Honky Tonk Woman or-

How Does a Nice Girl Like Me Get to Be a Semi-Nekkid Opportunist


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"The lady, then she covered me in roses,
She blew my nose and then she blew my mind."
-The Rolling Stones

I suppose the best thing we can do is start at the beginning. My name is Chantilly Rose-"Chantilly" like "Chantilly Lace", and "Rose" like the flower. I came from a sneezy little town in Arizona called Arid Sands. You read that right: "sneezy." Arizona, as some of you might know, is largely desert-like, and once upon a time, doctors recommended that their hayfever patients move there. Arid Sands, in fact, started out even marketing its housing developments in the '20's mentioning that particular fact. Then came the Depression, and as a part of New Deal politics, there was an irrigation project down our way. Kept a lot of folks working, but one of the side effects was it greened the town up. To make matters worse, one smart fellow decided our little burg needed to be brightened up some-you can imagine what he did. He got a bunch of flowering trees planted. Sometimes folks in small towns get ideas like that. Anyway, with a bunch of allergy sufferers...

You get the idea.

Anyhow, all of that irrigation project/tree-planting stuff happened a good long time before I was born. I just gave you the history because it might go a ways to explaining one of my more unusual quirks. Or then again, maybe it won't. This is my story-and I'm the Semi-Nekkid Opportunist.

I started out life in the usual way, you know, part of a family, mother, father, brothers, sisters-the way most people do, I guess. We were called the O'Hankyhans. Well, the name was O'Hanrahan, but my whole family was pretty much strung out on handkerchief usage-yours truly included, albeit not in the way the rest were. See, the whole lot of them were, and I exaggerate not in the least, some of the sneezingest people you could meet. From late March right on through to mid-October, there was something out there working on them. My first words may have been "Bless You." The sound of repeated sneezing was the backdrop of my early existence. But I myself never did. Peculiar, actually. In fact, it was odd enough to my Mom and Dad that I may be the only kid ever taken to the doctor to try and find out why I * wasn't * allergic to anything, but I digress. The point is, I got used to the sound. And I guess I feel kind of awkward without it-the sneezing, I mean. And since I don't sneeze, for whatever reason (although I've since discovered some things that make it happen-but they belong to another story), I've tended to go looking for company that does.

That is to say-male company.

That's right, I'm getting to the "Semi-Nekkid Opportunist" part. See, the not-sneezing thing wasn't the only way in which I differed from my family. I also was always...different. Yeah, I know, there was an elaboration-but the best I can say is "different." Less clothed-more forward, and into trouble more often than not.

You see, while other young people went sowing their wild oats, I was sowing ragweed. Other girls may have stuffed their bras with tissues-not me (never quite needed to, as the luck of the genetic draw had it, I was taken care of in that respect)-I used hankies for the sake of my dates. And there were many. Oh the things I did-well, I won't go too deeply into my youthful indiscretions. But I was a tough little customer in those days where those boys were concerned. Demanding. There had to be flowers, corsages for the dance, roses for the bouquet, perfume. The poor uncomfortable things, how I used to probe them for what exactly might set them off! And how they would eventually reveal their triggers just for the opportunity to probe me!

A girl could certainly get herself a reputation doing what I was doing, and I guess you could say I did. But it was a reputation that I never minded, because it got me the attention I craved. I was one out of ten kids, not exactly the scholarly one, showing no especially huge talent-but I got known for being the "wild one" of the bunch. It wasn't a reputation I set out to achieve-it just came naturally. After-date parking in secluded areas, meadows, what have you, frequently led to tending to the "needs" of my watery-eyed dates. You can't blame me for being sensitive to a man with a plight.

And that could have been all there was to it-days of wicked stares from jealous girlfriends and nights of endless runny-nosed, hot-blooded boys. But all that was about to change once I got myself an after-school job. In some ways, I still regret my excesses in this respect, but in some other ways, I have this one dark cloud to thank for what, for all intents and purposes, has been a damn enjoyable life.

