Love Songs

There was just something about BJ that made Sharon's heart race.

The way he moved. The things he said, always getting in somebody's face, always making fun of it all. Almost everybody, according to BJ, was a nigger, an asshole, a redneck, or a goddamned fanatic.

BJ had turned twenty-one a month before, and to celebrate he had quit his job at Seawell's Auto Salvage, where he had worked for six long months, and where old man Seawell had made it a point to ride his pale, skinny butt from early morning to quitting time. He had long red hair, which he pulled back in a pony tail, a school boy's mustache, and a school boy's taste in women. His most cherished possession was an old acoustic guitar, a Silvertone he'd borrowed from a friend a few years back and never returned, on which he could pick a few riffs--Chuck Berry, an Eric Clapton song, another sort of bluesy melody somebody had taught him.

He sat on his mamma's front porch in the early afternoon and played guitar for Sharon and her friends, who were meandering home from where the school bus stopped at the corner. He would change the words to the songs, making up sexy stuff about Maybellene and Layla, or putting the girls' names in the songs.

"Hey Mel-o-dy, why can't ya be true,

Ya done start back doin' the things ya used to do."


But they liked it. They brought him cigarettes they had stolen from their parents or bummed from various boys on the bus, and they sat on the steps while BJ gave his performance. Nobody ever applauded after a number, but rather teased and picked on him, flirting the way young girls do, and BJ flirted back.

He liked Melody best. She was a fox, he thought, with her pert titties, fine, strong legs, and tight little butt. Her bold, flat belly would peek and wink at him from beneath a dainty halter or a Tee shirt that was too small, and it drove him crazy. But Melody was cocky and self-assured, traits she shared somewhat with Georgette. Neither girl was afraid, it seemed to BJ, to flirt and tease, and so neither would be afraid to tell him to get lost or, worse, to tell on him to fuck off if he got too free with his hands. Nicki was a tomboy, and probably a future dyke, and he didn't trust her. Sharon, who was more child than the others, was The Girl Most Likely.

He could see it in her eyes.

Sharon never had much to say. It was not her way to flirt. She hung back, letting Melody or Georgette or Nicki do the talking. But once in a while she made eye contact with BJ, and in the deep, sand-speckled blue of his twinkling iris she saw her future.

One Saturday morning she was walking over to Nicki's and BJ was on the porch with his guitar, and though she had often imagined a scenario that began in just this way, she could not bring herself to even turn her head and speak to him, and finally, when she was just about at the end of the fence, he called to her.

"You ain't gonna walk by without speakin', are you Sharon?"

She stopped and turned toward him, struggling to prevent a huge smile from crossing her face.

"Where ya goin' in such a hurry," he asked. His voice always sounded smooth and comforting to Sharon, though he could not carry a tune.

"Nicki's,"she said. Her voice was soft--barely audible--and she was still fighting a losing battle with her smile. She hated the way she looked when she smiled--hated her teeth. One of her front teeth was crooked and slightly overlapped the other, and this seemed so ugly to her.

"Whacha all dressed up for, then," BJ asked merrily.

Sharon looked down at her clothes--burgundy tee-shirt, faded, dusted with lint from a tissue left in her pocket in the washer and too small for her, pink shorts with a grape soda stain, also a little tight, white socks, and cheap, battered canvas shoes.

"I ain't," she said seriously.

BJ laughed.

"Got any cigarettes," he asked her.

She wished she had, but she didn't. She shook her head.

"Go get me a cigarette," he said. "Then come in the gate. I got a new song I wanna sing ya."

"It's about you," he added. "I wrote it about you."

Sharon didn't say a word. She simply turned around and headed back home. Her mamma was still asleep, and it would be easy to get BJ a cigarette--maybe a whole pack of cigarettes. Fifteen minutes later she was back at BJ's. She carried four sweat-dampened, slightly bent Marlburos in her fist.

She laid them on the step by him as though he were a mouse trap that might catch her fingers, which seemed to amuse him. He put one in his mouth and turned toward her.

"Match," he asked, pointing to the end of the cigarette.

