Today was Tuesday. Tomorrow’s Tuesday, too. We heard the news Tuesday night, in between Aretha Franklin and The Association. Daddy was behind the wheel of the Sausage Truck, so named because of its color. Vince called it the shit-truck once and Daddy made him clean out the whole laundry room for it and believe me that is not a job you want because Fat Cat lives in there and if Vince was looking for shit, that was a good place to find it.
Anyhow, I was on the other side of the bench seat carefully balanced one of Mrs. Hanover’s lemon meringue pies on my bare knees and singing along to the radio when I knew the words. The sky was that blue, blue, blue that you get at deep twilight when it’s just before night. Firefly time. After Aretha finished up, the DJ — Sixties McKay, he was called — the DJ said, “Now I’ve just had a bit of news come over my desk, folks. Tomorrow’s going to be a re-do, they say. That’s right, I’ve got it from the AP that tomorrow’s going to be Tuesday again.”
I looked at the side of Daddy’s head and waiting for him to say such a thing wasn’t possible. But he didn’t look away from the road. A firefly smacked against the windshield and left a bright green spot that slowly faded. Daddy said, “Dial up your mama, Trouble.”
I don’t think my name is properly Trouble. At least I don’t think I was Trouble from the very beginning. But Mama loses paperwork all the time, so my birth certificate is somewhere in the stomach of the house, and everybody’s been calling me Trouble so long I reckon they’ve forgotten my real name. It’s a little unfair, I think, actually, because I’m not that much trouble. It’s Vince who’s always having to clean the laundry room or stack firewood or change spark plugs for some transgression. Maybe I’ll name myself again when I’m 18. Rebecca or Samantha or something that would look better on the top of my locker at school.
“I really don’t feel like re-doing the goddam day when I did everything right the first time,” Daddy said to Mama. He was holding the phone several inches from his head (this is because of them giving you brain tumors). “So I guess tomorrow I’ll be splitting all that wood again, because the universe decides some damn fool out there hasn’t done it right.”
Because of the way Daddy was holding the phone, I could hear Mama’s voice quite clearly. “Well,” she said, “I’m not going to finish the laundry then. If I’m going to do it all again. In fact, I think I’ll read my new Ellora book. It’ll save me some time tomorrow.”
“That’s the damnedest thing I ever heard,” Daddy declared.
“Did you bring me a pie?” Mama asked. Daddy affirmed. “Did you bring one for Fazi?”
“Fazi can buy his own damn pies,” Daddy said. Fazi is our next door neighbor. Mostly he drinks, but sometimes he also drives a semi-truck which he parks in his front yard when he’s not driving it. Daddy says Fazi does this in order to make sure that our property value is so low that we will never be able to sell our house and move away, because he’s a useless bachelor.
“You can get him one tomorrow,” Mama said.
“Or he can get one himself,” Daddy replied. Then he had to shift gears, and got annoyed with holding the phone at the same time, so he said, “We’ll be home in a little bit. We’re ten minutes from the bridge.”
He grumbled for a little bit then, as we drove. I used to be alarmed by Daddy’s grumbling, because it sounds quite terrifying. He grinds his teeth and cracks his knuckles, and sometimes he swears, and he’ll mumble softly to himself while looking out the window. Mama says it’s just the sound he makes while he gets used to the idea of something. She says most people make that noise anyway, just inside their head, and Daddy takes less time to get a grip, because he says it out loud.
Sure enough, Daddy only grumbled for a few minutes, and then he pulled over on the soft shoulder of the road. The headlights stared into nothing.
“Why are we stopping?” I asked. I was tired of balancing the pie so that the meringue didn’t get smushed by the saran-wrap and I wanted to be home.
Daddy opened his door. “Come on, Trouble. Watch the ditch. Bring the pie.”
I raised my eyebrows but did as he said. It was getting to be pretty much dark, but Daddy came around the side of the truck and took my hand in his. Together we stumped along the side of the road until we got to the concrete edge of the bridge. The bridge is sort of famous, ever since Mark Cleverly threw himself off it four years ago, only to find out that a fifteen foot drop is not enough to kill you. He didn’t get anything but fish in his pants, Vince told me. Mark sells furniture, now, in town. Cleverly Made is the name of it. I’m not making that up. His logo is the bridge with a Jesus fish underneath it.
Anyway so there Daddy and I were on the bank of the little river below the bridge, and here, it wasn’t dark, because the last of the sun reflected on the shallow water like a mirror. The whole world seemed pink and purple.
“Now, let’s have that pie,” Daddy said.
I was scandalized. “What about Mama!”
“I reckon we’re just going to have to buy that pie again tomorrow,” Daddy said. He grinned, and we were partners in crime. Together, we swiped the meringue with our fingers and then scooped lemon up until our fingernails smelled of it, and when we were too sticky to eat any more, we stopped.
Daddy stood up and looked over the river, silhouetted in the last of the sun. He looked like a king then, my daddy, standing on the edge of the water and surveying it. Then he swiped his hand on the back of his jeans and held out a hand to pull me up. “I figure,” he said, “That today was just about perfect. Hard to imagine we could improve upon it tomorrow, Trouble.”
I figured he was right in his figuring, but we were going to have to try anyway. I followed him back up to the Sausage Truck and we sat up there for a minute, doing our best with spit and drive-through napkins from the glovebox. Finally Daddy’s hands were clean enough to drive and so he pulled onto the road.
On the other side of the bridge, coming toward us, I saw bright headlights.
“Oh, Fazi, turn off your brights,” Daddy growled. “You’re blinding us.”
Sure enough, it was Fazi in his massive blue semi-truck, trundling rapidly over the bridge just as the Sausage Truck started onto it. And Fazi didn’t switch off his brights. I saw now that the semi-truck was weaving, and in our lane. Daddy didn’t have time to grumble because he was smashing on his brakes and trying to swerve out of Fazi’s way. But there was no where to swerve to, because we were on the middle of the bridge where Mark Cleverly tried to kill himself.
The Byrds were singing when Fazi’s blue semi-truck smashed into the left side of the Sausage Truck. It was so loud that there was no sound, and then we were falling, pushed over the side of the bridge. The whole world was pink and purple.
When I opened my eyes, I realized first that I was up to my knees in water, filling up the truck cab. The remainder of the lemon meringue pie was smashed all across the inside of the busted windshield. My daddy, too, was smashed cross the windshield, and I couldn’t look at him. I wrenched the door open and half-swam, half-waded to the shore I’d just been on. My sundress was soaked and the pattern was starting to run.
The world was filled with the singing of crickets and humming of cicadas. It was like there were no cars left anywhere in the world. I swiped my hands clean on my sundress. Climbing back up the bank, I bit my lip to keep it still, and started across the bridge toward home again.
Tomorrow I wouldn’t cry.
Author’s Note: An idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile.
image courtesy: theqspeaks