Stacy Grimes

I worked with Trouble till she knew who was boss. It took a lot of work. A lot of time and a lot of work. She listens because she knows I’ll kick her little ass across the floor if she doesn’t. Froggy got her from some people in Columbus and took her home but he couldn’t take care of her. He’s got Baby and Lucky and Shooter. He’s got enough to take care of. He brought her over here one day and he said, “I got her but I can’t take care of her,” and he put her in my arms and she was just as cute as she could be. I said, “You leave her here.” I said, “I’ll take care of her.” But I said I’m not gonna have a dog that doesn’t listen like all these dirty hounds around here chained to their doghouses and yowling all the time. I worked with her every day until she knew who was boss and I never had a bit of trouble with her. So I decided to call her Trouble.

Johnny takes care of her while I’m working at night. And he lets her in the house. He does the dishes and he cleans the house so I can’t really complain. But he made me madder than hell on New Year’s Eve. I went to work and then Pam told me I could go home at eleven o’clock, but when I got home, Johnny wasn’t there. He went to the bar with Burns but I didn’t know where he was. I sat there and I got madder and madder. I was ready to throw all his stuff out the goddamn door. It was New Year’s Eve. Finally, I said to hell with it and I went to bed in the spare room. When he came home that night, he didn’t even know I was there he was so drunk. He thought I was out all night, and when he got up in the morning, he said, “Where the hell were you?” I said, “You dumb sonofabitch. I was sleeping in the spare room. Where the hell were you?”

I told him I won’t put up with it. He came in to work the next night and handed me a bunch of weeds, which was better than nothing. He said, “Are you really that mad at me?” I said, “You’re damn right I’m that mad.” He said, “I thought you were working all night. You could’ve come out to the bar.” I said, “I’m not gonna chase you to the bars!” I said, “You could’ve picked up the goddamn phone.”

He told me he’d make it up to me. He said he’d take me out to dinner. And he did and we had a very nice night together. I know the man loves me because he said to me the other night before I left for work, he said, “Do you have nose blowers?” He knows I have a cold and have to blow my nose and it’s a long drive. He said, “Because if you don’t there’s a box of Kleenex in the drawer.” It melted my heart. He does love me and he takes care of Trouble and he cleans and he goes to work so really I can’t complain.

But I’ve got all his goddamn brothers here all the time because Shelby’s down there dyin. They come down here from Columbus and they think this is headquarters. You can’t get out of bed and put a pot of coffee on till they’re knocking on the door. I told him I’m not gonna put up with it. Henry was already drinking by ten o’clock this morning. Johnny said, “Well, then tell them to get the hell out.” But you can’t do that.
There’s thirteen of them. Johnny and Shelby and Frog are the only ones worth anything. They’re the only ones that stayed on the farm—if you can call it a farm. Yvette went to town and all the rest went to Columbus. Johnny’s the baby and poor little Shelby’s the oldest. Sixty-four years old and the cancer’s done eat her up. Poor little Shelby’s layin down there dyin. She’s layin down in that trailer with a temperature of a hundred and six point four. Johnny said this morning before he left for work, he said, “If she dies what should I do?” I said, “You don’t need to come home because she’ll be dead.” I said, “You need to work.”

Johnny and I will get married one day and then I’m gonna be the executor of this property because he’ll put me right on there with him. I’m forty-four years old and I’ll be goddamn if I’m gonna let anyone run over me anymore. His brothers can’t come back here from Columbus and think they can tell us how to run this property. Johnny tells them. He says, “She runs the show around here.” And they all think: well who the hell is she? They think: this was Mom and Dad’s place. But this is Johnny’s place now. He’s the executor of this property. I told them all this shit out here is gonna be cleaned up this spring, and I’m gonna put ten head of cattle in there and I’m gonna get a horse. And I told Henry he needed to sell us the other trailer or I was gonna put a match to it because it’s not doin nothing while he has it but goin to the dogs. He said, “You ain’t got enough money to buy that trailer,” and I said, “Henry, that trailer ain’t worth a shit. The floors are falling out, the windows are falling out. . . .” I told him I’ll put a match to it and by God I will.

