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Authors: Marie Sexton

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BOOK: Trailer Trash
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They drove south to the interstate, then turned west. The sun was shining, semis blasting past them in the left lane, and the farther they got from Warren, the more Cody seemed to shine.

It was as if all his anger and resentment and embarrassment burned away as they drove, left somewhere behind them on the shimmering, hot asphalt. He smiled more. His laugh came easier. He fiddled with the radio and finally managed to tune in a rock station broadcast out of Salt Lake. It was more Cody’s music than Nate’s—Van Halen, Def Leppard, the Scorpions—but they both agreed it was better than nothing. By the time they pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot in Rock Springs, Nate was marveling at how much of Cody’s usual hostility seemed rooted in the dusty streets of his hometown.

Cody excused himself to use the bathroom as soon as they walked inside, and by the time he came out, Nate had already paid for a double order of Big Macs, fries, chocolate shakes, and apple pies.

And just like that, Cody’s newfound happiness wilted a little. The pained look that always haunted his eyes came back as he scanned the tray full of food. “I can pay you back.”

“Forget it,” Nate said, wanting only to see him relax again. “What the hell else am I going to spend my allowance on?”

They slid into opposite sides of a booth. Cody unwrapped his hamburger first, but Nate was dying for french fries.

“What in the world are you doing?” Cody asked as Nate took the lid off his chocolate shake and dipped a fry in it.

“I’ve been craving this ever since we moved.” He held the shake out to Cody. “Seriously, you’ve never dipped your fries into your shake?”


Nate was about to say his mother had introduced him to the idea, but that seemed like a good way to wipe the smiles off both their faces fast. Instead, he ate another milkshake-coated fry, pushing the open cup toward Cody again. “Go on. Try it. You’ll never want ketchup again.”

Cody didn’t look too sure of the idea, but he obediently dipped one of his fries into the shake and put it in his mouth.

“Good, right?”

Cody tilted his head, still chewing, seeming to put way too much thought into whether or not he liked it.

“You know what I really miss?” Nate asked.

Cody swallowed. “Besides a swimming pool and MTV and a mall with an arcade?”

Nate laughed. “Yeah, besides those things. I miss grits.”

Cody stopped in the middle of taking the lid off his own chocolate shake. “What are those?”

If anyone had told Nate two months earlier that he’d be talking to somebody who’d never heard of grits, he would have called them an idiot, but he’d checked the grocery store in Warren. There were no grits to be found. Not even the instant kind. “They’re like Cream of Wheat, I guess, but not really.” He unwrapped his hamburger, thinking about all the things he couldn’t find in Warren. “I miss fried okra too. And you know what else?”


“Collard greens cooked with bacon. I didn’t even think I liked them that much till I found out I couldn’t get them. Now, every night at dinner, I sit there wishing we had them.”

“Isn’t spinach the same thing?”

“Not even close.” For a while, they ate in silence, although Nate was pleased to see he’d converted Cody to the world of chocolate shakes in lieu of ketchup on his fries. And Nate’s Big Mac was the best damn thing he’d ever tasted.

“You don’t have much of a Texas accent,” Cody said as he wadded up his empty hamburger wrapper.

“No. It’s ’cause my folks are damned Yankees.”

Cody wrinkled his brow, and Nate laughed, realizing the joke was lost on him.

“It’s something they always say in the South. The difference between a Yankee and a damned Yankee is that a Yankee’s here to visit, but a damned Yankee’s here to stay.” He shook his head, realizing that his “here” had become “there.” He still thought of himself as a Texan.

“Anyway. My mom and dad were both Air Force brats. They lived all over growing up. They moved to Austin the year before I was born, but the southern drawl never really rubbed off on them. Plus, you know, my mom’s an English teacher, so she’s big on proper grammar. She likes telling me how ‘y’all’ isn’t in the dictionary.” Why did he always end up talking about his mom? “Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, you’re the one with the accent.”

Cody stopped, a fry halfway to his mouth. “I don’t have an accent.”

“You do. You and everybody else in Warren. You sort of . . . twang.”

Cody dropped his fry, sitting back as if Nate had slapped him. “I don’t ‘twang.’”

“You do. It’s kind of cute, really.”

Cody just stared at him, and Nate suddenly regretted having said that last bit. He crumpled up his Big Mac wrapper, searching for something else to say that didn’t feel so stupid. He glanced out the window, at the cars headed downtown.

Or was it “uptown” in Rock Springs?

“Hey,” he said, struck by a new thought. “Is there a record store in Rock Springs?”

“Pretty sure there is.”

“Then hurry up and finish your pie. I never managed to buy
Lifes Rich Pageant
before I moved.”



Cody groaned as he started to gather their trash onto the tray. “Thank God your car doesn’t have a cassette player.”

Cody could tell Nate was uncomfortable when they entered the thrift shop, but he seemed to be doing his best to act casual about it. The place had the same sour, musty smell as every other used clothing store Cody had ever been in. The front of the store was all women’s clothing, and Nate followed him past the racks of clothing to the men’s section. Cody tried to tell himself he had no reason to be embarrassed as he started sorting through the options.

“How about this?” Nate was on the other side of the rack of clothes, directly across from Cody. He held up the ugliest sweater Cody had ever seen.


Nate put it back without a word. Thirty seconds later, he said, “This?”

This one was bad enough it made Cody think better of the first one. He couldn’t tell if Nate was seriously offering him the sweater, or if he was intentionally picking things he knew Cody would hate. “No.”

“This one?” The shirt Nate held up this time was almost identical to the one he was wearing, right down to the little horse embroidered on the chest.

