Pressing her forehead against the heated car window, Angie Barkley looks up towards the suffocating sun and takes in the newly found “Texas heat”. Her best friend, George, back home once told her this place was full of “steers and queers”, yet so far all she’s seen are people who can’t pull their pants up past their boxers, guys wearing skinny jeans (which is a whole new level of odd to a thirteen year old girl), and an abundant amount of homeless people.
“This place is so different. Did we really have to move here?” Angie asks.
“My job required me to transfer. You know this,” her mom responds. Lighting a cigarette, she wisps away the cancerous fog shooting it out from the crease of her lips and to the crack in the window. It still hit her scrunched face in the backseat.
“But I don’t know anyone here, all my friends are back in Idaho. This place s***s already.” She crosses her arms and slumps back into the torn fabric of the back seat. Adjusting the rear view mirror to make eye contact, mom responds, “We’ve barely crossed the state line about an hour ago. You haven’t even give this place a chance, I’ll bet you’ll like it even more than our last home.”
“I doubt that,” she mutters. Looking up she sees a homeless man standing on a corner with a cardboard sign. His fingers were grimy and his hair greasy, he looks to her with sorrow building up in his eyes. The car jerks forward with the light turning green, leaving the man in the distance to stare down another unwilling victim. “And there’s homeless people, like everywhere, Mom! What if they’re in our neighborhood? What if one tries to kidnap me, and holds me for ransom? Did you think of that?”
Mom narrows her eyes and flicks her cigarette out the window. “I’ve already told you to stop making up so many random scenarios, it’s s**t like that got you in trouble at school all the time. Which by the way better not happen here. I mean it, Angie.”
Pressing her pale face against the window she tunes out the noise and plugs in her headphones. Nothing was gonna make any of this okay, or acceptable. Back home it took so long to get adjusted, to make any friends at all, and for everything to be uprooted due to a new job, it just wasn’t fair.
Angie slides her flannel shirt off and sits in her white undershirt. Looking up she can see her mom saying something to her, more than likely about how she shouldn’t expose herself like that, but with her headphones in she pretended to hear and pressed her head against the back seat.
She closes her eyes while her music seeps into her mind like aural honey. A heavy jerk shakes her loose from her comfort dream, her eyes try to quickly adjust to everything new being thrown her way. Their car chugs forwards up the concrete driveway, bouncing over the slight drop off at the end of the ramp. Focusing on the house next to it, she thought to herself, here it is. My new home.
Jagged weeds and multi-colored grass sprouted out between ponds of dirt, a crooked mailbox leaned downward at an angle with its mouth hanging open, broken shards of concrete jigsawed together forming an incomplete path to the front door. The front door had a fresh coat of paint, and was laid on thick in slobs of dark red paint.
The house itself was two stories tall and in need of a new paint job, which made the door stand out. Flakes of sun-washed paint sprawled across the house in weak attempts to shelter the naked wood peeking through.
Angie creaks the backdoor open of their beater Buick and shields the sun from her eyes to get a better look at the second floor. It looks just as bad as the rest of the house, but it had a few windows to look out of at least. Dirt plastered windows that looked like they would crumble to ashes if they were to be touched, but windows they were at least. A headphone pulls away and Angie looks up to her mom, smiling with a newly lit cigarette in her mouth. She wore dark green scrubs and had her hair tied back in a ponytail. “Wanna go look around while we wait for the U-Haul?”
Angie nods with little enthusiasm and walks up the driveway and to the left of the house up to a wooden fence. Pushing the gate open it gets caught halfway on a mound of dirt and weeds, being thin it was easy to slide in. The backyard was decently sized with a group of bushes on the right side. To the left was a wooden shed, it looked newer than the house. The center of the yard dipped in like a miniature hill. On the right side the fence had a gap missing, peering through she could see what was left of miserable corn stalks. She found it odd to see such a small field of it in the lot that separated her home from the neighbor.
Next door, at least a little way down, was a farmhouse. An elderly man stood outside with a can of Copenhagen in his hand (flavored horse s**t, George used to call it), and a brown bottle in his other. He stared ahead with cold eyes and seemed to only focus on the transitioning of which to swallow and which to spit.
Angie turns and passes by without noticing the hard soil underneath the bushes. If she had stopped to take a closer look, she would have seen how the bushes only formed an outer ring, giving an illusion of a full growth, instead of the leafy barrier shrouding a patch of rock hard dirt.
Walking up to the shed as curiosity tickled her temptation, she pulls the knob and feels it barely budge. If she looked a little higher she would have seen the metal lock near the top of the door, also new. I wonder what’s in this, she thinks to herself, maybe the old owners left garden tools in it?
On the side of the shed was a small window, barely enough for possibly a child to squeeze through. Pressing the tips of her Chuck Taylor sneakers into the ground, she arches her heels and tries to peer in through the window. It was dark inside, but the sunlight exposed a shovel hanging on the wall, next to a rusted pickaxe. The tip was broken off.
“Angie, they’re here!”
Angie drops down to her feet and huffs, irritated as she was, the least she could do was explore their new home. Walking to the front she leaves the shed alone and heads to the front, not bothering to pull the gate closed again. As she stands by her mom, listening to the beep of the wide truck back up, a light rustle is made from inside the shed. The lock jiggles for a second and then stops as quickly as it began.