I married Walt on the coldest day of the year. Family gathered around the dead oak tree in mama and daddy’s backyard, overlooking the tobacco fields. Mama’s eyes as cold as the temperature, signaling to me she understood the significance of the oak and the frigid day. My insides dying and cold as I took my vows.
Walt asked for my hand. Buck hadn’t, so I said yes to Walt. Didn’t know I had choices. Now they’re both off to war, and I’m stuck at Mama and Daddy’s house where the most exciting thing happening is fried chicken liver Sundays.
Everyone calls me Bit. Buck calls me Shitty Bitty. It drives my husband up the wall when he does, but I think it’s funny. A term of endearment. I claim five feet, and I’m not. I have a tongue like an adder. That’s where the shitty part comes from. I’ve earned it, so I claim it. Wear it like one of those patches they want you to be proud of in the Girl Scouts.
All I ever hear around here is criticism. Mama can’t miss the opportunity to comment on how I look, as if my appearance is tied to her reputation. The house is a pressure cooker. Mama and I are gonna blow the lid.
When I can no longer bless Mama’s heart, I check the mail. Buck writes me. Walt doesn’t.
I have a ritual. I shove my feet in Mama’s gardening clogs and fling the old screen door open with such force it slaps back with anger. Today, the hottest day in June the tobacco state has seen in years, my ritual is interrupted. With one foot on the top step and my arm out to catch the door, I see him. It’s Buck. He’s come home.
Our reunion scalds everyone close to us. I’m divorcing Walt. I say it out loud and eyes divert from my face to the ground as if divorce is a communicable disease. Mama says I can’t divorce a man still at war and marry his friend. She coats me in her shame, but I am Teflon. I am Shitty Bitty.
I am no longer Mrs. Walt Houser. I am no longer Mrs. anyone. Mama says to marry Buck. I won’t do it. Repeating the mistakes of the past is for the scared. I ain’t scared.
Buck and I have adventures. When we have sex, I tell him what I want. I use my voice. My hands, not shy, guide him. We have passions upon passions upon passions. If our passion was gasoline, we would burn the house and the fields down.
Where others see flaws, Buck sees beauty. He blows the dust off my neglected parts and shines them up like new again. In the evenings, we sit on the porch. My feet propped on his knees and his hands working out my worries, putting me at ease through his touch.
Folks whisper still. But I don’t care. I take risks. I broke one heart to ignite my own. I accept it. Because I am Shitty Bitty.
Katy is a writer and editor for a national engineering and surveying organization and a fiction editor for Identity Theory. Her writing has appeared in The Dead Mule School, Reckon Review, Bright Flash Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her first job was being the Easter bunny at her local mall. She peaked early. She was born and raised in South Carolina and lives with her spouse and two pups, Finn and Betty Anne. You can find her on Twitter at MarchingFourth and katygoforth.com