Suicide Knob, 1994

The Olds has been tarped a while. Never did paint it.

Sometimes I flip that tarp and get behind the wheel, one leg out the door and my foot on the dirt, and I race my after-dinner beers to that line between cold and warm while she puts the baby down.

The baby. That smell is a shiver down my spine. She’s a brand new start like the beginning or the end of the world. I know I would do anything for her or even for the sake of her but when she looks up at me I hear a loose screen door slapping its frame and I’m already crushed by all the ways she will hurt.

I lift that can and swallow more beer while it’s still cooler than it’s fixing to be. Moonlight paints the hood to where I peeled the tarp back and shines on the suicide knob, that flaking chrome skull grinning like Dirty Harry, flecks of dried teenage blood still in one eye socket from way back when I got rear-ended and broke a tooth one night after I dropped her off on my way to see a different girl.

She shows up in one of my undershirts and her flip-flops holding the baby monitor by the antenna like she might take off any second and leave it in the dirt. She sits on my outside leg, that shirt high up her thighs and puts her head on my shoulder, drops the monitor on the seat, squirms on my leg as a kind of shortcut way of saying the night is young and so are we for a little while longer. Her nipples are hard and so am I but we just sit there hearing crickets and frogs and those small breaths on the monitor all together like a roomful of ticking clocks.

“Dishwasher’s broke,” she says in her staring across the lake voice just as I’m telling myself I’m gonna swallow the last of this hot beer and fuck her good and paint this vehicle soon and see my little girl down the aisle one day, but I don’t move and she don’t move and it’s only that beer can between my legs. I told her once that love and time only meet to kill the other off but we were kids then and this ain’t bad.

She cooks good and never tells me no.

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