Somewhere in South Carolina. A rundown seafood joint. The kind of place that serves oysters on the half shell.
I’m sitting at the bar, eating Captain’s Wafers, waiting for my food.
The view is astounding. The salt marshes go on for miles, only interrupted by the sabal palms.
The beer is cheap, and cold enough to crack your fillings. The cocktail sauce is free.
The woman behind the bar looks happy tonight. She is late-middle-aged, and silver haired. She missing more than a few teeth. But it doesn’t affect her beauty. She bounces behind the bar with springy feet.
I finally ask, “Why are you so happy?”
She leans onto the bar. “Guess,” she says.
“You won the powerball?”
She shakes her head. “Guess again.”
She laughs. “Honey, that ship sailed a long dadgum time ago.”
Only she doesn’t say “dadgum.”
“I’m happy,” she says, “‘cause I’m gonna graduate.”
“Graduate from what?”
“High school. My daughter and I just took the GED test. And we passed it. Passed it clean.”
The woman looks at me and smiles a her tooth at me. And I’m smiling my less-than-optimal dental
work at her, too.
Because, you see, sitting before her is a guy who was a dropout, just like her.
“I got pregnant when I was in ninth grade,” she goes on. “Parents kicked me out, I had to start working. But I ain’t sorry. I got a good daughter out of the deal, I married a dadgum good man.
“When you’re a kid, it’s easy to drop out. Your little teenage brain only thinks about the here and now. If only I had listened to the adults in my life.”
I nod. Because I’m picking up what she’s laying down.
“But, hey, I don’t regret my life choices,” she adds. “They made me who I am today.”
Another nod from the choir.
She uses a church key to pop…