Earlene wants to move into Henry’s trailer. She wants to fix it up and rent it but I said no. She would have to tap into our water and I’m not gonna have that. No way. Earlene likes to start trouble. We don’t need her here. She’s not right in the head. I put up with her for almost a year down at the crossroads and I had enough. I can’t believe I stayed with her as long as I did. Drunk all the time and Wayne beating the hell out of her and all those messed up people she associates with. She’s got another roommate now and the girl’s only been there for two months and Earlene’s already badmouthing her. No, we don’t need people like her around here.

Earlene thinks because she’s fuckin Frog she can leave her Rott mutt runnin loose up here all the time. You live in the country you shouldn’t have to tie your dog up, but all the female dogs around here are in heat and she should have Duke on a chain. Frog’s dogs could get pregnant. And I don’t want Duke puppies. Trouble’s not a Rott she’s a coonhound. I don’t want to ruin her. As soon as some mutt breeds with her she’s ruined. Her titties’ll hang down to the ground and her stomach will sag . . . the puppies would be born real big and she’d probably have six or seven of them. No, I can’t have that.

Earlene came over here looking for him and I said, “You’re gonna have to tie him up or take him.” I said, “Trouble’s following him. They’re hunting. They’re going over across the road and when I call her, she won’t come. She’s following him and I can’t have that.”
Earlene had my chain in her hands. She looked about as skinny and twisted as the tree trunks behind her. She said, “I’m not gonna tie him up. He needs to run.”

People just want to run all over top of you.

Frog can’t even park in his own driveway. He’s got a driveway over there and he’s gotta park in ours. Frog is a hell of a nice guy but I don’t know why he has to park in our driveway. Every day I have to back my car up to get around his. Johnny and I are gonna have a talk because I won’t put up with it. This is just as much my house as it is his. I said your brothers and sisters are trying to run your life and I said it’s about time you showed them who’s got the reins. I said because I won’t put up with it, and Johnny listens to what I say.

Yvette called me up last summer after I moved in and she said, “I heard you’re bossing my baby brother around.”

I said, “That’s between me and Johnny.”

She said, “If we find out you’re mean to Johnny’s kids we’re gonna throw you out of there.”

She had me so upset. I said I take care of those kids when they’re here and I love Johnny’s kids dearly but I said I’ll be goddamn if I’m gonna let a five year old and a two year old walk all over me. It’s not gonna be like it was with Kenny’s brats. I’m not raising anyone else’s kids anymore ever. I’m not gonna do it. They’ve got a mother. Let her raise them. If she thinks she’s gonna drop them off every weekend she’s got another thing coming. Johnny and I have a life too. And little John is two years old and there isn’t anything he doesn’t break. He broke the glass out of the front of the stereo. There isn’t anything he doesn’t get into. It’s because no one has ever told them not to. It’s because Mommy lets them go. She don’t give a shit. Lazy bitch can’t even clean her car. That car is so dirty you can’t even get the kids in it because of all the McDonald’s trash. And every time they come here they’re sick. That comes from dirt. From filth. And I keep getting her mail. I’m gonna pile it up and take it over and throw it in her face one day. I’m tired of looking at it. And I’m gonna say change your goddamn address. Are you that lazy you can’t change your address?
She’s trying to get this house. But she ain’t gettin a dime from him. She left him. She abandoned him. And why—because he drank a little bit? She never should’ve married him, because he drank when she married him. She thinks she’s so high and mighty. Every weekend just comes and drops her kids off and takes off. Don’t they think I get tired? Shelby says, “Well, they’re Johnny’s kids. This place will be theirs one day.”

Well, Johnny and I are gonna have a talk. I’m not gonna put up with it. I rule the roost here. I sleep with Johnny and I pay the bills and if they don’t like it they can get the fuck off the property. I’ll have what I want. I want a double car garage and I want a barn and a horse. And I want all this junk out of here. They all think this is the Gainer junkyard. There’s fourteen junk cars out here. Fourteen fucking vehicles. It’s like walking through a snake pit to get to your front door. Every morning I get up and look out my window and look at the junk cars. He just put another truck out here and every day I have to go let a bird out of it.

