Tag: love

Perce and Isabel

PERCE NEZ drove from Fargo to Key Largo. Perce was a poet. In the phone book he was an Indian. He wore his long black hair in a ponytail. He built fences for farmers in North Dakota. Dug the holes, laid out the wire, strung it together, tight as violin strings. He carried a pair of powerful six-inch pliers on his belt.

But at twenty-seven Perce’s life was no violin, or even a fence. It was an open gate. And one day he drove through it.

It was 32 degrees when he headed out of Fargo in his old Chevy Impala, the pliers on his belt. He drove ten hours and stopped overnight at a Motel 6 outside Kansas City, ate a twelve-ounce steak, drank six beers and tried to pick up the waitress.

Perce was slightly built and not tall, but as strong and taut as fencing wire. The waitress looked like a bale of hay, dirty blond and ready to burst. Perce wasn’t fussy. He was a single man in a diabolically conceived safe-sex age where a hurtin’ need outweighed being particular. Not that it mattered. He struck out and slept the loneliness of the long-distance driver.

The next night, in Chattanooga, after another long day’s drive, he got lucky. It was one of those instant, horny, eye-contact things. She was a thin plain woman in her early twenties with long smooth black hair.

After serving Perce his meal she sat down in the opposite side of the booth and told him her name was Isabel and she was part Cherokee. Her lonely eyes looked at him with what he later (in his bed at the Super 8 motel) correctly diagnosed as a crying, burning, depth-of-the-soul need to touch another body.

Perce thought it would be a one-night stand, but this little Indian kept circling his wagon and he kept firing. And next morning, the damnedest thing. He was in love! He asked her to come down to Key Largo with him, where they would catch lobsters and live a wonderful horny life together.

“Do you think you can catch a lobster?” he asked her.

“I caught you, Perce Nez.”

And down they went.

At a final stopover, in St. Augustine, they continued their courtship, tangled up in yellow sheets and pledging eternal red-lobster love.

They drove across the top of Miami with all the windows of the beat-up Impala rolled down and when I-95 ended they rattled down U.S. 1 through the urban environs of Greater Miami and then hummed onto a two-lane highway bordered by flat sandy barrens and scrub pine, Florida Bay on their right and the Atlantic Ocean on their left.

“Yahoooo!” went Isabel, sticking her head out the window, her long hair streaming like the torn strips of a black silk flag.

Perce smiled at her joy. Damn, this happiness was good.

They checked into the Edgewater Motel at Mile Marker 101 and immediately and hungrily made love.

“I love it here, Perce,” she said, nestled up in his sinews. “Let’s live here forever.”

“I’m going to die here,” said Perce with absolute contentment.

They went next door to the Bonefish Bar & Grill. They sat on stools at the bar and Perce ordered a beer and Isabel a white wine. They looked at the grease-stained menu. They couldn’t have been happier.

In a booth against the wall, two men in low-crowned cowboy hats watched them. They climbed out of the booth and walked over to the bar, one a tall powerful man around thirty and the other a shorter man with no neck.

“Don’t I know you?” the tall one said to Perce’s lean back and ponytail. The second man stood firmly behind the first.

Perce half turned on his bar stool and looked at the tall man. Didn’t look good. “I don’t think so,” he told him.

“What’s your name?” the tall man said.

“Perze Nez,” said Perce.

“Is that Spanish?” the man asked.

“It’s Indian backwards,” offered Isabel, to whom Perce had explained on the way down.

“Is that right?” said the man. “Well, I’m a Spanish cowboy.”

“I can see that,” Perce acknowledged.

“I still say I know you from somewhere,” said the gaucho, squinting mean.

“We’ve never been down here before,” Isabel said protectively, sensing trouble for her Perce. Perce was wiry and strong, but he was no match for this guy. All she could think of was Perce’s words after they had made love in the Edgewater Motel: I’m going to die here. “We just came down here to be happy,” she added plaintively.

The cowboy turned toward her. Under the brim of his hat, his eyes looked her up and down. “Well, look at you,” he said, smiling crooked now. “I sure know you from somewhere. Are you a backward Indian, too?”

Perce shifted his narrow frame sideways on the bar stool so that it was poised between the redneck and Isabel. “You’re out of line,” Perce told those dangerous eyes.

