A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Get the Story Straight – Roady Series Episode #28

There are times when it might be better to quit on a day, just turn in and sleep until the sun comes up again. That’s what I should’ve done after I got my car back. Instead, I let my growling stomach take me to the back corner table at Steak N Shake.

Anne slides into the booth as soon as she puts in my order.
“You didn’t go to work today?” She asks.
I tell her the car story but she’s not buying it any more than anyone I’ve tried it on. Next person who asks, I’ll tell the truth straight up. Anne looks at me like she’s trying to decide if she should push for more information. I feel like she’s peeling back my skull and peering right into my brain.
“Look, I was out drinking last night. It was dumb. I’ve got a hangover.”
She mines my brain a little more. What is she thinking? I need to know. I can’t stand the wordless inquisition. “I’m a loser, Anne. Not the kind of person you want to be with. I don’t know why you’re interested in me anyway.”
Her face turns red, a message I don’t need words to understand. “Tyler Rowan how can you be so stupid?”
“I said it was dumb. It’s the first time in almost a year.”
“Interested in you? Is that what you think? Like you’re some kind of flavor of ice cream?”
My mouth drops open. “What?”
“Do you know what that sounds like? As if I go around kissing anyone because I’m interested in finding out what it’s like?”
“I…but…I meant that…”
“I know what you meant. This is nothing to you. We’re nothing. Just a flash in the pan to see how bright it gets.”
“No, Anne. Did you hear me? I got drunk. What is someone like you doing with me?”
“So, now I’m with you?” She stands up. “No I’m not. You’re right. Don’t come back here, okay?”
She doesn’t even give me a chance to answer before she’s gone into the back room.
This day is lining up to be one of the worst and it isn’t over. I get my order to go, stuff the egg sandwich into my mouth, then wash down some home fries with lukewarm coffee and call it breakfast at noon. At least I don’t feel like throwing up anymore. I make my way back to the house, park in my usual spot and stretch out to sleep with Roady happily squished at my side. I’m not ten minutes into closing out the day early, a fine plan on this ugly day when Liam hangs his head over the open window.
“Why you sleeping instead of working?”
“Why did you skip school today?”
He looks away. “It was Junior’s fault.”
“Well you skipped work.”
Time to come clean. “I drank too much last night.”
Liam’s head shoots up. “What? You don’t drink.”
“I did and I’m sorry I did it.”
“I hate you,” Liam yells then runs away.
Maybe I should have told the car story one more time.

Read from Episode 1 by choosing “Roady Series” category. Tyler is a fictional character by Clare Graith. See for more information about the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Crashed Lunch – Roady Series episode 9

