Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Maria’s Story Pt.1

Maria heard the stereo first. She sat in the dark out on the porch because she wasn’t sleep­ing. She wrapped her hands in her son’s favorite t-shirt and smelled him when she could no longer cry. Inside, her broth­er Neto and his wife had gone to bed hours ago, worn out from their own tears and con­sol­ing her. After the twang and thump of coun­try west­ern music she heard the big engine of an old pick­up truck revving her way. She looked out to the road and saw the head­lights between the trees of the near­by peach orchard. How did she know the truck was com­ing to her? It came.

The truck missed her dirt dri­ve­way and pulled up onto the small lawn in front of her small porch, hold­ing her in its lights. The music blared. The engine revved, then chugged, sput­tered, and final­ly gave out. The driver’s side door squeaked open. The music obscured the swear­ing and bang­ing com­ing from the cab of the truck. Neto came to the front door won­der­ing what was going on, still half asleep. Maria told him to go back to bed, she would take care of it. He hes­i­tat­ed, but then went back inside. She saw a shit kick­er cow­boy boot dan­gle out from under the truck door.

How about turn­ing off the lights?”

What?”

YOUR LIGHTS.” It felt good to yell.

Fuck NO.” The stereo vol­ume went down instead. The brights went on.

She shield­ed her eyes with her hand. Though they had nev­er spo­ken before, she knew this man bet­ter than she knew why. “Come on down old man. What’re you afraid of?”

Bullshit.”

She sat down again. She put her head in her hands. She made a wish. He would lose all sense and dri­ve his pick­up over her porch, through her, crush­ing her entire life. She could see the house explod­ing in thou­sands of cheap, old, bro­ken, overused pieces. The trucks lights went out.

Aw shit.” He was on his hands and knees on her lawn in front of his truck. His expen­sive cow­boy hat, bat­tered and ripped under his right hand and a bot­tle of expen­sive whiskey under his left.

You okay?”

Kenneth Sneed looked at her. The habit­u­al spite and mean­ness in his eyes, the only things unblurred by the liquor. “Hell no.” He sat up on his knees, dropped his hat and pulled a drink from the bot­tle. “How ’bout you?”

What do you think?”

He turned his head quick­ly into the night air to the left and snort­ed, hawked, and spat. ” ‘Scuse me,” he mut­tered. Then he took a del­i­cate sniff of the air. “Peaches, there. Gettin’ old, one more sea­son, maybe two. Those are Trot’s. No doubt.” He turned back toward her and looked at the ground in front of him. She thought he might be sick. “No doubt, he’ll get three good sea­sons out of ‘em. Maybe four. He’s got the touch, that boy. Things just grow around…” He waved his hand in the air. “Not me.” He drank again. “My Daddy’s got it. Son’s got it. Skips a gen­er­a­tion.” He sighed and looked at her almost kind­ly, “Yer’ boy woul­da been a seri­ous busi­ness man, but not much of a farmer.”

Like his grand­fa­ther.”

That’s right.” It was the first time Ken Sneed had ever admit­ted that Tomas was his son’s child. “Maybe not as big a bas­tard.” He drank still more. Maria cringed at the way he gulped the whiskey down. “Definitely not. I’m the biggest around here.” He swayed on his knees. He held the bot­tle up in the moon light. He had worked his way to the bot­tom third. “Nothin’ but tears left. I come here to fight, but all I got left is this. The tears. The bot­tom of noth­ing.” And he drank again, spilling as much down his chest as he drank.

You came here to fight me old man?”

I dun­no.” He slumped over on his knees, one hand in the grass. He wouldn’t be able to hold him­self up much longer. He looked at her and forced his eyes open wide. “You sure are pret­ty though.”

Maria didn’t move even though her eyes start­ed to hurt with the heat of still more tears. They looked across the lawn into one another’s faces until all they rec­og­nized was the reflec­tion of their own grief in the oth­er.

Ken Sneed’s col­lapse was almost com­i­cal in its sud­den­ness. He rolled onto his back and looked into the sky. When he spoke again, his voice was awk­ward­ly clear and loud. “I saw him once. More than once. But one time… I saw him play­ing base­ball. It was god­damned beau­ti­ful. I wasn’t much at sports, but I played hard. And I saw him. He did it the same way, but he hit and went into that base. Better ‘an me, but like me too. I knew he was Trot’s.” He laughed. “No one’s as seri­ous as a Sneed about a game.” And the laugh­ter ran sud­den­ly dry.

Why didn’t you say any­thing?”

I planned to. I planned to…but…” and she thought he passed out. And then he ram­bled, but Maria nev­er for­got it, because it sound­ed so impor­tant to the man. “I know he did it. Got us good. He knew too. Knew about you. Knew about Trot. Cut me in the blood and the dirt. That fuck­er, but he… shit… screwed him­self too. Now I know some­thing, don’t I? Don’t know how cold a bas­tard I’ll be. Cut me. Cut me off in the blood. The dirt too. He’ll feel the one gets him…” And then he was out, lost to the whiskey, his grief, and the night. And Maria could feel her­self crushed under the wheels of his tears, the porch and house explod­ing as he drove those words through her overused and now emp­ty life.