“How long you plan to stay for?”, Therese asked.
“Until the odds tell me otherwise.”, Carver replied.
he got up from the bed, scratched his lower back and
walked the few feet to the beat up dresser drawer. on
the top rested a pack of Merits. he took one out, put
it in his mouth and lit it with all the casual motions
of someone waiting at a bus stop. Therese looked at him,
eyed the sinews in his back. she gazed at his skin that
shone even in the dim light of the room. she lay there,
naked with the covers at her feet. Carver turned around
and despite herself, she couldn’t say a word. he had
that control over her. she knew it. it was the same
thing every time. he had been by this same joyhouse
for a good two years runnin’. it was the only one
that serviced Black men in this part of Louisiana.
at least, the only one with mostly white women. ever
since he walked in the door that one Thursday evening,
he had his hooks into her. and he knew it.
“When are you gonna give up the sportin’ life, sugar?
It wears everyone down.” she said, slowly leaning into
the headboard behind her. Carver looked at Therese. her
hair was a chestnut brown beehive. it framed a face
that was full and soft. her eyes were eggshell blue
and still held a trace of innocence. her body was
plump im the right places, mainly her breasts and her
thighs. Carver came back to the bed and laid beside
her. “It won’t get me. I got a way out. You plan on
being a social worker?” he asked, his sharp grin in
effect. “I…I just worry. The last time, when you
told me about the game and how they tried to ambush
you after you won – well, I just don’t want you hurt.”
Therese said, turning her body towards him but not her
eyes.” Carver ran a hand over his low cut. “I got away.
That’s part of it all…I’m a hustler. Been that way
ever since I learned the best adding and multiplying
wasn’t in school. What else I got?”
“You’ve got a mind…you’re smart.” Therese replied,
finding herself back in that same taut spot again.
Carver wasn’t a usual customer. she entertained him
his first time to Madam Louselle’s. even fixed him a
drink. whiskey and water. that first night lit a fire
in her, one she hadn’t had since being a young girl
in St.Louis. she had been a hooker for ten years, ten
years of sex, martinis and muggy nights all running
together. and here she was, with a Black man in her
bed. and her feeling as if she’d die if she never
saw him again. “C’mon Therese…I’m a Black man. I’m
still looked at as a second class citizen. Yeah, you
got college kids brighter than me sitting at lunch
counters. Getting their heads beat in. Not me baby.
I’m gonna overcome all right, but I’m gonna get a
whole lot of bread doin’ it.” Therese laid her hand
on his lower abdomen. “Honey…please. Don’t go to
that pool hall. I’ve got money…you can have some.
We’ll stay here, right here in this room-”
Carver jumped up. “I gotta split.” he grabbed his
navy blue shirt and yellow slacks and began to get
dressed. Therese felt her lips quiver. he snubbed
out his cigarette in the dull green ashtray on the
nightstand and sat to put on his shoes. she moved
and laid her bosom on his back. a tear left her eye
and seeped into his shirt. Carver stopped briefly;
he turned his head slightly to see Therese’s hair
on his shoulder. “I’ll…be by ‘fore I leave town.
Gotta head over to Natchez.” he rose and walked to
the door quickly. before opening it, he turned to
look at Therese. “Make sure my drink’s waiting for
me.” he said, flashing the same grin. “Of course.
See you later sugar.” she said, grinning as she
knelt on the bed. Carver glanced at her for another
few seconds, then swiftly opened the door and left.
the door swung back but didn’t close. Therese could
hear the blues being belted out on the piano down
in the great room. “I…love you.” she said gently.
raucous laughter danced up from below.