Without warning, my life gets a whole lot more complicated. Isn’t that way it goes sometimes? I was living without anyone caring if I woke up each morning. I could go a whole day and no one around me would know my name, twenty-four hours, alone in a crowd. Now every where I turn there’s someone else who knows me and not everyone greets me with a smile.
I take JJ to the Steak N Shake. I need to do something nice for this kid since when we left Mom, she was crying and so was he. I’m out of tears. I’m long past letting all this get me down, or maybe I’m already there so nothing can knock me lower. Honestly I never ask myself if I’m happy. Why poke at a house of cards? One wrong move and the whole thing is liable to come down right on top of me. What sense is that? Better just take each day as it comes and see where I end up. I’m not sure where this day is going.
When the waitress comes to take our order, I can’t believe my eyes. It’s Anne Mason but not the Anne Mason I remember from high school. Her black straight hair is twisted up in a clip, but strands hang down around her model sculpted face of cheek bones, small chin, perfect soft nose. She has on a cute apron and her white shirt is modestly buttoned. Right at her throat though, is a pendant of a bird resting like a guard over what is below. I look back to her dark eyes and notice they look red and tired.
“You ready to order?” She looks at me a second. Does she recognize me? Her eyes widen just a bit but she doesn’t smile, not the reaction I was hoping for. She looks to JJ. “You’re one of the Lewis boys?”
JJ looks at her then says, “I want a hamburger and a chocolate shake.”
She doesn’t write anything down. Then she looks at me. “I know who you are,” she says. “Tyler Rowan.”
“Yeah, I know you too Anne.” We had a few classes here and there over the years. She was super shy. Had a crush on me but I was with Linda, except for that one summer she went to stay with an aunt in Michigan. I remember at the Fourth of July town picnic when it got dark, all my friends left me sitting in a folding chair while they went off with their girlfriends. I looked over and there was Anne on a towel by herself. Naturally I started talking to her which was a chore at first because she would just say,’yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’. So I got up and went to where she was sitting. When the fireworks started, we watched them with just a few ‘wows’ and ‘that was a good one’. When the show was over. We were the last two people still hanging around while the rest of the crowd was already in the parking lot, getting into cars. She told me I was nice to sit with her and I said it was nice to sit with her which made her laugh.
“But you and Linda are still an item, right?”
“Not for the summer,” I said.
“How does that work?”
“I’m not supposed to ask her what she did and she’s not supposed to ask what I did.”
We both laughed at that and I wondered for a minute if I was going to score a kiss.
“Seems like you got the wrong end of that deal,” she said. Linda’s brothers were walking across the field. I’ll never forget her words before I got up and went to fold my chair.
“I know you don’t have it easy with your stepdad and all, but I think you’re one of the bravest guys I know.”
For a long time those words sustained me. I forgot them. Now, Anne is staring at me, clearly not thinking encouraging words to tell me.
“Your mama killed my boyfriend. Did you know that?”
My mouth hangs open for a second. “No, it wasn’t her, it was the other guy.”
“Did you see the wreck? They had to cut Bobby’s body from her car.” Tears are streaming down her face. “You’re going to have to leave. I can’t have you near me.”
JJ starts crying.
“I’m sorry,” I say to Anne. “Really I am. Bobby was a good guy. We’ll go.”
Anne nods before she turns away and runs to the restroom.
I pull JJ to the exit kicking and screaming. The manager comes out and gives me a dirty look.
“We’ll go through the drive thru,” I tell JJ. “Stop crying like a baby.”
This shuts him up fast. But when we get in the car I don’t go back. JJ seems to forget. It’s been a hard day for both of us so even though he doesn’t seem interested, I go through the McDonalds drive through and get him a kids meal and me two cheeseburgers from the dollar menu.
I’m going to run out of money pretty quick. I’ve tucked away forty dollars, hidden in the seat cushion. This is the cash I’ll need to get out of town. I can’t touch that no matter what. I need to know that this is all temporary. I haven’t been home for two full days and already I’m in the middle of all the muck and family drama I worked four years to pull myself out of.
“You’re nice,” JJ says from the back seat as he stuffs French fries into his mouth.
Well, that’s got to count for something.

DON’T miss another episode in this series, subscribe now! READ Episodes 1- 8 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog.
———————————————————————————This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info about the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Only Once – Roady Series episode 8

Hospitals are not on my list of favorite places. There’s the whole idea of the balance between life and death that smells like antiseptic. Not a terrible smell, just a smell and I’ve only been down a hall and up an elevator and I’ve had enough of it.

“You arrived at the right time,” a nurse tells us. “She just moved out of ICU.” She takes us to the doorway of Mom’s room. Her bed is next to the window. There’s a woman with grey wiry hair in the first bed. A young woman sits in a chair next to the bed. They’re looking at something on her I-pad. Jason bounds past them knocking against the bed. I look at the floor and apologize for his energetic entry.

Mom has her leg in a mint green cast propped up on bolsters. A jagged cut with black stiches follows her jawline. She is pale nestled in white cotton blankets and IV attached to her arm.

“JJ!” she says trying to find the button to raise her bed. Jason pulls himself up to stand on the edge of her bed holding unto the railing. “Mama,” he says. “Are you going to die?”

“No, Honey. I’m not. Come get a hug.” But it’s not a hug, it’s a hand on his shoulder. “Get off the bed now,” she says. He eyes a package of crackers on her nightstand.

“Can I have those?” he asks.

“Yes, JJ go ahead.”

Jason busies himself with opening the crackers. Mom turns her eyes to me.

“I told Stan I didn’t want him to call you.”

“Well, he did.” I can’t look her in the eye. Jason has taken a seat in the chair. I go to the window and open the curtains. The parking lot it dotted with small trees, people walking, cars. I look back to Mom. She has her hand over her eyes. She’s crying.

