Mercedes Lawry
The Way It Turned Out

     Lucy was my Mama's best friend. We have pictures of her and Mama when they were little, ten or so. Lucy has masses of curls, golden, like those angel pictures. Everyone called her angel, that's what Mama told me.
     Nobody thought Mama was pretty. She had straight black hair and pulled it back from her face with a rubber band. She was awfully thin. Next to Lucy she looked like a spindly thing that needed a plate full of mashed potatoes and gravy. She said she didn't mind not being pretty. But I think she did.
     Mama doesn't know what happened to Lucy. They were friends till high school when Mama moved away. They wrote for a year - then - their lives got busy, I guess. If I had a best friend like that, I'd write to her forever, no matter what.
     We move a lot so I don't have best friends that last. They're not even 'best' really, because by the time we get to that stage, it's out with the suitcases and into the car. Allison was pretty close to a best friend. I sort of thought of her as my Lucy because she was so beautiful. She had wonderful red hair and green eyes. She said she hated it but I told her she was crazy, it would open doors for her, make the boys wild when it was time for that.
     Sometimes I pretend that we move to a new town and Mama comes out on the front porch just as the light is fading to that rose color and she'll look over at the neighbors and there's a lady there, cutting a rose and it's Lucy! Mama would be so happy and she'd keep her job and we'd never have to move again.
     I don't think that's impossible. More impossible things happen on those TV shows about real life every night of the week.
     Mama said we should be glad we live now, when it doesn't matter if there's a man around - we can do it on our own. She means Dad. He left when I was three and that was that. She tells me she's glad he left and I believe her. I've seen plenty of families that are better off when the Dad goes away. Course that's not always true. The money part is hard. We never have enough though Mama and I are both good at making do. She knows lots of shortcuts.
     My worse dream is that we'll move into a house and across the street there will be Dad with a whole new family. Fat chance, Mama laughs. Dad wouldn't saddle himself with another family in a million years. She says he's off somewhere where you need special papers to get in and doing something illegal.
     Mama promised me one thing - that once I got to college, we wouldn't move for the whole four years. I'll have to live at home to save money, but she says we'll get help for the rest. She says I have no choice about college but that's okay - I want to go.
     "You'll get all kind of money," she says, throwing her head back. "We're plenty poor enough to qualify." That's one of our joke sayings "poor enough to qualify", like "this old bread is marked down and we're poor enough to qualify" or "this secondhand store is very picky about its customers, but we're poor enough to qualify." Sometimes it doesn't make us laugh, though.
     Mostly, I think our senses of humor save us from the pit of despair. Mama says Lucy had a great sense of humor. I guess I'm sort of like Mama's Lucy now, the friend part. But I'm still the daughter, too. It just turned out that way - our lives and all. I don't mind.


“I want a drink.”

“You've had four.”

“I want another.”

“It won't change anything.”

“It'll change the way I feel.”

“From drunk to drunker, you mean.”


“Bloody alcoholic.”

“And we are legion in our numbers.”

Ralph pours more gin into his glass. He follows it with a splash of tonic.

“Have you seen the price of tonic these days? It's ghastly.”

“I might as well join you,” says Molly.

“Bloody alcoholic.”

“It's only one.”

“Apprentice to an alcoholic then.”

Molly mixes her drink. “Dominus vobiscum,” she says, swallowing.

“You've only got two more weeks of unemployment money.”

“Hell, woman, that's why I'm drinking.”

“That's why I'm drinking, too.”

“I'm not going on full-time,” Molly says.

“It's an option.”

“No, it's not. You'll get out and get a job.”

“Will I?”
“There's no question.”

“I have so many questions,” Ralph says. “Who am I? Why did God make me? Remember the Baltimore Catechism, it was nothing but questions.”

“I memorized the whole thing,” Molly replies. “I won a statue of Our Lady. It was white china. My little brother broke it when he threw it at me.”

“To know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world,” Ralph recites. “It might be what all the workers at Microsoft say every morning to the photo of Mr. Bill Gates. I doubt if he's wondering why God made him. It's plain as day.”

“I might as well have two, if you're having five,” Molly says, reaching for the bottle.”