I Am Skippy Wellington ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
I had fifteen minutes before bus time so I sat down on one of the ratty bus station seats that had part of the stuffing coming out. It was Friday night of a difficult week and I felt terrible. My toothache was killing me, I felt a cold coming on and I had heartburn from the spicy goulash I had for dinner. I took another pain pill for my tooth and was beginning to feel sleepy in the over-heated air when someone, some body, sat down beside me. I was ready to be annoyed when I turned my head and saw it was Skippy Wellington.
“How are you, Vance?” she said.
I was dumfounded, not only that she would speak to me, but that she knew my name.
“I’m fine,” I said, sounding more cheerful than I felt.
“I’m Skippy Wellington,” she said.
“I know. I’ve seen you around.”
“How are you liking school? How do you like your classes?”
“All right, I guess.”
“College is so much different from high school, isn’t it? I have a double major—English and drama—and believe me, it’s a lot of work! I was in one Drama Guild production in the fall and now I’m studying another part for a production in the spring. I hardly have time to see my fiancé. I believe you know him? Finton Beauchamp?”
“We room on the same floor.”
“Everybody tells us we need to wait to get married until after we both graduate, but that won’t be for three years and I don’t think we’re going to wait that long.”
“Well, if it was me, I think…”
“I want to ask you a personal question if you don’t mind.”
“What’s your opinion of Finton?”
“I don’t know him very well.”
The truth was, I thought he was an abrasive, arrogant asshole, but I didn’t want to tell Skippy that.
“I mean, you see him as a boy sees him. I’d just like to know what he’s like from the perspective of a person like you, who sees him doing ordinary things like taking a shower, watching TV in his underpants, going to the toilet.”
“I don’t pay that much attention,” I said. “He’s just one of about twenty-five people on our floor.”
“I can see you don’t know what I’m talking about,” she said.
I looked at the clock on the wall and said, “It’s about time for my bus.”
“I don’t often get a chance to talk to any of his friends.”
“I wouldn’t exactly say I’m a friend.”
“I’m trying to get an idea of a side of him that I don’t ordinarily see. Does he talk much about sex or other girls?”
“Not to me,” I said. “I don’t know him that well.”
“You see, I’m not really sure of him. I think he keeps his true self hidden, and I’m afraid I won’t find out what he’s really like until after we’re married.”
“I’m sure you’ll work it out,” I said, with what I hoped was an air of finality.
“I want to be an actress, you know! I’m talking Hollywood! I love acting. I just don’t think I could go on living if I didn’t act. Acting is my passion! It’s my life!”
“Maybe you’d better not marry Finton, then,” I said.
“That’s what I was thinking, too. I think marriage to Finton might be incompatible with a career in Hollywood.”
“You have to decide which is more important, I guess.”
“That’s exactly right! You’re so sensible!”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“No, I-I-I just want to make it through school first before I start thinking about anything like that.”
“Well, I know at least five girls who would just love to go out with you!”
“The ugly ones?”
“Now, you know and I know there are more important things than looks! What’s on the inside counts more than what’s on the outside.”
“That’s true, I guess.”
“I feel I can confide in you, Vance,” she said.
“Thanks. I feel I can confide in you, too.”
“There are things about me that Finton doesn’t know. He’s an alpha male, a real traditionalist! If he were to know the absolute truth about me, I think he might decide he doesn’t want to marry me after all!”
“Well, maybe the things you’re talking about…”
“For one thing, I’ll never be able to have children. You’re the only person outside of my family I’ve ever told.”
“Well, maybe Finton wouldn’t want any,” I said.
“Oh, I know he wants them! He’s told me so! He wants a traditional family and a traditional wife. A wife who can’t have children isn’t traditional.”
“Maybe if you just told him.”
“Well, I’ve thought about telling him, but I’m afraid it’ll ruin everything.”
