She lived in a dented silver trailer, bubble to indifferent fingers – hadn’t had a visitor in months, maybe years. Inside was no better: dishes, laundry, lasagna stains; she never cleaned, didn’t care. So, when her trailer door rattled, she was surprised.
Hullo? she called, rolling to her side, crankling beer cans and empty chip bags. Knuckles rapped again – she shuffled through wads of trash, pizza boxes, dirty gitch; fumbled with the latch on the door; swung it wide, half-stumbled out, swath of refuse rolling down like a grey river.
Hello, the boy answered – broken window smile. Small, slight, ragged, the picture of malnutrition – she shifted her feet, and he dodged sliding trash like an avalanche.
What do you want? she growled, yanking filthy housecoat across bare, saggy breasts.
Can I come in? he asked, peeking inside.
He grew solemn.
I need to talk to you.
She closed the door, and shuffled back to bed. Just as she dozed off – another knock. She shuffled back, crunching empty egg shells and packs of gum. Haven’t seen the cat in a while, she thought; opened the door and glared.
I need to talk to you.
Where’s your mom?
He stared, another broken window; snuffled, wiped his nose.
Are you happy? the boy said.
Pig in shit.
He screwed up his face like something was rotten.
Is that good?
She glanced back inside; tapped filthy-socked foot under a plastic bag.
What is this about?
Just letting you know I’m here, he said, slipping tongue through a tooth-hole. He stepped back, paused, then turned, trotting towards the road – halted when he reached it, glanced over his shoulder.
Do better, he said, then gave a little wave and trotted away.
She slammed the door and waded to bed, but veered towards the sink, sloshing pizza and malt liquor across a week’s worth of dishes. She gasped, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, then dropped to her knees, rooting for a bag she knew was there.
She found it under a newspaper rigid as a jerk sock, then lunged with her prize towards the washroom – yanked down her panties, ripped open the box, squatted. Two minutes later, she was on her hands and knees, scrabbling to gather mess, watching out the window.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was selected from entries submitted to our Creative Challenge Series #7: First Sentences, which required that the first sentence in the text must be used as given. Read other Creative Challenge winners. To find out how to participate, go to Creative Challenges.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Ground spent a decade between Toronto, Saskatoon and Canada’s far North in a remote, fly-in community. He has since landed back in his hometown. His work has appeared on The 1888, Here Comes Everyone and Temenos Journal, and is forthcoming from Memoir Magazine and Storgy.
The photograph of the trailer is in the public domain under the designation CC0 1.0 Universal.