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 ClareGraith.com for more info in the author.