A coming of age story about a young girl
| Highway 59 was a lonesome stretch of road. One could barely tell there were people living nearby. There was a turn off of this highway, a well traveled dirt road which if a person followed a hundred yards one came to a dingy little trailer park. The places to live were not proud or new, but they were adequately maintained. There was not trash on the ground. The lots were not cluttered with junk. Town was five miles away, and occasionally the occupants would ride to the grocery store together. The kids mingled freely. The boys found many adventures in the woods nearby. The girls played jacks and jumped rope near their trailers.
Carrie, a girl of about ten, played jacks with her girlfriends. They bounced the ball and scooped up the pieces with surprising dexterity. They were enjoying the world of girls, confident and ambitious in their dreams. They were on the verge of getting that tidal wave of female hormones that redirected the energy of so many young women to more sophisticated things.
"Carrie Lee, get your ass in this trailer, girl. It's time for you to cook supper!" Mr. Overton yelled from the front door of their trailer.
A weight fell on the shoulders of the girls. Carrie knew her dad was unbearable to her friends. He was known in the trailer park as a drunk. He and Billie, his wife and Carrie's mother, staged epic shouting matches outside their domicile in the street. One time Rodger Overton cuffed his wife, and she slapped him. He let loose with a roaring punch that missed its target, and he landed on the concrete on his substantial belly. People stayed away from him more and more, until he became a solitary drunk that people looked down on and nobody liked. Carrie resignedly gathered her jacks and looked apologetically at her friends.
"Why doesn't your mother cook supper?" Linda asked.
"My mom is at school," Carrie answered.
The girls looked at each other with doubt in their eyes. Only for Carrie's sake they didn't scoff out loud. These little niceties cut deeply into Carrie's heart. There was razor wire in them.
"I'll be there in a minute, daddy."
"Get your ass in here now! Don't make me come after you, girl!" Mr. Overton shouted angrily.
Carrie knew he would cuff her if she didn't come quickly, so she hurried up.
Mr. Overton took a step down from the front steps, misjudging its height. He nearly fell forward on his face, but he instinctively twisted around and fell onto the upper step. Carrie stopped. Mr. Overton was in pain. His face winced, and he reached for his back with his hand.
"Are you okay, daddy?"
"I've twisted my back!"
John Overton groaned in his anguish. Sweat ran down his face in the hot summer sun. He made an effort to stand up, but he only made it half way and then sat back down on the upper step.
"Do you need to see a doctor, daddy?"
"We can't afford a doctor! We're up to our eyeballs in debt!"
"How are you going to work?"
"I'll have to manage somehow."
The smell of whiskey hit Carrie's nose. It was a toxic perfume her daddy always wore, from early in the morning to late at night. It had been like this for as long as Carrie could remember.
"Here, girl. Help me get up."
How could someone as little as Carrie help someone as big as her father get up?
"Stand on the lower step."
John Overton made a huge effort to turn over and get his feet under him. He put his hand on the top of Carrie's head. He used Carrie as a crutch to support his weight. She thought her neck would rupture as as her father's weight came down on her. She struggled to hold up. The weight on her head suddenly increased, and then decreased, then went away. Carrie wondered if her neck was hurt. John Overton's huge bulk lumbered into the trailer. Carrie slowly turned her head back and forth.
"Carrie Lee! Get your ass in here now!"
"What do you want me to cook?"
"Supper, damnit, supper!"
There was a bowl of chili in the refrigerator. Carrie hoped there was enough for them both. If not, Carrie could do without. Fat was caked on the meat as she got the chili out of the refrigerator. She got a pan and dumped the contents into it. Her neck still hurt.
"Hurry, damnit! I'd like to eat before bedtime!"
There was an edge John Overton's voice that told Carrie he was in pain. He leaned back on the overstuffed chair very delicately. Carrie wished her dad would let her kiss him on the cheek and massage his back, but he would probably hit her if she got to close. Weren't daddies supposed to love their little girls?
There was another, deeper agony in John Overton's mind. Carrie wanted so badly to take it out of him, but she didn't know how. The agony in his mind seemed to be the greater hurt. He was being shunned in a way that contradicted his manhood. He had submitted a plumbing business to the people of Honington Springs, and that had been found unacceptable. Carrie had heard a new word regarding her family - "trailer park trash". How Carrie feared this term. If her daddy was trash she was too. She wanted to live in a nice house and get respect. The thought of being shunned horrified her. The pain in her father's mind crept into Carrie's mind too.
