Backward Lady

Luckily it was the beginning of summer, and Greylon Dark
didn’t have to miss any time teaching school. An
operation on his lower back was needed to repair three
ruptured vertebrae.

The bad disks had been diagnosed the year before and
been treated with therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs,
but were exacerbated when he foolishly lifted the back
of a small Snapper riding lawnmower. He’d hoisted the
rear wheels, over which the engine was mounted, standing
it on its nose and handlebars, and inspected the drive
belt. A wet clump of fescue had pushed it off the
pulley. He tugged the belt back on successfully but when
he straightened his back, he fell to the ground.

There, on his hands and knees, the pain had been almost
unbearable. His legs and feet had begun to grow numb. It
was suddenly clear to him that surgery was inevitable.
Since the bad back had been treated before he moved from
Toledo seven months ago, he had to stick with his old
Toledo based HMO. However, it only recognized Toledo
area hospitals. He and his wife Dottie had moved here to
Cincinnati to be near her aging parents. So, the surgery
would entail a five-hour trip, which made for a terrible
inconvenience, not to mention the crushing expense.

“Look, we are just going to have to get a motel near the
hospital,” said Dottie. Greylon was sitting straight up
and stiff-backed in a kitchen chair, with a legal pad in
front of him, making calculations on how much
accommodations would cost for three weeks. He showed the
total to Dottie and she looked as though she might weep.

“Even that’s cutting it short,” he said through clenched
teeth. “The doctor may not want me to travel for a month
or more, there’s therapy to consider and forget about
food.”

He suddenly went rigid, a blade of pain cutting through
him. “Gosh, I gotta get down on the floor.”

He pushed away from the kitchen table, keeping his back
as straight as he could. He shuffled to the den where
there was a carpet. Holding his back vertical, he
lowered himself onto it, bending his knees and steadying
himself with a couch arm. He pivoted and lowered himself
in great agony, until he was flat of his back with his
lower legs propped up on the couch seat. There he
stayed, waiting for the vise just below his kidneys to
loosen its jaws. Just then the phone rang.

Greylon turned his head, peered through the door and saw
Dottie pick up the receiver. “Hello,” she said. She
frowned and, clamping her thumb and finger to the bridge
of her nose, she said, “Oh, Hi Sophie.”

Sophie Mackie was the mother-in-law of his daughter,
Mary. She lived in Toledo, not far from where Greylon
and Dottie had lived just seven months before.

“Yes,” Dottie said, “He’s in pretty bad shape, Sophie.
We have to be at Toledo Hospital on Monday, so we’re
traveling Sunday.”

As he listened, he could only believe that Sophie was
asking about how they were going to manage, living five
hours away from the Hospital; and what about Dottie’s
parents? How would they manage while she was away?

“I’ll just have to keep in touch with them by phone,”
she told Sophie. “I’m a bit apprehensive about leaving
them, but we’ll just have to chance-it, this is too
serious.” Dottie nodded several times. Her hand was now
on top of her head, which was bowed, her back against
the wall. She continued, “So, we’re going to get a motel
near the hospital. He’ll be in three or four days. Then
there’ll be at least three weeks more that he can’t
travel. There’ll be therapy and surgical follow-ups.”

Knowing Sophie’s nature, the next question was “For
God’s sake Dottie, why get a motel? You know I’ll be
glad for you two to come stay with me. With our kids in
summer school at OSU, I’ll have them two extra bedrooms.
Besides, I’d enjoy the company!”

Sophie had been widowed for four years and she continued
live in the same working-class house her husband had
built back in the fifties. She was home alone
practically all the time now. She had been laid-off her
job at Toledo Screw Products, which had ceased
operations the latter part of last year “until further
notice.” She had decided to live on unemployment
compensation until it ran out and then bite the bullet
and live on her husband’s pension until either Toledo
Screw recalled her, or she ended up at Wendy’s behind
the counter.

“We couldn’t let you go to that trouble, Sophie!” said
Dottie. I knew Dottie didn’t want us to stay with
Sophie. Though the feeling was not necessarily mutual,
Dottie did not care for Sophie. Sophie had been known to
be a bit earthy. Her language could be crude at times,
and a little too direct for Dottie’s tastes.

He recalled a conversation a few weeks ago between his
wife and Mary, their daughter. “Mama,” Mary whined, “she
called Louis a shit-head! Can you imagine? Her own son!”

At Mary’s comment, Dottie tightened her lips and shook
her head, as if this indelicacy was the world’s greatest
offense. The fact was that Dottie seemed to be more
affectionate toward Sophie’s son than Sophie was,
calling him “sweetie,” hugging and kissing him every
time he was over for a visit.

“Did Sophie ever talk that way to you?” Dottie gravely
asked Mary.

“No, she knows better than that!” Mary said.

“Wait a minute ladies,” Greylon had told them, breaking
in, “Not everybody feels as strongly as they talk.
People say a lot of things they don’t really mean,
especially in a fit of anger or excitement.”

“Greylon, you can’t know what we’re talking about!”
Dottie said. “She never swears or shows her temper when
you’re around.”

That was true, Sophie was always on her best behavior
when he was in the picture. He knew she liked him. He’d
always been cheerful around her and was helpful to her
when they lived in Toledo. His son-in-law, Louis, didn’t
know one end of a hammer from another, so on various
occasions last summer, his daughter called him to do a
little handyman work around Sophie’s house.

Once, after he’d fixed a closet door for her, Sophie had
brewed him coffee. They had sat at her kitchen table and
had a pleasant chat. In the middle of the visit, she
paused, her eyes glistening, and said, “You know,
Greylon, with Louis off to college and George gone, I
felt like my family had just fell apart. But since Mary
and Louis married, and you and Dottie are in the
picture, it’s like I got a new family again.”

Sophie spoke with the drawn out vowels and lazy
consonants of her native Kentucky. Greylon, in fact,
suspected that Sophie’s homely ways and lack of
schooling might have been the turn-off for Dottie.
Sophie, a high school grad, was certainly less educated
than Dottie. In fact, Greylon had met his wife while
they were both senior students at Xavier University in
Cincinnati.

There were other differences too. Sophie was not as
“feminine” in her carriage and conduct as his wife was.
Dottie was a willowy beauty, especially in her youth,
but still blessed with her long legs, slender frame and
elegant neck. He knew that Dottie’s self-image was one
of an attractive, well-educated, and highly gracious
woman of maturity.

