An Hour Past My Bedtime by Francine Witte

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Me and Shady Granger playing grownup. Me and he. Just past 12 years old. Me chugging an empty whiskey bottle and him fake-smoking a cigarette. Pretending we are like our own parents. His family came from over there. Forbidden part of town. Part of town where the poor folks live, my daddy always said, and it’s best we don’t go trying to mix it up. I loved Shady’s careful smile that opened like the moon.

Saturday mornings, my mama sleeping it off on the couch and Daddy at his office like always, and I’d call Shady, quick come over. Sometimes, Shady was busy watching the little kids, with his own Mama scrubbing a rich lady’s floor, his daddy circling the paper looking for work. Other days, Shady would ride his bike over and we’d head back to the porch, smoking and drinking and laughing. The afternoon drifting into a sweet, slow evening and him sneaking off before my daddy got home and my mama got up. My daddy would ask me over dinner why I was looking so damn happy. I couldn’t wind down. An hour past my bedtime and I could hear Shady’s voice calling me from way across town.

Ten Years Past My Bedtime

Me and Shady Granger, grownups now. Me and he. Ran off together middle of the night. My daddy looked and looked. Finally gave up, heart attack, I heard somewhere. My mama never got over the sting of his death and me leaving.

Somewhere in all this, Shady stopped smiling at me. It’s like he took away the moon. I went shrill and started drinking for real. Shady blamed me for losing his own family and would huff himself out of the house. Gone for days at a time. I’d look out the window, the sky going aquamarine, like my mama used to say. Didn’t know why she didn’t call it blue. Thought maybe it was a made-up drunk word. Who knows? Maybe it was.

Thirty Years Past My Bedtime

Me and Shady Granger with our own grownup kids. Me and he all over again. I watched our girl, Sarah, some nights looking at the moon for answers to love. I watched our boy Griff squeal the Volkswagen out of the driveway. He would be all slicked up and flowered and on his way to break a heart. Me, I became just like my mama. The bottle full, then empty, then full. Shady running out back on the porch, his cigarette smoke curling up around the moon.

A Lifetime Past My Bedtime

Me, but no Shady Granger. Me without he. Shady got a fever that burned him up from the inside. Kids don’t call much anymore like they promised. Some nights now, the house is so alone and cold I can hear teardrops from the moon.

My mama always used to say that life is a singer of sad, sad, songs. They are a hum in your ear as you go along chasing happiness, chasing love. And it’s only at the end of things, when you finally stop, you start to make out the melody, the words become sharp and clear, too late, really, for them to help at all, the bittersweet strain of them smoking up into the air.

*****

Francine Witte

Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.

Other work

When A Bouquet of Flowers

Jack is Coming to Kill Me

Cover Image by rkarkowski

pencil


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