Surface Design & Glaze
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At Bobby Trivette’s Grave
Category: Family Relationships
When you slam the door shut on your boyfriend’s
AT BOBBY TRIVETTE’S GRAVE is more than
High school hijinks, all this back and forth, the ringing and slamming down of the phone, Bobby Trivette’s souped-up Charger laying rubber in the drive and then the boy disappearing, angry, taking part of the lawn out with his tires when DruAnn wouldn’t skip to his yell of, “DruAnn, come on out here. You know I need you.” And when she didn’t appear, his bellow drubbed down to decent conversation level, “I need you just a minute.” He sounded a little pathetic.
Reece watched from the floor above, with the gauzy drape on his and Bev’s front bedroom window held loosely between his fingers so as not to crimp it with sweat.
“What is it?” Bev whispered, probably still half-dreaming.
“The kids are fighting.”
“Well, your spying won’t change that.” Bev rolled over, opposite to the window, away from him. Nothing new there
Beverly had gotten out of the habit of cooking breakfast. She said black coffee sustained her until lunchtime. What he and Bev saw eye to eye on had been shrinking from the start, but they still shared a taste for morning coffee, thick and
Because Reece had towered over her, she’d lift her chin, already so opinionated and smart too, somehow aware that eye contact made all the difference, and she’d dig him deep with her surprisingly strong voice. The timbre of it, even at age seven, eight, or ten, hinted at the throaty waver that would later dress up her vocals, and work the bewitching spell that enthralled Bobby Trivette.
Her pipsqueak voice pleaded over and over for a malted during what were then the endless summers of Dru’s childhood. Her “Pretty pretty please, Daddy, with sugar on top?” until he gave in. It didn’t take much: Reece toppled to DruAnn just as DruAnn collapsed before French fries
Well, then Reece would break open the subject they were all avoiding, if for no other reason than to spite Bev.
“Strong boy acting all girl-like.” He sucked the taste of coffee through his teeth. He shook his head. “Boy curling up like a worm in the driveway, making a public spectacle for all to see. It’s not right, hon.”
“You’re not blaming me, are you, Daddy? Because nobody’s making Bobby act any sort of way. He chooses the fool he wants to be.”
Her lashes darkened with the tears Reece predicted.
“Don’t upset her,” Beverly told him.
“Me?” In his house, Reece was outnumbered and Bobby Trivette was hardly worth fighting over
DruAnn’s temper seemed to guarantee at least a monthly conflict, the girl hard to please and Bobby just doing his dumb-hearted best to satisfy her
Besides, without Bobby, DruAnn would be moping, or running with Sarah and Jeanine in one of those girls’ cars, cruising and smoking cigarettes, Reece knew; though when she did, DruAnn chewed spearmint to try to disguise it
Snake low, belly on the ground low, in the dirt low.
If his daughter’s worst was sneaking a smoke, and if Bobby’s worst was smoking or drinking or even flirting with another girl, Reece could still grip the boy’s hand and congratulate him as the son-in-law he felt in his bones Bobby was bound to be. Everyone was entitled to keep secret a little to himself, and DruAnn was a girl wanting to draw you all out, every bit. Reece did not let her bore him down to bedrock with her questions, for no good could come of confessing facts that let loose pent-up harm. Bobby’d have to learn it didn’t pay to give over everything
His dad was a tough detective, even if his day job was hopping up and down out of a truck, delivering milk as part of the last-leg-home-delivery from
Paris, Kentucky had nothing but 7-Eleven, where they hiked up the price because they had you over a barrel if you were in there buying milk in the first place. You needed it right then, you forked over the dough.
No one had the luxury of home delivery, cream at the bottle’s top under the paper lid, the quarts in glass and stored in a metal box at the doorstep, ready for children’s cereal or a morning’s cup of coffee.
Reece was no milkman, only a milkman’s son whose fortunes lay in insurance, a hard-to-define subject. His father managed to dismiss the profession because he couldn’t see a concrete thing attached to it – no truck or tool or item produced by manufacturing. Reece tried to meet him halfway
“Piss-poor explanation,” his dad said. “Risk-averse flimflam.”
Answering the old man’s questions had never been easy, from present day and casting all the way back to that first cross-examination at seventeen that cut him down to size.
You can’t explain something like that away, son.” His dad, ready to hear an excuse and ready to dismiss it just as quick
“What were you doing over there, for Christ’s sake?” His dad and his third degree.
After loading pizzas for five hours, Reece was taking a short-cut, in a rush to a girl, to Samantha, who’d promised him something special if he could make it to her by midnight, and his imagination was cooking like the ovens he’d been working all night.
He didn’t see the kid dart from between parked or abandoned cars up and down both sides like stalled traffic. Boy or girl, maybe neither, maybe a dog, dark fur or dark clothes, coyote at the edge of his eye, loping. His foot pushed pedal – which pedal? – the suddenness scared the shit out of him. He wasn’t sure if he hit gas or brake.