It’s not that Sophie was physically unattractive. But
she was compact and blunt, with the moves of a
construction worker rather than the grace of a dancer.
Upon meeting, Greylon would hug her and could feel the
muscles in her shoulders. If his hands fell to her
waist, he felt no flab, but he felt a near vertical drop
with hardly any concavity. Once her chin brushed his
face and he could have sworn he felt the prickle of
stubble. It had not repulsed him but it had made him
curious. He had surreptitiously glanced at her face
several times, but was unable to tell for sure.

Sadly, Greylon believed that Dottie actually felt a kind
of superiority over her counterpart, alternately
ridiculing and criticizing her, then excusing herself
with references to Sophie’s social offenses like the
“shit-head incident.” Though his wife hid this tendency
around Sophie, Dottie was content to associate with her
as little as possible and only then when Greylon was
around as a buffer.

Yet, from the long silences Greylon now witnessed and
the tiny bits of the phone-voice he heard from the other
end, he could tell that Sophie was persisting. Moreover,
she was making progress with her proposal; Dottie was
actually nodding in agreement.

He was sure Sophie had said something like, “It’s silly
not to do it. After all, we’re family! You know you
can’t afford a motel for three or four weeks.” Such a
statement would ring true in Dottie’s ear. It was an
undeniable fact. They simply did not have the money.

“Well, that’s awfully sweet of you, Sophie, we’ll try
not to be a bother to you,” Dottie listened awhile
longer, then replied, “OK.”

Greylon turned his head and watched Dottie through the
doorway. She was shaking her head no, but she was saying
yes.

There was another short silence, then: “Thanks again,
Sophie.” Dottie’s eyes were clamped shut. “OK, we’ll be
there Sunday night. “OK, Sophie. OK, bye, we love you
too.”

She stood in the kitchen, holding the phone at her side
with a stupefied expression. Greylon wanted to ask,
“Dottie, who is now the most gracious lady of the
moment?” but wisely did not.

Fresh out of the recovery room at Toledo Hospital,
Greylon was still under the lingering influence of the
anesthetic. In his fog, he groped for his wife’s hand.
He finally felt the touch of human skin and brought the
palm to him and pressed it flat on his mid-section.
Impulsively, he sang a snatch of an old Beatle’s tune
through rubbery lips, ‘I wanna hold your haaaand!’

Then he fell back to sleep, with the hand trapped under
his own at stomach level. Several times she tried to
pull her hand away, but he would not let her go. Greylon
felt a kind of settled confidence as long as she was
there and he was holding on. Though sex with his wife
had settled into a rare and predictable routine, he
still enjoyed the mischief of initiating little
lascivious jokes and sexy innuendoes, if only to see her
pull-away-reaction.

Greylon was cognizant that he was in the hospital, that
she was standing beside him, linked to his hand, but he
felt no pain from the invasive surgery. In fact he felt
several degrees above wonderful. People in the room were
only distorted smiling forms that he glimpsed
momentarily, then blinked away. Greylon was floating in
that twilight zone between the unconscious and the
conscious induced by anesthetics and painkiller. He
somehow identified the feeling with the sexual afterglow
he and Dot shared in their youth. They would lie there
after sex, he remembered, sated and slack, fulfilled and
spent.

Why had he not had this surgery before now? “I’m the
only livin’ boy in New Yoooork.” he sang.

“What?” she said.

“Simon and Garfuckle,” he explained and giggled.

Mischievously, he pulled her hand down to his crotch,
laid it across his limp member and gave it a squeeze.
When she tried to pull away, he held her hand fast. He
felt the grin on his face and the euphoria in his groin.
Greylon could have slept for hours in that position, and
did drift off for a bit. After awhile, the hand began to
feel strange. He fluttered his eyes open.

It was Sophie! There was an uncertain, but not
unpleasant expression on her face. She was grinning,
just a little. Greylon could not express shock for his
medication had made him impervious to shock. He knew
he’d committed a serious social breach, but he just
didn’t care. He pressed Sophie’s hand into him again.
Buoyed by the anesthetic’s silliness, he said, “Any port
in a storm, I suppose.”

To this remark, she laughed, a breathy chopping sound.
Then he said sleepily, “Oh, I’m sorry, Sophie, that
wasn’t very nice.” Then, placing his hand over hers
again, he said, “Your port is always good, in any old
weather.” Then came that dry hacking laugh that his wife
and daughter so despised.

Finally Sophie spoke, “Dottie had to leave, Greylon. The
Jewish Hospital called here. They said her mother fell
down the porch steps. Dottie didn’t know what to do. I
told her there was nothing else to do but go and I’d
stay with you.”

She tried again to retrieve her hand but he would not
let go. Later, he realized her effort was only token.
She could have jerked the hand away if she’d wanted to.
Not that she was feeling much; the surgery had
temporarily turned his member into a length of limp
flesh coiled upon his sagging scrotum. Under other
circumstances, he would have been embarrassed; not only
about the flaccid penis but about his holding her hand
there in the first place.

Sophie cleared her throat, “She’s pretty worried about
her mom. She’s s’posed to call us tonight. How are you
feeling?”

He heard the question, but he didn’t want to answer. The
Sodium Pentothal or the gas, or both, was still in his
system, wreaking havoc with his inhibitions. He moved
Sophie’s hand in a small circle, squeezing as he did.

“You don’t really think he’s a shit-head, do you?” he
asked.

“Who?”

“Your son, of course.”

“No, silly, he’s the smartest boy on earth!” she
laughed.

“You know they’re not Jews, don’t you?”

“Who?”

“Dot’s mom and dad.”

“No, but thanks for tellin’ me.”

He felt strangely elated. Just before he drifted away,
he said, “Kiss me.” He didn’t know whether she’d
actually kissed him or not.

Later, Greylon’s eyes popped open with an urgent desire
to pee. Sophie was sitting in the bedside recliner chair
reading People Magazine.

“I gotta go to the bathroom!” he shouted urgently.

Sophie jumped to her feet.

“Just a minute, I’ll call the nurse!” she said. She
located the call-button and pressed it and waited
uncertainly at his bedside, glancing over at him
quickly, then looking away.

“Geez, I gotta go!” he said.

As he looked back on this incident, it seemed to him
that his desire to urinate was the only lucid thing
about him. He felt like a bundle of optical fibers with
only one fiber working.

