City Dairy (deleted scene no. 2)

Author’s note: In the interest of starting Smokin’ & Cryin’ as close to the inciting incident as possible, I cut a couple of scenes that came beforehand. I still like them and thought it’d be fun to share them anyway. City Dairy is 2 of 2.

 

All Bev wanted was milk, bread, and Virginia Slims. And Lisa out of her hair. My stepmom’s eyes were puffy and she wore the stubborn scowl that always showed up after a long night of arguing with my dad. She’d wanted Arthur to move back home with us for a while and I was kind of proud of the fight she put up because usually she’d just sigh and give that jerk his way.

As I pulled Lisa down to Johnson Street in her red wagon through the humidity of a gray summer day, I thought about them yelling at each other half the night. I’d had my pillow over my ears when Lisa came into my room and silently curled onto the foot of my bed, dropping off to sleep as soon as she knew she wasn’t alone.

Today she was riding in the wagon like last night never happened, mashing the faces of her Liddle Kiddle dolls together, making kissy sounds.

“Knock it off, Lisa. You’re three.”

“Pee Pee and Lilac in love.” Pee Pee was how she said Sweet Pea, which was the pink-haired doll’s name. I only knew that because I’d got it for her at Czuba’s and stuffed it in her Christmas stocking.

I’d already bought the kid a donut with my own money at the bakery, but when we got to the City Dairy on Johnson Street, she pitched a fit for ice cream. I was telling her to forget it when Arthur walked in. Red eyes, his dirt-blond hair a mess.

“Ice fiend. I want ice fiend.” Lisa yanked on my T-shirt, smearing it with chocolate donut glaze.

“Forget it. It’s practically lunchtime,” I said.

“It’s called ice cream.” Arthur squatted in front of her. “Say it right. Ice cream.

She put the back of her hand against her wisp of dark bangs. “Shit man, I starve.”

“Get a load of this kid.” Arthur tipped his head back and laughed.

I rarely missed a chance to spoil Lisa. Dad and Bev had her after Arthur got recruited—maybe to replace him, maybe to justify the way they’d broken up two families. The whole pregnancy it was boy this, new son that, when your baby brother arrives. They’d picked the name Vernon Jr. Then the baby turned out to be Lisa: a colicky girl with Arthur’s square, defiant jaw. A secret agent sent straight from hell to settle the score. Or maybe sly help from above, courtesy of my dead mother.

“Double dip Superman in a sugar cone,” I said to old Mr. Thayer,  who was wiping the counter in his white apron and side cap. He nodded and took my forty cents.

By the time I got my strawberry malted and Arthur got his Stewart sandwich, sheets of rain were splashing down on Johnson Street, splattering the big windows lettered with the words City Dairy Cash & Carry, backward from our point of view. We sat on spinning stools at the far end of the counter by the jukebox, which we loaded with nickels. Arthur selected “Susie Q.” without even knowing it was Lisa’s favorite. She danced barefoot, grinding her toe into the floor like Gidget in a beach flick, dripping blue and red ice cream all over the place.

“Can you play this one?” Arthur bit a hunk out of his sandwich and took a drag off his cigarette almost simultaneously.

“Duh. Yeah. Easy.”

“Still in church choir?” he asked.

I slurped my malted. “That’s not really my bag.”

“So, what are your plans? College? Get married? Work on the line at GM? What do you want out of life?”

“You sound like my dad. I don’t know, man. Survive eleventh grade? Avoid the draft?”

A huge crack of lightning made us both jump. The lights cut out and the jukebox fell silent.

“Jesus!” Arthur said.

“Jesus,” Lisa repeated. Ice cream dripped from her elbow.

“Language,” Mr. Thayer said to me. Me. The only one who hadn’t used any. Jesus.

It was still pouring when Arthur got up to leave. “It’s water, man. Plain old water.” He shoved out the door.

I stayed back with Lisa, waiting for the rain to let up. Bev would freak out if Lisa got her clothes wet.

She was overripe for her nap by the time we got home, and she threw a fit in a puddle in the driveway, yelling for “Shit Man,” which she thought was Arthur’s name.

