What Billy's Wife Has

Trudy has stolen ten pairs of Billy's wife's underpants, but no, this is not entirely true--she has also taken six bras. The bras are beautiful, in a rainbow of colors: scarlet, blue, purple, and green. One even has feathers on the cups.

Trudy's a 32A, and Billy's wife is a 36D, or so Trudy gathers, judging from the labels on the stolen bras. But that doesn't matter. Trudy isn't planning on wearing her brother's wife's stuff. This isn't about pretending that she is sexy. This is about Trudy having to ride the school bus to and from Vo-Tech each day where she learns how to give permanents, while Billy's wife spends her mornings ironing her own hair and watching Donahue. It's about Billy's wife thawing pork chops in her Frigidaire while Trudy fucks boys in the pissy restroom at the amusement park in exchange for pretend dates at Arthur Treacher's. This is about Billy's wife's record collection, glossy and neat, topped with the latest Neil Diamond album.

This is not so much about who Billy's wife is; it's about what she has.

Trudy also isn't planning on spending the $24.38 that she'd dug out of the pocket of Billy's wife's cigarette case, at least, not immediately. Maybe she'll shell out a couple of bucks, trying to win a Leif Garrett poster when she goes down to Conneaut on the weekend with her family; if she manages to pop three flabby balloons with darts, she'll clutch her prize in sweaty hands and carry it from ride to ride. She will listen to her skinny and fat cousins compare tattoos while they wait in line for the roller coaster; she will hear laughter erupt into hard feelings and shoving and bloody noses, and she will finger the edge of the roll, praying that it won't tear in the ruckus that is her family or on the ruckus of the ride. Or maybe she'll play Skee Ball and win herself a fuzzy blue cat or a pink poodle. Maybe she'll buy one of those huge lollipops and lick it all sexy and such, so that the boys who walk the midway realize that she is "Hot To Trot," just like the key chain that dangles from the zipper of her backpack says.

She thinks that she might use the money to buy herself eggs and bacon and tampons and postcards at the truck stops where she washes up when she makes her way across the state of Pennsylvania and back again, which is something that she is planning on doing in a couple of weeks. She has hitched this trip five times in the past two years, starting when she was thirteen, and she always comes home to find her mother wearing the same navy blue stretch slacks and old maternity blouse, drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the kitchen. "'Spose I should let the state police know you're back," and Trudy shrugs and stomps up the narrow, uneven staircase to her room. She doesn't know why she goes, but even worse, she doesn't know why she bothers to come home.

When Trudy leaves Billy's house and walks the two blocks back to her own, she thinks about her new underwear, wedged alongside a tube of mascara that she stole from Eckerd's and a mood ring that she took from the Five and Dime.

She thinks that yes, she will definitely wear the mood ring when she goes to Conneaut with the family this weekend. She will hold it up and show Billy's wife the color that it turns, and they can breathe heavy onto it to get it to turn black. And when Billy's wife shoots her an inevitable suspicious look and asks her who gave it to her, she will say that she found it on the floor of the school bus last week, coming home from Vo-Tech, and she will talk about how lucky she guesses she is. After all, she will tell Billy's wife, the best things in this world are the stuff that belong to somebody else.

About the author:

Cathie Byers Hamilton's writing has appeared in flashquake, The Summerset Review, VerbSap, Pindeldyboz, thieves jargon, and The Dogwood Journal. Links to her published pieces are available through her website. She lives in Maryland with her husband and sons.