Anything That Moves
by Lawrence Christopher
"I donít need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends I can be certain of." ~ Unknown
Mrs. Johnson called late on Saturday afternoon. It was a rare weekend home for me, due to my consulting job and the traveling involved. Missy, my wife and I were resting from a day's work in the yard planting our new flower garden. It was a near perfect day. The weather was in the middle 60 degrees, with a light breeze blowing. My job was to dig up the ground, while Missy planted. Missy is wearing a T-shirt tied in a knot exposing her small pea size belly button. She also has on a pair of shorts which exposes an expanse of thighs and legs that kept distracting me as I worked. I knew the time would come when the work would be done. A cool shade on the porch with an ice-cold glass of lemonade would be my reward. Next to me on the porch, is my love, my woman, my wife.
I had not heard from Mrs. Johnson since Missy and I wedded a year ago. Mrs. Johnson practically raised me as a child, along with my best friend, her son Perry. Thatís how it was when I was a child, neighbors helped raised other children as well as their own. The Johnson's were our neighbors back in the days . . . days long past but not forgotten. Perry and I were "cut buddies". That is what "your boys" were called back then. I suppose the term came from, the fact that we were always together and you would have to literally cut a line to separate us. We went everywhere and did everything together. Perry and Simon, "Frick and Frat, "Amos and Andy" or "Mutt and Jeff" that's what they called us.
"How are you doing Simon?" Mrs. Johnson asked, sounding aged.
"I'm doing fine Mrs. Johnson. How are you?" I replied in kind and consideration.
"Oh chile, I suppose I'll do for an old woman."
"It's been a long time since I seen chu."
"Yes mam, I know. My job requires me to do a lot of traveling."
"That's good baby. Your momma would be proud of you son. You've always been a good chile."
Ironically, growing up, I wanted to be anything but "a good chile." I wanted to be like Perry Johnson. Perry has always been bold and brave, even as a boy. Anything Perry wanted, he went after it and got it. No matter what the cost or risk involved. When we were altar boys in church as youths, Perry and I had the responsibility of filling the communion glasses with wine on first Sunday. Our church used real wine for communion instead of grape juice. One Sunday, Perry decided that he wanted to drink more than his share of Jesus' blood. He drank enough to give himself a transfusion. No one would have ever known if he hadn't fallen out of his chair while sitting on the side of the minister's pulpit. Perry had fallen asleep and the fall did not wake him. Quite naturally Perry was no longer allowed to be an altar boy when wine was discovered on his breath. I thought that was so cool at the time. The incident made Perry even more popular among the children and the adults. Mrs. Johnson never took Perry out of church. She just made him become an usher.
Perry had no shame in his game. Another trait of his that I liked. Not having any shame was a needed characteristic in Perry's self-proclaimed title as Cherry Picker. As Cherry Picker, Perry would seek girls who were virgins and make them his conquests. This wasn't just a game to Perry to pop as many cherries as he could; he actually had a theory. "A girl is always going to remember her first time and when these girls do, they will remember me," is how Perry planned to extend his mortality. Despite his moniker of Cherry Picker, Perry wasn't picky in the least as to whom he would select to be his next triumph. He would have sex with anything that moved. The only requirement was that they had to be a virgin.
Perry was always looking out for me. I remember Perry calling me one day when we were teenagers, to come over to his house because he had asked Traci, a neighborhood girl to braid our hair. We had all known each other since forever, growing up in the neighborhood and all. Traci was a pretty girl. The only thing was, Traci was kind of on the big side. My interest in Traci was nothing more than being a friend. Somehow Perry found out that Traci was a virgin and that made her ripe for picking.
When I came in the backdoor to Perry's home that ill-fated afternoon, I found Perry and Traci sprawled on the floor. I could barely see Perry lying beneath Traci. Traci had on a skirt, which was up around her waist. Her bloomer panties had worked their way into thongs. One hand of Perry's seemed to be grasping and holding on for dear life to one of Traci's rotund butt cheeks. I dared not think of where the other hand was buried. From the evidence of the groaning and moaning and bumping and grinding, I had a pretty good idea.
My parents spoke to me about peer pressure. But they failed to speak about Perry pressure. When Perry saw me standing in the room looking down at he and Traci, he released his grip of her butt just long enough to wave me on. I am standing there shaking my head profusely and he is gesturing with insistence. When Traci looked back with half-open eyes and a wicked smile on her face, well . . .
Anyway, there was the new girl in the neighborhood, Maxine. Maxine had that kind of contradicting appearance is how I would refer to her. You know how a person is referred to as being "awfully cute?" Well, Maxine was "pretty ugly." The one thing she did have going for her was a killer body. She was more developed than most of the teenage girls her age and she was somewhat tomboyish, so she was muscularly solid. Perry was assured that no one had approached Maxine sexually, because of her rough and tough demeanor. He told me he had to wrestle Maxine in order break her hymen. It wasn't about force or rape he said. Maxine told him if he could pin her down for a count of three, she would "do it" with him. It took several tries, he said but he won.
"How's that sweet wife of yours?" Mrs. Johnson asked, who has known Missy for as long as I have.
