SURPRISE CHAPTER REVEAL
The Lesser Half – Hastings Trailer Park
Twelve years old
Denver wasn’t a name.
It was a cuss word.
One my dad was shouting at me from his worn out, stained recliner at the front of our even more worn out double wide trailer.
My dad cussed a lot. I heard him call my ma all sorts of bad words. No good fuckin’ whore seemed to be his favorite and the sad part was, I agreed with him. But still, nothing, not one fuck, asshole, whore or cunt sounded as awful as my name did coming from his mouth. He reminded me daily what a sorry sack ‘a shit I was. Reminded me constantly about the time he fucked my ma in a shitty motel in Denver. I cost him forty bucks the night I was conceived and he still holds a grudge against me for the amount of whiskey he could have gotten for that price. “Coulda’ had a good night with that money. Instead I got you.”
My ma wasn’t a full time whore. She waitressed at a truck stop on the outskirts of Denver makin’ a little extra on the side whenever she needed it. My dad was a regular, and when he saw her belly start to grow a few months after one of those no good fuckin’ truck stop rubbers broke; he told her to high tail it to the nearest clinic and get rid of the goddamn thing.
That goddamn things was me.
Ma refused, said it was too late by the time she noticed she was pregnant. I guess she saw it as her meal ticket, too, because as soon as I was born she started hittin’ my dad up for money. Threatening to take him to court for an amount my dad refused to pay. As usual, my dad sought the cheapest way out the problem and packed up ma and me and brought us to the double wide in this shitstain of a town outside Indianapolis. I was four at the time and though I don’t remember much of my life in Denver, I’ll never forget the day I was brought here.
The strange man walked up a set of rickety steps and opened the noisy door. My ma grabbed my hand and pulled me along side her as we followed him inside. “C’mon, Denver. This is where we’re stayin’ now.” She told me as we entered the home. Ma told me it was a trailer. I’d never seen one before, which was strange ‘cause ma and me had seen everywhere. We lived in motels and hotels, friends houses and what my ma called bachelor apartments. Sometimes ma took me to stay with what she called her ‘clients’. I hated those the most because we usually had to leave in the middle of the night when ma was done workin’. I don’t know what ma did for work but we always had a good breakfast after those nights so I tried not to complain too much.
“Denver?” I heard the strange man shout at my ma. She shook her head and replied, “What you want me to call him? Somethin’ after you or your daddy? A name to carry on?” She scoffed, “had to put somethin’ on his birth certificate, might as well been where he was made.” Pulling me beside her she put her hand on my back and asked the strange man where my room was. Pointing down the small hallway he said, “first door on the right. Don’t expect nothin’ else ‘cause I ain’t spendin’ no more money on yas this month.”
Ma pushed me in that direction and followed behind down the dark, wood paneled hallway. It smelled funny in here. Kind of like some of the motels we lived in. Smokey and damp. Once we reached the room ma pushed the door open and I got my first look at where we’d be livin’ now. There was a mattress stacked on top of some wooden crates. A low dresser with six drawers, only two of them had handles. A small closet was to the left with a few empty hangers. Ma sighed but didn’t complain. We’d lived in worse and she didn’t seem to care where we were so long as there was a roof over our heads.
Above the bed was a big window. I could see other strange homes like this one off to the right, but the best was the view of the land beyond the window. I’d never seen so much space before that wasn’t filled with trucks, buildings and people. “Your daddy will bring in your bags, Denver. Why don’t you stay in here for a while?” She asked, handing me one of the only toy trucks I had out of the big purse she always carried around. I looked at my ma, confused. “My daddy?”
She looked mad that I was asking questions but answered me anyway, “Yeah, Denver. Your daddy. But don’t call ‘em that, you hear me?” I nodded my head and asked, “then what do I call ‘em?” Sighing she sat down on the end of the bed and flipped her long sandy blonde hair over her shoulder. I knew her hair was darker, but she bought those boxes of color stuff whenever she could afford it. Said her clients liked her blonde hair and it made us more money. I didn’t understand but I liked it. Made her look not so mean all the time. Especially when her eyes were dark from not sleepin’. She’d not been sleepin’ a lot lately. Ma said she couldn’t when she didn’t know where we’d be sleepin’ the next day. Maybe now that we were at the strange mans house, my daddy’s house, she’d sleep better.
