Bedwetters, fiction by Misty Skaggs

The screech­ing and squawk­ing next door stopped and through the evening silence, Char­lene heard frogs peep­ing in the creek. And she heard her favorite rock­ing chair squeak­ing a lit­tle loud­er. She felt her­self move and bob a lit­tle faster in her perch on the porch as she thought about how that neigh­bor woman rubbed her the wrong way.With her eyes squint­ed, she watched Mrs. Gilliam bounce and hum through the yard, tee­ter­ing across the flag­stone walk­way between their hous­es on a pair of heels on a Wednes­day after sup­per. That woman had ruined Charlene’s per­fect­ly qui­et moment with an unin­vit­ed bundt cake made out of a box and her vapid gos­sip. Mrs. Gilliam, Genie Jo she insist­ed, stomped around on the old woman’s last nerve with those cheap heels. Char­lene may have been born and raised in a holler, but she knew good shoes when she saw ‘em. Back when she was young, she had a shock­ing sense of fash­ion. For a spin­ster. She turned heads with­out show­ing skin or feel­ing fool­ish. There wasn’t a man in three coun­ties who could keep up with her.

Genie Jo’s voice was a ner­vous chirp and her hair was too blonde. Her house was too clean, her kids were too polite. Those rugrats always yes ma’amed and no ma’amed at Char­lene, but she didn’t buy it for a minute. She knew damn well those smil­ing, polite kids were the same lit­tle hood­lums who put a dead muskrat in her mail box. Char­lene had been a teacher in the same town, in the same school, most of her life. Sev­en­ty some odd years. Long enough to know kids, to see them grow up into adults. Those kids were going to grow up to be degen­er­ates, she could see it comin’. Char­lene noticed things, qui­et­ly and apt­ly. From behind her bulky, met­al desk in the fifth grade class­room, she observed the pass­ing of gen­er­a­tions. And she fig­ured she was prob­a­bly the only edu­ca­tor in the whole Unit­ed States who’d drawn a cor­re­la­tion between boys who wet the bed and grown men­who cheat on their wives. Nine out of ten times, those pee babies grew up to be two-timers. Char­lene took men­tal note of every time that neigh­bor woman teetered toward her house with a box of wine to talk to the old maid in a piti­ful whine about feel­ing lone­ly.

That neigh­bor woman, Genie Jo, she had mar­ried a bed­wet­ter. A whiney, pudgy, red-head­ed Gilliam boy who grew into a whin­ing, red-head­ed man. Char­lene remem­bered him from the fifth grade back in 1995. And she could hear him through the fence when she was out back work­ing in her toma­to gar­den.

“Honeeeeyyyy hoooneyyyyyy…” he’d wail for his wife, like a sick­ly siren.

Grous­ing for her to fetch him this or that. And she did it, Mrs. Gilliam. She actu­al­ly did it. In those jakey heels and a skimpy, two-piece bathing suit. She packed and pranced back and forth from the house to that above-ground pool where he float­ed around like a sun­burnt, shaved orang­utan. She deliv­ered bot­tles of beer or sun­screen and cooed to him sweet­ly. His whole body was cov­ered in wet, mat­ted, gin­gery hair. All except for the top of his head. Char­lene wouldn’t be sur­prised if that woman picked his nits before bed­time.

And changed the piss-soaked sheets every morn­ing. Genie Jo smiled her fake smile with her fake teeth and waved as she tod­dled up the porch steps, cling­ing to the rail­ing for dear life. Char­lene just shook her head and rocked a lit­tle hard­er.

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