Mid Week Blues Buster, week 47

Prompt: http://thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/mid-week-blues-buster-week-47/

The breeze flowing through the window rattled the blinds, and the bent slats buzzed against each other like agitated mosquitoes. Coming out of the south, it would carry the stench from the rendering plant around this shithole of a town. On a day like this, even the less depressing parts of town up on the hills, where houses had air conditioning and clean water, would reek from dawn to dusk. Not for the first time, I wondered why I hadn’t left this place, or at least tried to move further from the vats of melting hog fat, but that would have required me to understand why I was here in the first place, and that was an even bigger mystery.

I rolled over and stared at the empty pillow. Tanny had left before dawn to make the morning shift at the diner, this town’s hangout for the elderly and the don’t-have-anywhere-better-to-be’s. It was the kind of place anyone passing through town would avoid in favor of hitting a McDonald’s just off the exit ramp, if anyone ever passed through town or there was a McDonald’s. Tanny spent most nights here, although I didn’t really know why. She didn’t love me, and I don’t know if she even liked me all that much. I liked her alright, I guess, and there was something to not being alone on the nights when the scratching came at the back of my mind and it hurt to breathe, but I’d never bring her home to mom. Wherever home was.

Even though it was Saturday, I couldn’t lay here all day listening to the blinds buzz. The water was less brown than usual this morning, and I didn’t itch all over after my shower, but I still couldn’t bring myself to drink the stuff. I’d seen an expose on the news once how bottled water wasn’t any better than the stuff that came out of the taps, but whoever did that had never been here. There wasn’t much in the fridge other than the last of the case of water, and I was going to have to go shopping if I wanted anything other than a mustard and baking soda smoothie for lunch. Maybe I’d get some dogs and grill dinner tonight. Tanny would probably like that, if she came over.

I decided to drive to the store – I could take the long way around, maybe cruise by the lake and see if there was any fresher air over there. The roads were pretty empty this morning, and I was able to swerve around the potholes left over from last winter. At the north end of town was the factory I spent eight and a half hours in (counting lunch break) five days a week. Day after day, I pulled a lever on a machine that took hunks of metal in one side and cranked out differently-shaped hunks of metal on the other, which were then put into boxes and shipped to factories where they were put into things with other parts from other places. On a good day, the machine would jam only half a dozen times, requiring me to disassemble it, unjam it, and put it back together. Once that kind of work sounded exciting, and now I could do it in my sleep.

Tanny had told me once about swimming in the lake, but somehow, I’d never made it here. It stretched out past the horizon – I didn’t know lakes came that big – and the beach was rocky and desolate. I stepped out of the car to the crunch of natural gravel, and I walked up to the waterline. The air here did smell different – the hog fat was still there, but it was overlaid with something else. Flowers of some sort, maybe? I felt something hit my hand and realized that I was crying. By the dampness that had soaked into my collar, I’d be doing it for a while. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and looked out over the lake, and then back at the town to the south. There were no signs on the road telling me where it went, but that didn’t really matter anymore.

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