Sophie went to the door and stepped out into the
hallway, looking both directions. Finally she returned
to the bed.

“You want me to go get the nurse?” she asked.

“I don’t know, I just gotta go, now!” He felt near to
bursting.

“Shit!” said Sophie, and she crouched down by the little
bed-stand and opened the drawer, “Here it is!” she said,
and handed him a urinal. He took it from her and she
said, “I’ll be close if you need me.” She walked away
and stood just outside the doorway. He could see her
shoulders weave back into view now and then. She was
hovering close, obviously wanting to help, and yet
wanting to give him his privacy.

Greylon scrunched up on one elbow and pulled up his
hospital gown. He slid the plastic receptacle up to his
penis but the angle of the urinal-neck was not in line
with his penis. Also, he was so limp that without the
aid of his right hand and arm, on which he was leaning,
his penis kept slipping from the hole. He felt a few
drops of urine hit his hand.

“Shit!” he said.

Sophie came back in and immediately saw his difficulty.

“Lay back there, Greylon. Let me be your nurse for a
little bit.” He lay back, and Sophie took hold of his
penis with one hand and slid the neck of the urinal over
it with the other.

“OK, pee,” she said.

He couldn’t.

“Ummm, let me see.” Holding his penis deftly between
finger and thumb, and the neck of the urinal with her
three remaining fingers, Sophie raised his hospital gown
with her other hand. She pulled it up over his pubic
hair and began to probe. “I think your bladder is just
above this here bone,” she said, and searched with her
fingertips, locating the upper edge of his pubic bone.
The area just above it yielded to her touch, and she
pushed in.

Like Old Faithful, Greylon peed a geyser. She kept a
steady massage against his bladder, pressing as she
moved. Curiously, her hands were narrow and her fingers
were long. They were strange appendages for so compact a
body, but he was charmed with the feel of them on his
belly and his penis.

“Oh! baby, that feels so good” he uttered to no one in
particular. When he realized what he had said, he looked
at her and she looked at him. They both giggled.
Abruptly, the back pain hit him again.

“Oh, that hurts!” he cried suddenly, groaning as he
sought to rein in his laughter. In a few minutes, the
nurse peeked in, saw his grimace and came back with a
dose of pain medication which she injected into the tube
leading to his vein. He waited for the sharp current to
subside.

When the nurse left, Sophie asked, “Well, which is it,
Greylon? Does it feel good or hurt?” He grinned. Then
came her irritating laugh, a laugh he was beginning to
adore.

The nurse had not emptied the bedpan, so Sophie took it
to the bathroom and dumped it. She stood at the sink
washing her hands, her butt twitching with the movement.
That was his last vision before the injection overtook
him and he fell asleep.

***

As he came awake, he was in little, if any pain. Greylon
kept his eyes half-closed and inspected the sleeping
form in the chair. The sparse recliner had been folded
out and she lay back, barefoot with her ankles crossed
and her legs extended. Her head was thrown back and the
cords of her aging neck were definitely visible.

He focused on her chin, but could still see no hair. A
crease angled down from her nose on both sides of her
mouth, especially on one right side. The high
cheekbones, he thought, rescued her face from plainness.
Crow’s feet splayed out at the corners of her closed
eyes. Her hair was black with a few strands of gray, cut
short and curly, puffing out for a nice balance between
hair and head.

She was wearing a red knit dress and sheer gray hose.
The dress had hiked up six inches over her knees. Her
slightly parted lips picked up the color of her dress,
the only other thing red on her body. Her red loafers
were in a tumble on the floor. Greylon wondered whether
it was correct to say a woman was barefoot in her hose
or not. There was no paint on her nails. He noticed a
few tiny spidery veins on her calves and knees and
wondered if they extended up onto her upper thighs.
Sophie didn’t have a bad figure. Despite the straight
trunk down to the waistline, there was a nice flare to
the hips and her breasts were not exactly small. Her
eyes, he now discovered, were staring directly at him.

“You’ve certainly been giving me the once-over,” she
said, not moving.

“I’m not responsible for what I do.”

“Yeah, how long are you going to use that excuse?” she
joshed, and tugged at the hem of her skirt.

“Thanks for helping me out a while ago.”

“Hey, my pleasure. We’re family.”

“Umm, which is it Sophie, your pleasure or ‘we’re
family?'”

Hack-hack, came the laugh.

“Yeah, Sophie, I guess you’ve seen me at my worst.” he
sighed.

“I wouldn’t say your worst, just your most relaxed,” she
smirked.

“Tell me again why Dottie’s not here, I don’t remember
what you said.”

She explained the whole situation to him again, with the
added information that Dottie had called and said her
mother had a broken hip with cuts and bruises. “Dottie
said she’d have to stay with her mom and dad for awhile.
She made all sorts of apologies for leaving you in my
hands, but I told her, like I told you, ‘Hey, we’re
family’.”

He was about to make a sly comment on “leaving you in my
hands,” but the nurse came in and began a session about
how to “log-roll” his body up and off the bed and onto
his feet. Under no circumstances was he to twist his
torso. Sophie hovered nearby, absorbing the
instructions, watching closely the technique of the
nurses and the orderlies.

The nurse walked to the bathroom with him, pushing the
wheeled intravenous cart as he went. She waited outside
while he moved his bowels, talking to Sophie. Then she
walked him back to the bed.

“Let me try to ‘log-roll’im’ Sophie asked the nurse. She
did it exactly as the nurse had instructed, his hands on
her shoulders, hers under his arms and on his back,
while she guided him all the way back and down. She
propped the mandatory pillow under his knees. He lay
exhausted. The activity had caused a bit of pain but he
toughed it out for two hours before asking for another
injection. As the pain and tension eased, he shut his
eyes, conjuring a mind-picture of Sophie’s fingers in
his pubic hair, moving about. With that vision fixed, he
smiled to himself and went to sleep again.

He was up on his feet the next day, able to eat a
regular meal and shuffle down the hallway a few steps
with Sophie hovering at his side. Then the day after
that, he walked a good five hundred feet with Sophie’s
help. He held onto the rail along the wall, keeping his
balance by intertwining his other arm with hers.

