She smelled like Dr.Pepper
and she wore a hat
with a bill that flapped everywhere
and her name was Susan
and she was hot.
Sue was Todd’s mom,
a divorcee from Italy,
and she like to stroll around
in a bathrobe
that often came loose,
shocking Todd’s friends with her breasts,
making us lustful,
giving us dreams
of sultry nights at Todd’s house
alone with Todd’s mom.
It was weird
when we encountered her in the outside world,
outside here meaning outside the wistful lust zone
of la casa de madre de Todd,
in her role as citizen,
lawyer and single mother of a 14-year-old, divorcee,
target of other men’s desires.
She was a constant theme in our lives, subject
of many a nasty joke in Todd’s presence,
who listened and steamed and cursed us inwardly
but outwardly pretended he didn’t care, jokes
that went on every day at least once a day
for four years, until we were 18,
grown men in the law’s eyes,
able to buy smokes and ride motorcycles
with chicks on the back,
you know, dudes.
I was a dude, Todd was a dude,
Todd’s mom was a MILF –
we were cool, basically,
at least in our own eyes.
In any outside environment,
outside here meaning outside our hood,
hood here meaning suburb
(we used it with an irony we weren’t aware of),
in any outside environment
we would have been pretty dull:
white trash, Okies, Southerners
they sometimes call us up north,
at least those who put the South in a noose
and strangle it into a single idea.
Anyhow we were 18 and Todd’s mom
was still single and had grown increasingly coquettish
these last few years.
The décolletage on her summer blouses
had plummeted at least by an inch,
a mile in our eyes,
and she sometimes left her tennis skirt on all day
(Sue had a court in her backyard)
and often invited handsome men
to hit with her
back and forth as we watched from Todd’s window
pretending to masturbate to gross Todd out.
By our 18th birthday this was the bet:
whoever sleeps with Todd’s mom wins.
Wins what? Everything, basically:
clout, the gaze of girls, the admiration
of the entire high school,
down whose hallways they’d strut,
onlookers parting like the Red Sea,
stars in their eyes.
You’d even be more popular than Cody,
Half Puerto Rican varsity quarterback Cody,
who donned his football jersey through the hallways on Game Day,
or, sleeves rolled up, sunglasses on his forehead,
hung out in the school parking lot after school,
arms crossed, leaning on the bed of his pickup,
which always had a bucket of hog feed in the back,
winking at cheerleaders.
You’d even be more popular than Cody
if you slept with Todd’s mom.
Needless to say none of us had a chance,
except for Seth, who was only our friend
because he bullied us less severely
but more consistently than everyone else
if we pretended we were his pals,
although sometimes we’d get drunk and rage at him
and he’d realize we despised him and he’d be sad.
‘Seth the Snake’ we called him
because secretly he was a rapist.
He’d raped three girls and got away with it
because in small town Oklahoma rapists get off.
It’s too shameful for the victims’ family
to pursue the case – their daughter’s name
would be soiled if it got out, perhaps for life
if she remained in town like Melanie Mantrain did,
so named for the gang rape she suffered
when she passed out drunk at a party.
Seth was the only one who could plausibly land Sue
because he wasn’t actually Todd’s friend
and was the only one bold enough to try,
bold here referring to a small town boldness,
which to him meant the boldest man in the universe.
And then it happened.
Todd excommunicated Seth from our friend circle,
so we never got told directly,
but the legend went something like this:
It was a mid-summer evening.
The fronds that hung over Todd’s mom’s house
swooned in the breeze.
It was in the middle of a heat wave,
a desiccating Oklahoma heat wave,
the kind that trepans into your kidneys.
But inside Todd’s mom’s house it was mild,
subtropical almost, and with its plush white carpets and pink furniture
it had the ambience of a doll’s house.
The story goes Seth knocked on the door,
Sue answered in her night gown,
a sliver of red panty showing,
and Seth asked for Todd.
“Todd’s not home,” Todd’s mom said.
Then she invited him in and they fucked.
Fucked hard, according to Seth,
fucked until the sun came up
and then he came in her.
Word spreads fast in our town,
and churchgoing parents
who loathe unmarried women
will believe anything.
Three months later
Todd and his mom moved away.