Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo Day 19

Shit, Chalmers thought. Today is going to be busy.

Before too long, something of a party had cropped up. A roomer came down with a 12-pack. Six men hung out at the dining room table, drinking beer, laughing, passing a joint and a beer. In the side room sat a couple men and one woman, slouched an easy going on a couch, nodding in and out. Some assisted others with needles, tapping arms and thighs, or pelvises, looking for a good vein. Bent spoons, rubber bands, the usual doper's array was strewed about on the couch and nearby on the floor.

Bea, Gerald and Jeramie played quietly in a corner of the living room. Jeramie's diaper drooped, perilously close to falling off. Bea still had a ways to go before she could feel comfortable changing a diaper. The children knew from long practice that when grown-ups came around, they either had to hang out in the living room, near a laundry basket full of toys, or in the bedroom with Mommy.

All these strange, loud men made Bea nervous. Chalmers did his best to keep the children apart from the traffic and tumult, but rarely acknowledged them when he was doing business other than to check on their whereabouts every once in a while.

When Misty pulled into the driveway, she could tell her house was active. Although the shades were drawn, she could tell the light was on in the side room. She knew what this meant. And there were a couple extra cars in the lot she was unfamiliar with. One had taken her spot, right next to the back door. She bit her lip nervously and banged the meat of her palm against the steering wheel as she turned to park in the last spot in the row, closest to a decrepit garage, its door open, permanently fixed at an angle, a pile of leaves and garbage collected at the black, open maw.

Misty hated the garage. It was the most stark and vivid reminder of the poverty they lived in. "Somebody's going to end up crawling in their and dying," she told Chalmers once. "And nobody's going to notice until the smell gets too bad."

Chalmers scoffed at the notion. "Not even that Crow motherfucker'll go in there," he said.

As the crew piled out of the van, one of the roomers, a burly, red-faced, Irish townie drunk, Steve, offered to help carry Misty's groceries. She smiled and thanked the man. Two others picked up the rest, and they hurried to the door to let her in. She stood in the kitchen, directing them where to put the bags on the counter.

Misty couldn't bring herself to call herself friends with any of the neighbors, but she took comfort in that, despite their many afflictions and addictions, they would look out for her in an emergency. And all of them, maybe out of fear of reprisal from Chalmers or because they were too old to care, or, maybe, as Misty would like to suspect, out of the kindness of their hearts, but all of the housemates treated the only woman resident like a queen. Some, like Steve and Mackey, even called her "Ma," which made her feel old, but also warm inside, as if, despite all the strife and negativity and confusion, she fulfilled a time-honored role as house matron, a role she relished. Weekly rides to the commercial strip on the outskirts of town were part of this role. And for her neighbors part, they were always grateful, offering up crumbled up dollar bills and coins to help pay for gas. Their offers of gratitude were a stark contrast to Chalmers, who was often gruff and short-tempered, quick to order her around, but rare with a kind word of encouragement. She was used to Chalmers's ways. Her own, often-absent drunk of a dad was the same way.

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