a short, short story
Suzie rests her fingers on the glass between us, adding her streaks to the greedy marks left by the other lost women, all of them hungering to reach through to someone they love. She pushes her face close to the glass and grins at Danny in my arms. I turn so Danny’s facing her, but he buries his face in my neck.
“Look who’s over there,” I say to to him. “Mommy’s saying hi. Don’t you want to tell mommy hi?”
Danny nods but looks at his hands gripping my blouse, instead of at her.
“Say, ‘Hi mommy!’” I pick up his hand and wave with it, but his fingers remain curled in a limp fist. Twice a month we get to look in on Suzie; I take turns with her brother, Pete. But Danny only comes once a month because he’s a minor. Prison rules.
Suzie lifts the receiver on her side of the glass, her eyes fixed intently on her son. “Hello my sweet baby. Gramma tells me you’re being an awful good boy,” she coos, “always minding the grownups!”
I try to get comfy with Danny on my lap while holding the receiver up to where we can both hear. The plastic seat of the folding chair is cracked, and it spreads a little under our weight, threatening to pinch me.
“Aren’t you growing up to be my little man?” she says. Suzie shares Danny’s round, hazel eyes and straight brown hair. Her bangs are puffed up nice and her makeup looks good, considering she has to make it from Skittles and Crystal Light. But it hurts to see how hard she tries, even though there’s no men in here to see her.
I suppose it’s part of a mother’s job to believe her kid is innocent, no matter the evidence against her. The only two witnesses in Suzie’s case would be herself and the deceased, her ex-husband, Jake. Suzie says it was an accident, that he was stumbling around drunk in the dark outside a bar, and stepped from nowhere out in front of her car as she was driving away. So maybe she was driving a little too fast—only because she was mad. But who wouldn’t be mad right after finding out her ex- had taken his jailbait girlfriend to Cancun instead of paying his child support? That two-timing louse never even took Suzie to Cancun—or anywhere else.
But the jury looked at the hard facts: the way the parking lot had been lit up bright as a baseball field; the unobstructed views and open spaces around the spot where the car and the victim had collided; the distance between the point of contact and the start of the skid marks, just before the car hit the wall of the adjacent drug store; the reports that she remained seated in the car, head up, staring at that concrete wall, while the bar customers came rushing out after they heard the explosion of twisting metal and breaking glass; the fact that the dead man’s small life insurance trust was in her son’s name. The coroner confirmed Jake had been drunk when he was hit, like Suzie said. But Suzie knew that was a given, in any case.