***

On the following day, the surgeon said he was doing
quite well. The doctor turned to Sophie and said, “Mrs.
Dark, I think you can take your husband home tomorrow!”
Neither of them corrected him. “Now, just remember
this,” the doctor, directed, “No long trips, no driving,
and no sex for awhile.” A smile twitched at Sophie’s
mouth. He wrote two prescriptions for Greylon and told
him to keep walking and come to see him in four days.

The next morning, in warm sunshine, Greylon moved slowly
up the sidewalk to Sophie’s working class frame house.
Her husband had built it in the late fifties and it
still wore the old asbestos shingle siding. It had a
hard baked-on finish, so she’d chosen to leave the
shingles as they were rather than bear the expense of
disposing of asbestos under EPA regulations. Sophie was
frugal; she had to be.

They entered directly into the living room, and Sophie
said, “I got you set up in the downstairs bedroom.”

It lay directly through a door located in the left wall.
It was a very small room, but certainly adequate to fill
his needs for a few days. He remembered from his
handyman work two years ago that Sophie’s room and
another extra bedroom were upstairs.

“I got a few movies I checked out,” she said, as he
eased down on the crisply made-up bed. “If you feel up
to it tonight, we’ll watch one.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“You want to lay down?”

“I think I’d better.”

She log-rolled him onto the bedspread, put a pillow
under his knees and covered him with a sheet from the
closet.

***

That evening, Sophie fixed a chicken and cheese
casserole, with sides of green beans and carrots saut�ed
in brown sugar and butter. They drank iced tea that she
had made, strong and sweet. It was a warm pleasant night
and the tea was absolutely refreshing. He sat in the
kitchen on a straight-back chair across the table from
Sophie. The food was luscious and he raved about it.

“Oh Sophie, you are a stupendous cook!”

“I haven’t cooked much since George died,” she said.
“When there’s just one person to feed, you tend to make
do with wieners and chili.”

“I’ll bet the touch of your fingers even make that
good!” he said. They ate in silence for the next few
seconds. Then he realized that both he and she were
thinking about the touch of her fingers on his own
wiener three days before. She smiled and blinked her
eyes then looked down and cleared her throat. She looked
at him and the laughter exploded.

“Let me help you with the dishes,” he said gallantly.

Nope, nope, nope, nope!” she said. “If you do that, you
won’t even be able to take a crap without me helping
you!”

He threw his head back and laughed and carefully stood
up to leave the table.

“If course,” she taunted, “that’s only if you want me
too!”

“Promises! Promises!” he said, shuffling to his bedroom.

While Sophie took care of the dishes, he showered in the
downstairs bathroom, carefully placing Saran Wrap over
his incisions. He had to move slowly and the shower
seemed interminable. Fortunately the faucet handles were
high but midway through the shower he dropped the soap.
Try as he might he could not retrieve it without bending
and at this point he was forbidden to bend. He was
especially frustrated, for he had not yet washed below
his waist. He was weighing his choices when a knock came
at the bathroom door. “You OK in there, Greylon?”

“Yeah! But I dropped my soap and can’t reach it! Can you
shut your eyes and get it for me?”

The door opened and he saw her approaching form through
the glass door. He could see she was now dressed in red
shorts and a white sleeveless shirt. She pulled back the
door, averting her eyes and searched the floor of the
bathtub, then squatted and retrieved the soap.

“What about your feet and legs?” she asked.

“Ah, there a little hard to reach,” he said.

She began to soap his feet.

“Hold on to the towel rack, and lift your foot.”

She grasped the foot and chaffed the soap bar under,
over and around the surface. Then she did the same with
the other foot. It felt wonderful to Greylon. She then
began soaping his ankles, using her hands vigorously and
working them on up to his thighs. Then she stood,
looking directly and quickly from his legs to his eyes.

The slick soap was in her hand as she stared. Water had
splashed over the front of her shirt. She shrugged.
“Better let me take care of the rest,” she said, and
began to soap his buttocks. She took her time. He
thought he felt her grasp the flesh of his butt-cheek in
her palm, taking a full-handed grip, but he wasn’t sure.

Taking the wash cloth, she lathered it up and washed his
genitals, reaching even between the scrotum and the
thighs. “Spread your legs,” she ordered.

She used both hands on the penis, one stretching back
the foreskin and the other wielding the wash cloth.
Finally, she wrung out the cloth and finished rinsing
him with her hands. The anesthetic effect on his
erectile tissue had receded somewhat, and he achieved a
fractional erection. There was still a downward droop,
but he found himself elongated a tiny bit. He wondered
if he should comment. She spoke first.

“I see you’re feeling better,” she said, grinning.

He snorted and laughed, saying, “Help me out of here.”

She steadied him by his forearms as he stepped over the
side of the tub onto a towel. Then he felt the fluffy
bath towel being blotted then rubbed over his body. His
firmness held, if not increased a bit. She said, “You
know, I’m not sure Dottie would’ve left you in my hands
if she’d knew what you were doin’.” She was grinning
from ear to ear.

“I won’t tell her if you don’t,” he said.

He put on his terry cloth robe and walked to the
bedroom, leaving Sophie to mop up the splashes with the
towel. He noticed that she had pulled down the sheet and
blanket on his bed already.

He dressed in lightweight summer pajamas, then he took a
Tylenol 3 with a sip of water. A wave of exhaustion
suddenly swept over him and he log-rolled down, flat on
top of the bed. Sophie came in and saw him there.

“Uh-uh-uh-uh,” she said, and took an extra pillow out of
the closet and slipped it under his knees.

“I reckon you don’t want to see a movie tonight,” she
said.

“I just can’t do it. Maybe tomorrow, Sophie,” he
murmured, his eyes closed.

“Noo problem!” she smiled. She grasped the sheet and
pulled it up over him to his waist. He felt the fabric
moving lightly along his body. When her hands reached
his waist, he took hold of her wrists and held them, his
eyes closed.

He allowed himself a momentary look, and saw her legs
were almost straight, but she was bent at the waist.
Finally, she knelt. He blinked his eyes to find she was
looking at his face, a slight smile on her lips. He
tried to smile too, feeling very strange.

“I’m sorry Sophie, I just need you here with me for
awhile.”

“Noo problem,” she said.

Suddenly, he began to cry. He was surprised, but he
shouldn’t have been. At various intervals throughout the
day, mostly when he was still, he’d felt an inexplicable
emotional surge sweep over him. He guessed later that it
was the last vestige of the anesthetic working out.
Perhaps it was even the psychological release from the
fear that he might be paralyzed. He had been afraid of
that. He was embarrassed to find that his sobs were not
subsiding. In fact, they were becoming heavier. He
released Sophie’s hands and brought his own hands to his
eyes, wiping away the tears.

