I pulled out two plates and placed the eggs in the center of the plate, then set the buttered toast on either side like I had been doing for the last 30 some odd years. I grabbed the silverware and napkins and carried everything into the bedroom for Ruth. She lived there and only left the space for her twice a year doctor visits. I was able to get a flat-screen television last year for her to watch comfortably from her bed. The TV trays that we ate our meals on were put away in the closet after every meal so that I could sit next to her in my chair…
I remembered how much fun we used to have when I had been courting her. She was the cutest girl on the street, and she had promised to wait for me to get out of the service. I remembered arriving back home a few months earlier than anyone had expected because of the injuries sustained while on a reconnaissance mission in the God-forsaken jungles of Vietnam.
My job had been to go ahead of the others and scout for the Viet Cong. I searched for them, as well as the booby traps and grenades they left. My feet spent so much time in wet boots that I’d eventually developed a fungus that affected my toenails. The pain was too unbearable to walk, and I felt like I’d let my company down. I was leaving with a purple heart because of a toe fungus, a lousy toe fungus. What would I tell people when they asked why I was sent home?
I got off the plane and limped across the tarmac, searching for Ruth. I deserved a cowards’ welcome, not the one in front of me. I heard the band start playing ‘God Bless America,’ and I wanted to yell out for them to stop! I didn’t deserve all of the people lined up, waving their flags and holding the signs that said ‘Welcome home soldier.’ I wasn’t a soldier; I’d left my battalion defenseless to come back home to get my toenails pulled.
Then amid that crowd, I saw Ruth push her way to the front. Her strawberry colored hair was a little longer, and she’d left it curly around her shoulders. She’d lost a little weight as well, but that smile was all Ruth. I watched as she walked toward me, and then it became a run. I wanted to meet her halfway, but the pain in my feet only let me move forward at a snail’s pace.
What would she think of me when she heard why I was dismissed to go back home so soon? The formal letter the government sent my family only contained the basics. There was nothing that would reveal what had happened to me. Everyone would notice my limp; hopefully, there wouldn’t be too many questions.
“Ruth, I’m so glad you’re here!” I put my arms around her, not caring who watched. I felt her arms go around me, as well. I was home.
Shortly after my return from Vietnam, I asked Ruth to marry me. She agreed wholeheartedly, and we decided to elope. We were a short distance from Las Vegas, and we paid for the package at ‘The Wee Kirk O’ the Heather Wedding Chapel.’ It had been simple, but I remember how pretty Ruth looked as she walked toward me wearing a mint green colored dress. She wore her hair piled on top of her head with little green flowers and clovers placed there by the clergy’s wife. We got a cheap room at the Stardust, afterward, and that’s where we started our wedded bliss.
Ruth had been accommodating during my fungus treatments. I had to have all my toenails pulled off, and I was told not to wear shoes or walk on my feet for at least four weeks while they healed. Soon after that, I started receiving my disability benefits, but it wasn’t enough for us to live on. So, until I could walk pain-free again, Ruth had started a job waitressing at a nearby diner. She brought home enough in tips that we were able to afford a small, but comfortable basement apartment. She also brought home leftovers from the restaurant, and we ate reasonably well.
After my feet healed, I applied for some jobs around the diner. It was walking distance from our home, and I wanted to be able to stop in and visit Ruth when she was working. The construction industry was booming; I was hired by a local contractor to lay cement. It was a hard job, and the hours were different from Ruth’s. I did stop in to see her when she worked the dinner shift. Occasionally her boss let her go home early when I was there so that we could walk back together.
It was raining on that particular night, and we started playing around in the water. We stomped at each other to see who could get who the wettest. We hadn’t heard the car coming up from behind us. I was closer to the building at the time, Ruth had been running from me and was nearer to the street. The car hit her from behind. She was knocked to the ground and suffered only a few minor cuts and bruises to most of her body. Not life-threatening at all, but after remaining unconscious for a few days, the doctors did more tests to discover that she had a traumatic brain injury.
Her speech and her arm movements had been affected, but the worst thing that happened was that she was no longer able to walk. I became her caregiver after that. With my construction job and my small disability check, we were able to survive. However, there was nothing left over to pay for anyone to help with Ruth.
I sat down next to Ruth and helped her eat. She needed a bath, and her pants changed. Her beautiful strawberry colored hair had lost its luster years ago, and now it hung unruly and knotted. She needed it cut. Maybe I could go into one of those salons and see if there was anyone that would come to my house and fix her hair. She always liked to look pretty, and it had been quite a while since I had gotten her anything new to wear.
I cleaned up our breakfast dishes and got my wife’s bath ready. “Hey there beautiful, are you ready to get cleaned up?” I went through her drawers and found a clean nightgown to put on her afterward. It was so much easier to change her pants. “I’m going to go into town today and see if I can find someone to come and cut your hair. How does that sound, you’d like that wouldn’t you?” I saw her crooked smile and knew that would make her very happy. She was so easy to please.
After I parked my car, I started walking back to one of the salons that I had noticed weeks earlier. It had a grand opening special that was offering 10% percent off a haircut. It was worth a try. I walked inside and saw a row of bright purple chairs lined up against the front window, across from those was a row of red chairs. A stack of magazines sat on the tabletop between the two rows of chairs. I noticed some of them had pictures of men and women displaying the latest hairstyles.
