“It’s a tea set,” June groans, her face twisted in disgust, “the wetback got me a tea set! He thinks I’m five. Mierda!”
“A tea set?” I take in the scene; June in her backyard, sitting in a vintage lawn chair, behind her the silver Airstream is buried in the Earth like an engorged tick, somewhere a dog is barking, “Why would you ask for a tea set?”
June sighs and slumps deeper into the ragged lawn chair, kicking at the wrapping paper strewn around her feet. A My Little Tea Set, the kind from Saturday morning commercials, lays across her lap.
“Is this why you called me?” I pick up the small box. Through it’s clear plastic top are pink teacups, white saucers, and a flowery teapot. On the back is a discount price sticker, $3.00 Greely’s Liquidation. “Who sent it?”
“Quién crees? The Wetback!”
“Oh.” Around my shoes, the church pumps I’ve been wearing since seventh-grade, is an ocean of yellow dust. The lot’s previous owner had a dog (a chained and slobbering pit bull comes to mind) which worn a large circle path around an iron stake. Now, only the stake and worn patch remain.
“How was white girl church?” June asks without really asking.
“Same. Did you go to Sunny’s church?” I’m not really asking either. I already know the answer. Sundays are for June to sleep-in. Sunny, after two black eyes and a busted lip, is through asking her to go to church. I think God should give him a medal for his persistence.
“No.” June says.
“Where’s your brother?”
“Still praising the Lord. They’re having an all day thing. He won’t be back ’til the Bullet drops him off tonight.” The Bullet being the brown Chevy van, a Nomad circa 1978, used to pick up and drop off the congregation’s poor kids.
“When did it arrive?” I ask. I study the tea set in my hands, it feels nearly weightless.
“Yesterday.” June pulls a pack of Zig-Zag Cigarillos out of her pocket and lights one with a match from a book labeled Jackie-O’s Casino.
She catches my look and shrugs a don’t give me s*** shrug.
I don’t. For the most part I’ve gotten her to quit puffing, telling her that black tar and nicotine are about as productive for her as D’s are in Algebra, but she still keeps a few for special occasions along with a half empty bottle of Evan Williams and an unopened fifth of White Horse.
“He sent Sunny some things too.” She continues, the cigarillo dangling between her dry lips.
“Magazines. A couple of Playboys and some crap called Score where the women have tits as big as watermelons.” Smiling something that really isn’t a smile, she blows sweet raspberry scented smoke into the air. “He knows enough to figure Sunny’s balls have dropped but still thinks I’m in pig tails. Una buena niña. I’m two year’s older than that little nino.”
“Your Mom let him keep them? The magazines I mean?” I know that the porn is the least of June Bug’s concerns and should be the least of mine, but something about it nags me, like an itch I can’t scratch.
“She doesn’t care.” June laughs, “He spent most of the night in the bathroom saying he had the runs.” She stands and walks to a small table behind the Airstream’s backdoor and grabs a can of something. She shakes it and I hear the rattle of a ball bearing, “This morning I found them torn up in the trash. Got to love that Christian guilt. It might keep him out of trouble.”
She takes the tea set out of the box and begins stacking it in the middle of the dust patch before ripping apart the box and placing it on top. Giving the can one last shake, she begins spraying. Soon the tea set and the box bits are glazed with Mango Straberry Suave Max Hold hairspray. Then looking at me, cool as the Marlboro man, she flicks the stub of her Zig-Zag onto the heap.
“Crap, that’s not cool.” She says. “I thought that would light it up.”
She pulls out the matchbook and strikes one. With it she lights the rest and tosses the book onto the heap. It flares to life.
“Burn baby.” She beams a smile more real than the fire, the matchbooks, the dust beneath our feet.
The smell of burning plastic and paint blend with the artificial aroma of mangos and thousand other carcinogens. June pulls out the pack of Zig-Zags and tosses it onto the heap.
“There, something for you.” She turns to me. “Happy?”