My Father Deals With Shorty Hydock from Issue 80
I was seven and only horses interested me. Cousin Hayden
welded me an outsized piggy bank, so sturdy it would take
a sledgehammer to open it. Hayden said when it was full I’d have
enough money for a horse. It sat on the table behind my bed.
I lay in my living room cot, reading Black Beauty when Shorty Hydock
banged on the door. Daddy had sent Shorty’s wife, Georgia, and her daughter
away. Everybody in Perris knew Georgia had shacked up with my Dad,
and Shorty, out of jail, was looking for his family and my father.
I heard Shorty yell and my father answer. I thought I heard my name
and something about a drink. Shorty waved at me when they passed my bed
on their way to the dining room. A bottle opened, liquid poured into glasses,
and cards shuffled. My father said, “I fold. This one’s all yours,”
and more drinks were poured. Shorty laughed and coins clinked.
What my father usually said at poker games was “I call and raise,”
“This one’s mine, boys,” and, as he scooped in the money,
“Better luck next time.” This night, Shorty never stopped laughing.
They walked toward my cot. I pretended to sleep. I heard Shorty’s slurred voice
as he picked up my bank, dropped coins in, even stuffed bills through the slot.
I thought about my horse. What color did I want: black, white, pinto? In the morning
my bank was gone. When I asked, Daddy said he put it in a safe place.
Shirley Hydock And I Play Nicely from Issue 80
Before Georgia and Shirley moved into the farm
with my dad, we visited them in their trailer
on Daddy’s custody days. Daddy and Georgia
drank whiskey and held hands while Shirley
and I played Pick-up-Sticks.
At the farm, Shirley once hit me in the nose,
and while I bled, her mother beat her with a belt.
I tried to find a place I couldn’t hear her cry.
Mostly, we played games Shirley made up.
One of them was Murder. We’d take turns being victim
and murderer. The victim lay face down on the bed
while the murderer straddled her and hit her on the back.
Another game was Fuck. This was in 1938.
We were about seven, and the word was new to me.
We went behind the barn and took off most of our clothes.
One would lie on top of the other and wiggle. It wasn’t appealing.
Shirley said, “It’s more fun with my cousin Kenny.”