Kevin Joseph Reigle

Roscoe in Slabtown

I came home from work and there sat Roscoe in front of his trailer surrounded by garbage bags. I tried not to stare as I parked in the dirt driveway to my shotgun shack propped up on a concrete slab. Most of the houses and trailers down here in the hollow were built on slabs due to the constant flooding. That’s how the place got to be known as Slabtown.

Even though the sun started to tuck behind Rarity Mountain, I could still get a decent look at the old man sitting in his dirt yard, weeds sprouting up near the trailer. I tried to do a quick count of the garage bags, but there were too many and I didn’t want Roscoe to catch me staring. Whatever was going on between him and his old lady, had nothing to do with me.

After a shower, I sat down at the kitchen table and drank a beer while flipping through my phone. Amy still hadn’t answered my texts. I thought about calling, but last time I did, it went right to voice mail.

In her old bedroom at the back of the house, a few boxes were still filled with toys and trinkets. A torn poster hung on the wall of a pop princess who probably had her last hit twenty years ago.

I dropped the empty beer bottle in the trash under the sink. I looked out the kitchen window and saw Roscoe still sitting in the yard. He hadn’t moved since I came home.

It was no use trying to pretend he wasn’t out there, so I went outside and sat down beside him. “You alright?” I asked.

“I suppose,” he said.

“You had me worried.”

“You couldn’t have been too worried.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Cause you sure waited long enough to come check on me.”

He wasn’t exactly wrong. I reached out and felt one of the garbage bags. It must have been filled with clothes. Roscoe didn’t try to stop me. In fact, he just scanned the yard filled with bags.

“Roscoe, is this all your stuff out here?”

“Sure is.”

I looked at his trailer. The driveway was empty, and the windows were dark. It was in rough shape. Even the twilight couldn’t hide the age of the siding or the rotted wood of the makeshift deck. “Where did she go?”

He shrugged. “She took my money and left. She’s got my social security checks. I guess I need to get them sent somewhere else.”

“Umm, yeah, I’d say that’s probably a good idea.”

“I gotta go get my address changed.”

“Do you have someone that can help you?”

“Maybe my daughter.”

“Where’s she?” I asked.

“No idea. She’s always liked her mother.”

“Listen, Roscoe. It’s getting cold. Do you have someplace to stay?”

“Nope. She locked the trailer and took my keys.”

“Why don’t you come over and we’ll figure out what to do?”

“I sure would appreciate that.”

I helped Roscoe up, knees teetering as he took his first steps. My palms pressed against his back in case he lost balance. The short distance across the gravel lane could have been miles with as slow as he walked.

As soon as we got inside, Roscoe sat down on the couch and turned on the television. He wasted no time before screaming at Coach Cal and the Wildcats. Whatever worldly problems were going on outside vanished as the blue and white attacked the basket. I grabbed him a beer, and he took it without looking away from the game.  

“You said something about a daughter?” I asked.

Roscoe put the beer bottle on the coffee table. “She don’t like me much. I can’t imagine she’d help me out.”

“What if you call her and ask?”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t got my phone. It’s in one of those bags out there. And before you ask, no I don’t remember her number. It’s saved on the phone.”

I looked at the front door. “You probably don’t know which bag it’s in, do ya?”

He took a swig of beer and didn’t dignify my question with an answer. Instead, he just went back to watching the game. I looked at my phone and that’s when the idea hit me.

“Do you know your phone number?” I asked.

“Of course. What do you think I am, some kind of idiot?”

“What is it?”

He gave me his number and I punched it into my phone. While opening the front door, I pressed the green button and an instant later, ringing echoed from his lawn. It took me a couple tries before I ripped open the right bag and found Roscoe’s phone buried under several shirts and a carton of cigarettes.

Roscoe was still watching the game when I came back inside. I handed him the phone and he found his daughter’s number. When he lifted the phone to his ear, I stepped away.

At the end of the hallway, the door to Amy’s bedroom was open. I must not have closed it earlier. Walking back, I could faintly hear Roscoe. That was a good sign. At least she answered his call.

Realizing he might be on the phone for a while, I stepped into the bedroom and sat down on the mattress. There were no sheets, just the bare mattress on a creaky box spring.

A child’s drawing on construction paper pressed between the headboard and the wall. Two torn pieces of tape stuck to the corners. A smiling stick figure with outstretched arms reached for an orange sun with the words, I Love You Daddy scrawled in blue crayon.

My phone vibrated with a text notification as I picked up the drawing and placed it on a sealed cardboard box. The message was from Amy and said, Hey Daddy.   

Kevin Joseph Reigle’s short stories have appeared in Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Pensworth Literary Review, The Dillydoun Review, Bridge Eight, Prometheus Dreaming, Bright Flash Literary Review, The Yard, and Drunk Monkeys. He teaches at the University of the Cumberlands.