Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

Rusty Luvs Suzie

Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

Rusty Luvs Suzie

Article excerpt

The job was a killer. I'd been on it nearly thirty years and could take retirement the following year. I'd long figured to start a business, or maybe sell cars. Anymore, that rocker looked pretty good.

Weekdays, you got your locals speeding or running the occasional stop sign. Apparently, stocking shelves at Wal-Mart was so damn important they were willing to put their neighbors' lives at risk. Everyone argued for a warning, didn't matter how many times they'd been warned.

Evenings brought the usual ruckus at the Checkerboard Tap, the after-work crowd from Wexler Plastics. You'd think after all this time, they'd have figured out whose dick was longer. Just saying, a man got tired of stepping between two drunks, blood on their faces and hate in their eyes.

Later on came the domestic disputes. Men used their hands. Women favored kitchen knives, broken bottles, and baseball bats. Had only one shooting on my watch. Delbert Steele shot his wife, then himself. Wasn't pretty.

Weekends, anything could happen. Some things would never change--kids acting out, underage drinking and necking out by the dam. Once, I caught an older couple screwing up against a light post. Another time, I collared a lady for flashing her tits from the balcony of the Holiday Inn. Two or three times a year, I found Bill Myers flapping his weenie at passersby on the freeway from the Costco parking lot.

Now and then, something unexpected came along. Like Rusty Weaver climbing the High Street water tower.

One of those cold April nights, snow threatening, never mind the corn had been planted. But Rusty wasn't waiting for some soft summer evening, aurora borealis roaring overhead. He was on a mission, Wayne Dawkins in tow. Course he was, him and Rusty buddies since school.

Wayne explained how he drove so Rusty could drink, how he cut a hole in the chain link fence while Rusty Bogarted a doobie and went on about how grass still made him horny.

I watched from below while he negotiated the ladder, knapsack over his shoulder. I asked Wayne if he'd egged Rusty on.

He said no. Claimed he'd tried talking him out of it.

I turned my spot on Rusty. We could hear the little ball rattling when he shook the can to clear the nozzle.

I hollered, "They'll just paint over that."

Rusty hollered back. "And I'll paint over their paint."

I told Wayne I could arrest them both for destruction of government property.

He conceded I could, but did I know this would've been Rusty and Suzie's fortieth if she hadn't died of cancer year before last.

So, what kind of man arrested another for honoring his deceased wife's memory on the damn water tower? Not me, that was for sure. They didn't pay me enough for that, especially with retirement on the horizon.

We hung tight while Rusty finished his work, then watched as he backed down the ladder. Wayne handed him a beer when he reached bottom, Rusty's cheeks gleaming with tears.

I said I expected that fence to be patched, and if anyone asked I hadn't been there.

They offered me a beer for my trouble, but I turned it down. I wanted to be sober when I busted heads at the Checkerboard.

Next morning, I cruised past the water tower, and checked out Rusty's handiwork--Rusty Luvs Suzie. Very artful. Checked the fence and found it repaired. Guess there's nothing a couple of old farm boys can't fix with duct tape and bailing wire. Later on, I got a call from the mayor's office wanting to know What in The Hell. I played dumb, gave them a line of bull about doing my best to track down the perps. They liked it when I used police jargon like "perps."

I told my wife about Rusty and Suzie that evening over dinner, our two boys grown and on their own. Them and their wives and kids visited once a year, but mostly it was just Kim and me. Star-crossed lovers since ninth grade, it never had been anyone but Kim and me. …

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