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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Bus Stop, mid-70s


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...

18 comments:

Paula Wooters said...

This is exactly why we only washed our hair once a week when I was a kid... on Saturday nights to be ready for church in the morning. Yes, I was one greasy kid! But at least no one hassled me at the bus stop.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Mom used to tell me about her hair freezing on her way to work...I told her she needed to get up earlier lol.

Douglas said...

I am so glad my parents moved us to Florida when I was a child.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Oh, I had the frozen, crunchy hair, I did.
But no Ritas beat me up about it. Thank God.

jenny_o said...

"Rita looks at me. “Washing your hair in the morning is stupid,” she challenges.

" “You’re right about that,” I say."

You were born a diplomat, it's plain to see!

Geo. said...

Getting up early is just bad for everybody.

Shell Flower said...

Ha, this so resembles my childhood. The painter's pants cracked me up. I grew up in Wisconsin, so I remember the pretty girls who dealt with frozen hair just to look good. Ha. I only washed my hair when forced to as a kid.

Daisy said...

That was fun to read. I don't think I'd mess with Rita. Ha! She sounds kind of scary.

Ms Sparrow said...

Ah, drama at the bus stop. What a way to start the day!

Stephen Hayes said...

Rita sounds quite formidable. I don't think I'd want to tangle with her.

Amanda said...

I knew there was a reason my mother always made us take our showers at night. Living in Texas is always a plus when it comes to having non-frozen hair.

sage said...

We didn't often have the problem of freezing hair but that didn't keep us from having fights at the bus stop.

Buttons said...

Bath night and Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday night go to bed then your hair frozen to pillow in morning. No one teased me. Yup the good old days:) B

HermanTurnip said...

Yeah, sounds suspiciously like my childhood as well. Only instead of frozen hair I once went to elementary school with Vaseline in my hair. I wanted to look like the Fonz.

bill lisleman said...

Great way to start the day. -
Hey I was just browsing around wikipedia and found this.
Did you know there was a Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Mouser_to_the_Cabinet_Office

Rose L said...

I never knew wet hair would freeze! It makes sense though. I have never had that happen to me, thank goodness.

Pat said...

I often wonder what happened to my particular bully girl.

Austan said...

Never really thought it was winter till my hair rattled walking to school... And I still think it was good for my hair. That may be completely wrong, but you know how I am.
Happy 2013, Pearl!