Momma told him she was proud. Said she didn’t care if he dug ditches. Said he’d be the best at it. Told him not to listen to people. Folks get jealous. Real angry when they think you got it better than them. That’s what she said.
Some would call us white trash, she lit a cigarette. Trailer park trash. Same thing, she took a swig of beer. You close your ears to em. They don’t know any better, momma said. Soon you’ll be out there on your own. Away from all this, she pointed at the other trailers. Join the Army. Go see the world. You come back, we’ll still be here. Or, get a job with the State. Filling potholes. Good pay. And insurance, she knew he’d have to make a living with his hands. Just don’t let me down, she said. I put too much into you to do that, she opened another beer.
Daddy was gone again. Went on one of his trips he said. Told momma he’d be back in a week or two. Took off to another state. Some place in Iowa. He used to get letters from Davenport all the time. Laced with perfume. She’d smell em before she hid them in a drawer. He’d find them. She didn’t ask and he didn’t tell. It was a given that the old man had two separate lives. One with the boy and momma. And, another one with her. Kind of like having a split personality. Daddy kept a lot to himself.
When he was home the two didn’t talk. Father and son had no communication. He didn’t talk to momma either. It was always just quiet. Even the TV was silent. Dad would stay up all night watching a colored screen. Drinking Old Style. Smoking Marlboros. He’d work a job for a month then take off for weeks. Left in the middle of the night. Like some kind of ghost.
Mom brought home the bacon. Worked at the motel as a cleaning lady. She’d bring home small soaps and tiny bottles of shampoo. Brought home towels too. You could say she had a wandering hand. Always looking for a bargain. If it was free, she’d take it. She figured she was owed those items. Benefits, she called em.
Momma told the boy she was proud on his graduation day. Told him he could do it all. He nodded his head. Didn’t ask where daddy was. Went down to the recruiter the next day. He was going to see the world.