Her mother was working, though - two jobs. Three nights a week her mother came home late from school. She was getting her masters! That meant respect! No one in the trailer park had a degree, much less a masters!
Ms. Overton came home after her daughter had gone to bed. There was a tiredness in her - not the tiredness of being overworked. There was a burden bearing down on this family - a weight that affected everything they did. It made them tired in a way that rest couldn't cure because it would be there as soon as they woke up in the morning. Ms. Overton's face had gone hard from many affronts. Ms. Overton's weight bore down on Carrie too. Her mother stood in Carrie's doorway.
"Carrie Lee, why didn't you do the dishes?"
"Aw, mom, I'm tired of doing dishes. I'm a kid for Christ's sake."
"You're tired! You think you're tired! Carrie, I work two jobs. Three nights a week I go to school. I see enough rotten food at work that I get nauseous when I see it at home. I have school work to do. Now get up and wash the dishes."
Carrie wearily did what she was told.
But this was her childhood! She was supposed to be having fun! Later that night her mother talked to her father in hushed tones.
"Did you get any business today, John?"
No. Not a person called. They're ignoring me, Janet! They think I am an unreliable drunk!"
"You need to quit drinking, John."
"Don't start in about that!"
"Every day you spend over fifteen dollars on whiskey. I work damn hard for our money. I'm not going to see you waste it.
"Shut up, Janet!"
"I won't shut up! John, you need to face reality."
John Overton raised his fist, but then he grabbed his back in pain.
"Oh, my back. I'm in agony!"
"Serves you right you bastard."
The next day John Overton didn't get out of bed.
"Aren't you going to get up, daddy?" Carrie asked.
"I can't get up, Carrie. I'm in agony," her father answered.
Carrie could tell something in her dad had disappeared. It had never been very strong. He had lost his self respect. He lay there helpless. Carrie didn't know if his back really hurt or not. Her neck was still stiff from the way he had used her as a crutch. Her dad was helpless, and a drunk. They were trailer park trash. Carrie went outside and looked at the world in a new way. Gone was their respectability. She was so ashamed of herself and her dad. He was a great big helpless bulk of nothing.
Carrie's mother didn't come home from school that night. It was like her mother had some kind of intuition. She knew her husband had given up. Janet Overton couldn't tolerate helplessness. To Carrie she was a bitter woman who didn't have any love in her. Carrie wondered who would take care of them now.
People from different agencies started to show up. Adult protective services visited them. John Overton explained to them about his back. They sent him to a doctor who prescribed pain pills. John got happier. He didn't yell at Carrie. He didn't lay in bed all day. Sometimes he fell asleep in his chair and drooled, but not all the time. At least her dad did not have her mother's coldness. Carrie wished her dad would hug her, and she could hug him, but it was established a long time ago that they didn't touch each other. Her dad could be kind, though, and Carrie was grateful to get that. Her dad got put on disability, so they had money coming in. He had worked at Arsen's for fifteen years. He bought tv dinners and cooked them himself. Maybe they were trailer park trash, but life sure was easier now. Carrie could jump rope and play jacks as much as she wanted. She could stay out as late as she cared to.
...................... ............................. ....................
Carrie grew up. Her body matured and she grew bored with jacks. She wanted more than what was available at their trailer park. She was fifteen and she had friends who could drive. Linda told Carrie she could get her a job at the Burger Barn. Linda could give her a ride to work if Carrie helped pay for gas. Carrie could make some money of her own and buy her own ride to work.
"Do you think they will hire me?" Carrie asked Linda.
"Oh hell yow. They're always looking for new people," Linda said.
"I don't know how to fill out a job application."
"That's okay. If you know how to fill out a job application it means you're not likely to stay there long. If you don't know how it means you will probably stay there a while."
Carries application went okay until it came to the section labeled "references". She had to give them the names of her girlfriends. When it came to "who to contact in case of an emergency" Carrie put down her father, but she wondered what her dad could do for her in an emergency. That thought made her sad. She needed someone who could protect her. She felt alone.
"Carrie, your application is not that great, but I'm going to hire you anyway, because I think you can work. What kind of hours can you handle?" Mr. Babbit, the store manager, asked Carrie.
"I can handle any hours I'm not in school."
"I know several girls who live out near you. We can get you rides. You'll help pay for gas."
"I'd be happy to."
