The sun rises over bland farm country as a rickety old truck bounces down a barely paved road. The truck looks as though it might have been blue once, but it’s hard to tell. The majority of the body is either covered in six shades of rust or is flaked away completely.
Inside the car, a young girl leans on her elbow and stares out the open window. The crisp morning air flows through her wispy, dirty blonde hair, most of which, is tied back in an unkempt knot. Around her wrists are thick constrictions of beads and straps. Around her neck is a tarnished black ball chain. She watches the countryside bounce past with disinterest, blinking as the rising sun signals the start of another frosty late-September morning in Michigan.
A sinewy hand grabs a handful of Lori’s shirt collar and yanks her back into to he car. Lori gasps in surprise as her left hip and elbow bang against the center console.
“Stop staring out the window like that, Lori. You look like a smack fiend.”
Lori rubs her smarting elbow and stares at her feet.
“You would know, Mom.” Her attempt at inaudibility is only half-sincere. She can feel those yellow green eyes snap at her from the driver’s seat as her mother wheezes a smoker’s cough of disapproval.
“Don’t get smart with me, kid,” her mother rumbles, tapping a bony finger on the Parliament full flavored stick of gravel hanging out the window. “You still need someone to keep your ass in line.”
So many things could be said in retort. And you still need someone to pay for your ass to sit on that couch and do nothing is usually the top contender. But what would that get her, other than possibly a smack in the mouth?
Silence ensues for the rest of the drive. As they pass the city limits, Lori’s mother flicks her cigarette butt at the pock-marked green sign that simply reads “Lansing,” and offers another derisive snort that invites comment. Lori twists her head to look even further out the window.
Not thirty seconds later, the truck pulls into a large, but virtually empty parking lot—with the exception of the two police cruisers and an ambulance stationed around the sliding OUT doors on the left side of the flat and sprawling concrete building.
The flashing lights grab her attention, and Lori sits up straighter, leaning forward to see what she can see. “What the-?”
“Oh, by all means, use the entire pick up lane! Like whatever you’re doing is so important. If it’s so important then why are you just sitting there?” Her mother’s eyes are wild with indignant fury, and Lori decides not to tempt her wrath by pointing out that they can’t hear her.
The truck careens through the parking lot with no regard for traffic lanes or parking spaces and halts just short of one cruiser’s back bumper. The cop at the caution tape looks at Lori’s mother, then at the bumper, then back at Lori’s mother with a wagging-finger glance. He turns back towards the more pressing matter of keeping no one away from the restricted area.
Annoyed but unfazed, Lori grabs her tattered army green shoulder bag and slides her slim, scraggly figure down from the tall seat to the ground.
She is barely clear of the door when her mother jams the truck into gear and peels out passed the cops in a cloud of blue-black smoke without so much as a nod of farewell at her daughter. The cop at the caution tape watches her exit the parking lot in a wide left turn and head home, then shifts his gaze to Lori with a mixture of suspicion and pity.
Lori drops her eyes to the ground in an affectively empty stare, shifts her bag higher on her shoulder and slouches toward the automatic IN doors. Maybe she should be embarrassed by her mother’s strange behavior…but that would require her to put forth the effort of giving a shit. And today, as with most days, Lori finds herself at a loss.