“You Can Do Anything You Want”
JJ, aka Joyce Jankowski, dialed the third number on her list as she leaned against the wall in the little “sunrise” call room. While waiting for an answer, she watched the girls and women gathering for a session fo Esther’s course in basic self-defense. On her way into the front room where the girls were rolling out the well-worn floor mats, Esther stopped and looked questioningly at JJ. “Any luck at all?”
“Not yet. I’ll let you know when we have a real contact. Go on with the class. Good sized group in there already.”
Esther glanced at the women in the room across the hall from where JJ was sitting on the floor. “Something to do on a slow snow lockdown night is better than nothin’ probably the why. But I’m not complaining. They’re here. I’ll take advantage of presence. Thanks for working the phone, JJ.”
“No problem, Esther. I live for phone work these days.” She grinned as Esther waved and went to greet the group. A voice came on the other end of the phone and JJ launched into her script for the phone call. In between a series of stops and starts on hold and off, she listened to Esther talking with the women and girls.
When JJ thought she just might be making some headway with the person on the other end of the phone line, Esther made a quick exit from the front room in response to the appearance of Antonio, one of the Watch making the early evening rounds. JJ watched them disappear together in the direction of the basement stairs. For a moment she thought of switching her position in order to have a clear view of the hallway simply for the sake of having Antonio in her sights for a few seconds. Deciding not to encourage what she’d come to consider absolutely hopeless behavior, she settled in for the long on off hold game. Encouraged just enough to keep holding instead of hanging up, JJ waited with one ear to the phone and the other paying partial attention to random snatches of conversations in the room across the hall.
Hanging her head in resignation while a new voice went through their required spiel, JJ closed her eyes for a few moments. When she opened them a movement in the hall caused her to lean forward enough for a better view. As she was put on hold yet again, she frowned at the sight of an unfamiliar tall man in blue jeans, a grey thermal top and heavy work boots standing in the hall talking to someone in the self-defense class. A greeting from the phone informed her that she was off hold again and JJ gave the live voice her full attention. When she looked into the hall again the tall young man was nowhere in sight. Knowing that he’d been seen by and spoken with someone in the roomful of women and girls, she relaxed thinking even though he was a complete stranger to her, he was a known entity to someone.
As her phone call finally began bearing fruit for her labors in patience and understanding, a trio of teenage boys came through the yellow door and stood in the hall looking into the self-defense class in the front room. Recognizing Thomas when he pulled off his hat and opened his coat, JJ began waiting for an opening in the conversation where she could return the favor of being put on hold in order to caution the teenagers to adhere to the house rules for proper behavior or to leave the premises. When he disappeared into the front room, she groaned in dismay expecting trouble at any moment. When all remained calm and quiet on the sound waves from the hall and front room, JJ remained on the line hoping for the best from the unpredictable mix of women and teenage street machismo.
A few minutes later she knew she been lulled into a false sense of all-is-well when the thuds and thumping sounds from the other room were loud enough to carry over the phone and cause the person on the other end to ask if JJ was okay and what was going on at her end. Glad for their refusal to hang up in case she needed some help via another phone line that they could provide, JJ yanked the length of the phone jack cord out of the small box that its lay coiled inside to keep from being tripped over. Standing up with the phone in her hand, she walked across the hall to stand between the two teenage boys watching intently what was going on in the room.
JJ froze at the sight of Thomas being held in a headlock by Julianna who was intently listening to the unfamiliar tall man she’d seen earlier in the hall. Hearing the person on the other line demanding to know if she was alright, JJ raised the phone receiver and whispered. “I’m okay. No, it’s a self-defense class dealing with a guy. Listen for yourself.” JJ held the phone towards the room so that the person on the other end could hear what was going on.
“Go ahead, squeeze like I showed you, Julianna.”
“What’s that gonna do to him?” demanded one of the older women watching intently.
Sarge turned to her and grinned. “It’ll cut off the blood flow to his brain and make him pass out for a short time. As long as she doesn’t apply any hard twists, he’ll be fine when he wakes up.”
Someone in the group said, “Hard twist and turn give him some bad break neck action.”
The teenage boy standing to her left yelled, “Come on, little girl, give it what you got.”
Finding herself oddly fascinated by the atmosphere in the room, her work as a trauma nurse which gave her a certain perspective on the physical grief people doled out to each other on a daily basis , JJ watched Julianna grab hold of her arm hooked under Thomas’ neck and pull it closer together with his neck in the v between her upper and lower arm until she applied the pressure required to render him unconscious. When he fell limp at her feet, she looked up at Sarge. “What do I do now?”
“You can do anything you want. But don’t take too long doing it. If you’re going to make a run for it, then run smart to where people can see you. He’s not going to stay down.” Sarge walked over to Thomas’ feet. “One of my favorite moves is taking their shoes. Definitely slows down most guys. Running barefoot on asphalt or cement is not their forte.” He yanked off Thomas’s boots and tossed them towards the women and girls watching closely. “Just throw the suckers somewhere out of his sight and reach. If there’s a street nearby toss them in the traffic lanes. Then, if they’re wearing long socks or tube socks like he is,” Sarge yanked off a sock and tied it around Thomas’ ankles. He yanked off the other one and quickly tied his wrists together, “you can play this game. You’ve got to be fast though. You can’t hesitate or have second thoughts about things. You just go with the flow. Let your imagination run the show.”
“What if he comes around before you’re done?” said a young woman who’d stepped up to get a closer look at the unconscious Thomas.
Sarge pointed at Julianna for her to put a knee into Thomas’ solar plexus then adjusted her position so she was putting all her weight into the correct pressure spot. “You don’t have to be big or heavy to mess up his air this way. It’s all about finding the right places and focusing your attention on them. If he comes to and he can’t breathe right, then he’s going nowhere.” Sarge saw Esther come to stand next to JJ. He smiled and waved at her. “Hi Esther.”
Esther looked at Thomas on the floor. “What’s going on in here?”
“Self defense,” said everyone in the room at the same time.
Esther pointed at Thomas. “Looks more like assault from where I’m standing.”
Sarge shook his head. “It was not. He volunteered all the way. Right guys?” He looked at the teenage boys in the hall for confirmation.
Amidst a chorus of feminine voices offering verification of Thomas’s willing participation in the demonstration, they nodded and turned to Esther saying with quiet whispers of: “Thomas stepped right up for show and tell. He did it cuz of that little witch.” And, “No harm. No foul. He knew what he was steppin’ into, Mrs. DeWitt.”
JJ spoke into the phone receiver while shrugging at Esther who looked at her in disbelief at the sound of her voice. “You catch it all? Sure, he’s still out. Yeah. Um,..I will…” JJ backed away from Esther and the teenage boys and collided with Antonio who’d been standing behind her. Blushing brightly she regained her balance with his help then slipped back towards the phone room to see what Esther was going to do next. She did not hang up the phone.
“Untie that boy, right now.”
“Can we finish this first, Esther?” said Julianna.
“He looks plenty finished to me.”
Thomas stirred and lay blinking up at Julianna and Sarge who were still standing over him. He smiled at Julianna. “What’s next? I’m game.”
Julianna pointed at Thomas. “You hear that, Esther? Thomas said it himself, he’s game for the next move.” With that she untied his hands, grabbed his middle finger and bent it backwards. Using the finger as leverage, she forced him to turn onto his side so she could twist his arm behind his back and settle her knee between his shoulders. Her audience clapped and cheered when she held up her free hand clenched in a fist.
Seeing the worried look on Esther’s face, Sarge walked over to her and the teenage boys. “It’s all good, Esther.” He looked at Thomas’ two companions in turn. “Right guys? We’re all cool.” He was gratified with the respectful way the teenagers nodded and backed away from him and Esther. “Now I’m going to go find that circuit breaker we salvaged the other day. Any time you want some help with the class, Esther, just let me know. They can practice with me all they need. Won’t hurt me none.” With a little wave at the women and girls, he walked off down the hall to the basement stairs.
Esther looked at the group excitedly talking amongst themselves. She watched Thomas put his socks and boots back on then exit the room strutting as if he was the biggest, loudest rooster on the block. The trio politely made their way out of the house and to the street without giving her any of their usual back talk. Antonio, carrying the tools she’d helped him find, followed in their wake with an eye to making sure they didn’t do an about-face. Esther turned and saw JJ watching her.
“Who is that, Esther? Where did he come from?” demanded JJ, un-hung up phone still in hand.
Esther glanced at the closed basement door then stepped closer to JJ. “That’s Sarge. He belongs to Lily.”
JJ’s stared at Esther. “Lily? Our Lily?” She looked towards the basement door than back at Esther. “You’re kidding. Since when?”
“Since the big snow hit Friday night. Anton went for his lesson and a visit on Saturday and there he was right smack dab in Lily’s pad.”
“You’re sure he’s like hers hers? She’s actually owning him?”
“Oh he’s hers hers all right. Whether she admits she owns him or not, he’s definitely hers. Whatever else he is, he’s all Lily’s from the bottom of those steel toed construction industry boots to the top of that hair mess on his head.”
