Read The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc Online

Authors: Loraine Despres

Tags: #Loraine Despres - Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc 356p 9780060505882 0060505885, #ISBN 0-688-17389-6, #ISBN 0-06-050588-5 (pbk.)

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc (9 page)

BOOK: The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc
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grabbed the fence and looked up. Running around the top were

two rows of barbed wire.

He got into his MG and slammed the door hard behind him. He

switched on the engine, let it roar, and drove straight to the fur-

nished house he was renting.

As soon as he opened the front door, Sid, his Brittany spaniel,

exploded through it and threw himself onto his master’s chest.

Parker had rescued the dog in Florida after his former owner had

abandoned him. Parker had renamed the dog for Sid Luckman, the

famous Bears quarterback and hero of his youth. The beast barked

and tried to lick his face.

“Cool it, Sid,” Parker said as he pushed the dog down. “We

gotta have a talk about gender. Not to mention species.” He

walked into the kitchen and heard his work boots make a hollow

sound.

He opened a can of all-meat dog food and scooped it out into

Sid’s dish. Parker watched the big orange and white spaniel sniff it

expectantly. Then, discovering it was only dog food, the animal

lumbered over to the door, where he cast reproachful looks at his

inadequate master.

“Starve,” said Parker. But after a long canine stare and a few

whines, Parker reached into the cabinet, took out a large dog bis-

cuit, and tossed it. Sid caught it in his teeth.

Parker switched the radio to a country station. The cheerful voice

of Gene Autry was singing “I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle, Jangle, Jin-

5 6

L o r a i n e D e s p r e s

gle.” Parker opened a can of corned-beef hash. The aroma that

wafted up around him reminded him of the food in Sid’s dish, but

he threw it into the skillet anyway. It would taste better once it was

cooked.

Then when Gene extolled the joy of being single, Parker switched

off the radio. A man could stand just so much cheer.

He paced the warped plank floor, waiting for the hash to heat up.

He wondered what Sissy had fixed Peewee for supper and he

wished she’d fixed it for him. He tried to imagine her here, in his

kitchen, leaning over the stove, the strap of her sundress falling off

her shoulder as she stirred her special stew or fried chicken for him.

The canned hash sizzled. He dumped the soft, greasy mess onto a

plate. It didn’t smell like dog food out of the can anymore. Now it

smelled like hot dog food. Parker smothered it with American

cheese and catsup. He started to add some of Sissy’s pickled water-

melon rinds, but thought better of it. He’d keep the jar as a sou-

venir.

He took the plate and a glass of milk into the living room and set

them down in front of the TV. Surrounding the Naugahyde lounger

and TV table were the crumbs and stains of other meals.

A cockroach darted out from under the couch and made a run

for an old potato chip. Parker watched it. He figured he was still

fast enough to grab it, but what the hell, everybody’s got to make a

living. Just as long as he doesn’t bring his friends. He patted his

chair and got Sid to stand guard as he switched on the TV.

On top of the console his old football trophy—“Most Valuable

Player, Gentry High School, 1941–42”—gathered dust. Most Valu-

able Player. That was him, Parker Davidson. Most Valuable. Most

Locked Out. He remembered a sliver of poetry he’d had to learn for

senior English class: “And that one talent which is death to hide/

Lodged with me useless.” He rubbed some of the dust off the tro-

phy with his shirttail, wondering who wrote that. Milton? Then he

realized his shirt was caked in creosote.

T h e S c a n d a l o u s S u m m e r o f S i s s y L e B l a n c 5 7

The Most Valuable Player of Gentry High sat down and spooned

a gob of corned-beef hash onto a piece of white bread. He consid-

ered it for a moment. Then he pushed the greasy mess, dripping

with catsup and cheese, into his mouth as Ralph Edwards appeared

on the screen and said with jovial excitement, “This is your life.”

A girl has to look her best while she’s still young enough to

look real good.