But it’s going this summer. I told Frog it’s going. Johnny and I are tired of it. We want to have cattle and you can’t have cattle with all that shit out there. I just want Johnny and I to have a nice life. If we don’t do anything about it they’ll all bring every piece of junk they can back here. Like Burns says, the people around here don’t give a shit about how much junk you’ve got layin around. They don’t care. But that’s no way to live. I never had to live like this ever.

Henry said, “You can’t move nothin out of here. This ain’t your land.” He was sitting there at my table with some straggler he brought in who looked like a drug addict. I thought I don’t even know this man and here he is sitting at my table. I said, “This ain’t the Gainer junkyard.” I said, “I’m tired of you bringing all your stragglers in here.” He said, “This was my father’s land.” He said, “You pack your bags and you leave.” I said, “Johnny owns this land.” I said, “You can’t even pay your taxes. Johnny’s name’s in the paper because you all can’t pay your taxes. So it all comes down on Johnny.” I said, “If your daddy gave it to you you should have the respect to pay the taxes. You’re not a brother. You’re nothing but a drunk. Shelby’s down there dyin and you all gotta get drunk.” I said, “You all think this is Gainer headquarters but it isn’t. This summer Johnny and I are gonna clean up this whole property and if you don’t like it right there’s the door. Your fuckin ass can hit it.” I said, “When you get a better attitude, you can come back.”

Later on Yvette called here and she fuckin got all over top of me. Henry went over there and ran his mouth. She said, “If I ever hear of you telling my brother off again I’m gonna come over there and kick your ass.”
I thought here’s a sixty year old woman telling me she’s gonna kick my ass. I said, “Johnny and I are sick and tired of you all comin in here and trying to rule the roost. You don’t rule nothin here. We do.” I said, “I don’t want anything from Johnny. I just want to be with him. If it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t have made it through last winter. He would’ve drank himself to death.”

They don’t give a fuck about him. I’m the one that saved his life. They should see what a good woman I am to support Johnny and to take care of his kids and his house. I have taken my last ten dollars to go out to the grocery store and get him something to eat. And they all call me a bitch. Well I am a bitch. I’m the biggest fucking bitch they ever want to run into. Johnny needs a bitch to help him run his life.

I said to Johnny, “One of your family says one more thing to me I’m gonna leave.” He said, “You can’t leave.” I said, “I can do whatever I want.” He said, “What did she say?” I said, “She told me off!”

Johnny got on the phone right away. He made me so happy. He said none of them will ever say one bad word to me again. He said if they have anything to say they better say it to him.

He said, “This is your home.” And it is. Johnny and I, we want cattle and we want horses and a garden. We want all these things and we’re gonna work together to have them. Work together, not against each other. Isn’t that the way life’s supposed to be?

But everybody is in everybody’s business around here.

It’s like the other day—Janie was taking her mother’s morphine pills and everybody was hollerin about that. Johnny and I told them to leave her alone. She’s got enough on her. That woman has been through hell. It’s not right.

Yvette called and said, “I hate that little bitch. I’m gonna have her thrown out of there.” She said, “Janie’s not taking care of Shelby right.” But the bedsores are the fault of the hospital. I blame that on the hospital. Poor little Janie couldn’t even move her mother. Yvette said, “I’m comin down there for a week and things are gonna be different.”

I said, “Keep it down there. Don’t bring it here.”

I said to Johnny, “If I stay with you there’s gonna be a fuckin gate at the end of the driveway.” I’m gonna cut them all off.

THURSDAY MORNING I got up and made a pot of coffee and the lid wouldn’t go down and I pushed it and the coffee went all over me. It splashed up and burned my eyelid. Then I couldn’t find Trouble and I was worried. These people are the type that if they don’t like you they don’t like your dog. I said if anyone does anything to my dog I swear to God I’ll go to jail over it because I will kill someone. And Johnny told them. He said, “Anyone does anything to her dog she will go to jail over it.”
Trouble was running with Duke again. The hot water heater busted down at Frog’s so he was knocking on the door. Can I take a shower? The next thing I knew Earlene was taking a shower too. I said, “If my dog gets pregnant it’s gonna be your fault.” She said, “Why don’t you get your dog fixed?” I said, “Because I don’t want her fixed yet. I might want to breed her.”

