YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO DO IT …. Illustration by Sam Parr

Johnny looked down at his watch and saw he had ten minutes until 5PM, and then could skedaddle. He’d been keeping his nose clean around here lately, not wanting to deal anymore with the daily humiliations from his coworkers. I thought there wasn’t supposed to be anymore prejudice in this country?, he thought. Yeh right. Why couldn’t these guys just let him do his work and leave him be? Now that he’s a father, you’d think they’d show him some respect. The countless jabs he’s had to take just because his girlfriend is white too, were really starting to grate on his nerves.

Just gotten old.

The arrival of the baby seemed to have had a good effect on Sharon though. Johnny did tend to little Josh whenever he could and Sharon seemed to be settling down some. She told him she’d kept herself clean, and he had no reason not to believe her. There wasn’t any money or anything else going out the window, and that was a telltale sign she wasn’t using. And besides, Johnny could detect drug use in someone a mile away, being that he’s had so much experience with them himself. Sharon’s mother had been coming around a lot lately, since the baby. And it was always a bunch of hemming and hawing and arguing and bullshit, but Rosie did help out best she could. And Sharon was the difficult one anyhow. Always been that way with the two of them, most likely. Fire and water. That ole Jimmy was another story. Hated Johnny from the minute he laid eyes on him. He’ll always be just an old school cracker, Johnny figured.

Rosie was cooking fried chicken for dinner, expecting Jimmy any minute now. She had awhile as he always came in so filthy from the pig muck he rolled around in all day, and it took him awhile to get cleaned up. He never complained though, God bless him. When she answered the phone, Sharon was on the other end, “Uh Mama?” she asked. Rosie listened and then threw the phone against the wall with a scream. Sharon had told her to come right away, “please Mama, please…”

Johnny grabbed his gear out of the locker room and headed out the back door. He looked up at the sky. Man this rain just won’t let up, he thought. He walked through the alley between the buildings toward his car, thinking about his day, and his life. He was looking forward to the weekend, when his mother would be cooking up a storm, and he’d get to spend the day over there with her and the rest of the family. He’d plum had enough of Sharon’s people always coming around and poking their nose in his business. When he stepped out into the parking lot he saw Bobby and Trigger standing there, both with their hands on their hips. “Where you going Johnny?” Bobby asked. Bobby was a tall, loudmouth kind of redneck really, a big fat guy and about as dumb as a pile of bricks.

“What do you mean Bobby, I’m headin’ home,” Johnny replied.

Bobby and Trigger just looked at each other. Trigger busted out in that dumb laugh of his. “No you ain’t going anywhere Johnny,” Bobby said, stepping closer to him.

Trigger laughing, “no you ain’t going anywhere Johnny, no you just ain’t hahh.”

Bobby reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a knife. “See this Johnny?” said Bobby, taking it and stabbing him hard, in his heart.

She turned off the fryer and left in her car. Now what’s she gonna do?, Rosie wondered. Sharon had never been able to keep herself straight, not after all these years. I’ve got two daughters, she thought. Both total opposites. And this one just causes her grief. All I ever do is clean up after her, I’m gettin’ too damn old, it just ain’t right anymore. She pulled into the trailer court and up to Sharon’s place. She got out and walked up the steps onto the deck, looking around at the dead flowers and trash. She’ll never keep a good house, that’s for sure. The front door was already open, and she peered in. The place was a wreck. Sharon was sitting back in the recliner, just looking a hot mess.

“Sharon?” she asked.

“Mama?”pausing. “Mama you’re gonna have to do this now. I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t.”

“What are you talking about now, come on now,” Rosie said, trying to sound soothing. “You’re just upset now, there there. What are you going on about here, I’m gonna have to do what? You’re just not makin’ any sense Sharon.”

Sharon looked up at her, her eyes spinnin’ and crazy, and with lots going on behind them. “No Mama, you’re going to have to take him now Mama,” she said, motioning at Josh.

“Mama, you’re gonna have to do it now.”

Little Josh sat unawares in his playpen, making a ruckus with the plastic hammer that Rosie and Jimmy had bought for him from K-Mart a few months back. He had no idea what kind of family he’d been born into.

Rosie went over and picked him up. He snuggled and giggled and tried to get away. Rosie knew what she had to do. She really didn’t have any choice.

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