"We got to talking about The Fox Den, also known as the Slippery Tit, which was a bar not far down the road, where Chet and Dora wanted to take us that evening..."
chet hickock & what he was like
fiction by larry kimmel
"Should I wear the paisley dress?" June asked, spreading it over her chest.
"Maybe it's a little much for an afternoon visit."
"We'll be going out later ... maybe."
"Okay." She smiled and went into the bathroom with the dress, leaving the door ajar.
From the bathroom June asked: "Did he really say that?"
"About my needing a good laugh."
"Yeah, he said it."
June laughed. I could see her bare back flash in the mirror, then the door shut, and I was left at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer.
June's asking brought to mind how Simpson, "the weasel," had baited me in the labor shanty one noon, saying he lived just over the hill in the next hollow from me and that he'd come over that hill and fuck June some night when I was working eleven-to-seven, and how Chet Hickok, seeing me too nettled to answer, answered for me: "Go ahead she needs a good laugh." That's what Chet had said, and that's what Chet was like.
I believed Chet was okay, but didn't trust him quite. Too zany for a guy in his mid-thirties. Too youthful, somehow. Then I thought of the time ol' Bennett had said, "Stay away from him. He's no good," meaning Chet.
"Really," I'd replied, acting surprised, knowing that Chet was always telling his exploits, especially about two teenage girls he had going right then that "like to have their pussies eat."
"Why's that?" I asked.
"He does things with them girls," ol' Bennett said, shaking all over like a fundamentalist saying "degradation" or "abomination" so as I could see it meant something to him that a dictionary wouldn't tell you. Good ol' Bennett.
Coming out of the bathroom, tugging the paisley dress over her hips, June said:
"Did he really say his oldest daughter would be twenty when he was forty, like that?"
"You mean Chet? He says it all the time."
"Like it means something particular to him?"
"Yep. Seems that way to me."
We ate spaghetti at Chet's house that afternoon. It was more of a cabin than a house, set up from the road with woods coming right down to the clay bank behind it. After we finished eating, Chet's wife, Dora, who was a fat Italian woman, sent the two younger daughters to a neighbor's, and we sat around the table talking and drinking beer.
"Where's Jenny?" Chet asked.
"She's with her friend, Ellie, they went over to Wilburton, shopping," Dora answered.
"You ought to meet, Jenny," Chet said to us. "She's a good looking girl, already mature. She'll be twenty when I'm forty."
"Cut it out, Chet," Dora said, and then to us:
"He's always saying that, I don't know what he means by it."
I shrugged and looked at June. She looked at me. I spread some shredded tobacco on the cigarette paper I'd just folded.
"I hope this layoff doesn't go on much longer, I don't know how we're gonna get the kids outfitted for school next month," Dora went on, "It was bad enough at Christmas, we had to borrow to get gifts for them."
I laughed and said, "I remember I bought a case of Budweiser and two fifths of Seagrams for the holidays and the next day we got the notice. Boy was I glad I'd already bought the booze."
Chet smiled at that, but said:
"Do you think Jenny will be home before supper?"
"Let it alone, Chet. Why are you always on her?"
During the silence, I apologized for the mess of tobacco shreds I had made on the table, rolling the cigarette.
"That's okay," Dora said, "Chet's uncle Billy lets a mess like that all the time, and he's been rolling his own for thirty years."
I tried brushing it up. "Don't worry about it," Dora said, "I'll get it later."
Then we got to talking about The Fox Den, also known as the Slippery Tit, which was a bar not far down the road, where Chet and Dora wanted to take us that evening.
"It's got a nice dancing floor now," Chet was saying. "There's some nice girls come down there on Saturdays now."
"You stay away from her this evening."
"I was just dancing with her."
"When he gets into trouble he always comes to me," Dora put in.
"Yeah, this is my girl," Chet said, leaning from his chair to pat her thigh, "We've always been together. No matter what. I guess we always will be." He tucked his hand into her crotch.
"Cut that out, Chester," she said, knocking his hand from her lap, and went on to say:
"It's got a nice place to dance, though, since Chet's cousin Lee drove a coal truck through the wall one night."
"Yeah, he come down drunk one night and couldn't stop. The grill of the truck came right up to the bar. Nobody was hurt, so we got a bunch of buddies together and built a concrete addition to the place and now its bigger and better than it was."
"You'll like it," Dora said.
I looked at June to see how she was taking it all. This was nothing like any people she had ever known. But she grinned back. Besides we had nothing better to do this day.
Then the dogs started barking and a car door slammed on the road below the house.
