Actions

Work Header

Clyde's Strong Arms

Work Text:

Rey-Rey always thought of Clyde Logan as hers.  Never mind that he was a few years older than she.  Rey-Rey loved that boy from the moment she met him.  Back in the day, when he was ten and she was six, she would try to follow him around everywhere.  She might have been playing with his little sister, Mellie, but Rey was really watching Clyde.

Mrs. Unkie Plutt was Rey’s foster mother and a horrible one was she.  Rey had been born in Boone County hospital with the name “Baby Girl” Rey.  Her birth mother walked away, and Baby Girl had been given to Mrs. Plutt to raise.  Mrs. Plutt wanted the foster care money but was less interested in the raising.  So, Rey-Rey, as she was often called, had to beg for love and anything else she needed.  She had to be good and stay out of trouble or else.

Mrs. Plutt lived next door to those Logans—of which Clyde was one.  Mrs. Plutt never had much use for her neighbors.  The children’s momma didn’t do anything after their daddy died.  It was like his death pulled the wind right out of her sails and she took to her bed.  The oldest, Jimmy, was left to take care of everything at home.  He turned to petty crime and brought his little brother with him.  Clyde ended up in juvie at the age of 13.  It killed their momma, Mrs. Plutt said. 

Mrs. Plutt also said good riddance to bad rubbish. 

The Logans’ momma passed on, and, technically, Jimmy, Clyde, and Mellie were supposed to go into foster care, being underage and all.  Mrs. Plutt told the social worker at CPS that she’d look out for them, since she was right next door.  She’d move the whole kit and caboodle in with her, she said.  But instead Mrs. Plutt took the money for their care and did absolutely nothing for those Logan kids.  Jimmy was still doing his best to keep them all alive, even though he was in high school.

One day, Jimmy and Clyde were playing football in the yard.  Mellie was doing her nails in the house with Rey-Rey who had wandered over from Mrs. Plutt’s. 

Clyde came sauntering in to get a drink of water. 

Rey-Rey bounced up and started playing the old beat-up piano in the Logan’s living room.  It had been their mother’s and it wasn’t worth anything or Jimmy would have sold it.  Rey had learned to play Clyde’s favorite song, Heart and Soul.  Clyde got his glass of water and sat next to Rey.

“I know you like this song, Clydie,” Rey said.

Clyde nodded.  He started playing the other part.  They stumbled along for a while, then stopped when one of them couldn’t remember it.  Rey giggled, and Clyde gave her a small smile.  He was tall and skinny—all big ears poking out in front of his wavy dark hair.  It was longer than other boys because he kept trying to pull it in front of those ears.

Rey liked Clyde’s ears and his long nose that led down to full lips.  Sometimes they looked a bit red from Clyde pressing them together or chewing on them.  He was starting to grow some scraggly facial hair.  It was coming in soft and dark, but not too filled in.  Just a bit of a mustache and some peach fuzz under his pointed chin.  To Rey, Clyde was perfect.

Rey started the song up again and Clyde followed.  They had started it over to see how far they could get before they lost the tune.

Mrs. Plutt stomped up to the Logans’ side door, opened it and stuck her head inside.  “Y’all two stop playing that devil’s music.  Mellie, get over here and help me, girl.  Leave those nails alone.  Clyde, why are you in that house?  Dirty boys belong outside.  Baby-Girl, if you can’t play some hymns, just go on and find something else to do.”

Clyde rose from the piano bench and looked like he wanted to say something.  “Don’t,” Rey said, quietly, touching his arm. 

Mrs. Plutt flip-flopped back next door with Mellie trailing behind. 

Rey-Rey took Clyde’s hand and walked him outside.  He looked down at her.  He was a quiet, somber boy, but he smiled at Rey and his eyes softened up when he saw her.  She patted his hand and twirled around under his arm.  Jimmy was kicking the football around, making it bounce up and down.

“Come on, Clyde,” Jimmy said, finally, with one last kick to the ball.  “I don’t know if Plutt’s making dinner or not.  We better see what there is to eat.”

“She called Mellie over to help,” Rey said to Jimmy.  “Probably she’ll feed us all.”

Clyde twirled Rey again, and she giggled.  “If she doesn’t, Baby Girl, you come on back and we will find you something to eat.”

“Clyde,” Jimmy said through his teeth. “Alls we got is chips and Ho-Ho’s,” Jimmy said.  “That’s all.  It ain’t enough for us, much less her.”

“It’s all right, Jimmy,” Rey said.  “I don’t care.  I will find something somewhere.”

“Jimmy,” Clyde said in a hard voice.  He twirled Rey again, making her laugh.  “Baby Girl can have mine.”

 

Rey-Rey managed to survive Mrs. Plutt’s.  She was getting ready to leave for college.  Apparently, someone had thought to put some funds in a trust for Baby Girl Rey that matured when she turned 18.  Mrs. Plutt couldn’t touch it.  The nice lawyer man had drawn money for Rey-Rey to pay college tuition, buy books, and live in the dorms at Ohio University.  She was excited to go get her education and start her life away from Mrs. Plutt.  But she didn’t fancy leaving Clyde behind.

