The Club House (End)

The building was white, one tall story, and rectangular. It was only about twenty feet deep but it seemed five times that wide. It didn’t have a proper loft – more of a hay mezzanine – but Vickie and Beth and Vickie weren’t about to complain. Once they got in.

There were two locked doors to the structure, and it took some time to work the weakest loose. But the girls weren’t nervous; the place seemed so benign and neglected that they didn’t worry about being discovered. They entered through the bottom half of the Dutch door on the north end of the place, and they none of them imagined so much dust could exist in the world. They spent three secret afternoons sweeping out the barn with the empty burlap bags they found stacked in two corners. They sneezed till tears ran in hot tracks through the powdery dust on their cheeks. But they had a place, to be alone.

White painted outside, raw wood inside, omnipresent dust. Aromatic remnants of old horse manure in the slowly convecting interior air. They only had their secret place for a few weeks, but memory differs for two of them. Vickie J, whose family moved to Maine, who witnessed the straggling death of her parents’ marriage and then moved again, with only her mother, to Rhode Island (and changed her nickname to Tori), remembered the place whenever she smelled horse manure, which was often in her equestrian set, and recollected their quasi-pornographic times there like they’d gone on for a year. Vickie D went on to kill a quarter of her brain cells with alcohol and speed; she never remembered 1963 at all. Beth forgot all about it for almost forty years, until she came across her 1963 diary during a comprehensive housecleaning in 2001; then she remembered it as a season, for a minute, before she read the truth of four short weeks.

They found the place in late October. The last mention of it was November 23rd. That was all. Beth couldn’t misremember it after she read her own words.

She hadn’t made a note of it the day they discovered it. The first mention in her diary was October 22nd, after they spent a couple of hours cleaning it. There was no reason to write of their use of it.

There was also no mention in her diary of JFK’s assassination. But there was a comment about the return of normal TV. 1963 was of course before cable television. Viewers had channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 and maybe 11. All were preempted for the news and the funeral.

School was closed. Even though she heard the grave PA announcement, Beth didn’t take in the news until she neared her house and saw that her father had mounted the flag at half mast. But there was no TV. There was nothing to do. Beth and Vickie and Vickie snuck away Friday evening to their secret place. To discover it had been discovered. By Lavonne and Kevin, who were actually doing it, copulating on the barn floor, when the girls peeked in through the bottom door.

That wasn’t enough to kill their barn for them. Not quite. They figured Kevin and Lavonne wouldn’t tell others, and couldn’t use it every night. The girls tried again on the 23rd. They waited till dark before walking to the barn. They made sure they weren’t followed; they didn’t know how Kevin and Lavonne found the place, but they weren’t going to lead anyone else there.

The barn was in use again. Kevin wasn’t around that night but Lavonne was. On her knees in the dry dust of the barn floor, her face bouncing back and forth into the soft suit pants of a standing man whom Beth, Vickie and Vickie recognized, to their simultaneous shock, as Vickie J’s handsome dad. They pulled each other away, but not before the sight was etched into each of their brains: Lavonne with her hair swinging by the sides of her face as her mouth moved shiny against dark fabric.

They never went back. (Vickie J’s family moved not long after that. Lavonne left home for a year. Vickie D and Beth didn’t see each other in school and each made other friends.)

They never visited the barn again. The days were getting shorter and the nights were getting colder. Normal programming resumed on November 26th.

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