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Trailer Trash(8)

By:Marie Sexton

Maybe Cody was right. Maybe there was no escape.

Nate cleared his throat, trying to think of something that hinted at hope. “My mom always says, ‘Despair is anger with no place to go.’”

Cody chuckled and put his head down. He ran his hands through his straight black hair. “I guess that makes me Despair, then.”

“My mom also says, ‘When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.’”

“Oh yeah? Well, my mom says, ‘If the world didn’t suck, we’d fall off.’”

Nate laughed. He wasn’t sure if Cody had intended it as a joke or not, but either way, Nate couldn’t help it. Cody looked over at him in surprise.

“Well,” Nate said, still laughing a bit, “at least I know where you get your cheery disposition.”

Cody blinked at him once as if trying to decide how to take that comment, but then he gave Nate a grudging smile. “And I guess I know where you get yours.”

“Yeah.” Now it was Nate’s turn to duck his head in hopes of hiding his expression. It was true his mother had always been happy and upbeat. Right up until May, when she’d walked into Nate’s bedroom and casually told him she was leaving his dad.

“Your mom sounds like some kind of brainiac or something.”

“She’s an English teacher.”

“Will she be teaching at the high school?”

“No.” Nate couldn’t look at him. He twisted the class ring on his finger, watching the way the sun glinted off the light-blue stone. “She didn’t move here with us. She’s still back in Austin.”

Cody didn’t respond right away, and when Nate finally glanced up, he found Cody looking at him with more compassion than he’d seen from him before. “That sucks.”

“You have no idea.” As soon as Nate said the words, he realized maybe he shouldn’t have. He didn’t know anything about Cody’s family situation. It was possible Cody knew exactly how Nate felt. He wondered if he should apologize, but Cody didn’t seem bothered.

“When I was a kid, it seemed like I was the only one whose parents were split.” Cody looked toward the distant motion of the highway again, as if it held some kind of answer. “People were always asking me why my last name was different from my mom’s. Used to piss me off. But the older I get, the more it seems like the norm, you know? I don’t know if there really are more divorces now, or if it’s just because I’m more aware of it.”

Nate had always known about divorce, but he’d always assumed it only happened to kids with fucked-up family lives. Somehow, he’d thought the “broken home” came first, and the divorce second. He hadn’t quite realized the divorce was often what made it “broken.”

“I guess I thought it couldn’t happen to me,” he said.

He hated it. Hated his life and his parents and the fact that he was now one of those kids. He hated coming home to a house where his mother’s music wasn’t playing. He hated having to do his own laundry and the fact that there was never a pot of soup on the stove or a batch of cookies in the oven, and the fact that he never, ever woke up to pancakes and bacon for breakfast. He hated knowing he’d taken those things for granted for so many years. And more than anything, he fucking hated Wyoming.

“Hey,” Cody said, and when Nate looked over at him, Cody smiled. “When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.”

Nate tried to smile back, but failed. “I only see the dark.”

“Me too.” Cody nudged Nate’s knee with his own, and this time, Nate did manage to smile a little. “Guess it gives us a reason to keep looking up.”

They spent a stupid percentage of the next couple of weeks sitting in the middle of a goddamn field, smoking until their throats burned.

“Seriously,” Nate said sometime during their second week together. “What the hell do people do around here?”

Cody lit a cigarette from a book of matches, shaking the used match to extinguish the flame, as if the wind hadn’t done it already. “You got a gun?”

The question alarmed him. “No! Why would I?”

Cody shrugged. “Lots of people shoot squeakies in the summer.”

Nate blinked, trying to wrap his head around that sentence. Lots of people shooting was scary enough to begin with. “What the hell’s a squeakie?”

Cody squinted at him. “You know. Squeakies.”

Nate could only shake his head in bafflement, and Cody rolled his eyes before elaborating. “What, you don’t have squeakies in Texas?”

“I guess not. What are they?”