"She's fine. Would you like to speak with her?" I offer.
I call Missy to the phone and she and Mrs. Johnson engage in conversation as easily as they did when they first met. That was the same chance meeting for me too. Perry and Missy began dating in high school. Missy attended a private school, where as Perry and I were attending the same public high school. Perry told me a lot about Missy before I actually met her. They met at a basketball game when our school team played Missy's. Missy was a cheerleader for her school. Once Perry saw how pretty she was, she became his next target.
Me, being his "cut buddy" and all, he told me everything about their courtship. Quickly, Perry learned that Missy was still a virgin. Missy was of a different breed of girl than Perry was used to dealing with. She wasn't of low self esteem because she was pleasingly plump or devoid of any sexual allurement. No, Missy would require some effort on Perry's part. Part of that effort is why Perry brought Missy home to meet his parents. I was invited to show Missy that he had friends who weren't all jocks. I happened to like school and academics. Missy was an honor student, listed among "Who's Who in the Honors Society" and valedictorian when she graduated.
My job was to impress Missy as being one of Perry's smart friends. When I first laid eyes on her, I fell in love. Already knowing what I did about Missy from Perry, seeing her youthful beauty did me in. Still I did not betray my loyalty to my best friend. I played my role as asked. Eventually, I was asked to keep Missy company in the stands, when she would come to games to watch Perry play. We never double dated, but I was a third wheel from time to time, always at he behest of Perry. I even went over to Missy's house and met her family who all seemed to like me over Perry.
This happened quite a bit when Perry would have me accompany him to his girlfriend's home to meet them or their family. On occasion, after Perry has shown his true colors of being one-track-minded for the sexual conquest, the girls would recommend that I get a new friend, because I seemed nothing like him. After he was on the outs with these former girlfriends, they would call me to complain. Some accused me of knowing about him and claiming I should have warned them. Others saw me as a rebound candidate. Perry gave me the nickname "sloppy seconds Simon."
After Perry had accomplished his goal of taking Missy's virginity, his interest in her lessened. Now my role became that of confidant and friend who lent an ear to cry in. I only listened. Because of my friendship with Perry I did not offer anything derogatory towards him. For the most part, on her own Missy came to the conclusion that she had made a mistake. She stated that she wished she had met me first. Silently, I agreed. Missy and I stayed in touch after she went off to Dartmouth to college. When Missy would come home to visit, I was always invited over to holiday dinners with the family. I stayed home and attended the local university.
It was our junior year, when I decided to ask Missy if we could start dating. She responded with, "what took you so long?" After we graduated from college, I proposed to Missy at a basketball game of her alma mater high school. I had the cheerleading squad ask the question in the form of a cheer, "Missy, will you marry me" during the half time show. The rest is living history. Missy is now a highly respected psychologist, with her own practice.
"Here. She wants to talk to you." Missy hands me the phone, with tears in her eyes. She sits next to me on the couch and asks me to hold her.
"Hello." I announce to Mrs. Johnson that I'm back on the phone.
"Simon baby, I'm sorry. I thought you guys knew about Perry being sick." She tells me of the upsetting news that has Missy shedding tears, soaking my shirt.
"No mam, we didn't."
"I was calling because he has been asking about you and was wondering when you were going to stop by to see him."
The last time I spoke with Perry was over two years ago. He had called me to "help him out of a spot" as he put it. He had arranged for a woman to come over to his apartment, but she insisted on bringing a girlfriend. He needed me to keep the girlfriend occupied. At this time I was engaged to Missy and had to decline Perry's invitation. It made Perry little never mind that I couldn't come. He boasted, "the more for me then." I had no doubt that he meant exactly that. That is if the women went along with it.
Missy and I arrived at Have Mercy Hospital as soon as visiting hours had begun. Perry Johnson in room 218 was the shell of the boy and man I once knew. Lying in the hospital bed, he had machines and tubes connected to almost every appendage he had. Missy couldn't take the sight of him and bolted out of the room. Perry gave me that disarming smile of his that got so many girls and women to trust him. I smiled back.
"So what's up Cherry Picker?" I greet my childhood friend with, to bring an even bigger smile to his face.
"Ah man, I seem to have gotten a hold of a rotten one this time." He replies with an unexpected lightheartedness. "Moms probably didn't tell you, but I got AIDS man."
"Naw, she didn't tell me." My eyes instantly well. My thoughts and vision become a blur.
"Yeah, she don't tell many folks. She just tells them I'm sick. She told me that the folks at the church that know don't even talk to her or call. I know that hurts her. You remember the time I got drunk off the wine in church?"
"Yeah, I remember. Man I thought you died when you fell out of that chair."
"I wish I had of. My daddy beat me within an inch of my life. Then I had to come back up in that church and usher. But them church folks didn't give up on me then, you know. It doesn't matter about me anyhow. I just don't like seeing my moms hurt."
"But man, she is all smiles when she talks about you and Missy. I'm happy for you guys. Sorry, I didn't make it to the wedding and all."
"Not a problem man."
"You know Simon, I wish I could have been more like you growing up. You had your life right, always there for me and things. Me, I'm out there chasing anything that moves."