Storyglossia Issue 20, June 2007.

Timothy's Mother

by C. Robin Madigan


In the Glaring Sun


We smoke cigarettes in the sun.

We eat colored frozen ice in the park.

Timothy is what his mom calls him. He stole her Virginia Slims.

We smoke in the sculpture at the park.

The rich people walk they miniature dogs.

We hang on the sculpture, smokin'.

The rich people dress like artists.

We sit in the sculpture and drink beers a bum bought us.

He told us his name was Len and that Lenny had plenty one time.

He ain't got nothing now, stupid drunk.

The sun made today hot. Tim threw up when we ran to the seven-eleven.

He walked home crying. Jon and me are fine.

His brother gives us smokes sometimes. His brother's girlfriend shows us her tits—big ones, with big nipples.

Sometimes the guards kick us out of the sculpture park. They're all black. Big too.

You know, Tim once got meningitis. He wasn't at school for months.

Shut up Jon, you know he was. No, I ain't heard nothing. Shut up.

He lost a grade to us, said he got ripped up by a mutt in an alley.

I say he got it from his mom. Dad says she's a whore.

Anyway, he ain't worth a shit. He's just a screw up.

So's Jon and me. We ain't nothin'. What're we gonna do, work at the mine?

Yeah, a couple a kids workin' the mines.

Jon says he screwed sally. She's fourteen. Her mom lets her smoke in her room.


At the Dentist's Office Above the Street


Those kids down there are always bothering people.

They have this idea they're big shots. I saw one of them almost get hit by Marcy's Chevy.

That was last week. He shook it off like nothing happened.

Yeah, they're tough. I mean they're young. They have to be, poor things.

They found a dead homeless man behind Mick's last year.

They were in the news for that. Since then they own the street.

What are the police going to do? They're twelve and thirteen.

I had a job when I was that age. I scooped ice-cream at Smilie's Shope.

Seems like those kids will never leave.

You know there're young men around here that were just like them.

Just bottomed out human beings, really. Yeah, I'm the dentist for the town. They all come to me.

You'd be surprised how good they keep their teeth.

Last year one of them got sick and Dr. Ralph told me he it wasn't what everyone said it was.

Dr. Ralph told me his mother attempted suicide and he had to go live with his aunt up on the hill.

You wouldn't have known it from how happy she looks with her men.

Well, who am I to judge, I'm just a dentist, you know.


Around the Corner at the Dime Store


Yes. Those boys are bad boys.

They don't know what's good for 'em.

You know last week they was chuckin' bottles into the cemetery, just t'chuck em.

They was just sittin on the cemetery wall, smokin' and throwin' bottles.

Coulda sworn they were devils. Heh. Yeah.

I mean, somethin's wrong, just dumb wrong in 'em.

Where you gonna go after bein' that mean? You know?

I told Tim's mother once she'd better whip that boy good so he shapes up.

She stopped coming to church few months ago. Yes. She has.

I heard she done lost her electricity over at that place.

It's a crooked house you know. Got ceilings go all which way.

Well, no, I hadn't ever been in that house, but you know Kimberly told us at the luncheon.

She said that place was a disgrace, no place to raise a boy, you know.

Yes, this is my dime store. You want a snickers it's a dollar.

No, I ain't had ice cream here for a good three years.

I should take down that sign. But it's so appealin' you know.


On the Corner with Four Men and a Mute


There ain't nothing worth havin' gonna keep you from a child.




Yessir. An' she had herself a hell of a boy, yaknow.

So, we're gonna take care of him best we can.

Yeah, well he's living with his auntie, but she's so large she can't barely move from the couch, which she got lodged between the stove and the TV in her kitchen.




Yessir. You'd be havin' a hard time getting' anything outta that whale.




Yessir. (the Mute moves and Lawrence, one of the men, pulls her near, tells her to stay in her place)

Anyway, you getcherself up there and talk to her, I reckon she'll moan some before she do, but when she does I guess you'll get the beans outta her. So, that's what I say, right fellers?





At the Barber on Main Street Next the Cemetery


We had many tragedies last year.

Susan was made wingy with the accident at the train depot. (the men laugh)

Oh, wingy means she got her arm took off.

We noted it in the ledger when Jim, her husband, came through for his cut.

Jim wrote, Jim of wingy Susan.

Now, Susan kept a clamp full of letters from the girls who meet after church.

One of the letters was a plea from Tim's mom. That's right, it was written in red pencil.

She had written it at the bowling alley by the dime store.

