He was so handsome, and so kind, and when he was with her she had been the luckiest girl in the world. No other man had his strength and goodness. None of the husbands, none of the boyfriends. Sometimes when the pain got too bad she sought him out in bars. After a few beers she saw his features in her dance partners. None of them measured up either.
There wasn’t a day passed by that she didn’t think of him.
The blazing central California sun beat down on the old pickup truck. Sliding into the drivers seat, she reached behind the cushion and felt around for a vise grips and screwdriver so she could roll the window down. The daily ritual was reversed at night, to prevent stray cats and possums from finding themselves a new home. Eyes closed and head bowed, she offers a short prayer and places the key in the ignition. As the engine sputters then roars to life, she smiles and leans forward to kiss the rosary hanging from the rear view mirror.
Driving along the county road, she sees the car in front has New Mexico plates and she smiles again.
Along with her, the Mercury had been his pride and joy. She could see him posing in front of it, one booted foot perched possessively on the bumper. He grinned easily at the camera, cowboy hat pushed back, white teeth in stark contrast with his dark brown skin.
Her smile widens, and moisture begins to fill her eyes.
He’d spotted her watching from the porch and had strode over to scoop her up in his arms.
“Hey good lookin! Want to go for a ride?”
She beamed up at him, nodding anxiously, barely able to contain the excitement. He was so handsome and she loved him more than anything in the world. He sat her down in the passenger seat, closed the door and went around to his side. No car seats or seat belts in those days.
Gliding down the highway, he clicked the radio on. Patsy Cline, then magically his favorite song played next. They both sang along.
“Hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’, how’s about cooking somethin’ up for me“.
Lost in reverie, she had been humming and blinking back tears. Unwilling to let go of the memory, she sang for a few minutes. Her voice trailed off into silence, the only sounds the tires on the pavement and faint lifter noise from the engine compartment. As they always did, more memories began to surface.
They weren’t a religious family, but when they did go to church Daddy always put on a white shirt and tie and carried her proudly to the first pew, as if daring anyone to ask where they had been. This felt so different, being here without him. Everyone kept crying and saying Daddy had gone away for awhile. There was a picture of him next to the altar surrounded by flowers. Something was very very wrong. A young woman stood up, interrupting the preacher with her scream.
“Diga la verdad! Digales a todos lo que realmente occurrio!”
Tell the truth? Tell everyone what really happened? She began to gasp for breath and stood up as well, her screams joining with those of the young woman.
The days and weeks following the funeral were a jumble of fear and terrible loss to the five year old.
“At first they said it was a car accident. BullSHIT it was, no damage to the car. You all saw what I saw, blood on the door handle and all inside“.
Hey good lookin’.
“The deputy had a thing for that young woman. Gabe just gave her a ride, that was all. Now they say he had a gun? Since he got back from the service Gabe wouldn’t even hunt no more, couldn’t stand the blood. Said he’d seen enough blood to last a lifetime. He’d sold all his guns and gave the money to mama“.
Whatcha got cookin’.
“Who’s going to take care of her – her mother? Rosalie can’t even take care of herself“.
“What else can we do? Delfina has a ranch. We all know how she is, but what choice do we have. We have to follow the work. Valgame Dios, she may have changed. God help Katrina if she hasn’t “.
There was always someone willing to play the father-protector role as life unfolded. Some were even kind. The kind ones she rejected, having long since accepted her own role as whore and tramp; she knew herself to be undeserving of such kindness.
In desperation she made an effort to see her Dad. After months spent in the state hospital the physical and emotional wounds scarred over. Tattoos covered the physical scars, work with a rescue service helped to cover the emotional scars.
Katrina gently bathed the wounds of the traumatized kitten. Horribly abused, the tiny animal sensed a kindred spirit in the woman, and began to purr. The woman smiled and stroked the singed fur, and whispered both to the tiny creature – and to herself.
“Hey there good lookin‘”.