I Am Skippy Wellington ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(I posted a different version of this short story previously.)
I had fifteen minutes before bus time so I sat down on one of the ratty seats with 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 when somebody sat down beside me. I turned my head and saw it was Skippy Wellington.
“How are you, Dickie?” she said.
I was surprised, not only that she would speak to me, but that she knew my name.
“Just wonderful,” I said, sounding more cheerful than I felt.
“I’m Skippy Wellington,” she said.
“Yes, I know.”
“Isn’t it funny that we should both be at the bus station at the same time?”
“Yes, isn’t it?”
“I hate the bus station, so it’s good to have somebody to talk to while I wait.”
“Yes, the bus station is, uh, ugly.”
“How do you like college so far?”
“It’s all right.”
“You’re in your first year?”
“I’ll bet you’re finding college much different from high school, aren’t you?”
“Well, I have to study more.”
“What’s your major?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I guess you can decide that later on, when you’re further along.”
“As for me, I have a double major, English and drama. I want to be an actress and if that doesn’t work out I guess I’ll teach English. I was in one Drama Guild production in the fall. Now I’m studying another part in another play, to be staged in the spring. If you’ve ever carried the lead in a play, you know how much work it is.”
“No, I haven’t ever done that,” I said, realizing how stupid I sounded.
“And, you know, I don’t like the roommate I have now. Her name is Rocky. Isn’t that absurd? A girl named Rocky! If I can make it through another week without strangling her, it’ll be a miracle!
“Why don’t you ask to move to a different room?”
“I have, but there isn’t a vacant room for me to move to now. I’ll have to wait until somebody drops out.”
“I was lucky to get an end room,” I said. “No roommate.”
“Yes, that was lucky. Where do you room?”
“Well, isn’t that a coincidence? That’s where my boyfriend rooms. You must know him. His name is Peter Piper.”
“Yes, I know him. He’s on my floor. I mean, we both room on the same floor.”
“Isn’t Peter something? He’s just the all-American boy, isn’t he?”
“The truth is, I don’t know him all that well. We don’t move in the same circles.”
She laughed. “You are funny, you know that?”
“No, I didn’t realize it until now.”
“He’s very good-looking, don’t you think, with his blond good looks?”
“I haven’t ever thought about it.”
“Hah-hah-hah! Oh, Dickie! Come on, now! You can admit to me that you find Peter attractive. I won’t think you’re gay.”
“Well, I guess the casual observer might find him attractive.”
“The casual observer! Hah-hah-hah! You are original!”
“Is that my bus? I think I just heard my bus! I don’t want to miss it!”
“No, it isn’t your bus yet, Dickie. Do you talk much to Peter? You know, man to man?”
“I hardly talk to him at all. A couple times in the TV lounge is all. He offered me a cigarette one time, but I didn’t take it because I don’t smoke.”
“You never heard him talk about girls or dates he’s been out on or anything like that?”
“No, nothing like that.”
“You see, I’m terribly in love with him. We’ve discussed getting married when we’re both finished with school, but I’m not too sure about him. I know a lot of people find him as terribly attractive as I do. When he tells me he’s in love with me and wants to spend his whole life with me, I’m not sure how seriously I can take him. Do you know what I mean?”
“I think I do.”
“You’re never heard him say anything about a girl named Doris? She’s a biology major.”
“No, I don’t know her.”
“I’ve heard that Doris calls him up all the time, and she makes sure she’s in the places where she knows he’ll be. She is so forward! She’s such a swine and will do anything, I’m sure, to take him away from me! I’m terribly jealous. Oh, this is all too much! You probably think I’m just being silly, don’t you?”
“No, it’s okay.”
“I’d like to strangle Doris.”
“I won’t tell anybody.”
“If we wait two or three years before we get married, I’m afraid I’ll lose him. I won’t be able to hold onto him that long with so many different girls after him.”
“That’s a tough one.”
“But if I go ahead and marry him now, I can kiss my acting career goodbye. You see, he doesn’t approve. He thinks women should be traditional like his mother and not be interested in bettering themselves. He thinks I’m just being silly when I say I want to be an actress. He doesn’t take me seriously as a person. Do you take me seriously as a person?”
