His hand slipped. You wonder how these things happen, why. My room at the boarding house first day I move everything to the far wall. Set off a couple a roach bombs. Ever reach into your coat pocket and feel something moving? The blind guy next door cooks his own meals in our communal kitchen. Like fucking pizza crust and bread crumbs all over fuck and more roaches than you can count. Enough of that. Take the red orange carpet outta the vacant room and put that down, add the desk and swap the better wardrobe-closet for the broken down piece of shit in my room. Doesn't look so bad now. Livable anyway.
See Marty, the blind guy making his way down the street to the little grocery store about a half-mile up the road. Damn street's so narrow, barely room for two lanes, no sidewalk out here in the sticks, no shoulder either, not even a ditch to walk in. Just gotta keep to the edge of the road, hope the cars see you and move over or hope there aren't two of 'em coming at opposite directions with no place to go. So goddamn fast and blind to the straightaway coming around that curve with all the trees, be on top of you before you know what hit you. Marty, he's used to it maybe, or doesn't know the danger. How could he, he's blind.
We're in his room cranking the stereo, playing 'Long Cool Woman' by The Hollies. The guy in the far end room down the hall comes knocking on the door. We barely hear it. Yeah, okay, turn it down. Later a fuse blows and no electricity, no lights. The guy resets the breaker box, yells down to us "your lights on?" "How would I know" says Marty. He's cool, like everybody else I ever met, he was at Woodstock. I wasn't, and most of them weren't either.
It was so hot out sun blaring down in Kentucky shimmering summer heat no shade, sweating in the heat and no breeze anywhere. His hand slipped. A great big man boy kid football player at the local high school. Big dumb brute of a kid, good for nothing except football on a Friday night. Drinking beer with the boys after the game, cool and dark in the autumn night of young life. Feeling good about the win. Poor white trash feel good about some meaningless high school game you're a part of. A part of something good, better than you, better than where you're from.
Prom night, Buddy Scumps, the big football kid, big dumb slow lineman, stocky solid as an oak and twice as dumb. No one to go to prom with. Thinking about going out getting drunk with the boys; make fun of all the stupid ass nerds who get all dolled up and go to prom with their fucking rich bitch girl friends. Thinking about Mary Solich, her pretty mouth and eyes and nose. Melt your heart to look into those eyes, that beautiful face, big round breasts and perfect legs. Jiggling breasts as she skips around school like a fucking ballerina. No way ever to get near a girl like that. No point even to think of it just to hurt yourself for knowing you're not good enough. And why be always wanting stuff that's so much better than you.
Aunt Lou has this friend at work. Not the bar, the day job at the discount store not even a Walmart. Aunt Lou scraggly blonde hair tied back but always undone like she doesn't give a shit, cigarette in her mouth divorced and always got some scraggly truck driver biker boyfriend and tattoo on her scrawny bare shoulder. Her friend at work has a daughter named Jackie who'd be willing to go to the prom with you. Buddy wondering what the fuck that's gonna be like. A girl who's willing to go out with him. Some kind a fucking loser and you can't even get your own prom date. Your mom's sister gotta find some pathetic loser at work to match you up with. Fuck it.
Squeeze into dad's old suit coat hanging in the closet for a decade or more, doesn't fit right just keep your arms hunched up so they don't hang out the bottom of the sleeves so much. Out there in the unreal dusky twilight dirt driveway and into the ratty old faded red pickup truck. Fucking dented up door doesn't even shut right. Yeah, that oughtta make a good impression. Fucking dumb hick in a beat up old truck. Maybe brush some of the dust and dirt off the seat and dashboard. Where's this stupid bitch live anyway? Drink a couple of cold ones on the way. Nice cool evening in the springtime of life. Good night for getting really drunk and maybe getting laid, who'd wanna waste it on some dumbfuck prom shit. Hanging around with all those fucking geeky nerds.
Coulda gone out with one of his friends' little sisters. Brad's little sister, Shauna. Hot little bitch all full of life and red hot ready to fuck. Only a scrawny little freshman though. Too bad. Like to find her when she's a little bit older or not but you can only do what they let you do and never what you want. And why the fuck they gotta be getting involved in your life all of a sudden and matching you up with some scraggly bitch you never even seen before. Motherfucker. Going to catch a lotta shit from the boys about this one.