Earlene was wearing my robe. She flipped on the blow dryer and flipped her head upside down and started blowing her stringy hair around. “Well then it’s your fault,” she said.

When she said that, it was like a bomb went off in my chest. I pulled the cord out of the socket and grabbed ahold of her arms and threw her up against the wall, and as soon as I did it I couldn’t believe I’d done it. Wayne used to explode on her like that.

I used to take care of her black eyes and her busted lips. I even beat that drunk sonofabitch off her once. We used to sit on the porch and wait for the train. We’d just sit and watch the train go by and listen to it and act goofy like teenagers and it was great. But none of that meant anything to Earlene. I thought Earlene would be like a sister to me. Someone to holler at and scream at and cry at. Like family. But I found out what she was. I’d find fifty dollars missing from my purse or half a bag of weed gone. Then my ring came up missing. I had to keep my money under my pillow at night. And when I found out she was badmouthing me, I couldn’t believe it. It broke my heart. But that’s the way she does people. She don’t care.

Froggy’s too nice a guy to be messin around with trash like that. But I guess a piece of ass is a piece of ass. I went in the living room and turned up the TV real loud. Frog never said a word. I will give him credit for that.
Then Shelby died at four thirty. Janie’s teenage daughter Missy has a bunch of birds down there and Henry walked in the trailer and looked at the birds and started hollerin. He said, “Missy, you need to water those birds! You need to feed those birds!” Janie said, “This is my home and that’s my mother layin there dead. You don’t come in here and yell at her like that.” Poor little Janie could barely talk.
I told Johnny about it later and he said, “You should’ve called 911.” I said, “What is wrong with these people?” He said, “They’ve always been like that.”

ON FRIDAY NIGHT Johnny and I went to the viewing and his ex-wife was there with her mother and the kids. We were standing around with the family, and people were talking quietly. Johnny squeezed my hand and he looked at me and nodded and then he went up to the casket. I watched him touch Shelby and he said goodbye to her and then he left the room.
As soon as he left the room, his ex’s mother came up to me. She was smiling and acting real nice. She said, “Have you ever seen two more beautiful children?” She said, “Little John is the spittin image of Johnny, and Tammy looks exactly like her mother.” Her old man was standing back against the wall looking at me. He was standing there staring at me. I thought Oh God. What am I in for now? She said, “You know, it’s really a shame about Johnny and Angie.”

I gave her the same sickly sweet voice she was giving me. “Well,” I said, “it happens to the best of us.”

She said, “But you know it’s just a temporary split up. They’re working on getting back together.”

I said, “Oh, really?”

She said, “Yes, they’re trying to work out their problems and get back together.” And then she said, “I’m sorry, and who are you?”

She knew who I was. I said, “I’m Sharon. I’m Johnny’s girlfriend. We’ve been together for eight months now.”

She said, “Oh.”

I said, “Yeah, it’s a shame that Angie left him. He was really upset when she took his kids. It almost killed him.” I said, “But these things happen.” I said, “Excuse me. I have to go to the bathroom,” and I walked away.
Later that night I said to Johnny, “So I heard you and Angie are trying to get back together.” I told him what happened. He said, “Angie put her up to that.” He said, “Fuck her. I wouldn’t go back with her for all the money in the world.” And I know he wouldn’t. They just have to start shit. They’re all like that. Johnny and I don’t get any rest.

SHELBY’S IN A much better place now than we are. But life goes on. Janie and her old man are shacking up in the trailer, and Missy’s pregnant. Seventeen years old and pregnant. Missy’s the kind of girl who walks through your bedroom and opens up all your jewelry boxes and looks in your drawers. She’s always comin in here asking me for a joint. I ain’t feedin it to her cause I ain’t dopin up the baby.