When he finally calmed and opened his eyes, she was
holding out a tissue to him. He took it and dried his
eyes, then blew his nose. She returned her hands to his
waist, one resting quietly on top of the other over his
navel. When he looked at her, she was smiling at him
serenely, relaxed in her kneeling position by his bed.
He sighed, exhaled a long breath and shrugged.

“I wonder what that was that all about.” he said, his
voice catching.

She didn’t answer, just smiled and kept her hands on
him. He lay the tissue aside and put his hands on top of
hers. He closed his eyes and eventually eased his
breathing. Still on an emotional edge, he pushed her
hands slowly toward his genitals, clearing the sheet
away as he did. She did not resist. When her hand was
directly over his now-limp penis he stopped and let it
rest.

He felt her fumbling with the opening in his pajamas,
then he felt her palm holding his nakedness. He began to
gently rub his fingers on the back of her hand as she
languidly kneaded his cock but he never achieved an
erection the rest of that night, not even to the degree
he’d experienced in the bathroom.

He finally ceased moving his fingers, and she stopped
stroking him but she did not let go. A vast lazy
peacefulness washed over him like thick oil, beginning
in his toes and creeping upward to his very center.
Before he went to sleep, he felt gentle lips on his
lips. And he felt the unmistakable prickle of stubble
when her chin touched his.

The next day was a series of mild exercises, including
walking. He slowly wandered around Sophie’s spacious
fenced-in back yard. Her late husband may have cut
corners on the house, but he had chosen a nice lot.
Greylon’s feet felt comfortable on the soft sod. The
afternoon turned hot and it was cooler walking inside
the house, so he walked around there. Then Dottie
called, his real world finally breaking in on the dream.

“Mama is getting out of the hospital today. She has to
stay at the Village Nursing Home, for physical therapy.
She’s scared we’re going to leave her there, so I’ve
been assuring her we won’t.”

“How often do you get over to see her?” he asked.

“I go over every day at lunch,” she said. “I even eat
there with her, then spend the rest the afternoon with
her.”

“Gee, I’m sorry Dottie, you’re missing a lot of work.”

“No, the boss-man lets me come in later and finish up.
Is Sophie about to drive you up a wall?”

Sophie was in the kitchen within earshot of his voice.

“Sophie’s doing fine. She is a big help,” he said.

“I know it’s hard on us all, hon, but I am so thankful
she can do this for us.”

“So am I, hon, so am I.”

The shower that evening went without a hitch or a drop.
Sophie’s long fingered hands moved over him
enthusiastically. She didn’t bother with the washcloth
on his genitals this time. Again, his semi-erection was
a little stronger; but still it was only partially hard.

She focused intently on her work, not averting her gaze,
but she didn’t presume to masturbate him as she had
tried to do at his bedside the night before. The lather
smacked and sucked under her palms as she soaped his
scrotum, making them both laugh. He slipped into his
robe and exited the shower, steam rising from his
shoulders.

Sophie helped him settle on the bed. “You think you’re
gonna feel up to a movie tonight?” she asked.

“We’ll, give it a try.”

“I’m gonna get my shower now, then we’ll put the movie
on. I gonna use your shower, it’s too hot upstairs,” she
said. The air in the house was humid. There was no air
conditioning, central or otherwise. It reminded him of
when he was a boy and practically no one cooled their
homes, except with fans. Sophie had sat a small
oscillating fan on the floor but it was merely pushing
the humidity about the room. Greylon knew it must be
like a furnace up in Sophie’s bedroom.

As he lay on his back, he realized he was sweating
profusely. He log-rolled himself upright and removed his
robe. He slipped on a tee shirt and a pair of Pajama
shorts, then lay back down. He heard Sophie leave the
bathroom and called her, “Sophie, come here, will you?”

“I cain’t,” she yelled, using the Southernism for
“can’t,” which she fell into occasionally. “I’m as
nekkid as a jay-bird!” two other Southernisms, he noted.
“Let me get something own!” a forth one.

It was just such linguistic patterns, plus the
grammatical lapses, which made his wife and daughter
cringe. Sophie’s working-class background didn’t help.
Of course, he knew the two ladies of his family were not
the only ones who sported such pretentiousness. Even his
beloved son-in-law would presume to correct his mother’s
grammar. However, he was not too far above his mom to
take her money for college or put up rent free at mom’s
house with his wife. No wonder the embattled Kentuckian
lashed out with a “shit-head” now and then.

As he lay on his back with his knees propped up, and his
forearm across his eyes, Greylon came to a firm
conclusion about Sophie: The person you saw was the
person you got. When she told you, “Come and stay at my
house,” she meant it. She was a warm-hearted unselfish,
genuine individual, and at that particular moment
Greylon’s heart felt very close to this simple woman.

“What’d you want?” She was standing in the door.
Tonight, her shorts were purple and her sleeveless shirt
was blue.

“I’m not sure how long I can last, but I want to sit on
the couch with you and watch that movie, just to see how
I do.”

“OK, I’ll get you some pillows,” she smiled. She picked
up the pillows on the bed and got another one from the
closet. With the pillows under her arm, she turned to
Greylon with a very serious look on her face. Greylon,
you’re here to get well. If sittin’ on the couch, or
anything else is not good for you, I don’t want you to
do it. You know what the doctor said.”

“I know that, Sophie. If I see that it’s hurting me, or
not good for me, I’ll stop it right away.”

Greylon sat down on the couch with a pillow behind his
back and one under one knee. It felt very good, very
firm when he sat down.

Sophie started the movie. Then took a seat beside him.
It was a flick featuring Gene Hackman, James Garner,
Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon. “I thought you’d like
this movie since Gene Hackman and James Garner is your
age,” she said, baiting him.

“Speak for yourself, young lady.”

Greylon looked over at the open windows and into the
dark beyond. “How’s this going to look to your
neighbors, Sophie, a man in your living room on the
couch with you, in his underwear?”

“I’m not in your underwear!” she said, smiling at him
slyly.

“What?”

She ignored his slowness, “Besides, you got on pajamas,
not underwear.”

“Same as,” he said.