“I am so sorry,” she says wiping her nose with her hand.

I take a deep breath. “What happened?”

“It was not my fault,” she says.

“I’m not talking about the damn accident,” I raise my voice just a bit then turn back to the window.

“There was another car. It went through the red light, not me.” She continues with her story. “The motorcycle was in front. I knew that. The other guy, he swerved to miss the cycle and hit both of us. It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react.”

I watch as an ambulance pulls in, lights flashing. Someone else having a bad day. It disappears from view leaving me to guess what’s wrong. Maybe a heart attack or someone hurt on the job? Makes me think of Dan, how he was rushed to the hospital because I lifted those boards with the fork truck without checking if anyone was near, without calling out a ‘head’s up’, without taking the time to restrain them with the safety ropes. Dan said later that he didn’t blame me. That it’s happened before. That he should have had his hard hat on. But I know, no matter what he says, it was my fault because I was buzzed from a night of guzzling whiskey. Why was I drinking? Because my application for a scholarship to go to college was rejected. I might as well have thrown myself down the stairs for how far off track I put my life with that stupid thinking. I have not had a drop of alcohol since.

“Tyler please,” she says. “Look at me.”

I turn around. “Is it because I left?”

“No!” she says emphatically. “No. Tyler it’s not you. It was only once anyway. My bad luck that the other guy ran the light. Really. Just once.”

I’ve heard this kind of talk before. It’s once and never again until the next ‘once’. “Is it Stan and the beer, the cigarettes?”

“I hate beer and no, I’m not smoking.”

But I can tell the way she says it, she’s doing both. I shake my head. Jason munches on crackers, swinging his legs.

“I guess there’s no point to us having this conversation, is there?”

She puts her hand over her eyes again. “Tyler please don’t think bad of me. I’m hurting. I need you to believe me. Please.” She lifts her eyes to me, red and watery.

“Don’t cry Mama,” Jason says his voice plaintive and sweet.

He sounds just like me at that age.

Read this series from episode 1 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. ————————————————————————————— This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info about the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Too Hot to Handle – Roady Series episode 6

No one minds that Roady sits at my feet. I watch the dryer spin as though if I look away, it will stop. Liam is transfixed on my face. I reach in my pocket and hand him three quarters.
“Get yourself a snack,” I say pointing across the room. He finally breaks his stare and wanders over to the vending machine.
All of a sudden there’s a baby wailing. It’s Linda with the baby on her hip and a huge bag of clothes over her shoulder with another one that she’s pushing with her foot. She’s about to drop the screaming baby as her foot gets tangled in the drawstring on the bag. I dash over intending to grab the bag but to my dismay, it is the baby that ends up in my arms. The baby stares up at me mid-scream and then buries her wet face on my shoulder.
“Oh my gosh, thank you! This bag was throwing off my balance. I would have dropped her!”
I do not want this baby nuzzling her snot into my shirt. This can’t be happening. Linda starts to laugh. “Looks like you have another shirt to wash.”
I reach for the bags, and hand over the baby. “Don’t you have another one these?”
“Yes, my little April flower. She’s with Jake. You know I married Jake right?”
“Yeah, I know. Congratulations.” I move away and drop the bags at an open washer. A long table divides washers from dryers. Liam has taken my place watching the cloths spin eating nacho chips one at a time from a small bag. Those blankets have to be done soon.
“I’m here most every day,” Linda says from the other side of the table leaning just so, that her V-neck T-shirt shows off what she’s got bound up in her bra. I can’t help but look. She knows. I don’t really want to flashback to those summer nights down by the lake but there’s no stopping it. We had a spot on a thick carpet of moss. Had a blanket hidden in the hole of the oak tree. When it was hot we could swim in the lake under the moonlight. Doesn’t get any better than that. “We’re in an apartment right now but Jake just got promoted to Lead.” She smiles with sweet innocence like since she’s talking about her husband whatever wicked thought I’m having is all mine. “He’s working the weekend shift, twelve hours a day. Stan works it too you know, in the shipping area. He helped Jake get the job. He’s a good guy, Stan.”
Liam stops eating his chips and looks over at Linda.
“What?” she says. “I’m talking about your papa but it’s all good. Don’t give me that look.”
Good thing she’s looking at Liam’s face because I’m sure mine has got a few choice words written across it.
“So anyway Tyler, why don’t you stop by on the weekend. The kids will be with Mom this Sunday so that they go to church. It’s just because she wants to show off her grand babies though, and gossip in the nursery. So what about it? We have some catching up to do.”
“I’ll be gone by Sunday,” I say. Liam throws the rest of the chips on the floor and stamps on the bag but before I can deal with him, Linda says, “With your mom in ICU still? She’s not going to be out of the hospital for a couple weeks I guess. You do know she broke her leg in like five places, almost lost a lung, and they had to take something out, spleen maybe, a kidney?”
Liam comes over to the table. “How do you know? Have you seen her?”
“Well no,” Linda says switching the baby to the opposite hip. “My aunt Janey works in the hospital. Haven’t you seen her yet?”
“Kids aren’t allowed,” he says catching a little of Junior’s attitude like a parrot.
“Who told you that? Of course kids are allowed. Every mama wants to see her kids. Makes her get better.” She flashes me a reprising look. “Why haven’t you taken them to see her?”
“I just got to town at lunchtime.”
“You haven’t seen your mother yet?”
A buzzer goes off. The clothes are done. I turn away and start pulling the blazing hot blankets out. I have to put them on the table. They’re almost too hot to handle. Lucky we didn’t start a fire. But there’s Linda with her own fire of judgement still giving me a look, like I’m a heel and for sure she made the right choice choosing a hard working, dedicated man like Jake who just got a promotion.
“You ain’t leaving on Sunday,” she said patting the baby’s back. “You come around and say Hi. It’s the least you can do after ditching me like I’m some dog you got tired of.” With that Roady makes a whimper and I realize the poor thing needs to go outside and do his business.
“Come on Liam,” I say not giving Linda another glance. “Let’s take Roady to the ball field to run around.”
We step outside and Liam says, “You did good not being mixed up with the likes of her.” How did a nine year old figure that out?

