Excerpt 4

Chapter 25: The Caseworker Asks About Byron | Page 211

The car pulled into the yard fast and came to a skidding stop. Maddy jumped out and walked quickly toward Jules. “Jules,” she blurted, a worried expression punctuating the word, “It’s Byron. We got trouble.”

Jules got to his feet, laying the book aside. “What happened?”

“That frickin’ caseworker from the state showed up at Ma’s door because unbeknownst to me the ol’ cow weren’t returnin’ phone calls from that tight-assed little bitch from the state, an’ so she come knockin’ an’ demandin’ to interview Byron, an’ Ma tells her the goddam kid won’t say ‘boo’ to her anyway. But she’s demandin’, so Ma, she knows that Byron is down to the village, an’ she tells the state bitch to set tight, she’ll go get him, and she’ll see how much she can interview him when he won’t open his goddam mouth, an’ ….”

“Hold on, Maddy, I’m trying to follow here, but you’re going too fast.” Jules reached out and put his hand reassuringly on Maddy’s arm, which was trembling. She paused and swallowed hard.

“So, Ma, she goes down to the village an’ asks around ‘anybody seen Byron’, an’ she finds out he’s down to the ol’ grist mill, smokin’ fuckin’ stolen Tiparillos, an’ she hops right down there pretty frickin’ hot by this time, an’ she comes in all guns-a-blazin’, hollarin’ at Byron. An’ he freaks and scurries right up the ladder into the tin hopper above the grinding wheels, an’ he pulls the ladder up after him, and there he sits, an’ won’t come down.”

“Easy Maddy, easy. It’ll be okay.”

“But what if they take him for a foster home? That would be the end of that boy. He won’t stay in no foster home. It’ll be the dead’a winter an’ out he’d go an’ freeze his little ass right to death, I know it.” Tears were streaming down Maddy’s cheeks as she looked Jules straight in the face, eyes pleading for help.

“Maddy, it’s okay, I think they won’t take him unless they can prove neglect or abuse.”

“By their lights, he’s been neglected, Jules. He’s fourteen years old an’ on the loose. It ain’t like it was in Butchy’s time, when a kid could just live in cars an’ old camps. Byron was truant most of last year.”

“But they won’t take him, if we get your mother to work out a plan, or if he comes to live with you. We just have to convince your mother to stop being so hostile to this caseworker, and to cooperate, or appear to cooperate with them.”

“He won’t live with nobody. The village takes care of him, but that won’t satisfy the state. They’re goddam sure he needs one home.”