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19 The bucktoothed guy in the ’56 Ford, whose words of farewell were that the car had been stolen, dropped me at the San Diego Freeway , near the marine base, just across from a gas station. At that moment fifty cents was all the money I had in the world, and I thought about risking part of that fortune on a collect phone call to my mother, to see about having her send me part of the rest of my savings. Those were the days before self-service gas stations, and the gas pumps here, I saw as I came closer, were manned by young women wearing pink hot pants, cowboy boots, and cowgirl hats. A cute, short-haired blonde looked at me and asked, “Forget the way to the gas-pump cowgirl, 1966 Thomas E. Kennedy nonfiction 20 ecotone barbershop?” Her vowels were at once twangy and soft, and slipped sensuously off her lips. “I was hoping you would give me a trim.” By now the length of my hair had been insulted and commented on so many times that I had learned not to let it annoy me. A red Corvette convertible pulled in between us, a black naval officer behind the wheel. The double silver bars of a lieutenant were affixed to one collar, medical-corps insignia to the other. “Don’t hold your breath,” the blond girl said, and yanked the gashose nozzle from its mooring on the pump and into the tank of the Corvette. “Howdy, captain,” she said, although, being in the navy, he was only a looey. I stepped off to the side and listened with one ear to their flirting banter as she topped off the lieutenant’s Corvette, feeling the envy and resentment of a wheelless single-striped ex-enlisted man for an officer in a sports car. When he paid and got his change, he slipped her a note, which she opened and read as he drove off. “Love letter?” I asked. “None of your business. He just wants into my pants,” she said. “Where he’s not gonna get. Would you believe he’s a psychiatrist? Keeps givin’ me love letters and little presents.” She told me he had given her books. I asked which ones, and she said the last one was amazing. “About this teacher on a Greek island and this Greek guy sort of stages these plays that kind of turn real and get him involved in these strange situations.” “John Fowles,” I said. “The Magus. You read it?” “Couldn’t put it down.” Wow! A cute cowgirl who not only read but had an astounding butt beneath her pink hot pants. Instead of squandering money on a Coke, I filled my canteen with water from the men’s room sink, and decided to wait on calling my mother in New York. I sat on a cement curb in the shade and broke out my journal. She glanced over as she swabbed dead flies from the windshield of a pickup. “You writin’ or posin’?” she called over. “Posin’,” I said. “Hopin’ to impress you.” “Better luck next time, honey. Bye-bye.” She pronounced time as 21 thomas e. kennedy “tahm” and bye-bye as “bah-bah,” and there was a caress in the teasing tone of her voice and in the sound of her calling me “honey,” and I thought I was either about to get very lucky or have my heart broken bad. A few cars and trucks later, she sauntered over, rolling her hips with each stride of her cowboy-booted feet, and handed me a cold, opened bottle of Coke. “Here you go,” she said. “What’re you writin’ there, anyway?” Actually I was writing about her—or trying to. How sweet her mouth and little nose were, how blue as bleached denim her eyes, how cutely bottle-blond her short hair, how her legs looked curving down into her pink cowboy boots. Her little breasts, like halves of oranges. But all I said was, “I’m just a beginner. Trying to learn how to write. And what to write.” She smoked a Newport while I drank my Coke—this was before the...


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