• • •
I Hope She Lis’ens
“I sure hope she ain’t gonna get mad with me again.”
A peaceful June night in the wooded hills of Wuester – the bugs and sleepless birds singing their omnipresent songs, the full moon shining its lustrous silver beams through gaps in the canopy, the clumsiness of a fawn following its mother across a road for the first time to have a sip of cool water from the big pond over yonder – is devastated, nay, utterly obliterated by the harsh screech of rubber tires painting the black asphalt blacker as James’s pickup swerves off the road and into a tree. Luckily and entirely out of compulsion he pulled the emergency break and swung the wagon around, else the tree would have caught the engine rather than the passenger door. The truck herself is fine, the radio’s still playin’ just fine. Silverado, a blessing from The Marshall Tucker Band. The live version, too. Just listening to it once you can feel the passion in Doug Gray’s voice. James’s gift for Brandy isn’t damaged either, which is good.
“Won’t be happy about the truck, but… I got ‘er a present, she cain’t get mad with me… right?” He shakes his head. “I hope she lis’ens to me when I tell‘er what happened.”
James disengages the break and goes about maneuvering his truck Shirley off the old oak, which is still standing, by the way. It could have been so much worse, and if James had been drinking? Good lord, if James had been drinking?
James sighs. “Prob’ly won’t even matter, we think what we want to. The truth doesn’t matter these days, not like it used to. Lord have mercy, I don’t want t’clout her one but I will if I must. Lord, I will if I must.”
Nobody’s coming this way or going that way. The deer are long gone. James sighs again. “I jus’ hope she lis’ens.”
The starved chirping of feral chickens wakes Brandy from the sleep that stole over her. She sits up straight and rubs the left side of her face. It’s covered with grooves from the ice pack and the side of the couch… oh well. Can’t look worse than it did last weekend. Still hurts like a sour pisser, too.
“Come now, bitchin’ ain’t gonna make it any better.” Then, as she tosses the blanket off and sits up, “Up we go.”
Brandy slaps her thighs and rises to her feet, then ambles slowly to the kitchen, grabbing the ice pack on the way. It’s not quite warm to the touch, but the gel inside definitely isn’t icy anymore. She rubs her face again… the lump has been gone for days, and the bruise has faded considerably, but then again it was never really the bruise that hurt. Right now it’s her ears that hurt, for the love a’God why did she buy this cheesy timer from that new secondhand shop on the other side of town?
“You know damn well why, Brandy,” Brandy says to herself as she clicks the egg timer off. A long sigh. “Because it’s right next to the liquor store, and he said he wudn’t goin’ to the liquor store no more.”
Headlights sweep past the window. Brandy’s shadow leaps across the wall.
“Speaking of the sour pisser.” She clears her sinuses into her mouth and spits the haul into the sink, but doesn’t wash it down. “See how that likes ya.”
As Brandy is sitting back down on the couch, James opens the squeaky door and climbs into the trailer with what else but a black plastic bag hanging from his fingers. He doesn’t smell like booze, but there’s only one place in town Brandy’s been that uses those black bags, and the clerk told Brandy they get them from the liquor store next door.
“Hello, Jameson,” Brandy hisses scornful just as soon as James sets foot in his home. Now, James may be the son of a James – by a technicality – but Brandy knows damn well that James is the son of no man. That spineless whore di’n’t even show up for his own son’s birth, but that’s just fine. James’s been just fine without his poppa, don’t nobody need that sorry bastard. Don’t nobody.
“Brandy, you know I don’t like anybody callin’ me that.” He hasn’t even shut the door yet. “Now I know you see this bag in my hand, and I know whutch’er thinkin’, but it’s a present. Fer you.” Now he shuts the door – first you toss the bear your food, then you get yerself outta there – and she starts goin’ before he even turns back around.
“A present? You spent our cash on a present? James, baby, we’re gonna be evicted in a week! You cain’t be–”
James reached into the bag. The deck of cards is sitting on Brandy’s lap. It’s all out in the open now.
“…you’re shitting me.”
Confusion floods James’s face like the river out back during summer storms.
“You’re drunk,” she realizes. “You’re drunk right now, ain’t you? Un… un-fuckin’…”
Brandy stands up and tosses the cards across the room into the kitchen. Then, starting under her breath and evolving into a right shriek, “Un-fuckin’-believable! ”
The black bag falls from James’s hand, the ferry of many black bags, and lands on the floor of his mobile home, the place of many black bags and more glass bottles – empties, partials, fulls alike. He approaches his woman and lifts his hand out of habit. She grabs him by the wrist and tosses him away.
“Not again!” she yells. He knows in his heart he deserves it. The wolf won’t get the boy till the townsfolk ain’t lis’enin’. The townsfolk don’t lis’en ‘til the wolf gets the boy. “You ain’t hittin’ me again, you hear that?! Get away! Get! ” Brandy’s holding the bag now, she’s whipping him with it, the flaccid mace, and how the lashes do burn like sinners a’simmer in the pits of hell, how those plastic lashes do burn! “I told you get!! ”
James trips over his feet and topples back into his kitchen, inadvertently banging his cheek on the handle of the oven. It makes a soft thud, no audible crack. Prob’ly won’t even raise a lump. Sure will leave a bruise though, and that’s just right, ain’t it? Brandy thinks it is, and the warm night air only confirms her feelings. The sight of James’s wrecked truck helps a bit, too. Only one place he could’a got those playing cards, and that’s off the neck of the bottle of liquor he had in that black bag. Shame, James was a decent man… when he wasn’t swamped.
It’ll be a long night of walking, and bitchin’ sure ain’t gonna make it any better. Brandy’s folks live down near the center of town. She’ll get there sure enough.
The light at the end of the tunnel brings James to his kitchen. His face is sore, hurts like a sour pisser in fact, but he’ll be fine. Can’t be worse than the egg he raised off the side of Brandy’s head last weekend. Sure, Brandy came at him with a knife, but James will be the first to tell ya that he shouldn’t have shoved her into the knife block in the first place.
“Hey Brandy?” James calls out, but she don’t answer. James didn’t think she would. “She’s a strong woman, she’ll be okay.” His hand falls on the deck of cards, Christian Brothers Brandy VS cards still new in their funny plastic wrapping with a hole where the neck of a bottle might go. He knows Brandy doesn’t drink, but he thought she’d get a kick out of them. Her name is Brandy for God’s sake, and all the cards have different Brandies on ‘em! It’s a good joke!
“Oh well… that secondhand shop had to get ‘em somewhere. Maybe they’ll sell ‘em again.”
James stands up and looks around at the cataclysmic mess of clothes, garbage, and other human miscellanea strewn about his trailer park home. “Maybe they’ll take some more stuff, too. Doubt she’s comin’ back, she don’t have much here. I can bring her stuff to her folks’ place on my way to the secondhand shop.”
He goes into the living room and plops onto the couch. “Yeah, we could both get a new start tonight, Brandy. Hell, who knows what could be in the cards?”
This has been the fifth story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~