Like a loose ball on the football field. Down a score and the halfback is hit so hard the ball comes loose and lying there like a fucking pumpkin right in front of you. The only one there in open space and grab for the ball in the slick wet grass and goes right through your fingers. Big dumb lineman can't even fall on a fumble. Right through your fucking hands. And lose the game on account of that.
Turn into a dumpy dark little section of town and there's a trailer with a bare yellow light bulb shining in front of the door. Oh well. Go up and knock on the door with the light bulb glaring in your eyes. She looks . . . shining like, glowing, in a dark dress and some fucking ribbon in her hair. Mowing the endless summer lawn in the hot old sweaty sun on the sloping hill. Hands slick wet on the push mower handle. Anyone else would have a rider for a ratty old yard this big. Anyone else could afford one. Teddy kicks the ball and runs to chase it.
What do you say to this girl sitting on the bench seat of the truck beside you. She's junior at school. Never really noticed her before. Some plain looking bitch who never talks and hangs around with the fat loser girls. What's her name, Jackie...Klingery, or something like that. "You look nice" he says. "So do you" she says, looking over at him. Never had a girl say that before. Wonder if she means it or just something to say. "So...you wanna beer?" "I dunno" she says "I guess so." Like she never had a beer before, goddamn. What else has she never done. Tip up your beer and empty it, slide the bottle under the seat. Wouldn't look right to toss it out the window. Not with the girl sitting there all dressed up for the prom. Geez, gotta think about every little thing.
Sitting there in the parking lot at the school, another beer and a cigarette. "You wanna go in?" he asks. "Yeah . . . sure" she says, no more anxious to walk in there than he is. But inside it's all different. Just a bunch a kids. All dark and colored points of light from a mirror ball glimmering across the gymnasium floor. A local band on the stage playing rock and roll songs that got nothing to do with a formal school dance. 'Sweet Hitchhiker' an old Creedence song you'd only hear on the oldies radio station. They do it good, and it's relaxing, peaceful. Nice to be standing there with your arm around this girl.
Theodore McArthur Scumps they call him. And two outta three aint bad, thinks Buddy. Can't do much about the last name. Little pink glob of flesh with such tiny arms and hands, little miniature fingers that stretch open and then close and all wrapped up in a little bitty blanket. They hand him to Buddy and he's scared to death he's gonna drop the little thing. But it isn't like that. He's so small, fits in your hands like a little sleeping puppy. Sorta naturally fits in the crease of your arm. "This is gonna be something" he tells her "something special. Not like his old man."
Quit my job at the prison. Quit and moved into the ratty little boarding house. Sent the wife and kids back to stay with my folks. Haven't told them yet that I'm quitting. Gotta pay off all these fucking bills first. How can you make that much money and still be in the hole? Marry a dumb bitch who spends more than you can make, that's how. Whoring around all the time with the kids in pre-school and me working my ass off. Gotta put a stop to it. Send 'em back to stay with my folks. That way when it all falls apart, I got witnesses on my side.
Marty typing away at the kitchen table on an old manual typewriter. Click, click, click, click. Roaches running all over hell. I come up behind him, see what he's working on. "Uh . . . Marty, there's no ribbon in your typewriter." "Ah shit. Now you tell me." Little Teddy Scumps asleep in superman pajamas, red and blue, bed shaped liked a racing car. Now running in the yard pinstriped in tiny Mickey Mantle shirt and cap squinting in the blinding summer sun kicking the ball as daddy mows the lawn.
Load up the U-haul truck and I'm outta here. Just one more day on the job to get through this one last day and then gone for good and never look back. Ron is a co-worker at the prison. My partner, my friend, he knows what's up but doesn't say anything. "You hear about the Scumps?" he asks. No, doesn't ring a bell. Oh wait, Buddy, that new guard they just hired. "Yeah, what about him?" "Their little boy, Teddy, got run over by a car. His dad tried to grab him, but he slipped away from his hand."