Frank was in the backyard tending to the nightcrawlers while the rest of the family cleaned the dishes. It was three in the kitchen. Mom, Dad, and me. Frank was on nightcrawler duty because he called Doris the Whoris a cunt. Doris was one of our neighbors. I didn’t know what a cunt was at the time. Or what a whoris was. All I knew was Doris liked to wear her red and black bikini all the time. She liked to drink beer. She made my Dad blush. And my mom hated her.
I was just glad to have a night away from the worms. Usually it was something Frank and I did together. He was 16, eight years older than me, and he spoke in a language I didn’t understand. It was all ‘shit’, ‘pussy’, ‘fuck’, ‘cocksucker’. I didn’t know what they meant, but I liked the sound of them and I knew better than to ask Mom or Dad. I didn’t like the word ‘cunt’. Mom and Dad were yukking it up while I dried the dishes, and I rolled the word around in my mouth, enough to realize I didn’t like the feel of it. It seemed to be rough on every edge. I knew it was a dirty thing to call Doris. So, I was mad. I liked Doris a lot.
The reason I liked Doris was because she was unlike any woman I had ever met. She wasn’t what you would call pretty. She was certainly lumpy. She was soft and nice, and she always smelled like straw. She’d always invite me over for a glass of tea when I passed her house. She even showed me her boobs once which made me feel strange. She was mad about some complaint from a neighbor. “For shits sake, they’re just tits!” And then they were right there and I felt funny and Doris laughed. “Honey, you blush like that, you’re gonna make me change my ways.”
My mom didn’t like me to hang out with Doris. None of the moms in the neighborhood liked it, but we were there all the time. She was the kind of woman that children feel safe around. I heard my parents arguing about it one time. I couldn’t make out the words at first, just the name. Then I heard my dad shout: “Jesus Christ, Arlene. You know them boys down the way fucked her up so she can’t have none of her own. Have a heart.”
It had never occurred to me that any woman could be incapable of having kids. I told Frank about it, but he already knew. I guess everyone knew but me. I was too young to watch the news. But after that I was more careful about spending time with Doris. I walked by more often. I let her hug me a little longer. I knew what it felt like to want something you couldn’t have. I knew that feeling all too well.