Authors: Reese Patton
Some things are better left buried…
By Patton Reese
Copyright ©2016 by Reese Patton.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either reside solely in the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
20 Years Ago
y balloon’s gonna fly all the way across the ocean and a prince is going to find it and he’s going to come here and when we’re old enough he’s going to marry me and we’re going to live there.” The six year old girl pointed to the large white house on the shore of the lake as they drove by.
The middle–aged woman driving the car slowed down, ostensibly because of the narrow residential road, but every local woman who drove down the road slowed as she neared the house. None of the residents could afford to live there, but it didn’t stop the women from dreaming.
The local nursery maintained the gardens and lawn, but the homeowners imported a landscape architect from the city and each bloom and its placement complemented the large house masquerading as a cottage on a lake.
The little boy sitting next to the girl in the back sat scoffed at her claim. “That’s impossible, Mya.”
The woman driving the car glanced in the rearview mirror, looking at her son in the glass. “Shane.” She used the same magic tone every mother acquired when her children learned the word no. No other words needed to be said.
Shane threw himself back against the seat and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Where’s your balloon gonna go, Shane?” Mya asked.
“I don’t care.” He stared down at the threadbare patch on the knee of his jeans.
“You can live with us if you want.” She tugged at the end of her ponytail and wrinkled her nose at him. “You can even have a dog if you want. I’m going to have dogs and ponies and maybe even some cats.”
“I don’t wanna live in your stupid house. When I grow up, Mike and I are gonna be roommates and we don’t wanna share our house with girls.” Shane was only eight years old, and as most eight year old boys he didn’t think girls or their silly dreams had any place in his life.
Mya shrugged her shoulders and turned around to watch the house disappear in the rear window. “You can come and stay with us if you want, Mrs. Crawford.”
The driver glanced in the rearview mirror and smiled at both Mya’s words and actions. “Thank you, dear.” Mrs. Crawford turned her attention back to the road. “What do you two want to do when we get home?”
“I’m not playing house.”
Mya pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes in concentration. Carefully considering her next words, she tilted her head to the side and squinted one eye in an approximation of what she assumed someone looked like when they concentrated on a particularly complex problem.
“We can play build houses and need to test it out before someone moves in.”
Mrs. Crawford smiled at Mya’s attempt at a compromise.
Shane thumbed the fraying threads on his knee, stalling for time while he attempted to find something wrong with her suggestion. Unable to find a satisfactory response, he ignored her statement and leaned forward between the two front seats. “Mom, can Mike come over and play?”
“We’ll see when we get home.”
“Please?” Shane drew out the “s” sound, turning the word into a desperate plea.
Mya squinted her eyes at Shane and chewed on her bottom lip. She didn’t want to say anything, but even at six, she saw his question as a way of telling her he didn’t want to play with her. She didn’t complain, she didn’t want him to have another reason not to play with her.
Shane sat back in the seat and glanced over at Mya. “We can play Chutes and Ladders.”
Mya’s smile returned and she bounced in the seat. “In a pretend house?”
“Fine.” Shane rolled his eyes, a gesture he recently learned from Mike’s older sister and one his mother despised. She usually let him know by pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes. Her response was payment enough and encouraged Shane to find as many opportunities to use it as possible.
stared at the stains on the grout in the shower. It didn’t matter how often I cleaned them or how hard I scrubbed them, they always seemed to be there. Even when I closed my eyes and pretended they weren’t there, I knew they were. Mildewed images marred my mind, just as if the darkened grime marred the grout. I stepped fully under the falling water and made a note to add whatever industrial strength cleaning product I could find at the grocery store someone had invented to clean bathroom tiles installed over fifty years ago.
Christ, the bathroom was older than my father, so was the house for that matter, and it looked like it too. But I could barely afford cleaning products much less the crap necessary to make the house even less of an eyesore it had become in the past ten years since my mom died.
Of course, I couldn’t exactly afford the grocery store prices, but I refused to step foot inside the mega ‘get it all here’ store. When they opened their doors, they pushed nearly every storeowner out of business and into the super store’s questionable employment.
At least the people of Copperwood liked their booze and liked the bars that served their booze. I wouldn’t be out of work anytime soon. But it wasn’t as if I was making all that much more than if caved and filled out my application at the Mega–Mart the town council swore would never open their doors.
They also swore the mines would never be sold off to big corporations.
Their batting average wasn’t so hot.
