Many years ago, (1978) I worked at a lawn mower shop where the owner was a cranky retired Air Force major, with a fat half crazy wife and a homely daughter.
I don’t know why the boss got a wild hair to put his wife and daughter on the payroll.
I was too busy to concern myself with reasons. It was nice not to have to drop what I was doing and answer the phone. Along with all these luxuries, came a price.
The shop was not air conditioned except for the office, that the boss had constructed himself in order to let his wife and daughter work there. It was only 8X16 but air conditioned is air conditioned. Us mechanic folks were not allowed to ‘hang’ in the office unless we were gathering parts or going to the bathroom.
The daughter looked like she was living in the fifties. She had a cute baby face with too much white powder, and always wore too much lipstick to match her beautiful dark auburn hair. She had large breasts and they stuck straight out. She always wore below the knee length skirts; usually wool even in summer. From time to time, I would get a glimpse of her pure white legs when she bent over to pick up something off the floor.
She frequently wore black and white saddle shoes with turned down bobby socks. She was actually shapely, but she covered it all up.
In the winter, she wore a button down sweater over her denim shirts. Her sweater would only have the top button buttoned; the rest undone which looked ridiculous.
Sometimes she would start talking about stuff that made no sense to me.
She still lived with her parents until recently. They found her a mobile home to rent yet she still was at her folks house daily; in addition to working with them.
She had a teaching certificate and substituted at the high school. For some crazy reason, she chose to wear a wig when she substituted. Her mother always wore a wig as well.
I overheard discussions of the fact that she was unable to get on full time at any schools at the local school district.
Even so, I found Kathy attractive; and with a few little changes, she could be dynamite.
I was eighteen at the time; she was 23.
I walked into the office one hot afternoon and Kathy was crying with her mother. Apparently, she had been dumped or stood up by a guy…again.
I tried to back out but Kathleen, her mother asked me to join in the discussion.
Kathleen asked me “what is wrong with Kathy? We need a man’s opinion please. Tell us what is wrong with her….please.” Her voice trailed off.
I turned to face Kathy, tears still streaming down her face. I reached out to Kathleen for a Kleenex and she handed me a couple, and I began to wipe her tears away. She looked directly into my eyes while I spoke.
“There’s nothing wrong with Kathy” I began as I held her chin in one hand and dabbed her tears with the other “she’s a beautiful young woman.”
Her tears dried, I put the Kleenex down and took her hands “look at you. Your complexion is perfect; not a blemish on your skin. You have beautiful hair and features. You just need to accentuate them better.”
I stood back and pointed out her shoes “lose the black and white saddle shoes. Those are from the fifties. Lose the plaid wool skirt…also from the fifties. Too much lipstick. Fix your hair. I think the only thing that is wrong is that Kathy dresses for her family; not for anyone else.”
“What do you mean?” Kathleen asked, surprised.
“She’s a perfect daughter in your eyes” I continued “she dresses the way you taught her. Now she needs to dress for herself. She needs to want to be beautiful and attractive. A little bit of makeup in the right place here and there and I just might ask her out myself.”
“Get rid of the denim shirts unless you’re wearing jeans. Wear pullover sweaters in the winter. And when you shop for jeans be sure you look at your butt in the mirror. They need to fit tight. Get your toes painted and buy some pretty sandals to show off your pretty feet. Don’t be afraid to show a little midriff either. Try wearing a halter top around the house. Wear shorts. Shave your legs. Go to Merle Norman. They can show you how to accentuate your pretty eyes and highlight your cheeks. Try curling your hair. Stop wearing wigs. Lots of women would give much to have your body. Make it work for you. You already have more than you need to be beautiful.”
Kathy never took her eyes off me.
“The last date she went on told her she talked too much” Kathleen said.
I looked at Kathy “if you’re trying to land a man, you need to stop talking about yourself. Figure out what’s important to you and find a way to ask him about the things that are important to you. If you have to laugh, cover your mouth and turn it into a giggle. Don’t get all philosophical about stuff, if you do keep it simple. Guys like to talk about themselves. Let him do so. If he asks you questions about you, keep your answers coy and slightly evasive. Look into his eyes when you answer. Any man will get caught up in those baby browns, and you will have them eating out of your hand.”
“One last thing” I said “and please don’t take this the wrong way “go see a psychiatrist. He can give you meds that will help you cope better with life.”
The boss came in and demanded “what’s going on here? All my help is enjoying the air conditioning and we have customers out there.”
He turned to me “we need gas for two mowers. Help them load up.”
“Yes sir” I replied and hastily exited into the hot shop.
I found myself with a slight hardon thinking about what I had said. Did you really say all that out loud? Your mouth just went into automatic. You really are attracted to her, aren’t you?