Rey-Rey turned 18 one hot August day, when the bees were buzzing and the cicadas were calling.  There wasn’t nothing going on as usual--only the hot sun overhead to keep Rey-Rey company in her tiny little room at Mrs. Plutt’s.  But she had plans.  She was waiting on Clyde at Jimmy’s, lurking around as usual.  Rey still had the habit of following him around.  Clyde was supposed to be leaving to go to basic training in a day or two.

Today, though, in a few minutes, Clyde Logan was going to be heading to work.  Rey was about to catch him before he left.  She’d put on her favorite lightweight teal green sundress, with the embroidered blue flowers and the tie around the back of her neck.  Her sandals were maybe a little too tall for her, but she wanted to be taller when she saw Clyde.

She was on a mission.

Clyde stepped out of the house dressed in his jeans, big boots, and a short-sleeved t-shirt.  His long hair was brushed out, all fluffy-like, his filled-out mustache and beard neat and trimmed.   Rey knew they would give him a buzz cut in the military.  But for now he still wore it long, as he liked it.

He was a mountain of a man, having successfully grown into that long body of his.  He was thick in the arms and legs, but without an ounce of fat on him.

Rey walked up to him as he headed for his blue mustang.

“Hi, Clydie,” she said.

“Hi, Baby Girl,” Clyde mumbled.

“I got to ask you a favor,” Rey said, taking her courage in her hands.  Clyde was so sweet, he wouldn’t deny her anything.

“Shoot,” Clyde said before opening the car door.

“I’m 18 today, Clyde. I was wondering if I come to the side door of the bar tonight, would you slip me a little tiny drink?  I just want to taste something.”

Clyde chewed on that idea for a minute.  “It ain’t right, Baby Girl.  I could lose my job.  It could make the bar close down and lose its license.  No can do.”

Rey was a bit disappointed to be sure.  “I know, Clyde.  But it would mean a lot to me to just have a small taste of something-something. You bring a bottle out and give me a sip?  Just one.  I wouldn’t take no more.”

Clyde sighed.

Rey put her hand on his arm.  “Please,” she said, tilting her head up to gaze into his eyes.

He crumbled as she knew he would.  “All right.  One sip,” he told her.   “Meet me on the side at 7 pm before the customers start coming in.  Don’t be late.”

“Yes, Clydie.”  Rey skipped away in her too-high sandals.

 

At 7 pm, Rey stood in the alley around the side of The Duck Tape, waiting for Clyde to come out.  He had a bottle of whiskey hidden in his shirt and a thick shot glass in one big hand.

“Didn’t know what you wanted to taste, but I like this one okay.”  Clyde poured a shot into the glass.  He handed it to Rey.  “Now, Baby Girl, don’t…”

But Rey tossed the whole shot back and swallowed like a champ.  Her eyes watered like hell as the whiskey burned her throat.  She gave one small cough, then sucked in a breath.

Clyde was duly impressed.  “This ain’t your first time, is it?  Are you a bad girl?”  He poured another and downed it himself.

Rey wiped her tears.  “That’s smooth.  Just like you, Clydie.  And I know you’re a bad boy, been one for a long time, right?  So what if I’m a bad girl?”

Clyde scratched his beard.  “I’m going straight, Rey-Rey.  I ain’t going to be bad no more.  Don’t you start on some path you don’t want to go down.  It ain’t worth it, Baby Girl.”

They stared at each other for a minute.

“I got to go back in,” Clyde said.

“Kiss me, Clyde. I want a kiss for my birthday.”  Rey stepped up to him and put her hands on his muscled chest.

“I got an armful of booze and you want a kiss?  Ain’t you supposed to get a whooping instead?  How many?  18 hard ones?  You won’t be able to sit down, if Jimmy gets to you.”

“I’ll take 18 kisses,” Rey said, putting her hand on her hips.  “I ain’t taking no spanks from you or Jimmy, Mister.  For my birthday or any other time.”

“Huh,” Clyde said.  “Seems to me like you need some.”  But Clyde laid the bottle and shot glass down.  “Come here,” he said softly.

Rey wasn’t sure if he was going to kiss her or spank her.  She stepped toward him.

He leaned in and softly pressed his lips to her cheek. His mustache tickled her face in a most delicious way.

He stood back up and looked at her with his whiskey-brown eyes.  They were serious.  “Happy birthday, sweetheart.”

Rey tiptoed up and pressed her lips to his soft mouth, fully, completely, kissing him the way she always dreamed of.  Then she pulled away.

“That’s what I wanted, Clyde Logan, not that baby kiss you gave me.”  She waved goodbye as she clicked out of the alley in her too-tall shoes.

“Next time you try that, I’m going to whoop you, Baby Girl,” he hollered after her.  “You know I will.”