Rule Number Twenty-four

The Southern Belle’s Handbook

C h a p t e r 5

The men in Buster Rubinstein’s glass-enclosed office at the top of

the store were finishing up their noontime poker game. Sissy’s

father-in-law, Bourrée LeBlanc, laid down his final hand and pulled

a pile of bills across the table. “Nice doing business with you all,”

he said.

“What I can’t figure out, Bourrée, are you the luckiest white man

in the parish or the biggest cheat?” That was Tibor Thompson, the

district attorney and Sissy’s uncle.

“Hell, Tibor, I ain’t never heard of a politician
getting
cheated.

Not in Louisiana, anyway. It’s them that does the cheating, isn’t it?”

Bourrée accompanied these remarks with a bland smile.

Tibor’s handsome, avuncular face froze. His brown eyes blinked

a couple of times like a calculating machine counting up insults.

Then he slapped Bourrée on the back. “What’s that they say about

Cajuns? If you know one that’s rich and honest, you don’t know

him well.”

The men laughed. Bourrée kept the smile on his lips, but his eyes

T h e S c a n d a l o u s S u m m e r o f S i s s y L e B l a n c 5 9

narrowed. He was a timber manager who managed to pocket most

of the profits as he clear-cut the land he was paid to take care of. He

specialized in rich widows from New Orleans. His steel-blue eyes,

which spoke of danger, and jet-black hair streaked with gray were

an irresistible combination. Each widow recommended him to a

friend. And Bourrée took care of them all.

His real name was Beauregard LeBlanc, but everyone called him

Bourrée after a fast-paced, high-stakes Cajun card game, at which

he was a master. Bourrée had always loved to gamble. He stood up

to transfer the money from the table to his pocket and saw his

grandchildren run into the toy department. Then he spotted Sissy

following them. She was wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a wine-

colored halter. His eyes narrowed as he watched all the men in the

hardware department turn and stare at those long freckled legs.

He saw Chip take an elaborate chemistry set off the shelf and

Billy Joe climb onto a new bike. As Bourrée carefully folded his

winnings into his gold money clip, he figured he’d ask Sissy just

what those children had done to deserve such expensive presents.

While the kids were making up their minds, Sissy wandered

into the dress department. Above her, chipped mannequins in bad

wigs perched on pillars, making even the latest fashion from New

York look dowdy. She tried to tell herself she wasn’t really giving in

to Chip’s blackmail. She was simply expiating her guilt, like when

she made the boys mow the lawn after they’d done something

naughty. Of course she knew better, but in a little town like this,

with everybody minding everybody else’s business, Rule Number

Twelve of the Southern Belle’s Handbook applied.
A lady must

develop the knack of finding a noble motivation for doing what she

wants, or she’ll never get a chance to do what she wants at all
.

Besides, she was always coming down on Chip. Maybe giving in to

him this once would build up his self-esteem and he’d start acting

like everyone else.

6 0

L o r a i n e D e s p r e s

She idly went through the dress rack. She had no intention of

buying anything, she assured herself, even though she’d had to

throw away her favorite sundress. She couldn’t. Peewee would have

a fit, especially when he found out about all the stuff she was get-

ting for the kids. She pulled out a green linen number and held it up

to her, studying her refection in the mirror.

“It matches your eyes.”

She swung around and saw Parker Davidson emerging from the

hardware department with a new tool belt.

“I’ve been thinking about your eyes . . .” He was so close, she

could feel his breath on her cheek. “And the rest of you.”

“Go away, Parker,” she hissed.

“You don’t mean that.”

“Oh yes I do.” She stepped back against the dress rack. Her heart

was pounding, but she couldn’t be seen like this with him. “I’m a

married woman!”

“I remember.”

“Go away!” she said again. But he didn’t go away. “Look, even if

I wanted to see you again, which I don’t . . .” She paused. She

hadn’t forgotten her vow to be good and faithful, but her breath

was getting short just standing next to him like this and for a

moment she lost her train of thought. “Even if I wanted to see you

again, I couldn’t. I’ve got to think about my children.” She saw

Amy Lou Hopper eyeing her from the hardware. Oh God, that’s all

I need, the fifty-thousand-watt voice of the Southern Methodist

Auxiliary. Amy Lou squinted and then slipped on her pointy glasses

to get a better look.

