And Not South
by Benjamin Lampkin
All I can find is a tall, orange plastic cup, the Tigers logo worn from a million washings. Hold it tentatively in my right hand. Wait.
He called at noon, said he’d be here any minute. Thought he lived in California, where his last check came from, but he must be in Nashville. Two of his kids live there. Another one, the youngest girl, is in Dallas, with her mom.
Haven’t talked to him in 67 days but I said yes, of course. Guzzled the rest of my Mountain Dew, I’m ready now but nothing’s coming out. Constrict my eyes, think about Little River, Lake Barkley, a splashy, messy water park. Nothing. Dammit, always a favor or excuse or some elaborate construct with him. A big opportunity, that’s what he called it, but since he’s so stupid and irresponsible and smokes weed, he said he needs me. I have to help him.
The phone reverberates in the family room but I can’t pick up yet. Seconds later, his cumbersome, demanding knock rattles the screen door. He’s here. I strain, squeeze, finally start going, shake, finish. Gingerly, I take the cup with me through the house, flip the deadbolt, pull open the door.
“Hey.” He reaches out a strong, dark hand, shakes hard, firm, holds it too long, gives my trembling hand back like it’s a present. I give him the warm, shimmering cup and he holds it up, studies it for a second, smiles slyly, the answer to all his problems, right there.
“Wish I could stay, but I gotta drive back for this interview.” I shrug, tell him good luck, and he claps a wad of bills into my hand. $75 in crumpled 20s and 10s. A birthday present, or a thank you, or reconciliation.