She flipped him the bird.  He huffed and went back inside.

 

And then Clyde was gone to Iraq.  Forever, it seemed to Rey, even though she was off to college herself, doing her own thing.  Rey went to college up the road in Athens, Ohio and came out with a teaching degree in English.  She was a full-fledged teacher.  She drove herself home to a teaching job in Madison, West Virginia, Boone County, at Scott High School.

When Clyde came home from Iraq, though, he was not himself anymore.  He was sad and quiet, withdrawn, missing a part of himself inside and out.  Rey was shocked when she heard from Mellie.  Not Clyde.  He was so big and tall.  Solid.  Her rock.  Missing an arm.  Mellie said Clyde had a long ways to go to be okay again.

 

On the day she returned to Boone County, Rey drove to The Duck Tape to see Clyde.  He was there, standing behind the bar, holding a bottle with one hand, the other covered by a prosthesis, a right fancy one at that.

He looked up when he saw her.

“Baby Girl,” he said, nodding at her. “You back?”

“I am, Clyde.” Rey sat at the bar.

He looked at her briefly.  “Don’t say nothing, Rey-Rey.  I don’t need anyone’s pity.  It’s just the Logan curse.”

“I know, Clyde.  I don’t pity a man who can work and support a family.  Yeah, it’s too bad about your arm…”

“Hand, Rey, it was my hand got taken, not my whole fucking arm.”

Rey held up her hand.  “All right, Clydie, don’t get your britches in a twist.  I see how you might be sensitive about it.  But I tell you, it doesn’t make you less to me.  You’re still you.  You know I love you, Clydie.”

Clyde rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, you been following me around since you were itty-bitty.  So, what now, Baby Girl?  You teaching?”

Rey smiled.  “I will be soon.  At Scott.”

“That hell pit?”

“It’s not a hell pit, Clydie, for God’s sake.”

“Was to me and Jimmy.”

“Not Jimmy.  He was a football star.”

“All right.  It was to me.  I got out of Juvie and then I was just dumped there.  Missed half of that first year and never got it back.”

“You would have if I’d been your English teacher.  I know you like to read in secret.  I see you.”

“Huh,” said Clyde.  He grabbed a towel and polished the spotless bar top.

“I’m on my way, Clyde Logan.  You know that.  You remember?  I said I wanted a good life.  An education, a great job…”  Rey thought about her life with Mrs. Plutt and how she didn’t really belong to a family.  She had to be a grateful child.  She had to earn her place instead of just being accepted.

Clyde met her eyes.  “Yeah, I remember.  I’m sorry that old bi… lady had you up in there like that.  She was right nasty…”  He pressed his lips together.

“I know.  It’s okay.  I had you Logans to help me.  Here’s the thing.  I got this part of my life done and figured.  I just need the next part.”

Clyde stopped polishing.  “What’s the next part?”

“I want a family,” Rey said.  She pulled her bag up and dug inside.  She yanked out a packet from Dr. Mark Feder, fertility specialist.  “Lookie.”

Clyde turned the packet around and opened it.  Inside were pamphlets and flyers about all kinds of fertility procedures.

“What the hell, Rey-Rey?”  Clyde turned the whole thing back around and shoved it across the bar like it was on fire.

“It’s to get artificially inseminated.  I’m going to have a baby!” Rey was enthusiastic.  “I saved up money from college to do this.”

Clyde’s brow furrowed.  “Don’t you want to do it the other way?  Like find you a husband, maybe.  Then have a baby with him?”

Rey shifted on her barstool.  “I might could do that, but I don’t have a man.  I only met one I ever liked well enough to do something like that with.  He doesn’t seem interested.  So, here we are.”

“Now, look, the whole package is going to be better than one piece.  How will you raise a baby by yourself with a new job?”

Rey shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Mrs. Plutt might still be around.  What about her?”

Clyde slammed his hand down on the bar top.  “Oh no you don’t.  Don’t hand over your precious baby to that … female.”

“What, you want to do it, Clydie?  You help me?”

Clyde tilted his head to one side.  “Always with those plans and schemes.  No, I can’t fucking help you.  I’m what they call disabled now.  I can’t hold a baby or change a diaper or do squat.  I only got one fucking hand.”  His voice rose.

Rey stared at him.  She hadn’t really talked to him since he lost his hand.  He’d taken on a bitter, angry edge that she wasn’t used to.  She’d been half-joking about his help.  Or not.  Maybe she did want Clyde to be there for her.

He stalked away from her.

“Clyde,” she said, softly.

He kept his back turned to her.  “Go on, Baby Girl, just go on.  I can’t right now.  I’ll talk to you later.”

 

Rey finished up her first day of orientation at Scott High School.  After administration turned the teachers loose for the day, she headed to her classroom and unlocked the door.  It definitely needed some work.  She spent time dusting and cleaning, trying to clear out the mess left behind by an elderly teacher who could no longer keep the room up.  By the end of the day, Rey realized she could use some muscle—some tall man muscle—to help out with a few things.

