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Fiction #93
(published August 1, 2002)
Tart, part 1 of 4
by Roy Johnson

We drove across the sand like father and daughter as the waves folded back into the bay and my ignition-breathalyzer signaled its tiny beep demanding another random lungful of my alcohol-free breath if we were to continue our undercover romp. I squeezed the black plastic hose between my lips and blew until the LED readout on the dash displayed three red zeros. Jenny watched me from the corner of her eye and when I looked over at her she pinched the volume knob with her red fingernails and twisted the racket way up and said Fred Durst was hot.

"This music sucks," I yelled.

"You're just jealous!" She poked her index finger in my shoulder and laughed.


"What?" She yelled back.


"What what?"

"I said this music sucks."

"And I said you're just jealous."

"Of what?"


I pulled the truck next to an oak tree that clawed into the shoreline with long exposed roots running past the canopy of shade created by its green oval leaves. Sand sucked up the heavy-duty mud tires as we slowed and I could feel us sinking so I floored it and the chassis of the truck bellied down with a sigh and we were stuck.

"Baby, put it in four-wheel drive."

"This doesn't have it."

I killed the engine and Limp Biskit, and yanked up the door handle. I pushed the door out into the sand and slid my foot across the interior carpet on to the beach. Jenny tugged at the inseam of her red hot-pants and wriggled across the seat on to the beach and the wind kicked up and sand swirled around her tangled blonde hair like a genie coming out of a bottle.

"Wow, it's nice here!"

"We're stuck."

"So what?" She reached into the sunken bed and pulled the air mattress and shoved a matted-up plastic corner of it in my face.

"What? You want to just hang out here? Like this?" I pulled the mattress the rest of the way out of the bed and reached in for the foot pump.

"Why not?"

"We're stuck."

"Don't worry. We can call Steve later. He'll get us out."

"I'd rather get unstuck now," I said as I plugged the pump into the mattress.

"Oh baby, you worry too much." She dropped the tailgate and lifted the lid on the cooler and tormented me with the heaven that is the wet crack of a newly opened beer. She kicked off her clogs and drew a heart in the sand with her toe.

I pumped my foot up and down and leaned halfheartedly against the chrome toolbox on the bed as the mattress bloomed into a green square like some cosmic plastic flower. A seagull screamed through a piece of the sky looking down for chicken bones and scraps of hotdogs. I flicked my cigarette butt up at it.

"No I don't," I said.


"I said I don't."

"You don't what?"

"Worry too much."

"Yes you do." She tossed the empty beer can over her shoulder and it twangled into a corner of the bed under the toolbox next to my spare tire.

"You sure drank that one fast."

"You're just jealous cause you can't drink and then drive this truck."

"I'm not jealous."

"Whatever." She grabbed another beer and carved our initials in the middle of the heart.

I kicked the mattress under the tree and laid down trying to forget about the tires buried to the hub. The plastic squeaked under my weight and Jenny hopped off the tailgate and skipped into the shade where she dropped on all fours at the edge of the mattress and crawled to me. She reached around the back of her head with her right hand and pulled her blonde hair back from her left cheek and kissed me softly on the lips. I fell into her green eyes. The notion that an eighteen year-old girl could have such power over me was exhilarating. Our bodies moved together like dolphins on the plastic sea of the air mattress and I felt like I was her age until we finished. She placed her cigarette on my lips and I took a drag. I exhaled and realized that younger girls don't make you feel young, they make thirty-six year-old guys like me feel old. She was still reading Salinger for god's sake.



"I hope you never get another DWI. I don't want you to go to prison."

"What brought that up?"

"Nothing. I just love you."

"I love you too." I turned my head to the side and looked at her teardrop chin. I moved in to kiss her on the lips and the mattress squeaked and she laughed and her face settled into a crooked grin.

"I wonder how much noise this thing was making." She rubbed the back of her naked thigh across the plastic and it moaned wearily.

"Well I wouldn't of got this last DWI if you hadn't kept asking me to drive us to that club after we'd been shooting tequila all night long."

She put an arm behind her head and took a long drag off her cigarette and looked up at the tiny viridescent spades paddling amongst themselves as the wind kinked their branches.

"Hey, I'm just messing with you," I said. But the truth was I'd been doing all sorts of ridiculous things with her since we'd been hanging out, like finding myself drunk at rave clubs in the middle of the night surrounded by junior college students. The tiny corner in the back of my mind that liked to be mean still blamed her for my probation sentence.

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