“What do you mean by ‘whatever else he is’? Where’d Lily meet him?”
Esther glanced over her shoulder at the class now practicing on each other what they’d learned. She stood next to JJ and whispered. “He’s the guy from the breakfast bar. Remember the one she said asked her out?”
JJ pointed with the phone receiver towards the basement steps. She swallowed hard and shook her cloud of short blonde hair. “What? That’s the guy from the bar?”
“Mmm. I just said so.” Esther elbowed JJ as Sarge came through the basement door and down the hall towards the front door. As he neared them on his way out, Esther nodded at the circuit breaker in his hand. “I see you found what you were looking for.”
“Indeed I did, Esther. I meant what I said about helping out with your class.”
“Esther will give that notion consideration, Sarge.” She made a point of looking him over as he walked past. “They beat back some on a man your size they might not think twice about beating on anyone else. Give you and them a workout. Maybe you get more than you bargain for.”
Sarge laughed. “Don’t worry, I can take a workout from them easy. I better get a move on now. Bye, Esther.”
“Good-bye, Sarge.” Esther looked at JJ who had moved out of sight inside the call room. “What you hiding in there for, JJ?”
“I’m not hiding. I’m on hold, again. Is he gone?”
“Yes. But not forgotten. He got them all wired up.” She shook her head at the laughter and cheering going on in the other room.
JJ looked to the room across the hall. “Maybe that’s what they need. They sure were paying attention for a change.”
“No doubt his fine face and ass got their attention very focused. Not to mention the rest of him.”
JJ frowned. “Didn’t Lily say the guy from the bar had a beard?”
“She did. She also said he was an older guy.”
“She said he had trouble talking and that he was real shy.” JJ looked pointedly at the noisy front room. “He does not have a beard. He is not an old dude. He has no problem talking. He is definitely not shy. What is going on with Lily? It’s not like her to all of a sudden bring a guy home out of nowhere. She didn’t let John or Mark inside her apartment for months.”
“I do not know. Anton does not have a sure clue. Rosa says it’s all this snow messing with her. Rosa probably has something on that count. What Rosa and I do know is that when that man is not out with Anton and the Watch doing repair work, he is right there at Lily’s place. When the work is done he don’t hang out with the guys drinking beer. He don’t smoke no dope either. He don’t roam around looking for some random lady action. Oh he chat with Anton for a time, but otherwise, when crew work over and done, he makes tracks straight back to Lily’s pad.”
“Is he like living there with her?”
Esther’s opened her eyes wide and nodded. “Exactly like. Rosa told Lily she could send him to sleep in the generator room at night so she have some privacy. So far he is not sleeping in the generator room.”
“Whoa.” JJ backed up against the wall, listened to the on hold music for a moment, then hung up the phone. “She can call back. She’s got this number.” JJ set the phone on its small table between two folding chairs. “Are you telling me that after, what is it, nearly two years of ‘I don’t need no damn man’, Lily has done a one-eighty with this guy?”
“One eighty, double three sixty, whatever, she done broke her cold shoulder for sure.”
“You’re not looking too happy about this, Esther. This should be a good thing. You don’t like him? Why not?”
“Problem is I do like him. Other problem is,” she jerked her thumb towards the still full front room, “they all like him too. You saw him. Don’t tell me the only man you pay any attention to is the one you won’t get next to. Antonio on the same floorboards at the same time or not, that man is not the sort of eye candy any woman with her lady senses in proper working order ignores.”
Despite feeling uncomfortable at the mention of Antonio, JJ nodded her agreement. “By that line of reasoning, then Lily’s lady senses are in proper working order. Maybe this is her breaking the cold shoulder to all guys statement. Why not? Why shouldn’t she have a good time with a hot guy she picked up in a bar, albeit a breakfast bar, but a real bar nonetheless? Hmm? Why shouldn’t she? Guys do it all the time. Find themselves a woman looking for a good time, take her home and have a good time together. Why shouldn’t she?”
“Not saying she shouldn’t. As long as she and the man on the same page respecting that good time.”
“What are you saying now, Esther? What’s wrong with him on that page? He looks like a perfect candidate for that page.”
Esther pinched the bridge of her nose. “Sarge ain’t on that page, JJ. First time I met him at our door and he say he looking for Anton who he met at Lily’s, hell, just the way he say her name tell me right off he got a heartbeat for her. Everything follow confirm that heart action. I’m not talking about some mindless crush like that fool Thomas got for little Julianna. I’m talking, she got him hook, line and sinker and he happy as all get out about it. He don’t give a damn. He just wallowing in it like a pig in shit.”
