One Day in the Suburbs
On the morning of Jackson’s 17th birthday, his father
tossed the boy out of their house.
come back till you have a fucking job.”
Jackson reeled into the yard, squinted in the
sunlight, still sleepy.
It was a Saturday in June. Jackson wore a
white t-shirt, jeans and sneakers—a poor outfit for job hunting. But he was looking for a shit job, something just for the summer. He thought maybe he could get by.
Last summer had
been different. He’d turned 16, eligible
for a real job for the very first time. The
Jackson household was festive; his parents beamed. His father gave
him a motivational talk. Jackson dressed for success in a blue cotton
shirt tucked into khaki pants.
Jackson applied at about a dozen
fast-food and retail shops. All filled with
happy, bustling teenage employees. But nobody
was interested in giving Jackson work.
Maybe it was Jackson’s look, his narrow
head and scrawny body, his small chin. He
knew he looked so unimposing, he was nearly invisible. He often spoke
without getting a response.
failure last summer had pissed his father off. And,
Jackson really couldn’t blame the old man.
It was embarrassing to be the only kid his age without a job. While others worked, he jerked off in his bedroom.
This morning, he was supposed to drive
his mother’s aging Buick. Well, fuck
that, the Jacksons had a new Toyota Camry, shiny and black, with cruise control and a CD
player. Jackson had swiped its key off a
Now, Jackson eyed the vehicle in the
driveway. He liked its sturdy look and the
way it gleamed in the light. This deal might
not be so bad, he thought. At least, he could
travel in style. Jackson felt the sun scale
the treetops and pour its energy on him. He walked toward
the Toyota, tossing the key up and down, whistling.
Inside, the car had that new, leathery smell. Its engine started with quiet force.
Jackson backed the Toyota up. As he
aimed down the street, the front door to his house crashed open. His father stormed across the yard, pumping a fist.
the old man called. “Hey!
You little bastard!”
Jackson chuckled and nailed the
gas. The tires gripped the pavement and squealed. In the rearview mirror, Jackson saw his father
run onto the road, fist shaking, growing smaller till he disappeared.
past rows of two-story houses. Like his own,
each one had an attached garage and a half-acre of property. Their pea-green
lawns were slick with dew.
Jackson put on his father’s Ray Ban
shades. He found CDs in a dashboard compartment—Glenn
Miller, Duke Ellington, stuff like that. He tried the
radio, found a head-banger station. Fuck
you! Fuck you!
Fuck! he heard. Jackson
wagged his chin to the noise. He cleared the neighborhood, hit a
straightaway and urged the needle toward 80. The
Toyota flew smooth as a jet.
about finding a job. He knew people looked
at him like he had no pulse. So, if he were
to overcome first impressions, he’d have to change the way he behaved. He figured that during his job search last summer, he’d been
too timid. If he could be more forceful,
act like he had a pair of balls, he might succeed.
But he’d need help. Jackson slowed,
wheeled the Toyota around. He drove to MacKay’s
MacKay was a couple years older than
Jackson. He was married, and while his wife
worked, MacKay stayed home. He spent most
of his time smoking dope with the hipper neighborhood kids.
“Always good to see you, Jackson. Come on in.”
Jackson nodded and smiled. “Hey, MacKay. Could
you do me a favor?”
MacKay was tall with broad shoulders. He wore a muscle shirt and shorts. “More
than likely, Jackson. Depends, I suppose.”
Jackson followed MacKay into the living
room. A large, brown coffee table was in
the middle, its surface crowded with mounds of marijuana, pipes and bongs. Smoke
fogged the air. Two girls sat on a couch.
“Siddown, siddown,” MacKay said.
Jackson knew both girls, slightly. They were
a year behind him in school. Both attracted attention. Louise was buxom, bronzed and had a peachy allure. Laura was a fresh-faced blond with a cheerleader’s body.
