Saturday had come and the news was still abuzz over the plane crash Wednesday afternoon. It had gone down in a wheat field, sending a thick plume of smoke into the sky. Over 200 people were aboard that airliner and the air hung thick with the smell of jet fuel and overcooked meat.
Special media attention was paid to the 16 students in the choir and two faculty members who had died. It was heartstrings gold so the adults were portrayed as saints, the teens as perfect angels.
One news reporter lusting for a Local Emmy stood in front of the wreckage, rattled off the 18 names then said, “They’re all behind me in that twisted metal and debris, hopes and dreams snuffed out by this tragedy.”
He was wrong. Not everyone in the choir died in that plane.
Upwind and a few miles north on the Burrell farm, the air was clear and calm. There was no fire and smoke, no stench of charred flesh. It was there that Penny Nicholls had fallen from the sky and landed almost unnoticed.
Earl was the only witness when it happened. He had just returned from watching the lacrosse team practice. After he parked the pickup in front of his shed, he saw Penny in free fall. She had her arms outstretched and looked like she was trying to fly, but not doing a very good job of it. Then he noticed her tartan skirt and knew she was meant for him.
Three days later, Earl was still madly and deeply in love. Nevertheless, he needed to focus. He had a job to do.
He was in the master bathroom grabbing his mother’s makeup and stuffing it into a pillowcase he was holding. He wasn’t sure what was needed and what wasn’t so he decided to take it all. He also took her perfume and deodorant because those might be needed as well.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” his mother said after walking in on him.
“I’m just borrowing these, Mom. I’ll bring them back when I’m done.”
“Done using them for what? Have you turned into a transectional? Say it isn’t so, Earl. You’d make one plug-ugly girl and it would break your father’s heart.”
“I need them for my girlfriend.”
“You have a girlfriend? Will wonders never cease? Does she have a name?”
She did indeed have a name. It was Penny, but Earl had no way of knowing that. He started off calling her either “Honey” or “Babe,” and the two soon melded together.
“It’s ‘Honeybabe’,” he said.
“That’s a stripper’s name,” his mother said. “Just because you stuff dollar bills in a whore’s panties while she dances with a pole, that doesn’t make her your girlfriend.”
“She’s not a whore. You don’t know her. You don’t know anything. I’m leaving,” Earl said. He turned and walked away with as much a resolute stomp a man missing half a foot could muster.
“Not with my things, you’re not,” his mother said.
“Screw you, Mom.”
Earl descended the stairs and crossed the living room toward the front door. His mother was close behind, yelling how no girl could possibly want him, how worthless he was, and how much she regretted not aborting him.
Earl’s father sat on the couch, not looking away from the TV.
“Earl’s gone crazy and ransacked my belongings. You’re his father. Say something to him,” Earl’s mother demanded.
“Knock it off,” his father said. This was his go-to when Earl got out of line.
“Screw you too, Dad,” Earl said.
“I said knock it off,” his father said. This was his go-to when Earl did not knock it off.
By now, Earl was out the door and hobble-marching to the pickup truck parked on the gravel driveway. His mother stood in the entrance to the house and continued to shout unkind things, but he had already mentally blocked her out. The sound that hit his ears was transformed into how adults talked in “Peanuts” TV specials by the time it reached his brain.
He got in the truck and started the engine. Penny was in the passenger seat, leaned against the window and door.
“Hey Honeybabe,” Earl said. “I should apologize for not introducing you to my parents, but trust me. You wouldn’t want to meet either of them. All they care about is pretending to farm and getting a fat subsidy check. They don’t know what it’s like to be in love.”
He put the car in drive and drove off in the direction of the public road. Perhaps his parents were going to throw him out of the house for this. It was a strong possibility, but Earl didn’t care. They were his past and the past was time spent without Honeybabe.
That past Wednesday when Penny Nicholls quite literally fell for Earl, he felt like he was the luckiest man in the world. She was just a speck when he first saw her, becoming bigger and more beautiful the closer she came to earth. Did she look at him and smile just before she hit the ground? Earl was pretty sure that she had and there was no way to prove that she hadn’t. Upon impact, she had bounced several feet in the air before coming to rest face down in the rich topsoil of the Burrell farm. Earl ran to her, rolled her over, and smiled. He knew she was 18, of age. He was sure of it. Earl put his hand up her skirt, worked his finger under her panties, and plunged it into her lovin’ stuff.
“Consent,” he said.
Things moved pretty fast from there. He picked her up and carried her to his shed. She was not a small girl and with his handicap, he found it difficult to keep balanced. Still, he loved the way she felt in his arms.