There was a distinct limit to what I would and would not do for an after school job, as you can well imagine. I was the type of girl who knew her own mind from the earliest age, and I recognized that I had virtually no inclination to any service-oriented occupation (well, possibly save the one which is generally not legal in 49 of the 50 states). The big problem with honest labor is that I am, as the Bard would put it, "But indifferent honest." And so I needed to find a job that had "something in it for me," beyond, of course, a paying wage.

And so I took employment as the evening receptionist at the local allergist's. Don't laugh, simply dream; I had access to files. My sweaty little paws were now in place to find the hot buttons on everyone in town, thus enabling me to indulge myself in one of my favorite recreations-namely, eliciting sneezes from the cute, twitchy noses of any boy I wanted!

I went too far, of course. Like the man says, with great power comes great responsibility, and I was too young then to use my knowledge wisely. There was an episode involving a particularly offensive cologne and several members of the high school football team-and this led to my being summarily sacked. It was but the least of my abuses, but the one that got the most attention-after all, a girl can haul kittens into Sunday services to bust up the choir, or send flowers to random gentlemen to produce fits in them and suspicion in their wives, but if she interferes with football! Now we have a scandal on our hands. It was such a to-do that I was barred from graduation (which, being an outdoor event, I had been looking forward to), and was sent my diploma in a plain, brown wrapper.

People in town weren't especially nice to me, as you can imagine. I was talked about behind my back, but worse, I was getting some personal in-my-face flack. The coach's wife (and I hadn't even done anything with the coach, much) even went so far as to call me a "semi-nekkid opportunist". Which hurt at first, but I guess it fit.

My family was quiet through all of this-they quite gave up talking to me. In fact, all I heard out of them was the usual sneezes, but they'd even found a way of sneezing kind of coldly around me. I was pretty much no longer welcome around town, and I was about to pack all my things and leave, but before I rode myself out on a rail (okay, Greyhound), my Gramps got a hold of me. He was the only other member of my whole family that wasn't constantly sniffling, etc., and we always got along real well, but all the same, I feared the "talk" that I'd always dreaded, more or less suspecting he'd tell me what I myself imagined-that I was adopted (my sneezelessness having given me a kind of paranoia about my origins). But instead, he simply sat me down, and sighed.

"Lordy, girl, you are so much like your Grandmother."

At this, I pricked up my ears-Grandma! She was always something of a mystery amongst us grandkids, none of whom could remember her clearly. She'd run off some years ago, and we'd always kind of kept mum about it. But the old man's eyes misted, and I prepared myself to hear his story.

"Your Grandmother was one of the most...damnit, she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. You look like her more than anyone else. And I reckon you take after her in some other ways, too-she was a free spirit, your grandma.

"Now, you wouldn't know this about me, the way I am now, but I used to have the worst allergies-the rest of the family! Bah! They wouldn't know a good sneeze if it bit their noses in half! I sneezed year-round. And in those days, we didn't have soft, nice hankies-damn it. We were poor. I blew my nose into burlap sacks-and it hurt too! My nose used to look like a 'Stop' light. And I'd have sneezing fits-fits, mind you, not those little ten-in-a-row things, fits! If you can imagine, going to school, uphill both ways, blowing my nose in a burlap sack, when one of those, thirty, forty-in-a-row-jobbies..."

It took me a good two minutes of throat-clearing to get the story back on track during this-throat-clearing being a fairly common sound around our household.

"Well, like I was saying. It kept me out of WWII. But during the war, I had the opportunity to do some of what I'll just call wild-catting. That's right-your Granddaddy could cut a rug in those days...and one of the swingingest joints west of Phoenix was a little place called 'Bart's'-but there was an establishment with a reputation-all bad. I had some reservations about going, but all the fellas said-'Look here, O'Hanky'...that's what they called me in those days-they said, 'There's a girl there who shimmies better than cousin Kate,' which was kind of old-fashioned even for then, but we were retro before retro was cool. But they promised me that the missy could jitterbug. And I liked a neat, fleet, complete little jitterbug.

