Tuesday, May 28, 2013


"Good lord, Marlis! Your feet stink."

I thought I smelled something funky when she first got in the car. Something like wet dog, or corn chips. I should have know it was her feet. 

"They do not, these shoes are breathable!" She folds her legs into my Duster and closes the door with considerable effort, a creak, and a slam. She hoists one leg up onto the dashboard and points at her foot, slipping around inside a pair of Carolina Blue Jellies. Jellies. Christ himself would have had stinky feet, had he walked around in a pair of Jellies. 

"Breathe-uh-ble," she repeats. Her skirt slides up to a knobby knee. Her legs are thin, young, tan, and dirty. She's not shaved in maybe ever, and there's something that looks like oatmeal stuck to her ankle. 

"Did you have oatmeal for breakfast, Marlis?" I ask, and she picks the food off her ankle. 

"Eggs," she says and looked for a moment like she might pop the morsel in her mouth. Instead, she throws it in the floorboard. She pushes her sunglasses up on her nose and leaned the seat back. "Let's go," she says.

I turn the car around, narrowly missing dogs and hogs, and head down the long dirt drive. In the rearview mirror, I watch her trailer grow smaller, swallowed up by a cloud of dust. 

"I don't know why they had to have the service in Beaumont," she purses her lips and sucks her teeth disapprovingly. "Fancy."

"Well, Elma was fancy." I say, though if pressed I might have wondered if it had more to do with Elma's daughters than her. "GODDAMN!"

The smell punches me square in the nose and I nearly run off the road. "GodDAMN, Marlis! Put your shoes back on!" She's taken off the Jellies and thrown her stankass feet up on the dashboard. 

"It is a long RIDE, Conrad, and my feet are hot." Her feet are crisscrossed with indentations from the shoes, red and angry. They sit up on the dash like a weird, podiatric ornament. She lets her knees fall apart, and fans herself with the bottom of her skirt. The resulting breeze sends the smell of her feet all the way through the car. 

"Oh, God. You got to stop that," I moan. "It's like a convection oven in here." 

"Roll down the window if it's bothering you that bad!" She snipes, fanning faster. 

"You know I got the air conditioner going, Marlis! If I opened a window, it would let all the cold air out!"

"Apparently, your air conditioner don't work worth a shit, Conrad, because if it did my feet wouldn't be all swoll up and on fire!" With that, she reaches down onto the floorboard, picks up those godawful Jellies, and sets them up on the dash. 

"You want me to open a window?" I ask.

"I wish you damned would."

I crank the window down furiously, turning the handle so violently that I nearly hurt myself. Then I grab her shoes and throw them out. The wind catches them for a minute, then they're bouncing along the side of the highway, plastic tumbleweeds.

"Conrad!" She bolts up in her seat, mouth open, eyes wide. Then we start to laugh. We laugh so hard that we forgot to turn around and get the shoes. We laughed until we cried, and then she kept right on crying even after I stopped. We pull into town, down the side street behind the church and into the parking lot. 

"Damn, Marlis, I hate you have to go to the funeral without any shoes on."

She looked at me and sighed, "Not like it's the first time."