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The Wages of Sin; or Five Things That Never Happened To Bonnie Parker

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1.

Your daddy's never quite the same after that heart attack, but it doesn't kill him outright. The doctor says he needs rest and relaxation, so you pack up your bags and move out to California. There's seamstress work there for your mama, and your grandparents send money along with their Christmas cards- not much, but enough to keep you from going under. When you're seventeen, you marry a local boy and move in with him and his parents. He works at the grocer's, and you stay at home to take care of your ailing mother-in-law and birth babies. You die just after your fiftieth birthday. The obituary describes it as "an uneventful life."

 

2.

 

Life in West Dallas is set to smother you before long, so when Roy leaves for good, you pack up your notebooks and dresses and make a run for Hollywood. You get there just in time- there's work waiting tables, but before long, a customer comes in looking for chorus girls in his new picture show. There's glittering dresses and high heels, late-night parties and dancing until your feet feel set to fall of. You like his show. He likes you, and before long you're the mistress of a Hollywood producer, sending money home to your mama- you don't tell her where it came from, of course- and drinking champagne on his house that looks out over the city.

"You'll be a star with me," he promises, and you believe him. You keep a sharp eye out for competition, flash your claws when new girls appear, and your place stays steady. He gives you a starring role, and you blink flirtatiously into the cameras and fall into a feather bed at night while he pours wine into your mouth. I've made it, you think, and for the moment, it's true.

 

3.

 

Your mama invites Ted to dinner again after Clyde's sentence is handed down, over your protests. He's sweet, brings a bunch of flowers to give her- pink roses- and chats with your mama about the job. Seems the Barrow gang is off his plate, but he's chasing down someone who robbed the grocery store on Main Street. You pick at your food and don't meet his eyes. Mama invites him to stay for coffee and cake after the meal, and he says politely that he'd love to, but he has to get to work. She praises his dedication to the job. You nod politely.

He asks you to the pictures, and you say yes because do you have anything better to do? He takes you to I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, and tells you very seriously while you wait for the film to begin about the benefits of prison labour. You like the movie; he doesn't. Afterwards, he walks you out to the car, suggesting that you go out together again sometime. He leans in to kiss you and you don't resist.

 

4.

 

The judge takes pity on Clyde and lets him out after sixteen months. He never says to you what went on in there, but his eyes are dark and hollow, and he flinches at sudden noises. He gets that construction job and climbs up far enough to get his mother and father out of the tent they're living in. There's no tracking down Roy for divorce papers, but neither of you really care; you hang on to your waitressing job, and as soon as you've got enough money, you rent a house together. Your mama is horrified, and Blanche still turns up her nose at you because you don't go to church, but it makes no nevermind to you; you're happy, and he's happy, and you don't give a damn what the rest of them think. At night, he comes home and takes off your clothes with callused hands, and you fall into a bed- your own bed, your shared bed. On your days off, you sit in the main room and write poetry that gets darker and darker as you board up the windows to try and keep the dust storms out. The editor of the paper likes the one you send him, and the Evening Journal ends up giving you a column on Mondays. Clyde tells you to write more about outlaws, and your readers seem to agree; your series on Jesse James gets you fan-mail. It's not fame and fortune, but it's something close.

 

5.

 

You rest easy. Maybe that surprises some people; some days, it surprises you. The grass and dirt are a comfortable blanket on top of you, and it's an odd sort of peace. Most days you sit on the headstone and watch people pass by, listening to their conversation. Some are here to visit you, and from them you hear about your fame in the wider world. They even made a movie about the two of you- isn't that something? Others chatter about sitting in that old car you drove, sticking their fingers in the bullet holes. You could tell them some things about those bullet holes, but don't bother. Let them have the myth; you prefer that.

There are even some who leave flowers at your feet, and that makes you smile. Folks from all over, places you've never even heard of, come all this way to see the last resting place of the famous Bonnie Parker. You watch them kneel down before your grave- before you, though they don't know that- and place the flowers, lips silently moving as they read the carving on the headstone.

 

BONNIE PARKER                           CLYDE BARROW

                         October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934                        March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934              

     Gone but not forgotten