Ray sat watching his old friend, Juan sit motionless. They were again in his barn smoking what Juan brought up from Mexico. Only now, Ray was beginning to not like what he was seeing. As Juan came to himself Ray was waiting on him.
“You talked this time.”
“Yes,” Ray continued, “and you talked about June.
Why would you talk about June?”
Juan didn’t know that he mumbled outside his
experience, but he had to cover it. “Just crazy talk, that’s all. It means nothing.”
The two men called it a night, but unknown to Ray, Juan was beginning to see that his old friend was delving a trifle too much into his affairs, and he could clearly see that the day would come when he would have to take care of this problem.
June worked every Friday night at a local cafe known as Fat Eddie’s Catfish Emporium, situated in the small Texas town where she was raised. She lived in one of the shacks behind the café that Fat Eddie rented to her mother. Her stepfather, Ray lived there with them. She’d hung around Fat Eddie’s all her life and it was only natural for her to want to work there when she got up in her teens. Her earliest memories were sitting in a booth at the café, listening to the old men, and some young men, spin yarns about the various “going’s on” of the little hamlet. She’d been too young to realize that her mother was probably the biggest story in years for the café, and that she herself was expected to live up to the family tradition. When she came of “age,” which was actually about twelve, she began to help out in the place, and she evolved into a “Catfish girl” before she was much older. Even at that young age she was indeed fetching, and a delight to the people who ate there as she handed out the fish and fixings each Friday night. She had to go to school but Fat Eddie used her, and other pretty high school girls as weekend waitresses, and as “catfish girls” on Friday nights. It was “all you can eat” night with the fish, and the people sat there and gorged themselves. They would show up still dressed for the game. There was even a waiting room (outside in the parking lot) where the people would wait for their name to be called. June’s was the prettiest “catfish girl.” She wore a tuxedo, and a bright smile, and lugged the huge tray of catfish to all the tables to refill the plates of the waiting crowd. She would wear a baseball cap that had “Fat Eddie’s” written on it. Her long blonde ponytail would lace through the back of the hat.
Michael also worked at the Emporium as a dishwasher. His mother didn’t like him down there because of his status of living at the Bend, the most elegant area of the little town, but he wanted to be near June. He would go, and fetch the dishes at the tables and would look longingly at June as she placed new, hot fish upon the hungry cowboy’s plates. Eddie dipped the fish in a special “hot sauce” that he concocted in the back of the greasy-spoon cafe. The “bite” that it gave the catfish made it a favorite of all the locals. It was especially good after the beer that was consumed under the stands at the game by the men who told their wives they had to go to the boy’s room. Even at the catfish house, June was a vision! She had her long “pony-tail” hanging down her back. At sixteen, the men couldn’t help but look longingly at the girl and imagine the woman she would become. She would struggle with the huge platter of catfish and bend over to give out the three extra pieces that Fat Eddie told all his “catfish girls” to give; no more than that because they would only eat three at a time. She’d never dropped her catfish platter. She would hand out all her fish and then scamper back to the kitchen with the other girls to get more. Fat Eddie would keep frying it up. He had special “cost cutting” methods, too. A big bowl of pinto beans was always served customers as they waited on the fish to come out. If the bowl came back to the kitchen with any beans left in it, Fat Eddie would just throw them back in the pot with the rest and warm them back up again!
Catfish night was the biggest night of the week in the little town. Catfish was the great equalizer. It was the night when the “have not’s” living from week to week could sit down with the good citizens from the Bend and be on a semi-equal basis. During football season the catfish would be the victory celebration, and if the hometown team lost, well, no big deal. Fat Eddie would still “serve ‘em up hot” with lots of tartar sauce! Michael fell in love with the little catfish girl. He made special note of every time she came back to the kitchen for more catfish.
June was attracted to Michael. Added to this the fact that she was beginning to understand the meaning of status and the idea of money. The fact that Michael lived at the Bend had originally meant very little to the teenage girl. The Bend had always been that area with the big houses sitting away from the main town. June had never known a time when it wasn’t there. She was very familiar with the homes with their large terraces, and even airplane hangers and the golf course running through it. But all of that did not affect June as yet. She was a bit, but not all, taken by Mike. Yet, he had attracted her ever since she first saw him. She had a feeling for him that was not like the feeling she had for all the other cowboys she’d come across in her short, but eventful life. Her nickname, “the Catter,” bore witness to her expertise with the gentlemen. Even at sixteen she was much more experienced than he, but she was drawn to him all the same. She’d known Mike all of her life. He was around two years old when Claudette relocated from Memphis. June was born that very year amid all the gossip surrounding her conception. She and Mike looked alike. They both had the same blonde hair and blue eyes. She and Michael had kissed, but nothing more. June was not innocent. Not by a damn sight! She had been to the golf course, but at night with many local boys. That and too many nights at the S. P. J. S. T had hardened the little catfish queen, but she adored Michael, and in that respect, she was pure, and he was pure until one night, out behind the shacks in a field. Michael had kissed her that evening, and June felt the fire rise within her, and there was a quickening of the heart that she was all too familiar with. Lying down on the Buffalo grass was the most natural thing in the world. She felt like she’d been waiting for this field all her life. She felt that this field of grass had been waiting just for her, for just this moment in time. There was a distant light, but this time she didn’t go there, but stayed, and felt the rise of her passion. Michael was shy, but June knew what needed to be done, and she led him into maturity. He was clumsy, but she was not. In this respect, she was the elder, and he the child. June had been exposed to many things that a young girl should have put off until later, not necessarily as a bad thing, but just as a way of educating her to the ways of the world. It was only natural that the young girl would turn this knowledge toward securing the one relationship that she prized above all other relationships. Seducing Michael was almost too easy. In some societies people would pull back, be appalled, and say that this is wrong, but this wasn’t just “anyplace,” this was Texas! As they walked back to the shacks, she asked Michael how he felt.
“Oh, I don’t know, just kinda good, I guess.”
“Kinda good? That’s all? Don’t you feel, well, like you love me or something?”
“Yeah, sure. I just don’t get into all that, you know? Sure I love you.”
She was actually taken aback! She thought she had her hooks in deeper than that. He said it, but she was sure she couldn’t see it in his eyes. Still, that didn’t matter. She could hold him. Even at this tender age, June knew she could hold any man. No man could resist or even turn away for even a moment. Michael might wiggle on the hook, but he was still hooked! That was all that mattered! Men much older, and more experienced than he had melted under her gaze. Yet, she would have mercy on Mike because she needed him intact! She’d school him a bit.
The Butcher Shop