William Baker: Reader

She pushes the plate at the boy, piled high with cornmeal mush drowned in syrup and charred sausage on the side. Eat everything you can, she says and takes the cigarette balanced on the edge of the table. She presses the icy sandwich bag to her cheek.

The man out back is banging with wrenches, cussing, pounding until the truck starts. In a crash of gears, he guns the sputtering engine and sprays gravel against the side of the house. The truck radio blasts through a broken window and tinny music drifts in driveway dust.

The boy cleans the plate as she smokes at the sink with her back to him. She watches the man race over to highway 31 and Jimmy’s Place. He will be back when the $50 is gone. The car is there, she thinks it might start.

The boy leaves the room, returns and bangs a loaded gym bag on the table, the dishes rattle. She watches the road and finishes the smoke, it’s tendrils spiral and hang with the flaking ceiling paint. The sandwich bag becomes water and she throws it in the sink, flicks the butt after it and turns to the gym bag and the boy.

I’m taking my books this time, the boy says.

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