Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

So She Smiled

Even though she could feel the hot water run­ning out she did­n’t want to get out of the show­er. She want­ed this pause to last just a lit­tle longer.

She was a bad girl­friend. A bad daugh­ter. An over­weight woman with­out chil­dren. A waster (was that even a a word?) of water. A poor­ly edu­cat­ed home­town girl with­out the where­with­al or the guts to just leave behind the town that judged her so harsh­ly. And she was a slut.

William. Billy. Now her tears were warmer than the water run­ning down her face. He did­n’t get it, but he knew that and he did­n’t care. He liked her. He always had. Even when they were just friends-with-priv­i­leges back in high school.

Tamra want­ed to smile, but could­n’t.

The water was actu­al­ly cold now. How could it be so cold on such a warm day? She felt a deep shiv­er come up from her feet to her bel­ly and she reached out and shut the water off. She stood there and let the water drip. She squint­ed then squeezed her eyes shut to hold back yet anoth­er round of tears. Her head ached and they fell any­way.

Just keep feel­ing sor­ry for your­self. You’ll get tired of it.” It was her Dad talk­ing, the tired sweet old drunk. Was he even real­ly a drunk? She bare­ly remem­bered him now. Just the smell of cig­a­rettes and beer in the back yard where he tried to repair his col­lec­tion of mis­fit house­wares. When he died — was killed — no one came to clean all that stuff up. His lega­cy. It all just sat there under a blue tarp for years until her step father final­ly took it all to the dump. She caught him cry­ing as he loaded it into the truck. They were friends. The sound of old blenders, toast­ers, dish racks, vac­u­um clean­ers, and lamps being thrown into the back of a pick up truck is that the sound of life suck­ing?

Or maybe it’s the sound of wast­ed water drip­ping off her body. She remem­bered her step father tim­ing her show­ers in high school. Never more than 15 min­utes. “That water costs…” he’d say. His admo­ni­tion fol­lowed her into adult­hood so that she almost nev­er took a long show­er. But today…

Maybe if she knew she loved William things would be okay. Did she love him? No. Yes. Maybe. Partly. In a cer­tain light. More than Chad Hoban, the ass­hole.

But why did she com­pli­cate things by mov­ing in here now? What is she doing? She had stopped cry­ing so she start­ed to dry her­self off. Was it the way Chad act­ed last night? How was he any dif­fer­ent last night than any oth­er? She did­n’t want to blame things on that lit­tle boy in the orchard, but… the stitch­ing of spit, tape, and glue that held her life togeth­er sud­den­ly looked so clum­sy and use­less. Things weren’t hold­ing togeth­er at all. Her life was all spilling out in one long wast­ed stream run­ning away into noth­ing.

She wrapped her body in a tow­el and went into Billy’s bed­room. She want­ed to find some­thing there that would make her feel bet­ter about life, him, here, and this stu­pid day. Maybe a book or some piece of cloth­ing. A song. After look­ing around and find­ing noth­ing more redeem­ing than an old lump of cut quartz the size of a fist on his dress­er, she fell into bed. She looked past the rum­pled cov­ers and bent pil­lows to the night stand, half a glass of water, a bot­tle of aceta­minophen, and the old brass sprin­kler head Billy had found in his box of old keep­sakes. He did­n’t know him­self any bet­ter than she knew her­self and so she smiled.