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Meet Billy Short

December 15-17, 1988

“Are you getting excited?” Pearl Busby asked her daughter.  They were sitting at the kitchen table of a ranch house in Pembroke, Georgia, tying up little bags of uncooked minute rice with squares of yellow cellophane, squares of blue netting and pink ribbons.

“Yes, I guess.  Mostly I just want to get it over with.  It’s embarrassing.  Getting married twice in four years.”

Pearl patted her daughter’s hand.  “Now, June, don’t be like that.  The first one doesn’t count.  It barely lasted a year.  There were no children, thankfully.  You’ve always loved Billy.  This is the real thing.  I know I’m excited for you.”  Pearl was a plumper version of June, with more freckles and Clairol-enhanced strawberry blonde forever hair.  She was wearing dark green polyester pants and a red and green Teddy bear Christmas sweater.

“No, Momma.  The first one does count.  Everyone in Pembroke’s saying, ‘Oh, poor June Busby.  She went off and married Dwayne Skiles after she dumped Billy Short.  But, then she realized what a jerk Dwayne was, so she divorced him, and waited around, hoping Billy would take her back.’”  June tightened the tiny bow, threw the bag in the basket and started another one.  She was sitting on one foot, wearing levi cut-offs and a purple tube top.  Her big hair mane cascaded down her back, partially obscuring a small rose tattoo on her left shoulder.  She’d lost her cheerleader cuteness and grown into a young woman of the South, with an even December tan and perfect velvet rose lacquered nails.  The lawyers at Holcum & Streff were going to miss her when she left her job as secretary/receptionist to join her new husband, Captain Billy Short, at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Just short of six feet, Billy Short had a lean, sinewy frame, big feet and near perfect balance.  He was made to catch fast pitches and throw out runners at second, but he had torn up his shoulder after painting “Class of 83” on the Lake Pembroke spillway.  Dwayne Skiles and he had been celebrating winning the baseball conference title with a case of Budweiser.  Michael Jackson had been singing Beat It on Dwayne’s boombox, and Billy had been doing the moonwalk when he fell off the spillway footbridge.  .  His major league career prospects in ruins, Billy had decided to join the Special Forces because he had always dreamed of doing something “big.”  June had reacted by throwing his class ring in his lap as they sat outside her house in the cab of his father’s Chevy pickup truck.  She had run into her house in tears and he had said good-by to his dad, a widowed peanut farmer, and boarded a Greyhound bus that would take him to basic training.

For four years in the U.S. Army Special Forces, Billy had picked up a variety of women at honky-tonk bars near the bases where he had been assigned.  But there had been no girlfriends since June.  At twenty-two, he had decided that he would never marry, because he lived a dangerous life and he didn’t want to leave a young widow.  Then, he had run into June at a holiday party in Pembroke when he was home on leave over the Christmas holidays.  His heart had melted.

Pearl measured rice onto a cellophane square.  “It’s been almost a year since Billy proposed.  Nobody’s thinking about Dwayne anymore.  All they talk about is how sweet it was the way he asked you to marry him under the mistletoe on New Year’s Eve.”

June smiled.  “That was sweet, wasn’t it?  In his uniform and all.  He’s such a man now.”  She clenched her thighs together and squeezed her arms against the sides of her breasts.  “I’m not much for second weddings, but I’m going to love my second honeymoon.  Three days in Disney World.  I can’t wait.”

Pearl shook her head.  “He must love you.  To take you there.  Why not go to some quiet beach?  Some place more romantic?”

“Like you’ve been to a quiet beach with Daddy.  I’ve never been to Disney World.  I’ve been asking to go since I can remember.  Finally, Billy’s going to take me.  I know it’s not his first choice, but I’ll make it up to him.”  She clenched her thighs again and smiled.

Pearl smiled and threw another rice bag in the basket.

Two days later, June Busby and Billy Short were married in Pembroke’s First United Methodist Church.  He was favoring his left knee as he walked down the aisle.  “Just twisted it,” he had told June the day before.  But the truth was he had re-injured his knee parachuting into a jungle in Mozambique.  Two years before, in Nicaragua, he had torn it up in a firefight while he had been training Contra rebels.

Rice hailed down on them as they ran from the reception in the church’s fellowship hall and jumped in Billy’s Pontiac Trans Am.  That night, in the Ramada Inn five miles from Disney World, Billy and June were cuddling after their second round.

“Thanks,” Billy said.

“For what?” she asked, lifting her head.  Without his uniform, he was no longer a warrior.  He was the farm boy she had fallen for in high school, with his impish smile, button nose and sandy-haired cowlick.

“For giving me a second chance.”

June was running her hush pink nails through his pubic hair.  “You’re welcome.  Thanks for giving me a second chance.”

“Hey, what are you doing down there?” he asked.

She smiled as she reached underneath his scrotum.  “Just checking things out.”

“Be careful.  Your nails are sharp.”

“Don’t worry.  I trimmed this one while I was in the bathroom.  Now, just relax.  This won’t hurt.”  She started nibbling on his nipple as she probed deeper.  His penis came to life.

“Damn, girl.  Where’d you learn to do that?”

Cosmo magazine,” she said and resumed nibbling.