“Remember Di Whilsawl?” Brent said.
“You mean that hottie who was here Junior year?” Ferdie perked up.
“Yeah, I think Junior.”
“ooohweee,” Ferdie said, “when she walked, she WALKED.” He swung his shoulders.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Gail said. “There isn’t anything either of you could say about her except she had tits and a can that swung her skirt.”
It was the night before our fiftieth high school class reunion. Five of us were sitting around a fire on Ferdie’s patio sipping beer and trying to recall some of the people who had passed through our class. There was a light wind off he lake, and it carried the smell of fish, cattail swamps, and water.
The light of the fire flickered and danced shadows across sagging flesh and re-tinted or bald heads. Four of us had started First grade together in 1955 and stuck it out through all twelve years—Class of ‘67. So we had a few stories. Gail was the exception. She had joined us in middle school.
“She fit her jeans like skin,” Andrea said. The years had not been kind to Andrea. Her eyes were two beads glinting from the dark cavities of her face. She had married Derek Peterson two weeks after graduation, then spent thirty eight years raising kids, drinking, and watching Derek drink himself to death. He finally managed to hurry the process by driving off a bridge one night. She still thought of herself as Derek’s woman. The ‘fit her jeans’ comment comes from the eight weeks in Junior year when she and Derek were not an item.
“Wowzaa!” I offered. I was well past three beers.
“Hmfp,” Andrea said.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Gail said. “I doubt either three of you can say one thing about her that didn’t come out of your cock imaginations.” Gail lived on the East coast. She roached her hair and wore button collar shirts and LLBean chinos. She had never married, and we all had thoughts about that.
“She was blond, blue eyed, with a saddle of freckles across her Irish nose,” I said. I wasn’t sure how blond. I thought to myself, that three beers was the limit tonight. JoAnn who had stayed at the hotel (‘one night with your ‘strangers’ will be enough”) would not approve even those three. Through the three beers it occurred to me that my description was perhaps muddled with an old photo of JoAnn on our wedding day.
“I don’t think freckles,” Ferdie said. “She didn’t have freckles, and her hair was more red, kind of strawberry, so she probably had blue eyes—or green.” Ferdie’s dad had left him the ranch. What with three X’s and eight or nine kids scattered across the Western landscape, Ferdie had pretty much run the ranch into the ground. Still he wore hand stitched boots and a white pearl button shirt, and tilted a white hat over his bare noggin.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Gail said.
“No, Ferdie,” I said, “She had freckles.” I made it sound a lot surer than I really remembered. “Maybe you got her mixed up with somebody else.”
“Oh for God’s sakes,” Andrea said. “She was a flaming red head, top to bottom. And I wouldn’t say she had freckles, more like a sort of disease or something that peeled off all winter.” The shadows were deep hollows in her cheeks and in the canyons on her throat.
“Wow,” Gail threw back her head and looked squarely at Andrea who was sitting next to her. “You’re no better than them.” She punched a thumb in Ferdie’s general direction.
“Yeah,” Ferdie said, “It wasn’t flaming red, that’s for sure. I’d go for blonde before I’d say flaming red.”
“Oh, sweet Jesus, you all got it nuts. She was brunette, dark, nearly black hair, that she page-boyed, straight bang just above her eyebrows. And her eyes were green. And of course she wasn’t freckled. She had this way of putting her hand on her chin and opening her mouth. . . .
“Just before she clarified how the world worked,” Brent said.
“I was going to say, ‘just before she answered one of Mrs. Breen’s questions,’ but that’ll work,” Gail said. She seemed surprised that Brent remembered that.
“I was an engineer working in New Mexico.” Bret said. He leaned into the fire, but looking down, speaking to the ground.
“We needed an archy survey for one of my water lines,” he said, “so I’m there at the mainline T at half past sunrise one June morning, still bagging a hangover, pissed because the Archy isn’t here as agreed. And I see a woman coming up the line we have staked for the water line. Her hair hung in a braid-pony-tail-loose-gather down her back and swung as she walked. I remember how it glinted a sort of blue—it was so dark. She was in khaki with cargo pants and carrying a clipboard, so I knew she was our Archy. She walked with her head swinging, looking as she came, sometimes kneeling to finger something or pick it up and mark on her clipboard. An old straw hat shaded her face, her blue-black hair swinging across her back as she came. I waited, leaning on my truck. I wasn’t going to walk to meet somebody who can’t follow directions to a meeting.”
Brent stopped. He sighed.
“Then she was there. She looked up and smiled.”
Brent paused, tossed back his beer and then went on. “I had intended to give a minor, superior scold for her not being where we were suppose to meet and on time. But that didn’t happen. It was Di. You were all wrong about the blue-green eyes. They are hazel.
“She didn’t recognize me. Just stuck out a bronzed hand and said, ‘You must be Osgood. Dianna Whilsal, I’m your Archaeologist.’”
He stopped and threw back his beer, noticed it was empty and tossed it into the pile next to the fire.
“You knew her? You ran into her?” Gail said.
“Did you reeeeeely know her?” Ferdie said.
Brent didn’t say anything.
“Don’t be an asshole,” Gail said.
“You did know her, though?” I said.
Brent shrugged. “We dated.”
“I got a promotion, the promotion required a move. She wanted to stay in the southwest. We wrote, ‘you-got-mailed’ for a year or two” Brent shrugged again. “That was it.”
“Well,” Andrea grumbled, “That about fits how I remember the kind of person she was.”
Prepared in response to the Ragtag Daily prompt Memories