Ma was skinny, and tired all the time. I was skinny too, but sometimes ma and I had to share our dinner. I watched as she rubbed up and down her arms before answering, “You call ‘em Mr. Grainger unless he tells ya different.” I drove my toy truck over the top of the chipped wooden dresser and asked, “but I thought he was my daddy? My daddy’s name is Mr. Black.” Ma shook her head again, already tired of answerin’ my questions, “Our last name is Black, Denver. Your daddy’s aint. Just don’t get in his way, we just got here and momma’s tired. I don’t wanna be out on our asses yet, ya hear?”
I nodded fast, it smelled funny here but at least I had my own bed. And a big window. That was more than some of the other places ma and I had stayed in. I watched as she got up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. I was used to bein’ in new places so I did what I usually did, checked out my new home and found all the good hidin’ places. I looked under the bed, there wasn’t much room between the bed and the floor but I could still hide under there if someone started yellin’. Next I checked the closet, finding a cardboard box filled with old blankets. I opened the drawers on the dresser next. They were all empty. Nobody had things in there so I was excited to fill them with my stuff. I didn’t have much but I knew I could put a shirt in every drawer and still have some empty ones. Maybe for toys.
I don’t know how long I was in there. I sat on the bed, starin’ out the window while I drove my truck back and forth over the mattress. I counted the brown marks on it. Then I counted the brown marks on the ceilin’ too. I couldn’t read yet, but Mrs. Markle at the drop in centre always said I was a good counter. Momma left me there sometimes when she worked at the truck stop. Those were my favorite days ‘cause I got to play with other kids. Then momma said one day we couldn’t afford it no more so she started workin’ nights and takin’ me with her instead.
It was long after dark when I heard my ma hollerin’ down the hall. I heard her holler a lot when she worked nights and I knew to stay out of sight until it was quiet. My tummy grumbled so when it was finally quiet I crept from my room to the kitchen. Ma usually brought me my food, but sometimes she fell asleep or forgot. I went to the fridge first, quietly opening the door and peering inside. There were lots of tins cans, I knew they were called beer ‘cause ma always told me not to touch them. There were a few bottles of sauces and ketchup, but nothing else. No fruit or leftovers. Since I couldn’t reach the freezer I went to the cupboards next. Most of them were empty, but I found a box of crackers next to some canned food. I still didn’t know how to open the cans, so I grabbed the box of crackers. As soon as I lifted it up I squealed, throwin’ it away from me and scootin’ on my bum until my back hit a chair, knocking it into the table.
I watched as a mouse ran to the back of the cupboard, through a small hole in the corner and out of my sight at the same time the door at the end of the hallway flew open. The man came stompin’ toward me in nothin’ but his jeans. They had brown spots on ‘em just like the ceilin’ in my new room. “What you doin’ out here, boy?” He stood over me, his light hair looked sweaty and he was breathin’ real heavy, smellin’ like the brown stuff my ma sometimes drank. I shook my head and pointed to the cupboard, “th-there was a mouse, da-Mr. Grainger.” His lip curled and he looked at the cupboard I now noticed was full of mouse poop, and back to me, “You complainin’ to me already, boy?” I shook my head fast again, “No, n-no, sir. I was just hungry.”
Mr. Grainger scowled at me and asked, “Ain’t your ma feed ya today?” I lowered my head and replied, “No, she musta forgot.”
I watched as he reached in one of the cupboards behind him, grabbing one of the cans and using something to open it. He then opened a drawer and grabbed a big fork and stuck it in the top of the can before looking back at me. “Aint had kids, aint ever wanted ‘em. First thing you and me get straight is ya aint gonna roam around this house ‘a mine like ya belong here.” I opened my mouth to tell him okay but he kept talkin’ before I could, “and you aint gonna be rootin’ through my cupboards.” He added angrily, pointin’ to the cupboard the mouse was in, “that there’ll be your cupboard, since you wanted to snoop in it.”
I looked at Mr. Grainger with wide eyes, I didn’t want mouse poop in my food. And I told him so.
“B-but Mr. Grainger, there’s mouse poop in there.” He scoffed, “Ya don’t want shit in yur’ supper? Block the damn holes. Yur’ ma can look after fillin’ the cupboard. I put a roof over yer head, she can fill yer goddamn belly.” He shoved the can at me and I grabbed onto it with two hands, stuttering when I said, “Th-th-thank you, Mister.” Mr. Grainger barked out a laugh, “don’t thank me, kid. You’ll work for yer supper tomorrow. Got shit that needs doin’ and ya aint gonna live here ‘fer free. Can start with cleanin’ the shit outta the cupboard.”
