The American Dream, he’d say, and we’d both go quiet and watch the short evergreens and palms out the front window for a beat, their leaves waving a little under the swarm of midday sun. When the window filled suddenly with with a spray of water, the trees and road went liquid. Their colors blurred. Dad would gasp, Shit, Asha it’s happening again. He’d say, God’s raining only on us.
We all had nicknames in the shipyard up north, not so down south. I don’t know why that is; maybe because the yards down south were so damned big and the bosses were always watching. We would never collect in groups out in the open in the southern yards, while up north we had real unions and some really tough shop stewards, so the ass-kicking went both ways…
Normally, I would offer you my name, by way of an introduction. Names are important; they are currency in a conversation, they are expected, for good or ill, and we bind ourselves to each other with them. But I won’t be offering my name in this case: talking about my time in prison could cost me my career.
Lonnie Ray was all gangly arms and lanky legs and big ears and toothy grin when he lit out across the Ohio River looking for work. His big brother in the driver’s seat put his mind at ease and they had some food to hold them over till their first payday: a couple fried baloney and biscuit sandwiches, six Cokes, four whole Hershey bars. The Skaggs boys weren’t strangers to growling bellies. That grumble and a little gnawing on their backbones didn’t intimidate them boys a bit.