Rural Routes and Trailer Parks
Chad dropped the bag of crystal meth on the mattress. “Why do you keep doing this to us, Ida?”
When sobs, not words came from her throat, he smacked the wall. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Ida rolled over. Her eyes couldn’t meet his. Instead, they fixed on the blades of the ceiling fan. “He wants the money.”
“You didn’t pay?”
Ida trembled as she sat up on the bed. “Eight hundred.”
“For one bag?” Chad asked, unconvinced.
“There were more.”
“He wants it now.”
Chad looked out the window. Christmas lights glowed from the trailer next door. “As in tonight? We don’t have it.”
“I know,” Ida said as she rocked on the edge of the bed.
Chad tried to look past the hard lines of her face and remember the woman he fell in love with. He wanted to say something that would take them back before the drugs, to those warm summer nights on the porch swing at her parent’s house. If only he could find the right words.
Chad went to the open bedroom door and looked to the far end of the trailer at their daughter’s room. “I’m not allowing some drug dealer in here while Anna’s friends are over.”
“I told him. He said he’d wait in his truck.”
“Jesus, Anna. What do you expect me to do?”
“I don’t know.”
Chad half expected Anna’s bedroom door to open and for one of her friends to peek out, curious about the commotion. When the door didn’t open, sadness crept over him. He knew his daughter was accustom to late-night arguments and covering up Ida’s drug problem.
Chad stepped into the living room. For the first time, the wood paneling bothered him. Everything was so brown.
Ida’s voice caught him off guard. “I can stop, really I can.”
“This isn’t the time, Ida.”
“Please, you have to believe me.”
“Keep your voice down.”
Ida grabbed his arm. “This will be the last time, I swear.”
Chad pulled away and shrugged her off. “Stop. I have to think.”
“I’ll go out and talk to him when he gets here.”
“What is that going to accomplish?” Chad asked, pacing the living room.
Ida pulled at the greasy strands of her hair. She rolled the ends through her fingers. “I forgot to shower.”
“I forgot to shower.”
Chad peeked through the blinds as headlights washed over the trailer. “God, he’s here.”
“I’ll go out and talk to him.”
“What are you going to say?”
Ida let her hair fall, covering her bare shoulders. “I’ll try to talk him into giving me more time.”
Chad stepped away from the window. “How are you going to do that?”
Ida adjusted her shirt. “There’s probably something I do for him.”
Chad blocked the front door. “I’ve never asked you what you’ve done before. But I’m not going to stand here while you work out some deal in his truck. I’ll go talk to him.”
“No, don’t. He’ll hurt you.”
“I’m not letting you go out there.”
Ida put her hands on his shoulders. “This is the last time. I’ll get better. I swear I will. I’ll do whatever it takes. You know I can do it.”
Anna’s voice came from the kitchen. “What’s going on? Is everything okay?”
Chad hadn’t heard Anna leave her room. “Everything’s fine. Do you need something?”
“I just came out to get some drinks,” Anna said, opening the refrigerator.
Ida forced a smile. “Take anything you want, dear.”
“She means soda or water,” Chad clarified.
Anna huffed and rolled her eyes. “Dad, I know what she meant. It’s not like I’m going to steal your Scotch.”
“I don’t drink Scotch,” Chad said with a lukewarm tenor.
Anna grabbed three cans of Coke and closed the refrigerator with her elbow. “Yeah, whatever.”
As Anna went to her bedroom, the headlights moved. Gravel kicked up and pinged off the trailer. Ida lifted the blinds and looked out at an unrecognizable car driving off. Before the dome light went dark, she saw the neighbor’s son in the passenger seat.
“That’s not him,” she said.
“Who was it?”
“Someone picking up Ryan,” Ida said as her cellphone buzzed. She pulled it from the back pocket of her jeans.
Chad could see something change in her eyes. “What is it?”
“He’s not coming,” she said, lowering the phone. “Something came up.”
Chad closed his eyes. “Thank God. Did he say anything else?”
“Like when he is coming.”
Ida turned her phone so Chad could see the screen. “No, this is all he said.”
Laughter came from Anna’s bedroom. High-pitched voices squealed with delight. Music blasted for a moment, then quickly softened.
Ida locked the phone and returned it to her back pocket. “We have time now.”
“I’ll see what I can do tomorrow. Maybe I can get a cash advance on one of the credit cards. But this is it. I’m serious this time. This is it.”
Ida leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “I know, dear. I promise. I’ll do it for you and Anna.”
“I know you will.”
“I’m going to take that shower.”
Chad nodded. “I’ll go check on Anna and her friends.”
“Make sure they’re not having too much fun,” Ida said with a grin as she headed into the bedroom.
The music got louder. Chad could hear the thumping bass as he knocked on Anna’s door. “Hey in there. Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Anna’s voice called out.
Chad opened the door and saw Anna sitting at her computer clicking through songs while her two friends sat on the floor giggling. “I just wanted to check on you girls before heading to bed. Sorry if you all heard some commotion. Ida was having one of her spells. But don’t worry, she’ll be okay.”
“Dad,” Anna whined.
“I know, I know. I’ll see you all in the morning. Have fun and don’t stay up too late,” Chad said as he closed the door. Walking down the hall, he could hear the girls squeal with laughter and knew he’d embarrassed Anna.
In the bedroom, Chad turned on the bedside lamp. He took off his shirt and tossed it in the hamper. The sound of running water came from the bathroom. He adjusted the comforter and realized the bag of crystal meth wasn’t on the mattress. He looked at the light coming from under the bathroom door.
Kevin Joseph Reigle’s short stories have appeared in the Pensworth Literary Review, Bridge Eight, TDR Daily, The Yard, Drunk Monkeys, and The Dillydoun Review. He works at the University of the Cumberlands.