A TV flickered in silence, while rock
music poured from a sound system. There were
a couple of bright, knock-off paintings on the walls. Wedding photos covered
a mantel. Jackson stepped onto the carpet, and sat on a
chair near the couch.
Louise and Laura’s summer outfits
revealed plenty of skin. The girls looked
at Jackson with indifference.
“My father’s gonna kill me, I don’t
get a job today,” Jackson said. “He
will kick my ass.”
MacKay sat facing him. “How
can I help?”
Jackson felt encouraged. “Marijuana has a cooling effect on me. I get relaxed and don’t worry about too much, like what people
think. So in a situation, like I go some
place lookin’ for a job, I can be more assertive.”
MacKay settled back in his chair, his
lips pursed, his eyes searching for answers. “I
wonder why fathers’re so unreasonable about their kids getting jobs,” he said. “It’s not like we won’t end up
working most of our lives anyway. What’s
the goddamn hurry?” He picked up a pipe,
filled the bowl and lit it.
thoughtfully. “Seems to me, fathers
should let us put this job shit off. They’d
be doing the Lord’s work.”
“MacKay, I’m in complete fucking
agreement,” Jackson said. “Take my father. He’s nuts about work. You give him a choice, goin’
to work or getting laid, he’d go to work.”
MacKay handed the pipe to Louise. Jackson’s
eyes followed. As Louise hunched over to light the bowl, her
plump, half-bare breasts swung forward.
The breasts dangled like hams. Jackson gaped
at them. He appraised Louise’s legs.
They were tanned and robust, like those of a muscled athlete.
Jackson shifted his attention over to
Laura’s legs, sleeker and longer than Louise’s. His eyes traveled up Laura’s
thighs as they flared into her shorts. Jackson
looked at the thin fabric covering Laura’s breasts. His
heart was steaming.
His gaze stuck on Laura’s face. Laura’s big, bright eyes were looking right
Jackson kept staring, transfixed by
those eyes. Laura showed a small smile, probably
mocking him. Jackson couldn’t pull
his eyes away.
Jackson was trapped. He made a fist, slugged his own jaw.
His upper body reeled; his eyes watered.
“My man,” MacKay said. “I
bet you wanna get high here and now. Well, by God, I won’t stand
in your way.”
An hour later, Jackson was hammered. He hadn’t moved a muscle since, since, well,
whenever. A looping, precise electric guitar
solo filled the room. The music swirled in Jackson’s head, hauntingly clear.
On TV, well-dressed adults were
talking. “Expensive perfume. Over
$100 an ounce.”
Jackson noted that the words didn’t fit
the TV character’s mouth. Plus, the
character was a guy, and the voice was a girl’s. Jackson looked around. Laura was speaking, her lips sliding along pearly
“But he said he’d buy it for me,” Laura
“You meet him at Dew Drops?” MacKay said.
He says he’ll get me all the Joy I want.
I got him wrapped around my little finger.” Laura flashed a smile.
“What’s a college guy doin’
hangin’ ‘round at Dew Drops?” MacKay said.
Louise pushed Laura’s shoulder. “Yeah.
Don’t believe everything he tells you.”
Laura laughed and pushed back. “I can
take care of myself.”
The girls shoved each other. Jackson
watched with interest.
The girls giggled.
“Gotta be careful,” MacKay said. “Guy
could be throwin’ a line of bull. Could be some old buzzard just hangin’
round. Some old buzzard like, well, like
Jackson checked his watch.
Almost 1 p.m.
“He’s too cute for you anyway,”
The girls held hands and strained
against each other. Their hair merged, their
faces joined like a kiss. Well, Jackson thought,
this was terrific, but he had things to do. He still had time. He better move.
He’d have to straighten out a little
first. He’d never smoked this much pot
MacKay offered him a bong.
“Few more a these, you could get a job as
Jackson looked into MacKay’s merry eyes, and his
resolve folded. He took the bong.
