Beauty and the Beast

“It’s taken,” she said.

“What is?” he asked.

“The title,” she said. “It’s been taken.”

“I don’t care,” he said. “What do you think?”

“I think you better ask yourself if that’s the smartest idea you ever had before you go asking me.”

She stood at the bar, a very over the hill woman with all the equipment she used to get up the far side rather sad now with puffy cheeks from crying and a red mark about where her thigh started to get tender above the knee where he hit her, not the man she talked with now, the man she left who stormed out but not before he hit her, called her a name and told her not to tease if she didn’t mean to please. She cried a while in the Ladies room, then came out to finish her beer and that’s when she got into the conversation with Shorty, the man who came in every night for one beer after he got off his job at the junk yard across the highway.

It didn’t take more than one beer for Shorty. He didn’t need to wait around. No woman would ask him for a light. No woman wanted him to buy her a drink. No woman came near Shorty, because Shorty came to work dirty and left dirty and did his laundry about once every two weeks whether he needed to or not the way his mother might have taught him if he could remember his mother. Otherwise, he hadn’t been near a woman for so long the job at the junk yard seemed like a monastery with vows and the whole thing, except the vows at the monastery of the junk yard went something like this.

“You no good rotten son of a bitch.”

“You lousy two bit good for nothing bastard.”

“You mother fucking no good ass hole.”

Shorty knew himself to be ugly, almost deformed in his stature and gravelly in his demeanor. That’s what working around junk did to you, mountains of metal and twisted forms once heralded by man and his aspirations as new cars, new trucks, new refrigerators and computers, the latest in labor saving appliances and all the advertising of a modern world now scrap that mounted to the sky which he moved with a crane to which had been attached a monstrous electro-magnet capable of lifting tens of thousands of pounds. In fact, Shorty could lift twenty thousand pounds with Little Nell, his affianced crane and six foot diameter magnet.

“So what’s wrong?” asked Shorty. “You want to talk about it?”

Betty shook her head. She didn’t want to talk about it.

“I know I’m not much to look at,” said Shorty, “but I’m a good listener.”

This made Betty smile, but she didn’t think listening would help, no matter who listened.

So Shorty began to talk and this is what he said.

“You know, I come in here every night. Maybe you noticed and I see you and I say to myself, ‘That is one good looking woman.’ No, I’m not joking and this is no pass. I mean after all, let us be honest. I’m a foot shorter than you if I’m an inch and God didn’t do me any favors in the looks department, but with you its different. You’re quality. I see junk all day long. I see junk that used to be quality, but I see plenty of quality that never should be junk and you’re that kind of quality. So here’s the offer. You move in with me and get your life turned around and I’ll keep myself to myself. You won’t have to worry about locking yourself in your room. Hell, I’ll stay in the garage if that’s what you want, but if you need a break and you don’t want to risk your life or your time or your money trying to find a place, then maybe I’m the guy you ought to trust. What do you say?”

Betty said yes. She moved in with Shorty and the next time the smart ass who put the mark on her came into the bar she put her face closer to him than she dared any time before and said a few words that made him slide off the bar stool and leave without looking back. She followed him out the door and spoke in a loud voice what she thought of him to the amusement of several couples in the parking lot.

One tipsy woman spoke up, “Hey honey, that’s my brother, but you’re sure as hell right.”

So Betty went into the bar justified and filled with a new feeling which amounted to self-respect and integrity. Shorty came in for his beer and Betty said, “I love you.”

Shorty just sat there on the bar stool like she’d told him a very dirty joke.

“You do?” he asked.

“You bet your sweet ass I do,” Betty said and related the events of the evening before Shorty arrived. Shorty had bad news from the doctor he went to see that day about his shortness of breath. The fumes from the junk yard contained lead and other heavy metals, but he didn’t say anything to Betty. He just let her talk. She cooked him dinner the next night and they lived happily ever after.