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Trailer Trash(4)

By:Marie Sexton

Nate wondered how he knew, then realized Cody was looking at his class ring. “Yeah.”

“Me too.”

Nate straightened the ring on his finger, remembering how excited he’d been as he chose the designs back in tenth grade. Of course, he hadn’t known then that they’d be moving before graduation. Now he’d have to serve out his senior year in Warren, Wyoming. Only one year in this joke of a town, and he’d be able to leave. That’s what he held on to. “You play any sports?”

Cody laughed. “Yeah, man. I’m the captain of the football team. Whatta you think?”

It had been a stupid question. If he’d thought about it for half a second, he would have known that.

“What about you?” Cody asked.

“Tennis. And I was on the swim team.”

“Only swimming pool here is the outdoor one. It’s open about three months outta the year.”

“Yeah, I saw it.” It was nothing more than a square, cement hole in the ground, full of squealing kids. It wasn’t even close to Olympic size, even if there had been lanes. Next to it was the tennis court—singular, not plural—the cement cracked and overgrown with weeds and grass. Nate had counted five empty beer bottles but not one tennis ball.

He swallowed hard against the sudden lump in his throat. He fought to turn his frustration into anger. It’d serve him better that way.

“I guess I don’t do anything anymore.” But he didn’t sound nearly as casual as he’d hoped. He knew his bitterness came through.

For the first time, there was no resentment or disdain in Cody’s eyes. It looked more like pity.

“You’re in hell, Nate,” he said without a hint of humor. “This place will eat your soul.”

Nate offered to drive Cody home, but Cody said dropping him back at the gas station where they’d met would be close enough.

“Want to hang out tomorrow?” Nate asked. “I can meet you at the wagon after lunch.”

It took Cody a second, like he hadn’t quite understood the question, or couldn’t believe he’d actually heard it, but then he smiled. Not the cynical smile Nate had seen earlier, or the one that told him Cody thought he was a preppy fool. This was different. It made him look younger than he really was. It was sweet, like a secret smile Nate suspected few had ever seen.

“Cool,” Cody said. Nothing more. But Nate had a feeling he was looking forward to it.

He drove up the hill to Orange Grove with a familiar feeling of dread in his gut. His dad was the newest officer with the Warren PD. The oil boom had brought lots of people to the state in the seventies and the first part of the eighties, but now, the boom was over, and people were fleeing Wyoming in droves. Towns were shrinking, and unemployment was higher than it had ever been. Fully a third of the houses in Orange Grove were empty, dented For Sale signs standing in the front lawns, bowing before the wind. Unfortunately, higher unemployment and a hard-hitting recession meant an elevation in crime. Nate’s dad had managed to get a job with the police department because he had years of experience on his résumé, but Nate had never understood why they had to leave Austin at all, and moving to a town that had already peaked and was now declining into ruin was the last thing he’d wanted to do.

He found his dad at the dining room table with open folders full of paper spread out all around him. “Where’ve you been?” he asked. Not accusing. Not worried. Just genuinely curious about Nate’s day.


Nate saw the pain in his dad’s eyes at his elusiveness. He and his dad had always been pals. But that had been before.

Before the affair. Before the divorce.

“Did you meet some kids?”

“One. We hung out.”

“That’s good. I’m glad you’re making friends. Boy or girl?”

“A boy. He’ll be a senior, like me.”

“That’s great. What’s his name?”


“What’s his last name?”

Nate knew he was only asking because he wanted to know if it was a name he’d find on the lists of habitual offenders. Nate was happy to be able to honestly say, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”

They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, his dad fiddling with his pen, Nate staring at his toes. He wanted to say more. He wanted to say, Cody took me to a field where we smoked half a pack of cigarettes because there’s nothing else to do in this goddamn town. He wanted to say, He told me everybody from this part of town gets high. He wanted to say, You’ve brought me to the shittiest place on earth. Cody says it will eat my soul, and I think he’s right.