“Oh. That could get messy. If Lily is just…” JJ glanced at the front room. “That would not be good for her or him.” JJ came away from the wall. “Wait a minute, Esther. This is Lily we’re talking about here. One night stand is not part of her personal vocabulary regarding men.”
“One night isn’t, but one night, night after night sure seems to be a new addition to her dictionary from the looks of things so far. When Anton showed Sarge around here he made a point of directing his attention to the spare bedrooms and making him welcome to one. Very politely Sarge say, thank you very much but he doing fine under Lily’s down quilt. I kid you not. I was setting out boxes up and down the hallway as usual for loading when he said that. I nearly loaded myself into a couple of boxes right then and there. He ain’t sleeping on that red couch. He ain’t sleeping on the floor. And he sure as hell ain’t sleeping in her bathtub unless he part frog. He sleeping in her bed and if he’s sleeping in her bed, he is not sleeping there alone, cause you know damn well Lily is not sleeping on her couch, floor or in her bathtub.”
“What’s Lily saying about him?”
“Not much since we went through his coat pockets looking for clues. All that turned up was a little grey address book. Lot of women’s numbers in it. What else going to be in such a man’s book? It got Lily’s attention.”
“All things John considered, of course it would.”
“Hmm. That’s why I tried to put her off it. Pointed out the fact names and numbers are just names and numbers. None of those women are anywhere in sight here and now. That seemed to do the trick at the time. Only problem is that since then, she not sharing much intel about him and her.”
“Maybe that’s because it’s working out, whatever it is. At least for now.” JJ gestured towards the windows. “If the snow is making her homesick, having someone else around right there with her for company is probably good for her.”
“You got a point there, JJ. Anton says Sarge is pretty easy-going with the guys. You saw for yourself how he is with the other team. Having him around during this snow lockdown could be a lot like having a big friendly dog come for a visit.”
JJ laughed. “A big sled dog just for Lily. I say we keep our noses out of it unless invited to do otherwise. But considering we don’t know anything about him, we keep an eye on him. Otherwise, who cares what they’re doing together? If he gets on her nerves, well, you heard him, he said he could take a workout. He looks solid enough that he could take one or two wallops from Lily without any serious damage.”
“My ears don’t believe this coming direct from Florence Nightingale herself.” Esther stepped back and looked her friend up and down. “You don’t mean that, JJ.”
“Oh yes I do, Esther. Judging from him playing substitute teacher across the hall, I think the man can probably take whatever Lily dishes out and a whole lot more when he crosses one of her lines. The way he was talking in there, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d enjoy it too. That aside, who among us is going to tell Lily to do other than what she’s doing? There’s nobody I know of that wouldn’t get a dish of their own behavior thrown right smack back at them. She’d be totally within the rights of fair play to do that too. I will be there if she needs me. Hell, I’ll even be there for him if she does him some damage that needs medical attention. But as of right now, I am not going to stick my nose in what’s going on with her and . . .and that fine-looking piece of ass, or whatever he is, that has gotten through her front door. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, but unless I get wind of something definite that makes him big bad news for her, I am not going to mess around with what’s going on in Lily’s pad. I suggest you do the same.”
“JJ, I grant you got the right end of the stick with most of that. It’s just . . ..” Esther hugged her arms and shrugged. “Oh I don’t know. I guess I don’t like the idea of any dog getting beat with any stick, especially not heart-wise.”
“Heart-wise? You’re concerned for his emotional well-being? Don’t be, Esther. A guy with his looks got the heart-breaker game down pat long ago. If Lily shoots him down, he’ll be right back up and back in the game in no time flat.”
Esther pursed her lips as she watched the women still practicing moves on each other across the hall. “Maybe and maybe not. No one ever quite what their image put out. All you got to do is look in the mirror to know that truth.”
JJ ruffled her hair with both hands and sighed. “Yes, well, nothing’s happened yet, so there’s point in you worrying about what might happen. Knowing you, you’ll worry plenty when something does happen. Though for Lily’s sake, I hope this, . . this, well, whatever she’s doing with Mr. Self Defense, turns out better than her last two close encounters. Even if it goes nowhere, having it end on a positive note would be a good start for future such adventures with man-kind. Okay, I’m going to get back to dialing and whiling away my time.”
Esther turned towards the front room. “I guess I better find out what else Sarge tried to put in their skill set besides tying Thomas up with his own socks. Why he even give them an idea like that?” Shaking herself a little she exchanged a quick light hand hold with JJ before they went to their self assigned tasks.
Breakfast Special #1 http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/
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