The moon looked like it had very little interest in me. The stars crowded around her and whispered things about me. They were saying things about my country twang and how I wasn’t fit for city life. Memphis didn’t seem so different than home. People dressed a little better, I saw more cars than before. But mostly it was nothing but Jesus and the blues. There was plenty of Jesus to go around. I ain’t never really seen or heard the blues. The blues is for nighttime folks. My Ma and Pa made sure I was among the daytime folks. Miss Ida came onto the porch with her good hat on and a polka dot dress. It fit too right for a woman of Gawd, but I think Miss Ida was looking to be with the nighttime folks tonight.
            “I’m going out. Don’t you go nowhere. There’s some of that ham in the ice box. There’s also some hoop cheese and some soda crackers. I got a cola just for you, Jimmy. But you’d best not drink that ‘til tomorrow. I don’t want you drinking sodas this late.” She smiled and handed me a couple of hard candies. I think Miss Ida had forgotten I was sixteen years old. I wasn’t a boy anymore. “Your brother is in there sleeping. Drunk as a fool. I don’t know what I’m gon’ tell your Ma if he keeps carrying on like this. I’m glad you’re a good boy. That was a mighty good thing you said in Sunday school today. Anyhow, your brother said that some folks are s’posed to come to get him later, but I doubt he’s gon’ be fit for any fun. You just tell them he’s not coming out.”
            “Sure, ma’am.” I looked at my feet as I heard a car approach. A rusty car pulled up and Miss Ida waved as she got in. I went back into the house and stood in the parlor. I wondered what it felt like to be with the nighttime folks. I still had on my good Sunday clothes from the service earlier. My tie was poorly tied and my shirt was a bit too loose. I snuck to grab a peek at my brother. He was laid out. Drunk as a fool. I heard a car door slam and someone banging at the door. I rushed to open the door and a short man stood there. He had on a blue double-breasted suit and a straw hat. His face looked greasy and he wore too many rings.
            “Is you Carl Higgins?” he asked. That’s my brother’s name. I was about to answer him, but a thought lit up my head. I had a hankering for a good time in the nighttime.
            “I’m Carl,” I said confidently.
            “Well, come on. We can’t leave the girls waiting at the club. You going looking like that?”
            “I figure I will,” I replied and shrugged my shoulders.
            “Fine. Come on.” He started to the car.
            “I’m gon’ go to the washroom then I’m comin!” I ran to the washroom to piss and dab some of my brother’s cheap cologne on my neck. I grabbed a hat on my way out. It was too big for my head, but it made me look older. At least I thought it did.
            We pulled up to the seedy club and there was a round man at the door. He gave us all a once over before he unhooked a velvet rope to let us in. I was relieved until I got inside. There was smoke in the air as thick as marmalade and the blues rang out from a jukebox in the corner. Like church, it had drums and organ in the music, but it didn’t sound much like Jesus. I saw some men in the corner playing a dice game. My view was interrupted by a woman wearing a dress that had shimmery things on it.
            “Who is this clown?” she asked the man who picked me up.
            “This is Carl,” he replied.
            “I might have had a lot of drinks tonight. There are many lies you could’ve told me, but this ain’t Carl,” she said to him. I took a deep breath and feared the worst.
            “Well, shit. You pulled one on me, kid!” He started to get angry, but the woman stopped him.
            “Let him stay. It don’t harm nothing as long as you give me what’s mine.” They walked away, and he gave me a mean glance. I nervously made my way to a table. I sat down, removed my hat, and looked around. There was a dusty upright piano in the corner and dingy light fixtures hung from the ceiling. Everybody seemed to move fluidly like they was dripping with something dark. Everybody looked so nighttime.
