This story may be archived on free web sites but is not to be distributed
without the name of the author, changed in any way, or sold. Please do not
re-post without consulting the author. Copyright 1998 by Jane Urquhart.
NOTE: This story is one of several in a series, starting with "Janey's
January." Each story is meant, however, to stand alone.
JANEY'S JUNE (FM cons)
I own a mostly antiquarian bookstore in a Boston
suburb. Just off the main drag in
this commuter town. Most of my business is mail-order, of course, and in the past year or so I've been on Bibliofind, a Web Site, and business is good. Not that I'm getting rich; nobody gets rich in the retail book business.
The front of the store looks pretty nice,
because I want it to. It could look terrible
and it probably wouldn't make any difference to the business. But I like it when the locals wander in, and I know a good many of them. As you move toward the back things get a little sloppy. I think books generate their own dust.
Anyhow, this morning around nine-thirty this
woman comes in. Not another soul
in the store. I only opened up because I was bored. Mostly I open at about eleven-thirty, so I can catch a few customers on their lunch hours. All the new best sellers--mostly lousy in my opinion--are on racks near the door, discounted heavily, of course, and I keep a good stock of trade books and high-class paperbacks up front where they can catch the browsers.
This woman, though, I know her. She's going
to head for the mystery shelf, or
maybe the contemporary fiction. Fairly lightweight stuff. At least she's got good taste in
the genres she likes. I know for a fact that she's got the complete works of Margery
Allingham in hardback. I sold them to her; not first editions, not a set--she just likes big
solid books, I guess. And she reads romances by people like Joanna Trollope and
Mary Wesley and Katie Fforde, not that Harlequin crap.
She also likes medieval French poetry. She
even taught me to like it. Me! Reading
poems in French that I can barely understand. What happened was, she smiled at me one day when she bought this old beat-up book she found in the foreign language section. I asked her if she could read it--dumb question, but something made me want her to stay a minute. She told me, sure, she could, and asked if I could. Cheeky broad. I told her I could read modern French, so she gave me a lecture on the fabliaux, said they were funny and sexy and just wonderful, they weren't too hard to read, and damn if I didn't get another copy and go at it. I'd probably have read the book if it were the Marquis de Sade, if she told me to. The funny thing was, I kind of liked it. And the next few times she dropped in she was willing to explain the phrases I couldn't understand. I think she got a kick out of translating the sexy parts.
OK, I know I shouldn't be talking about what
she reads. For all I know Ken Starr
could be in here demanding to go through my sales slips. But I don't think so. Ms.
Urquhart is no bimbo. She almost never comes in except in the summer. She works
someplace in Boston most of the year. I see her going by early in the morning headed for the train station. She always gives me that great big knockout smile when she sees me. And she talks to me. I like her a lot. Nice lady. Just a little smile today, though.
"Hi, Abe," she says. "How's it going?"
"Fine, Ms. Urquhart." I smile back. She's
past the mysteries and headed for the
little room off to the right where I keep the poetry. Knows what she wants, I guess.
All right, I stare at her when she's not looking.
Can't help it. She's not a doll, you
know. Big. I mean tall, solid looking. Roman nose that catches your eye. Curly hair. Not a sitcom type. But I look at her. Something there. The tan. She gets outside, somewhere. Beautiful skin. Not as dark as last summer, though, probably because it's been raining so long we're going to need an ark. Wearing a sweatshirt and jeans under her raincoat.
She's been in the little room for ten or fifteen
minutes when she pokes her head
around the corner and says, "Hey, Abe, can I dump my raincoat somewhere?"
Coat in one hand, a small book in the other.
I recognize the book--people take it
off the shelf all the time, read a few minutes, put it back. Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar.
"Sure, Ms. Urquhart," I say. "I'll take it
and hang it back here." I walk over and
take the coat from her. Another little smile.
"Thanks," she says.
"You want a chair?" I say, standing holding
her coat. What the hell, she can stay
as long as she wants, read all the books. But I'd rather see her read Dick Francis than
Sylvia Plath. Even Judith Krantz.
I stick my neck out a mile.
"You OK, Ms. Urquhart?" I ask. I don't
call my customers by their first names,
and I don't ask my customers things like that. Maybe the old ladies, but not big, handsome shiksas like this one.
"I'll take the chair, Abe, thanks."
I hang up the coat and haul over one of those
brown metal folding things. Best I
have. She shakes it out and sits down. She looks up at me, the book in her lap, marking
her place with her finger. Fucking poison, that book, I don't know why anybody reads it. I read it two years ago, right after I got divorced. Maybe people read it when they feel
miserable already and want to feel worse.
