the pearl

Behind The Wheel

Lucille Porteous learns to drive when she's five — her daddy sits her on his lap, puts her tiny hands on the steering wheel, and shows her how to steer and signal while he pushes on the pedals according to her demands.

When her legs are long enough to reach the pedals and she can see over the dashboard, she starts moving cars in her father's garage. The customers occasionally worry, seeing this little girl in pigtails grab their keys and get behind the wheel, but she slides the cars in with grace and agility that soothes even the most paranoid owner. It's like ballet, in a way. And she's got the skills.

She spends every free minute she has in the garage, in-between school and church and dinners with the million and one aunties that came out of the woodwork when her momma left. It's just been Lucille and her daddy for as long as she can remember.

Everyone calls her Lil' Pooch, though, because her daddy's been Pooch ever since he was a kid. She likes being called Pooch a lot more than Lucille, which they use at school, or Lucy, which her aunties try and call her. It's better when it's Big Pooch, Lil' Pooch and Pooch's Garage, the best auto shop around.


Her daddy finally falls for one of the aunties in Pooch's Senior year — like after he's spent 18 years raising up one woman's child, he can think about raising up another.

Pooch knows she's always welcome at the garage, and her daddy'd never kick her out of the house, but she still feels like she's in the way — the parking brake stuck on her daddy's life.

She signs up for the Army right after graduating, where they raise their eyebrows at her experience and promptly put her in Transportation Motor Pool.

She has a great time during her first tour of duty — all those humvees just shine after she's worked on them, there are planes to learn how to fly and boats to drive and she even gets to drive a tank once, which was way too much fun. Even the dull-as-hell convoy missions across empty deserts are still a hell of a lot more fun than working on some dumbass's beemer that he filled up with regular instead of diesel and didn't realise until the tank was empty.

It's the second tour where it starts to go wrong, because it feels like they just realized she's a woman, and they ship her back to Fort Bragg to be the driver for some general, who thinks nothing of making her come to his house late at night for 'driving'.

She copes with his grabby hands and sexist jokes through all-day Discovery Channel binges and working out new and exciting routes from the old bastard's house to Bragg, but when he corners her in his garage and tries to pin her to the back seat, she's had enough, and files an official complaint.

Which is a shitstorm. It shouldn't really surprise her, but the sheer amount of trouble she's in is fucking ridiculous. It's like she accused him of being "kinda naughty" when she was castrating white baby boys, while wearing a Hitler costume and shitting on the flag. And there's nothing she can do about it.

They stick her on the fucking mail truck, transporting files from one end of the base to the other. Which is absolutely ridiculous for her experience and not even Shark Week can get her out of the funk she's in. She's got two more years, her daddy's got another baby girl to look after, and she's got no reason to expect a transfer or a promotion or anything — just day in, day out of the same boring-ass routine.

So she builds shit in her spare time. Engines and rockets and she even works out a jet-powered car that actually handles like a dream — where 250mph feels just like 30 on the smoothest road possible.

Of course, that's when she gets caught for misusing Army property. And she's this close to a dishonorable discharge when a colonel she's never seen before steps in and says he'll take her.

She's suspicious, naturally, but it turns out he wants the best transport in the Army. And since she can drive or fly or steer just about anything, it seems like a damn good match.


She ends up really liking the team too — all rag-tag misfits from other companies that're all incredible at what they do, just kinda shit at playing the game. Aside from Clay, who's all gruff voice and badassery, there's Roque, who loves blowing shit up almost as much as Pooch loves building things that blow shit up, and Cougar, who doesn't talk much, but once shot a detonator off a car bomb from 1000 yards away, saving Pooch and the caddie she had managed to "borrow" from a Salvadorean general. Plus, Cougar always says "gracias" whenever she bakes cookies.

Pooch doesn't bake cookies often, leaving most of the cooking to Roque, who can mix spices like mixing explosives — perfect precision and amazing results. But she occasionally gets the urge, and it's the only girly thing her aunties ever instilled in her, because the wearing of dresses, the Sunday church hats and the crossing your legs and never swearing certainly didn't get through. Everyone loves her cookies too, but only Cougar thanks her for them.

