K. Watkins, Jr.
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'
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.
you go old man," said Gladys.
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
shot back quickly, "Well if you don't like my cooking, you
can just leave...see if I care".
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.
looked at the ground before she made eye contact. "I just
don't like listening to you and mom fight, that's all."
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
she worked on the cash register. At work, Kathy was noticeably
in the first hour, two customers complained that she had short-changed
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.
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
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.
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.