The rest of the afternoon, being Saturday was busy and I gladly was not called into the office again.
It was payday and the boss handed out checks at the end of the day as we were paid through the end of the day.
I noticed that Kathy had gone. I did not see her leave.
As the boss handed my my check he told me “I hope you realize the can of worms you opened.”
I looked at him right back in the eye and said “if you want me to ignore your wife and daughter when they ask me questions, say so now and I will.”
He started at me for a second and wagged his head when he was annoyed and said “see you Monday…if not sooner.”
I gave him a little salute, turned and left. I had no idea what that meant.
In those days, I cashed my paychecks at the grocery store where they charged me a dime to do so.
Kathy did not show up for work for a couple weeks. No one spoke to me about her absence, and I did not really miss her.
On Saturday evening a few weeks later, I arrived home a little late as there was a long line to cash check for some reason.
By the time I got home, it was just after six. Mom already had dinner on the table to I got permission to sit and eat before I cleaned up.
Spaghetti and meat sauce with good bread was served up and I complimented Mom on it as I shoveled it in.
During the course of the meal, there seemed a strange air about it. I could sense something was off, but I could not put my finger on it and said nothing. I would soon find out.
Mom started “Kathy called for you a while ago. She wants to meet you at Body’s (a local pub) at 7:30.”
I stopped eating. The family, my dad and mom and two brothers had heard me speak of Kathy frequently. Some of the stuff she had done over the past year certainly would have proven her a little nutty.
When she first started working there at the rental shop, she drew pictures on index cards of much of the equipment we rented. Her artwork would be compared to a child’s. The picture of the ditch digger looked like a dragon. (Frankly, I cannot draw freehand either. I would not begin to assume I could draw picture of any type of lawn equipment.)
So certainly my folks were eager to find out why the heck she called the house to invite me out for beers.
I told them about my discussion with Kathy and her mom a few weeks earlier. I went on saying that I could not believe the stuff that came out of my mouth about her.
“Were you lying to them?” Mom asked.
I shook my head “no…no, I don’t think so. I think I’m actually attracted to what she could be…”
My mom said “well you’re eighteen now, but you need to look at all facets of this situation; the boss’ daughter? Her mother works with you too? Have you thought of what could happen if this relationship went sour? You’d surely lose your job, and from what you tell me about your boss, he could become violent give how protective he is of her.”
I nodded slowly, while finishing my last bite of spaghetti. My brothers had excused and were cleaning their dishes while Mom and I wrapped up our conversation.
“You’re right” I said “I never thought about that. So how do I get hold of her to turn her down? Or is that wise? Perhaps I should just go as a friend, and have a beer with her.”
“Just be careful” she said as she stood up, as did I.
We were taught years ago to rinse out plates and let them soak in the sink. It was my turn to load the dishwasher too and I started my task.
“I’ll do this for you” Mom said. “You go get cleaned up for your date. I’m curious to see what she has to say.”
“As am I” I said as I kissed her cheek “but who says I’ll tell you what happens?” with a smile I slipped out of the kitchen, and off to get out of my grease covered jeans and chambray shirt.
In those days, I cleaned up real well. I was 6’2″, 150 lbs, shoulder length blond hair, blue eyes, and had been told that lots of girls were interested in me. As usual, the one I chased was extremely difficult to catch.
I put on clean blue jeans and my pull-on square toed boots. Green button up shirt…nothing special. I love the casual look. I let my hair dry naturally after I leave the house in my Camaro with the windows down for Saturday night.
Tonight would be different, however.
I stopped my my pal John’s and told him what I was doing.
He was shocked as he too, knew Kathy. She had substituted in his English class at school, and showed up wearing her wig…backwards.
He shook my hand laughingly “man, you do get yourself into some messes.”
He got in and we drove our usual route to smoke one joint. Two joints required an extension on the route as we figured folks might get suspicious if we kept driving by. Pothead logic.
We finished our J, and after we Visined up, I dropped him at his house “I’ll get by later” I said.
He shook his head “you may have your hands full. I won’t look for you” and waved as I drove off, heading for Body’s.
I was right on time, and she was already there. I saw her ’63 Falcon in the parking lot, and the place was filling up quickly for Saturday night.
She waved from across the room as I headed down the behind the stools at the bar, waving to Charlie the barkeep, my friend for a couple years. “What’ll you have?” he called out as I passed.
“A couple of your dark Michelobs to the booth with the lady” I pointed to her as I walked.
“You got it. Hey, she’s a real looker! Where…” he was cut off by a waitress dropping a tray of empty mugs.
I slid into the high-backed wooden booth opposite Kathy and could hardly believe the transformation.
She had rolled her hair into a very nice set of curls using a headband to show her forehead. Her hair had been trimmed so her curls barely touched her shoulders.
