I have a thing about railroad crossings. I like them. Once, I sat parked at one for twelve minutes, watching freight car after freight car in the dark.
In my passenger seat: a woman in her thirties, Mexican, ninety-five pounds sopping wet. Her children mixed—looking more black than latino. Her oldest kept asking me, “You gonna stay for cena?”
The other boy chimed in. And pretty soon, they were threatening suicide if the seventeen-year-old with red hair didn’t stay for supper.
Hers was a bad neighborhood; the area had gone to pot. It might’ve been nice once-upon-a-time, but the front porches had bars on the windows.
I sat in her den while she, her aunt, and her cousin cooked.
Her boys showed me their toys—different-colored blocks of wood. They were building a city. The youngest was King Kong, smashing the metropolis to pieces. A stray block hit his brother on the lip. That did it.
King Kong died, right there.
Supper was Hamburger Helper. Not the good kind, but the cheap, off-brand variety. I’ve eaten expired hog livers that tasted better. Her sons went back for seconds. King Kong led the charge.
I helped with dishes. It was a manual operation. She scrubbed, I dried. She didn’t say much, not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t speak good English.
I bid them goodnight. She tried to pay me for gas. I refused.
I drove home, which was about an hour away. I said a prayer for her and cried.
I could barely keep my eyes open. The day had been a long one. Just that morning, I’d gotten up at four—I’m an early riser. Mother made breakfast. Bacon, sausage, eggs, handmade biscuits.
I’d gone to work, took orders from a short construction-site foreman named Roger who probably treated dogs better than young redheads.
That’s when I’d first met her.
The cleaning-company van dropped her off, her kids in tow. Young King Kong tore out after his brother. He ran straight through a fresh-poured cement driveway.
Roger came unglued. He called the kid a name referring to his skin color. Then he called his mother something worse. Roger slapped the kid, knocked the child off his feet.
It took three construction workers to pull her off Roger. Two to restrain Roger.
One to drive her home.
I don’t pray as often as I’d like. But I still pray for her, for her sons, for Roger.
And anyone else who thinks there’s a difference between us.
Susan Irene Fox - August 21, 2016 2:05 pm
We haven’t learn so much since then, have we Sean. Sending my prayers up along with yours.
Melissa Sanders - September 12, 2016 4:42 am
Love it as always!