Willow’s mom was drunk again this morning. She was lumbering down the street, her scarf trailing on the ground so all I could think was it would catch on a gate or post and strangle her. I don’t know where she gets the money for all the booze except Willow’s clothes are clearly Goodwill and I think she cuts her own hair. I don’t judge, ‘cause my brother died from drugs and my daddy left. Everyone around here has shit. Some pretend they don’t. Their secrets might be buried deeper but secrets always come out, sometimes in a big, flashy way and sometimes like a needle, slowly poking through cloth.
My mom fell apart after Greg died, buy she’s better now. She has a shitty job at the mall but it’s a job and she tries to be a real pain in the ass about me coming home late and all, but mostly it’s too much trouble.
Willow is a weirdo. First of all the name, like her parents were hippies? No, they’re rednecks like most around here. Once somebody tried to get our high school to stop calling the football team the Indians. The principal said if we change it to anything, it’s gonna be the Rednecks. You see what I mean. Whoever came up with that idea left town. Wise move.
I think Willow might be one of those savant types. I saw a TV show on it. She’s like a genius about science stuff but for everything else, she’s sort of dumb – or maybe just doesn’t care. We don’t usually have geniuses in our school and the teachers don’t know what to make of her. They know her mother’s a drunk but then they know everybody’s story and if they made excuses for everybody, well, it’d be even more chaotic than it already is. Not so many make it to graduation.
Me and Junie Crabbe tried to make friends with her once but it didn’t go so well. We went to Junie’s house and she just walked around like it was a museum. I mean, Junie probably had the most “normal” family of all of us, but it’s not that interesting. Willow kept asking crazy questions like ‘how is everything so clean?’ and ‘why do you have a whole closet just for coats?’ After she left, Junie’s mother said it’s like she’s a feral child – raised by wolves which I think Willow would have preferred, to be honest. We didn’t ask her over again.
The thing is – Willow’s kind of pretty. I’ve seen the boys look at her. I bet she doesn’t know what’s what and her mother’s too fucked up to tell her. Somebody should though, before it happens. There are more than a few nasty boys in our school. Sure as shit they’ll end up dead or in jail. Willow needs telling how to take care of herself. I don’t know who’s going to do that, though. My mom always says don’t get your face up in anybody else’s business which is usually good advice. Except I can’t help but worry about her. I don’t really know why. I think some of it is I can see her getting out of this town. She could be somebody – like a famous doctor who cures cancer or whatever. Most of us don’t have a shot at anything like that. I sure never will. But I like the idea of Willow doing it – it makes the world less small. Sometimes you can’t breathe around here, it’s all so shut up and claustrophobic. I like to think someone could break out and fly away. Take a miracle though and one thing for sure, no matter how much god-talk there is around here, there ain’t no god watching over us. There ain’t no miracles. That’s clear as a bell.
About the Author: Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, Garbanzo, and Blotterature and was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, & Prairie Schooner and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times. She has a book forthcoming from Twelve Winters Press in 2018. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.