He strode toward her, looking surprised and embarrassed.
“Hi, Nately. I just brought some more blank tapes and was wondering if you could tape some more music for me.”
“Holy shit,” he said, shaking his head. Around them the chant was giving way to whistles and a teasing refrain, “Nately’s got a girlfriend.”
“Fuck off!” Nately bellowed. “Come here, Lucinda.”
She followed him to his room, where he waved her in impatiently. He closed the door and stared at her.
“I just wanted some more music,” she said, “and I had some questions. I guess I didn’t realize what a big deal it would be. I’m sorry.”
Lucinda felt like a character in one of the Pink Panther movies, in one of those scenes where stealth gives way to farce, and people trying to accomplish some simple act of subterfuge wind up swinging from chandeliers and sailing into fountains through plate-glass windows.
Nately grinned at her. “I guess you come by it honestly,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“Your dad kind of does whatever the hell he wants, too, doesn’t he?”
It was true: Her coming to Nately’s barracks the second time was just as brazen, if not more so, as the way her father had brought her the first time. She didn’t want to be like her father in this way that had caused her so much embarrassment over the years. She resolved to be circumspect forevermore, to paint a circle around herself and never step outside it.
“You gotta get out of here,” Nately said. “Seriously. But let me see your list, since you’re here. What are your questions?”
He sat down on his bed and again slid his record crates out into the middle of the floor.
“At the beginning of the live version of ‘Rhiannon,’” said Lucinda, “Stevie Nicks says, ‘This is a story about a Welsh witch.’ What’s she talking about?”
“No idea. Next?”
“That song they’re playing out in the gym, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’—that’s a great song!”
“It’s brilliant, but that’s not a question.”
“I can’t hear all the lyrics—what’s he saying after ‘She was the best damn woman that I ever seen’ and before ‘knockin’ me out with those American thighs’?”
“Oh,” Nately said, blushing. He began bobbing his shorn head. “Let’s see. ‘She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best damn woman that I ever seen. She had the sightless eyes, telling me no lies, knockin’ me out with those American thighs.’”
Although it was clear to Lucinda that the woman in the song was being compared to a car, and that there was something sexual about it, she didn’t really see the point of the comparison. “So, if she doesn’t keep her motor clean, does it slow down?”
Nately fell over sideways on the bed laughing. He grabbed his middle and shook with laughter.
“Usually not,” he said finally, “but it would be better for everyone if it did.”
Just then the door opened, and Snowden walked in. He was in uniform and stood in the doorway with his hands on his hips like a mother who has just caught her son with one leg out the window in the middle of the night.