Working on the back story

Trying to get the scene between Kelly and Carl going, the one that put them together. It feels a little trite right now but I see that there’s stuff there to work with. As usual for me, the deeper into the story I get, the harder it feels. I feel some kind of erosion of faith in the work, but I’m trying to block that out.

Here’s what I’ve gotten this morning, but will work more later.

I should’ve seen it right away.

Beth’s at my mom’s, the two of them probably playing Double Solitaire at the dining table, Beth’s swinging legs visible through its glass top, Mom’s cigarettes fogging the light fixture.

“Miss?” The trucker’s voice brings me back. He’s pointing to the sizzling burger in front of me. I flip it, dig for cheese in the tiny fridge, and glance back at Carl who’s
watching it all.

At least he looks sober. Breaks my heart he looks so old, only a few years older than me. I used to think he was sophisticated and being with him, I was same.

My mom threw my suitcase out the front door. It split over and my black bra lay spider-like on the sidewalk for all the neighborhood to see. And they were there, Steve the Sleaze on his bike in his wife-beater tee shirt and filthy cargo pants. Nancy Thompson from next door hosing down her scraggly roses. Even Mr. Gettich, the
retired math teacher from the high school, stood out on his lawn, his morning Gazette clutched in one hand, a stogy in the other.

The sun was blazing. It must’ve been noon and Mom was yelling. I thought the vein in her forehead was gonna pop.

I stomped out of the house, stepped over the suitcase, climbed into my old Honda, and took off.

Carl had a way with him in those days, soft spoken, sexy, filling all the space around me with a breathless heat. He had this way of cupping the back of my head and pulling me to him. I loved the smell of the sweat on his chest, the thump of his heart …

That first night in Reno Carl played Twenty-one and won $2700. He bought me a tight red dress and a pair of diamond studs. They were small but they were real.

We drank until we could barely stumble into the honeymoon suite. We made sloppy love just inside the door. I know because I woke up curled under the little table in the entry, the bed was unslept in, Carl was gone.

He lost what was left of the money he’d won. I should’ve known then we were in trouble. Nine months later I had Beth and didn’t see my own mother for six years.

“Excuse me, Miss?” Again it’s Dan the semi-driver pulling me out of deep thought. He’s pointing at my hand where I’ve managed to knead the slice of American into a
pulpy wad.

“Oh, sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten in to me.” I drop the cheese
into the sink and pull out another piece. Dan looks at Carl, says, “That guy
bothering you because—”

“It’s okay. I know him.” I’m whispering, not sure why.

Dan beetles his brows, shifts on the stool to give Carl a hard look. “I can take
care of him.”“No thanks. I’m fine.”

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