This installment of our serial story was written by Abby Barnhart. After you spend some time with her installment, make your way over to her site. She’s, good people! To read the first SIX parts, click here.
And while you are here today, check out our Lent project. ______________________________________
Frank opened his door and thought before walking in. Some people deserve money, and others shouldn't get a dime.
Where Frank fit on this social spectrum of entitlement he wasn’t so sure. Nor was he sure how long he’d been passed out in the photo booth before Thornton had dutifully dragged him home. It was just like his friend to leave him at the door, a million-dollar ticket nearly hanging out of his pocket, taunting fate to teach him the lesson he needed so badly to learn. Frank’s opinion of himself swung wildly between deep appreciation for grace and a great desire to pay for his sins. The musical voice of Elder Johnson rattled in the conscience quadrant of his mind.
The apartment door swung open, hitting the side table and knocking the last week’s bills to the floor. As he bent to pick them up, Frank felt the years in his back and the vodka in his head. He found a clear spot to crash on the couch, an open plug in a nearby outlet, and the presence of mind to press his own rewind button . . .
I didn't really have a choice, I had to leave. And while I was gone, things got worse for Mary and Momma. The paper mill shut down, and all the work left with it. It always smacked ironic to me . . . all that paper being made so folks could take home paper, head for the bank, trade it for other paper, and then send it off here and there to settle accounts, all wrapped in paper. Seemed like there’d never not be a need for that mill with all that paper going back and forth. But I reckon somebody smarter than me decided they’d rather get their paper somewhere other than Millwood. I betcha a stack of green bills they sent a paper notice to shut her down.
Frank hit rewind again. Whirring back to the day before he left for New York City.
Mary was still sporting pigtails when Momma threw me out. Rivers of fire followed her frolicking up trees, down the hallway, through the ruffled neck-holes of bright yellow dresses. Momma’d never a called it that, but that’s what it was. True, I was too big to be thrown, but it don’t take more than a look from a mother for a son to know it’s time to go. I’ll never forgive myself for leaving Mary in that white-washed window, lying to myself that she’d be fine. That Millwood would do her better than it done me.
I might’ve stayed if she hadn’t brought Janell into it. I could’ve swallowed a lot of what an older angrier Momma dished out just to stay with Mary. I knew it was all for Daddy, not us. I knew she didn’t know where her daggers landed, only that she needed to hurl them as far away from her heart as she could manage. I would’ve stood shield in front of Mary until she was big enough to leave herself if Momma hadn’t’ve gone and dragged my Janell into the mud with all the rest. The Janell I loved – all good, all grace – didn’t deserve it, and the Momma in me – all fire, all fury – came out of nowhere, bought a ticket for New York City, and slammed the door on Millwood and Mary.
The light of the side-table lamp was no longer enough to illuminate Frank’s screen. He rubbed his squint-weary eyes and tossed the laptop aside. As he slipped to sleep, he heard the band pick up at the jazz bar on the corner. They started with “I’ll be Seeing You,” and as dream and reality melded, he thought he heard Janell begin to wail . . .
“Them that's got shall get Them that's not shall lose So the Bible said and it still is news Mama may have, Papa may have But God bless the child that's got his own That's got his own”