By Jack Coey.
Finley put down the bottle. He heard the static from the radio before the music started. He was a teenager; it was June 5, 1944, and he was in Portsmouth, England. Bridget was at the sink of the small, second floor apartment washing an apple. From the window over the sink she could see water. She had red hair and freckles and was twenty two.
“That bloke was awfully good at darts, wasn’t he?” She turned her head to look at him, and the orchestra music came from the radio.
“We don’t have darts in the states,” he said.
“Nor pubs either I would imagine.”
“More like saloons.”
“Funny word that.”
“Not as funny as what goes on inside them.”
“Umm, I reckon.”
She bit into the apple. Finley had short blond hair and wore kaki with one chevron. He sipped whisky from a glass. The announcer came on the radio and they froze. He introduced the next musical composition, and they moved.
“Golly this whisky is mighty fine,” he said.
“Men and their whisky,” she sighed.
He held out his arm and she went and sat on his lap. He put down his glass and moved his hand to her breast. She quickly stood up.
“Sorry mate, but there’s no rubbers.”
“What are ya talkin’ about?”
“You were in your whisky and my quiff and didn’t listen when I tried to tell you.”
“What the hell are ya talking about?”
“I’m saying there are no rubbers.”
“I’ll pull out.”
“Ah, come on, Bridget. I’m leaving anytime. You want me happy don’t you?”
“A fine lot you are. You’ll be long gone and I’ll have the nipper.”
He looked around the room like condoms were hiding only to be found.
“You don’t have experience with women, do you?”
“I’m your first shag, I’ll wager.”
He looked around the room like bravado was hiding only to be found.
“You sounded like you had your fun,” he said.
“No denial there, bloke, but you ended up in a condom, which is why I could enjoy it.”
He wanted to fuck her more than anything, and it felt like he could die. He thought and thought.
“Why don’t we get more rubbers?”
“There’s a chemist over on Duchess Way.”
“One street over toward the harbor.”
Finley stood up.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
She listened to his feet on the stairs.
“Oh my!” she chided herself, “I probably shouldn’t have given myself to him that way. Who knows what the next forty-eight hours will bring for the poor sod? Young boys and their first time; they become mesmerized and can’t think of anything else. He does make me laugh though. His imitation of Charlie Chaplin is a swell send up. I can’t send him to France without making him happy, but I have to think of meself too.”
She straightened the comforter on the couch, and the voice over the radio got her attention.
“That was the Brandenburg Concerto no. 31. Attention all service men: Neptune Swims. Once again, Neptune Swims. Overcast today and tomorrow with rain…”
She was still. She knew what that meant; she’d overheard comments in the pub. She didn’t want to think about if he came back with no rubbers.
“I think I’ll have a brace of whisky,” she thought.
She drank from the bottle; the warmth down her throat felt good. She heard his quick steps up the stairs. Finley burst through the door and threw himself on the couch.
“The son of a bitch laughed in my face,” he exclaimed, “said with an invading army billeted in town there’s two things you won’t find: virgins and prophylactics. Where’s the whisky?”
Bridget handed him the whisky bottle, and he took a swig. She sat at a desk and wrote on a piece of paper. She handed it to him and he read it.
“Why are you giving me this?”
They looked at each other for a long moment; she saw death in his eyes. There was rain against the window.
“Come along,” she said.
JACK COEY lives in Keene, NH.