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Trailer Trash(7)

By:Marie Sexton

He closed the cabinet door, his hunger suddenly gone. At least he still had most of a pack of cigarettes in his pocket.

“I’m going out.”

She didn’t answer.

He went back outside. The dull sounds of Kathy and Pete’s latest argument echoed around the lot, sounding desperate and pitiful. Cody sighed and plopped down on the steps. He had no idea where he was going. Back to the wagon in Jim’s cow field, or back to the gas station? He could go to the bowling alley and hang with the burnouts. Or out to the rock quarry, just so the cowboys could kick his ass. They hadn’t done that in a couple of years. Maybe this time they’d do it right and put him out of his misery.

It almost seemed like a good idea.

Jesus, Cody. Melodramatic much?

Yeah, he was laying it on thick, but it was either that or cry. The former seemed better than the latter.

He lit a cigarette and looked west, toward the highway. He imagined the distant interstate, full of people who were going somewhere. How many of them had money? How many had families in their car? How many never had to worry about whether or not their deadbeat dad sent the court-mandated payment or not?

At that moment, he would have traded places with any damn one of them in a heartbeat. No questions asked.

Nate had told Cody he’d meet him after lunch, but he ended up going to the field right after he got out of bed. It was a bit after eleven when he arrived, and Cody was already there, a half-empty pack of cigarettes in his hand.

“Wind’s still blowing,” Nate said as he sat down.

“Welcome to Wyoming.”

He didn’t even glance Nate’s way. A brand-new day, and somehow Nate knew he was starting fresh with Cody. Whatever camaraderie they’d shared the day before had been wiped away in the night.

“I hear it’s really nice up in the northern part of the state,” he said, in an attempt to make conversation.

Cody sighed and tapped a cigarette into his hand. “I hear that too. I wouldn’t know.” He tucked the rest of the pack into the upper pocket of his jean jacket and pulled out a lighter. Nate waited while he turned away, cupping his hand against the wind to get it lit.

“How long have you lived here?”

Cody blew smoke, his other hand clenching around his lighter. “My whole fucking life.”

“Well, you graduate this year, right? Then you can leave. Maybe go to college—”

“Ha!” Cody shook his head, leaning forward to put his elbows on his knees. “Yeah, right. College.”

Nate wasn’t sure what that meant. Maybe his grades weren’t good enough, or—

“There’s no leaving this town. Didn’t I tell you it’s the black hole of modern civilization? I meant it, man. There’s no escape. You’re born here, you knock up some chick, then you die here. That’s how it goes.”

“Uh . . .” Nate had no idea how to tackle that happy thought. “You’re planning on knocking somebody up?”

Cody laughed without much humor and contemplated the smoldering cigarette between his fingers. “Pretty sure nobody actually plans that. Don’t change anything, though. Gotta have money to leave, and by the time you’ve got it, it’s too late.”

“I don’t care what you say. I’m leaving, as soon as I can. Packing up my car the night before graduation and leaving five minutes after they put that diploma in my hand.”

“And going where?”

“Home, I guess, for the summer at least. Then I’m moving to Chicago.”

Cody frowned at him, and Nate hurried to elaborate.

“My aunt lives there. She’s a real estate agent, and she owns a bunch of houses and apartments. She has one she said I could use while I go to school.” Although the idea of putting in college applications in a few months turned his stomach to knots.

Cody ground out the last of his cigarette against the side of the wagon and tossed the butt angrily into the wind. “Lucky you.”

Nate studied him for a moment, taking in the ripped knees of his jeans and the way they ended a bit short of his ankles. The arms of his denim jacket left his bony wrists exposed. His tennis shoes had holes in both toes.

A small knot of shame formed in Nate’s stomach as he finally realized it wasn’t grades standing between Cody and college. He thought about Warren—windblown streets lined with lifeless, dusty buildings. No flowers. No joy. No jobs. Even the houses seemed to droop in defeat. The people he’d seen didn’t look much better. Dead-eyed women not much older than him dragging their screaming kids through the grocery store. The line of rusty pickup trucks parked outside the shitty, seedy bar on the far side of town, no matter what time of day it was.