Mary stood on her porch with a shovel resting on her shoulder. In her other hand, a tallboy of Miller High Life began to sweat in the summer heat. The sun was up and she’d overslept, the hangover punch to the head too much to deal with at seven a.m. when she should’ve gotten up to send Milton off to day camp. He got up, though, and went. Milton knew not to bother his mother some mornings. He’d eat two cold Pop Tarts and walk the mile to the bus stop where the YMCA bus would pick him up.
The night before, Mary had moved the trailer holding the johnboat into the yard. It sat there now on the crest of the hill behind their trailer. The dull green hull sucked in the sunlight like a hungry kid. She’d come up with the idea one of the many nights at the bar, sucking down two-for-one vodka tonics while what amounted to the town’s eligible bachelors took turns sliding their rough hands up her thighs. Milton was at home, asleep. He slept hard and long, always had, and she never worried. He had a peashooter to use if it came to that. But who’d want to break in, anyway? What were they going to steal from her? Her ex-husbands collection of Atlanta Braves trading cards? Go for it, just don’t touch the booze or her child.
Somewhere between her third and fourth of the night, she realized she should do something special for Milton. His birthday was coming up and she hadn’t planned anything yet. He hadn’t said a word, but he never did, so it’d be up to her to figure it out. Milton had loved the boat—he always loved going out on it with his father—so Mary decided she should do something with it. She’d build him his very own play place. Like at the McDonald’s out on the highway, but without the other snotty kids that made fun of his Goodwill clothes.
The boat had been her ex-husband’s pride and joy. When he left, though, he’d left in the night and with little more than his .22 and some clothes. He’d taken the bottle of Johnnie Green Label, too. Mary had known that when the time came she wasn’t going to be lucky enough to keep that. No one had wanted to buy the boat—a hole had rusted through near the bow—and so it sat next to the trailer for months. She’d sold the engine for parts. Milton climbed on it when he played and Mary always worried he’d catch a foot on something and cut himself wide open.
The dirt gave way easily and Mary found a rhythm almost as soon as she started. Push, pull, toss. Push, pull, toss, sip. Push, pull, toss. As she sipped, she watched clods roll down the hill. Mary hadn’t thought about how deep to set the boat. She stared at the hull and imagined it moving, sliding out of the space in a rain, Milton on board and crushed when it hit the bottom of the hill. She couldn’t have that. Mary realized too that the deeper she dug, the less of the boat she’d have to see. She imagined that, with every inch she obscured by dirt, one more memory would be forever covered.
She wouldn’t have to think about the first time they’d had sex in that boat or the first time they’d gone noodling together or how he had proposed in the middle of a lake in that boat. She’d been so taken then, but now couldn’t help but see how stupid the proposal was. How could she say no? They were in the middle of the lake, there was no one else around, nowhere to go, nothing to distract from the situation should she have declined. Mary finished the beer in her hand, crushed the can, and tossed it into the boat. She’d get it later.
Mary worked steadily, pausing often enough to sip that the six-pack she’d bought was gone before too long. She’d swing by the gas station before she picked Milton up for some more. That’d be the first surprise for him, she’d be there to get him. He wouldn’t be expecting that, that was for damn sure. He never said anything about it, but Mary knew he had thoughts about her involvement in his life. She didn’t take him to things like his father had done. Even at eight, she knew he had those thoughts. Probably the same ones his father had had.
After a few hours—Mary had moved onto what was left of a bottle of Aristocrat vodka—she’d shaved a shallow grave out of the earth. All she needed to do was get the boat off the trailer and she’d be done. Then she could go grab a beer at the bar before Milton got to the bus. That beer was important. She didn’t want to lose her buzz, she’d worked to hard for it.
The boat was easier to move than she thought. It landed in the hole with a crack and a thump and Mary adjusted its position with a series of kicks. Good. It was in a good space. She stepped inside and jumped up and down, slamming her feet into the floor to help it settle. Each jump sent a vibration through her boots and up into her body. She found her vision slowing, her eyes not keeping up with the movement of her body. It felt good. Damn good. Mary jumped again, pushing down as she landed. She was going to pound it into the ground. She jumped again. It would not come up. Again. She would not have to see it from her porch. She jumped again and again and again as the sun began to fall behind the tree line.