THESE DAMP STONES, a novel-in-progress by Sheryl Monks
The words were strangely soothing, a darksome lullaby. She thought of her baby, and a sudden urge to go home came over her. Back to Johnnycake. She wanted to go right now, but Art would be mad if she wasn’t home in time for work. She couldn’t go back to that awful place. That awful woman. She wouldn’t go back.
When she reached the foot of the mountain, she checked the watch on her wrist. Nearly one o’clock. She was tired and hungry, and she still needed cigarettes so she went on to the hamburger joint as she’d planned to and ordered something to eat.
The smell of grease and cigarette smoke met her at the door, and she covered her nose with her hand. “You got anything without meat on it?” she asked the waitress. “I couldn’t eat a bite of meat to save my life right now.”
“Grilled cheese sandwich,” the waitress said. She wore glasses and a blue gingham dress with a white apron. Sudie admired the fabric, the starched white collar. Maybe she could get a job as a waitress back home.
“Just a plain cheese sandwich,” she said. “Don’t fry it. And a glass of pop. You got ice?”
The waitress nodded.
“Plenty of ice, if you can spare it.”
“What kind of pop?”
“You want fries?”
Sudie waved her hand, no. “But make it two cheese sandwiches, would you? And could you put a little lettuce on it?”
The woman looked at her in a peculiar way, and now Sudie could see that one lens of her eyeglasses was smoked black. She wondered if maybe she had a glass eye behind that dark lens. Or maybe no eye at all. “There ain’t nothing to them things,” she said casually. “I could eat my fill of them.”
“Sure, honey,” the waitress said, making her rounds.
Two boys went a’ fishing on a fine summer day
They saw Little Omie go floating away
They threw their net around her and pulled her to the shore
The body of Little Omie was searched for no more
Sudie ate one of the sandwiches and half of the other and then smoked her last cigarette. “Y’all sell smokes here?” she asked the waitress when she came to refill her pop.
“Yeah,” Sudie said. “Kools if you got them.”
“No, but I got a couple you can borry.” The waitress pulled a pack of Larks from her apron and shook two out. “They’re not menthols, but –”
“That don’t matter,” Sudie said. “I thank you.” She stacked her dishes neatly and wiped the crumbs from the table with her hand and dumped them in the plate. Then she flipped open her lighter and struck it, but it produced no fire.