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Prairie Schooner 80.3 (2006) 35-47

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Ghost Town Choir

One day Lawton was with us at the picnic and the next day he came to the trailer with his boom box and sang along with "What Have You Got Planned Tonight, Diana?" Not a good song. She was trying to ignore him at the sink, but he was outside with his foot up on a milk crate and he was singing. She did the same she does when she's mad at me, threw dishes into the water and banged the pans around. But with Lawton, she also stuck up her middle finger in the window and the look on her face said it was the end of good times. "What have you got planned tonight, Diana?" he sang, though my mom's name is Sheryl. "Would you consider lying in my arms?" "He doesn't give a fuck what I have planned," she said to me. "He just wants his records back." I didn't know what was happening. She was working on about six months of dishes that I was finding all over for her, with things on them I never remembered eating. I found Ball jars under her bed. "What is this, Bob – a spatula? You can't let these things sit." "Mom," I said. "Why are you mad at Lawton?" She opened the window above the sink and her figurines fell into the water. "Because I got an expiration date on my stupidity!" she screamed at him. "I love you more than ever now, Diana. I'm sure you're the reason I was born." Then she popped the screen out. One after another, she threw at him all the things we eat on. All the Ball jars. She threw butter knives. "Mom!" Then she moved to the doorway, to aim better. "Those are our dishes!" "I hate your ugly face!" she cried at him.

Lawton was laughing a little with his buck teeth. He did have an ugly face. His mustache moved like a centipede. He was watching the kitchen things collect all around him, until he got pelted on the collarbone with a I Florida mug. He quit singing like that and just looked at her. Then he picked up his boom box and his milk crate and carried them away. [End Page 35]

Dishes were all over the lawn. She walked out after he left and put everything in a lawn-care trash bag. Then she did the same with the dishes that were still inside the trailer. "What are we going to eat on?" I asked. One bowl with oatmeal left in it, she held it over the bag and the spoon stayed stuck. "Bob," she said. "You have to rinse."

He came back later that night, knocking on our windows and calling her bitch and cunt and slut and whore. She was going to give his records back till he did that. People were looking out from their doorways doing nothing, because only for like a murder does anyone in Big Coppitt Key call the police.

Day after she throw that mug at me, her boy come by early on with his balls and toys and all manner of adolescence, and I got to holler at him from the sofa, "You cain't come around here no more." "How come?" he says. "I like it here." "Go on," I tell him. "Sing it somewhere else." Then, don't even ask – just climbs the two cinderblock stairs, enters the trailer and sits on the recliner like it's family hour. I got to remind myself to put a door on. "You not hear me, boy?" Seems he don't when he goes grabbing for my lighter. The boy does not tire of grabbing. If it is colored or shaped, he is sure to take it up and give it a toss or a flick. "Can I light a cigarette for you?" he asks. "Give me that, son," I say. "You're gonna let the whole house on fire." I have more than once expressed to his...


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