Yep, you just been there talking with Ester Grace.

She's a kind soul, wouldn't understand that those boys is just young.

When I was at the University. Oh, the one down the road a bit. That's right.

There were crowds of young men who had been just like those boys.

They ain't the trouble. The trouble is what bread 'em.

From dreary places those boys grew. Tim couldn'ta helped his own.

He never knew where she was, even when he was a toddler, he'd be over here with me and the boys listenin' 'til he got bored. He'd get a free cut and then he'd walk back to the lots. Yeah, the lots. That's what Ester shoulda mentioned. They had lots after world war two for the families who needed them. They were poorly built and kept caving in when the rain and hale fell on 'em.

I done some repairs with the church group, but really they was just patch-ups. I even had the university boys figure out what was wrong with they structure so's we could fix all 'em with a simple addition.

Yeah. Well, I'm just sayin' them boys ain't all bad, just bored is all.


At the Train Depot


A sign:

Please do not hold

any part of the train

or passengers

while train moves!


At the Cemetery


I been here for forty-five years.

We done had a cart made just so I could haul buckets up the incline.

Yes sir, I was in the 505th parachute infantry division.

I keep it here with me so visitors know my history.

No, I was born in Arlington, Virginia. I do know Tim.

His momma took her own life right down there. (he points with a barely extended finger)

It was a hard thing for our town.

I don't think we told the kids even yet.

Says something about the politics of this little place. Who you talked to already?

Boy, I've known Dick and Ester for years. That dentist, you ask me he's less of a man than Tim is, hah.

Anyway, I just heard she took her own life.

We buried her out by the second monument near the stream. That's just about where they found her.


Nearer the Tracks at the Junkyard


You done come up Old Plank Road?

They is out down there, blastin' in the woods.

No, yeah, I done seen 'em runnin by the tracks.

You want somethin' from the shop?

We got parts for your car. I mean, it sounded like you could use alignment.

Yeah, I knew Lina. She use to fuck all the sailors when they'd get in on the train.

Yeah, she hung herself down at the cemetery.

You ask me she got killed. (wrung his hands with a towel avoiding my eyes)

I mean there was blood all over her dress.

Kinda thing you see in the cities. Not outchere.

Looked like she got drug through barbed wire, didn't it.

Oh, shut up Joe, you ain't got a lick a sense about you.

His wife been sleepin' in late with one of the highschool boys.

No, I won't. (throws an outdated manual to Joe's work area)

Sure, we'll keep focused. Yes, it's damn hot.

Well, anyway, yeah, I was the first to find her.

I saw her from the road comin' to work, early.

It was about nine or so. Hot as hell, anyway. She was still, hanging, wavering with the heat.

I went down to her hanging there. She had on a black dress that was live with flies.

Done got sick when I saw her face. It was dark and swolled.

Well, I had Harry call the cops. Oh, yeah he's a good guy. A little quiet. Well, me and Joe's gotta move on this guy's German car. Gaddam outta town kids.


Up at Aunt Margies on the Top of the Hill




No. Whaditellya, no. You're just gonna have to go back down an ask 'em in town. I ain't tellin' nothing bout my sis an' Tim. (she spoke from behind her screen door)


No. Yes, I got it Wednesday. It's nice ain'tit. Well, I guess, if you boys want a coke, or somethin', but you're gonna halfto get it your own self. (She turned from the cracked door frame and screen door and began coughing into the living room which had an empty fish-tank, an empty birthday cake tray with large dollops of hardened frosting and empty coke cans scattered on the couch and a skinny cat cleaning itself in the sun of a window which had its blind up, unlike the rest. Place smelled like cat shit and moldy carpet.)

Cokes in the fridge.

Well, he gets in all sortsa trouble.

Yep. (a nod)

Nope. (a shake)

(We realize that with the television on she won't respond.)


Down at the Stream in the Cemetery


(There's still a notch in the tree branch—crepuscular. Flashlight casts shadows on the gravestone rows dark, like tall men, without pace to the gate. Harry's white house sits top the hill by the road. A sign reads, no swimming, by her tree. Len remarks, who would swim in a cemetery stream? Nice stream anyway. Her branch looked like the only place to hang, at least with the flashlight's light. Tape machine unimposing, Len's writing distracts. A boat down stream, two men. They come by with lamp. Hold up their fish. Nice size. Early evening. Sun's gone down for about an hour.)


At the Church


Well, you gotta understand who she was. See, because she never had a job.

She went away to Alabama for a stint and then up to Vermont with a guy.