Read this series from episode 1 by choosing the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. ————————————————————————————This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info in the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Brothers Grime – Roady Series 5

“Can we go see Mama.” It’s the first time Liam has spoken. I’ve been wondering when he would talk. He’s only a year younger than Junior but nothing like him. Actually nothing like the rest of his brothers. His dark cowlick hair contrasts with their towheads.
“No kids are allowed,” Junior says. “So you’re just going to have to cry yourself asleep another night.”
Liam sulks in silence.
I don’t want to think about visiting Mom. I should. I should be rushing over there, see how she is, if she needs anything. But instead I let these brats keep me busy, getting them to wash dishes, sweep the floors, get the sheets and blankets off the beds and into the washer. It’s not till later after they are all showered that I realize, the blankets aren’t going to dry on the line in one afternoon.
“You’re a damn fool for washing blankets on a cloudy cold day,” Stan said.
“They smelled,” I said. “Probably full of fleas.” I saw some red welts on their legs when they finally got the dirt washed off.
“The only thing with fleas around here is that scrappy mutt.”
Roady has curled up under the kitchen table watching our every move.
“Get him out of my house,” Stan says.
I give a quick whistle and Roady is at my side. “I’m going to the laundromat. Be back in a few.”
The boys look at me then at Stan. I know they’re hoping he’ll order me to take them again, but Stan is unscrewing the cap of a beer, pleased with himself because it appears that I’ve obeyed his command about getting Roady out of the house.
As I take a step toward the back door, I see Junior cross the floor, go up to his father and pull the beer from his hand. He takes a big gulp.
“You little shit,” Stan says with a proud laugh yanking it back. Junior flashes me a look.
I’m not getting involved in this drama. I’m not. Junior’s face falls as he sees I’m not reacting. What does he want from me? I don’t have anything to give him. What does he think?
“Junior, how about you come and give me a hand getting the blankets off the line.”
He scowls. “I got better things to do than girl’s work.”
“He’s got you there,” Stan says sneering and handing the beer back to Junior for another gulp.
“I’ll go,” Liam says.
I head out the door before Stan has a chance to make the remark I know is burning on his lips. I hear Stan and Junior laughing as the door closes.
Liam doesn’t talk when I pile up blankets in his arms.
As we drive into town, I feel his eyes on me. “Go ahead and speak if you’ve got something to say.” I glance over at him.
“I look like you,” he says.
“That means we’re real brothers.”
I want to tell him that it’s just the luck of the draw with DNA. That he is more their brother than mine. But when I glance over again, I see a little smile on his face. Imagine that someone thinks being like me is a good thing.