“I don’t know Finton very well, but I think…”
“He thinks I’m perfect in every way. He thinks I will be the model American wife without any defects, free from the mental illness that plagues my mother and my sister. It would never occur to him that I might have irritable bowel syndrome or genital warts or anything awful like that. He sees me as a beauty queen or a sorority debutante, a future glamorous movie star, but I’m so much more than that! I’m a real person!”
“Your mother is mentally ill?” I asked.
“Yes, and it’s hereditary. There’s a good chance I’ll end up mentally ill, too.”
“If Finton really cares about you…”
“And that’s not all!” she said. “I’m epileptic! I have seizures!”
“Don’t they have medicine for that?”
“They do and I take it, but I still have seizures. I might have a seizure at any moment of the day or night and there’s nothing I can do about it. People make cruel jokes about it all the time.”
“I’ve never heard anybody make a joke about it,” I said.
“That’s because you’re pure of heart.”
“Nobody ever said that about me before.”
Skippy laughed. “Oh, you are so funny! And cute in a little, lost puppy-dog sort of way.”
“Nobody else would agree with you,” I said, “not even my mother.”
“It’s so good to have somebody like you to talk to!” she said. “Most people are so shallow! You can’t have a serious conversation with any of them.”
“Don’t even try!”
“My phone number is in the student directory. I want you to feel free to call me any time you’d like to talk!”
“Thanks!” I said, wondering exactly how desperate I would have to be before I would call her.
“And I might call you sometime, too,” she said. “If it’s all right.”
“Just don’t tell Finton.”
“Of course I won’t.”
“He’s funny about things. He’ll think I’m using you to spy on him.”
“It would never enter my mind,” I said.
She began crying. I’m always surprised at how easily women and girls can cry. I took a rumpled Kleenex from my pocket and handed it to her. She dabbed at her eyes and nose.
“You’re so good!” she said. “Any girl would be lucky to have you!”
“I don’t think any of them would agree with you.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Vance. You are a wonderful person!”
I was relieved when my bus pulled up outside.
“There’s my bus,” I said. “I have to go.”
I stood up and she stood up beside me.
“Have a wonderful weekend!” she said.
She surprised me by putting her arms around me and kissing me on the lips. Her mouth tasted like a cherry cough drop. I was relieved when I finally got away from her.
My bus ride was smelly and soporific. When we pulled into the bus station in my home town, my sour-faced mother was there to meet me in her ancient, tank-like Oldsmobile.
“Hello, mother,” I said.
“Don’t think I’m going to cook for you and baby you all weekend long,” she said. “I’ve got my hands full.”
“Fine by me.”
“Your sister is staying with me with both kids. She says she’s left Bobo for good this time and is ready to file for divorce.”
“You’ve heard all that before,” I said.
“I think she means it this time. She’s terribly upset and the kids are out of control. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old under foot all the time. If they were mine, I’d slap them silly.”
“Suddenly I feel sick,” I said. “I think I might have to spend the weekend in my room away from the rest of the family.”
“Nothing doing, mister! I need you to help me corral the kids. You can play Monopoly and Parcheesi with them.”
“I hate Monopoly and Parcheesi! I’d rather be sitting in my room in the men’s dormitory at school.”
“That’s very selfish of you,” she said.
“I have some news,” I said. “News of a personal nature.”
“What is it?”
“I have a girlfriend.”
“This is a joke?”
“No, it’s not a joke. Her name is Skippy Wellington.”
“What kind of a name is that?”
“I don’t know. Chinese?”
“Is she pretty?”
“She’s beautiful. She’s an actress. Destined for Hollywood stardom.”
“Sounds perfect for you.”
I didn’t say anything else because she was consumed with her own problems and frankly didn’t seem all that interested in me. She lurched the car off the highway onto the lot of a pizzeria. She had promised her grandchildren she’d bring them a pizza.
Against my will, I got out of the car and went inside and ordered a large pizza with every topping imaginable and stood at the counter like a dumbbell and waited for it until it was ready.
Copyright © 2020 by Allen Kopp