They pick up and drop off other team members as necessary for their missions, a diver here, a translator there, but they eventually pick up this hyperactive super techie for good after a few years. Jensen says all the wrong things about Pooch at first, right down to even cracking a 'woman driver' joke. but once Pooch pounds him into the sidewalk a few times, he makes it up by thoroughly apologizing, then setting up weekly torrented Mythbusters marathons.

He's also the one who buys her Mojito, that ridiculous little chihuahua that becomes her good luck charm, sitting on the dashboard of every vehicle she drives. Even the Harley she "borrows" once.


When she was little, her daddy had a Foxy Brown poster on the wall of his garage, Pam Grier looking down at her like some sort of goddess of awesome. Pooch might've fallen a little bit in love with that poster as a kid.

When Pooch meets Jolene for the first time, she's reminded of that poster instantly, and definitely falls a little bit in love with her.

They meet at a family barbecue in a park near her daddy's garage, and Jolene's one of her stepmom's cousins, or something — related, but not near enough to cause problems. Jolene's got filthy bedroom eyes and a wide smile just for Pooch, and, sure, there had been a few girls from time to time — keeping it totally on the down-low and only when she felt safe enough, like high school or in Clay's unit — but nothing like this heart-stopping gut-wrenching thing she feels the minute she sees Jolene.

They end up making out behind the bleachers as the family has their annual softball game. Her daddy might be up at bat, but Pooch feels like she's scored a bases-loaded home run.


When she gets back to base, she marches right into Clay's tiny temporary office and stands in front of her Colonel.

"Directive 1304.26," she says, looking right at him. "Are you gonna bust anyone in your team for it?"

He blinks a few times. ""

She puts her hands on her hips and glares down at him. "Promise?"

Clay frowns. "If I didn't bust you for that girl in Germany, why would I do it now?"

Her arms drop to her side and she splutters. "You sneaky son of a bitch!" she finally says. "How the fuck did you find that out?"

Clay grins slyly. "The hotel walls were nowhere as thick as you thought they were."

Pooch shakes her head, laughing. "You pervert," she says. She instantly sobers and looks at him firmly. "'s cool?"

"It's fine," he says, looking at her evenly.

She grins widely. "Awesome." She moves towards the door, then turns around. "I'll be out late tonight then. Don't wait up, dad!"


The romance's a bit whirlwind, she admits, but Pooch has never felt so sure about anything like this — except behind the wheel.

Jolene is smart and funny and beautiful and an utter tiger in the sack. And totally unfazed by the fact that Pooch will leave carburetors on the kitchen counter next to freshly baked peanut butter cookies, which makes her the absolute perfect woman in Pooch's eyes.

She even gets approval from the whole team, who tease Pooch about growing up and settling down and all that, but come to her separately, at different points during the "meet the team" barbecue she's having, just to tell her how amazing Jolene is — like she didn't already know.

In fact, the only dark cloud over their entire romance is the goddamned US Army.

"You're sure they're okay with this," Jolene says, gesturing at the two of them as they lie in bed. "That everything's okay."

Pooch nuzzles her neck and murmurs an affirmation. "I told you, baby," she says into Jolene's skin. "Clay practically gave me his blessing."

Jolene smiles a little, then sighs. "But..." she pauses for a second, trying to find the words. "What if someone else is in charge?"

Pooch thinks about this for a few seconds. "Then I'd take the discharge, happily, and be with you." She kisses Jolene's earlobe. "Because I love you."

"Really?" Jolene turns to face her.

"Completely." Pooch kisses her.


One year after they first meet, they exchange rings. It's not legal, and Jolene's just listed as "roommate" in all of Pooch's paperwork, but the team is there, and so is her daddy, and it feels so much like a wedding that no one comments when she starts wearing that band of gold all the time.

A year after that, they go together to the fertility clinic, and Pooch holds Jolene's hand as they inseminate her. Jolene's got awesome healthcare at work, and Pooch wouldn't know how to cope with being pregnant even if she was in a less dangerous job, so Jolene's the best person to take on the insane and awesome task of carrying this baby.

Which means that, one month later, Pooch can't stop grinning when she receives the picture message of a small plastic stick, with two blue lines in the middle.

There's applause and handshakes all around, and Jensen starts cracking Scrappy Doo jokes, but Pooch has to admit — her life is pretty goddamned amazing.

And then fucking Bolivia happens.

This The Losers story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at