Two For a Dollar
The sky’s the same dull grey as always. Never seems to rain though. Bess says it’s them smokestacks. I never seen any smokestacks. A semi rumbles past, belching fumes. I can feel the particles coating my face, and flowing into my lungs. Just past the pile of old tires and big mud puddle, the same old blinking sign. “Valu-Rite Trailer Park”.
As soon as I crack the door, smoke pours out the top. We both mean to quit but it never happens. Dilapidated, grimy little tin box on wheels. Foam insulation inside of that, then loads of fake wood grain paneling inside. A box to store people in. The outside wouldn’t look so dingy if it’d just rain already.
My coughing fit subsides a minute or so after I’m in. Lungs just give up and get used to it. Like how barn smell goes away if you’re in one long enough. There’s something else. The sickly sweet smell of burning fat. “Ah made yew yer favrit” Bess warbles from her recliner. “Dem chicken fingers what has de spicy flavor packets, I gottem two fer a doller. Dey’s in de toaster oven.”
So they are. I bite down and my few remaining teeth sink straight through the limp reconstituted meat without any resistance. I hardly have to chew. Bess is spread out over that same ratty old recliner I bought in ‘89. Only gets up to use the shitter, so the cushions have permanently taken her shape. Had to widen the bathroom doorway so she could get through back in the late 90s. Then again a couple months ago. She just keeps getting fatter. We both do.
The little built in 13 inch TV VCR combo rattles on about some new show. A talking dog that solves crimes. “Dass gud teevee” Bess mutters. “I’d watch dat.” I can feel the moisture and fat molecules from the chicken fingers wafting out of the open toaster oven, coating every surface. Soon they cover my face and clothing. That scent never completely goes away.
Bess hasn’t washed recently. Her face and arms are shiny with grease. I get on her about that but her ankles give her trouble and I have to fix that power scooter she got through medicaid. She lays there like a blob, wearing her enormous stained bra and panties as it’s too hot for clothing. Her flowing folds hide cigarette butts and crumbs from her microwaved treats.
Was she always like this? No. I remember when she was a vision. It didn’t last long. A “flash in the pan beauty” they call it. I promised her I’d make sure she was always comfortable. That’s how we got to this point, I think. Whenever I had a choice, I did whatever was most comfortable. Lately it’s all started to blur together.
The soft, soggy microwave meats. The thin layer of grime coating everything that no amount of washing gets rid of. The cigarette butts. The smoke. The smell of fried food. Layers upon layers of soft, jiggling fat covered in crumbs, sticky stains and cigarette ash. Cars roaring past, adding smoke from their tailpipes to the ash grey sky. What is any of this? How did I get here? I just did what was comfortable. There’s no extracting myself from it now, that ship sailed decades ago. It’s a picture I’m painted into, that wouldn’t be complete without me.
I'm not sure when the fire started. Bess was half asleep on the recliner, mumbling “Now dat dere is jess quality teevee, I hafta watch dat”. She must’ve left the space heater on. It all went up so quickly. Cheap foam insulation, cigarette butts, everything coated in residual fat. All it took was that space heater. Bess only wanted to be warm. She’s warm now. Flailing and screaming in the other room, her skin bubbling. The sickly sweet smell of burning fat everywhere. I clench my teeth as the fire reaches me, and tears of relief roll down my face.
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