Sophie rose, strode to the light switch and turned off
the lights. “There, I usually watch TV with the lights
off anyway.” That was true, anyone approaching Dottie’s
house at night would see a dark living room with a low
fluttering glow coming from somewhere out of sight.
“Besides,” she said, “those pajamas are not like your
underwear, you wear briefs.”

“Oh, so you’ve been observing,” he said playfully.

“Yes,” She eyed his pajama shorts, grinning. “How come
you wear briefs, Greylon? I figured you for a boxer
man.”

Encouraged by her ogling he teased hard, “Not hardly,”
he drawled in his best Kentuckian. “I tend to hang out
the leg.”

“Oooo!” Sophie cooed musically and turned back to the
movie.

Just then, Hackman was in a scene where he had found
rich-man Paul Newman’s daughter for him. She had run
away to the Caribbean with a young man and, at the
moment, was butt naked and having sex with him. It was
R-rated sex, to be sure, but the scene was quite
graphic. Hackman came in and broke it all up, but not
before Greylon had developed a high-bulk erection, his
first since the surgery. He kept his eyes glued to the
screen. When the scene, rowdy as it was, faded to
another, the sound receded and he heard Sophie, trying
to hold it in, but nevertheless eking out tiny
restrained giggles through her nose.

Finally he turned to look at her as he would have one of
his students acting out in class. Her pent-up laughter
detonated and she roared as she gazed openly at his
large tent. He grinned and shook his head.

“You have me at a disadvantage,” he said.

“Yeah, but I reckon your disadvantage is my advantage.”
She gazed at him shamelessly. “How come it wasn’t that
way when I had hold of it?”

“Sorry, couldn’t be helped.”

“Uh-huh, it’s that little honey we just saw.” She
pointed at the screen. “All you men are alike,” she
nodded toward his crotch. “Put a young ass and sweet
tits out there and it can’t come up fast enough.”

“Ummm, I don’t know Sophie,” he countered, looking at
the mature female lead on the screen, “I’d say Susan
Sarandon does more for me than that little teenybopper,”
he said.

“Oh! She does, does she? Even so,” she said, “you go for
the glamour. A home-town country girl like me couldn’t
even get a quiver.” She pointed quickly to his bulge.

“Don’t belittle yourself, Sophie. Susan Sarandon has
nothing on you.”

At this statement, Sophie took her eyes off his crotch
and looked him in the eye, smiling. She separated her
knees a little and then squeezed them together. Then she
turned back to the movie.

After a while he noticed that his back felt quite
“heavy” and very tight. He worked his way toward the
edge of his seat, eased himself up, keeping his back
straight, then lowered himself into a squat.

“What are you doin’?” she asked.

“Trying to lay flat on the floor, I’ve been sitting too
long.”

She stood and helped him get situated. She placed a
couple of pillows against the couch frame behind his
head. Then, ever attendant to the doctor’s orders, she
brought the third pillow and shoved it under his knees
and plumped it up. “Ahh, thanks, that feels better.”
Sophie then sat back down on the couch.

By now, he had lost some of the details of the story.
During the last third of the movie, there was a scene
quite easy to follow. Hackman and Sarandon were drawn
into an embrace. She was married to Newman but cheated
with Hackman. However, the sex was only implicit, and
the scene ended in a fevered kiss with only the
suggestion that naughty things did indeed happen. The
movie went on, but by now Greylon and Sophie had missed
the unraveling of most of the plot, so they fell into a
casual running commentary.

“They never show the sex for people my age! It’s not
fair!” she said.

“Yeah, well, they figure we already know what to do.
It’s those youngsters that need instruction.”

“Greylon?” she said, staring at the movie.

“Yes?”

“Did you ever cheat on Dottie?”

“No, but I did come close one time. How about you? Did
you ever cheat on George?”

“Only one time,” she paused, “for revenge. Is that
cheating?”

“Revenge, for what?”

“Cheating.”

He nodded his head, pondering the subject she had
introduced but saying nothing in response. He gave up on
the movie, yet kept his eyes on the screen. Now
something more was stirring in his loins than soreness;
he felt himself firming up again. Minutes passed.

She kicked his shoulder playfully with her bare foot.
“Ummm, that little teenybopper has a long-term effect,
doesn’t she?”

“This?” he said, nodding his head toward his lap. From
where he lay, he could see no more than the calf of her
leg, but he knew she was watching him grow. “No, this
doesn’t belong to the teenybopper. Hers went down a
while back. Didn’t get this one till just now.”

“You mean when Sarandon and Hackman were getting it on?”

“No, not then either. I’m afraid this is your doing.”

This time she nudged him on the elbow. Then he watched
as she slid down in her seat and extended her leg. She
nudged him again with her long big toe, caressing him
now on his hip. His erection had, at this point, reached
obscene proportions. “You’re kiddin’, right?”

“I am as serious as orthopedic surgery,” Greylon said,
reaching up from below and placing his right hand on her
inner thigh, caressing it.

“Really?” She placed her foot over his shoulder and onto
his chest, rubbing him lightly moving his tee shirt
across his skin. “You mean Susan Sarandon is not the
reason for that big bulge in your P-J’s?”

“No Sophie. That hard-on belongs to you, not to Susan.
You know that don’t you?” He continued to move his hand
on her thigh.

She didn’t respond. A minute passed.

“Geeze,” he said, gripping her thigh firmly.

“Please come down here.”

“Greylon!” she reminded him, “Remember what the doctor
said, no movin’ around in that area … and no sex,” but
she slid down in the floor with him, dragging a cushion
with her for her head. She turned sideways and laid her
hand lightly over the pajama crotch. “I don’t want to
hurt you.”

He put his hand on her smooth thigh. “So far, there is
no pain. Anyway, he said, ‘no sex for awhile.’ It’s been
awhile.”

She tightened her hand on his cotton-covered cock and
squeezed. “Oh baby, I want you in me, but I don’t want
to hurt you.”

“Just take it easy, you may have to do all the work; it
won’t be as good for you as for me, probably.

She came up on her elbow and looked him in the eye.
“You’re what’s good for me,” she said. She leaned in and
kissed him lightly. “Just let me do it with my hands;
it’ll be safe if I just use my hands,” she said.

“No, I want to feel what it’s like inside you.”

Suddenly the Video player clicked off and the television
blared.

“Shit!” she said, and scooted up to get the remote and
switch off the television. There were no lights on in
the house now, but the bright streetlight in front of
the house next door was a more-than-efficient night-
light.

