Thomas Atkinson | Ruint Horse

Sasha took a cigarette out of her plastic purse and had trouble lighting it, probably wondering if that India Indian doctor over at the Urgent Care could sew Bobby’s nutsack back on when he showed up carrying it like a change purse. Everybody calls my dad Chief, I think ‘cause he has the same thick black hair as me. That, and when he goes on a tear to track down my mom, he always takes an old shingle hatchet from back when he was a roofer. One night last summer he showed up howling drunk with war paint on his face. It was blood and it wasn’t his and that kind of thing gets around, gets around as surely as ghosts of girls and horses.

Sasha took a deep, shaky drag on her cigarette, and said, “I’m pregnant.”

She handed me the cigarette and I took a little puff. I don’t really like the taste and I like the way they smell way better before you light them, but that light-headed feeling is kind of fun if it don’t make you throw up. Mae’s the only one who can tell I been smoking and I guess I don’t have to worry about that now.

I said, “Does Bobby know?”

She snapped, “Know what? He’ll damn sure know if it’s half black, won’t he?”

I was just wondering if Bobby knew she was pregnant, but I guess that’s not what she was worried about. I handed her back the cigarette and she slumped against the cinderblock wall and sat down in the gravel.

She took off her stripper heels and rubbed her feet, then she shook her head and said, “I don’t know. Bobby. Kendall at work.”

We sat between two of Jeri’s old rusted metal garbage cans and shared the cigarette.

Sasha said, “You got a boyfriend?”

I shook my head ‘cause I didn’t. So far, there’s only two kinds of boys, ones that think your mom’s a slut so you are too and that’s a good thing, and the ones that think your mom’s a slut so you are too and that’s a bad thing. I couldn’t think of what else to say, so I said, “Molly saw the ghost last night. Riding in the field behind her house.”

Sasha said, “She did? I never seen Sandy. Or Spite. Which is kinda weird, seeing as we’re kin and all.”

Like everybody else, but I just said, “You are? I never knew her name was Sandy.”

She nodded, “Yeah, she’s like a second cousin once removed on my mom’s side, or something. Maybe that’s why I can’t see her.”

Or maybe she can’t see her ‘cause she’s not a ghost. If she made it from Kentucky to the island, and then rested up, why would she try swimming Spite from the island to Ohio with a barge coming? But I just said, “Maybe so.”

Somebody’s noisy shitbox chugged somewhere close by, and Sasha looked up the alley behind Trims ‘n Tans jumpy as a cat. When the sound faded away, she leaned back against the wall and said, “I didn’t mean that about your mom. I know she’s got her troubles.”

I said, “I know. I’m sorry you’re sick.”

She sighed and said, “You and me both. I didn’t even know I had morning sickness ‘cause I’m puking all the damn time anyway.”

I asked her, “Does it hurt?”

She thought about it for a minute, “Hurt? I don’t know. Some days I think my liver’s going to explode. I had to stop taking my meds ‘cause they might make the birth defects.”

I said, “Birth defects?”

She laughed, but not like it was funny, “Yeah, like water on the brain or too many fingers or his head twisted around like your friend or his pee hole in the wrong place on his little wiener.”

I couldn’t even imagine such a thing, but all I said was, “It’s a boy?”

And she said, “I don’t know for sure one way or the other. Just a feeling.”

Without thinking, I said, “Will he be yellow too?”

She scrunched her eyes together, “You know, I never thought to ask. Here I been worrying about him maybe being half black, and he might be half black and yellow. What would that even look like?” She thought for a minute, “Brown mustard sitting out all day in the sun at a picnic?”

It started spitting rain, just a few drops so tiny you’d have to chase them around to get wet, and I didn’t know if Grandma would get all these girls done before all our crap and everything I cared about was soaked through out there in the ditch in front of Mae’s trailer. And even though I knew one more would take that much longer, I said, “I bet Jeri’ll still fix you up, if you was to ask. Kim could do your nails.” I held up my tiny horses to show her and wiggled my fingers.

She shook her head and blew smoke out through her nose, “Shit, prom’s gonna suck anyway.”

She rubbed out the cigarette against one of the garbage cans and fed the butt in through a rust hole.  After she strapped on her heels and hauled herself up off the gravel, she brushed the back of her jeans and said, “You won’t say nothing?”

I said, “Who to? Molly’s the only friend I got, and nobody’d believe her even if she could spit it out.”

Sasha said, “I know she’s not a retard, your friend. I seen her at school. I just said that.”

I nodded and she started wobbling across the gravel on those shoes.

She called back over her shoulder, “If you do tell anybody, give me fifteen minutes headstart…I’ll try and swim one of my dad’s Boer goats over to Kentucky.” Then she laughed that thin laugh again.

After I found a garbage can with enough room, I emptied Kim’s trash and took it back inside. Jeri was making change for  Mrs. Kincaid from the cashbox, and even though I knew she’d just gotten washed, cut and styled, she looked just like she always does, like a mom that’s been taking care of the same baby every day and night for 15 years running.

Mrs. Kincaid handed me three dollars and said, “Run that back to Kim for me, will you? And come by after supper if you can. We’re going to eat popcorn and watch a scary movie.”

Molly’s idea of a scary movie isn’t all that scary, but Mrs. Kincaid buys that ‘Theater Butter’ popcorn and if I can find a way over there, it’ll sure beat the hell out of watching Mom do whatever she’ll be doing if she shows up, ‘cause that can be a scary movie.

On my way back to Kim, I heard Mrs. Kincaid say, “You got a special little grandbaby there.”

And Jeri said, “Yeah, grandbabies are God’s gift…if your fucking kids don’t kill you first.”

That’s when I heard the first hard rain against the front window.



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