When the man comes to do the odd jobs, Brigette follows him around. His name is Tom. He wears loose coveralls and a cap that says, ``O's Gold'' on it. Tom would rather fix cars, but he can't seem to get that kind of work. He has small hands, for a man, a pale, immobile face. He has eleven brothers and sisters. When he was small, Tom's family left him behind at the Iowa State Fair. A security guard found him curled up sleeping in the straw under the Tilt a Whirl. He remembers riding on the guard's shoulders, the smell of his oily hair and somehow, the sound of a cello.
Mostly though, Tom talks about cars. He drives an eleven year old Honda Civic that resembles a spotted dog. He would like to buy the aunt's Chevy Malibu. He's all but offered his life for it. He lets Brigette flip through the pages of his copy of Wheels.
Brigette runs her fingers over the pictures in the magazine. How beautiful everything is!
``Now,'' says Tom. He takes the magazine and rolls it up and tucks it into the back pocket of his coveralls. Brigette follows him to the barn. Today, he gets to work on her father's truck.
``Let's just take a look under the hood,'' he says. ``Most problems are easily solved. Let's troubleshoot.'' Tom whistles as he scrutinizes the insides of the truck. In truth, he is not very knowledgeable. Even Brigette can see that.
Last summer, Brigette fell from an apple tree and broke her arm in two places. Her mother fashioned a sling for her and they rode in the backseat of Tom's car to the hospital in Grundy Center. It was the first time she'd seen that they didn't dress like other people. Don't look at them, her mother told her. Their disapproval is a star upon your heart . Brigette moaned. A tall woman put her hand on Brigette's shoulder and bent down and looked into her eyes. The woman wore trousers. Her hair was shaved along the sides. Hey, it's okay, pumpkin, she said, showing Brigette her bangle of gold.
Tom is pulling wires from under the pick up truck's hood. The aunt stands leaning in the doorway of the barn, backlit by the afternoon sun.
``There's more you've got to get done today,'' she says. ``They left a list.'' She’s surrounded by a galaxy of hay dust. Brigette stays very still and quiet, out of sight.
``I know about the list,'' Tom says, pulling his head out from under the hood. ``I'm afraid I can't stay long. You tell them I'll be back tomorrow and finish everything. That's my promise.''
The aunt bends forward and squints. ``She in here?'' Brigette holds her breath.
``No, she is not.''
The aunt looks as if she may fall forward, but she steadies herself, turns and leaves. Brigette jumps up and throw her arms around Tom's waist. She digs in his pocket for cigarettes.
``Now,'' he says, pulling her hand away. ``Your mom wouldn't want that.''
Tom closes the hood of the truck and shakes his head. ``It's beyond me what's wrong with that engine.''
Brigette asks him if she can have a smoke. She tells him don't go. Could he just drive her down the road a bit and let her out? Or take her to the State Fair? Could he bring more magazines?
``Your mom wants to keep a circle around you and I need the work. I'll bring one magazine and that's all. The minds of little girls! Now be good and go check on your aunt, she looks about to pass out.''
Brigette finds the aunt asleep in her chair on the porch. She stands over her, waves her hands in front of the aunt's face. She doesn't move. Inside the house the grandfather clock chimes. Brigette slips away.
The town is a fiasco every night, she has been told. The parents there do unholy things in filthy houses while the children run amok. The children carry switchblades and guns and bundles of cash. In town, the children stuff their pockets with candy and drugs.
It is some time before a car comes down the road, in the opposite direction.
“Chrysler,” Brigette says. “Town Car.” She waves her arms, imagining its leather seats.
But where are her parents? Where did they say they were going? A funeral in Stout. That's the other direction. It is a baseless, yet comforting assumption. And how far is town? She honestly does not know.
Brigette breaks into a run. The hem of her long skirt flaps around her. She tears off her headscarf, offering it up to the wind.
About the Author: Kathy Fish's short fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, The Denver Quarterly, New South, Quick Fiction, Guernica, Slice and elsewhere. She was the guest editor of Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2010. She is the author of three collections of short fiction: a chapbook of flash fiction in the chapbook collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (Rose Metal Press, 2008), Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011) and Together We Can Bury It, the 2nd printing of which is forthcoming from The Lit Pub.
Story Song: "Your Hand in Mine" by Explosions in the Sky