A touch of eye makeup and blush brought out her clean complexion. Hardly a trace of lipstick, yet I could tell she had some.
When I sat down, she smiled a smile I had never seen.
She stood up in the aisle “what do you think?”
She had a new dress. It was cut just above her knee. It was a lightweight spaghetti-strap sundress; white with a splash of blue irises across it. It revealed her milky white shoulders and a bit of cleavage. She had a sheer slip underneath as the light from behind her almost revealed all…but not quite.
She had new sandals with her toes and fingernails painted a not too dark color of red.
She turned around, and modeled like a professional revealing her now pronounced butt. I heard a couple of cat calls.
She sat down, embarrassed.
“You…look…absolutely…beautiful” I stammered and stared “just gorgeous” I said softly.
She hid her face with embarrassment “thank you” and she smiled that smile again.
I was unsure if she was indeed the same girl I had known three weeks ago.
There was an empty mug on the table as the waitress brought us the dark Michelobs from the bar. She dropped a basket of whole peanuts on the table “y’all want menus?” she cracked her gum as she asked.
“Nah” I said “we’ll order later.”
“K” she said and left.
“What were you drinking?” I asked Kathy.
“Oh, I just had a Coke while I was waiting.”
I started at her. This cannot be the same woman.
“So, where have you been the last few weeks?” I asked, taking a big slug from my mug.
She sipped a little beer. Many are deterred by the dark color, but if one closes their eyes, one cannot tell Michelob light from dark. “This is good!” she said nodding with approval. She set her mug down, and reached for napkin to wipe her lip.
“I took your advice about the clothes and makeup. I found what you might call a “charm school” and learned some new ways to handle myself. I also did find a psychiatrist who gave me some medication. My folks even commented that I was changed. What do you think?”
I tried to speak but was awestruck.
She smiled “first I went to the mall at the hair place. They showed me pics, and I liked this one.”
“So do I” agreeing with her.
“Then I went to Merle Norman and like you said, they found some combinations and possibilities. I chose this group of colors.” She stared right at me. Her body was moving as she had crossed her legs and was really swinging her loose foot.
“Nicely done” I said, waiting for more.
“I went to The Dixie store and found this dress and another with these sandals, and then to the nail care place” as she proudly held out her hand.
I took it and examined her nails closer. Not too short, not long either. “Very nice” I said as I brought it to my lips and kissed her hand lightly. Her hand smelled of a light dose of perfume.
“Thank you!” she said, surprised, not withdrawing her hand until I let go few seconds later.
“How do you like your new look?” I asked cautiously.
She giggled with her hand partly over her mouth, and changing positions in the booth “I like guys to look at me. It has never happened before.”
I felt the hardon coming back now.
She had broken out of this daughter that her mother had made, and become her own woman.
Even her mannerisms had changed. She was sitting across from me, elbows and hands on the table, with her fingers interlaced staring right at me with a little smirk.
She leaned a little closer to me and said “you’re the handsomest man in here. You should have seen all the girls turn their heads when you walked in” she took another drink, but watched me still.
“Are you going to introduce me to your friend?” Charlie had been in stealth mode and was transported to the side of our table with either of us noticing.
“Kathy, meet my friend Charlie” I said. He offered his hand and she gave him hers.
“Pleased to meet you Kathy” Charlie managed to get all the words out despite the fact that his tongue was on the floor.
“Likewise” she said flashing her newly acquired smirky smile.
“Well, I’ll leave you two alone. I just wanted to see who this good looking gal was…and to see if you needed anything”.
I waved him off.
He tipped his derby and left.
“You made quite an impression on him” I said “he has never done that before.” Realizing what I had just done, I wished immediately to be stricken with lightning.
“Oh, you bring lots of girls here?” she asked, her tone changing.
“I come here a lot. My friends all have girlfriends” I was impressed on my quickness to respond.
“Some of my friend’s girls are very attractive too, but Charlie never comes out onto the floor from behind the bar.” I looked at her and her smirky smile reappeared..
The band came on and the first song they played was Johnny Rivers Slow Dancin’ Swayin’ To The Music.
I stood up and held out my hand to her.
She looked surprised “I don’t know how to dance.”
I held my hand out still “neither do I. Just hold me.”
She slid out, stood up, and took my hand. I led her to the dance floor and I pulled her close to dance. I was oblivious to everything and everyone around. I got a stronger whiff of her perfume.
We were the only ones on the dance floor. A crowd gathered around as our eyes locked on each others for the entire first dance.
I felt like Pepe Le Pew caught up in the fragrance of love. Swoon is a little weak, but close enough.
The band did a great rendition and went right into Nights Are Forever Without You