The Youngest One in Curls

Joleen woke with one eye fixed on faux wood-grain paneled wall of a tiny 4×4 room in her mother’s house trailer. Her tongue seemed velcroed to the roof of her mouth, and she had to think for a minute where she was. The room became another temporary stay-over after getting fired from her Sunoco cashier job and losing the old rental house. Inside her skull felt like a ball peen hammer rapped against the frontal lobe.

The other eye didn’t open, as it was swollen shut, another telltale sign of the previous night’s inebriation. Apparently a fist glued it closed when her loose lips pissed somebody off at the bar, a conversation the young woman couldn’t quite call to memory.

She yelled toward the bedroom door, “What the hell is all that racket?” The volume of her raspy voice intensified the headache she suddenly realized came from all the beers she lost count drinking.

No one answered her question, but the noise continued. Joleen started to question whether it was real or just the pounding of her headache. She tried again. “Anybody here?”

“You’re the one yelling,” Joleen’s mother answered from the adjacent bathroom. “That’s the only thing I hear, girl. I’m trying to enjoy some peace and quiet for a change.”

Her mother’s husband must’ve already left for the day, so the woman retreated in the john instead of him for a change. Their house usually reeked to high heaven. With more than two adults squatting in a space that small, bathroom smells tend to stink up a place.

Joleen never imagined herself living with the pair of them. This certainly wasn’t what she’d envisioned for herself, her childhood hopes merely fairy tales of what she’d wished would come true. It wasn’t until much later she discovered everything they’d told her as a kid was a lie. Television, teachers, everybody touted the same bullshit philosophies.

Being so young and naive, she believed it all. Why should she think they fabricated the dream at the time? Experience taught her otherwise.

“Girl, you better get your ass outta that bed before that social worker gets here.” Her mother stood in the bedroom doorway zipping the fly of her pants. “If you want to keep up that unemployment check, wash that greasy hair and make yourself presentable. Show her something besides that shiner on your face.”

Joleen grumbled and covered her head with the blanket. “What happened to ya anyways? Looks like ya didn’t get the best of the situation,” the older woman chuckled. “Thought I learned ya better than that.”

“I don’t know exactly, but I don’t need you bitchin’ at me about it,” she answered sarcastically. “That rag social worker will be doing that soon enough. She’ll clean her car with bleach wipes when I get out of it whether I shower or not. Thinks I got lice or something.”

Her mom laughed out loud and turned around in the cramped hallway to retreat to the living room. A laugh-track of a Brady Bunch re-run rang out from the television.

“And turn that damn t.v. down. My head’s about to split open,” she spat at the woman’s back. Another chuckle came in response.

The musical clatter of the show’s closing credits assaulted her eardrums, but at least its loudness subsided. The song, which she knew by heart, then mentally repeated with the beat of her temporal pulse.

“I wonder where you got yer glowing personality, Joleen,” her mom said. “Musta been yer daddy’s side.” Contempt leaked from her tone. “No wonder somebody dotted yer eye.”

“Oh, thanks, Momma. Your motherly love and concern warms my heart.” Joleen grumbled again, shot her the finger behind her back, and rolled over trying to sneak in just another five minutes to quell her throbbing forehead.

“I’m tellin’ ya. You best get outta there and wash yer ass, Joleen!” A sudden pounding slogged from the front door down the hall to yank her upright on the mattress.

“Oh, shit,” her mother guffawed. “Too late!”

 

*Our Write Side writing prompt: fabricated

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