When she came back from there she was with child.

When she had Timothy was when the problems started.

Yeah, I couldn't bear to attend the funeral. Anyway, don't interrupt me, lemme git to what she was like.

Ok, so here, you got women who are churchgoers and still have their nightlife.

You know, they can be conservative with their daytime goings about, but when it comes to the night they let it all out.

Well, she wasn't like that. You couldn't imagine how different she was.

She invited me to the brig over there, yeah the lots, and we had sangria, which I had not expected. Her place had the oddest problems. You know, slanted ceilings that slanted poorly, doorframes that didn't fit, doors that wouldn't close, her windows were all just plates of glass. I mean, really rustic.

She had just about every Poetry magazine from '61 through to '73. I mean, she was upbeat and at times very contemplative, but the most striking thing was her language.

It was, every syllable, condensed, northern and thought of. I mean, she was a thinker.

That's why it was odd that she would whore around with those men. 'Scuse my words, please.

Well, the men from the train and then the men in town that worked the paper mill, the record company, and I guess even the old propeller company.

Yeah, they been makin' propellers, wooden ones, since the twenties. Yeah, just by the bottlin' plant.

Anyway, she'd take the boys to the bar and then if they wanted she'd go home with them.

Yeah, they paid her. But, she wasn't too hard about it. She loved men.

But she didn't drink with them. I mean, she drank with me, but I didn't see her get drunk none.

Anyway, the men, some of 'em talked to my Andy, and he told me.


At Jill's Restaurant Near the Propeller Plant


Nice to meet you boys, heard a lot aboutcha. I'm Jill, this here is Candy and Tom's in the back cookin up the slop, we got Jesse who runs the food to the bottling plant, 'cuase they don't get off work for lunch.

I know, real pain-the-ass for those boys.

Well, my husband knew her. I mean, not like that, my husband's far too old for that. Besides, what would he want doin' with her when he's got a wonder like me.

Anyway, the boys would all talk about her at the counter. Nothin' bad, you know, just small talk.

They was all excited she was back from Vermont.

But then she started takin' the boys back to her place during lunch breaks. Well, the foremen got wind a' this, yeah I said it, you shut up Tom, and told the police that she was whorin' away their workers past their lunch times.

Excuse my words. There just ain't no other way to say it.

Well, then the police arrested her, but one of the buggers, I think Jonny, fell for her, and then no one would arrest her on account of Jonny's admiration. He's the detective.

So, she started making enough money to support her and her son.

That's how it worked.

Well, that's a different story.

Buy the lunch special and have a few beers and I'll let you in on it.


With the Turk, at the Barber Shop Near Jill's


Oh, m.

That's a tragedy, ain't it.

Well, she was a sinner, you know.

She couldn't find a prayer of hope in holy water when she came back from up north.

No, she learned whorin' up there anyway.

Well, me and Lester was on a turkey sit when we got news of the lady done hung herself down by Harry's tree. Yeah, it's his tree, heh, yep. Well, he bought the cemetery.

Oh, ain't he told you that one. You'd have to go back'un him for that.

But see, we was scarin' up a mess of hen's and that beard above the door is from that hunt, he musta been the confused one lost in the quail. Good eatin' them quail. Great big ole' sonofabitch he was.


At the Cemetery with Harry


Who? Oh, the turk. Yeah, well he would tell you I had a story. We call 'em turk 'cause he's really Turkish and he hunts turkey. Three generations, I think.

I know, he just looks tan, but he's really Turkish.

I bought this cemetery from the Koontz family who'd owned the last private burial ground in the south.

They'd owned it and ran it since the late eighteen-thirties.

People weren't too happy when I purchased it.

No, I'm not affiliated protestant or catholic, raised Quaker, but lost that in the war. Maybe that's what was underneath what they told me they was so upset about.

Oh, and I'll bury anyone, don't matter me none.

Well, they said—here, have a drink, no, it's just gin—well they said that I didn't have no family to run the place after me, so it was irresponsible for me to run it. I guess the turk was just rubbing it in because his uncle was the one who was loudest about me running it.

Yeah, I couldn't really understand it myself. I bought it right after the war and they was about to sell it to the state, and lord knows what woulda come of it then.

But, you know, I couldn't let a little bungalow like this go for state property, and they wasn't selling it for much. I received all the family's money when my parents passed away. I was in combat.

Well, dad died of botulism and momma died of loneliness.

Just as simple as that, the way it goes.

Anyway, that money was enough for the down payment.