Rey called her man, Clyde.  “I need you, Clydie,” she said into the phone after he rumbled hello.

“Now what?  You ain’t been back but a minute and you want me to help you with some dang thing or other.”

“That’s about the size of it.  I’ll make you din-din.”

“Fine,” Clyde sighed.  “I’ll be over tomorrow before work.  I’ll give you an hour.”

 

The next day, Rey met Clyde at the front door of the school.  They walked through the deserted halls.  The only sounds were janitorial staff and a few teachers working in their rooms.

Clyde looked around.  “Never thought I’d set foot in here again,” he said.  “Never wanted to.”

“You’ll get over it,” Rey said, opening the door to her room.  It was a lot more cheerful than when she’d started on it yesterday.  It had bookshelves and bulletin boards, clean desks and chairs.  She bought a rug and some beanbag chairs for a reading nook.

“I think you would have liked this nook, my Clyde,” Rey said, grabbing his arm and squeezing it.  It was the arm with the prosthesis.  Clyde looked down at Rey’s smiling face, searching for something.  She gazed back.  “I don’t give a shit, Clyde.  You ought to know that about me already.  It’s just a fancy-ass hand to me.”

“I give a shit,” he mumbled.

“I know, but I don’t.  And don’t you ever think otherwise.”

“You would if you had to look at me without it on.”  He gave her a challenging look.

“You don’t know that.  That’s complete conjecture on your part.”

Clyde unhooked the prosthesis and pulled it off.  His arm stopped above the wrist.  He waved it at Rey.  “Well, that’s what happened, then, Baby Girl.  There it is.  Touch it if you dare.  It grosses everybody else out.”

Rey took his arm in her hand and ran her fingers over the place where it had been sewn up by doctors. They had done a neat job. 

Thing was, Rey loved Clyde.  She always had loved him.  She’d be damned if she’d let something like that phase her.  She was tough and mean enough to swallow any reaction she might have had about someone else’s arm.  This was Clyde.  He didn’t need or want her pity.  She wanted to be as matter of fact as possible and let him know that he was no different to her now than he had ever been.  Except that he had a new fancy hand.  Otherwise, so the fuck what?

Clyde had obviously decided that he was a partial person, that he couldn’t do certain things.  Rey was sure that Clyde could do anything he set his mind to.

Hadn’t he rammed his damn car through a plate-glass window without a shiver?  Hadn’t he been in jail with no prosthesis?  Hadn’t he busted Joe Bang out and then back in again?

She’d heard all about it from Mellie.  Rey didn’t doubt Clyde in the least.

Clyde was staring at her, swallowing hard against his feelings. His eyes were watering a little.  Rey put his partial arm around her shoulders and mashed herself up against his hard body.  He wrapped her up tight.

They stood hugging for a while.  Clyde was tearing up, a few broken, swallowed sobs coming from his throat.

“I don’t fucking care about your hand.  You’re still you,” Rey whispered.

Clyde stepped out of her arms.  Rey grabbed the tissue box from her desk.  He looked at her with tears on his face, then pulled one out and wiped his eyes.  He blew his nose and tossed the tissue in the basket.

“You got PTSD?”

“I got something,” Clyde said.  “They gave me stuff to take and people to talk to.  Then they let me loose to go back home like it didn’t happen.  I can see VA people in Charleston.  It’s okay.  But then I go home, and I still don’t have a hand.”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“What do you want help with?  I don’t know if I can…”

“Shut up,” Rey said.  “You can.  Put your hand back on and help me with these posters.”

They worked for an hour putting every kind of Shakespeare, poetry term, literary analysis, composition sandwich, and hang in there, baby poster that Rey had found, bought or borrowed.

Clyde did perfectly fine and admired their handiwork.  “You might be right.  I might have liked school better in this room.  It’s looking real nice, Rey-Rey.”

Rey walked Clyde back out to his car.  At the entrance, he turned and invited her to stop in for a drink at the Duck later.

“In the alley?” she asked with a grin.

“You gonna kiss me again, Baby Girl?”  He was teasing her like the old days.

“If you’re lucky, Logan.”

“Oh, shit, well, that’s a problem because we got the curse, you know,” Clyde said, grinning at her.

“About time to break that thing, Clydie, about that time right now.”

“Huh,” Clyde said.  He left with a wave of his hand.

“I owe you dinner.”

“All right.”

 

At the bar, Clyde was in full swing when Rey arrived.  She sat at the bar and admired how he could deftly make drinks with one hand, while still putting on a show for his patrons.

He smiled when he saw Rey but didn’t stop tossing ice into highball glasses, pouring the booze from way up high, working the shaker, and popping in lemon peels or olives on skewers.

“What’ll it be?” Clyde asked.

“Virgin margarita,” Rey said.  “Trying to get pregnant, right?”

Clyde dropped an ice cube on the floor.   He said nothing but sent her a dark look.

She gave him a cheesy grin.