"As a matter of fact, Abe, I'm not, really," she says. No smile. "How'd you know?"
"You always smile a lot," I say, "but not today."
"Well, I thank you for asking." She opens
the book where her finger was and
starts to read. I figure that means, "Go away." But I don't.
Now I just dive in. I've got no sense at all.
"What's the matter?" I say. "It can't be that bad."
She looks up, but she keeps her finger in the book.
"You really want to know?"
"Yeah, I do," I say. I mean it. It's a tragedy when a woman like her looks like this.
"Lots of things, I guess," she says. "Some
of them are stupid--really stupid--and I
won't tell you about them. But I'll tell you a few. The bastards are after me again to give
my son Ritalin, and I get so sick of fighting. I always win, but why can't they just let the
poor kid alone? There's nothing wrong with him, he gets good grades in things he likes,
he doesn't break things, he doesn't hurt people. He just doesn't like to sit still for hours. So that gets me down, sometimes. Also, I guess I'll just throw in that I'm thinking of getting a divorce, and that makes me sad. And I don't seem to be able to write any more. And the other things I won't mention."
Well, I asked for it, didn't I? Got both barrels.
You tell me: what do I say to that?
I'm not what you'd call a sensitive New-Age guy. I pick up on the one that seems least
"I didn't know you were a writer."
All of a sudden she smiles, big, like I love to see, and then she laughs like hell.
"Well," she says, finally, "I probably shouldn't
have mentioned that. None of my
books here." She laughs again. "I write stories and publish them on the Internet. And I
never, ever, tell anybody I do it."
"Why not?" I say. "Nothing wrong with that."
She puts on a big act of looking both ways
to see that we're alone--we are, I mean,
nobody else has come in, the place is a morgue--but she goes all conspiratorial and
whispers, "I write sex stories."
"You mean romances, maybe?"
"No, I think I want to write those, too, but
so far it's only sex stories. Erotica.
I don't think at all. I'm shocked out of my shoes.
"No shit?" I say. "You?" I must have some
kind of funny look on my face,
because she goes into gales of laughter, I mean gales, just like they say in those nineteen-thirties English novels.
Then she's still laughing and big tears are
coming out of her eyes and rolling down
her face and she puts the book on the floor and starts fishing in her pocket, for a
handkerchief, I guess, and shakes her head.
"I'm sorry, Abe, I'm a mess."
I stand there like a dolt for a minute, then
I rush over to my desk and bring her my
box of Kleenex. She grabs a handful of them and starts wiping down her face. I'm in
agony. You know. Woman crying. I don't know about other men, but it always makes me
feel like an asshole, even when I didn't do anything at all to cause it. You can't just slap a patch on it, like a leaky pipe.
"Hey, sweetie," I say, "no way you're ever going to be a mess."
She looks up, moves the hand with the Kleenexes
in it off to one side a little, and
grins. I ask you. She laughs. She cries like a sprinkler system. She grins. Makes mercurial mean something like molasses. I don't know what to do. I smile; why not see if I can catch that grin and paste it on so it stays?
"If you're going to call me sweetie," she
says, "you probably ought to call me
Janey instead of Ms. Urquhart." She grins again. "Little Janey, that's me." She starts
sobbing. Oh, hell! I ought to call 911. I squat down alongside the chair and put my arm
around her instead. Well, it feels good to me, maybe she'll like it.
"Hey, hey," I say. "It'll get better."
Her head snaps up and she snarls, "Like hell it will, you asshole! It'll get worse."
Listen, when a babe the size of this
one snarls, you start thinking Mannlicher
shotguns. Francis MacComber. Lorena Bobbitt. I pat her gently, like you would a tiger
you inadvertently got your arm around. Nice kitty. Then she puts the Kleenex back in her face and blows her nose like a foghorn. Forgive me; it's funny. This woman is putting me through more emotions in ten minutes than I normally manage in a year. And I hardly know her.
"I'm sorry, Abe," she says. "Sometimes I get mean."
"That 's OK, Janey, forget it," I say. "I never know the right thing to say."
"Well, I guess you know now that you don't say it'll be better."
"Yeah, I know that now."
"Anyhow, it will get better, won't it?" She
looks at me as if I own the patent on
Oh, hell. What can I do but agree? If I ever
get to understand women I'll be glad to
tell you people all about it. I mean it. That would be valuable information.
"Sure, Janey," I say, "it'll get better."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, I do," I say. Now we're getting back
onto solid ground. As long as you're
not dead, there's a chance things'll get better, right?
"But what if I can't write anymore?" she says.
"It's the only thing I do that's fun,
"You'll write," I say. Now we're talking stuff
I really know about. "Writers write.
