I don’t know why I went for the job interview that day. It’s not like there won’t ever be other deliveryman positions. Bachon told me it was a bad time to make any decisions regarding my future, but I didn’t listen to her.
I don’t listen to Bachon too often. I don’t like her. All she does the whole day long is sit on the front stoop and drink beer while the kids go by and make fun of her. Something’s wrong with her mouth. She gurgles and makes scary noises to frighten them. They don’t pay attention. When I was young, she scared the hell out of me. I used to go two blocks out of my way to avoid riding my bike past her house, and we lived next door. Now look at me. I live in the same building with her.
She can’t talk good, but I understand everything she says. Some days she tells me to go to the store and buy more beer. Then, she says, she’ll stop bugging me. Once in a while, she’ll leave me alone, but most times, she’ll start again. She rarely keeps her promises.
No one knows I can understand her when she talks. If they knew, they’d ask me what she says, and sometimes, those things aren’t very nice. I pretend I can’t hear her; she knows better.
Bachon drinks cheap beer because she says the taste makes her words stronger. I tried one of her beers once. It was the same brown as the polluted sky above us. She gave it to me with a smile. She doesn’t have any teeth, so those smiles scare me more than her voice. And then there’s her tongue. It’s fat and the same color as a crayon I had as a kid: Carnation Pink. It lolls around her mouth, and when she drinks her beer, she licks the top of the can after every sip. I didn’t finish the beer that day. I went to bed and pretended I never put it to my lips—ever—because thinking about that beer can and her tongue made my stomach roll.
I should listen to her more often, I guess. She was right about the interview. I didn’t get the job because the woman told me I smelled like beer and old socks, and they needed their deliverymen clean. I wanted to say something rude, but you never know—maybe someday I’ll have to see her again. When my mother was alive, she told me to be nice to everyone, especially Bachon. I try, but it’s difficult. I don’t know how my mother did it.
I have to feed Bachon sometimes because she smells the stew I cook. She wants to eat it every night, but with no job and only food stamps, by the end of the month, there’s no money for meat. I made her vegetable stew, but she didn’t like it. On the last week of the month, when all my money’s used up on cigarettes and those stripper girls down the street, I don’t move from my apartment. Still, Bachon yells she wants stew. I turn up the television, yet I can still hear her yell. Sometimes, she whispers. She whispers how she needs my sight.
I remember what my mother said. She said not everyone could hear Bachon when she yelled. She used to yell at my mother to make ham and bean soup. I wish I got the recipe for that soup before she died. It’d be cheaper to make.
Some neighbor lady told me Bachon’s been blind from birth. Another told me she went blind from staring at the sun. My neighbor, Mr. Franklin, told me her daddy cut her eyes out for telling on him. It doesn’t matter because blind is blind.
Bachon hates liver. I tried to use it in my stew once, and Bachon started yelling at me at three in the morning. She didn’t stop until I got up and went to get stew meat. I tell her to yell other things at me like the lottery numbers, but she pretends she doesn’t hear me and licks the top of her beer cans with that Carnation Pink tongue. One day, I told her to yell the name of the next new stripper girl so it would look like I knew her. That way, she wouldn’t get all scared like they do when I’m waiting at the back door as they leave work. Bachon yelled her name was Tiffany. I called that name to the girls who were leaving that night, yet they kept walking. I got mad at Bachon for making me look like a fool, but I didn’t holler at her. I didn’t want her yelling at me at three in the morning and wanting more stew.
Bachon’s yelling at me now to get her some beer and make my stew. She tells me I can go to a job interview today, but I don’t have anything lined up. Then she whispers and says she wants my eyes. I want to stay in bed and drink beer. Maybe I’ll wash my sheets. They smell all dirty with my fear-sweat and my dreams of the stripper girls.
It’s almost the end of the month. I don’t have money for cigarettes, beer, stripper girls and meat—not all of it. I can hear the kids yelling at Bachon and Bachon yelling at me. I can hear the children laughing at her. She’s gurgling at them again, but she yells at me for stew. She’ll let me keep my eyes if I make my stew. Then I can still see my stripper girls in the flesh instead of just dreams.
The stripper girls are getting off work soon. The children will see them, too, and Bachon knows. She knows there’s meat out there.