Cody shook his head. “Nate, look at me. Then look at you. Then look at that shirt. Now tell me, who’re you kidding?”

Nate actually blushed a bit as he put the shirt back. “Just trying to help.”

So he had been serious. Now Cody felt bad for being a smart-ass. “What I really need are pants.”

“I saw some parachute pants over there.” Nate pointed to the end of the row.

“Please tell me you’re joking.”

Nate shrugged. “Eddie Van Halen wears them.”

“Maybe you ain’t noticed, but I’m
Eddie Van Halen. And neither are you.”

“I don’t know. I think you could pull it off. It’s that whole ‘bad boy’ thing. You just need a leather jacket to go with it.”

Again, he couldn’t tell if Nate was serious or not. He didn’t know if he should bother pointing out that if he was buying his jeans secondhand, it was a safe bet he couldn’t afford a leather jacket. Instead, he chose not to respond at all. He went back to sorting through jeans.

“You want me to pick you up on Tuesday?” Nate asked.

Cody winced, hoping Nate didn’t notice. “For what?”

“For school.”

“What do you mean?” It was a stupid question. Really, he was just stalling for time. He’d been anticipating this conversation, but having it now, in person, in a public place, was a lot more difficult than he’d pictured it being.

“What do you think I mean, genius? Do you want a ride to school?”

“I’m totally out of your way.”

“Cody, the town is two blocks wide. There’s no such thing as ‘out of my way.’”

He was exaggerating, but not by much.

“I thought it’d be cool if you’d hang out with me, you know?” Nate said, seemingly oblivious to Cody’s discomfort. “I mean, you’re the only friend I have. I don’t know my way around. I don’t even know where the school is, now that I think about it.”

Cody took a deep breath and made himself say the words he’d rehearsed in his head a hundred times, although he couldn’t look Nate in the eyes as he did. “You don’t want the others to know we’re friends.”

“Why not?”

“Because—” Fuck, what was he supposed to say? He made himself meet Nate’s confused gaze over the rack of clothing. “Because you don’t. That’s all.”

“You’re too cool to hang out with the preppy guy from Orange Grove? Is that it?” Nate actually seemed upset by the idea.

“Yeah, that’s it. I’m worried you’ll ruin my rep.”

Nate actually looked a bit hurt by that comment, like he didn’t quite realize Cody was being sarcastic.

Cody sighed and tried a different tactic: the truth. “Think about it, man. Have you seen anybody else in Warren speak to me?”

“We hang out in a cow field. I haven’t seen anybody out there at all.”

Good point. Still, he didn’t understand. How could he? But once school started, he would.

“The thing is, you’re gonna be in classes with all those assholes from the Grove. They’re gonna be curious about you, trying to figure out if you’re cool or not. And they’re gonna tell you things about me.” Cody stared at the hangers on the metal bar in front of him so he wouldn’t have to see Nate’s face. “Some of what they tell you will be lies, but some will be true. And either way, you won’t want to be seen with me after that.” There was
an itch in his throat as he said those words. He refused to acknowledge it. “Being the new kid is tough enough. No need to make things worse by showing up on your first day with the class pariah.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nate duck his head. Nate started sorting through the shirts in front of him, even though Cody didn’t think he was seeing any of them. When Nate finally glanced up again, his cheeks were red. Was he embarrassed, or mad?

“I’ll be at the gas station at seven thirty,” he said. “You better be there.”

A new coat was going to have to wait, but the money from his mother was enough to cover a couple of pairs of jeans, a few T-shirts, a hooded sweatshirt, and—best of all—a pair of barely used black Converse that actually fit. Cody had always hated having to buy shoes secondhand, but at least he’d managed to score a pair that didn’t scream “trailer park.” Hell, even those assholes from the Grove wore Converse.

He was more nervous than usual on the first day of school. Nate had made him promise more than once that he wouldn’t stand him up. He was like a damn dog with a bone, stuck on the idea that having Cody with him on the first day would somehow make it easier. No matter how many times Cody tried to tell him the opposite was true, Nate insisted, which was how Cody found himself at the gas station, climbing into Nate’s car at seven thirty in the morning on the day after Labor Day.

He’d gotten used to his car, but Nate looked different. During the few short weeks of their friendship, he’d let his preppiness slide a bit. Cody hadn’t quite realized he was doing it until he saw Nate all decked out for school with his collar flipped up and his newly cut hair all moussed into place. He was even wearing a Members Only jacket, with the sleeves pushed partway up his forearms.

Christ, he was going to have some girl from the Grove following him around like a lost puppy by the end of the day.

“You look ridiculous.”

Nate didn’t even blink. “You need a haircut.”

That was true, but Cody chose not to answer, turning to look out the window as Nate pulled out of the gas station and turned toward the school.

“I still think you should have gone for the parachute pants and the leather jacket.”

Cody laughed, despite himself. “Maybe next time.”

His stomach clenched as they turned into the parking lot. Already, the groups had formed—the preps and jocks by the big Walter Warren High School sign in front of the school, posing so everybody could see which brands they were sporting. The cowboys were gathered near the corner of the building, keeping to themselves. A few of the nobodies who didn’t fit in anywhere were huddled around the flagpole, talking quietly and doing their best not to be seen. Cody wished he could be one of them—one of the regular students who mostly went unnoticed—but even that didn’t seem to be an option for him. And off in the corner of the parking lot were the few people Cody might have called friends, the other trailer-park residents, gathered in a circle as if that could hide the cigarettes they were smoking.

BOOK: Trailer Trash
9.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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