Accountants don't stop counting, no matter what. Painters paint. You'll write again."
This is, of course, bullshit of the first
water. But it sounds good. I think sounding
good is very important at certain junctures.
"I could write about this female oaf coming
in and crying all over an innocent
bookseller." She gets a sort of absorbed look.
"You could." Sure she could. Hell, you can write about paint drying.
"But there's no sex," she says. "Gotta be
sex in my line of business." She grins at
me. "Wanna fuck?"
Now, gentlemen, I'd really like your opinions
on this. I don't want them a week
from Sunday. I want them now, this very second. Because I have to say something to
this demented broad that I think is a wonderful woman. Preferably something that won't
make her (a) cry, or (b) bite my head off.
"Sure, Janey, whatever you say," I say, weakly.
But I gotta tell you people: my
dick has totally disappeared. This kind of scene is about as sexy as standing around in the cancer ward.
"I've always wanted to say that," she says.
She grins. "Never had the proper
moment before. I like things to be proper."
"Sure, Janey," I say. How about that? Nice
kitty. Will she please turn off the
waterworks for good? "Wanna fuck" my ass. This nice woman is nuts. However. Nuts or not, she feels good. My arm is still around her, and it likes that. It's telling me, don't let
go. My arms is nuts, too. On the other hand, my back is killing me from squatting like
"No, really, there was this story, everywhere
I went to school, that there was a guy
around who walked up to girls and said, 'Wanna fuck?' and very rarely, but sometimes,
they said yes. He figured it was worth the laughs and the slaps. You ever hear that story?"
"I heard it at U. Mass. maybe ten years
ago. I never heard it at the Wharton School
of Finance, because nobody had time to even think of fucking, much less jokes about it."
"You went to Wharton? In Philly?"
"Yeah, that very one," I say, "and stop looking
like that. I worked for Price,
Waterhouse for three years and then told them to stick it. I run this store on the latest
financial principles. Of course, they won't let me come to the alumni functions at
"But you never told me! I thought we knew each other!"
"It didn't seem relevant to thirteenth century
poetry. And you never told me
anything about you, either."
"But you really quit a big-time career-track get-rich job?
"I really did," I say. "I didn't realize at
the time that I was also quitting a very
expensive wife, but that seems to have been the case."
"I guess you guys can't win," she says. "My
husband is getting to be a big deal and
I see less and less of him, so I'm going bye-bye, I think. I want a husband, not a big deal. I don't know what he wants."
Her eyes begin to moisten again and I brace
myself for another shower of tears.
Then she visibly pulls herself together. I mean it. You could see the shoulders come
down, the muscles relax. I breathe a sigh of relief. I think maybe she'll go home and leave me to get a shot of Scotch, maybe my monthly cigarette, and calm down. This woman has done a number on me, without even trying.
She stands up and reaches a hand down to me.
"Come on up," she says. "You must be having muscle spasms by now."
So I start to get up and she pulls and I wind
up falling into her and here I am with
my arms around her, just trying to stay vertical while my back stops killing me. And
guess what! Oh, man, does she feel good. There ought to be a law. When all you want in
the world is a shot and a cigarette, maybe, and a chance to watch CNBC for a few
minutes to see what's going on in the Japanese stock market, women should not be
allowed to feel so good. It fucks up all your planning.
"Uh, excuse me," I say.
She gives me an evil grin, puts her arms around
me and squashes me up against
her. At 9:54 a.m. I am a night person.
"I'm feeling better already," she says, smiling
beatifically just even with my
"I'm feeling like you'd better go away," I
say. "This situation may be getting out of
"What?" she says. "Are you a cad? Would you
take advantage of a poor woman
who is desperately unhappy? Just because she's kind of liked you for a long time?" She is grinning like a maniac. I'm rapidly finding that dicks recover in seconds if
properly motivated. I think I'm becoming a cad, and I didn't even know I was qualified for the job.
"I would never take advantage of a desperately
unhappy woman unless she came
upstairs to my bedroom," I say, telling the awful truth.
"You live upstairs?" she says. "How romantic!
How convenient for seducing
desperately unhappy female customers." She looks all solemn. But she doesn't let go of
"Why don't you let go of me?" I say. "I think
I can stay up by myself now." This is
called a last ditch effort. I am not really a cad. I do not want to take advantage of this
desperately unhappy woman. My dick does. My dick hasn't had anything to do with a
woman in more than, what? A year? It wants what it wants, and it doesn't give a damn
what I want.