Sophie pulled her shorts away from her hips and down
over her ankles. She was wearing no panties. She
unbuttoned and removed the blouse. There was a bra.
Obviously, she knew what might happen tonight, and she
had prepared accordingly. That there was a bra meant
that she didn’t want to reveal her breasts.

“Take that off, I want you completely naked,” he said.

“I’m not as perky as I used to be, darlin’.”

“Well, neither am I,” he countered.

She knelt and took him into her hand, “Feels perky to
me.”

“Not that babe,” he said, “me, my body. I’m looking
forward to social security already!”

She pulled the bra off. They were certainly less firm
than the teenybopper’s breasts, but “sag” was too strong
a word.

“Sophie, darlin’, get on top of me.”

“Are you sure, Greylon?”

“God, yes.”

She scooted down to his feet and pulled down his pajama
shorts. Finally sliding them between his thighs and the
knee pillow, then off over his ankles. She stood up and
put a foot on either side of him, and then sank to her
knees. She had positioned herself precisely, because he
immediately felt the hairy hot wetness of her on his
glans.

His hand slid toward her crotch. He wanted to feel her
with his fingers before she enclosed him. He found her
clitoris and began to probe in the wetness around it
causing her to thrust toward his hand. She paused,
pressing and shuddering gently, then resumed the
movements of her hips.

“I want in,” he said simply.

“I want you in,” she said.

He propped his stiff member at a slight angle toward
himself, and she slid down and back over him. He felt as
if he had dived into hot water. Involuntarily, he felt
himself rise to her.

She froze, stock-still. “I feel that! Don’t do that,
sweetheart! Let me fuck you, let me fuck you!” He
stilled himself, willing himself not to move. She
resumed her movements. “Oh God, Greylon.” She trembled
all over.

He sensed her tentative descent. She would slide down
cautiously, and then stop, lest she collide and jar his
back.

“Wait, let me do this,” he said, feeling her heated
wetness suck at him. He grasped his penis at its base,
leaving three or four inches protruding above his fist.
“Now, come down on my fist, Sophie. She eased down, felt
him there, raised up high and came down firmly. As she
did so, the edges of his clenched forefinger and thumb
caught the soft, hairy moisture. He meant it as a signal
for her not to crash down on him, but it turned out to
be so novel that new sensations announced themselves
that he had not anticipated.

For instance, when she rose, he vigorously rubbed his
glans against her outer lips and hair, the scratchy
sensation stimulated him even more. Then, as she slid
down, he said, “More, darling, more. A little harder,
that’s OK. You’re still the mover. I’m just the shaker.”
And with the top half of his cock buried in her, he
shook his penis violently.

“Shit!” she wailed, “We can’t do this! I’ll kill you, I
know I will!” she whined, and bent to placed her lips
over his, crowding his mouth open, injecting her tongue.
He felt her chin bristling on his chin, grinding against
his face.

“Move honey, go for it! Try to come before me. Just stay
above my hand,” I whispered.

She did go for it. She placed her hands on the edge of
the couch seat, supporting her total weight there and on
her knees. She twisted and ground horizontally, rather
than vertically. Finally she went over the edge, and he
followed almost immediately, for he’d been struggling to
hold back. The quake visibly coursed through her and she
turned her head from side to side, breathing audibly
through her clenched teeth. His own tremors were
internal, except for those in his large thigh muscles
which spasmed involuntarily; so much so, he had to fight
himself to keep from jerking upward.

***

Four weeks after he had exited the Toledo Hospital,
Sophie turned her battered Dodge Shadow east onto the
Interstate 275 Loop around Cincinnati. It signaled the
last twenty miles of his journey home, and seemed to
portend the last leg of his sexual odyssey as well. His
hand caressed the inner thigh of Sophie’s right leg.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said.

She smiled, “Me too.”

For several days, they had discussed the sexual liaison
they had experienced. Their attitude was, keep things as
they were. For Greylon, however, there was always the
second-guessing. He was concerned about what the
powerful, repeated sexual encounters could do to her
emotionally. She brought it up first.

“You know, Greylon, you don’t have to worry about me.
I’m not going obligate you to anything. I was without
sex quite a while before this, but I don’t plan to be
without it anymore. I may get married, or I may just
find a good friend. Who knows what’ll happen? In any
case, you know my bed is always there for you, but let’s
not do nothin’ to rock the boat.”

As they approached his house, it seemed enormous
compared to Sophie’s little cracker-box. It was a
relatively recent home built eight years before by a
retired farmer; a “country-style” house. As they pulled
into the side-access driveway, he saw that his riding
mower had been moved to the back yard and covered. It
had two flat tires. Someone, however, had kept the lawn
mowed and trimmed.

She must have heard them slamming the car doors, for the
big double garage door began to creep up. Dottie came
out of the garage smiling, tall, elegant and beautiful.
She was dressed in an olive green sleeveless blouse,
tucked into a pair of neutral colored khaki Bermudas.
She came to him immediately and embraced him carefully,
rubbing her hands over the small of his back. “I don’t
want to hurt you darling,” she said.

“Oh, I’m almost as good as new!” he said. Then he felt
her release him and watched her move, with open arms, to
the Sophie. “And here’s the woman that made it all
possible!” she said, and hugged her fiercely. Dottie put
an arm around each of them and walked them to the house.
She turned to Sophie; “You did bring some clothes,
didn’t you?”

“I brought a few,” said Sophie.

“So! You will say awhile!”

“Just a few days, Dottie,” she smiled.

“I just need to finish out this one more week with Mom
and then I’ll let you go back to Toledo. You should know
you are godsend, Sophie.”

“I know it’s been tough on you, Dottie, I was glad to
help out.” Sophie glanced at Greylon.

“I’ll be frank, it’s been one of the worst months of my
entire life!” she said. “I’ve been to the nursing home
every day, and then back to work after five and then
working into the night. Pete’s been very good to me, or
I wouldn’t have been getting my check, or even have a
job! But I’ve been stretched to the breaking point! I’m
simply exhausted! But, here I am complaining, I know
it’s been bad for you too.”

“No, not really, smiled Sophie. He’s been a pretty good
patient. My hardest work was to get him to take it
easy,” she laughed.

“You’ve done more than anyone could have asked you,” she
said, hugging Sophie again.

“Hey, we’re family,” Sophie smiled.