That was strike one.

I’d forgotten to pick up Bev’s Virginia Slims. Strike two.

Arthur had smoked so much that I smelled like an ashtray, so Bev assumed I’d smoked her cigarettes. Strike three.

She bawled me out, then when Dad came home he said my long hair was giving me a bad attitude and I better have it brush cut by the next time he laid eyes on me, or he’d do it himself. I thought about arguing for the half-second it took me to realize that would only get me my teeth knocked down my throat.

 

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Arthur Comes Home (deleted scene no. 1)

Author’s note: In the interest of starting Smokin’ & Cryin’ as close to the inciting incident as possible, I cut a couple of scenes that came beforehand. I still like them and thought it’d be fun to share them anyway. Arthur Comes Home is 1 of 2.

July 4th. Hairspray. Yellow onions. Burgers and bratwurst smoking on the grill. Arthur sauntered into our sun-scorched backyard, barefoot, wearing cutoffs and a ringer T-shirt. Shrieks and whoops and applause rose from our relatives and neighbors who were thrilled to have him home from the war. I’d wanted to be the first to see him, the first to welcome him home, but the sight of him through the sliding screen door froze me at the kitchen table, knife in midair, the onion I’d been chopping abruptly forgotten. Continue reading

“Baby” – All or None – State of Love & Trust

Author’s note

State of Love & Trust - review

State of Love & Trust, a novel by Grace Ombry

I’m serializing the first 10% of State of Love & Trust here on my blog. It’s a story about Pearl Jam fans in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown.

Begin with the first installment. This post is #5 post in the series.

 

Chapter 4 – All or None – “Baby” (part 1)

Clive – Belknap Township, Mich. – Friday, June 30, 2006

The happiest man alive. That was me from the snowy day last March when Becca had agreed to marry me, until this very moment in the blazing heat. I should have known something like this would happen. I had my reasons, I swear, that one little word could double me over with the force of a gut punch right there in our backyard garden.

I stumbled backward and stepped on a rotting tomato. Embryonic slime oozed warm between my toes. I scraped my bare foot in the rough crabgrass while she continued kneeling in the dirt. Steady. Stable. Oblivious to the earwig flailing in her water glass. She quit looking at me for a reply and forced her weed digger between twin dandelions. Continue reading

“Saint” – Pilate – State of Love & Trust

Author’s note

State of Love & Trust - review

State of Love & Trust, a novel by Grace Ombry

I’m serializing the first 10% of State of Love & Trust here on my blog. It’s a story about Pearl Jam fans in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown.

Begin with the first installment. This post is #4 in the series.

 

Chapter 3 – Pilate – “Saint” (part 1)

Ellie – Detroit, Mich. – Friday, June 30, 2006

Saint caught me dangling his codpiece over the kitchen wastebasket. He stomped in and snatched it from my hand. “You wouldn’t dare.” He half smiled, clutching it to his chest.

“Yeah, actually I would.”

“Harsh. You know I need it.” His round eyes were all innocence. “You were really gonna toss it?”

“Yup. Don’t leave it on my counter again. Man, that’s just gross.” Continue reading

“Cabbage” – Corduroy – State of Love & Trust

Author’s note

State of Love & Trust - review

State of Love & Trust, a novel by Grace Ombry

I’m serializing the first 10% of State of Love & Trust here on my blog. It’s a story about Pearl Jam fans in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, Corktown.

Begin with the first installment. This post is #3 in the series.

 

Chapter 2 – Corduroy “Cabbage” (part 2)

Reece’s folks lived in an aluminum-sided one-story in Hazel Park, which we called Hazeltucky.

Today their house smelled like green apple ReNuzIt, corned beef and cabbage.

“I made it especially for you,” Marjorie LeFanch said. “There’s plenty of veggies.” After four years, she’d finally quit putting meat on my plate and lecturing me about iron. Tonight she’d serve me limp cabbage with overcooked potatoes in meat juice, with a side dish of boiled celery. Like being a vegetarian made me the rabbit in Fatal Attraction. I should have eaten a pretzel. Continue reading

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