Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Railroad Avenue

Clifford K. Watkins, Jr.


It was the first Saturday in August, 1971, in Pumkinsville, Virginia. It was six o'clock in the morning when Kathy woke from a dream about Mark Lindsay. She imagined him holding her in his arms, and the image in her mind made her feel like she was flying. Kathy absolutely loved Paul Revere and the Raiders. Her walls were covered with cutouts of the group, especially her dream guy, Mark Lindsay. After the dream momentarily lingered, she realized that she was alone in her warm bed. She embraced herself and fell fast asleep.

Kathy finally rolled out of bed about noon. Her parents were arguing as usual. Her mom was smoking a Kool Filtered King and standing over the stove. Her cigarette had burned nearly to the filter when the ashes fell into the skillet. No one noticed, so Gladys continued frying hamburgers. Kathy had to be at work by one, so she headed for the bathroom to do her makeup.

The phone in the kitchen rang several times before Kathy's father Bill finally got off of the couch to pick it up. He answered the phone rudely as he often did. Gladys stood at the stove remembering the man whom she had loved so deeply prior to getting stuck with Bill. Gladys had been madly in love with a man from Rhea Valley, but her mother didn't approve of him because he was poor. Bill, on the other hand, had a steady job, but he didn't have Gladys' heart.

When Kathy entered the kitchen for lunch, Gladys asked if she had any plans for the weekend. Kathy told her mom that she and Dorkus would probably go to the drive-in. Gladys immediately started in on Kathy about being overly promiscuous. Kathy tried to eat her burger, but suddenly lost her appetite. She told her mom that she didn't even have a boyfriend, so there was nothing for her to worry about.

Kathy walked into the den where her father was watching television. He yelled into the kitchen, "Hey, old woman, where's my lunch? I'm tired of waiting. Stop puffing on that cigarette, and bring me my plate." Kathy just shook her head. She imagined being anywhere but home. As Gladys walked with Bill's plate into the den, she envisioned him choking to death. This put a smile on her face as she bent down to give him his dinner.

"Here you go old man," said Gladys.

Bill looked at his burger, and got angry because there was no bun. Gladys had put Bill's burger on two slices of light bread, both of which were heels. He yelled, "What the hell is this on my burger? You know I hate mustard. Old woman, you can't do anything right...you're fired."

Gladys shot back quickly, "Well if you don't like my cooking, you can just leave...see if I care".

Bill threw his plate on the coffee table as he headed toward the front door. Kathy got up and followed her father to his car. He was talking under his breath, "How I ever got stuck with that crazy old woman...it's beyond me."

Bill got into his Impala and lit a cigar. "What's the matter Catbird?" he asked.

Kathy looked at the ground before she made eye contact. "I just don't like listening to you and mom fight, that's all."

Bill started laughing and said, "That's all your old mammy lives for...she ain't never gonna change! You should know that by now."

Kathy nodded her head in agreement, as Bill got out of his car to embrace his daughter.

Kathy told her dad that she loved him, and she headed to the Cavalier Restaurant where
she worked on the cash register. At work, Kathy was noticeably absent-minded. Twice
in the first hour, two customers complained that she had short-changed them. Again
Kathy began to think of Mark Lindsay. She stood at the counter lost in her head. She
imagined herself running her hands through Mark's hair. A customer had approached the counter to order, but Kathy was staring into the register. The drawer had been open for several minutes. The customer tried to get Kathy's attention, but was unsuccessful. The
owner now noticing Kathy's blank expression tried to get her to snap out of the
daydream, but it became obvious that she was gone.

The restaurant owner sat Kathy down in a chair, and put a rag on her forehead. It was
obvious that something was terribly wrong. When Kathy's parents arrived, Gladys tried
to get Kathy to snap out of it, but she never did.

Soon thereafter, Kathy was committed to an asylum. The thought of being in the big house alone with Bill was more than Gladys could stand. On a brisk morning three months after Kathy was left in the asylum, her mother jumped into the Holston River. Her body was never found.

Bill, on the other hand, found solace in the bottle and drank himself into oblivion. He died of alcohol poisoning shortly after Gladys hurled herself into the river.

For thirty years, Kathy sat staring at a wall in the Marion Asylum. No one ever visited her until the day she died. She was buried on Graveyard Hill on a cold wintry morning as eerie clouds blanketed the sky. As her casket was lowered into the frozen ground, a car sped around dead man's curve with the radio blaring a song by Paul Revere and the Raiders. A small child stared out of the car's passenger window.

The Osborne house still sits on Railroad Avenue. Their initials are carved into the sidewalk where only birds now venture. Children nervously pass the house en route to the trestle. The track is gone, too. Only bicycles and tourists cross the trestle that faces the old Osborne house that once sneered from the hill.

***

Clifford K. Watkins, Jr. is a thirty-one-year-old writer/lyricist, originally from High Point, North Carolina. He's been published by Ygdrasil, Oracular Tree, Prism Quarterly, and Underground Window. He currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit Clifford at www.myspace.com/rotun.

© Clifford K. Watkins, Jr.

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012