"Carrie I am going to start you next Thursday. That will give you a week to set up rides. You will have to pay for your uniform out of your first check."
One week until she started her job. She could be respectable! She could have money of her own. She asked Linda to introduce her to the other girls who worked at the burger barn. These girls seemed put off by Carrie. It was because of her dad. People like him gave a bad name to trailer parks.
Carrie closed down the place a lot. She wished she could serve more customers. Carrie liked the feeling of being courteous. Sometimes the customers were courteous back. Liza, the head manager, was a cold piece of work, like Carrie's mother. She yelled at Carrie when Carrie did nothing wrong. For some reason Liza seemed to hate Carrie.
But she was bringing home her own money! If she worked as much as possible and saved every cent she could buy her own ride! That would be freedom!
One night a red Mustang pulled up. Carrie looked at it with longing, until she saw what got out of it. That was even better! He was the perfect picture of what a guy should be. He wore smart clothes and had a confident smile. He had lots of muscles that bulged in interesting places. It was like looking at a god! Carrie prayed that she could get him to talk to her.
"I like your car," Carrie said as the guy approached.
He smiled at her, and Carrie could feel her heart thumping inside her chest.
"I like it too."
He didn't say anything more, though. He sat down at a table and concentrated on his meal. Carrie grabbed a towel and wiped down tables near him. She hoped he would notice her ass.
"Carrie, get back here and wash these pans!" Liza snapped.
For the first time in her life Carrie snapped back.
"I'm washing tables!"
She couldn't help herself. She bent down low so he could see down the front of her uniform.
"You're doing a good job on those tables," the guy commented.
"I try to please the customer."
"Would you like to go to my apartment?" he asked.
"You betcha' I would," Carrie answered.
Carrie threw her rag behind the counter.
"Liza, I'm leaving early tonight," Carrie stated.
"Just get the fuck out of here," Liza answered
The next day Carrie dreaded meeting Liza.
"Carrie, get in this office at once!" Liza snapped when she saw Carrie.
Mr. Babbit, the owner, sat behind his desk. Liza stood next to him, with her arms folded.
"She was behaving just like a bitch in heat. She walked off the job and out the door with this guy in a red Mustang."
Carrie was crying.
"I'm sorry Mr. Babbit. I couldn't help myself. I won't do it again."
"Liza, leave us alone. Shut the door behind you," Mr. Babbit said quietly.
"Yes, Mr. Babbit," Liza responded.
The owner of the Burger Barn looked at Carrie keenly.
"Carrie, do you want to keep your job?" he asked.
"Yes Mr. Babbit. I do," Carrie answered.
"Well what am I supposed to do? You leave before your shift is up to chase after some guy in a red mustang. Liza had to call Tanya in to work for you. She's mad about that. Liza is angry. You've pissed a lot of people off. I don't know if I can keep you," Mr. Babbit stated while he gazed at Carrie.
"Mr. Babbit, I am so sorry I let you down. This is my first job, and I don't know if I can get another one. I'm saving up to by a car of my own, so I won't need rides to work. I can work so hard for you, Mr. Babbit. Please don't fire me," Carrie sobbed.
"Well there are things you can do that will stop that," Mr. Babbit answered meditatively.
........... ............. ............
Carrie didn't realize Mr. Babbit was taking her to a motel until he pulled up in front of the "Cupid's Nest". Then she understood. It wasn't like any motel Carrie had ever seen. All this was happening so fast Carrie did not know what she thought of it. If it kept her from being fired she guessed it was okay.
Carrie returned to the Burger Barn that Monday expecting job security. Mr. Babbit was waiting for her.
"Carrie, go clean out your locker. You're not welcome her any more," the store owner told her.
His words hit Carrie in the stomach like a baseball bat. Carrie painfully did as she was told. She understood how badly she had been used, and there was nothing she could do about it. Who would believe her? A tear rolled down her cheek.
"Let's see you get a job now, you little cunt," Lizza hissed at her.
Carrie couldn't have felt any cheaper as she walked out the door. The money she had saved paid for an abortion. When Carrie came home her dad was drooling in his chair. She needed love. Some kind of love. Any kind of love. She stood before her dad, weeping.
"Daddy, why can't you love me?"
"Wha'? Oh yea' Oughta' do that."
Carrie laid down in her bed. Nobody loved her. Nobody wanted her. She cried until early in the morning, when she fell asleep.