muck, Jésus Cristo preaching to the putas, but it would require more time than she had. She left the spatula staked in the muck. Maybe it’d attract lightning, she almost let herself complete the thought. She took off the 7-Eleven bag, went in to wash her hands, the front room of her kid’s house featured her old sofa and a plate of nachos furred with mold. She went through to the kitchen, her kid in the TV room playing a video game, eyes glazed, the embroidered pillow Brenda brought over earlier in the month on the floor, a shoeprint across the face of the sunflower, and why she had thought her boy would want a sunflower pillow in his home she couldn’t recall, her kid was right, it was faggoty, if faggoty meant nice, decorative, thoughtful. He had never forgiven her for the pumpkin incident. Lord God grant me a shovel! Brenda focused on her handwashing, the cucumber hand soap she’d brought over months before still full, the lather gray, then less gray, then a perfect bubbly white, this was the kind of satisfaction her kid would never know, never care to know. Perfect, bubbly, white. So simple! What are your plans for today? Brenda asked her kid. His foot rested on his knee, his foot as black with dirt as if it had been drawn there with charcoal. I don’t know, was the answer. Well, jobs don’t get themselves, Brenda said, forcing brightness into her voice. Good one, her boy said. On the television a black man with two swords cut the head off a woman in a metal bikini, the head screamed and the eyes rolled, the black man laughed and brandished his swords. Brenda’s kid said, See what you did? Now I have to start all over. Holy Ghost on a tricycle, floating like a fart, Brenda didn’t see what she did. Her kid was playing the woman in the bikini? Okay well, Brenda said. There was no reply, her kid was back in the game. The woman in the two-piece whipped her hair and did an elaborate scissoring flip. Brenda realized there was a good chance her kid had a boner. Okay well, Brenda said again. She’d always wanted to be a mother, she knew she’d be good at it, she wanted a close relationship with her son, when she pictured her own parents they were always staring just to the right of her, she didn’t want that for her son, she wanted him to feel seen, loved, free to be himself, but now standing in his kitchen, counters covered in dried chili and cereal bowls and pizza boxes, trying not to see the tent he was pitching in his gym shorts, Brenda wondered if her parents were right to distance themselves, and she felt an unfamiliar warmth spread through her thinking of them, Mom, she thought, and Dad, Mom, Dad, Mom Dad, they were right, Mom with her tight-set hair and Dad with his bad toe pushing out of his slipper, they were right to just live their lives and not get involved. Brenda would leave now. Her kid would have to just figure it out, figure out how to clean his gutter clean his kitchen get a job contain his desire live in the world. She could see her purse out the window lumped in the dirt, and beyond was her car, she’d just had it washed, how it shone, she had to get to work, there was still that stretch of highway she had to drive, this was her life! Her own. And then she saw into her kid’s bedroom. Saw the tangled hair tanned calf and single dollop breast staring dumbly out. The girl saying, Oh hey, in a pebbled voice, and there was the other breast now, two stunned eyes. The television shrieked, something was stabbed. Brenda’s kid said, Don’t look in there! but made no move to get up. Brenda continued on to the front door, closed the door behind her. The sky was a candy blue now. She bent for her purse, she bent into her car. The girl was beautiful. God in the grocery, this made her sad, she didn’t know why. Did her kid appreciate it? Maybe that was it. Maybe it wasn’t. But anyway, the highway.
ME AND HARDY
We took a wrong turn after Hardy dinged that kid on his bike. I was