She lets go of me. I sway, but I don't actually
fall. My back is better. My dick is
Becoming a cad, I reach out and take her in
my arms. I bend her head down to
mine and I kiss her. She kisses back. My tongue goes into her mouth, checks around,
decides it's found a home. Her tongue investigates, signals OK to some headquarters
somewhere, and this kiss becomes very serious indeed. I remember I always liked this
woman, even when all I was doing was running her credit card through a machine. My
thinking apparatus begins to weaken. I push her away just far enough to get a hand on a
small but very nice breast. She pushes back and I can't move the hand. I guess I mean I
don't want to move the hand. I like it there. Meanwhile, the kiss continues, getting
warmer and warmer, until it feels like there's danger of something getting crushed. She
pulls her head away and smiles at me.
"Is that the stairway over there?" she asks, jerking her head toward the stairway.
I let her go, she lets me go. I take her hand and bow.
"This way, please, Madam," I say. We walk
toward the stairs. We sort of run up
all the way. I bull through the bedroom door, take one look at the unmade bed and cringe. She follows, looks, smiles, and starts jerking the sheets at the corners to straighten them out. She gets the pillows--one is on the floor, of course--and whacks them until they tremble in fear. She puts them neatly on the bed.
Then she backs off and starts pulling the
sweatshirt over her head. I set records
getting out of my dress shirt (no tie, thank God) and we are both naked in seconds. She's standing maybe five feet away, on the other side of the bed. She looks at me and smiles. I jump up on the bed, bounce over and grab her. I pull her down and fall beside her. We
embrace. I let go, roll over, open the drawer of the night table and pull out a package of
condoms. Probably past their sell-by date.
"Good," she says, taking the package out of my hand. "I'll do the honors."
She does, giving old Herman a few little strokes
just to make him feel good, I
guess. He does. I look at her.
"Last chance for me to avoid being a cad," I say.
"No chance," she says. "I'm not desperately
unhappy anymore. I may be unhappy
again, later, but not desperately, I think. You're off the hook."
I'm lying there on my back. She rolls over,
not quite on top of me, but on top
enough so I can feel those pert little breasts squash up against my chest. I pull her down
and kiss her again. More. With feeling. I get the impression she is liking this.
I gently turn her over, put myself on top.
I look into her eyes, she smiles. I find
that I'm smiling, too. Then I slide down a bit and kiss my way down her collar bone--very nicely delineated, I notice--onto her right breast, then to her nipple. I put my mouth on
that lovely brown patch and use my tongue to caress her. She throws her head back,
sighing, and gently puts her hand on my head. With my right hand I stroke the side of her chest, down to her waist, to her hip.
I ease over onto my right side and with my
left hand stroke the inside of her thigh.
She holds me tight. Her eyes are closed now. I reach the warmth of her vagina and gently press, then ease her lips open with two fingers. I slide my fingers further and feel the slick wetness inside. She closes her thighs gently on my hand, trapping it, while I move my fingers up toward her clit. I find it, and she shivers. She presses hard against my hand.
I stroke her for a long time, then I pull
back my hand and roll on top of her,
putting myself between her legs, supporting myself on my elbows, my pelvis against her
pussy. She reaches down as I raise my body so that she can grasp my dick. She holds it
and guides it into her channel. It slides home. I shiver with pleasure. I lower my upper
body so that I am pressing against her breasts. She runs her hands down my back. Very
slowly, I slide back and forth, until I can't hold back anymore; I pump vigorously and she meets every thrust until she suddenly stops, freezes a moment, and sighs. I move again,
she meets me once more, we move in sympathy until my climax destroys my control and I fall on top of her, feeling the ecstasy, feeling her chest under mine, feeling her arms
crushing me to her breast. We lie that way for a few minutes, then I slowly roll off onto
my back. She lets me go, signaling reluctance as she eases her grip on my body.
She turns, lies on her side, looking at me.
She smiles, somehow more gently than
before. Her face looks relaxed. I put my hand on her side and stroke her, slowly.
"Thank you for taking a chance on being a cad," she says.
"Oh, no," I answer. "I thank you. But I'm
still worried about you. What are you
"I'll get by," she said. "I always have."
She kisses me, just nicely, not so hot this
We get up and dress and go back downstairs.
I had forgotten to lock the door, to
put up the sign that said "Closed." But nobody had come in. We're standing side by side, holding hands. Suddenly she turns, puts her hand behind my head and kisses me.
"I don't think I'll buy Sylvia Plath," she says, smiling.
"I've got the new Sharyn McCrumb," I say.
"You want it?" Pretty stupid. I want so
badly to do something, something great, to make her feel wonderful forever. I can't.
I give her the book instead. She won't take
it. Insists on paying. But makes damn
sure she gets the discount. Maybe she's feeling a little better, I think.
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