The red glow from the stoplight wrapped around Daisy like a bloody veil. She leaned against the crooked bus stop sign on Airline Highway, fighting the craving for a cigarette. Crimson nighttime mist swirled about her face. It was warm, almost midnight. She listened for the low mournful horns of the boats on the Mississippi River a mile away and traveled with them down a dark twisting channel in her mind. Her skirt was hiked up high on her thigh. She was working.
The headlamps of the cars driving out of New Orleans became visible when they were still a great distance away. Daisy watched them bear down and, if the light was green, roar past her. The four lane highway ran straight as an arrow pointed west. It shot past cheap motels and all-night gas stations, then sailed through open marsh and prairie all the way to Baton Rouge. Seeing the lights come, Daisy had time to imagine who might be behind the wheel of this car or that, compose her face, straighten her tired back, and cast what she believed was an inviting look at the dark windshields. She kept one leg forward, displayed on tip-toe, in the belief that that was where men's eyes focused first. Shadowy heads suddenly materialized behind the glass, and she caught glimpses of faces, but unless someone saw her look, pressed the brake pedal, and rolled the window down, the occupant could have been a movie star or a werewolf for all she knew.
It was an underrated talent, she thought, being able to pose like this in cowgirl boots, big hair in place, smelling good, lipstick fresh, unaffected by semis grinding through their gears and the toot-toot of strangers' horns. Daisy never had to wait long.
Shortly, some pipeline worker or shipfitter would slow down. The car or the pickup truck would swerve a little bit to check her out in the headlights. She might hear the motor purring and the tires squeak. There would be that moment of suspense, while those ship horns sounded in the distance, until the passenger window slid away, when she could finally see who was in there, who was sizing her up.
Then with a shrug of her bare shoulders, she would push off the bus stop sign, take a step forward, and bend down to show what cleavage she could compress out of her purple vest embroidered with black cats and blue moons.
"How ya doin'?" was Daisy's icebreaker, if the guy was grinning or drooling too much to think of anything to say. They could usually take it from there. Drive around the block and park. Twenty minutes later, or an hour, depending, she'd be back at the bus stop again.
Daisy felt the wind blow around her legs and lift her skirt. A pickup truck with chrome pipes sticking out above the cab raced by. The boys inside screamed naughty words at her as the engine backfired. She had seen them drive by before— they were too chicken to stop. Daisy flipped them the bird, which they probably couldn't see. Anybody got too fresh, she kept a can of Mace in her boot, the working girl's friend.
The lights from a shopping center blazed in the distance. Crickets chirped lazily in the weeds that fought for life through the holes in the sidewalk. On other nights, when it wasn't so foggy, she could see the glow of downtown New Orleans in the east— somewhere above the point where the black highway met the night sky.
A car shot by like a jet taking off, and she had to reach up with both hands to hold her hair.
"Damn," she fussed, and almost failed to notice the pickup truck cruising slowly, real close to the curb, until it was almost upon her.
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