I was back in the bedroom the other night folding clothes and she snuck up on me and scared me. She said, “You got a joint?” She saw the bag of weed layin on my bed. I said, “No, I don’t have a joint.” She picked up the bag and said, “Ooo ooo ooo!” Well, it’s mine. It’s not anyone else’s. She said, “Oh come on. Pleeease? I’ve got six people out in the car.” I said, “That ain’t my problem.” Do they think the stuff grows on trees? It cost me fifty-five dollars for that bag of weed.

Then I caught her little punk boyfriend in the hallway. I said, “Back up, Bud.” Froggy warned me about him. Said he was nothing but a little thieving bastard. I don’t want none of them. If I have to put rattlesnakes out here to keep them off the property I will. When I start planting dope, none of these stragglers are gonna be comin around here. I’m gonna set all kinds of fuckin traps. I told Johnny he’s gonna go get an alarm system to put on this house because I don’t trust nobody. It’s worse out here than it is in the city. It’s nothing but a bunch of thieves and rutters that don’t have jobs. People that live in old dirty trailers and houses and don’t take baths.

Froggy and Janie are the only decent ones left. I love Froggy like a brother. He’s been good to me. Johnny always accuses me of fuckin him. But that’s only because Froggy drinks too much and when he drinks, he says little things and sometimes if I’ve had a couple beers I say little things. But it’s innocent. It’s like the other day—Froggy was out here cleaning up the driveway and I said, “Ooo, look at Froggy out there workin.” I stuck my head out the door and I said, “What are you doin?” He got a shit-eating grin on his face and he said, “I’m workin.”
But I told Johnny if we don’t make it I won’t ever try again. I said if you ain’t the one you better tell me now cause I’m gonna get up and get out. I don’t want somebody to use me all up and throw me aside. I’m too old for that. I always wanted a home. I always wanted to get married and to have a home and children but I could never find someone to help me get that. I think to myself: why am I here? Why was I born? Am I just taking up space, breathing up someone else’s air? I keep thinking about when I was living with Kenny and he was at work and the brats were at school and I would get on the horse and go for a ride out the road. It would be the duck, the cat and the dog and they would follow me. That’s the way I want to live my life. But you can’t paint a picture like that because that’s not the picture.

I said to Johnny, “Things are gonna have to change because I won’t put up with this anymore.” I’m going through change-of-life and I’m worried about everything. I’m going through some really bad mood swings and sometimes I feel like I could kill someone. I mean literally kill someone.

And I told him I’m too old to be raising a couple of kids that I didn’t even have. His kids are terrible. It’s the way that bitch is raising them. She lets them rule her. They eat like they’ve never had a bite to eat in their lives. And if it ain’t sweet they won’t eat it. It’s because Mommy won’t make them eat anything good. She don’t eat anything good herself. Tammy’s five years old and all her teeth are rotten. I want to give them water for their meals, but Johnny has to give them pop or milk. And that boy spills everything.

One Friday night Johnny was gonna take me out for a beer. He said after supper we’ll let Janie watch them and we’ll go out for a beer. But little John knocked his pop on the floor. I said, “Now I gotta scrub the floor!” I said, “Is this a bed of roses or prickly pines?” I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I said they’re your kids and I love them but I didn’t have them. Don’t give me the responsibility of raising your kids. I’m not a nanny goat. I told him it’ll be my way or no way. If he wants me to do this I’ll work part time and he’ll pay me to stay home and watch the kids. I said I am not little-Suzie-miss-homemaker and you’re not pullin this on me. No one’s ever pullin that on me again.

I had them the other day and they were pullin the pots and pans out and tearin this place up. Little John broke everything he put his hands on. Tammy was eating donuts like they were going out of style. She wanted to sit on the kitchen counter and I said no, but she kept climbing up there. I said, “You get your ass down and you sit at the table and eat like a normal person!” and I picked her up and slammed her little ass down in the chair. I’ll be goddamn if a five year old girl is gonna tell me what she’s gonna do. She was eatin those donuts like she never had a bite to eat in her life. I said, “Slow down before you choke!” Her hands were nothing but sticky donuts and she was climbing around in the chair and dropping stuff all over the floor. I said, “Do you have to put your hands all over the back of the chair? You will sit at the table and eat like a young lady should!”

