The little bird was hardly moving. I don’t know if it was really moving or if it was just the little pieces of broken asphalt that the kids were pelting it with, bouncing off of it. Every time a stone hit, the little bird jerked and then went still again. It looked funny, in the meanest way. How helpless it was, how pointless its life was. I almost got to the point where I felt like the bird deserved it. Then Mike Higgins said, “Oooh, it’s bleedin’ out of its eye.” The three boys stopped throwing the rocks and kneeled down around the bird. I decided to leave because with my cousin Jeff reaching for a little stick, I knew what was going to happen next.
Every week I saw the colorful school bus bump down around Senior Drive, pick up Lisa Haney and her older sister Shasta. When they passed me, they looked out of the square bus window and Lisa yell out the window, “Damn it, Ivy ask your mom again!”
I wanted to go with them. Lisa was my only friend here in Georgia. All the other kids either thought I was a snob or white trash. The kids in the trailer park said I was a snob because I had explained that I was only staying here for a little while, until my dad came to get us. I said we had a big house in Massachusetts—our house was really very small, but they didn’t know. “Why don’t you go back if you are so rich?” Mike Higgins had said to me and that started the exclusion and ridicule. At school, all the kids knew I lived in a trailer park. The bus stopped at Acworth Estates and I got on along with my cousins, my sister, Lisa Haney and her sister, and Mike Higgins and his little brother Ken. To kids outside of the trailer park my story didn’t work: oh yeah, well you still live in a trailer park. Rich people don’t ever do that.” I felt like a prisoner explaining I was innocent. “Hey I am not like you guys. I don’t belong here.”
But, Lisa liked me. She didn’t care what I said. I made up stories about how rich I was. I told her I had a tropical pool in my house with real tropical fish swimming in it. I told her my dad was an airline pilot and we had two planes. She didn’t care just so long as I would play double dog dare with her and I would listen to her tell me about the contests she had entered. She was what they called a child genius. She could unscramble words, make up slogans, she could stretch her bubblegum across the length of her room. I wouldn’t say I really –deep down- felt like we were friends, but she was all I had. One day, she told me about the revival church. “You got to get yourself saved, Donna.” She said to me, wadding her bubble gum up and holding it in her cheek while she talked.
I was Catholic, I didn’t really understand.
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
“Saved by Jesus Christ, stupid.”
“Oh, I said.”
“What the fuck. You gotta ask your momma if you can come with me on the bus. My momma will watch you. Just have your momma talk to my momma.”
My mother was unapproachable. Her whole diabolical plan to make my dad jealous and come retrieve in Georgia her had failed. Now she was stuck in a trailer park and worse she worked as a secretary for Mr. Trench, the park manager. Mr. Trench was gross and he acted like my mom was his girlfriend.
Everyday after working with him, she brought back a bottle of sprite and the first thing she did when she got home was pour it into a glass mixed with vodka. She would sit down on her bed and start drinking and smoking. She did this until she fell asleep a couple of hours later. Sometimes, she would just cry and cry. Sometimes she would call dad and try to make him jealous of Mr. Trench, saying “I got myself a real man. A business owner.”
I snuck down the hall after mom got home from work. I knocked on the flimsy door and pushed it open a crack. The room was dark and it had that smell of must and of the old dog that lived here for years before we started renting it.
“What is it baby?”
“Are you ok?” I asked her.
“No. What do you want?”
“I want to go to Lisa’s church.”
“That girl with the filthy mouth?” “Lisa.” I said. “my friend.”
My mother took a drag and then fingered the cellophane on her cigarette pack. She inspected me closely. “Why do you want to do that?”
I wanted to tell her that I wanted to ride in that colorful bus, that I wanted to see the preacher cut the devil’s necktie off with a chainsaw, and that I wanted to see the preacher roll an egg across the front of the church with his nose. All things Lisa had told me about the children’s church.
“I want to be saved,” I said, not even knowing I felt that way.
“Saved from what?” she asked and took a long sip keeping her eyes on me.
“Saved by Jesus.”
She choked on her drink and laughed. “You do?” she said incredulously. Her smile faded quickly. She looked so old and sad. Her make up looked smudged and her hair greasy under all of the hairspray. She used to be so pretty.
“Can I go with them, mom?”
My mom looked towards the dirty window and back at me. “Come sit next to me,” she said.
I walked over and sat down. She put her hand on my face. She started to say something then stopped. I could smell the strong alcohol smell with and the strong smell of cigarettes. When she came closer, underneath all that I could still smell the sweet smell of her…my mom’s lilac scent. The smell that lingers on her clothes and her sheets.
“Ok.” She said. “You can go get saved by Jesus Christ.”