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.