March 26, 2012
Daddy bought a rundown skating rink the summer before I started the eighth grade, recruited us kids as slave labor, cooked hot dogs and French fries, swept the floor, poured himself into it, until it went belly up the week after Spring break of my senior year in high school.
I shoulda seen it coming when he went back to driving trucks. He’d open the rink at ten o’clock every morning, be the last one out at eight-thirty at night, head over to the terminal, run the mail to Shreveport and have a load back by three a.m.
He told us about it in the kitchen the morning he shut her down.
“We tried hard, but she just didn’t pan out,” he said.
Momma sat in a chair with her hands folded, looking at a bald spot in the linoleum, her head bowed, not saying a word.
Sister took a job at Wal-Mart cleaning the fish tanks and I carried grease out at McDonald’s. Momma sat in the kitchen and worried about Daddy until she couldn’t worry no more, then moved in with granny. We didn’t see her much.
At least not until the Gift came along.
Seems Daddy had give up cigarettes and used his spare change to buy Pick Fours at the Quik Stop. One of ‘em finally paid off.
He called a family meeting at the café. Momma wore a new dress and smiled while she listened.
“The Lord give us a gift,” Daddy said. He pulled a check from the Lottery people in Austin out of his pocket.
“A hundred large,” he said.
That was Daddy’s way of saying a hundred grand. I don’t know why he gave the Lord any credit for it. The Lord ain’t never give him anything before, and he didn’t favor gambling.
Daddy put Momma in his truck and drove her to the mobile home place. She picked out a nice double wide that the mobile home people hauled to an oversize lot out in the country.
We all moved back in together, happy as pigs in mud that summer. Daddy would slip me a hundred dollar bill on Wednesdays, as crisp as a McDonald’s French fry.
I made up for my lost youth for a month or so.
Middle of August, the police stopped me. I had a joint in my ashtray, a sweet young thang in the passenger seat and a half-pound of weed in a plastic bag in the trunk.
Daddy paid the lawyer with hundred dollar bills.
The lawyer cut a deal with the DA that kept me out of the big house, but sent me to Safe P in Winnsboro. Safe P was a lock up where small time dope heads and washed up con men taught each other their evil ways and cooled their heels for a year.
The day they let me out, nobody came to get me. I hitched a ride with my bunk mate Ralph and his old lady. They dropped me off at the drive way to the double wide.
There weren’t no double wide no more. All that was left was the cinder blocks where it used to sit, an oil drum with burnt up garbage in it and deep ruts in the mud left by the repo men.
I found a plastic freezer bag taped to one of the concrete blocks. It had a note in it.
“Junior, we spent all the money. You’re on your own.”
Next to the cinder block, someone had left my old pair of skates. I tied the laces together and slung ‘em over my shoulder. When I got to the paved road, I put on the skates.
“Maybe the rink in Kilgore is hiring,” I said to myself as I skated along the black top.
(Written for The Writers Collection to the prompt “the gift.”)