I felt tears gatherin’ in my eyes, and since Mr. Grainger was gone I let them fall. I knew then that my new life, in the house with the big window in my bedroom wasn’t going to be as great as I had hoped. I don’t know how, but I knew I wouldn’t be filling one of my empty drawers with toys, and I’d never have a daddy. I ate the cold can of no-name ravioli on the floor of the kitchen, being quiet as a mouse when I gently placed the empty can on top of the overflowing garbage bin, and even quieter when I placed the fork on the pile of dirty dishes. When I finally closed the door to my new room and crawled on top of my big bed, I remembered that not for the first time, my ma never tucked me in.
And not for the first time, nobody reminded me to use the potty before bed.
“Denver!” My dad cussed again. Pulling me outta my thoughts of the first day I arrived in this shithole and back to the now. I finished making my bed, tucking the last corner in before hurryin’ down the hallway that hadn’t changed in the seven years since I was brought here.
“Right here,” I told him, watching as he set the sixth empty beer can on the table beside his filthy old chair. Wiping his mouth across the back of his hand he said, “Get down there to Jerry’s place. Tell ‘em I wanna see ‘em. Owes me money and I want it before he goes.”
My dad thought everyone owed him money. He didn’t have much himself so I knew it wasn’t possible. But don’t try to tell him any different. Get drunk enough with him at the shithole bar he goes to, he’ll convince you he bought the rounds the night before and now it was your turn. This happened a lot between him and Jerry. Jerry was just as much a drunk as my dad was. Now he was dying of kidney failure and my dad was sending me to collect.
I didn’t question him, I rarely did. I just nodded and moved out the front door and down the set of rickety steps and began my trek toward Jerry’s. Jerry didn’t live in a double wide like we did. He lived in a newer, cleaner model on the other side of the trailer park. There are two sides to Hastings Park. The shithole we live in on the old side, and the other one about half a mile over, I call it The Better Half. The new one was being built when I came here as a kid. Tree’s separate the two, and its probably a good thing because nobody wants to see how the lesser half lives. While our side is full of broken down vehicles, poly tarp windows and sometimes a police cruiser or two, the other half is paved roads, flower baskets and manicured lawns.
I followed my usual path through the trees and thought about the new lawn mower I saw at Mr. Davis’ repair shop. It wasn’t brand new, but damn new to me. I’d been mowing lawns at the better half of Hastings Park for three years now. I was nine years old when I started, finally sprouting up enough I didn’t look like such a runt and was able to see over the handles. I was tall for my age now, but still scrawny as hell. We never had much to eat at home, not because my dad couldnt afford to put food on the table, it was more like he would rather drink it all away. I didn’t love mowing lawns, but I loved that I got to buy more food. Sometimes it was a toss up between new jeans that didn’t ride up past my ankles or a big juicy burger. More often than not the burger won out.
They talked to us at school about growing up and hormones and stuff. Everyone in class always snickered, but I listened to every word that came out of my teachers mouth. After growing up with nothing but bullshit spewed outta my dad’s, listening to someone with knowledge about life made me want to soak everything up like a desert after a long drought. I didn’t learn shit at home, other than how to mind my business and stay as far away from my old man as I could. He went his way, and I went mine. I picked up after him, did the dishes and kept the mice outta the cupboards. He drank, cut his truckin’ runs in half and told me if I ever complained about what I ate or wore, I could get a fuckin’ job.
So that’s what I did.
I’ve been clothing myself since I was nine years old and learned not to complain about what little food he brought into the house. But those hormones the teacher talked about? All I wanted to do was eat. My stomach grumbled just thinkin’ about red meat. My pants dug into my flat stomach and I tried to talk myself out of the burger I might get later and a trip to the thrift store instead. If I didn’t want to eat I was sleeping, and late at night when I wasn’t sleeping those hormones raged again, remindin’ me that I was changin’ and when I thought about that new pretty girl I saw in the cafeteria yesterday it wasn’t innocent thoughts like I used to have when I thought about a pretty girl.
After growin’ up with a whore for a mother, I knew what sex was. Knew more than most twelve year olds did. It ain’t ‘cause she taught me either. My once innocent eyes and ears heard too much over the years. What didn’t make sense then made sense as I got older. Piecin’ it all together as the years grew on. I grew up thinkin’ I hated women, would never have sex, never think about anybody that way after seein’ all that I have.
As I walked into the better half, I realized I had never been more wrong.
All it was going to take was one pretty girl…
That would lead to a lifetime of regret.
