It’s Friday, a little after four. We’re headed home from an install job. Lionel’s driving. I’ve got shotgun. Chris and Lucas, the latest help, are in the back seat, a Styrofoam cooler between them, talking through wads of tobacco and spitting intermittently into Mountain Dew cans they’ve expertly hogged the tops out of. The truck is warm, the sun flickering through trees high up on the ridge to my right. I’m trying not to nod off.
‘You should go to Aaron’s,’ I hear Lucas tell Chris. Lucas sounds as though he’s about to drown in chew juice.
The subject is televisions. It seems Chris, with his less-than-steady income and ever-shifting address, is in the market for one.
Lucas spits, or drains rather and then continues. ‘Yeah man. They gave us a fifty-inch flat screen, a sofa and a badass entertainment center, for like, two hundred bucks a month.’
‘How many months?’ Chris asks, obviously impressed.
‘Do they deliver?’
Chris doesn’t own a vehicle either.
I perk up. Lionel looks over at me, rolls his eyes.
Aaron’s, if you don’t already know, is one of those rent-to-own places that thrives on statistical fuck-ups like Chris and Lucas. I want to ask Chris whose living room he plans to put that fancy TV in. But I resist. Just like I resist ragging on their saggy-ass pants, cockeyed hats, Red Bull, generic smokes and tattoos of their kid’s goddamn feet. Statistically, it’s a waste of good sarcasm.
Nearer home, Lionel turns onto a side road I don’t recognize. We’re dropping Lucas off, he says. A couple of rights and we’re on a slip of asphalt, winding through this crazy valley. Everything is straight up. Scraggly trees, shotgun shacks and No-Trespassing signs, all seem to be clinging for dear life to the huge limestone boulders. I can’t see out.
Lucas’s vintage doublewide is hung on the side of a cliff, above what I’m guessing to be a flood zone. I see the blue glow of that fifty-inch flat screen, shimmering through the trailer's yellowed sheers. Lucas’s five kids, four dogs and wife—who I learned earlier had a bid in for Disability—pour out of the trailer when we pull in to the drive. Daddie’s home. It’s payday.
We all get out, stretch. After some quick introductions, Lionel asks Lucas for his hours. He fills out a check. I scratch the dogs. Some kind of Jack Russell mix—real friendly. Then we’re loaded up and leaving, the kids all waving us goodbye.
Lucas drives a van, a big, green Chevy that he got a great deal on, just like the fifty-inch flat screen. It dawns on me, as we are pulling out, that I don’t see the van anywhere.
Wondering, I ask Chris, ‘Lucas have his van in the shop?’
‘No,’ Chris says, ‘It’s hiding.’
‘He owes on it.’
I look back. The kids are still standing there at the end of the drive, waving at us, like we forgot something.