This trailer ain’t but so big, and with four girls, it’s all I can do to keep them from fighting every day. It’s summertime, hot, and they mope around, a hurricane of blonde heads, whining, complaining about how they’re bored, painting my toenails and hogging the TV. Otherwise just being pests.
If only I’d had a son. Junior would understand, appreciate the inner workings of a big block engine, play pitch and catch in gravel. But none of these girls—Johnni, Charli, Bobbi, and um, uh, the other one—want to do anything besides fuss. I’m done.
It’s been building for a while now, so as Brittany waltzes in the door, I just leave.
“Where you going?” she asks with a smirk, like something’s funny. I shake my head and bust out the door, lighting a Winston against the breeze. My fingernails painted pinker than the toilet. Four girls.
I just start walking. Figure I’ll go to Crazy 8’s and have a beer and come up with a life plan. I shoulda hit up Brit for a few bucks before I left but screw it, no going back now. I’m free. I pick up the pace, swinging my arm to loosen up the stiffness.
I sit down and order a draft, stewing about how life isn’t fair. I play with the bracelet Bobbi made for me. I got hopes and dreams and a trailer full of reasons why none of it’s coming true. Mainly Brittany, always on me about a job, badgering me to call Uncle Carl about that shift at Georgia-Pacific. Can’t she see I’m better suited for something else? Something bigger?
The bar is empty, save for a couple old timers in the corner, poking around at that picture hunt game. Good, I’m not in the mood for talking. I think back to high school, when I had a million-dollar arm and Brittany had a figure. Then prom. The backseat of my Mustang. Then Jonni. Then Charli. Then Bobbi, then Whatchamacallit.
I’m about four beers deep when I decide my new life will start tomorrow. Russ and Wes walk in, laughing about me being there.
Crazy. That old Gnarls Barkley song hits the speakers. Takes me back to senior year. They used to wear this song out when I was on the mound. Brit in the stands, shaking her perfect tail and screaming for her All-Star boy. After the game we’d all go get hammered back on Old Cow pasture Road. We had it made.
I knock back my suds and Brittany plops down on the stool. Purse on the bar, spilling out snacks and a pacifier. “You didn’t make if very far.”
I shrug, waiting for her to come down hard on me, right in front of the fellas. Then it dawns on me that Russ and Wes never have women coming to drag them home by the ear. Never have women period.
I pick off a mile-long blonde hair from my shirt. “Where are the girls?”
Brittany licks her lips, rolls on her chap stick the same way she used to put on lipstick. No wonder we got four kids. She puckers. “Next door, at Enda’s. Nice nails.”
I display my hands on the bar. Brittany tosses the chap stick into the abyss of her purse. When the kids came, Brittany had no problems swallowing down her dreams. But mine still sit on my plate, like vegetables, getting cold.
“You want a beer?”
She shakes her head, staring straight ahead at our reflection behind the bottles. Her profile cuts through the dark, hazy bar. Adorable the way her ears wiggle with her smile. I think maybe she does still have a dream or two left. “Come on, have a beer with me.”
She shrugs. “Can’t.”
A shiver runs down my back. Crazy. I shake my head, chuckling. “No way.”
She looks at me. Fire in those eyes. I see the girl who used to dance on the bar. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Steve the bartender awaits my command. I nod and he pulls the tap.
Brittany sighs. “I’m going to keep you around, Russ. But I need you to let it go. Them days are gone. We’re right here. I need you to catch up with us, help us out a little.”
My head is shaking. “Why?”
“Because I love you, you dumb sack of shit.”
The song ends. I drain my beer. Brit goes in her purse and finds a fist full of ones and fives. Tips from her shift. “You know, Uncle Carl said that they got a softball team.”
Steve waves off the money. He looks at me. “Go.”
I get to my feet. “Hey, want to dance first?”
Britany. “Yeah, but in the kitchen. I don’t dance in bars no more.”
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