The Worm Turns

The Worm Turns


Lydia visited the reformatory regularly, my St. Christopher statue on the counter between us. She often brought her Sassafras Dairy Bar photos. Part of the parking lot roped off for a Saturday afternoon show. I fell in love with a cloud grey ’50 Studebaker. I dug the streamline look of it. The clock worked. That was as important to her as a functioning radio was to me. Lydia saw cars that were never present at Bill’s Creamery or Hickory Grille: A deep blue ’55 Mercury Monterey, a maroon ’40 Ford and a ’56 yellow Oldsmobile.

I was regretting my Hudson Hornet downfall ride, innocent Chris on the dashboard. Lydia was looking great, pixie short hair like Jean Seberg in Breathless and seductive eye makeup that spurred more incarceration regret and memories of her bandy-legged joy! After my release, she wanted to quit Florida for Massachusetts. We’d find work together, waitresses and dishwashers always in demand. Lydia said “dishwasher” like another might say stockbroker or lawyer. I loved that. She said she missed fingering my long cheek scar from a childhood bike crash.

I tried to keep myself from fantasizing about a stolen vintage car ride to Massachusetts but I couldn’t control a recurring dream about a thirties Ford or Chevy with a rumble seat. Lydia and I taking turns driving and pretending we were living the year of the car. We’d park and use it for lovemaking in highway picnic areas.

Taking refuge in vehicles as if the Index of Saints, I’d chant Cadillac, Plymouth, Packard, Henry J, LaSalle, Buick, Tucker and Nash to start, then on to particular models. I tried to visualize “consequences” but could not, even though I was jailed because of them. I had a nightmare that all bumpers had a sticker that read “WORM TURNS.” I vowed hands off steering wheels not mine and to erase every hotwiring detail from my psyche.

Lydia did Saint research for me to aid my rewrites of Lives of the Saints content that I continued behind bars. She made plot suggestions. I didn’t tell her my tales had to be created on my own or they weren’t legit, impossible to happen. I made St. Nemesion, martyred by “rendering and disjointing of limbs, before being burned alive,” a Superman type hero. Instead of a phone booth, my hero would hold a cigarette lighter flame to his left wrist that magically changed him into Spark Nemesis clad in an outfit that flashed green, red, blue and white except for his chest where a furnace fire blazed. A tinted welder’s mask hid his face. Hot lava flaring from his fingertips was his signature weapon. St. Felix of Valois became what else but a lion tamer who billed himself as the Whipless Wonder in a circus before becoming a cat burglar on the French Riviera newspapers called “The Ladder.” Both men had to contend with a disgraced lawman named Hex Donovan.

Lydia was waiting at the bus station the day of my release. Mass at St. Cloud’s was first. She took communion and I did too. What the hell, I’d paid my debt to society, Christ and all the Saints combined. We went out to lunch. Ever resourceful Lydia had coupons for The Ocean’s Pick. The baked stuffed shrimp was beyond jumbo. Lydia had lobster Newberg. We drank wine, enjoyed luscious three-berry cheesecake and then bed and floor lovemaking in her apartment. She tuned in classical music on my radio. I heard the announcer say the composer of one tune was Chopin. I swore I’d seen it on a vanity license plate. I’d mailed most of my meager prison earnings to Lydia. We planned to depart in a week or so after earning more money. I signed up at a day labor company.

All that changed after Lydia was caught leaving the Fillet and Claw with two dozen jumbo stuffed shrimp, a gift for me. The cops were summoned and who else but Donovan. The owner didn’t press charges citing her faithful service. He gave the shrimp to the Pig who threw them away, called them sea cockroaches. Lydia suspected Freddie, the waiter she’d jilted squealed. Looking back at the Fillet and Claw the last time, she saw Mr. Big Heart retrieving the shrimp from the trash. Lydia slashed Freddie’s face with a razor, same side as mine. Two years was the sentence. I visited every chance I got, never adjusted to my fine, faithful St. Christopher statue on the outside looking in.

Thomas M. McDade

Thomas M. McDade is a former programmer / analyst residing in Fredericksburg, VA, previously CT & RI. He is a graduate of Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT. McDade is twice a U.S. Navy Veteran serving ashore at the Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, Virginia Beach, VA. At sea aboard the USS Mullinnix (DD-944) and USS Miller (DE/FF 1091).

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