"That's Jenny," Chet said. "I know it is."
"Now you let her alone, Chester."
"She likes me. She's my favorite, and she likes her old man."
We heard her footsteps come up the steps and path to the house and then the screen door screeched and in stepped a good looking girl in her mid-teens. Matured like Chet had said.
"This is June and Pete," Dora said, "Pete works with your dad at the mill."
"Hi," she said. She was a very nice girl. Very pleasing.
Then, as she started past Chet on her way to a side room, her grabbed her and started tussling with her.
"Don't Daddy, please," she said.
"What's the matter, I just want to give you a hug."
"Stop that, Chet!"
"What's wrong with that? She's my little girl. I just want to give her a hug."
"You've got to let her alone. She's too old for that sort of thing." There was a grieving quality to Dora's tone. Jenny had already slipped away into the other room, looking disturbed.
"I don't know why he's always bothering her like that. It isn't right, Chet. I've told you not to do that anymore."
"All right. I just wanted to give her a hug."
At the Fox Den, we sat at a round table just off the dance floor in the cement block addition.
"See her," Chet was saying of a scuzzy old woman at the bar. "She used to be a prostitute, but now she can't give it away."
"When she's drunk, she asks the men if they want to see her badge, and then she lifts her skirt and shows them her snatch," Dora added.
"Whether they want to see it or not," Chet laughed.
"Oh well, when I'm that old, I might not care myself ... if I was drunk," Dora added.
"There's another skank comes in here," Chet said, "that must weight over three hundred pounds. One day she got out on the dance floor and wiggled out of her panties and hung them over the juke box."
"They covered the whole top of the juke box," Dora put in.
"All the guys at the bar applauded."
Dora seemed to be liking all this talk, and June was amused too.
Then Chet got up and asked a good looking girl at another table to dance, and he danced with her real close and real slow. Dora didn't say anything while this went on, and June and I just set there drinking our beer.
When Chet came back, Dora said, "I wish you wouldn't do that."
"She's a nice girl. I just wanted to dance with her."
"We don't need any more trouble."
"There won't be any trouble."
"Her husband won't like it."
"She's allowed to dance. Besides if he don't want her dancing, he should keep her at home."
Dora looked down at her drink.
"See that tall, lanky guy?" Chet pointed him out at the bar. The man stood head and shoulder over the others. "He came up here from West Virginia about five years ago. One night some guy broke a bottle over his head, and he just turned slowly and said, 'I'm gonna assume that was an accident.'"
Dora liked this and cheered up some.
June asked Chet if he had really said what he'd said about her needing a good laugh, and he told the whole story. Then he danced some more with various girls and especially the blond, good looking girl he'd danced with before. He told me on the sly that he'd made a date with her. He'd been trying for some time, he told me.
Outside, we crunched our way over the drive paved by a decade or more of bottle caps. Then we all piled into our car, and I drove back to the Hickok's house. When we got there, there wasn't any light on.
"Isn't Jenny supposed to be home, taking care of the kids?"
"They're probably all asleep, Chet."
"It's not that late."
"It's almost one o'clock."
"Maybe she's watching TV in the back room."
"Just let her alone, tonight, Chet. Please."
"Okay. Did I tell you," Chet said to June, "that she'll be twenty when I'm forty."
"You mentioned it."
"He's always saying that," put in Dora. "Come on, hon, lets go to bed, I'm tired. We both need our sleep."
"What we need is a little loving," Chet said, grabbing Dora around her middle as she got out of the car, and rubbing his face in her broad rear end, then grinning at us, sly like.
"Won't you come in for a last beer?" Dora asked us, but we said no and pulled out for home as they stumbled up the path to their house, Chet hanging onto Dora.
. . .
Slipping out of her paisley dress, that night, while I waited for her on the bed, June said: "I didn't like the way he grabbed at his daughter."
"Neither did his wife."
"She seemed really bothered by it."
"I know. You could hear it in her voice."
"What do you suppose is going on there?"
June laid the dress over the back of a chair, and reached around behind her and unsnapped her bra.
"Do you suppose its different for a girl brought up like that?"
"I don't know."
"I mean, she'll stay among her own sort of people, won't she?"
June had slipped out of her panties, now, and stood at the edge of the bed, her arms lifted to take the braid from her hair. Then leaning across me to fluff her pillow, her breasts brushing my face, she asked:
"What should we do?"
"Forget about it."
And after the light went out, she asked:
"Isn't there something we can do?"
But I was already running my hand along her thigh, and there was nothing better we could do.