Back in the front yard with the giggle juice in tow, Rose strutted down the road. She went several hundred yards and then turned left on to Yodie Street, where she saw it: a shiny 1928 Ford Phaeton. It was a four-door convertible and in her words, “absotively divine.” Of course, the top was fastened shut so as to provide privacy. Privacy was needed. She smiled into the dark window of the vehicle and the door popped open.
“Ready for some barneymugging, bird?” Thirt asked.
“Barneymugging” was his word for lovemaking, and even though he asked, he knew she was a “sleep around” gal. He had met her in this very spot three times in the past month for petting sessions. Thirt’s real name was Burt. His nickname was short for his age. He was a thirty-year-old tomcat with a lust for teenage girls.
“Where’s your wife tonight?” Rose said flirtatiously as she stepped into the car.
“Visiting her sis.” He closed the door, noticing the jug. “Where’d you get the coffin varnish?”
“My mom’s an embalmer.”
“Really? She must be a cool cat.”
“No, she’s just full of prunes,” Rose laughed. “Actually, she’s looking for some extra kale. To pay the bills and all.”
“Let’s get crocked,” Thirt said, opening the jug and taking a swig. “Then you can give me a freebie.” Rose downed some giggle juice as well.
Rose fashioned herself as a flapper. She was wild, boisterous, and deliciously disgraceful. No one in the family knew about Rose’s secret life, although Tucker had his suspicions. A flapper was officially a woman who wore unbuckled galoshes, which, as legend had it, flapped in the wind. But it was about more than just galoshes for Rose. Her life flapped in the wind. It was spontaneous and free. It was wild and unladylike. It was utterly immoral by society’s standards.
Rose liked to flirt and refused to be bored. She smoked ciggys and loco weed. She was a full-on boozehound and enjoyed French kissing. She wore her hair in a bob with a choice pair of earrings, and wrapped her breasts to make them look smaller when she was not meeting up with a boy. She liked painting her lips scarlet red and putting black liner around her eyes. She had lost her cherry two years prior with one of her mother’s field hands. He was also married. Rose liked two-timers because they were forbidden. She fancied dangerous men. When Rose was not meeting up with fellows in the backseat, she was chewing the fat at speakeasies or meeting up with cakewalkers at Toby’s, a makeshift jazz joint in town. Rose was quite an Oliver Twist. She could shimmy with the best of them and even do a dance called the Black Bottom. Rose remembered reading a newspaper article about the ten-year-old Mildred Unger. A year prior, this little girl had danced the Charleston on the wing of an airplane while it was two thousand feet in the air. This impressed Rose; she would have done it herself if given half a chance. Live the high life or take a splat in a corn field, Rose thought with a smile.
Rose knew there was more to being a flapper than wearing crazy glad rags, being giddy, taking risks, and having swanky good times. There was the serious side. Rose thought of herself as a liberated gal, the type who could parallel a man. She supported the suffrage movement and admired the National Woman’s Party. She sometimes flipped through the radical publication Equal Rights at parties when she came across it on a coffee table. Rose was pleased that womankind had been given the right to vote in 1920 and wanted to see females do more than clean the house and take care of the young’uns. She did not want any young’uns herself. She had a distaste for their late-night wailing and messy faces. Her friend Laura Smith felt the same way. They had decided to be “decadent baby vamps” forever. They had vowed to get married but have no children. Laura lived nearby and was Rose’s alibi when she was meeting up with a fellow. If her mom was ever to come calling, it was Laura’s obligation to say, “She just left. She’s on her way home.” Then Laura was supposed to track down Rose and light a fire under her to get back.
“Let’s go berserk, biscuit.” Thirt had had his fill of giggle juice and started taking off Rose’s clothes, beginning with her felt, bell-shaped hat. Then he rolled down her rayon stockings.
“The bank’s closed,” she replied and pushed him back.
“Butt me first.”
“Now? Before barneymugging?”
“Yeah. Give me a fag. I’m a modern-day bird.”
Thirt sighed, pulled out a ciggy, and lit it for Rose. She reclined, resting her feet in Thirt’s lap and blowing airy fag rings toward the roof of the vehicle.
“At least show me your bubs.”
With that, Rose lifted her top, fully exposing her breasts. His eyes got real big.