See previous posts, in the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. —————————————————————————————————This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info in the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Yes, I’m a Loser – Roady Series episode 4

Nothing has changed in town except the dance school has taken over Mick’s barber shop. Guess no one gets their hair cut at a shop anymore but everyone wants their kid to dance. No threat that the Walmart will meet the same fate. The whole town is out shopping, judging by how full the parking lot is.
I’m surprised we don’t get kicked out as soon I walk in with my gaggle of dirty ducklings. I wasn’t about to make them take baths before we went out but we’re getting looks even by the Walmart people.
“Can we get this?” seven-year old Clinton says holding up a huge bag of chips.
“Put it back,”I say. We’re just getting the basics, cheap stuff that will go far. Five boxes of macaroni and cheese, more spaghetti, a few cans of tomato sauce, loaves of bread, a family sized ground beef, and hot dogs. I skip vegetables. They won’t eat them and I’m not their mama. We get two big boxes of store brand cereal and head to get some milk. Just as I’m about to hoist a gallon jug into the cart, I hear a scream of delight.
“Tyler is that you?”

There she is. I was hoping to dodge seeing Linda for the week. Let her hear I was around and leave it at that. But now she’s pulled her cart next to mine. She looks good, put on some pounds but her pretty face just looks healthier with it. There’s a baby blowing spit bubbles in the cart seat and a toddler with a chocolate bar half melted across her cheeks in the cart. “What are you doing here?” She says loud enough that a few people look our way. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming to town? I would have you over for dinner.”
She’s joking right? We haven’t talked since the phone call I hung up on.
“Mom’s in the hospital. Boys need lookin after,” I say but I’m feeling like I’m talking about someone else’s life. I’m not a family guy. I left. My life is not about ‘dinners’ and ‘looking after’ kids. I don’t belong here.
“Yeah I heard,” she says wiping both the baby and the toddler’s faces with a baby wipe from her purse. “Pretty sad that guy got killed.”
“There was a fatality?”
“Yeah, didn’t you know. A motorcyclist in the intersection. He didn’t make it.”
I’m stunned. I put the milk in the cart and don’t even catch that Clinton has added a can of whipped cream. She was high. A man died. Will she be charged? I don’t even want to think about it. My sister is in jail for possession. If mom ends up there too, who will take these kids?
“So how are you?” Linda asks giving me a smile too big for a married woman. “It’s been so long. Did you build a house yet? Go to college? What have you been doing these past few years?”
“Living. Did some things. Working out some plans.”
“Still not hitched, I see.” She glances toward my ringless hand.
“Time enough for that,” I answer.
“Sure. Looks like you’d make a good father though,” she says. The boys are all hanging on the cart waiting for our conversation to end.
“Nope. Just a brother and a half one at that.”
She shakes her head then gives me a ‘I made the right choice not waiting for you’ smile. Makes me feel like the biggest loser ever. My life sucks. She says a polite “hope your mom gets better” and goes on her way.
I see the whipped cream and put it back. Clinton starts to whimper then Jason joins in.
“Dammit! We don’t have enough money for that kind of stuff.” That does nothing to quiet them.
“She used to be your girlfriend?” Junior says. “You’re stupid just like Dad says.”
“Yeah well wait till you grow up, you might get it then.”
As we wait on the check out line, I see Junior pocket a blue lighter.
I go up to him and quietly say, “put it back.”
“Dad needs it,” he says. “He’ll pay for it later.”
“Put it back,” I say again.
“No. Dad told me to get it. If I do he’ll let me smoke his butts. He’ll leave me half of it you know.”
“You don’t steal and don’t be stupid and start smoking. Don’t you know what happens? You make a few dollars and spend it on cigarettes. Not because you want to, because you’re an addict. Is that what you want? Be a thief and craving some leaves rolled in paper?”
He stares at me, arms crossed. I reach into his pocket, and take out the lighter. Then I pick out a pack of bubble gum and say, “Get this. All yours.”
He doesn’t want to smile but I see a light in his eyes.

