ome assholes shouldn't be allowed to have kids.
Andrea slammed the door of the kitchen cabinet. Tiny chips from the peeling paint spiraled in the sunbeam coming through the small, dirty window of the trailer home she lived in with her dad.
"Knock it off, smart ass," her dad yelled from his spot on the couch. He shifted and the already sagging piece of furniture threatened to dump him on the floor. "And hurry up with that grub. I'm hungry."
Andrea glared at the top of her dad's head. His greasy red hair, peppered with gray, stuck out in clumps against the arm of the couch. She tightened her grip on the wooden spoon in her hand for a moment, then turned to the stove and dipped it back into the macaroni and cheese boiling in the pot.
At least one of us is smart.
She tapped the spoon on the edge of the pot and laid it on the counter with a sigh. Same shit, different day. No wonder her mother had left. Not that she went to something better, just not here.
Cranking the knob on the stove to off, Andrea pictured her mom's bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils that day when she left with her younger-drug-dealing-less-of-an-asshole loser boyfriend. After shooting all the money in their account into her veiny arm leaving nothing left to pay the bills. Yeah, 1985 was a banner year in the Wilkinson household. Now in ‘86, she had no idea where her mom was. Whatever.
Ignoring the tightness in her throat, Andrea grabbed the strainer and drained the noodles over the sink. Dad may be a bigger asshole but at least he didn't abandon his kids. Yet.
She poured in milk and added the powdered cheese, skipping the butter since they didn’t have any. She mixed it, grabbed two bowls, and spooned a helping for each of them, wishing, for the hundredth time, that she needed a third bowl for Tim. Her older—and goofier—brother.
Picturing his face, she smiled a little. Mac-n-cheese was his favorite and he’d usually eat twice as much as her, but he always wanted more. He’d found ways to get it, too.
“Annie-banannie, let’s thumb wrestle to see who gets more noodles. Last time you kicked my ass. I can’t run as fast as you.”
His ridiculous taunts always made her laugh. They weren’t about the food. It was his way of helping her out of a bad mood when she’d had a crappy race at a meet, or when their dad gave her a hard time for getting second. Again.
Her brother was the only one she could depend on—until he left, too. Not that she blamed him for finding an out with the Army, but her stomach twisted. She had nowhere else to turn. At seventeen with no place to go, everyone had left her stuck taking care of Mister Father of the Year.
The timer on the oven beeped. She removed the broiler pan of hot dogs using the old stained and torn potholders she'd made. She rolled her eyes at the faded words I love you, Mommy scribbled on the fabric in her own kindergarten handwriting then stabbed two hot dogs with her fork and put one in each bowl.
"It's ready." She set her dad’s bowl on the end of the rickety card table closest to him and took the seat across from it. After pouring herself a glass of milk, she wolfed down bites of the food and glanced at the clock.
Her dad pushed up from the couch and stretched. Lifting his arms above his head, his ratty and torn Black Sabbath t-shirt slid up to reveal his hairy beer belly. He limped the ten steps it took for him to come into the kitchen, sending a wave of stale sweat and beer in Andrea's direction.
She wrinkled her nose but kept eating. The previous week, she’d suggested he take a shower and her sore jaw had finally healed from the slap. She didn’t need a repeat performance. If he wanted to smell like a pig farmer, whatever. She could get fresh air at college.
"This shit again?" He pointed to his bowl. "Can't you learn to make anything else?"
Andrea swallowed a bite, pushing the angry comeback down her throat with the food. "Nothing else in the cabinet. I need to go to the store."
"Then go. I'm tired of eating like a five-year-old." He stabbed his hot dog with a fork and ate half of it with one bite. "Get some steak or hamburger for Christ's sake."
"Sure. Give me some money and I'll go after school tomorrow." She checked the clock again. Ten minutes.
"You got money. I ain't giving you shit." He shoveled a heaping bite of noodles into his mouth. "I don't get my disability check for another week."
Small pieces of pasta flew from his mouth as he spoke. Andrea frowned as they collected on his beard.
"But I'm..." She cleared her throat. "I need to save money for college, Dad. Steak is pretty expensive."
"College, shit.” He laughed and waved his hand at the fridge. “You ain’t goin to college.”
“That’s my plan. Once I get the scholarship.” She retrieved a beer from the fridge and handed it to him.
“Plans don’t mean crap.” He pointed his fork at her. “And you definitely won’t get a scholarship. You’re not good enough."
"Well, I’m going to drop time then—"
"Don't give me your bullshit. You lost every race last year to what's-her-face."
"Yeah, knew it was some stupid girly name." He popped the top on his beer and took a long gulp. "She's gone but you still can't win."
Andrea pushed her food with her fork as flashes of last year's cross-country season went through her mind; Molly winning every invitational, Molly beating her at every home meet, Molly getting second at state while Andrea sat at home recovering from the beating her dad gave her after getting suspended for fighting.
Andrea knew she had deserved suspension for fighting Molly's best friend Cindy and missing state. But her dad's abuse? He hadn't left marks anywhere that would show, and at least had left the extension cord out of it that time. Still, he'd added to her motivation to improve her times and get the hell out of there.
She glared across the table. "I tried my best. I ran faster this season."
"Still wasn't good enough was it?" He drained the can and crushed it with his fist. Taking another bite, he shook his head. "You best plan on finding a better job. I ain't gonna support a slacker after high school."
I already have a job, asshole.
She pushed away her half-filled bowl. It wasn't her fault a new upstart freshman came in to replace Molly, leaving Andrea in second place... again. Her dad's empty threat didn't scare her, she'd do whatever it took to get away from him anyway. As much as she hated school, college seemed like the only answer.
Better than ending up like him.
"I have to go. Gotta be at work in half an hour." Standing, she grabbed her jacket and slipped her arms into the sleeves. At the door she turned back to him. "You might want to think about doing that someday, too. Once I'm gone, nobody will buy your damned food for you."
She rushed out slamming the door, laughing at the muffled sound of the crushed beer can hitting the metal behind her.
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