I walked around the bend toward Jerry Martin’s home. It was a nice place, way nicer than ours. He may have been a drunk but he still took care of his home. His house was always clean on the outside, no big flowers like the other places but the grass was always cut. Today there were boxes all over the porch and a newer minivan in the driveway. I walked up the paved driveway and knocked on the storm door. I heard laughin’ comin’ from in the house and thought nothin’ of it until a woman answered the door. She was so clean… she even smelled nice.
I watched as she looked me over from head to toe, probably noticing my pants that were two inches above my used sneakers and my shirt that had an oil stain on the front of it from the last time I was fixing my ten year old lawn mower. She surprised me when she gave me a small smile and opened the door asking, “Can I help you?”
I cleared my throat and politely said, “Sorry for botherin’ you, ma’am, but my old man sent me to see Mr. Martin.” She frowned a little and replied, “I’m sorry, Mr. Martin moved out two days ago.” I wasn’t shocked Jerry left early. He was dyin’ afterall. Plus, I didn’t give two shits if he owed my old man money, he probably didn’t but it’s not like I cared. Might make old man Grainger more miserable, but seein’ as he was on beer number six before I left after lunch I knew he’d pass out by seven.
I smiled back and said, “that’s alright, ma’am. Mr. Martin get’s me to mow his lawn sometimes. Thought I’d see if he was still here if he wanted it done again before he left.” It was a bullshit story, Mr. Martin only got me to mow his lawn when he started gettin’ sick a few months back. But she didn’t know that, and maybe she’d keep me on.
“Oh,” Her eyebrows went up and she started looking out at the well kept yards. Hers and the ones around her. There weren’t strict rules at the better half, but everyone seemed to tow the line. Garbage only hit the street on trash day, and nobody let their property start looking like the shithole I lived in on the other side of the trees.
“My husbands not home at the moment,” She told me. “But he sometimes stays in the city through the week. I’ll see what he wants to do about the yard and let him decide if he wants someone else to look after it.” I nodded, giving her a smile, “Thank you, ma’am. I can check back in with you tomorrow if you want. That’s when I cut the Stanley’s, Barker’s and Finks. On Sunday’s when they head to church.”
They were all old, really old. They paid well and sometimes the Barker’s sent me home with baked goods. I loved Sundays. Today I only had the James’ and the Reilly’s. Before the woman could reply the laughing I’d heard started again before a small dog came running out of the house and jumped on my legs. “Down, Charlie!” It was a command but the girl laughed while she said it. Meaning the dog didn’t listen and kept pawing at my legs for attention. I bent down, ignoring the button on my pants that was digging into my bare stomach and pet the dogs head. He was a mutt. Maybe part hound, lab, and a bit of German Shepherd. The laughing got closer and when I looked up from my crouched position I nearly fell on my ass.
The girl was all smiles, so big it took up half of her heart shaped face. Her hair was light brown ringlets, and out here on the porch with the sun shinin’ behind her head she looked like an angel. No, better than an angel. She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen. She bent down in front of me, all big brown eyes and white sparkling teeth while pullin’ Charlie sayin’ “Silly Charlie, I told you to stay down!” She laughed again and her mother finally pulled my eyes of the beauty in front of me.
“Where are my manners, I’m sorry. I’m Violet Parker. This is my daughter Grace.” I smiled at Mrs. Parker, “Nice to meet yas,” She smiled back and asked, “What’s your name, dear?” Her voice was as smooth as her perfume. She was untainted. They were both clean and nice, a far cry from the sorry sack ‘a shit my father had raised. I wasn’t a bad person, I knew that. But I still came from the lesser half. I still couldn’t afford to grow like other boys my age. I had stains on my clothes while their’s look like they might’a been ironed.
I took in a short breath and stood, no longer able to deal with the button of my pants diggin’ into my skin and decided right there that I was gonna be somethin’ different. Someone different. I looked at the beauty- Grace- and decided I’d never be good enough for someone so pretty, but hell if wasn’t gonna try.
I wasn’t gonna eat that burger tonight. I was gonna go to the thrift shop right after I got paid. I was never gonna fit in with these people, but I could pretend. Even if it was only while cuttin’ their lawn. I wiped my damp hands on my too-short pants and told her, “Denny, ma’am. Denny Black.”
I never wanted to hear the curse come from Grace’s pretty mouth. She was too clean and too pure for that. From this point forward, to these people, I would be Denny.
The End….. For now! Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think 🙂