By Cody Marsh
You could tell him by his pockmarked cheeks. Little scars ran a corduroy path between his mouth and eyes. And he smelled like figs, but not in a sweet way. Every morning, he went to the barber shop and sat in the same chair. Tommy trimmed his ears and beard, or shaved his neck, even though Enrico never had money. He got into some trouble that one July when Mrs. Avery said he touched on her kids. Sheriff Mason told him, “Don’t be scaring the neighbor lady, Enrico. You know she don’t understand you.” It was true; she didn’t.
Enrico wasn’t like the other men in town. He was old, around forty, but he didn’t work at the mill like everyone else. Instead, he wandered around town talking to nobody, picking up the end pieces of cigarettes he’d find on the ground, or pulling dead bramble from the garden Mr. Kembrough kept since Mrs. Kembrough got the cancer. Someone would give him twenty cents here and there, and he’d give it to Mama.
Mama was a fat woman, and I don’t recall if I ever saw her happy. Some Sunday afternoons at the Methodist church I’d see her try, but her eyes stayed grey and sunken into her face, and I could tell. We lived in a frame house off Watchtower Road a little out of town. Some men from the mill brought bacon and dried beans when they could. They were Daddy’s friends and had done that ever since the accident. Mama would tell me when they left, “Not all good men go to the Methodist church.” She’d fry the bacon, and Enrico and me would kick cans at trees and talk about how good it smelled.
In the afternoons, he’d be waiting for me at the schoolhouse and we’d walk home, trying not to step on any rocks. Mama said they’d tear up my shoes and I wouldn’t get another pair until next year. One day in March, when we made it to the house, the men from the mill were there, and I could see Doctor Weaver’s Plymouth parked on the clay. The men stood on the porch smoking cigarettes and, when they saw Enrico and me, made us stay outside kicking cans. We kicked and laughed, but there was a feeling in my stomach like a hole and a weight at the same time. Doctor Weaver had never been to Watchtower Road before that I knew of, and I was old enough to remember.
One of Daddy’s friends, maybe the oldest, went inside the house, and the others still stood around smoking cigarettes and looking like something bad. The feeling in my stomach made me run to the porch, and I know I stepped on rocks even though I wasn’t supposed to. Enrico kept kicking his can at the sweetgum in the yard, and the sound of an ambulance truck came wailing from down the road. I headed for the front door, but the men stuck out their arms to stop me. The oldest walked outside at the same time and I heard him say, “She’s gone.”
The sound got louder and my stomach got worse. I didn’t know what Daddy’s friend meant, and nobody spoke a word until one of the men said, “Would you look at that? Sirens be comin’ for Mama, and still Enrico play on.”