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Trailer Trash(5)

By:Marie Sexton

What he actually said was, “What’s for dinner?”

“I was thinking Chinese?” It sounded more like a question than a statement. “I noticed a place on Main Street.”

“They don’t have a Pizza Hut or a McDonald’s, but they have a Chinese restaurant?”

“There’s actually a pretty rich Asian history in this area. A lot of Chinese helped build the railroads. I was in the library today, and they had a book on—”

Nate cut him off before he rambled on for ages. “Chinese is fine.”

The diner was like a trip back in time, with little individual jukeboxes at each table. A dial on top flipped the pages, like some kind of storybook, showing them the available tunes. They pumped in a few dimes, just for fun. There wasn’t much pop, but Nate picked “It’s Raining Again” and “One Thing Leads to Another.” His dad hunted for Bob Seger, but the only one they had was “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” and it seemed that one hit a bit too close to home, so he played “Down Under” and “Jack & Diane,” and for a few minutes, it was almost fun.

The food turned out to be better than Nate anticipated, too. They had sweet and sour pork, and ham-fried rice, which they both agreed was way better than regular old “pork-fried” rice. Nate’d grown used to awkward meals with his dad. This one wasn’t as bad as some, but it still felt wrong. His dad attempted to make small talk, as if nothing had changed. As if Nate’s mom wasn’t missing from the picture. As if they weren’t sitting in a ridiculously tiny Chinese diner in the middle of Wyoming, with the wind blowing outside like it couldn’t wait to get the hell into some greener state.

And who could blame it if it did?

“I saw a truck for sale today,” his dad said. “A Ford. A little rusty, but those things’ll run forever. I think it would be a good investment.”

“I’m keeping my Mustang.”

“Once winter comes—”

“I know.”

They lapsed into another uncomfortable silence. They seemed to have those more often than not lately.

“I know you don’t want to be here,” his dad said quietly. “But there weren’t that many jobs to choose from.”

“I don’t see why we had to leave Austin at all. You had a job there.”

“Your mom wanted the house, and I didn’t want to fight her for it.”

“You didn’t fight for anything.”

“I wanted you,” his dad said, his voice quiet. “I fought for you.”

Nate slumped, having no good way to tell his father he shouldn’t have bothered. Besides, he’d heard it all before. “Whatever.”

“I couldn’t stay in Austin after the divorce. I just couldn’t. I needed some distance—”

“Well, you got that, didn’t you?”

His dad rubbed his forehead. “I know you think I should have tried harder to make things work with your mom, but—”

“You didn’t try at all.”

“That’s not true,” his dad said with seemingly infinite patience. “You have no idea how wrong you are about that.”

“If you’d really tried, we wouldn’t be here. We’d be at home in Austin. With Mom.”

His dad sighed. He sat there in silence for a moment, and then he dug in his pocket, and pushed a dime across the Formica. “How about another song?”

Cody walked home from the gas station feeling uncharacteristically cheery. Yes, he’d only have a few weeks before school started and the normal social politics of high school took Nate away, but until then, it seemed he had friend. He hadn’t really had one of those in a while.

The three trailers near his seemed more oppressive than usual. One housed Ted, an unemployed alcoholic in his forties who lived alone. Vera from the gas station lived in another, with her invalid mother. And the third belonged to Kathy Johansen and Pete Jessup, who might have made a living selling drugs if they hadn’t used more than they sold. They were arguing like they always did, their shouts easily overheard through the thin walls. Cody heard a crash inside their trailer as he walked past. The only thing louder than Kathy and Pete’s frequent arguments were the trains that came through every other day, shaking Cody’s entire trailer as they passed.

Nate had offered to drop Cody off at his house. He had no idea they’d been right there, practically at Cody’s front door, but there was no way Cody wanted a rich kid from Orange Grove to see where he lived. Nate’d find out more than Cody wanted him to know soon enough.

He was surprised to see his mom’s car parked out front. She was sitting on the couch when he walked in, a cigarette smoldering between her fingers and two empty beer cans on the coffee table in front of her. She should have been at work.