She was a vision of loveliness when she swept downward from heaven, but it was the landing that perfected her for Earl. Nearly every bone in her body was broken. This made her very pliable.
He dumped Penny on the cot in the shed and began to undress her. Dead girls were supposed to be cold, but this one’s body was still quite warm. Earl liked that, but what he really liked was how flexible her shattered limbs were. He could bend them any which way and they would offer no resistance. A girl shouldn’t resist. She should consent.
For the briefest of moments, Earl wondered if a dead person really could consent. He quickly dismissed the concern as ridiculous. Was what he was about to do any different from that time he went to town with a sweat sock stuffed with Libby’s Potted Meat Food Product?
After Penny’s last article of clothing was removed, Earl spent the next several hours doing things he had never done with a woman before. Earl was still a virgin so one of these was simple sexual intercourse. So that’s what all the fuss was about, he thought. Good stuff, that vaginal penetration, but what else could he do? It turned out plenty.
He gave the other two popular orifices a whilrl then found he could improvise many more simply by folding her skin into a receptive crease. Given her corpulence and extensive skeletal trauma, almost every part of her body was a potential field to plow. After traversing her anatomy, he would always return to the original point of entry. It was the alpha and the omega, the homecoming, and the promised land.
Six hours into this marathon lovemaking, things began to go horribly wrong. Her body stiffened, resisting his advances.
“Come on, Honeybabe. You know I love you,” Earl said, but to no avail. Even her face had changed. Gone was the relaxed smile she wore when he first saw her that seemed Do whatever. I’m done caring. It had now hardened into a disapproving scowl.
In the following hours, her muscles tightened even further. It got to the point where he could not force her knees apart. Even though both femurs were snapped, her thighs were like granite.
Earl gave up. He sat on the floor in the corner of the shed and stared daggers at her. He called her unkind names. He threw an empty Coke can at her head (it missed).
He left the shed and did not return for an entire day. During that time, he went about his routine as if nothing changed. He limped around the fields of the family farm, overgrown with weeds because the government was paying them not to grow anything that year. He sat at the dining table with his parents, eating his food but not speaking with them. The external Earl was as fine as he always had been. On the inside, he was devastated.
The world might have dismissed him as human garbage, but he thought Honeybabe was different. What had he done wrong? Was he really that worthless? He finally could not bear his heartbreak any longer and returned to the shed. Penny was still stiff as a board. Even though he didn’t believe it would work, he begged her to take him back.
“Oh Honeybabe, my heart is in a tizzy and I yearn to get busy,” he said, hoping an attempt at poetry might melt her. It did not. He began to sob and rocked her in his arms. He cried himself to sleep.
When he woke, Penny had relaxed. She was not as limber as when she bounced off the ground, but there was a definite improvement. She also looked a little bloated. Had she put on weight? Earl didn’t mind. He liked a woman to have some meat on her.
“Who’s my little piggy?” he said and gave her a playful squeeze. She responded with a fart that sounded like someone clearing the spit valve on a tube and smelled a whole lot worse. Earl chuckled and let out a fart of his own.
Honeybabe was his again and he decided to celebrate the occasion by taking her out on a date. She did need some freshening up beforehand. Her eyes looked a little deflated and her once creamy complexion had turned into paisley-like red splotches on fish-belly white. If he took some of his mother’s beauty products, they would fix that right up. It wasn’t like they were doing the old bat any good anyway.
“Tits on a mule,” he said.
An hour later, the makeup and sundries had been procured, and Earl had made his escape and fled the family farm. He grinned and tunelessly whistled as the car continued down the road. Penny was slouched in her seat, perfectly still except for a bit of pinkish foam bubbling from one nostril. He had stopped a while back to put some makeup on her. He used too much and made her look like the Joker, but he didn’t mind. She was beautiful to him no matter what.
“Out for a drive on a glorious day with my Honeybabe. Life couldn’t be better,” Earl said.
He sniffed. Had Honeybabe farted again? It sure was something. He rolled down the window. That helped some. He then reached into the pillowcase, pulled out his mother’s perfume. He gave her a few squirts from the atomizer, and realizing this was insufficient, he unscrewed the top and dumped the remaining contents on her head.
“Nothing personal, Honeybabe,” Earl said. “Your womanly aroma is just going to take a little getting used to. What a day I have planned for us. We’re going to a lacrosse game. The girls there think they’re too good for me, but I don’t need them. I have you. Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s give them a little show, you and me. It’ll be fun for us and maybe they’ll learn a thing or two. How ’bout it?”