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 ClareGraith.com for more info in the author.