By O. Lucio d’Arc
CAROLE HAD LEFT Pennsylvania when she was 20, with two years of the music program at the Penn State extension in Bethlehem under her sanitary belt.
She couldn’t take it anymore.
Her hometown was biblical – Bethlehem – but the resemblance ends at the name. It’s a crazy place. Crumbling factories and homes, all the high-rollers living swell in the ‘burbs. Population mostly blue-collar with a fringe of druggies and gropers. And shit for work, except busking on warm days downtown. High school friends scattered. Just living here, sleeping there, eating mostly when it was free.
She could make music. But she couldn’t make money. It didn’t keep food in her belly or losers out of her panties.
The steel mills are closing, Mack Trucks is cutting back, General Electric is folding its tent, the textile industry is a Billy Joel song and a fond memory only to the worn-out old ladies with fuzz in their ears and lint in their lungs. The rivers are polluted, the trees diseased and the air you breath kind of tinny.
Blacks took over Carole’s old neighborhood, than ‘Ricans, once the blacks moved into public housing. It ended up being a siege of sorts of the few white families remaining. Like her father.
Than her dad got sick, really sick, so fucking sick he couldn’t smoke. He smoked like her mother drank.
When he was in the hospital a friendly nurse used to wheel his bed into an elevator and take him down to the parking lot so he could have “one last butt.” It was a twice-daily outing, so she could puff, too.
When they saw they could do no more for him, they sent him home to die. Medicare hired Rhowna as his “caretaker,” a role she took to heart. She took extra “care” not to get caught when she would “take” things the crusty old geezer wouldn’t miss.
And Carole, she went West to seek her fortune.
Look how that turned out. Back East, here she comes.
Oreste P. D’Arconte, who writes fiction under the name O. Lucio d’Arc, is a retired newspaper publisher and a weekly newspaper columnist. His short stories have appeared in the Murder Inc. trilogy of anthologies and he has had his poetry published in several literary magazines. A resident of Attleboro, Mass., he also wrote a hardback history of the Attleboro YMCA in 2017.