She once had been wanted. Bodies pressed against the wall behind the garage after he fixed her daddy’s truck. He had noticed her behind the plate-glass window, his worn soles hot on Missouri gravel. Laughing with customers, playfully swinging her hips, she poured strong coffee at the café across the street. That morning, she had offered to take the old Ford into town, saving an unnecessary trip for another when there was work to be done in the field. They married when the strings on her uniform apron began to pull taut.
After family tossed the rice and shared cake, the miles toward a job in California began. People talking had said the military always needed aeroplanes. His fingers held talent, good with engines. The wedding night had been spent in separate beds. His with a whore. Hers awake, lightly sweating underneath a thin sheet, praying for stillness to come from the shallow bath of saltwater and hydrogen peroxide.
Rose was born in Long Beach. Wanda in the desert. Junior’s newborn heart never beat inside the hospital on Olympic, not far from where she had found a job tending bar for threadbare afternoon regulars seeking shelter in the dark from the unforgiving Los Angeles sun. Barbara Ann was the baby. Honey-colored curls made her mother hum the Beach Boys tune for which she was named. Happily hanging diapers on the homespun line strung between apartment buildings. Moments and myths long gone.
Thirty-six years of blame and neglect, endured. Heavy in stale, shadowed air. Dorothy sat at the sales-floor green dinette set he’d purchased before leaving his final time. Her fingers rolling cigarettes because the night is long and she no longer ate.
Historian by training, observer by nature, American gypsy by fortuitous circumstance, Ella C. Charles currently lives in the Dirty South. Her favorite things change daily, but yellow flowers will always make her smile.