Trailer trash, p.1
Trailer Trash, p.1Marie Sexton
PO Box 1537
Burnsville, NC 28714
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. All person(s) depicted on the cover are model(s) used for illustrative purposes only.
Copyright © 2016 by Marie Sexton
Cover art: Jay Aheer, jayscoversbydesign.com
Editor: May Peterson
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“Future Shock” is copyright of Newsweek, November 24, 1986.
“Fact, Theory and Myth on the Spread of AIDS” is copyright The New York Times. February 15, 1987.
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It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.
Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.
Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.
For all the people who kept nagging me until I finally finished this one: Heidi, especially, but also Rowan, Troy, Rob, and Wendy.
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Cody was at the gas station on the corner, waiting for the customers to clear out so he could buy a pack of smokes, when the new guy came in. Warren, Wyoming, was a small place. Everyone knew everybody else. This kid obviously wasn’t from the area, and Cody stopped browsing the Rolling Stone magazine in his hand to check him out.
He was seventeen or eighteen years old, just like Cody, but dressed like a preppy boy from one of those John Hughes films—deck shoes, pegged jeans, and a golf shirt with the collar turned up. He probably had hairspray in his hair, for fuck’s sake.
There were two possibilities: the first, and most likely, was that he was just another schmuck who’d tried to take a county road shortcut from I-80 to Yellowstone and had stopped for directions. The second was that he’d just moved into town.
Cody watched, intrigued, as the stranger walked right up to the counter, cocky as could be, and asked Vera for a pack of Marlboro Reds. She glanced around the station like Cody knew she would, noting the other shoppers—Tammy, with her bawling kid; old Jerry, who was apparently searching for the perfect packet of beef jerky; and Lucy, wearing her house slippers. Then she turned to the new guy. She smacked her gum once and said, “You got an ID, kid?”
“Of course.” But he didn’t reach for his wallet.
“You gonna show it to me?”
Cody couldn’t see the boy’s face, but he didn’t need to.
“No cigarettes unless you’re eighteen.”
“Oh,” he said, as if he hadn’t thought of that. “Okay. Thanks.”
The newcomer started studying the gum display next to the counter. Ms. Thomas, the music teacher from the high school, came in then, and Cody gave it up for a lost cause and left the store. Ms. Thomas and Vera didn’t like each other too much, but they made a good show of it any chance they got. They’d be yacking for ages.
Cody leaned against the side of the building and pulled out a cigarette. The wind was blowing like it always did, and he had to go behind the big ICE cooler to get it lit. When he looked up again, the preppy boy was standing there, watching him. The wind blew his blond hair into his eyes. He pushed it off his forehead and said, “Hey, man, can I bum one of those?”
Cody only had two left. Still, saying no felt like an asshole move. “Sure.”
He shook one loose from the pack and offered his lighter. When it was lit, the new kid leaned against the ice machine. He was a bit taller than Cody. Then again, just about everybody was. “What’s your name?”
“Cody,” he said, like he was tasting the name. He must have liked it, because he smiled. “My friends call me Nate.”
Did that mean Cody already qualified as a friend? The possibility surprised him.
“Can’t believe she carded me,” Nate went on. “Nobody at home ever cared.”
“Vera doesn’t care either, but she’s worried others do. One of the PTA moms finds out she sells us smokes, and she’s out of a job. You gotta wait till everybody else is gone, then she’ll sell to you, no questions asked. Beer too, once she knows you.”
“And she knows you?”
“Well enough.” His mom’d been sending him there to buy stuff since he was old enough to cross the street.
Nate turned his head, seemingly so his blowing hair would be behind him, but all it did was wrap around the other side and back into his face. “Does the da
“Only when it snows.”
“Man. I’ve only seen snow once in my life, and that was enough.”
The statement struck Cody as funny, and he laughed. He figured Nate was just being a smart-ass and doing a piss-poor job, but then he realized maybe not. “You serious?”
“Lived in Texas my whole life. It’d freeze a couple of times a year, but the only snow I ever saw was last year. The entire city had to shut down.”
“We sure as hell don’t shut down for snow around here, I can tell you that. Did you just move here?”