Jackson drifted through layers of
consciousness. Some moments, he could’ve
told you where he was. Others, he couldn’t
have told you how many limbs he had. He
remained sprawled on the chair.
“How ‘bout him?” Louise said.
“Well, he is older.” Laura
Jackson was aware they were probably discussing him. He didn’t give a damn.
“Look at ‘im,” Louise said. “Looks like he’s about eleven.”
“Could he even do it?” Laura
“Yeah,” MacKay said.
I have it on good authority. Doohan
caught him whacking off on a camping trip last year.”
The girls laughed.
“You take care of him, we might believe you,”
“And, we owe ‘im,” MacKay
said. “Looks like he won’t be finding employment
“Jackson, wake up!”
“I’m up, MacKay. Holy shit. What?”
“This is your lucky day.
You have no idea how lucky.”
MacKay led Jackson down a hallway. Jackson blinked, trying to regain his
senses. They walked into a room with a bed,
on which Laura and Louise sat. Louise got
“We’re leaving you two a while,”
MacKay said. He gripped Jackson’s
shoulder. “I’m counting on you,
Jackson. You’re carryin’ the flag for the
guys. I don’t wanna hear about no fuck-ups.”
MacKay and Louise left, shutting the
door. Laura, with her long legs stretched
out, ran fingers through her hair.
The room was small and square, with bare walls and one
window covered by blinds. The sun was drilling
the blinds, making them glow.
Laura’s charms made Jackson
self-conscious. “This is a joke, right?”
“Would MacKay do that to you?”
“No,” Jackson admitted.
Laura pulled her top over her head and threw it aside. Breasts pushed against a black bra; her stomach
Jackson sat next to her.
Laura smelled like flowers. Her eyes
were hazel with gold specks. Light freckles
dusted her cheeks.
Laura kicked off her sandals. She stood,
and pushed down her shorts. Her hips popped out like ripe fruit.
“You ever done this before, Jackson?”
His prick prowled against his
zipper. “Not exactly.”
“Take off your clothes,” said Laura.
He complied, embarrassed by his sunken
chest and chicken legs. Laura gave him a
once-over and smiled politely.
Naked, they sat side by side. Jackson looked at her and smelled her. His
ability to control himself was shaky. Jackson saw Laura lick her lips, and absorbed
the sensation of their naked thighs touching.
Jackson felt a whirlpool near his asshole. It churned with a growing, itching pressure. Jackson gasped as sperm shot up through his prick.
The fluid squirted up to the level of
Jackson’s nose. It arced sideways and
dropped. Laura moved like a dancer. She
was up, jittering away before any got on her. The
sperm fell across Jackson’s thigh, and streaked along the bedspread.
Jackson was panting, mortified, storms
in his head.
Laura said, “You late for a train or
Jackson walked out of MacKay’s apartment
around dinnertime, a virgin no more.
But he was still unemployed. He got into
the Toyota, started the engine. His father
would give him a raft of shit. Jackson could
tell the old man he’d had sex with one of the prettiest girls in school. The old man wouldn’t mind.
He was a back-slapping kind of guy. Boys
will be boys. But it wouldn’t get Jackson off the
hook. He had to take care of business.
Jackson drove to Frederick’s, the
neighborhood convenience store. In the air-conditioned
shop, he grabbed a can of Coke and stood in line behind Doohan, a classmate.
Doohan wore baggy shorts and an AC DC
t-shirt that hung down to his ass. “Hey,
Jackson. Whaddya say.”
all good, Doohan.”
Doohan put a bottle of Miller beer on the
counter. The young guy at the register asked,
“How old are you?
But here’s the thing.”
“It’s okay,” said the clerk. “Can’t think why anybody’d lie about his
age.” He winked.
Doohan gave the clerk three dollar
bills. The store’s owner, Frederick,
appeared, wearing a white apron.
pointed at Doohan. “Out!”
misunderstand,” Doohan said. “We’re
just talkin’ here.”
and walked toward the door, leaving the Miller behind.
that kid beer for?” Frederick asked.