"But it was late August, and by now, you know what that means."

I nodded, slowly. Like any dedicated sternuphile, I paid attention to the changing allergy seasons and particularly noted the subtle over-laps. The periods when any persons affected might be affected. Late August was the boom period-right up there with cold and flu season-which is, although messy, good for your wet, drawn-out sneezes, with extra congestion. If you're a connoisseur, you know the kind I mean.

"I was a wreck, and we didn't have pills that would do anything for you in those days," he went on. "So I just did what anyone would do-got extra snotrags into my pockets, made sure I looked reasonably decent beyond the red nose, and made off for 'Bart's.' Make no mistake, I was a wolf in wolf's clothing. A very inexperienced, virginal kind of wolf. I was nineteen, and I wasn't used to the kind of place this was. There was cigar-smoking, and cussing, and if my eyes weren't watering, my ears were burning! And then I saw her!

"If you can picture...the mystery of a Greta Garbo, but with the sultriness of a Lana Turner...or...maybe, a touch of Jean Harlow...well, I can't necessarily explain what she looked like, because I wasn't seeing anything all that clearly. My eyes felt like two hot little burning coals in my head and I'd been rubbing them all night, and of course, I had a few whisky and sodas in me-which is never good for the nose. But they bolstered my confidence, so I walked up to her. And then I got a whisk of her perfume! Well, you can guess what happened next! I'd been on the verge of a sneezing attack all night, but just a whiff of her, and I was gone! I got as close as her...décolletage...and then, my head snapped forward before I could ask her to dance."

And then Gramps did an amazing thing. He imitated what he had done that night-


For fake sneezes, they were fairly compelling, and for an instant, I could see exactly what Grandma had seen all those years ago. Forty-five years rolled away, and I was struck with the image of a convulsively sneezing boy in a zootsuit, not quite succeeding in asking a woman to dance.

"Before I'd even whipped out my handkerchief to avoid nailing her, she was dabbing my nose with the lacy thing she had in her bodice. It was hardly sturdy enough for the job, but during her efforts, I was treated to a good look at," He paused to think about what he was about to say, and thought the better of it. "Well, maybe you don't need to know that about your grandma, exactly. She whisked me up to her room above the bar, and tended to my nose the rest of the evening. And I resolved then and there that I was going to marry that woman. And I did."

He began to look a little wistful then, taken away by the memory. His face fell, and I put my arm around the old man. After a while, he collected himself, and patted my arm.

"I miss her, at times. We had a good life together, and she gave me three lovely children. I can't complain. When I turned forty or so, though, my allergies just up and disappeared, and not long after...well. I don't need to say what all occurred. She found a good fellow with a bad reaction to feathers, and I hear tell they're living on a chicken farm, now. I have no hard feelings.

"But you...now, you're just like her...in a number of ways. The way you look, and, if I'm not mistaken, what you like in boys."

I must have turned as red as my hair when he said that, but he cuffed my chin, playfully, and said,

"No, that's a fine thing, I think. I hope you find a nice fellow, and make him as happy as she made me. But you're like her-a free spirit. And this town just isn't big enough for someone like you. So I want you to get out there, and show'em what you're made of. You got a lot of passion in you-and I think it's the kind of thing that makes the world go round. Don't let this small town get you..."

And with that, he winked, got up, and started walking away. Not too long after I'd mulled it over, I walked away, too, from the steps where he sat me down, from the house, from the town. I hitched a ride from a nice Mexican truck driver, who, no matter how slowly I said my name, insisted on calling me "Santa Rosalita". My angora sweater drove his nose crazy, and what I had in it drove everything else about him crazy...and thus I embarked on what I like to think of as my "pursuit of happiness."

Didn't take long before I was living up to Gramps' estimate of my free-spiritedness.