Mary drinks quickly. She is surrounded by people talking and drinking in the small dark
room. On the TV is “House of 1000 Corpses.” She finishes her hunch punch: a mixture of every
liquor known to poor college student with an obligatory amount of juice and fruit as she watches
psycho killers hack into the bodies of young teenagers. Across the room, Lilly is talking with
a guy in an Elvis costume. She pushes herself up from the couch and goes to the punch bowl for
Mary sits on the couch. At the other end, her father is crying. He holds a thirty-two ounce
plastic mug filled with Wild Turkey and Coke in one hand while wiping his eyes with the other.
Mary stares straight ahead at X-Files on the television. Her father puts down his mug and lays
on the couch with his head resting on Mary’s knee.
“She’s gone,” he says. “Why’d she go?” Mary puts a hand on her father’s shoulder.
“It’s o.k. Daddy,” she says, “let it out.”
“No,” he says, “it’s not o.k.” His shoulders shake as he cries. As the television moves on
to the nightly news, the sobbing stops and her father begins to snore. Mary gets up slowly,
careful not to wake her father as she lowers his head onto the couch.
The party starts to spread onto the front lawn, so Mary walks outside and sits down on one
of the white plastic chairs placed in a circle. She pulls a cigarette out of the pack in her
pants pocket and gropes her other pocket, then looks around for another smoker. She catches
the eye of a cute guy with long hair and asks him for a light.
“Hey, I’m Chris,” he says as he lights her cigarette and sits down in the chair next to
her. “This really is a great party. What are you dressed up as? I decided not to come in
costume.” She stares at his forehead, gleaming in the porch light. The more he talks, the more
his words run together. She looses all control of the muscles in her neck and rolls her head
back so that she is staring up at the sky. Chris keeps on talking as if he were used to people
dying mid-conversation. The stars and the moon begin to spin and Chris’s voice quiets to a hum.
Then she is looking down at as she vomits onto the ground and all over Chris’s black Reeboks.
“Ah, gross man,” says Chris. “These are new, you drunk ass!” He gets up from his chair,
shakes vomit off his tennis shoe, and walks inside the apartment.
Mary lays in the hammock, talking and giggling. It is a cold night and her stepmother
nurses a bonfire a few feet away. As midnight comes, the backdoor to the trailer swings open
and Mary’s father stumbles out.
“Happy New Year!” he slurrs, then yells as he shoots off his AK-47 into the air. Mary
covers her ears and waits for her father to finish his yearly ritual. She hears a muffled thump,
one more shot, then silence. Before she can take her hands away from her ears, she hears her
stepmother screaming. She sits up in the hammock and sees her stepmother running to where her
father’s body lies on the back porch.
Lilly is cleaning vomit from Mary’s hands with a wet paper towel when Mary passes out.
When she wakes up she is being helped into bed by Lilly and Elvis. Lilly walks him out, then
comes back into the room with a trash can. Mary begins to cry when Lilly slides in next to her.
“Lilly, you’re the only one who loves me,” she says, curling toward Lilly and nestling
into her warmth.
“Come on, let’s go to sleep,” said Lilly, pulling the covers over Mary.