“Kids out after midnight got no business.” His father’s misplaced righteousness.
“I wasn’t speeding,” Reece said. “I wasn’t going more than fifteen.”
“Who saw you?”
So his dad was asking for witnesses? Reece shrugged. He didn’t even see what he thought he saw, what he thought he bumped, in that alley. His mother’s cuckoo clock chimed one, two rooms away. Samantha said she’d wait, but she’d probably given up.
“Nobody saw you? Nobody stopped you?”
“Well, I didn’t wait around.” Even to his own ears, Reece sounded whiny and indignant
Regret, at the same time, coming up through the car’s floor, so it shocked the brake pedal, sent his toes tingling and punching down, STOP, SWITCH, twist the wheel, reverse, cut, gear to drive, gun it. All instinct and reflex, not a whit of consciousness or conscience attached. He didn’t remember driving home, but the car cooled in the garage like a well-ridden horse.
He faced-up his dad, ready for
“Let’s check out the Charger.” His dad turned his back on the regret he’d just demanded. Silently or with words, his method had the same intent: To ruffle Reece, to batter-ram him if he had to, to take him down where he stood and gloat over how easy it had been. Reece, frozen and awash in regret, didn’t know how to get rid of it
“The fear that’s rising up in you, pinch it off right now. No time for it.” His dad was a fickle son-of-a-bitch
“The Charger’s headlight’s busted.”
“I’ll pay for it.”
“You bet you will.” His dad sucked air through his teeth, whistled. “And there’s blood.”
Reece’s stomach curdled, all those belly juices working overtime on the crust and sauce and dregs of pizza from the late supper he’d stuffed down at Angilo’s between turning the pies and racking them in the oven. His legs went AWOL and he had to lean against the car to keep standing. Tears beat at the toughness he strove for.
“No use crying over spilled milk.” That, from a milkman. “Man’s got to face the consequences of his accident.”
“You mean actions.”
“I mean accident.” He couldn’t have made accident sound
“I wasn’t drinking,” Reece said. An unopened six-pack he’d swiped from Angilo’s refrigerated case was turning lukewarm under the front seat.
Shit, he’d been just a kid then and instead of taking the car keys, or beating him senseless or tearing him verbally up one side and down the other, or calling the police, his dad had cast him in an absurd play that exacted no revenge and demanded no contrition, peppered him with skewed questions that never got to the heart of the accident. Which it was, an accident. Unexplained and unexamined results chewed at Reece from the inside. They covered it up. And the law never came.
All that supposing, with no concrete answers. Criminal or not, twenty years later, he still couldn’t say.
Just days after the accident, he’d already changed so much his friends shook their heads as they drifted and gave him
He quit Angilo’s without giving fair notice to the old guy, went in, said, “I’ve got to be out of here, man,” and never breathed the carryout’s garlicky air again. He gave up eating pizza, and for a while forfeited beer, but repentance had to stop somewhere. All of this a contrived payback to the universe, and even the contrivance, which he meant as some sort of penance, made him feel better than he thought he deserved.
He avoided the warehouse alley and its double-parked cars, though news reports covered no mysterious hit-and-run. Had there not been blood on the headlight, and if his own father hadn’t discovered it, Reece half believed his imagination, revving and distracted on his way to Samantha, had overwrought itself and had conjured it, all dream
He worked on the Charger night and day, perfecting, in his mind, small imperfections that couldn’t be buffed out. He swallowed cheap beer in the quiet of his dad’s garage on weekend nights instead of cruising in the gorgeous automobile he babied, the car ticking of its own accord, and the bare overhead bulb sizzling now and then with the threat of giving up.
The chamois in his hand felt like a portion of skin he’d somehow peeled off his own person, then folded up and put to work, his pound of flesh.
He paid attention in classes, another hair shirt, part of his transformation, became a straight-A student, surprising his parents and astonishing his
“Swear you’ll not touch me that way or put me through that ever again,” she’d said
Evenness, equality, a common ground – they’d had this once, but now they didn’t seem to be in the same room without one or the other ceding space and retreating.
Her eyes focused outdoors on the backyard bird feeder, that window above the sink drawing her attention instead of Reece, living and breathing right beside her, which just proved the extent of the disintegration they lived with.
But DruAnn, even mooning over Bobby, she livened up their dull Finch party. Dru was their touchstone, where the two halves of their figure eight intersected and then veered off again. From the day of her birth, DruAnn fascinated and occupied Reece. The fact of her in their world, how he and Bev and the house itself shifted to balance and orbit around her, it all outweighed the claim from his stupid past.
Not to say that his memory wasn’t always threatening to pounce and demand wrestling from him. All those alley characters hidden but observant behind the dark glass of parked cars or the shattered windshields of the few burned-out clunkers, they haunted him. Reece, through the years, learned you couldn’t outrun what goes bump in the night, what you missed because your head was turned or you were fiddling with the volume on the radio.
You couldn’t outrun it because it was burned up in your eyelids. Asleep or awake, it was your vision
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