“Can I help you, sir?” Why I hadn’t seen her at first was beyond me. She had one side of her head shaved, while the rest hung across her face, and it was colored pink. She had her nose pierced, and it held a tiny purple heart.
“I hope so. I was looking for someone that might be able to cut my wife’s hair. She’s bedridden, and they would need to go to my house to do it. Does anyone that works here offer that kind of service?” I tried to keep my eyes focused on her nose to avoid staring at her cleavage peeking out from her tie-dyed t-shirt. “Wow, is that coming back in style?”
She looked confused. “Is what coming back in style, Sir?” She seemed a little bit irritated with me. Maybe she thought I was talking about her piercing since I couldn’t seem to look anywhere else without getting myself in trouble.
“Your shirt, I haven’t seen anything tie-dyed in years.” She laughed, and I knew I was off the hook. We both glanced at her shirt then, and I had a few more moments to look before I would get caught.
“Really? This old thing? My friends and I had a tie-dye party a little while ago. It’s the latest craze, you know.” I watched how animated she became talking about her party. My eyes continued their exploration of the girl. She went on to demonstrate the different methods they used, and she showed me how bunching up an area would make a different pattern. She was blissfully unaware that every time she pulled her shirt different ways to show me, it just accented her breasts.
I hadn’t felt lust for many years. I walked over to the table and picked up the newspaper. I held it across the front of my pants to hide my erection. It had been a long time since that had happened. She continued talking with me until one of the girls in the back asked if another customer was waiting for a haircut.
“Did you need a haircut, Mister? Maybe you can ask Paula if she can come to your house, she might for a little more money.”
I looked at the name tag on her t-shirt. “Uh, thanks, Debbie. You’ve been very helpful.” She pointed me in the direction where Paula sat. That gave me the time I needed to get my act together.
I usually went to a barber to have my hair trimmed, but this was for my wife. “Paula, is it?” I put my hand out to shake hers. She was a little hesitant but took it.
“Yeah. Is this your first time here?” I noticed her shirt was clingy and tight as well. She was a little older than Debbie was but just as curvy.
“Michael, but my friends call me Mickey. Yes, it’s my first time here. I usually go to a barber, but I noticed you had a special going on. I love to help out a new business.” That sounded pretty stupid. “Do you want me to sit here?” I was so nervous, and I also felt like I was cheating on my wife.
“Not yet, Mickey. Let’s wash your hair first. No offense, but I like working with a clean head. You know what I mean?” I followed her to the back of the salon. We stopped in front of three identical chairs placed in front of three basins. Over the sinks was a cabinet filled with shampoos and conditioners of all shapes and colors.
“Oh, that’s fine with me. I did wash it today, but I understand what you’re saying.” I stood as she reached up and put a white towel around my neck. I had to close my eyes and bite down when I felt her breasts brush up against me. She draped a long black gown over that, as I swallowed.
“Turn around, and I’ll tie it in the back.” I needed that time to make sure everything was put back in place. “Alright, have a seat, Mickey. I’ll see if we’ve got something that’s more masculine smelling in shampoos.”
I quickly sat and tried to look away as she reached over me and picked up the different bottles looking for a manly one. Did she realize how close her chest was to my face every time she reached past me for another bottle? I easily smelled her perfume as it mixed with her sweat. This was torture.
“Found it!” She took the lid of the bottle and set it behind us on the sink. “Are you ready, Mickey? I’m going to rinse your head off first, so tell me if it gets too hot.” It was too hot already, and she hadn’t even turned on the water. “How does that feel?”
Oh, God. You have no idea how good it feels. My thoughts as I sat there with her breasts in my face. I had no that the feeling of nails scraping across my scalp could be so erotic. “Perfect, it feels perfect.” I had to close my eyes, the exertion of her washing my hair had left splotches of water on her shirt, and I could see her nipples hardening as they rubbed against it.
What was I doing here? My disabled wife was laying at home in bed, and here I was allowing myself to feel lust again for a woman that was half my age, as she rubbed up against me. Tempting as it was, I could continue to lay there and want something that I would never again have, or I could go back home and take care of my wife.
I let Paula finish rinsing the shampoo from my hair. Then I stood up and pulled the black robe thing off, breaking the ties as I did. I know she was startled by my strange behavior, so as quickly as I could, I pulled out my wallet and handed her a twenty-dollar bill.
“Thank you, Paula, that was the best thing that has happened to me in quite a while, but I have an emergency at home. Please keep the change.” I knew they all watched as I rushed out the front door with my hair still dripping down my back. But I had somewhere that I needed to be.
By the time I made it back home, my hair was dry. I’d made a quick stop at the local drug store to pick up a few things before I returned, and I carried the sack back into the bedroom where my beautiful Ruth sat watching the television.
I heard her say ‘Welcome home, soldier.’ It was something she always said every time I came home since returning from the war.
“Ruth, I’ve got a surprise for you!” I pulled a hair coloring kit out of the bag along with a pair of sharp scissors and a new comb and brush.
“This shade of red always looked so lovely on you!”