I heard my son was bad off since he’d lost his job but I still wasn’t prepared for the squalor in his trailer. Dirty clothes and empty liquor bottles were strewn across the floor, and the place reeked of whiskey, sweat, and mold. Water dripped from a hole above me and darkened the laminate below my feet. My son slumped, red-eyed, in front of the TV, volume turned down low.
“Jim,” I said.
He showed no interest in me and kept his eyes on the screen, where marching bands and giant floats in the bright colors of the flag paraded along the National Mall past a bustling crowd. I heard a faint Sousa march.
“Jim. We gotta go.” I tried to sound less crestfallen, more self-assured. “You can stay with me for a while. You don’t need to live like this.”
He picked at a hole in his Converse sneakers. Shook his head no. “Just go,” he said, eyes still on the TV.
I turned toward the kitchenette, asked “Do you have enough food?” Dirty dishes filled the sink. A frying pan with a thick, black layer of carbonized grime sat on a burner. In the cabinet I found three cans of soup, a box of saltines, and dead roaches. Beer and ketchup in the fridge.
“Just go,” Jim repeated, louder. “You’re the expert on leaving. Leave.”
I wanted to tell him that things were different now, that I’d help him get back on his feet. Instead, I drove to Walmart, returned with three bags of groceries, and deployed them carefully on the trailer’s cracked aluminum steps. In my rear-view mirror, the door remained shut.
DK Snyder (she/her) lives in Virginia. Her work has appeared in Punk Noir Magazine, 50-Word Stories, Cool Rock Repository, and Dollar Store Magazine. Find her on Twitter @millioncandles.