Having grown up in a series of trailers parks, I can tell you that one way to judge an area is by its children. The following is one in a number of short stories I'm writing centered around the bus stop.
FYI: Tammy, Rita, and I are all 12 years old in this story.
It’s really cold this morning. You know it’s cold when Tammy’s hair freezes.
Tammy, the prettiest girl in the court, washes her hair every morning before school, the better to emphasize the gleaming blue-black drape of it, the way the light plays off hair hanging well below her waist; and because she won’t wear a hat, her hair freezes in the six-block walk to the bus stop.
A hat just isn't cool.
“Your hair is frozen,” Rita observes.
Rita lives in the big double-wide on the corner lot. Their yard is never empty of kids. Their driveway never has less than three cars in it, four if you include the Mustang on blocks back next to the shed.
Rita's whole family seems to be made up of boys. Even the girls are boys. Every single one of them is box-shaped and sturdy. That family isn't built for speed; it is built to crush.
Tammy scowls at Rita. The two of them are oil and water; and if Tammy had a brother, I’m sure she would’ve had him attempt to beat Rita up by now.
“Yeah, my hair's frozen. No shit, Sherlock,” Tammy says.
“Howdja like me to break it off at the roots?” Rita asks, pleasantly. She could just as easily be asking “howdja like a three-day weekend” or “howdja like half a pizza”?
Tammy steps behind me, uses me as a shield. “Go ahead,” she says, holding my shoulders. “Try it, Lard-O.”
Lard-O is a misnomer. Rita isn’t fat. She's as solid as a tree trunk and moves just slightly faster than one as she grabs the front of my coat with one hand and takes a swing for Tammy’s head with the other.
She misses Tammy’s head but manages to connect with her collar. She does not let it go.
“Hey!” I shout, angrily.
“Stand still,” Rita advises.
“LINDSEY!”, Tammy screams for her older sister. Lindsey, however, is a good block away, and seeing what is going on she continues her slow walk to the bus stop.
Lindsey and Tammy don't really like each other.
Rita lets go of me. Holding Tammy’s coat at the throat with her right hand, she casually licks her left thumb and smears it across Tammy’s forehead, then shoves her, hard, backwards. Tammy falls heavily to the street and jumps up, twisting, checking for possible damage to her white painter’s pants.
The brownish semi-frozen sludge of snow and salt has ruined them.
“I’m gonna get you!" Tammy screams. "I’m gonna get you!”
Rita shrugs; and Tammy runs home, crying.
Rita looks at me. “Washing your hair in the morning is stupid,” she challenges.
“You’re right about that,” I say.
I crane my neck, looking up the block. The bus should be here any minute now...