            “Hey, Sugar. Never seen you ‘round here before,” I heard a voice behind me say. I felt a hand on my shoulder. She walked around and sat on the edge of the table. She had a conked wavy hairdo and peachy pink skin. Red lipstick colored lips too big for her face and her gold dress hugged her body in all places where the Lawd didn’t want it to hug. She leaned forward and her chest jiggled in front of me. Her black bra showed over the top of her dress. If it had been a pot, it’d be boiling over. “My name’s Flo. What’s your name?” she asked. She pulled a cigarette from between her bosoms and lit it.
            “My name’s Jimmy,” I replied. I scooted my chair a few inches away from her and fidgeted with my tie.
            “Jimmy?” She scoffed and took a puff of her cigarette. “That’s a little boy’s name. We don’t allow little boys in here.
            “That’s right,” said another woman who had shiny skin the color of midnight and a blond wig that looked like it was made for a cheap white gal. “We don’t allow boys in here. Now what’s your real name?” She rested her hand on her tiny waist and pulled at her black dress. The strap had fallen off her shoulder.
            “I’m James,” I said. I cleared my throat and lowered the pitch of my voice. “I’m James Bartholomew Wilson Higgins.”
            “Whew, chile. That’s a long one, Flo!”
            “Yeah, James,” she leered at me with eyes filled to the brim with trouble. “And we like it long.” She didn’t move, but her chest seemed to dance in my face. It taunted me. 
            “I’m Harriet,” said the other woman. “You got some good hair,” she said as she rubbed my head.
            “What’s that? Choctaw? Cherokee?” Flo asked.
            “Cherokee? What—“ I didn’t know what those words meant.
            “Nothing,” Harriet replied. “Here. Drink this.” She set a glass on the table. It was full of a light brown liquid. I picked up the glass and smelled the contents. It smelled like feet and sadness.
            “What’s this?” I asked.
            “It’ll put hair on your chest,” Harriet replied.
            “What if I don’t want no hair on my chest?”
            “Well, it’ll put hair in other places,” Flo said. She pointed her cigarette at my crotch and blew smoke into the air. “Drink it. Quick. It’ll make it easier.” I swirled the liquid in the glass and eyed it for a moment. I sipped it a little. It stung my tongue.
            “Drink it quickly, boy. Stop jivin’,” Harriet said to me. They both leaned closer to me and I felt as if they each stood on one of my shoulders whispering biddings from the devil. I closed my eyes for a bit. And then I drank. I swallowed the liquid quickly in one gulp. It felt like my throat was burning and my life had been shortened by a year or two.
            “What was that?” I asked. I stuck my tongue out in an attempt to air it out.
            “It was just a little whisky,” Harriet said. “It won’t kill ya. It’s a man’s drink. You a man, ain’t ya?”
            “Yes, ma’am,” I replied. “I mean yes. Yes, the hell I am.” A new sense of pride washed the bad taste from my mouth. Flo inched closer and I stared at her chest.
            “You see something you like?” Her question shocked me. I had never met women like this. Their mouths were full of fire, but their eyes were empty. These women threw their lady parts around, waiting for me to catch ‘em. I ain’t never caught no lady parts in my life.
            “Well, do you?” Harriet asked. “Flo, I think he likes you. At least he likes what he sees up top. Tell her what you like, James.” She walked behind me and started carrying on and feeling on my shoulders.
            “I can’t talk about that,” I said quietly. I looked away. Flo took my chin in her hand and turned my face toward her again. This time, her chest was only an inch or two from my nose. She smelled like day old roses and sin.
            “Tell us what you like, Jimmy,” she whispered.
            “Well,” I said nervously. “I likes your jungle plums.”
            “My what?” she replied with a chuckle. She took a puff of her cigarette and blew the smoke in my face. I coughed. “My jungle plums?”
            “This boy say he like your jungle plums!” Harriet let out a belly laugh and pulled out a flask that had been tucked into her sash around her waist. “This cotton picker said he like your jungle plums! I ain’t never heard nobody call titties ‘jungle plums’.”
            “Jungle plums,” Flo said loudly. Nobody in the joint paid her any mind. People sat around chatting and drinking strange things from strange bottles. The juke box was still playing the blues as if it were sad that I had said such a crazy thing about Flo’s titties. “I guess I thanks ya, but I don’t know where you got those words from. You must not be from ‘round here. This your first time in Memphis?”
            “I comes from Holly Springs, Miss’sippi. I’m here for the summer while my folks out doing mission work.”
            “Mission work?” Harriet said with a roll of her big eyes. “You from a holy family? I ain’t got much use for holiness. It don’t pay the rent and it don’t make my pussy no tighter.” She raised her dress a bit to show legs that would make Pa put his bible down and make the old man throw away his cane.
            “Did you say—“
            “She said it. Pussy!” Flo interrupted. “Ain’t that a funny word for a gal’s wet spot? Pusssssssy.” She stretched out the S sound. My eyes widened and I swallowed hard. “That word makes you use your tongue as you say it. You like to use your tongue, Jimmy James Benjamin Banneker Jenkins? Whatever your name is.”
            “I’m not sure what you mean,” I replied. Harriet started feeling on my chest from behind. She walked around and loosened my tie. She unbuttoned my shirt and let it swing open. I looked down. Nope. No chest hair yet.
            “You sho is smooth, chile.” She rubbed on my nipple under my shirt. I started feeling a bad type of way, so I stood up. I grabbed my hat and started to fix my clothes.
            “Sit down, Sugar. We don’t bite. Not these days anyway.”
            “Drink this,” Harriet said to me as she poured the brown liquid from her flask into my glass. I was about to protest, but she picked up the glass and pressed it against my lips. I sat down and drank it quickly. It burned again. I felt hell’s fire drizzling down my throat and I felt warmth in my chest.
            “I don’t think I should be here.” I looked at the door, then back at them. Harriet’s face changed. She looked like I had cursed her mammy.
            “I told you he wasn’t worth it. What are we gon’ do with this man child anyway?” Harriet said to Flo. She took Flo’s cigarette and took the last drag of it before putting it’s fire out by rubbing it on the table’s faded wooden surface.
            “He’s a cute one. This one will be easy. Stop your crazy talk!” Flo said to her.
            “Cute? Yes. But he’s square as a pool table and twice as green! He probably don’t even have no good moves. I’m not here to play nanny, Miss Florestine,” Harriet barked to her friend. She brushed a few stray blond hairs that had covered her eye.
            “We don’t have a choice,” Flo said to Harriet in a hushed voice like she was telling all her secrets. “Ray gon’ want some cash, and we gon’ get it right now.”
            “Shit,” Harriet said. “Come on, boy.” She pulled me to my feet and started to lead me away from the crowded room. My eyes darted around as I wondered what was about to happen. They brought me to a green velvet curtain. Flo pulled it to the side and revealed a small dimly lit room. Inside, there was a dirty looking red sofa, a small chair, and a single table with a green glass lamp. The bulb flickered as it cast dancing shadows over everything. We entered the room and Flo closed the curtain behind us. Harriet pushed me onto the sofa and leaned in closer to me. Her nose met my nose and before I knew it, she planted a deep sloppy kiss on my lips. Her tongue was strong, wet, and vengeful as she pushed it into my mouth. I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t stop her. I used my tongue to wrestle with hers and she let out a moan. I ain’t never heard a moan like that, but something told me she’d been used to moaning for a long time. Flo sat next to me and started feeling on my pecker through my pants. I squirmed a little, but it started to feel good. My nature started to rise and she reached for my belt buckle. She tugged at it ‘til it let loose. She unzipped my pants and yanked at my shorts ‘til my pecker stood waving at her like a maypole.
            “Well, shit!” Flo said to Harriet. “This little nigger got a pecker like a grown man.”