It was odd timing. With the oil and coal booms over, more people were moving out of Wyoming than were moving in. “Where do you live?”
Nate gestured to the northeast. “Up in Orange Grove.”
Orange Grove. That figured. Orange Grove was Warren’s rich neighborhood. Never mind that nobody in the history of the world had ever managed to grow any kind of citrus in Wyoming.
“Where is everybody, anyway? I mean, you know, where’s everybody hang out?” Nate had only smoked half the cigarette, but he tossed it into the gutter.
Cody resisted the urge to smack him. He’d smoked his down to the filter, and he dropped it on the pavement and ground it out with the toe of his shoe. He was trying not to resent Warren’s newest resident for wasting half of his second-to-last smoke. He was also trying not to resent him for being from the fucking Grove. He could get past the first. The second, though? That one pissed him off for no good reason. “Who exactly are you looking for?” he asked. “Rich kids like you?”
He could tell Nate didn’t know how to answer. “I suppose. Anyone our age, really.”
Cody knew his attitude was unwarranted. It wasn’t Nate’s fault his folks had money any more than it was Cody’s fault that his didn’t. He sighed. “The people you’re talking about will be at City Drug. It’s on Main Street.”
“A drug store?”
“It’s like a general store. It’s old. They still got one of those old-fashioned fountains, you know? Like from the fifties.” It was actually a pretty cool place, if you didn’t mind the preps. They made killer malts, had Ironport on tap, and sold limeades that were actually fresh squeezed. “That’s where your type will be.”
Nate grinned. His hair was blowing in his eyes again. “And what about the ones who aren’t ‘my type’?”
Cody frowned. He resisted the urge to take out his last cigarette and light it. “The cowboys’ll be at the old rock quarry, south of town. I don’t know what they do there, and I probably don’t want to. The burnouts and the trailer-park kids hang at the bowling alley. It’s only got three lanes, but there’s a Pac-Man, and Centipede, and pinball, and a foosball table.”
He could have told him that the pinball machine tilted if you breathed on it wrong, and the foosball table was missing four of its men, three from red and one from blue, but he figured Nate didn’t need to know quite that much. “Then there’s just the Mormons, I guess. They stick together. Mostly hang at each other’s houses, I think.”
“And what about you? Where do you hang?”
Cody laughed. “I guess right here, behind the ICE cooler.”
“There must be someplace else?”
Cody studied him, weighing his odds. “Maybe.”
Every school had its outcasts, and at Walter Warren High School, that role was filled by him. If he had to pick a crew, it’d be those losers at the bowling alley, but he didn’t trust them. He knew from experience they’d turn on him in a heartbeat if it suited them. So on one hand, it was kind of cool to think about having some company for a while. On the other hand, school started again in three weeks. And when that happened, it’d be over. It was a safe bet it’d only be a few days before Nate was in tight with the jocks and those preps from the Grove, looking right past Cody in the halls like they’d never met.
Still, that wouldn’t be until September, and this was August. Bright and sunny and blowing like a motherfucker. Right at that moment, he didn’t have a damn thing to lose.
“I’ll take you somewhere,” he said. “But first, let’s buy another pack of smokes.”
Nate assumed they’d leave right away, but Cody had him wait. Finally, when the last customer left the gas station, he took Nate’s money and went inside. He came back out with a pack in each hand, one of Marlboros, one of Camel Lights. He shoved the latter into his jacket pocket, and tossed the Reds Nate’s way.
He didn’t say anything. Just headed off down the sidewalk. “Where are you going?” Nate called.
Cody turned on his heel. “Thought you wanted to go somewhere?”
Ah. Cody expected him to follow. On foot. “Why don’t we drive?” He nodded toward his car, and Cody’s eyes followed the gesture to the brown Mustang parked at the end of the lot.
Cody looked at it for a minute, and Nate didn’t miss the resentment on his face. He thought about the way Cody had said, “Rich kids like you?”
“Yeah, okay,” Cody said.
Nate got in the car, and Cody came back and got in the passenger side without meeting his eyes. “Nice car.” But it was clear he only said it because he figured Nate expected it. He glanced around. “Convertible, even.”
“I had the top down the first day. It’s a lot less fun here than at home.” Having the wind in his face was one thing. Having it buffeting him from every direction was another. “My dad wants me to sell it and buy a truck.”