See previous posts, in the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog. —————————————————————————————————This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info in the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Something From Nothing – Roady Series 3

Some people get away with being obnoxious. They hold the ticket, “that’s just how he is”. The only ones validating that ticket are the poor people around him who have given up. As I look around the ‘home’ Mom and Stan have made, it’s clear that everyone here has given up and looks to me that my oldest half brother Stanley Junior takes after his pop in all the wrong ways.
“Where’d you get that mangy mutt?” Junior sneers. I haven’t seen him in four years and this is what he says? I ignore him and his father. Roady hides behind my legs.
Little Jason jumps up and puts his arms around Roady, crouching on the floor, also hiding behind my legs.
Stan tries to stare me down but then concedes to his need for me.
“Why don’t you see if you can fix something to eat? I’m all out of cereal.”
Four sets of eyes are now on me, the dog forgotten.
Why anyone would think I can cook, I don’t know. I was left to scrounge for my own meals more than once when I was their age though so maybe I can come up with something. I go to the galley kitchen. Among the bowls, spoons, and cups, are pots with crusted red, brown, and green stuff in them stacked in the sink, on the counters; evidence that at some point more than just the now empty box of Cheerios was eaten.
I open a cupboard and find a box of spaghetti. In the fridge, there’s an empty milk carton, mustard and ketchup, peanut butter, a twelve pack of beer and a bottle of wine. Dried egg yolk on the bottom shelf suggests once there were eggs. In the freezer, ice.
I boil a pot of water and cook up the spaghetti then squirt the ketchup on the whole thing. It’s an instant meal I remember well. They eat it up like it’s the best thing they ever ate.
“You need some food in this house,” I tell Stan who is on his next beer and crashed into a ragged recliner, the television now blasting a talk show with people yelling at each other.
“Yeah, get some. Good idea.”
All the boys look at me with hopeful eyes. I can’t escape that kind of focus. How can I hide that I don’t have a whole lot of cash but I can tell Stan isn’t about to hand me even twenty bucks.
“And take them with you,” Stan adds. “Lord knows I need a break.”

See previous posts, in the category- “Roady Series” – Find it in the drop down “menu” at the header of this blog.

This post is fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith. See for more info in the author.

A Day in the Life Roady Series - Tyler Back Home

Home Not Sweet Home – Roady Series episode 2

I named the dog “Roady”, short for “Road Kill”. I should have named him Roady Junior with me being Roady Senior since my mad dash to rescue the pup almost cost me my life. When I pull up the muddy driveway of Stan and Mom’s newest house, Roady whines.
“Yeah buddy, I’m not too happy about it either.”
A twisted vine with clusters of green leaves is stretching from a dry, old dogwood to the gutters of the house where it wraps around the drain spout full and bushy. Looks like poison ivy to me. I’m about to get out of my car when a rusty, rumbling pick-up pulls next to me.
“Move your damn car,” Stan yells. “Park over on the grass.”
Grass? All I can see are some patches of weeds gripping the ground, flat and broad leafed between gravel scattered in the dirt. Maybe once it was all gravel. Now it’s hard to see where the driveway ends and the ‘grass’ begins. I pull to the side and get out.
Stan walks right on past me without another word. I follow him with Roady at my heel. Inside, four sets of eyes swivel from the television and fix not on me but Roady.
“A dog!” five year old Jason yells.
Stan comes back from the kitchen with a beer in his hand. “No.”

(This picks up from the previous post -“Life Altering Collision)

Tylers thoughts

Ace to Kill

People put their trust in many things. Their money, their family reputation, the government, which side of the bed they wake up on. Anything to give them security that there is an order to the uncertainty of each day. I found an Ace of spades on the ground once. Emmie saw me pick it up. She’s an interesting person. I can’t tell how old she is. Sometimes I think she is close to my age, sometimes she looks like she’s in her forties, once I swore, she was sixty or seventy.

It’s the way she’s dressed; long flowy rags, layered and bulky. Her hair is wild and thick but then she has it pulled back from her face with a glittery clip or a bright head wrap. I don’t know what her shoes look like because they’re always covered by long skirts or billowy pants. She owns five blocks on Champion avenue. I say ‘owns’ because no one from the neighborhood will tread down that side of the road without being on her good list.

How do you know if you’re on the good list? She doesn’t throw a matchstick at you when you pass by. They’re not lit mind you, but if you get pelted, you better run. Word has it she can set a curse of boils on you in minutes. I don’t really know what boils are and I don’t have the nerve to read up on the subject. Medical books, photos of surgeries, hold no curiosity for me. Give me a book about how a suspension bridge is built or how sound travels and absorbs in certain spaces, that I have spent a day reading about.

Anyway, I’m on Emmie’s good list but that day when I found the Ace and handed it to her as a gift, she dropped it like it was a scorpion.

“That’s the card of death,” she said. “You must burn it then clean your hands with bleach or it will stay with you.”

“Emmie,” I said. “Everyone has this card in their deck.”

“Listen to me Tyler Rowan, you don’t want this card, not today.” She produced a match and instead of throwing it at me, she lit it and handed it over. “Burn it!”

So, I did right there in the middle of the side walk in front of the discount tobacco store. She nodded as a glowing edge burned its way up the paper, curling it, eating the black ace until it was a small piece close to my fingers.

“All of it!” she yelled. She put my hand around the rest as it finished. I wanted to yell and call her a crazy lady since the last of the coal burned my palm, but it was just a small burn and she looked so relieved when all that was left was ashes.

“Now come with me.” She grabbed my hand. Her cold skin soothed the burn. She pulled me down the alley to the back lot where her cart of stuff was hidden. “Put out your hands.” She reached into her cart. I hesitated. “Time is of the essence,” she said drawing out the ‘s’ sound.

Truly I was thinking I really got myself into a situation this time. She sprinkled powdered Ajax on my hands. Damn if that didn’t sting the burn. I knocked it to the ground.

“No, no, no,” she said. She grabbed my hand and poured some water on it then handed me a nail brush. “Scrub. You must get rid of the residue of that card. Do you understand?”

I really just wanted to get out of there, but she was so intent, so I started scrubbing.

“Do a good job. Listen to me. Your life depends on it.”

“Yes ma’am,” I said giving up on anything but complete acquiescence. She watched me for at least two minutes. Then poured water over my hands.

“You’re clean now. Let’s hope we got it in time.”

“I think so,” I said. My palm was bright red and pulsing with pain.

She smiled and for a moment she looked like an angel. The joy in her eyes went clear to her soul. “Just looking out for you,” she said. “Fair thee well young Tyler.”

“Yeah, thanks,” I said.

I avoided Champion street for a good month after that. When I saw her again, she threw a match stick at me. I stopped.

“Emmie, what have I done? Why the match stick?”

“Another Ace but you weren’t here. Another picked it up, but she wouldn’t listen. I saw it happen.”

“You saw her pick up the card?”

“I saw her get hit by a car.” She turned away from me.

I can’t play cards any more and not feel like I killed someone when I see the Ace.

This post is flash fiction based on the back story of a supporting character in a novel in process by Clare Graith.

Puzzle Posts

Puddle Jumper

One thing I hate is not knowing how to do something. The first time I was on a build job I was so green I didn’t know the difference between a joist and a stud. It was rough. They used me as a mule to haul things around. I hate the feeling of ignorance but at the same time every moment I learned something new. It’s like that sometimes. You have to be okay with being the dumb one. The person who stands there until someone tells you what to do. Reminds me of a bull frog I came upon once. Big, fat, out of its place in the middle of the road, just sitting there. Damn if a truck wasn’t coming down the street and I had to decide in a split second, save that sucker or watch is get crushed. I couldn’t stand the thought of how it would sound smashing against the tires, so like a dope, I risked my life, ran out to scoop it up and don’t you know he took one giant leap and was out of harms way. Meanwhile I had to throw myself into the grass, the truck driver blasted his horn calling me a few choice names. I almost died. Where that frog came from, where it went, I don’t know but there were two more lanes of traffic on the other side of the median. I didn’t watch to see if it made it across to a pond or puddle. Learned my lesson that day. Don’t ask why the chicken Or the frog or anything else crossed the street just make sure you’re not around when it does.

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