            “How you hide all that cock in them little pants of yours? You been holding out!” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know I had a big pecker. Seeing as though I ain’t queer, I ain’t never seen no other peckers before. Harriet flashed a wicked smile as Flo straddled me. Harriet unzipped the back of Flo’s dress and the top fell down to let loose a stampede of flesh. Summer melons. Ripe. Fresh. Juicy. She pulled her dress up around her waist and slid my pecker into her wet spot. She started grinding on it and moaning. Her titties slapped me in the face as she moved back and forth on me. Her insides felt warm and moist. She started bouncing and I started to feel electricity in my lap. I ain’t never felt a thing like it. Her insides squeezed on me and stroked me. I leaned my head back and moaned a moan that even I didn’t recognize.
            “It’s my turn, girl,” Harriet said to Flo. Flo eased my pecker out of her wetness and got up to let Harriet sit down for a spin. Flo was sweaty and her flesh was a ruddy color. Her wavy hair was mussed. She sat on the chair opposite us, spreading her legs so I could see it. Horned up and full of fire, Harriet started in with her motion on me. She threw her wig onto the floor, revealing kinky braids under a wig cap. She was smaller than Flo, but she was aggressive. She didn’t start out smooth, but she went right on thrashing her weight on me. She put my hand down by her wetness. It felt like I was stirring honey oatmeal with my hands. After a while, I felt something in my loins and I started moaning louder. I didn’t know what was happening, but Harriet seemed to. She got off of me and took to rubbing my pecker with her hand. I hollered when my pecker started spurting warmness onto my sweaty belly. I twitched as I emptied myself. I closed my eyes as if I’d somehow end up somewhere else. Harriet and Flo looked at me and laughed.
            “We got ourselves a first timer,” Flo chuckled. “Ain’t that romantic?” Harriet smirked and started fixing her dress.
            “Now, boy. Pay up.” Harriet held out her hand with her palm facing upward.
            “What? I ain’t got money. What am I paying for?”
            “For this!” She yelled as she smeared the wetness across my belly. “They fuck for free where you come from?”
            “You two are hookers?” I said. The meekness had returned to my voice.
            “We ain’t no church ladies. And we sure as hell didn’t do all this just ‘cause we is sweet on you. Pay up.” I used my tie to wipe away whatever wetness I could. I stood and begun to fix my clothes.
            “I don’t have any money.”
            “You’d better find some!” Flo yelled. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked. I grabbed my hat, pushed past them, tore aside the green velvet curtain, and ran for it.
            “Stop him!” Flo yelled to the doorman. Her jungle plums bounced in the air as she ran after me. Harriet followed close behind her. I was weaving my way through the tables, knocking things over as I ran toward the door. The doorman started toward me from the bar, but his fat stumpy legs couldn’t carry him fast enough. I knocked over the velvet rope. The brass posts it had been attached to fell to the ground and made a clanging sound. I exited the smoky bar and ran like the wind. A cloud of dust was drummed up by my feet on the path as I ran. When I was satisfied that I had gotten far enough, I sat on the side of the road. I was wet and sticky with sweat, my own juices, and a lewd and pungent syrupy feeling. I took a deep breath and started to laugh.
            “Pussy,” I said to myself. “Pusssssssssy,” I repeated. I wanted to use my tongue this time. I bit my lip and fell over laughing aloud. I held my stomach as I cackled. Flo and Harriet. Those women of the night had swindled their way onto my manliness. I felt different. Unchained. I lay on my side and turned my head to the sky. My body was covered in delicious filth. The moon winked at me and the stars twinkled in agreement. I couldn’t tell nobody what had happened. Ma and Pa would whip me something terrible, and Miss Ida wouldn’t let me stay in Memphis if she knew. I got up, adjusted my pants, and started walking the long walk back to the house. The sun would probably beat me there. The moon can’t wait to tell the sun all of my secrets. They gon’ be the only ones who know about my night with Harriet and Flo. My breath smelled like fire water and my pecker felt fulfilled. I put my hat on. It was too big for my head, but it seemed to fit just fine now. It fit just fine for the nighttime.

NIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME by George Arnett ©2014