The Flash Fiction seems to be going over okay, so let’s try it again this week. Locals will recognize downtown Albuquerque, but I wanted to leave it vague enough so it could be your town, too.
Before anyone gets his/her/their nose (noses) out of joint, I’m not demeaning the plight of our homeless vets. Au contraire, as an army veteran, I understand and sympathize with our many ex-military members who are having trouble assimilating into society. I just wanted to show that every once in a while, they get a nugget, too.
You Ain’t Stout, Yer Vo-lup-chu-us
We was sitting at our usual place in the alley that ran between Central and Tijeras watching people pass by on Third Street. Mostly, it was woman-watching.
“Oh, man! Look at that one.” Iron Mike scrambled up and ran out to the sidewalk for a longer look. His name was really Mike Iron, but he got tagged that way over in Afghanistan, so that’s the name he carried. “She was something!” he said as he came back and sat in the dirt again.
“I don’t like them fat,” I said.
“Hell, Tanglewood. She wasn’t fat. She was voluptuous.”
“What? Vo … vo ….”
“Packed with curves, man. Big curves.”
I’d never heard that one before, and if I’d had a dictionary, I’d of looked it up. If he’d spell it for me, that is. But a down-and-out vet living on the streets don’t pack nothing he don’t have to. Library was just down the street on Fifth. Maybe I’d look it up later. I made Iron Mike write the word down on a piece of paper in the little notebook he always carried. Claimed he was living under the bridge because he was doing research for a book. Maybe he was, and maybe he wasn’t. But he was always scribbling in it.
Before going to the library, we had to hike over to the Baptist Church just east of the railroad tracks for a free meal. That’s where the soup kitchen was on Mondays. Then it’d move to somewhere else. Did that every day so a fella really had to stay on top of the calendar to keep up with the moving mess hall.
Anyway, it was probably close onto five o’clock by the time I got to the library. There was this woman that worked at the reference desk where the dictionaries was, and I always gave her a nod and a smile ‘cause she always give me one. She don’t shy away from greeting street bums like lots of folks. She wasn’t no bad looker, but she wasn’t no spring chicken. Course, I wasn’t neither. I done my fighting in Desert Storm and come outa Kuwait a dazed twenty-year-old in ’91, so that put me somewhere in my early forties. Kinda hard to remember exactly because I’d been in some of them big gas clouds. Desert Storm Syndrome the docs at the VA Hospital claimed. Plus, I guess I got some of that PTSD stuff from hauling a bunch of corpses outa a barracks that got hit by one of them Scuds.
I found the dictionary and took out Iron Mike’s piece of paper and started looking for the word I wanted. Found the “v’s” okay, and even the “vo’s.” but got a little lost right about there. So it took me a little time before I finally found a word that matched the one on Mike’s note.
Voluptuous: (vo-lup-tu-ous), adjective. Of a woman : very attractive because of having large hips and breasts.
There was some more, but that told me what I wanted to know.
“Can I help you find something, cowboy?”
The voice startled me, and I don’t take startling very good. I jumped sideways and brought my arms up ready to fight. I felt kinda foolish when I seen it was the librarian.
“Whoa, there. Didn’t mean to surprise you. It was just that you took so long, I thought you might be having trouble.” A soft, gentle voice like Mama’s. No, more like Jenny’s before … before ….
I closed the dictionary because I didn’t want her to see I’d been looking up a dirty word about women. “Thank you, ma’am. I found it okay. And I ain’t no cowboy. I’m army.”
“Yes, I can see you are. Army all the way.”
Her looking at me made me feel sorta funny. I straightened up and swiped at my shirt, sending dust flying.
“When’s the last time you had a bath, Army?”
“Last week … at the hospital.”
“I’ll bet you clean up real well.” She gave me a smile. She had nice smile lines. She smelled like violets from my dad's flower garden.
“Of course, you probably aren’t interested in stout women.”
I grinned and used my new word. “You ain’t stout, yer vo-lup-chu-us.”
“Well, aren’t you the flatterer.”
That night, after a long bath and a shave and the best meal I could remember, I found me some of that vo-lup-chu-us … in the flesh.
Thanks for reading my blog. Hope you got a chuckle out of it.
Next week: I’ll figure it out before then.
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.