I didn’t know why I bothered. It didn’t matter how often I cleaned the grout, how hard I scrubbed at it, or even how often I stripped it out and replaced it. The grout between the ancient tiles was bound and determined to exist in a state of perpetual pre–mildew hell.
I spun on my heel and stepped further under the hot water. Lime crusted around the holes, making the water work harder to fall down over me. Something else I needed to add to an ever–growing list. Maybe it was the pipes.
I reached for the shampoo. It wasn’t as though I needed to worry about the pipes until they broke. In which case, lime in the showerhead and mildew on the grout would be the least of my worries.
As much as I’d love to steep in a long hot shower, it wasn’t in the cards. I needed to get into work. Today was Friday. Payday. Being late, meant less time to earn the meager tips I used to keep my father and I going.
Stepping out of the shower, I grabbed the thin cotton towel and rubbed it against my skin. Like the rest of the contents of the house, it had seen better days. I wrapped it around me and folded over the corner between my breasts before stepping out of the bathroom and walking across the hall to my bedroom.
Not that modesty mattered much. It wasn’t as if my father would be out of the basement. About a month ago he stumbled across boxes filled with old slides. He couldn’t wait to tell me about his find and patiently explained that before DVRs and VHS machines, there were slides and movies and families would sit around looking at frozen pictures of themselves on a screen or white sheet. They were from the 80s, when mom and dad were dating and just after they got married. Before I arrived, along with the advent of improved technology to store memories.
I didn’t bother to dry my hair, just pulled it back into a ponytail and pulled on a pair of jeans and the requisite white t–shirt. I know what everyone thought, female bartenders wear white because of the change of an impromptu wet t–shirt display. But that wasn’t the case. I wore white because I could bleach out the stains and extend the time between buying new clothes.
Grabbing my purse, keys, and cell phone, I walked out of my room and down the creaking steps, deftly avoiding the loose riser permanently assigned to the bottom of my to–do list.
“I’m headed to work.”
I heard a grunt from the basement in response. There really wasn’t a reason to stop and yell down to my dad. I don’t think he ever realized I was gone most days, but I felt better about it.
The door was unlocked. A good sign. Dad had been outside. Probably grabbing the weekly newspaper. Copperwood was too small for a daily newspaper, we had to make do with our news delivered in weekly chunks. But then the big box store arriving was the biggest thing that happened to our small town in the last twenty years.
I shimmied and slammed the door closed, until I heard the latch click into place with a too–loud snick and locked the deadbolt. We didn’t have anything worth stealing, but it was always possible that some out of work punk might not know it and hurt dad in the process of collecting items even the dumpster would reject as useless.
I glared at my rusted out Dodge Dart. You had to have a vehicle in Copperwood. There was only one taxi and the only bus tires rolling over our streets were the coaches the senior citizens rented to make gambling trips to the Indian casinos. My trusty Dodge always started, not always on the first try, but it hadn’t disappointed me yet.
Not like everything and everyone else in this god–forsaken armpit of a small town.
Pick’s, the bar I worked at, was located just off the main drag. Main street — yes, the street was actually named Main — had the clichDMe single traffic light and the few Mega–Mart hold outs left. A book store. A coffee shop. A few restaurants — even a sushi place that was a concession to the summer tourists who rented or owned the houses on the lakes. And then there were the bars. Locals usually went to the bars outside the center of town, primarily because between May and August, assholes invaded like a swarm of locusts. Pick’s sat a few blocks away, far enough away from the Main street for the locals to be comfortable, but close enough for some of the more adventurous tourists to find their way there during the summer.
I pulled into a spot close to the back door and hurried into the darkened building.
“I know I’m a few minutes late, but I’m here now!” My voice echoed over the wooden walls. I think Pick’s was as old as my house.
Jack stepped out of the back room with two large buckets of ice, one in each hand. We had an icemaker, but it wasn’t hooked up the bar. Unfortunately, we didn’t have bar backs, so when Jack, the owner, couldn’t grab ice, one of the waitresses or I would.
“Dori?” Jack named my car Dori. I have no idea the how or why of it, maybe he liked alliteration, but he only ever referred to it by the name.
I nodded my head slowly. If it wasn’t the car, it was my dad, and the former was always preferable.
“No worries.” Jack turned his back and headed towards the bar. “This is the last batch of ice. I hauled up the beer from the cellar and checked the kegs.”
I threw my stuff into his office and followed him.
Jack poured the ice into the cooler and I pulled out the garnish trays. I wasn’t sure why we had them, it wasn’t as if I ever used anything inside of them except for an odd cherry when I made an old–fashioned.