“Yes indeed, we are family!” Dottie laughed.

Greylon wondered, had not this whole experience been
good for Dottie’s snobbery? Maybe she would have better
things to say of their daughter’s mother-in-law in the
future.

Dottie showed Sophie to the guestroom upstairs, and
Greylon lay down on the floor and began his stretch
exercises. He worked for twenty minutes, then lay with
his arm across his eyes, relaxing. The physical
therapist told him he would have to continue the
exercises indefinitely, small price to pay for staying
away from more agony. Presently, Dottie appeared alone.
Her purse was hanging from her shoulder and she had her
car keys in her hand.

“Oh, you’re awake!” she smiled. “I thought you were
sleeping. Listen darling, I have to go tend to Mother
awhile, then look in on Daddy. I know it’s Saturday but
they’re expecting me. I don’t know if she’ll ever get
out of that nursing home, or not. I’ll be back about
eight or nine o’clock. You and Sophie can get something
from the fridge or just go up to Kentucky Fried, she’ll
like that.”

He propped himself up evenly on both elbows.

“Sure, babe,” pleased at her appearance. “I know it’s
been tough on you, but you’re looking really good.”

She walked over to him, knelt and kissed him on the
mouth. He felt her tongue flick his lips… twice. “It’s
good to have you back, schoolteacher,” she smiled.

She rose and went out the side door.

He lay there wondering if things might not revive
between Dottie and him. Would she be able to tell a
difference in him since Sophie? Had his absence made her
heart grow fonder? Did cheating on his wife increase or
decrease his desire for her? As if in answer, he felt a
stir in his loins.

He heard Sophie’s steps on the stairs and then across
the pine-board floor to the carpet where he lay. She
smiled. He smiled back. She walked over to a recliner
and sat, looking at him, smiling still.

“Do you know Pete?” she asked.

“Her boss, Peter Gable,” he nodded, “he owns the chain
of bookstores she works for.”

“I know, she told me.”

“I guess he’s been pretty nice to her, but he’s worked
her awfully hard.”

“She’s fucking him.”

He felt his brow raise, “WHAT?”

“She’s fucking him.”

“Did she tell you that?”

“No, but she talked about how nice he’d been. She
mentioned how he’d said ‘this’ about her mom’s care, and
‘that’ about what she ought to do about her dad if her
mom didn’t come home from the rest home.”

“So?”

“Did you look at her close?” Sophie asked.

“Well, I don’t know. Why?”

“She’s beautiful.”

“She’s always been pretty,” he said, “But…”

“Her eyes are clear; there’s not a tired bone in her
body. She hasn’t been under any stress. There’s not
hardly a line on her face.”

“How can you tell?”

“I know her. I’ve seen her under stress. Usually it’s
when I’m around that she gets under stress. But it’s not
like that today.”

“Well, maybe she’s just putting on a…”

“A front? No, she doesn’t mind I’m here today, she’s
glad to have me. Besides, she’s got that ‘just-fucked-
good’ look in her eye.”

“What?” he asked incredulously.

“It’s in my eye too,” she said, “I see it every time I
look in the mirror,” she smiled.

“Good Lord, Sophie!”

“She saw it in my eye too.”

“What! Did she say anything?”

“She didn’t say nothing… but Greylon, we been together
for four weeks. She might not of thought of it before;
that you’d screw poor little hillbilly Sophie. But she
knows it now that she saw me.”

“Was she rude to you while you were upstairs? Did she
seem suspicious?”

“You don’t have to be suspicious about what you already
know, Greylon.”

“She didn’t seem to be angry with me when she left,” he
said, as much to himself as to her. In fact, there was a
little spark before she left, he remembered.

“No, she’s not angry.” Sophie pulled the handle on the
recliner and sat back. She waggled her feet on the
footrest. She kicked off her penny loafers and they fell
to the carpet. “How ’bout you, Greylon, are you angry?”

“Well, if it’s true.”

“Greylon, I guarantee you, it’s true.”

He thought, and he examined his feelings. He knew he
wasn’t feeling anger at the moment. But that may have
been due to the shock of just finding out. He could
identify a little anxiety; not a lot, but some. There
was the feeling of puzzlement too. She had kissed him
and the kiss had sexual overtones in it. Why had she
done that?

If Sophie was correct, and she seemed supremely
confident, Dottie already knew of their affair when she
kissed him. Of course, the kiss could have been a
valedictory of sorts, but not likely. The kiss was
definitely anticipatory. As he contemplated his
homecoming, a quiver of excitement passed through him,
the thrill of knowing something was going to happen.

“No, I don’t guess I’m angry.”

“So you’re not going to kill ‘err?” she smiled.

He laughed and shook his head.

“What are you going to say to her?” she asked.

“Say? Sophie, this is like shooting the rapids of a
strange river for the first time. You don’t know where
the rocks are. You don’t know how dangerous it is. All
you know is that the water is fast, and you better steer
the best way you can.”

“OK, I’m along for the ride, but be careful, you’ve got
the paddle, and there’s two kids in the boat who don’t
even know about it. They’re grown, but they still got
feelings.”

“You’re pretty smart, you know that?” he said.

She smiled.

“Come over here.”

At eight o’clock, Greylon and Sophie were sitting across
from one another at the kitchen table. A Dewey’s pizza
was on the table between them and they were enjoying
what Greylon believed to be the absolutely best pizza in
Cincinnati.

Each of them wore shorts and were barefoot. Taking turns
inserting a bare foot into the leg of the other’s
shorts, they would toe-walk up the thigh until the vital
area was reached, then massage it with their toes. At
that point, it became the other person’s turn.

Graylon’s toe was rubbing the slick, hairy warmth of
Sophie’s vulva when the garage-kitchen door opened and
Dottie walked in with a pleasant looking middle-aged man
at her side. From where Dottie was standing Greylon
couldn’t tell if she could see where his foot was or not
but, from Sophie’s expression and posture, it was quite
evident what was going on. She looked first at Greylon,
then at Sophie. An amused pucker played on her lips.

“Hi guys! Sophie, this is Pete.”

Sophie, who had slid down in her chair until she was at
breast level with the pizza, grinned at them and said,
“Hi there, Pete.”

Dottie smiled as she nodded at the table. “Ummm, that
looks really good. You mind if we join you?”

“Hey, there’s more than enough for everybody,” Sophie
replied with a chuckle.

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