He prepared her margarita and slid it over to her.  He snorted a disapproving sound and left to check on the other side of the bar.

Clyde stalked back and rested both his hands on the bar, spreading his arms wide, staring at her.  He said nothing, just stood there like an angry gargoyle.

“Yes?” Rey asked, fluttering her lashes at him.

“Nothing,” he said and moved away to take care of more customers.

Rey was aware that Clyde continued to watch her.  She was aware of him wherever he was, whatever he was doing.  She looked at her phone, talked to Jimmy who wandered in, and fended off some individual with red hair whose name she didn’t catch.

Clyde nudged Red-Head away with a growl.

“Easy, there, Clyde.  I ain’t doing nothing,” Red-Head said.

“Go do nothing away from Rey, Sam Bang,” Clyde said.  He viciously polished a glass and looked like he might want to throw it at Red-Head.

“All right, what’s she?  Your girlfriend?”

Rey suppressed a smile.

“None of your business, Bang.  Get the fuck away from her.  And shut the fuck up while you’re at it.”

Rey said, “Well, I have to go anyhow, gentlemen.  I have more work to do tomorrow to get ready for my classes.  Clyde, let me cook for you on whatever day you have off.”

Clyde nodded at her.  Sam Bang watched with interest.

“Go on!” Clyde roared at him suddenly.

“Clyde,” Rey said.

“Well, he’s bugging me,” Clyde said.

“All right, all right.”  Sam hitched up his pants and walked out.

“Don’t be a bear,” Rey said.

“He was listening in on our convo.  I’m sick of him and his looks.”

“When’s your day off, Clydie?” Rey asked.  “You act like you could use some feeding.”

Clyde put a few glasses away.  “I got to check.  Come on.”  He tossed his bar towel over one shoulder.

He walked around the back of the bar to let himself out.  Rey followed.  The schedule was posted on the back wall.  Clyde ran his finger down the handwritten list.  “I’m off on Monday.”

“Okay-dee.  Monday, it is.  I’ll be able to tell you about my first day.  I know you will be all ears…”  She laughed at her own joke and reached up to touch Clyde’s ear peeking out from his hair.  “Look at those babies,” she said.  “At least you grew into them.”

Clyde looked like he might get mad for a second, but then he leaned down and put his nose on Rey’s.  They were eyeball to eyeball.  “No ear jokes,” he said.

“Nose jokes?” Rey rubbed her nose against Clyde’s.

“No nose jokes,” he said.

“Why is it that everything on you is supersized, Clydie?  You got a huge hand, nose, ears, plushy full lips…”

His eyes squinted a little and he blinked.  “Lips?  Everything?  Big?”  He seemed to be having some trouble processing.

“Yeah, you know, like…” Rey stared into Clyde’s face.  “Big.”

This time Clyde closed the distance between them to press his mouth against hers.  It was a tiny, gentle kiss, sweet and small, just a touch.

It shook Rey, though.  “Big,” she said again.

“Big,” Clyde agreed.

“I have to go,” Rey said, staring into Clyde’s eyes.  He looked as shocked as she felt.  He had never tried to kiss her before.

“All righty,” he said.  He leaned in and captured Rey’s mouth again in a deeper kiss.

Rey wound her arms around Clyde’s big shoulders and leaned into him.  His tongue darted out and touched Rey’s lips.  She opened her mouth with a groan, and he slipped his tongue deep inside to taste her.  She tangled hers with his in the deepest kiss she’d ever had.

Clyde pulled away first.  He was breathing hard and his eyes were dark with passion.  He stepped back.  “No, I shouldn’t have done that, Rey.  I shouldn’t.”

“Why?”  She was too needy to care.  Rey always wanted that kind of kiss from Clyde.  Always.  Even when she didn’t know what it was to be physical with a man.

“I’m not whole, Rey.  I’m not good for any woman. Least of all you.”  He stepped back again.  “Go on now.  Just go home.”

“Dinner?” Rey said.

“I don’t know.  Just go.” Clyde raked his hand through his hair, pushing it every which way.

Rey watched him turn and go back to the bar.

Fuck.

 

Rey left Clyde alone for the next few days.  She had a lot to do for the first day with her students.  She had two classes of freshmen and two of seniors.  Then she was teaching a mixed age creative writing for her elective.

Rey wondered if Clyde could handle dinner with her.  She wanted him to get over himself, but she knew that could be a long road.  Over the weekend, Rey sat on her couch and looked up PTSD and other issues relating to wounded veterans.  It was a lot to digest, but Rey wanted to at least have a passing understanding of what Clyde was facing.

The main thing was him getting out of his own head.  He needed to reach out to other people, to believe that people could accept him as he was—with a prosthesis.  He needed to accept himself, too. If he couldn’t do that, if he could not see that he was a capable person, he would not accept that idea from another person.  He needed to see that he was only differently-abled, not necessarily dis-abled.

