Too Much Love for This Myrtle Beach Heart

by RIC HOEBEN

The Atlantic Ocean can make a body tired fast. As such, me and Frances had headed 30 miles southwest to mainland and had pumped our gullets with Excedrin and Lorcet, Lorcet and Excedrin all along the way. Frances had taken over driving my Mercury, and I could barely hear the Oak Ridge Boys tape I’d popped in over the incredible rumble she was giving unto my Flowmasters with her tattooed trigger foot. I never even knew I had a tape deck in my ride, till I discovered the Oaks’ cassette at my Uncle’s palace in the swanky DeBordieu Residential Colony. I’d been over there the night prior and had housewatched for him, had pounded a gallon of his new wife’s bubblegum vodka and had smoked Parliaments out on the balcony looking over the winding salt creek beneath where’d I catch red drum and black drum in the morning and carve them up and make omelets out of it all for me and the 16-year-old girl who lived next door and who’d walked over in cotton gym shorts and pointed out the tape on the kitchen counter. She asked what is was, like she’d never seen a cassette before in her deflowering life.

Frances drives my wheels in nothing but her lavender bikini, and I’m studying the buffet of tattoos set across her pale body because, to speak truly, I’ve never paid attention to her inkwork before, never seen her son’s face smiling in the dermis of her shoulderblade before. The same eleven-year-old son she claims is absolutely mine, but won’t take the proper scientific time to prove it.

Personally, I have never been a man of agenda. I even loathe the word, the way -enda shoots out the tongue. Frances, however, had agendas always going up there between her ears. Her large agenda involved me leaving behind my Irish wife for good and taking my quarters with her instead and with the boy, with all kind of frequent gallivanting up and down the Southeastern states, pills and 90 proof, sunshine and thunderstorms.. Her immediate agenda for the day at hand involved us catching coppernose bluegill and red-ear and then making love in Alice Flagg’s graveyard whether we had the holy place to ourselves or not. I’d made it clear as tap water that I had no qualms about graveyard coitus, but the fact the tombstones were attached to an Episcopalian church gnawed at me something greatly. Frances always hated my devoutness, herself being a Southern Baptist Atheist.

We park the Mercury at Cordell’s Wines and Liquors, in earshot of our destination, go inside and buy some vapor cigarettes, four bottles of rioja and a bottle of bubblegum vodka. I assure Frances she’ll dig the vodka all right, tell her how I stole sips from the same product when tooling at my Uncle’s just the night before—I leave out the murky part about the highschooler from the mansion next door. We place our goods in my trunk, head across Highway 17 to the bait and tackle, pilfer ourselves two orange dreamsickles and take our licks brazenly as we pick up squid strip bait and strong test line. Squid is the best to use in the surf, stays on easy. But since Frances insisted on freshwater for the day, I get a portion of nightcrawlers and a handful of beetle-spins to boot.

Frances winks a mile a minute at the oldtimer ringing us up at the pay stand, tongues over her dreamsicle in just the right way, a way I can testimony to, a way that ends up getting us our purchase half off regular. We cross back over 17 and head on down Alice Flagg highway to meet with our short-term agenda.

*

I take Frances’s left nipple into the pull of my lips again, rock back and forth again across the treasures of party jewelry and estate rings spread out by humanity for beloved Alice. I know I’ll gain welts on my back and mosquito bumps on my thighs, but what real loss is this for a few slices of some kind of eternal ham?

“Keep going,” she says mildly. “Keep going or I will punch you, fucker.”

I’d wanted to be more Hebrew first and have us catching the fish down at the river bank, but Frances insisted on the Dionysian.

“I ain’t stopping, you’re the one wore plumb out,” I yell. A light drizzle begins to fall, and I’m thankful for the overcast for now as no tourists nor parishioners are among us. Our only company are robins taking their peck for earthworms and the promise of revival.

When we finish up our standard, we sit calm and stoic as Waccamaw Indians and smoke two Parliaments back to back and stare off into calm nothingness. And it is within complete nothingness that something shaky happened, as is usually the case for sinners.

*

Out of the redbrick mausoleum, the first one comes forth. He is their leader, and Frances knows it too, could tell it in her eyes, I’ve known her long enough. He wields a helluva sword, and he shakes all the years of dirt off his golden breastplate and Centurion garb. Other toughs climb out and single-file close behind him. They all look to the sky above in wonderment, let their outstretched tongue taste the day’s drizzle.

I get dressed back into my threadbare bluejeans. Frances realigns her meagre lavender bikini, and she ganders back and forth from me to the ancient Romans as they stomp their way forth through Johnson grass toward the Flagg family tombstones where we nervously keep roost.

“I am Boswell!” the Centurion belts out. His name echoes through the century oaks, and makes mockingbirds rearrange their seats.

I swig some of the rioja and yell back, “Me, my name’s Manic, and this here is Frances.”

She looks disdainfully at me. She really hates when I fabricate.

“Surely, this man is the son of God,” the Roman leader says. He is close enough I can count the few silver hairs still left on his massive head. He is even taller than I imagined.

“What the fuck?” Frances giggles.

“Surely, this man is the son of God,” he says. The stationed troops behind him sweat in their burgundy and in their sandals.

For a moment, I think he’s talking about me. For a long moment, I become grandiose.

“May a beautiful lamb be sacrificed,” he announces. He takes a cigarette lighter out of his sheath and flames up a long menthol. Kneeling, he then gathers oak twigs and loblolly leftovers and gets a fire going, despite the dampness. “. . . the son of God,” he sings once again.

And the new fire rages on.

RIC HOEBEN is an American fiction and creative non-fiction writer whose work is most often set in the American South. Hoeben resides in Georgetown, South Carolina, and is a Native American activist for the Chicora under his tribal name “Kid Ric.” He attended the University of Florida for his M.F.A. in fiction and studied there under Padgett Powell and Harry Crews. Hoeben's most recent work has been found in Tampa Review, storySouth, Glimmer Train, James Dickey Review, Clapboard House, The Monarch Review, Spork, Atticus Review, Hobart, Connotation Press, Burrow Press Review, Pithead Chapel, Umbrella Factory, the Newer York, and Waccamaw.