“You reminded me of someone.”
“My mother,” Daniel said before Mary could ask.
“Not exactly what a girl wants to hear.”
“Ever kill anybody before?” Mary asked.
“A couple of times,” he said. “But that was back on the Rez and I didn’t really have a choice.”
“So you’re an Indian,” Mary said, then she corrected herself. “I mean Native American.”
He told her, “Indians don’t much care about political correctness as long as people are nice to us.”
“I’m Laguna,” he told her. “If it makes any difference.”
Mary told him she thought that was a town in Southern California, but he said it was a Pueblo tribe near Albuquerque.
“But it was the Navajo Rez where people decided I was a witch.”
They watched sail boats, and parasailers, and fishermen while he told her all about life on the Rez and then life on the run and even though she knew Daniel had killed a few people, she thought he was a pretty nice guy, and he had hardly any of that rut smell at all.
“So why did people think you were a witch?”
“I’ll show you,” He leaned over the console and pulled her to him. He placed his lips over hers with his mouth open.
She opened hers as well; he’d saved her life after all, what harm could one little French kiss do? It was good practice for when she got around to the boys she was really interested in.
But it wasn’t exactly a kiss. Mary felt the air being drawn out of her lungs, much too fast for her to stop it. All of the air inside her chest disappeared into Daniel, and just a little more.
She saw twinkling lights in a coal black sky. She heard voices like mice discussing things in English with heavy Spanish accents. She knew they were talking about her but she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.
Something about fishing, she thought.
Something about dangerous fish.
“What happens to the bait, Mary?” That mouse’s voice was deeper and clearer than the rest. Mary thought he must be the boss.
“See you later, Mary,” The boss mouse said.
Then nothing at all until pieces of the world started falling into place like an old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle. Until Mary was back in the real world, sitting in Paul’s car with his beer cans, and his meth pipe and his bloodstained back seat and his scented nude cardboard woman dangling from his rearview mirror like a trashy naked suicide victim. The only thing missing was Daniel.
“Gone but not forgotten,” she told the scented cardboard blond. “I wonder if I’ll ever see him again.” At that moment, Mary felt a warm expanding wet spot spread out around her thong panties and saturate the backside of her skinny jeans. What a time for Aunt Flow to pay a visit.
Note: This piece was originally published by Dirty Chai (Spring / Summer issue 3, August 2014)