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Middle of Nowhere

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When people say that they are no good at telling lies, they don’t realize that they themselves are lying. Lying is a basic nature in my household, and it all started when I was around six years old. I had an older sister who liked to break the rules and go against whatever our mom would say, which meant that if our mom decided to surface from her room, I was left to lie about where my sister was.  At my age I didn’t understand how deeply it hurt my Ma, because no one believes a six year old’s words are important. I bet if our dad had stuck around then there wouldn’t have been as many rebellious stages in our household, like when my sister decided it was her mission to go to every high school party in town. I lied for my mom who was too depressed to come out of the house so I had to buy groceries for her, and then she, in turn, lied for me when my sister forgot to take me to school and the teacher showed up at the house.
Part of our problem came from the fact that we lived in the Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee, and everyone and their mother had to meddle in each other’s business. The townspeople blamed my mother and her no-good children for my father’s departure, and this blame made it even harder for our family to function in that town. Fast-forwarding almost twenty godforsaken years, here I still am, stuck in the Middle of Nowhere, taking care of my mother and dealing with rumors and bull s***. My family’s name had been redeemed somewhat because I had married Margie, one of the town girls, only because her mother felt that it wasn’t appropriate for her daughter to be sneaking about with some low life. Little did her mother know that her precious daughter was the one with the loose morals. My sister had left town to try to become a big actress in Hollywood, which didn’t seem like it was working out because last time I called her she said she was busy working. I bet she was working the street corner because she never was that busy. And I was still stuck in this town where everybody knew everything about everyone and there weren’t any secrets. I thought it was still better than when I was growing up because although I heard the constant whispers, it was not as bad as hearing about all the stuff the women in the knitting club were dreaming up about why my mother couldn’t leave the house.
I woke every morning to the incessant, b****y whine of my wife, Margie, on the phone, talking to some friend or her mother, and wasting our money with every word that came out of her mouth. My day was always the same, with little excitement except for when they stocked a new kind of beer at the gas station, the only place in town that you could buy beer without old ladies peering over your shoulder, because nothing ever happens in the Middle of Nowhere. I got up and put on my coveralls, pausing to remember when I last shaved but continuing after realizing that I shaved yesterday. When the clock hit eight o'clock, my shoes were on and my hair was combed through. I never expected breakfast from Margie because she was either too occupied with daily gossip, or I got a breakfast consisting of burned eggs and toast with a side of undercooked bacon. She always packed a lunch, but I threw it out the second I got to work and I ate my lunch at the diner where grease was always present and the smell of hamburgers escaped when you opened the revolving door.
I spent my days in the auto shop where the occasional customer would come through, mostly people who were passing through town.  Once in awhile I had to deal with the locals who always asked endless questions and were never satisfied with the answers, like when Margie and I would have kids. The answer, which I kept to myself, was never. I clocked out around 5 or 6 depending on when the streetlights came on.  Mostly they came on like clockwork but during the summer they were usually late because the old maintenance guy didn’t get into the electricity room at the same time every night. I knew that my wife watched soap operas every night and didn’t care when I got home so I usually popped into the gas station and grabbed a six-pack. I ended up on my mom’s porch and sat there awhile until the beer was finished and then meandered home to my annoying wife in our decrepit house because I couldn’t bother to get a better house. My days always ended with a microwave dinner and the local news until I felt like going to bed, which was around ten.  As  I showered and slipped under the musty covers next to my immobile wife, I prepared to do it all again tomorrow.
When I awoke on November 13, I didn’t know that this day would change my world forever, I followed the same steps, like I did everyday, and headed into town to open up the auto shop. Margie was painting her nails and her hair was in curlers, and she paused her phone conversation “Everything all right hon?” I nodded and walked to the shop. Funny thing was that even though Margie was Margie, she was the only one who could read me and I felt bad that I lied to her because she knew the truth. I was sitting in my chair nursing a beer right as the sun set when my mother wandered into the shop. Fearing the worst, I quickly ushered her into the small office. She looked worse than usual, her hair was in tangles and her eyes were bloodshot.  Frantically looking around, she grabbed the beer from my hand but spilled it everywhere when her hands began shaking. “Ma, what’s wrong?” I said, and she looked at me and then whispered, “He’s at my house.” I rocked back on my heels and asked the question I knew the answer to, “Who’s at your house Ma?” She glanced at me and uttered the single word that I hadn’t heard since I was a baby and was forbidden when I grew up, “Dad.”  I stood and thumped the desk, not caring that I had broken my priceless collection of beer bottles. “Ma, what did he do?” I stared at her, worried. “Nothin’, Vincent.” I knew that she only called me my full name when something serious happened. I walked out to the phone and dialed, and after three long rings my boss, Gary answered, “Can I take the rest of today off? My Ma’s gone off her rocker again.” His heavy voice responded, “Sure, son. Tell the attendants that if they need anything to call me.” A click ended our conversation and I relayed the message to the attendants in a trance, and slowly led my Ma down the street, following steps that I walked everyday, except today there was a different ending.
I passed by the gas station and knew that we only had about five more minutes to walk until we came to Ma’s house. As we walked down the street that I grew up on, a feeling of wariness stirred in my gut telling me to walk away because I had an inkling that she was telling the truth.  My Ma cowered behind me as I strode up to the porch, making my gut feeling only stronger until it turned into a bellyache. The porch was covered in shadow, but there was a dark, thick outline on the rocking chair that my Ma used to sit on before her bedroom became the only place that she was comfortable in.
As I strode up the steps, I heard the familiar creak of the middle step that broke when my sister left for LA and her stiletto went through the stairs as she ran from her old life. I stopped after I got to the top of the porch and said, “What do you want Dad?”  My father responded after a long pause, standing up, and said “Vinnie, don’t I get a hug?”  As his voice boomed, I winced because that voice to me meant either a reprimand or a swift backhand. “Dad, you can’t bother Ma anymore. Please just go.” I crossed my arms and stepped away from him and further away into the recesses of the unlit porch. There were no streetlights in this part of town, and there was nobody around for miles. “Dad, tell me what you want and then you can get out of our life for good.” He replied, ”Son, I just have some unfinished business around here.”  As he raised his hand, I mistook it for a handshake, and I stepped away from him. As I glanced back, I realized that it was my grandfather’s pistol, passed down, the next sound I heard was the safety click off.






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