Cody shrugged. “Truck’ll do you a lot more good in the winter.”
True enough, probably, but the fact was, the car had somehow become the centerpiece of his battle with his dad. First, his parents had ruined his life by deciding to divorce. Then, his dad decided he needed a new start in a brand-new town. Nate had wanted to stay in Austin with his mom, but his folks decided that wasn’t how it should be, Nate’s feelings on the matter be damned. So here he was, in the middle of godforsaken Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and he thought that might have been a generous estimate). He didn’t want to be here. Selling his car and buying a four-wheel-drive truck like the local yahoos drove would make him one of them.
And he had no desire to ever be one of them.
Cody pointed down the street, and Nate started to drive. A minute later, Cody leaned forward to touch the stereo, a shy grin on his face. “Eight-track. That’s crazy.”
“I don’t even know if it works. I used the radio at home, but the only station I could find here was playing country.”
“That’s out of Casper. The closest rock station’s in Salt Lake. Might be one in Laramie, too, but we’re in the middle of fucking nowhere, man. We’re like the black hole of modern civilization. Don’t even have a damn record store.”
“I saw some cassettes at the gas station.”
He laughed. “Sure, if you like Hank Williams.”
On the west end of town was a trailer park. Cody directed him all the way through it. On the far side, the road turned south and dipped under the train tracks. It came back up in what might have been a trailer park in its good days. Now it was like something out of a horror movie: four bedraggled trailers with nothing but dirt for yards, tattered sheets in the windows in lieu of curtains, and one mangy dog growling at them from under a rusty car on cinder blocks.
“Park here,” Cody said.
He did, and then followed Cody out of the car and up to a barbed wire fence. Cody ducked through.
Nate stopped, suddenly having second thoughts. He eyed Cody, wondering what he was up to. Nate was no fool. He could look at Cody and figure the score. Faded, off-brand jeans with a ratty T-shirt, a denim jacket that was falling apart at the seams, and that wary, accusing look that told him Cody was probably used to being on the wrong side of every line anybody had ever drawn.
Nate’s dad would take one look at him and say he was a bad egg. He’d tell Nate to stay away.
Of course, that was the exact reason h
“Will we get in trouble?” he asked.
“Nah. This is Jim’s land. He don’t care, so long as we don’t mess with his cows.”
Nate followed him through the fence. They jumped an irrigation ditch that stunk of cow piss, and walked on through the field. Ahead of them, to the west, he spotted the highway that would eventually lead to the interstate. From here, they were close enough to see the cars, but too far away to tell makes and models. To the south, a herd of cows grazed. A couple raised their heads to regard them, but mostly they just chewed their cud and ignored the human interlopers.
A few more steps, and the land dropped several feet, forming a small bluff. Below was a graveyard of sorts. It was obviously the place where Jim and his family had dumped unneeded vehicles for the past hundred years. There was a rusted cab of an old pickup truck, a few tractors looking like decrepit skeletons, and a couple of things Nate couldn’t even begin to identify—maybe farming equipment of some kind.
On the face of the bluff, wedged halfway into the dirt, was an old wagon. The wheels were gone. Its axles must have been buried in the embankment underneath it. There were still arching metal bands that had once held a canvas cover. It sat in the ground at nearly a ninety-degree angle. Cody stepped over the topside and slid down to sit on the downhill edge. The bed of the wagon made a sort of reclining seat that looked out over the prairie.
He pulled his cigarettes out. He took the last one from the first pack, wadded the empty package up and stuck it in his coat pocket, then lit the smoke with practiced ease. “Watch your butts out here. Gets pretty dry. I imagine Jim’d skin me alive if we burned down his field.”
Nate slid down the wooden bed of the wagon and sat next to him. Being inside of it at least took the edge off the wind.
“What do you do out here?” he asked.
Cody leaned back and closed his eyes. “Nothing.”
Cody smiled but didn’t open his eyes. “I smoke. I read. I nap. I jack off.” Nate wasn’t sure if he meant that literally, or if he meant it as a synonym for goofing around. His stomach fluttered a bit as he pondered it.
Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton / History & Fiction have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes