by McKenna Meldrum
Driving in a car that has no heating in the middle of winter is one of the shittiest parts of my life, and that’s saying something. I live in a small, nowhere, who gives a damn town, so back roads are always a safe bet to get somewhere in a hurry, or a good place to display teen angst through shenanigans in the middle of the night. Most farms are off the beaten trail. Children sneak onto the fields and make sport of stealing the most eggs from the hen huts or scaring the goats to make them yelp and faint. The most dangerous of these farm antics is the tradition of sneaking the largest cow off the farm, taking it to the school, and walking it to the top level of the building as a prank. This ritual is not only tolerated, but also expected since even the elders at the nursing home did it in their youth.
There’s an abandoned building in the middle of the woods that lays off a major road in my town. It is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. Well, I feel peace in its chaos. The old, run down house doesn’t have a door anymore. As I approach the building in the brisk winter air with cigarette smoke clogging my lungs, the bass drum hits me. I suppose I am late to the first set the way I’m late for everything. I kick spray paint cans away from my feet by the entrance.
A beer bottle is laying on the dirty wooden floor, and so I pick it up and throw it against the wall as the chorus starts, yet nobody glances back at me. The Fender plays the same rolling three chords: A, G, D. I’m standing in the darkest part of the back corner with a blank expression on my face, swaying my head back and forth to the music. I lock eyes with Abigail, one of my close friends, or so I thought. She just glares at me emptily. Her bright hair shines against the harsh stage lights, capturing the attention of every guy. I walk out of the dark in a quick rhythmic pattern in unison with the refrain.
She saw past me on purpose, but I still saw the little shine in her eye. Though that shine may dull, I will hold on to those fantasies in my childish daydreams. One mindlessly written song after another, I grow more and more apathetic to this show.
It’s rounding two in the morning, and I have school tomorrow; this should be pleasant.
Every Monday at 3:00 after school I go to work at the same nursing home I’ve worked at for the past year and three months, which has felt like a lifetime of seeing people gradually disintegrate into a fine charcoal ash. It’s run down but you can tell it used to be a Disneyworld for the elderly. Now, it’s just full of dreams greying with age.
Carolyn, Abigail’s grandmother, was sitting in a black wooden rocking chair in the back corner of the bingo hall, knitting with light blue yarn to the beat of the same Twenties song that constantly played on the record player. She slowly tilts her face, looking up at me as I approach her.
“Stephan,” she says in a southern slow coarse voice that mirrors how much she smokes. “Darling, I thought you weren’t coming in on Saturdays anymore.”
“Mrs. Waters, it’s Monday.”
“Oh, why of course it is dear. Young man, come sit down.” She ends the sentence with a loud gasping breath and a husky cough.
I still swear that I saw a fine smoke come out of her lungs.
“Mrs. Waters…” I say.
“Carolyn, call me Carolyn.”
“Oh…Carolyn,” I stumble over my words. Calling an elder by her first name feels rude, and me feeling this way makes me feel childish.
“I need to talk to you…” I hesitate. “…about Abigail.”
“Now, Stephan, bless your little hopeful heart. You know my granddaughter just isn’t interested in you.”
She looks at me with large eyes, Abigail’s eyes, as if I was a lost child with hopeless dreams and in love with being in love and the worst part is that I knew that I was.
The sound of a gruff deep voice behind me hollers from across the room, “42! 42!” Despite this man’s screams, the elderly still wiggle their tan hearing aids in their ears and ask for him to repeat the number in a rude, annoyed tone. “You’ve gotta speak up, Buster!”