“He looks mature to me,” said the
“Mother of God,” said Frederick.
“I just wanna Coke,” Jackson said. He paid and took the soda outside.
was waiting in the parking lot. “Sometimes
it works, sometimes it don’t,” he told Jackson.
Doohan was thin and wiry, a little bigger than Jackson. His eyes were
The sun shone just above trees, dousing the top
leaves with sparkling light. Cars rushed past.
Jackson wiped sweat from his forehead, opened his Coke and drank.
Doohan reached behind his back. He produced a bottle of Miller that he’d
hidden in his pants. “I always grab a
backup.” Doohan twisted the top off.
“Hey, Doohan, I need a job bad. Any
openings where you work?”
took a long sip and belched. “Nope. Nothing.”
“You got no openings at fucking Burger
“Sorry. Can’t help ya. Want any beer?”
Doohan finished his beer. He reared back, pitched the bottle to the end of the lot, where it
shattered against a dumpster. “I’m
babysitting tonight at the Capazzos. People next door. Wanna hang out?”
“They let you
not? Been doin’ it for years.”
Doohan grinned, trying to look innocent.
parents were going into the city this evening.
If he delayed getting home, he wouldn’t have to face them till morning.
“Lemme make a
call.” Jackson said.
told his father he had a meeting later that evening with the manager of Taco Bell. He took an earful because of the Toyota, but
his father bought the story. The boys drove
to the Capazzos.
They approached a large brick
house. It had green shutters and two white
pillars in front. Trimmed hedges ran along
the yard’s border. Doohan rang the
doorbell. Mr. Capazzo opened up, dressed
in a sports jacket and slacks. Mrs. Capazzo
stood behind him in a tan dress. Doohan walked inside with
the air of someone who walked in often. Jackson
stayed outside. The Capazzos looked him
Jackson knew he at least looked
“This is my friend Jackson,” Doohan said. “It’s okay with you, he’s gonna
stay here an hour or so before his volunteer job at the nursing home.”
nice,” said Mrs. Capazzo.
“No problem,” said Mr. Capazzo.
“Angela, Jimmy’s here,” Mrs.
A sharp-faced little girl came down the
“Angela just finished a big dinner, so don’t
let her snack on anything tonight,” Mrs. Capazzo said. “We don’t want her
getting sick, do we?”
“Absolutely not,” said Doohan. “You can
count on me.”
Jackson stepped into the house.
A luxuriant shot of Johnny Walker Black slid down Jackson’s throat. He sat on a plush white sofa. He put the glass on a coaster over a polished redwood table.
The Capazzos’ living room was rimmed with shelves
stocked with framed family photos, Hummel figurines and the occasional book. The ceiling was high, supporting a complex, crystal chandelier. A sliding glass door looked onto the back yard,
where the light dimmed into early evening purple.
Jackson’s throat and stomach burned, his eyes
watered. The top of his head felt anesthetized.
A 52-inch TV was tuned to Nick at Nite,
showing a repeat of MASH. Jackson wasn’t
used to seeing the characters that large. Near
the TV was a compact bar. Doohan stood behind
the counter making a drink.
to anything here,” Doohan said. “What’s
mine is yours. How’s that scotch?”
ammonia,” Jackson said.
had been sitting on a chair with a book on her lap.
She stood and went into the kitchen. Both boys watched her open the refrigerator.
“Hey,” said Doohan.
Angela pulled out a couple of devil dogs.
“You can’t have those,” said
“Says you,” Angela retorted. “I’m going upstairs.”
The child walked off with her snacks. Jackson heard feet climbing stairs.
Doohan held a glass with a clear drink, and came out from behind the counter. “Pain in the ass,” he said. “Anyway
I got a nice Martini here. Vermouth makes all the difference. Want another shot?”
“Gimme a few minutes.”
