An Uncapped Pen

January 28, 2008

Casual Duty – Chapter 9 Dyke or Whore?

Filed under: Writing — cindylv @ 12:44 am

March 1981
Scottie’s Pub
Twin Lakes, WI

Bridie balanced on the edge of the stool with her toes hooked under the support bar, her thumb rubbing the callous on the inside of her ring finger. She watched as he rinsed the rag, squeezed out the excess water, folded it and wiped the top of bar. He’d move down a few feet, five strokes, rinse, repeat. The walnut surface gleamed. She took a deep breath. “Dad?”

“Congratulations, he tells me. Said he’s read in the papers about you.” Rinse, fold, wipe. “How’s that? I ask him? My daughter’s in the papers.”

“Dad, I tried to tell you. On Friday.” Bridie stared at the clock. The Snack Shack – Open til Midnight! Click. Flip: Larson Electric – Big Jobs/Small Jobs. “You wouldn’t listen when I…”

“Didn’t know… A dyke…my own daughter. Or a fuckin’ whore, is that it? Which one?” He flung the rag into the sink and slammed his fist against the bar. “’…cause I would like to know myself, for when they ask me. Which is it? A dyke or a whore?”

Tears welled in Bridie’s eyes, overflowed and leaked out. She refused to wipe them off, allowing them to drip off her chin and onto the bar. Her father thinks she’s a whore. She had no idea what the other one was, a dike? What the hell did that mean? She just wanted to get out of here. Out of the bar. Out of the stupid, small town. She just want to go to school, to get a real job. She sniffed. Great! Now her nose was running! She unglued a hand from underneath the bar and reached across for a couple of cocktail napkins to wipe the bar, and then one to blow her nose. Click. Flip: Stuck? Miller Towing – Up to 3 Tons!

“Your mother, may she rest in peace, your mother wouldnae’ have this talk. She’d have it across your back with the strap for this!” His voice broke. He held the bar with both hands, his head hanging down, his body rocking back and forth. “She…your mother…” He sobbed, then gave up.

…nineteen…twenty…Click. Flip: Koca’s Tool & Die.

The bell over the front door jangled. Her father fumbled for his handkerchief and blew his nose. “What’s the good word, old friend?” he asked as he dropped a coaster on the bar in front of the new customer.

Bridie pushed back from the bar and walked back to the kitchen. The conversation was over. Conversation? There was no such thing as a conversation with him. It was always the same. He talked and she cried.

Well, after next week, she wouldn’t have to worry about what he thought. She’d be in Basic Training. Then he could just forget all about her and . . . and what, she wondered. What would he do when she left? She walked straight through the kitchen and out the back door without talking to anyone. She cut through the grass on her way to the beach, avoiding the early dinner customers strolling through the parking lot.

What difference did it make what he did after she left. She wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore. She wouldn’t have to get his coffee. She wouldn’t have to do his laundry. She wouldn’t have to work in the kitchen for free. She’d finally be out of this place. She sat down on the bench and wiped her nose again. So what would she do, she wondered. The brochures showed pictures of soldiers marching in formation. It was probably a lot like marching band. From what the recruiter said, it sounded like going to college, but with a lot of exercising. Running, push-ups and sit-ups. And shooting a rifle. Bridie wasn’t looking forward to shooting. She’d never seen a real gun, except for the ones the cops around town wore. And hand grenades. And camping. The recruiter said something about bivouac, that it was like camping. She’d never been camping, either. She hated bugs. And dirt. And being outside in the cold.

She leaned her head back, closed her eyes and wondered, what the hell have I done?

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6 Comments »

  1. Oh my God. This brings back terrible memories about the preconceived notions a lot of people had about women joining the military back in those days. Here were my two favorites:

    1. “The service is no place for a woman!” (said the relative who’d spent a number of years in the Army National Guard)

    2. “I knew a girl in high school who joined the military, but I thought it was because she was ugly.” (said an older female relative)

    Dyke or whore? Yes, I believe those were two fairly common assumptions.

    Comment by Lisa — January 28, 2008 @ 5:50 am | Reply

  2. Thanks, Lisa! I’m almost ashamed to say it, but that’s the exact question my dad asked me when I enlisted.

    Thanks goodness that beautiful, talented, intelligent, capable women like us enlisted and changed the world’s opinion, right? ;*D

    Comment by CindyLV — January 28, 2008 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  3. No doubt :)

    Comment by Lisa — January 28, 2008 @ 9:38 am | Reply

  4. I could tell from how this is written, that those words came from somewhere real.

    Cindy, you are truly doing great. So much going on, so many feelings being expressed.

    Comment by angel — January 28, 2008 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  5. I finally got around to putting your site on my blogroll, and you’ve moved! It shouldn’t take too long to change it, even on the dial-up I’m stuck with for this WE-TH “weekend,” thanks to twin winter storms that kept me in Illinois. (I’m also unable to sign into the Dickens Challenge site.) Anyway, I see you’ve banished the Nozer and have put out two new chapters. It’s kind of amazing that Bridie doesn’t know what a dyke is, considering her father owns a bar. But I suspect your story comes from personal experience, so I’ll suspend my disbelief. You got the world of press conferences and media management absolutely spot on in your last chapter.

    The cocktail napkin ads was (were?) a great touch, reminding us of exactly where we are–small-town America. Koca’s Tool and Dye (probably should be Die) puts us in Wisconsin, where Polish or Czech surnames are common. (I suspect they drank a lot of Good Old Potosi.)

    Her father’s reaction makes me wonder about what happened with popular opinion of women in the military since the days of WACs and WAVEs of the WWII era. I don’t think people thought of them as dykes or whores, but as very patriotic young women. I hope you and Lisa are right and that attitudes have changed since the ’80s. This is a chapter that makes me think–and for me, that’s the best kind of chapter.

    Comment by Steve Wylder — January 30, 2008 @ 8:15 pm | Reply

  6. Thanks, Steve! I corrected the “Die”. Too bad you weren’t living in WI back in the 80s with your patriotic thoughts of women in the military. I’m not sure when the WACs were disbanded and females were integrated directly into the regular Army, but the concept was NOT popular.

    The “dyke” question. I never heard that word until my father asked me that questions. I was 19, and perhaps quite sheltered. I think people are much more open about “alternative lifestyles” now then they were back in the stone ages.

    I don’t remember Old Potosi, but I think Schlitz and Pabst were quite popular. And don’t forget Old Style, and Hamms (Born in the land of sky-blue waters).

    I’ve been reading your latest chapter, but as usual, I have to read it a couple of times before I feel able to comment. I’ll post on your site. Thanks again!

    Comment by cindylv — January 30, 2008 @ 9:44 pm | Reply


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