#84 Sweet Sixteenth

by Stacy Chambers

The jury came back with a guilty verdict for my brother. Judge Thompson sentenced Petey immediately—probably for shooting Mr. Carville, the clerk. Life. No possibility of parole. My sixteenth birthday and Petey was going to prison.

Pa drove me and Mama home. Nobody spoke. When we got inside, Mama knocked my cake to the floor getting a Pabst. Pa cleaned up the mess and took the rest of the six-pack to the porch.

When I came out of my room, Mama was sitting at the table, dry eyed, the Pabst beside her elbow. She was smoking, for the first time in I don’t know how long.

I went to the porch. Pa wasn’t there, but I could see his truck turning into the drive. Slush spit from the balding tires, and I thought again of how much the early frosts had hurt us.

He came up the steps, a fresh case of Pabst in his arms. He let it drop onto the wicker table and pulled open the cardboard. I picked it up to take it to the fridge.

“Leave it,” he said. “I’m too drunk to mind.”

I did as he asked and sat in Mama’s rocker. “You think we’ll be okay?” I asked.

Pa smiled wryly. “Will my answer ruin your Sweet Sixteenth?”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t think he had remembered.

He looked over the corn, how the wind rustled the damaged husks we couldn’t afford to harvest anyway. “We’ll be fine, Nicole. We’ll be fine.”

5 comments:

JRVogt said...

Nice demonstration of a family's despair.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Well done. Drew me in even better on the second reading. This is one that sits with you for awhile.

Shona Snowden said...

Nicely bleak.

Whirlochre said...

Also, bleakly nice. You cover all bases.

Robin Billings said...

Felt like I was sitting there with them. I could smell the Pabst and hear the case hitting the table.