Sissy slid out of Amy Lou’s sight. “Dammit, Parker, you know it’s

impossible.” Her back was against the wall.

“I know. That’s why I had this made.” He pressed a house key

into her hand. His address was wrapped around it.

“I can’t take this!” Her voice was low, urgent. She tried to open

her hand, but he had it in both of his and his hands felt so warm. “I

T h e S c a n d a l o u s S u m m e r o f S i s s y L e B l a n c 6 1

mean it. I’ll never use it,” she said, but all she wanted to do was

stand there with her hand in his.

“Just come over and talk. We haven’t talked for years,” he said

softly.

“Hey, Sissy.”

She jerked around and faced Uncle Tibor, the D.A. He was smil-

ing his politician’s smile, only inches away. The other men from

Buster Rubinstein’s noontime card game were coming down the

stairs. What am I going to do now? she wondered, holding up her

cheek for a kiss. She introduced her uncle to Parker. “We went to

school together.” She hoped he didn’t remember they went together

in school.

“I remember this boy,” Tibor said in his hearty voice, the one he

reserved for voters. “The best quarterback Gentry ever had.” Sissy

relaxed. “When you were playing, you were the best in the state.”

“Thank you, sir.” The two men shook hands and Sissy realized

she still had Parker’s key.

“I heard something about your running for the U.S. Congress,”

Parker said.

Tibor’s face became very somber. “They need me, boy. They need

me now more than ever . . .”

Oh no, Sissy thought, don’t get him started.

But it was too late. Tibor threw back his wavy white mane, and

like a racehorse who knows the course, he was off and running. He

left the gate “protecting our way of life,” galloped into the first turn

“upholding states’ rights,” and hit his stride “getting rid of the

Communists on the Supreme Court.”

Sissy turned away in disgust. Ever since the Supreme Court

decided to desegregate the schools, the poor, the ignorant, and the

brutal had found a cause and were looking for a leader. So the

politicians, like her uncle, were falling all over themselves trying to

out-bigot each other. But Parker seemed fascinated. How could he

be fascinated?
Let a man out of your sight for fourteen years, and

6 2

L o r a i n e D e s p r e s

you never know what he’ll turn into
. Sissy decided to make that

Rule Twenty-five of the Southern Belle’s Handbook. Well, she

hadn’t exactly engaged him in a political conversation yesterday.

She didn’t have much time to think about it, though, because Buster

Rubinstein and her father-in-law, Bourrée LeBlanc, were bearing

down on her.

“Hey, Sissy.” Buster held out his hand, but Sissy couldn’t shake

it. Her right hand still held Parker’s key. She kissed Buster instead,

using his considerable girth to drop the key into her purse. She

hoped her father-in-law wouldn’t notice.

As she expected, Buster became flustered by her kiss. Sissy had

never kissed him before. As she put her lips next to his sagging

white cheek, she caught a whiff of sweetness emanating from his

skin. Was Buster using cologne? she wondered as she pulled away

from him. She didn’t know any other men who did. Maybe they all

use it in the city. It was about time.

Buster adjusted his tie. He always wore a suit and tie at his place

of business even on damp summer days like today. The fluorescent

lights reflected on his bald head fringed with white curls. “Haven’t

seen you in a while. How’re Peewee and the kids?”

“Peewee’s fine. Just fine. And the kids are in your toy department

right now, buying you out.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” he said with a wide grin, rubbing his

hands in front of his belly.

Sissy turned from Buster and offered a chaste cheek to Bourrée.

He ignored it. His eyes switched from his daughter-in-law to Parker

and back. “What you been up to, Sissy?” He knew who Sissy had

gone with before she’d married his son.

Her heart was racing, but she managed to shrug. “Just taking the

children shopping. These long summer vacations make them

BOOK: The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc
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