Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

No Trouble

Bergoyan invited William into the kitchen where he made more coffee and a single soft-boiled egg on unbuttered toast. When the coffee was ready, he brought out a bottle of Jameson’s Whiskey to “help the coffee.” William did not decline when offered. After he ate his egg, the old man returned to the story of Tommy’s mother as though breakfast were merely a complicated parantheses, “She went missing, you know.”

“No.” Somehow, maybe it was the whiskey, William wasn’t thrown by the non-sequiter.

“After they found Tommy. Once she was cleared, she left town. No one knew where.”

“Why did she come to you?”

“She knew something. She went to see Boone in jail and he sent her to me.”

“What happened?” William couldn’t help feeling that the old man was now secretly delighted he’d shown up to hear his story.

He raised his bushy grey eyebrows with more than innuendo, “She told me her secrets.”

“What secrets?”

“She told me about Tommy’s father. Not the man whose name he wore at your school – this Coates character – but his real father.”

“Who was that?”

“Your friend Tommy was a Sneed.” He made the name sound almost like royalty.

“A what?”

“He was Trot Sneed‘s son. She had had Tomas two years before she married Albert Coates. She moved away from Brenlee before the pregnancy showed without a word to her true love, but Trot knew anyway. Eight years later, after Coates left her, she moved back to Brenlee with her son and no money. Nowhere to go. Her family had disowned her when she got pregnant. She found Trot.”

“Did he help her?”

“He was married, but yes, he found her a house, a job, gave her money… His wife Sherri knew nothing about it. No one in his family was to know anything at all. Especially his father. Ken Sneed wanted no trouble with his heirs. That’s how she told it. ‘No trouble.’ He meant no Mexicans – or anyone else interesting I imagine. Trot and Maria had split because of Ken, but Trot didn’t know that.”

“What?” William began to wonder if the old man’s story would be interrupted by a soap commercial. He poured more coffee for himself and an equal portion of Jameson’s to help.

The old man smiled with nothing like delight, “Kenny Sneed sent Maria Batista away with a thousand dollars and the strong suggestion she abort. He scared her family into disowning her and they moved too. He swore he would ruin them. Get her father fired from the cannery. Have her brothers and sisters expelled from school – he was on the school board then.”

“Didn’t he know she came back?”

“Of course, but he thought the danger of Trot marrying a Mexican had passed and he didn’t care about Tomas as long as Maria made ‘no trouble.’ Oh yes, he came to her house and warned her away as regularly as he got drunk. Once a week. For three years, Maria kept Trot’s father’s visits a secret from her old love.”

“And vice versa.”

“Ah, smart boy. Yes, Trot still loved Maria, still came to her in the afternoons, but he didn’t know Tomas was his son. Not at first.”

“That would mean trouble.”

“And it did.” Bergoyan finished his coffee and whiskey and his eyes fell to his formica kitchen table, but he didn’t see it, instead the old man looked at an anxiety or pain not his own, something so powerful and yet so close to invisible that it drove its owner mad. “Maria’s secrets…” he whispered and William wouldn’t let himself guess what he meant now.