Well, maybe disabled in some ways, Rey supposed.  But not in any way that counted.  Not in any sense that mattered to her.  He could do everything she wanted him to do one-handed or with his prosthetic.

Monday evening rolled around.  Rey made dinner after leaving school.  She had to eat anyway, and she wanted to celebrate her accomplishment as a high school teacher.  Nobody got in a fight.  Nobody yelled.  Nobody died.  It was all good.

Rey was dishing up some roast chicken, cornbread, and snap beans, when a knock sounded on her door.  She hopped up from the table to find Clyde standing there with a fresh shirt, recently-washed fluffy hair, and a bottle of champagne.

“You ain’t getting pregnant using a sperm donor,” he said.  “I brought champagne.”

“Now why do you want to come in here and say shit like that to me?  What possible motivation could you have?”  Rey took the cold champagne from Clyde’s arm.  “Get in here.”

“You eating already?  You don’t wait for your guests no more, Baby Girl?  Where are your manners?”  Clyde walked in and looked at the table.  “Where the fuck’s my plate?”

“I thought you weren’t coming,” Rey said.  She put the champagne on the counter, gathered up a plate and silverware.  She set another place.

“Changed my mind,” Clyde answered.  “It’s your first day as a teacher.”  He popped the cork and found two juice glasses.  When Clyde poured, he tipped the glasses and bottle to minimize the foam on top.  A real pro.  His prosthesis didn’t lessen his ability to pour drinks.

He set the glasses in front of the plates, while Rey dished up his food.  Before they ate, Clyde lifted his glass.  “Congratulations on being a teacher, Rey-Rey.  I am so proud of you, Baby Girl, I’m about to bust.”

“Thank you,” Rey said, taking a sip.

“Drink it. I ain’t letting you go to a sperm bank anyway,” Clyde said.

“All right,” Rey said.  “But I want a family.  I’m not fucking around, Clyde.”

“Fine,” he said and dove into the food on his plate.

They talked about Rey’s first day.  Clyde smiled at the stories she told and her enthusiasm about being a teacher.  She listened to his stories of the weekend at the bar.  Clyde had seconds of everything.  Then Rey brought out a huge thickly-frosted coconut cake for dessert.  Clyde eyed it and said he wasn’t much for sweets.  Rey cut him a huge slice and slid a glass of milk in front of him.  He made it disappear without any trouble.

Of course, they had a bit of a fork fight when Rey started stealing bites from Clyde’s slice.  He gave her his best evil eye, but she never put much stock in his scary face.  She didn’t find him scary in the least.

Clyde washed the dishes, stating that he who doesn’t cook is in charge of KP duties.  Rey dried dishes and put them away. 

Clyde grabbed the bottle of champagne and refilled the glasses.  They sat on the couch in the quiet living room and sipped.

Clyde said, “Rey, you don’t mind if I take this damn thing off.”  He lifted up his prosthesis.  “I’m trying to avoid getting a rash that’s hard to fight.”

“Nope, take it on off. I don’t care.”

Clyde made a face while undoing the straps.  He pulled it off to reveal marks on his forearm and built-up sweat.  He shook his arm to air it out.  He looked quite relieved to have the prosthesis off.

“Why don’t you go without?” Rey asked.  “Does it help you enough to wear it?”

“I don’t wear it at home, mostly.  I can do without it.  My arm freaks people out and I find it helpful at the bar for some things.”  He rested his arm by his side.  “But after a while, it bugs me.”

“You know I love you, Clyde, any old way you are.  Any way I can get you.”

Clyde watched Rey’s eyes.  “Yeah, Rey-Rey, but you don’t love me like that, not like a woman loves a man.  No woman really wants me like this, half a man.  You might think so, but I can’t give you…”

Rey stared at him.  “You’re just bat-shit crazy, Clyde Logan.  Just bat-shit.  You’re so fucking stupid.  Okay, so you can’t get over yourself.  I’m not the one who is rejecting you.”

“You might think you want me.  Yeah, back in the day, maybe you did.  You were so young.  But not now.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t look like I did then.  I can’t give you…  I’m wounded, I’m sick in my head.”

“I don’t really care,” Rey shouted.  “You’re mine.”  She threw every caution to the wind and leapt on top of Clyde.  She plastered herself against him, pushed her lips on him and devoured him.

She came up for air.  “I tell you this, if you don’t want me, I am more than willing to call up that sperm donor place and get an appointment.”

Clyde stared at her like she was nuts.  “What?  No, that is not what you want.  I know you.  You want a real family with a loving husband and babies that look like him.”

“Yes, I do.” Rey slammed her mouth against Clyde again.

She unbuttoned his shirt and slid her hands inside it to feel his warm chest rising and falling rapidly.

“But seeing as how that man doesn’t want me, I guess I’m stuck.”  Rey pushed her face into Clyde’s.  She kissed him hungrily again.

He pulled away.  “Why the fuck are you kissing me?  Who is this asshole that doesn’t want you?  What is his fucking problem?  I will kill him myself for turning down the sweetest, most beautiful girl in the world.”

