Brian Frazier: One Call (flash fiction)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: The Fraziers come from the Kentucky Hills with a history of fixing cars and women’s hair. My grandpa, or Pa, distilled corn liquor and raised chickens. My Papa bought and sold cars from Fancy Farm all the way up to Detroit. He visited every poolhall on the way. He was the part of the great migration and wound up working in the famous Packard Plant. I go back to the motherland every summer to Old Beulah Cemetery and visit graves and a slanted wooden shack my Papa was raised in.
“Your tattoo is fading.”
“The one over your heart.”
When I first met One Call, she thought the way I carried myself was tacky and immature; she learned soon enough with my words and conduct further exposed, I invariably tried to cover everything up. I turned on my side and faced the bare wall; she kept talking.
“Haf to get home before my kid wakes up.”
I never met the kid which was diplomatic for the both of us. We went on pretending neither existed. In some reality, One Call didn’t have a kid to go home to. The kid didn’t have a mom who left him alone sleeping while she went out fucking and utilizing the same mouth she pressed on the child’s temple before she surreptitiously departed.
She wasn’t a terrible mom. On the kid’s birthday she allowed pizza for breakfast and cherry cola before bed. “He’s alone a lot.” Better the kid slept at her crapshack than at mine, nothing here was child proof, not even the garbage disposal.
One Call wore a golden flaked bracelet with twelve tiny doves circling like a carnival ride around her thin wrist. Her boy must have bought it for her or at least picked it out with his shitty taste in jewelry. She never took it off. I watched them dangle and flutter while she buttoned up the back of her deep blue blouse.
The room smelled of piles of cashed cigarettes though neither of us smoked. The only light illuminating came from the bathroom where a plug-in saved me from pissing on the floor. I set the alarm. I pushed the button but held it too long and skirted past the fated time, having to wait cautiously for it to circle back. Time seemed to circle unexpectedly, bringing with it dispensable baggage and squandered memories.
I read the numerals back to her. Hopefully, I’d fall asleep before she started snoring. Hopefully, I’d be out before I realized she was staying.
Before One Call left, I reminded her to lock the door. Sometimes the front door impolitely swung open because of fall’s heavy wind. The Chill walked in and made itself comfortable on the broken lounge chair even the Salvation Army wouldn’t adopt and I never could get that cold-blooded, motherfucker to leave.
He was open to anybody’s dwelling but he sure as hell favored the dull, comforts of mine. My place had nothing worth hanging around; but the Chill was an apathetic breed who found solace in a smudged winning lotto ticket resting on a sewer lid.
Noisy while engineering an exit, One Call thump her way to the fridge like she wore army boots, snatching my last beer, knocking shit over because it wasn’t her shit getting in the way. On the top shelf under the dim light of the fridge was a butterscotch pudding cup, a Stroh’s, the keys to the Buick, a three-month late tuition bill and an Arm and Hammer Pure Baking Soda box, the standard of purity.
When she bumped around the creaky house it was as black as the Death Valley at midnight, so the next morning I had to pick up my own flop and decide all over again what to keep. Some people break things. Some people hide the breakables. Others don’t have shit worth breaking unless its handed down and cursed by a toothless Pennsylvanian Dutchman.
She walked noisily, not grasping walking away was about the noisiest thing you could do to a person who faced an empty wall. The alarm was noisy and in a couple of hours I had to get up, go to the job and spend a lot of time there.