Delton told Suzie he was shipping out on Monday and she stopped talking. The porch swing stopped swinging. A cigarette smoked in her one hand, an orange popsicle melted in the other. Behind them, an open window let out Patsy Cline singing ‘Crazy’ the only way she could do.
It was a warm summer night. The humidity flushed their cheeks.
“Her voice is like water,” Suzie finally said. “I think there’s nobody like her in the whole world.” She sucked on her popsicle.
Delton thought about touching her hand, but they were both occupied. “We’ll go see her one day,” he said.
She replaced the popsicle with the cigarette. “How?” she said. “You’ll be in some jungle on the other side of the world.”
“I’ll come home eventually,” he said.
“And if you don’t?” she said, blinking through the smoke.
“And if you--don’t?” she said, the cigarette out and the popsicle back in.
“Come off it, Suzie,” he said, “Of course I’ll come back.” Between his good job at Harlson’s Hardware and his great girlfriend, he’d have to come back. He wasn’t a bad person--God wouldn’t let him die overseas.
‘Heartaches’ came on and Delton thought about asking her to dance. Sure, the neighbors might see, and he might wake his parents with their feet pounding on the floorboards like kettledrums, but he needed to touch her. It might be his last touch for a long while. He still wasn’t sure how long a tour was.
As if reading his mind, she said, “I don’t want to dance.” Her popsicle dripped. Her cigarette curled into ash. “I just want to sit.”
Moths bounced off the porch screen. Somewhere, a dog barked. “Johnny went driving with Claire,” Delton said.
“Claire would,” Suzie said.
“What does that mean?”
She bit off the rest of the popsicle and scraped the stick on her teeth. Her breath smelled sweet. “Claire’s been lonely for him all week. She said she’ll simply die when he’s gone.”
“She’ll die?” Delton said. He wondered what Suzie would do. He imagined her lying on her bed covered in his letters. She’d listen to ‘I Fall to Pieces’ over and over while biting a slip of hair.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
“I know,” she said.
“I will,” he insisted. He touched her cold, sticky fingers.
Inside the house, the record stopped playing.