Rey threw her head back and laughed.  “Oh, Clyde, you are so funny.”

He glared at her.  “You know what?  Never mind.  If he’s too much of a fool, let his ass go.”  Clyde clasped Rey around the waist with his good arm and used his powerful thighs to rise off the couch.  He stomped into the bedroom with Rey clinging to him.

“I’ll fucking destroy anyone who hurts you or lays a hand on you, Baby Girl.”  Clyde laid Rey down on the bed and ripped his shirt off with one hand, shrugging out of it with his shoulder.

“Clyde,” Rey breathed.

“No,” Clyde said.  “No way.  You’re mine now.  You kissed me.  You’re mine, Rey-Rey.  I’m the one who will be there for you.”

In a frenzy, Clyde made short work of his and Rey’s clothes, though she managed to help him with her panties.  He tore her clothes off one-handed.  The man was on a mission to devour her and she planned to let him.

He ate her lips, thrusting his tongue inside her mouth and wresting moans from deep inside her.  He didn’t slow down as he moved down Rey’s body, nipping and licking everything he could find.  He wasn’t even using his hands.  His mouth was doing everything she wanted done.  He brushed his beard down her belly, further down her hip bone, then he tugged her to the edge of the bed with one strong arm.  He sat between her legs.  His hair tickled her thighs as she lay back and parted them for him. 

Rey slid her hands through Clyde’s hair and whispered his name.  Her Clyde, her man, held her legs down with his forearm and hand so she couldn’t move.  He opened her legs further to dip his tongue inside and lick every bit of juice he could find. 

Rey gasped when he licked upward to circle her clit gently.  “You don’t need hands at all, Clyde,” she breathed.  “Just that tongue of yours.”

He rumbled a laugh into her cunt and sucked her clit into his mouth.  Every tiny lick pulled her further and further toward her fulfillment.  When she moaned that she was nearly there, Rey felt Clyde move back a little.

She tugged at his hair and groaned.  He moved away from her clit to edge her a bit more.  He bumped it with his nose as he sucked her soft folds.

“Clyde,” she groaned.  “Please.”

He removed his lips from her cunt and nipped at her thighs.  “Please is a magic word, Baby Girl.” He slid his tongue where it needed to go, flicking over and over, circling and suckling the exact spot she needed him.

Rey’s orgasm hit her like dynamite.  Her hips tried to come off the bed, but Clyde held her. He pulled her hips close with his forearm and hand. He kept his lips pressed on her while she came.  Rey lost herself in the pure sensation and her joy in having Clyde be the one to give her this gift.

Rey was boneless and pliant, still quivering, when Clyde pulled her down on his lap on the floor.

Rey’s legs and arms wrapped around him and she stared at his beautiful face.  With one finger, she gently mapped the pattern of freckles and moles that peppered him.  She loved everything about him.  His reddened, moist lips that she was about to kiss.  His long nose that had bumped her clit so well.  His mustache and beard and that long, long hair that he loved to wear.  His eyes were soft and shone with a rare, unnamed emotion.  Something she hadn’t seen in them before.

Slowly, Clyde put one hand on Rey’s hips.  “Lift up for me, Rey,” he whispered.  “I can’t lift you with one hand.”

“’Bout the only thing you can’t do,” Rey whispered back, smiling at Clyde.  He smiled back.

“I need to be inside you,” he said.

“I’m trying to have a family here, Clyde,” Rey said.  “Don’t pull out.”

“I know that,” Clyde said.  “But I want you to know, you ain’t doing it without me.  I’m your damn sperm donor.”

“Yes, you are,” Rey said.  “Only one I want.”

She lifted herself on her knees.  Clyde held his thick cock in position so Rey could sink herself down onto it.  They both moaned as she slowly pushed him inside her to the hilt.  He was very large for her and she hadn’t had much experience with men.  But Rey was determined, even though she had to adjust.  Once she did, she began to move up and down.

Clyde sucked in his breath.  “I’m your man, no one else.  You hear me, Rey-Rey.”  He almost sounded mad about it.

“Yes, yes, you are,” Rey gasped as she pushed him into her slick cunt.

Clyde slid his thumb between them to play with Rey’s clit.  She rocked herself against his thumb and continued to sink onto him.  He tossed his head back and grunted softly in pleasure as she moved.  His noises about made her lose her mind.  Clyde put his hand up to Rey’s mouth and slipped his thumb inside.

“Get it wet, Baby Girl,” he said.  “I need to make you come.”

Rey licked his thumb, sucking it fully into her mouth to wet it for him.  Clyde pulled it out of her mouth with a soft pop and put it between her legs again.  He lightly, so lightly, circled, the added moisture making her clit wet again.  She moaned and he added a little more pressure.  Rey fell apart and pushed herself down on his dick as far as she could go.  She came around him, squeezing him as the waves of orgasm hit her.  Clyde pushed up against her, groaning as he felt her come around him.

