PARTY SUPPLIES - KM ROCKWOOD
I yanked the shopping cart with the crooked wheel to a stop by the packaged salads. One of the girls—Mary?—started reading the label on a package.
“Just toss a couple in the cart and let’s go,” I said, wiping my nose with my sleeve. My shirt smelled of stale beer and motor oil. And it hung loose. Must be losing weight again. Not good.
“Some salads are healthier than others,” the other girl, Elizabeth I guess, said.
“Yeah, yeah. Salad’s healthy. Let’s go.” My arms itched. “Nobody’s gonna eat it anyhow.”
“Not iceberg lettuce,” Elizabeth said, ignoring my last comment. “It has practically no nutrients.”
I closed my eyes and leaned against the cart. These girls probably knew all about nutrition. They looked healthy, wholesome, vibrant.
My daughter looked like that. At least, she had the last time I saw her. Much younger, of course. Only seven. I’d missed the last few scheduled visits. They were supervised by a social worker. I hadn’t been in any shape to let a social worker see me. Gonna be a problem at the custody hearing next month.
Mary—or was it Elizabeth?—looked at the full cart. “Why didn’t the guys come in to help us?”
“Got to stay with the bikes,” I said, fingering the scar on my cheek. “Don’t want nobody to mess with them.”
She smiled. “Nobody’s going to mess with them.”
Probably right. The guys were in the parking lot, straddling the chopped Harleys, revving the engines and leering at passersby. Mamie and L’le Bitch had gone to stock up on Southern Comfort and Coors Lite. I’d come to buy food with these two. Tongo and Snake had picked them up somewhere. Most likely at the community college. Promised them a big-time party tonight.
They were taking forever choosing salad.
“Look.” I fidgeted, reaching to scratch my shoulder under the cutoff vest and club colors. “You might not want to come out to the clubhouse. Tonight’s party hardy, if you know what I mean. Might get rough. Really no place for ladies.”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “You’re going, aren’t you?”
“Yeah.” But I would hardly classify myself as a lady. “But the clubhouse is pretty isolated. You can get stuck out there. No cell phone reception. How old are you, anyhow?”
That was probably true. Tongo and Snake would not pick up jailbait. Mostly we followed the laws anybody cared about when we could, and mostly the cops left us alone.
“I’ll tell the guys you changed your mind,” I offered. They’d be mad at me for letting them walk out, but they’d get over it.
“We’re old enough to make our own decisions.”
Mary put that package of salad down and picked up another one.
Could my daughter grow up to be like that? Healthy and confident and smart enough to go to college? With a real life in front of her?
Not likely to happen if I got custody.
I hoped these girls weren’t virgins. “You on the pill or something?” I asked.
Mary blushed. She patted the pocket of her tight jeans. “Condoms,” she said.
“It’s not gonna be like that,” I warned. “You won’t get the guys to use those.”
“We’ll insist they use condoms.”
I shrugged. “This ain’t no social club.”
Can’t make somebody see if they won’t open their eyes.
I shoved the cart toward the checkout. “Let’s go.”
“How are we going to pay for all this?” Mary asked.
“I got money.”
We couldn’t make it to the clubhouse fast enough for me.
Maybe I should just skip the custody hearing, give myself more time to get m act together before it was rescheduled. Or the next time the social worker called, I could tell her that I’d sign the papers so the foster family could adopt my daughter.
I might as well face it. If I loved my baby, I would want the best for her. Which meant no contact with me.
She might even turn out to be smart enough not to accept invitations to parties from people she didn’t know.
Maybe somebody was carrying a little snort of something I could snag out in the parking lot.
BIO: KM Rockwood enjoys reading, especially flash fiction, and sometimes turns a hand to writing stories about the people who have inhabited a life of varied jobs and experiences, some of the outside the law-abiding community. Previous stories have appeared in several publications,including Nautilus Engine, Thema, and Every Day Fiction.