“I’m terribly serious about my acting. After I’ve acted on the stage for a few years—and I mean the real stage and not college productions—I plan to go to Hollywood. I think I have what it takes to make it big. People have told me I have talent; I know I have talent. I also have the drive and the ambition, which are just as important as talent.”
“Do you have your bags packed? That’s important, too.”
“Hah-hah-hah! Since you and Peter room on the same floor, I was wondering if you’d be willing to help me out.”
“Help you out how?”
“Well, it’s kind of a delicate situation. Keep your eyes and ears open and see if you see or hear anything.”
“Well, boys love to talk about their conquests and things. They love to brag.”
“Peter would never brag to me.”
“I know, but you room on the same floor with him. You’re bound to see and hear things. Not only from Peter but from somebody else.”
“Are you saying you want me to spy on Peter for you?”
“Oh, no! Nothing like that! I just thought that if you do happen to come by any knowledge that you think might be of any interest to me you wouldn’t mind passing it along.”
“Oh, I don’t know…”
“I’d be willing to pay you!”
“Oh, no! I couldn’t take…”
“I know this is asking a lot, but you’re such a sweet and sensitive boy that I was certain I’d be able to talk to you about just anything.”
“This is not really what…”
My phone number is in the student directory. Skippy Wellington. Call me any time, on any subject. It doesn’t have to be only about Peter. I knew the moment I started talking to you that you and I are simpatico. If you’re ever having trouble finding a date, I know dozens of girls who would be thrilled to death to go out with you!”
“Finding a date has never been my problem.”
“Hah-hah-hah! You are so funny!”
“Here’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 lips tasted like wax. I can’t say I liked it or disliked it; I was unmoved.
The bus ride home was longer than usual because it started raining and there was a wreck on the highway that caused a traffic jam. I tried to doze sitting in my seat in the dark, but just as soon as I went to sleep, somebody coughed or a baby somewhere behind me let out a piercing scream and I awoke with a start.
When the bus pulled into the station in my dreary home town, my mother was there to meet me in her ugly old Pontiac.
“Hello, mother,” I said.
“Your bus is late. I was about to give up and go back home.”
“I could have spent the night at the bus station.”
“Don’t expect me to do your laundry and cook your favorite dishes all weekend long. I’ve got my hands full with your sister and the kids. She’s left Bobo for good this time and is ready to file for divorce.”
“Same old boring story,” 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 on my hands all the time. Pixie has developed a smart-assed mouth that she’s picked up from watching TV. I’d like to wash her mouth out with soap, the way my mother used to do, but you can’t get away with that shit now.”
“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 by myself in my room at school.”
“That’s very selfish of you,” she said.
“I have some news,” I said. “Of a personal nature.”
“What is it?”
“I have a girlfriend.”
“Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s not a joke. I just left her. She thinks I’m sweet and sensitive. She kissed me as we parted. She told me that any girl would be thrilled to death to go out with me. She’s very jealous.”
“I think you’re making this up.”
“No, I’m not! Her name is Skippy Wellington.”
“What kind of a name is that?”
“I don’t know. Chinese?”
“Is she pretty?”
“She’s a knockout. She’s going to be a big movie actress in Hollywood. Bigger than Lana Turner.”
“Sounds perfect for you.”
“We’ve discussed marriage. She wants to get married right away, but I told her it makes more sense to wait a few years until we’re both through school.”
“Don’t marry the wrong person like your sister did and have a miserable life.”
“Don’t worry. You may not believe it, but some people have good sense.”
She lit a cigarette and squinted at the oncoming traffic. She was distracted by her problems and didn’t seem all that interested in anything I had to say, whether it was true or not.
Without signaling, she veered off the road onto the littered lot of a pizzeria, almost hitting a lamppost and a parked truck.
“I almost forgot,” she said. “I promised Pixie and Bucky I’d bring them a pizza.”
“Why is it that when I hear those names I always think of dogs?”
She took a couple of bills out of her purse and handed them to me. “Will you be a dear and go in and order a large pizza?”
“I have a feeling I don’t have any choice,” I said.
Against my will, I got out of the car and went inside the pizzeria and ordered a large pizza with every topping available for my niece and nephew. While I stood at the counter like a dumbbell waiting for it until it was ready, I had a muscle spasm in my leg and I thought I was going to vomit. The perfect ending to a perfect day.
Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp