It’s easy to get paranoid in a small town. Everybody’s always up in your business particularly if you happened to do something wrong. That’s how Scott Ellis felt that Thursday evening as he sat in Gillie’s Wayside Bar and Grill with his older brother.
“Damn it, Scott,” said Sonny Ellis shaking his head. “You ought to have had better sense. You know that Alma Turner ain’t nothing but trouble. That’s all she’s ever been.”
“Well, Diane was down in Sanford with the boys and I was in here drinking alone and one thing just led to another. Alma comes in looking like a million buck and for some unknown reason started hitting on me. What the hell would you have done?”
“I’d of gotten out of here as fast as I could get. That’s what I would have done. Lord, you know daddy’s turning over in his grave.”
“Listen Sonny: she’s wanting me to run off down to Georgia with her.”
“What’s she think you’re just going to up and leave Diane and the boys?”
“That’s what she’s saying. She says she just can’t live without me; says we were meant to be together.”
“Good heavens, Scott! What does she expect y’all to live on? Alma Turner is a woman that’s used to having money.”
“She says she has got over a hundred thousand dollars in the bank. That ought to last until I can find me a job down there.”
“You ain’t seriously considering this are you?”
“Sonny, Alma is the sexiest damn woman I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve been crazy about her for years.”
“You’re married to Dianne! You’ve got her and Kevin and Kyle. You can’t throw that away over some slutty piece of trash like Alma Turner for God’s sake. Use your head for a minute. It wouldn’t be two months before she’d be running after some new man down there. That’s just how she is. You ain’t going to change that.”
“She says she loves me.”
“Bullshit! She ain’t never loved nobody but herself. Hell, she only married Shorty for his money and she ain’t never been faithful a day in her life. What makes you think she’ll be faithful to you? Not only that, but what in the world do you expect Diane to do?”
“Sonny, there comes a time when you just have to think about yourself and not worry about other people.”
“You think so do you? You know you’re making me sick to my stomach. Diane and those two boys love you to death. Lord knows you sure don’t deserve it. How many times you been with her anyway?”
“Three,” said Scott Ellis.
“Three times and you’re ready to run off to Georgia? You must be plum crazy.”
“You don’t understand. I love her too.”
“I think I’m going to throw up right here. I swear I honestly do. I can’t believe that you’re no brother of mine. If you run off with Alma Turner you’ll regret it the rest of your life. That’s all I got to say.”
“Sonny, I’m looking for advice not criticism.”
“You’re looking for damn approval is what you’re looking for. Well, you ain’t getting that from me. I think you’re a fool and my advice to you is to stay away from that woman. Don’t see her; don’t talk to her on the phone. Stay as far away from her as you can get. Hell, if you have to me and you can go over to Hatteras fishing for a few days so you can get her off your mind. We can take the boys if you want. The important thing is that you cut this off right now, this minute before Diane finds out about it.”
“Sonny, I just can’t. That’s all there is to it. Besides I’m supposed to meet her down at Riverside Park at seven this evening.”
Scott Ellis was there at the park at a quarter to seven. He sat in his car anxiously awaiting Alma Turner’s arrival. At seven on the dot a new white Lincoln Continental pulled into the back parking lot and eased up beside him. It was her.
“Come on Scotty, get in,” she said through the open window. She was dressed in white shorts and a yellow halter top. Her dark brown hair fell over tanned shoulder and bright green eyes sparkled like the silver necklace and earrings that she wore. She smelled like coconut and spoke in a seductive whisper.
“Oh Alma, I can’t get my mind off you for a minute,” he said as he took her easily in his arms and kissed her. God, you look fantastic.”
“Have you made up you mind, baby?” she asked. “I need you so badly.”
“Yes,” he said. “Just give me a few more days to line everything up and I’ll be ready to go. We can leave on Sunday night.”
She kissed him again. “I don’t know if I can wait that long,” she said.
Her skin was as soft and smooth as butter. Her lips were warm and inviting. She pressed tight against him and ran her manicured fingernails through his hair.
“Lord Alma, you drive me crazy,” he said.
As they embraced one another a big black F150 pulled up along side the Lincoln and a short gray haired man stepped out. He walked over and tapped on the driver’s side window.
“Alma, y’all come on out of there,” he said.
“Oh my God, it’s Shorty! He must have followed me.”
“Come on now,” said Shorty Turner.
Slowly, Scott Ellis and Alma Turner got out of the car. “Shorty, what in the world are you doing here?” she asked innocently.
“Don’t try and pull that stuff on me,” he said. “I want you to get in that car and drive straight home. I’ll be there directly. I need to have a few words with Scott here.”
There was nothing that she could say. She got back in the Lincoln and drove off.
“Now boy, what do you aim on doing with my wife?”
“We was talking about running off together,” answered Scott Ellis frankly.
“You need to get that notion out of your head,” said the little man. “Alma ain’t going nowhere. You don’t figure that you’re the first man she’s wanted to run off with do you? I expect that you probably think that you’re in love with her and that she loves you? Well, take my word for it, you don’t and neither does she. My advice to you is to climb in your car and get back home to your family. If you two ran away I’d just come after you. You don’t want that. You see, I understand Alma. I accept how she is. I do it because I love her too. I love her more then you. So, get in your car and get on home.”
Scott Ellis didn’t say a word. He climbed into his Chevrolet and backed out of the parking lot while Shorty Turner stood watching with his hands on his hips.
On the way home he thought about what the little man had said. He felt a sense of relief, happy over the fact that he had made the right decision.
A native of Southwest Virginia, James William Gardner writes extensively about the contemporary American south. The writer explores aspects of southern culture often overlooked: the downtrodden, the impoverished and those marginalized by society. His work has been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize.