Amy Barnes: Do You Know the Mattress Man?

I crawl into Joe’s van when I turn sixteen. The Owl Creek Park oak trees are still dressed in jaundiced leaves. There are no back seats, only a stack of mattresses from dorm dumpsters and apartment eviction piles.
       It’s the edge of summer, when it still stays hot until midnight. He tells me I am hot until midnight too. I believe him; he makes me feel like a Charlie’s Angel instead of a not-yet-woman wearing wool knee socks and a St. Agnes’s pleated skirt.
       “Look, you can see the stars,” he says.
       There is only a cloudy moon roof above us. Laying on stained mattresses, it feels like there is something hidden between them, a frozen pea or a mood ring or another girl’s earring.
       “Is that the Big Dipper?” I ask.
       “Maybe,” he says.
      I catch a whiff of gas station lemon air freshener waxing his sunkissed, knotty naughty skin. I think about Edith Bunker when she was raped on “All in the Family.” She told the police her attacker asked what perfume she was wearing and she answered, Lemon Pledge. I giggled with that laugh track but Mama didn’t and kept dusting our fake lemon tree after Daddy slapped her double-knit, double-wide butt.
       I wait for Joe to sing happy birthday but he doesn’t. Instead, he traces constellations on my starched white blouse.
       “What if someone wants to buy your mattresses?” I ask.
       “You think I sell those?”
       I wonder what I’ll tell the police. Will I say, “he wore lemon air freshener?”
       As he laugh-track-laughs and reaches for me, I close my eyes and imagine Mama dusting our television console and Edith Bunker screaming lemon-scented screams and naked trees with piles of yellow Tuesday panties around their ankles.