I enter the den of my friends, hat in my hands, so to speak.
“June-Bug, can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Talk. Ain’t nobody stoppin’ you.” She continues to chew on some kind of meat I don’t recognize.
“I’m sorry about earlier. I thought it would be nice to get out for a bit.”
“Yeah. So you said.” She throws bare bones on a pile and picks up another piece. Chicken wings, maybe.
“Whatchya mean, ‘we good’? You can take your candy colored niceness and–”
“I take it we have trouble in the ranks,” Stipple says. He steps between us, and I take a step backward without thinking.
“Naw,” June-Bug says. “We good.” Her sarcasm sits in the room like an unwelcome guest. I know to back down.
“Come on over here and get yourself some chicken,” Stipple says.
Air returns to the room. I feel the tension leaving every bystander who wants a level sort of day.
I pick up a chicken wing and sniff it. I’m not sure where it’s from or how long it’s been out. One thing that could make my day a lot worse: food poisoning. But I’m on thin ice now and shrugging off food – meat, especially – might plunge me into the cold deep.
Otis walks behind me and whispers, “It’s not farm fresh but it is fast food fresh.”
I dig in without comment. Whatever they did for this meal, I think I’d prefer not knowing.
After the chicken bones are all sucked clean, Otis asks me to go with him to the dumpster. The rats already smell our feast and wander about. I figure some night air under the stars might be nice.
“She comes from an uppity family,” Otis says. “She misses it and works hard to fit with everybody here.”
We continue in silence as I wait for some revelation.
“Her parents, man, they wanted to give that baby away or else raise it as their own kid. Juney wasn’t having it though.” Otis whistles for emphasis.
“She came out here from Baltimore, some rich place. What you did today, you reminded her of what she left behind. Of the life she could have gave her kid.”
Otis hoists the garbage into a dumpster that hasn’t emptied at least since I came here.
“She’ll be over it tomorrow. You’ll see.”
“Hey, do you know if she’s had any prenatal care?” I walk through the door Otis opens, because we share an interest in June-Bug.
“Has she seen a doctor since she left home?”
“I don’t guess so. Probably not.”