I wrote this curious little story for a short-short contest. One editor passed on it with a rejection letter that was twice as long as the story itself. When I sent him another piece, he passed on it because it just didn’t stay with him the way this one had. Which begs the question…
The boy played in the dirt yard. His mottled back was bare. He sifted the loose dirt like flour through his fingers until it drifted and faded into the breeze. He chewed his thumbnail, ground tiny rocks between his teeth.
The boy’s mother rocked the porch swing to fan herself. Lines creviced her face, eroded by a flaccid life–a seeped-out balloon. Her hair tied back by a faded blue ribbon, she watched her boy as he rolled the dirt between his fingers, crushed it in his palms.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” he said then laughed as if he wanted to cry.
“Your Daddy says he’ll get a job.
“Doing what?” He wrote his name in the dirt.
“Down at the chicken house.”
“That’s work for trash.”
“Its getting to the point where we is white trash.”
He threw a handful of dirt at the porch.
“You just don’t understand, boy.”
“I understand plenty.”
“You ain’t acting like it. What they been teaching you at school?”
“Don’t matter, I ain’t going back.”
“What’s that?” She stopped swinging.
“Ain’t going back. They kicked me out. Said I’m a troublemaker.”
“It don’t rain but it pours.”
“It ain’t rained in forever. Ain’t you noticed?”
“Don’t you sass me, boy.” She the tinny rumble of their truck. “Daddy’s home.”
The boy spotted his father’s truck–a sky-blue, Chevy long-bed. A clouded cocoon encased the truck as it rambled toward the shack. The truck sputtered to a stop beside the house. The father, a disjointed man, climbed out. He had big, thick hands, calluses strung across the palms, with stubs for fingers. He wore thick boots. He carried a brown paper bag.
“Did you get the job?” the mother asked.
“Something like that.” He grinned.
“Come here and hug my neck.”
The glass bottles inside clattered inside the paper bag.
“What’s that you got?”
He pulled out a bottle. “I got us all a Co-cola.”
“Let us pray to God for what he has given us.”
“While you’re praying, I’ll see about getting a bottle opener.” He disappeared into the house.
The boy stood in the dirt. The wind had grown strong enough to blow his hair. He felt the vibration of far away thunder as he looked to the heavens.
The father brought out the three drinks in one hand and the opener in the other. “Don’t he want no Co-cola?”
“Reckon he will. He done been kicked out of school again.”
“He don’t have the spirit of the Lord in him.”
“He just don’t listen. They says he’s smart, but he don’t act like it. My daddy,” the father said, “he always said that our children is our blessing and our curse. From the moment they’s born, you know you going to die, and the children do everything in their power to see it happens.”
The boy knew they’d said it all before. A cooling raindrop fell on his shoulder as he looked to the black clouds. “It’s raining.”
“Raining.” The father danced, beating the wooden planks with his heavy boots. “Salvation done snuck up on us. Come up her boy. Let’s have us a Co-cola and celebrate.”
The boy kicked the dirt turned to mud by thick drops of rain. A shaft of lightning streaked yellow across the sky.“Better get the ark.”
Then he ambled onto the porch. He opened a bottle and let the soda flood his mouth, cooling his dry, parched thirst. “It don’t rain but it pours,” he said and laughed as if he wanted to cry.