“You got me scared to death,” said the cowboy, turning his head slightly to take in his backup sidekick. “Look at me, Carl, I’m shaking in my boots.”

Carl chuckled.

Perce was getting pissed off. “We’ve been in this bar five minutes, in Key Largo less than an hour, and we run into two of the biggest jackasses in Florida.”

The gaucho’s hands lunged, grabbed Perce by the shirt collar and yanked him up to his face as though to bite his head off. He wasn’t watching Perce’s hands.

Perce took the pliers from his belt.

Bill Michelmore

Reprinted from Santa Fe Literary Review

Me, Sue and Blue


I don’t know which was worse: losing my girl or my white‐over‐blue Monte Carlo.

My friends in the Midwest had warned me about New York.

“You’re crazy going there without job,” they said. “New York will chew you up and spit you out.”

“Look,” I told them, “I’m 35 years old. Time is running out for me. I’ve got to take a chance. What have I got to lose?”

For starters, my girl and my car.

Sue, the girl, had green eyes and chestnut-brown hair. She was 22 years old. Everybody in town wanted her.

Blue, the car, had a big eight with overdrive. Nobody passed Blue on the road. He had a white landau roof and a deep blue body.

Both bodies were beautiful.

I was making good money at the paper. I spent it all on Blue and Sue. Blue had the best in tires and motor oil from the Eight Mile Sunoco. Sue had the best in shoes and dresses from Ann Taylor. We had some great times together. Me and Blue and Sue.


What makes a man give up all that? Like Edward G. Robinson as Johnny Rocco: I wanted more. It had come to me in a slow moment of panic. Possibly, I had lived half my life; but more likely, I had a mere 15 years left, less than half of what I had lived so far. I figured 50 would be the cutoff point. My father had died at 50. It became imperative, therefore, to try and Do Something with the few years left to me.

“Damn your midlife crisis,” said Sue. But her green eyes cried and she said she would wait for me and be true to me and so Johnny Rocco roared down Interstate 80 in his powerful blue machine with a lot of big dreams in his head.

I rented an apartment on East 69th Street at First Avenue. Money evaporates in New York. I found it difficult to earn any. I started laying down bad paper for goods and services.


Blue was costing me a bundle in parking fees. I missed Sue so much I was spending a fortune calling her long distance ($328 in one month) and flying back to see her every weekend ($168 round‐trip). I became a regular in the bar at La Guardia every Friday afternoon while waiting to board American Airlines Flight 649. I grew to love that plane. He became my Old Silver. But Old Blue was languishing. One raw morning in March I took him for a spin. I parked at a meter on 48th Street near Seventh Avenue. I came back two minutes late. The tow-truck cop was already attaching the hoist to Blue’s bumper.

“Hey, it’s okay, I’m back,” I said, relieved that I had made it in time. “When da hooks are in it, it belongs to the city,” said the cop, and he towed Blue away. I had the towing fee of $65, but “I had fallen way behind on the monthly payments and the insurance. I had also let the registration lapse. No insurance, no registration; no registration, no car. It would cost me $1,079 to get Blue back. I didn’t have it. American Airlines had. Bell Telephone had it.

I never saw Blue again. I left him in a cavernous shed on the far West Side.


That Friday I sat in the bar at La Guardia. I told the barman all about Blue and Sue. He told me: “Go home to Sue and stay there. Forget New York. I know what this city can do to you. It can turn you into a geek, your mind shot to hell, pounding out your frustration on the sidewalks, mumbling to yourself like a fugitive from an insane asylum.”

Sue and I had dinner at Joe Muer’s.

“I’m too young to handle a long‐distance relationship,” said she, more beautiful than ever. “All the airport farewells, the phone calls, the lonely nights, I don’t know how to deal with it.”

I told her New York scared me now and I wanted to stay with her forever and hide under her bed and be a normal person but I had to go back. I couldn’t give up yet.

We screamed at each other on a frigid street in the Midwest. The telephone wires dripped ice. We ended up at the airport, hugging for dear life.

I flew back to New York in a snowstorm. The city below had vanished. But I knew it was there. Waiting to devour me.

Mercifully, the pilot announced a holding pattern.

I figured that was the best place for me. Circling New York forever.