He flipped Rey over with one arm and drove himself into her until he growled out her name.  He came long and hard, thrusting inside, resting on his elbows.

Rey wrapped her arms around Clyde and held onto him.  She pushed his hair out of his eyes.  He lay breathing heavily, then pulled out of her to lie beside her on the floor.

“We didn’t make it to the bed,” Rey said.

Clyde rolled to one side to gaze at her.  “Nope.”

“I don’t guess I care,” Rey said.

“Well, the floor is a little hard,” Clyde said.  “Hang on, Baby Girl.”  He got up and went to the bathroom.  Rey pulled herself up to the bed.

“Don’t sit up,” Clyde said, from the doorway.  “Lie back down.”  He had a washcloth for her.

“Why?” Rey scooted back up toward the pillows.

“Jimmy and Sylvie are trying, you know.”

Clyde handed Rey the washcloth.  She cleaned herself and started to get up.

“No, don’t stand up.  Lay down, Rey-Rey,” Clyde said, taking the cloth from her.  “I’ll put this back in the bathroom.  Stay put.”

“What?  I do not know what you are on about.”  Rey stared at Clyde as he walked out of the bathroom and plopped himself next to her.

“They’re trying to get pregnant,” Clyde said.  “Jimmy told me.  Jimmy said Sylvie has to stay laying down after, you know, doing it.  Then the sperm stays up there and doesn’t dribble out.”

Rey’s mouth made a perfect O.  She opened it and then closed it again.

“Are you getting me pregnant?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “You said the man you wanted won’t be with you.  Well, I fucking will.  I love you, Rey.  Don’t run off with someone else.  Don’t get a sperm donor.  I’ll be your baby daddy.”

Rey threw herself on Clyde, kissing his face all over, pushing her hands through his soft hair.

“Wait, what about not being able to be a dad?  ‘Rey-Rey, I can’t change a diaper, I can’t carry a baby around, I’m a sad Clyde who is helpless as fuck.’  What about that?”  Rey mimicked Clyde’s slow rich accent.

Clyde took that good hand of his and gave Rey’s bare bottom a smack.  She hollered and hit him in the bicep.  “What was that?”

“I told you, girl, you need a whooping.  Stop making fun of a cripple.”

“Oh my God, you ain’t no cripple, Clyde Logan.  Not by a long shot,” Rey hooted at him.

Clyde rolled Rey to snuggle her up to his side.  “Yeah, I am, but I be goddamned if I let some other man—or some fucking test tube—have you.  You are mine.  And I’m not that helpless.  I can make a living.  I can pay our bills and put food on our table.  I can be a good family man, even though I got a bad past.”

Rey smiled up at him.  “I know you can.  I never doubted you.  I love you, for real.  Not just as a kid who wants to follow you around.  You’re the only man I’ve ever, ever wanted in my whole life.  Also, I don’t care about your past.  That’s all Jimmy’s doing anyhow.”

“That’s because he said that word to me.  He made me do things and then I got in trouble.  Well, no more.”

“We ain’t going to say it and we’re not going to eat it, neither,” Rey said.

“Yep.”

They lay together quietly for a while.

“I don’t feel right, though,” Clyde said, sitting up on one elbow.  “I have to know.  I can’t do it without knowing.  You might not want to marry me because I’m not him.  I know that.  But I have to know, is it one of those guys you met up in Ohio?  One of those college guys?  Did he think he was too good for you?  Because he wasn’t.  Ain’t no one good enough for you.  Not some jackass from the North. See, I don’t even pretend to be good enough for you.”

Rey put her fingers on Clyde’s soft lips.  “Hush, now, hush.  You have to stop talking like that.”

Clyde kissed Rey’s fingers.  “Well, who is he?  Who is this dream man?”

Rey smiled and pressed her mouth against Clyde’s.  “It’s you, Clyde Logan.  I swear on my mother’s grave, it’s always been you.”

Clyde stared at Rey.  “Me?”

Rey laughed.  “Yeah, you.  You’re my dream man.  I didn’t think you’d want me.  But if you do, I will marry you and have babies with you.  We’ll be a family together.”

Clyde started laughing, a giant belly laugh, his smile getting wider and stronger.  He tossed his head back and growled like a man possessed.  “Yes, Rey, yes!  I’m your man for now and forever.”

He pushed her back into the bed, burying his face in her soft hair, kissing every place he could find.

Now, Clyde Logan apparently had the magic touch when it came to knocking up a lady.  Nine months later, after Rey went to the altar three months gone, a little baby boy was born.  They named him Clyde James Logan and called him Jamie.  After Jamie came Miss Roberta Rey Logan, called Birdie Rey.  They were the apples of their father’s eye and twisted him round their baby fingers all day every day.  And Rey’s sweet Clyde never did have trouble doing anything he set his mind to, including holding a babe and changing a diaper.  The Clyde and Rey Logan family grew and blossomed under the West Virginia sky.  Rey knew she had found heaven right there in Clyde’s strong arms.