Jackson considered telling
Doohan about the afternoon. That he’d
had sex with Laura. Of course, Doohan wouldn’t
believe him. Laura wasn’t likely to
tell anyone; neither, probably, was Louise. If
nobody acknowledged an event, did it really happen?
Would Barry Bonds want to hit 73 unreported home runs? Maybe MacKay would talk. Jackson
wouldn’t mind the word getting round.
“I was at
MacKay’s today,” said Jackson. “He seems
to be doing well.”
any dope? I’m all out.”
some, though. Got all fucked up.”
toward the TV and watched for a moment. “We
gotta go camping again. Get a group together.”
“Count me in.”
last year?” Doohan said. “Those burgers
I brought? Dog food. Nobody noticed. Too fucked up.”
What the hell. You crazy?”
Doohan offered his drink. “Here. Try some. Pretty good mix.”
Jackson looked at the glass like Doohan
might have pissed in it, then he took it and sipped. He forced the drink down. “Damn,” he said. “Don’t
they have any beer?”
“Sure they do. Go over,
Angela had come back downstairs. She showed
the boys her teeth. “I’m gettin’ an apple.”
Doohan followed her into the kitchen. “Hey,” he said. “Over my dead body.”
Jackson walked to the bar on
uncooperative legs. He opened a small refrigerator
stocked with beer and chose a Miller.
Now on the TV, it looked like an Andy
Griffith re-run. Don Knotts, in a deputy’s
outfit, talked excitedly. Jackson took a
sip, walked to the kitchen door and glanced in.
Angela took big bites from an apple. Doohan
stood nearby, hands on hips. “Kid, you gotta lot to learn about respectin’
authority figures,” he said.
The booze was tranquilizing Jackson. He walked back to the couch.
Jackson awoke still sitting on the
Capazzos’ couch. The living room was
quiet and shadowed. Outside, it was dark. Jackson saw it was after 10:30 p.m. He arose, feeling groggy. He
walked to the glass door and looked at the yard.
Tall trees looked shrouded in black veils.
In the sky, a half moon and faint stars were scattered.
Jackson decided he might as well get home. He walked into a small bathroom, rinsed his face
and washed out his mouth with cold water.
Doohan?” he called.
Jackson heard a noise above, and he
climbed the stairs. May as well tell Doohan
he’s splitting. As he reached the top,
he detected the faint smell of vomit. He looked through a door and saw Angela laying on
a bed, eyes closed. Doohan sat on a chair beside her, a wash cloth in one hand, a glass
of water in another.
“The little mutt’s feelin’ it,” he said
in a subdued tone Jackson had never quite heard from him before. “I called her folks,
they’re on their way back.”
“Damn,” Jackson said. “You
gonna be okay?”
Doohan nodded. “Thanks,” he said.
Jackson turned away. He found himself
smiling, and he wasn’t sure why. He walked down the stairs and out of the house,
feeling tranquil beneath the gentle light in the sky.
Jackson got in the Toyota and headed
home. Driving with care, he pushed Glenn
Miller into the CD player. The music sounded
fresh and bouncy. Ha ha ha! You and me. Little brown jug
don’t I love thee. Jackson wagged his chin to the
rhythm. The Toyota approached Frederick’s. Jackson knew a Coke would hit the spot.
Jackson pulled into the lot. Given the late hour, his Toyota was the only vehicle there. Jackson got out, approached the store.
He saw shards of glass sparkling under a lamp near the dumpster. A square sign was taped to the front
Jackson felt relaxed. He pulled the sign
off the window. Jutting out his jaw so
that he might look assertive, he walked through the door.
Mitchel Montagna is a corporate communications
writer for a professional services firm. He has also worked as a radio news reporter and
special education teacher. Publications include Amarillo Bay,
Leaves of Ink, Naturewriting,
In Between Hangovers, and Down in the Dirt. He is married
and lives in New Jersey.