The trailer park where Mitzi and Daryl had laid their version of roots was a mangy place at best. Critters were roaming the dusty landscape day and night and it was hard to keep the baby asleep for more than an hour or two at a time. She was a wee one, she was. Three pounds and no ounces and Mitzi felt guilty as all getout that she hadn't felt a thing when the flower bloomed. No medication, either. Just squirt and shoot and there she was, being held by some fat woman in a slate blue gown and a mask.
"You wanna hold your baby, honey?"
Yeah, Mitzi wanted to hold her baby, honey. She still wanted to hold her honey, too, baby. But Daryl was out the door at odd hours these days.
The lesser among us own the same feelings we do, and it's sometimes hard to remember that when you look at them from the outside. This is what was going through Joyce's mind as she drove that dirt path in the trailer park, down to the end and then to the right and then that little dead end to the left again.
Joyce Bruhart had lost her husband a couple of years ago after 33 years of marriage. She'd gotten married when she was 17 and now the Big 5-0 had jumped up and hit her in the forehead, finding her alone with no one to say, "Lordy ain't it nifty / Joyce just turned fifty!" There were no signs in her neighborhood and no birthday cards and no phone calls. There was just her, on her most horrific of all birthdays, driving through the refuse-littered hard dirt roads of this trailer park out on the raw edge of town.
Joyce had a dead husband and no real friends and two grown kids who might give her one phone call between them once a month if she was lucky. She'd long since quit trying to understand why her kids turned out this way or why her only good friend dropped dead at way too young an age right in front of her while she was watching him mow the yard two summers ago. He had waved to her as she sat by the picture window and she wondered if he needed a glass of water. Thus, it became somehow her fault when he crumpled under that waving arm and hand and sank down to his knees, the mower still running and blowing wisps of fresh grass on him as he screamed her name silently. He disappeared into the lawn and then she placed him even deeper a few days later. That was the first time she'd seen her children in almost two years and she assumed it would be the last time she'd see them until they were watching from above as they dropped her in the ground, too.
Her pastor told her she had to find something to do; some cause to involve herself with, or it would turn out badly. She asked for guidance, and the preacher told her there were several young girls who needed an older lady to talk to: Girls who'd never really had a mother worth a flip. And he gave Joyce a list of half a dozen girls with their phone numbers. The first one she'd called was Mitzi.
"Mitzi, my name is Joyce Bruhart. You sometimes go to East Meadows Methodist, don't you?"
"Yes, ma'am. But why are you callin' me? We ain't got no money to tithe with just right now."
Joyce didn't have a clue how to handle this phone call. It was the first number she'd dialed, trying to find a road to reality, and this girl thought she was an evangelical telemarketer.
"Your pastor gave me your name and said you might need someone to talk to. I just lost my husband recently and I'm looking for some sort of volunteer work I can do in the community. Did I tell you my name was Joyce?"
"Yes, ma'am. You did. If you've got some kids you might help me out by comin' over here and tellin' me what I need to do to keep this new baby girl from cryin' all the time. She's damn near drivin' my husband to drank."
So the appointment was made and the car was cranked and the middle aged lady was on her way to a trailer park where she'd never been and would've never gone if that wasn't the first number she'd dialed on the preacher's list.
The cheap metallic dented trailer door was opened and introductions were made and the two sat on the used way-too-squishy furniture and Joyce told Mitzi that her little girl had the colic. "My son had it, when he was just born, and it takes six months for it to go away. But you'll wake up one day and it'll just be a bad memory, Mitzi."
"I ain't gonna make it no six months. Daryl is already gone most all th' time, and he'll leave me 'fore we get to that six month place."
"What does Daryl do for a living? Does he work during the day?"
When folks who don't know each other begin to tell the stories of their lives, speed lines (like in comics where a ball is changed from static to thrown with just a few straight lines) shoot all over the room and thoughts get fluid. Mitzi knew what Daryl said he did and she knew what Daryl did. Selling meth ain't the most honorable job, she knew, but it did buy diapers and formula and a pizza now and then.
"He works for hisself, fixin' lawn mowers and stuff. Where's your son now, anyway?"
Joyce knew a lie when she heard it and she knew a lie was bubbling in her throat as she told it. "He's an accountant in New Jersey."
So the teen mom not yet 20 and the once teen mom turning 50 this very day sat and lied to each other about their lives and their families. Lying is a funny thing. Once you start you might as well keep a notebook of them, because you will slip up when you're not real careful. You can't always be careful. And the consequences for getting caught in a lie have a measured scale that would make the IRS tax codes look like parity. A two-dollar hooker or a politician or a young girl in a trailer park don't really have a lot of respect to lose. But a 50 year old lady who is driving a new Lexus SUV and thinks of herself as a respectable member of a community -- that's a different story altogether.
Daryl came through the trailer door breathing hard. His eyes were rolling crazy in his head and he had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. "Who the fuck is this, Mitzi? You didn't tell me nobody was comin' over here today!"
Mitzi cupped her hands and looked down at the stained linoleum floor. Joyce stood up and said, "I'm Joyce Bruhart. I came over from the church to see if I could help your wife with the problems with the baby."
"We ain't got NO FUCKIN' PROBLEMS, lady! You probly from th' DHS and come to see 'bout takin' my little girl away, ain't you?"
Mitzi looked up from the floor and said, "Please, Daryl. She's just…."
"YOU SHUT TH' FUCK UP!"
Joyce stepped toward Daryl and raised her hand as if to calm him down. He glared right at her and she could see that his eyes were unable to focus clearly. She noticed that he was wearing a long sleeved flannel lumberjack shirt and the heat index outside must have been over 100o. It was the middle of the afternoon on a normal day and this new father was shooting methamphetamines.
Joyce forced herself to speak again even though it was clear it would only anger the beast she faced. "Daryl, you're a father now. Your little girl needs a father. I just want…"
"Bruhart? Did you say your last name was Bruhart? You got a boy around my age named David?"
Joyce lowered her appeasing hand. Mitzi looked right at Joyce from the couch where she still sat. Now it was Joyce's turn to look at that dingy linoleum floor. "Yes. David is my son," she said, not looking Daryl in the eye at all. "Why do you ask?"
Daryl turned to Mitzi. "Hey, babes. You 'member me tellin' you 'bout th' sumbitch what got me hooked on this shit? Well, you're lookin' at his momma. He's doin' a nickel up at State and she's here tryin' to tell us how to fuckin' live?"
He was turning back to Joyce to tell her to get out, but Joyce was already through the door. As it slammed, she could hear the baby girl start to cry again. As she sped out of the trailer park, she turned on the windshield washers to try and disperse the dust and found that her sobs were in perfect timing with each pass.