“It’s not that bad.” I turn a small mangled square of carbon steel in my hands. Globs of what were to be a perfect welds run along its length like silver bird droppings. “It really isn’t.”
June, laying back on her Airstream’s tiny couch and reading an ancient copy of People, looks over at my Ag. Mechanics project, twenty percent of my final grade. She offers no condolences.
“It’ll bring me down to a ‘C’. That’s not too bad.” I turn the plate over. Beside my name and written in bright red ink, is the number fifty and the letter F. “I’m not worried. One ‘C’ doesn’t mean anything.”
“Then why are you still talking about it? You’ve been whining for the last hour.” June’s own plate was immaculate, a four inch by four inch square of neatly lined ripples, uniform in height and width like rows of new dimes.
“I haven’t gotten a ‘C’ in forever.” Talking to myself now. “And I’m not whining.”
She grunts and stands. Her tight t-shirt (a plain red Fruit of the Loom) clings to her body sweaty like gift wrap. She moves to the fridge. “Want a cookie?” Behind her, the fridge has several large boxes marked; Oatmeal Raisin, Best If Used by 10/2014.
“Ok. Just don’t burn them this time. I can still taste the last ones, it was like chewing charcoal.”
She flips me the bird and takes out a handful of puck size dough balls. She places them on a metal tray and sets her small microwave oven- the camper’s sole means of food preparation- on 350F.
“What was your final grade?” I know to drop the subject, that it’s sailed like the Titanic but without hopes of a feature film and a hunk like Leonardo DiCaprio playing lead role. I know this, but it’s an itch that I must scratch. “Well?”
“What’s it matter?” That look comes over her face. Good girl June has gone out for a smoke and will be back in five. Tread lightly with her stand in. “You ever going to weld again?”
“Me neither. A ‘C’ going to keep you out of college?”
“So drop it! Deja de jugar conmigo! Stop jacking with me!”
I give her a moment, allowing good girl June to have a few puffs.
She flopping down on the couch, legs dangling of the end. “It was just a waste of time anyway, just didn’t want to take Allied Health. I’d choose welding over needles any day. Even if I’m a welding bada**.” She’s already returned to her magazine.
Our Ag. Mechanics teacher, Mr. Franklin, all mutton chops and coveralls, held June’s welding plate in front of the class as an example, saying she should keep it, that she’d make thirty dollars an hour with her talents and have a big house. But all his encouragement was for nothing. June tossed the prized plate into the steel recycling cart as we left class.
“How long before the oven warms up?” I ask. The cookies are from Fat Steve, a short order cook at Ward’s Burger and Fries and June’s Mom’s new boyfriend. He’s has been slipping the Rodriguezs’ expired food for a few weeks now, causing June to pack on a few extra pounds. I doubt she cares.
“Another minute or so.” Impatient, she flips from one page to the next. Brad Pitt’s and Jennifer Aniston’s breakup doesn’t seem to be doing it for her.
“How’s your Mom and Steve?” I slip the pad into my backpack. I know I should toss it, but something in me (a little 7-year-old version of myself) wants to hold on to it, to punish myself daily for a terminal lack of hand-eye coordination.
“They broke up.” June says,”She cheated on him, or vice versa, and they split.” This last part comes out as absently as telling the time.
“Triste? He was a loser. Smelled like Colt 45 all the time.” Then, pondering for a moment. “I will miss the food though. It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.” She slaps her belly, and it ripples like the surface of a waterbed.
June tosses the People aside and shuffles through her stack of magazines before settling on an OK! from 2011, Kim Kardashian is on the cover along with an address tag for a Janet Gorman of Jeddo, Texas.
“I thought they really liked each other, your Mom and Steve.” The few times I’d seen them together they couldn’t keep off each other, always holding hands, her head perpetually on his shoulder. It was cute in a nauseating, white trash sort of way.
“It was nothing.” June grunts.
After a few moments of silence I take the plate out again. Somehow it looks worse than before. Many of the beads don’t even touch but zig-zag their way across the metal with little direction. You’d thought a blind man had done it. “I should have gotten at least a seventy.”
“Suficiente Mable!” June slings her magazine at me. I get a face full of movie reviews, celebrity affairs and Hollywood intrigue. “I told you that thing doesn’t matter.”
“Puta!” I throw the magazine back but miss her completely. Who knew that magazines have the worst aerodynamics ever? “Whore!” I throw the pad next, sending the two pounds of carbon steel over her head and into the campers thin faux wood paneling. One pointed end sticks in like an arrow into a melon.
June cackles like a bloated hyena, her red shirt moving up to reveal a heaving brown belly.
“There you go!” Still laughing, she gets up and moves to the kitchenette, opening the oven door and sliding the cookie tray out. She stands by the microwave oven, waiting for my eyes to meet hers. “The sad thing is that we’re fighting over nothing. Nothing!”