Monday, July 04, 2005

Previously On . . .

She brushes her son’s long, dark hair out of his eyes. He looks up, tears still on his cheeks. “We’ll get through this,” she says. “Together.”

* * *

A green station wagon rolls into a lonely gas station at dusk. Steam rolls out from under its hood.

* * *

“That kid, this station wagon, and about sixteen outfits that are two years out of date,” she tells the old man at the gas station. “That’s all I have left in the world.”

“That’s enough,” the man says, nodding and spitting. “Long as you don’t count on the car.”

* * *

She and her son step into a tiny motel room with twin beds and three different kinds of wallpaper. She drops her suitcases. “We’re home,” she says hollowly.

* * *

She and her son sit at bright yellow counter in a highway diner. They scour the newspaper. “What skills have you got?” the fifteen-year-old asks.

“What’re they asking? I can lie with the best of them.”

* * *

The sheriff tips his hat back and looks at her across his cluttered desk. “How soon can you start?” he drawls.

"Don’t you have to take some kind of test or something?” she asks.

“All in good time,” he says. “It’s not like we have any other candidates.”

* * *

She stands behind a low counter, buttoned up in the light brown uniform of the local police. She speaks rapidly into the microphone of a dispatch unit. “Hey, I just started!” she shouts. “I don’t know if it’s a 3120, a 4711, or a 5150! Just get over there! You can ask the damn cows if they’re being stolen or not!”

* * *

“Your boy’s starting school here in September?” the handsome man with smiling eyes asks.

“Despite my best efforts,” she says.

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” he says, holding out his hand in greeting. “Coach Byerly. Maybe he wants to come out for track?”

* * *

She watches from the stands while her son lopes around the track. Coach Byerly stands next to her. “He’s got some talent,” he says.

She smiles wistfully. “Yeah, so did his dad.”

“So where’s he these days?”

She shrugs. “What can I tell you? He was always a good runner.”

* * *

The boy, now with close-cropped hair and wearing a letter jacket, is slammed against a row of school lockers. A larger blond boy flanked by two friends, points at him threateningly. “Becky doesn’t want nothing to do with you.”

“I agree,” says the dark-haired boy.

The blond boy looks confused. “You do?”

He rolls his eyes. “If you don’t get double negatives, then maybe you’ll get this,” he says, then rushes headlong into the blond boy.

* * *

His mother stands in the doctor’s office, a mixture of anger and concern on her face as she looks at her son with his assortment of bruises and bandages. “How do you think it feels to be dispatching a patrol car to break up a fight your son is in?” she asks.

He looks up at her. “I don’t know. As bad as getting the crap kicked out of you by three football players?”

* * *

The boy sits on the tailgate of an old pickup truck, talking in low tones to a pretty blonde girl with a round face. “Darryl’s always like that,” she says, touching his bruised cheek tenderly. “Don’t let him get to you.”

The boy shrugs. “He already got to me,” he says. “But I’m not going to let him stop me.

They kiss.

* * *

Twin silhouettes of teen boys run across a darkening horizon. A thin curl of smoke rises from a building in the distance.

* * *

The boy is speaking into the telephone in the hotel room, now made much homier. “Becky’s barn?” he asks, alarmed. “Is she okay?”

* * *

Coach Byerly drives speedily through the night. The boy sits next to him, his face an emotionless mask. “This probably isn’t the time, but since your mother and I have been seeing each other, I want us to try to be friends.”

The boy nods. “You’re right,” he says. “This isn’t the time.”

* * *

She sits at her post at work, speaking into her dispatcher’s unit. “I don’t want us to fight anymore,” she says. “I want us to both be happy for a change … at least for a little while.”

Outside the police station, her son is stretched out across the front seat of a parked police cruiser. He’s been crying. The last couple of words his mother just spoke crackle over the radio. He holds the microphone to his face and clicks its black trigger. “Fine. Let’s try it and see what that’s like.”