When they’re with me, by God they’re gonna listen. Or I told Johnny he can kiss my ass goodbye because I ain’t never gonna let anyone walk over me again. I’ve had my fill.

Little John ran out to the living room to break something else. You can’t let your eyes off them for one second. I ran after him and grabbed him up and took him back to the kitchen and there was Tammy back on the kitchen counter. I said, “Goddamn it get off the counter!” and she jumped and landed right on Trouble and Trouble yelped and I dropped Little John and ran over and smacked Tammy right across her sticky mouth and her little ass hit the floor. They were both screaming and I heard something rattling behind me and I turned around and there stood Earlene in the doorway with a smirk on her face and my chain in her hands.

She said, “What does Johnny think about the way you slap his kids around?”

I could’ve walked through a wall. That’s the way I feel sometimes—like I’m invincible. I went over to her and I said, “That’s my chain,” and I ripped it out of her hands.

IT WAS NIGHT when I came home and the moon was full. Trouble met me at the mailbox. She was totally excited. I was trying to get the mail and she jumped in the car and she jumped out. And she jumped in the car and she jumped out. She was all over me. I thought, what the hell have you been eating that’s making you so hyper? I thought, maybe it’s the moon.

I went in and took my clothes off and turned the TV on and I got something to eat. Trouble kept jumping on the sofa and jumping off and putting her paws in my lap. I played with her and she kept running to the door but she wouldn’t go out. I thought, what the hell is wrong with you?

I did the dishes. The phone rang and it was Janie. She said, “Did you know Henry’s trailer burned down?”

I went out on the porch and sure as shit it was gone. I thought, that’s what’s wrong with Trouble. Janie said they were over there cleaning it out. Frog and Earlene, and Henry had a couple of his stragglers helping, Tom and his old lady. Well, Tom’s a fucking drunk and a wife beater. He’s a woman beater. Janie said they were moving some stuff out and Tom and his old lady got into a fight and he was kicking her ass. Frog and Janie broke it up. She said she told him he wasn’t going to beat on any woman in front of her, that she’d cut his belly open. They all left and when they came back, the trailer was in a blaze.

She said, “Somebody said your car was here.”

I said, “It wasn’t.”

She said Henry said I had threatened to burn the trailer down because he wouldn’t sell it to me. But she told him she didn’t believe I would do that.

She said, “A cigarette could have dropped while they were fighting.”
I said it’s a blessing in disguise.

She said Johnny had talked to Henry about the water, that they were gonna tap into the water line. I said no—oh. Johnny didn’t agree with that. Johnny and I already talked about all this. Earlene won’t move in with Frog because she’s afraid Wayne will kill him. They’re trying to keep it hush-hush, but how long is that gonna last? Wayne’s crazy. And when I say he’s crazy, I mean he’s crazy. He’s already pulled a twelve-inch blade on me. I said to Johnny, suppose Wayne finds out and he comes and beats Earlene up and kills her over there? Then what? We’re gonna have a fuckin murder on our hands. I said I’ll be goddamn if I’m gonna live here and have to worry about Wayne killing Earlene over in that trailer. I said Earlene’s just another piece of junk they all want to bring in here. And Johnny agrees with me. He don’t want the riff-raff here either.

Johnny’s the baby but he’s got more power than any of them. He’s the executor. It’s like Johnny’s the sheriff of the town and I’m the deputy but we can’t get the people of the town to abide by the rules. What’s it gonna come to—a gunfight in the middle of the road?

Sometimes I feel like I was raised on the other side of the fuckin universe. How do these people get the gall to do the things they do? Just let Henry try to accuse me of burning down that trailer!
Now I can look out the window and see the front road and I couldn’t before. I can sit here and look across the field and see the light in town. It’s miles away but I can see that and I like it. I know what lies ahead of me. I know what kind of a woman I am and I don’t regret anything. There’s such a life here that I’m dreaming of, like a fairy tale book. I gotta keep wanting more every day and getting it because if I don’t then there’s no purpose.

Trouble puts her paws in my lap. She loves to have her head rubbed. She puts her head in my crotch. She’s afraid of the fly swatter.

Her titties look awfully big.