Les’s twenty-foot RV was parked in the gravel drive of a little house with a sagging roof. Plastic deer nestled into the flower beds around it, among clumps of zinnias and cracked planters full of wilting petunias. Some friends of Les’s lived there with their ailing grandmother, no doubt appropriating her Social Security checks and pain meds. I’d only met them in passing, a lank-haired woman and her scraggly-mustached boyfriend.
I hated myself for being there, but I parked next to a dirty old Toyota sedan and hauled myself out of the car anyway. Fuck it, I told myself. Are you really trying to be one of those dorks with a clean life and an office job? Who are you kidding? I sank down beneath my guilt and worry, settling back into the comfortable hog wallow of my ignominy as I mounted the stairs of the RV.
The door rattled when I opened it, and I stepped in, very nearly falling back out again when I found myself at the end of a pistol . . .
Tater. His real name was Willam Francis McKinny III, but he got the name Tater because he was about as useless as a potato on legs when he drank. His best friend Nick Plakowitz named him that soon after the two of them started stealing Jim Beam from Nick’s dad’s liquor locker in the basement that was set up like a pool hall. Nick poured water in the square booze bottle so his dad wouldn’t know.
Tater said, “He’s gonna know.”
“Nah, he don’t want to deal with it. He too busy with that paint business of his.”
Tater shrugged. Nick’s dad never said a word . . .
The wind won’t stop banging the bougainvillea against our fence, and the tap tap tap is beating into my skull. My eyes dart around the bedroom, but all I see are hulking shapes. I know they’re our dresser and bookshelf, but at night they look meaningless.
I spill coffee on the bed. The white quilt is stained.
How can I fix this? I tiptoe up the stairs to their kitchen, soak a wad of paper towels in the sink. I go back down the stairs, rub the paper towels into the stain. I scrub and scrub. The sun is rising; the stain is not. I lay back down on the bed. Hopelessness . . .