This confused Sharon, who hadn't thought to get any matches, and she panicked a little, which BJ saw in her face. This amused him, too.

"That's okay, baby," he said. "I got a lighter."

He leaned back, dug in his jeans for his lighter, produced it, and lit up.

"Cigarette," he asked.

Sharon took one and he lit it for her.

"Now I'm gonna sing ya something," he said. He launched into his favorite three-chord progression.

"Sharon Hook is a girl who lives down my street. Sharon Hook's the kind of girl I surely want to meet. Every day I see her walking near my yard, and every time I see her, it makes my dick hard."

He laughed, but she did not. She sat one step lower than BJ, blushing, and smoked her cigarette clumsily. She was watching his fingers form chords, but when he stopped and caught her eye, she averted her gaze to the big, broad-leafed azaleas that had grown up almost to the windows.

"You sure are a pretty girl, Sharon," he said. "I think you're prettier than any of them other girls. You got class. Georgette, she ain't much. Melody either, though she's got some nice little titties started. But you, Baby Sharon, you got what it takes."

Sharon was shaking inside. She tried to hide it, but BJ seemed to know it, as he seemed to know all things. He watched her. She could feel his eyes on her, but she could not bring herself to look at him any more. He laid his hand on her thigh.

"You do make it hard, ya know," he said, and he laughed. He paused a few seconds, sizing her up one last time, making his decision. "Come on with me, Baby Sharon. I wanna show you somethin'."

Sharon knew what was going to happen as though it already had, as though she had dreamed it or imagined it or saw it on TV. She was all shaky inside and barely able to stand up, much less walk. He took her hand and led her down the steps and around the house to the shed, which was like a big, old double garage with no doors, and was crammed with all kinds of junk. They entered into the cool darkness of the shed and picked their way through, around the dusty old Chevorlette Impala that had been BJ's daddy's. In the back some of the rotten siding had fallen, and the sun shone through bright and warm, and the musty smell wasn't so bad. BJ had a mattress there, and she laid down on it like a zombie, as though he literally controlled her movements with his mind.

"You're in a hurry, ain'cha," he asked, and he chuckled.

He stood his guitar against a junk-laden workbench, laid down next to her, and began playing with her little breasts under her shirt.

"I been wantin' this a long time, Baby Sharon," he said, but it suddenly seemed to him that he might as well be talking to a wall. Sharon's face was frozen. She stared blankly at the dark ceiling, through which slits of sunlight came, an almost imperceptible smile on her face. He unfastened her shorts, and she lifted her little butt up so that he could slide them down her legs. He left her panties on for awhile, playing with her through the thin cotton, breathing in her smell, then pulled them down, too, and, as he liked to say, popped her cherry.

After that day, Sharon was always at BJ's. She stopped going to school. Stopped hanging out with Melody and the others. BJ tolerated her. They smoked the cigarettes she stole from her mamma and dope with an occasional unemployed friend who dropped by, watched television and had sex. Sometimes they caught the bus to Memorial Park so that BJ's mamma would think he was working. He had no job, and so he panhandled or borrowed from friends he never repaid, and twice he burglarized houses down near the park while Sharon kept watch. They carried their loot to a pawn shop called The Happy Hocker, where the clerk seemed to know him.

Four months after that first time in the shed Sharon turned up pregnant. Sharon's mamma, shaky and slow from months of steady drinking and with a tearful, reluctant Sharon in tow, confronted BJ early one afternoon as he sat on the porch playing guitar.

He let her finish her tirade, smirking at the way she slurred and moved so robotically, then told her flatly it wasn't his baby.

"What'd I want with a little girl like that anyway, ya damned ol' drunk," he asked, not even looking at Sharon.

Then he just sat, picking and strumming as though they weren't even there. They stood at the fence and watched awhile, and Sharon finally took her mama home.

F. Michael LaRosa has been published in a number of magazines over the years, including Leg Show, JUGGs, Evergreen Chronicles, Old Red Kimono, Underground Voices (Dec. 2007), Yellow Mamma, and others.

2008 Underground Voices