And people gotta keep dyin, right? So I got enough income to pay the bank, which after all this time . . . I still am—paying the bank.


With the Boys on Saturday Evening


We got a new guy.


Eddie broke into Lawson's gun shop. Stoled a knife.

I didn't tell him steal no gun, he woulda shot hisself.

He ain't the smartest.

We got down stuff my daddy stores in the cellar.

No, he mends leather bags and shoes and such when he ain't at the grocery.

He bags.

He's a failure just like we is.

No Tim aint comin' 'round no more.

You hear what his mom did?

Well, she's livin' up in Vermont and she don't send him no money at all.

He livin' up at Trissell's with his Auntie.

No, it's one of them gated-communes or whatever.

Yeah, communities.

No we just gonna hang out in Eddie's alley and play ball.

No, we can see. They's a street light, lights up the whole rim and all.


The Once Great Landowner Mr. Kemp


Back in here we got the photos of boy's first fish.

He done caught it some back the trail of Marcy's land.

Good hole's backs in that wood. Said they couldn't fish there.

Tim did. Good littl'man. Uses my pole.

Says it pulls a little, and the string's old but he cought the biggun'ere.

His momma use't leave'em with me up here.

You gots you a smoke.

Yeah, I done learned all 'bout her.

She done hung'erself near Wood Crik.

Well, ya'can't keep whorein' less you'se whore.

An' she's a saint.

Back in here we got Tim's first grade 'ports an'such.

You . . .

Yeah, I done kept it all for him here, so's he had a place, yaknaw.

Marcy brings it.

Whydn'tcha leave you can't stand me none?

Alright then don'tchya judge me none 'count yo' standa'ds.

We should sit a bit out back'chere.

Loose door, creaks-a-bit.

They's what's left of her belongins. Tim done brought, here an'burned it.

Hell, I let him. What'cha want me steppin' all up in'is when I can't keep my own none?

Alright, boys, I'll be fine, you jus'close thedoor ontheway out.


A Retiree at the Bowling Alley Next the Dime Store


But you know, she was caring, really.


I was romantic with her. I'm old, but she knew that old people are people, you know.

Well, that's not really your business, but I guess for the importance of your work, she'd read Baudelaire to me and we'd make love.

She enjoyed Baudelaire so much, and read it mostly in a man's voice, like she was taking on a character who was in the text, or the narrator.

Man, she was just gorgeous.

No, Tim was a good little guy until he met the boys he's with now. Oh, he ain't?

Well, he. He knew most everything she did, and so young, but knew as well that she loved him and was doing it for him. I mean, I'd like to think she was doing it for me, but really, I paid her well, and she made me feel well, once more.

See, 'cause the boys here just ain't got nothing. Really, I mean, you look around this place and it's only out that's gonna do them any good, you know?

No, there's no social organization but schooling and the schooling is the pits. If the college kids come over and teach it's usually a little more inspiring, but those nuns at the catholic school are pretty cumbersome and the public school teachers are mostly nitwits who chose the profession as a fall back.

Yeah, I taught for thirty years at the Bridgemont school. No, it's a bit out of town, they're a boarding preparatory school.

Well, I'm not going to get much better of a break than the taxes here, and boy, the restaurants are cheap. You wouldn't get it.

It's all we need, you know—us old guys. We need a little contact with people, a good meal and a book.


In the Glaring Sun


Sally showed us her tits after she heard Jon's sister did.

They were small. Not like Jon's sister's.

Jon didn't look away this time.

Sally went up to Jon and started kissing him.

She put her hand on his crotch and made him feel her up.

She told me she saw it in a movie.

I call her now. She tells me what she does to Jon.

No, I ain't seen the movie. She told me she couldn't watch after awhile.

Her momma let her smoke in her room, but won't let her watch sex scenes.

Yeah, Tim came back for a bit.

He got fatter. Twelve.

I'm thirteen.


Around the Corner at the Dime Store (Kimberly, Ester's friend)


Well, if you ask me Tim's Auntie isn't taking much good care of him.

So, I been waitin' to see any signs of abuse so I can tell the girls at church.

Oh, yeah, they can help him.

Well, they know Margie and how she keeps a house.

We see her at the supermarket.

The one over on Delmont Avenue.

Maybe what should happen is the sheriff should let the boys do their work, find out if Margie was treatin' him bad before his momma done hung herself, god bless her soul.

No. Things are doin' fine here. Well, we could always use more business, but you know.

Copyright©2007 C. Robin Madigan