Abe Fremont peered around the corner to the back of the Canaan Dollar General. The only grocer in town. A trucker was smoking in the cab of his 18-wheeler. Seemingly in no rush to deliver his load of canned food.
What do you see, Abe?
Sarah Fremont twitched impatiently after asking her step brother for the third time. Her current high was wearing off too soon because the last meth batch was cooked in haste and sloppily. Red flags in hindsight if someone had bothered to see them before the meth lab blew up. Ms. Loretta Fremont, their mother and meth cooker, along with the trailer home were obliterated to Kingdom Come.
Abe growl back through clenched teeth. Will you shut the fuck up already?
The plan was for his step sister to distract the driver with sex in the store’s restroom while he pilfered as much food as he could from the back of the rig. Abe looked her over one more time. She was dolled up in Daisy Dukes, tube top and skanky makeup. Her dyed blonde hair was just beginning to show black roots. Meth and youth had managed to offset a diet of canned food but her face had aged well past her twenty years. Still, she remained his go-to when he came home empty-handed from the bar.
Finally, the trucker climbed down from the cab. Walking to the metal back door, he banged on it with the familiarity of someone who has done this a hundred times. Abe turned to his sister after the manger let the trucker in.
Okay, get in there but wait till he brings in his first load before you talk to him. Do what you gotta do, just give me about fifteen minutes.
She hurried to the front of the store then walked inside. Abe followed a moment later. He simultaneously perused the store while spying on Sarah as she worked the trucker. She had a gift for persuasion he thought but then again, the horny truckers in this part of West Virginia would fuck a hole in the ground. Within five minutes the trucker was following her to the restroom. Leaving the store, Abe ran to the rig. As expected, its back doors were open. He climbed in with no time to see what was in the boxes he threw out on the ground. When satisfied he had enough he jumped out to fetch his truck. After filling the truck bed with boxes he drove off without his sister. She knew the way home.
Sarah walked out of town up a back road long in disrepair. Human scavengers had picked through any salvageable junk strewed along its sides. This road was a remnant of the town’s glory days when King Coal filled the city’s coffer to pay for its infrastructure and first class schools. The latter now reduced to two trailer class rooms. Her older Johns rambled on about the days when a miner could buy a house and raise a family with only a high school education. Even send his kids to college. Fuck Obama for killing coal was a common insult even though coal mining in this county was in decline long before he became president.
The patrol car of her uncle, sheriff Haran Fremont, pulled alongside her. When Loretta became pregnant with Sarah at age 45, the doctor called it a miracle considering her syphilis-riddled uterus. Terah, her husband, went to his grave not knowing his brother Haran was the real father. Loretta fessed up to Sarah and Abe about another father but never revealed it was Haran. When Loretta informed Haran that Sarah was his daughter, he felt obligated to raise her. He’s now recouping on his benevolence.
Hey Sarah, how’s it going? You cleared up?
Sarah played along, knowing he wanted to get into her as soon as the crabs were gone. She resisted the urge to scratch her groin.
Hey Uncle Haran. Yeah, I’m all good. Why don’t you come on over tonight?
Well, that’s awful kind of you to ask, Sarah. Say, about ten?
Works for me, I’ll clear my schedule for you.
Harlan offered her a ride home but she insisted she needed fresh air. She furiously scratched herself when Haran drove out of sight. Crabs were bad for customers and the competition for Johns was fierce in Canaan. If she wasn’t open for business her older step sister Hagie (by twenty years) would poach her clients. Hagie was already cleaning up on Medicaid checks for her eight kids she purposely kept out of school to make them appear addle-minded.
On cue, Hagie’s approached in her car.
Hey Sarah, need a lift? I’m driving to Abe’s to clean his trailer for candy.
Sarah smiled at her frenemy, thinking to herself - Code words, always code words! Why don’t you just come out and say you want to shoot heroin you fucking cunt addict!
Hey Hagie! Thanks, I sure could use a lift.
The women arrived at Abe’s trailer. Navigating through a front yard of car parts, syringes and broken crack pipes they found Abe inside at the kitchen table. He was smoking with Jesús who comes through every summer to work the apple orchards in Virginia. Boxes from the Dollar General caper were stacked up against the wall. They were deep in conversation on a scheme involving the state’s Indigent Burial Program. They would take money for dead addicts no one claimed then bury them in the woods instead of a cemetery thereafter, pocketing the generous difference in costs. Hagie made a beeline to Jesús, not realizing he wouldn’t have money to spare until his apple picking gig was over. With those two in the guest bedroom, Sarah had Abe’s full attention.
Abe, we need to start thinking about ways to make money now that mom is no longer around to cook. We can only cut the heroin so much with flour. When that runs out we won’t have money to buy more drugs. It was a good idea for us to get married and get me pregnant for welfare checks but I think my lady parts don’t work down there.
Sarah didn’t realize the buzz kill she laid on Abe. He was tweaking to get away from the thought of being responsible again. It came so easy to his mother and he was happy to reap the benefits with minimal work and free sex from his sisters. Terah was on his deathbed from complications of black lung when he gave Abe the trailer and land and for a time, Abe honored his father with honest work in the mines. Then that coal company went bankrupt. Abe had no other skills and only a GED. His fortunes changed when his mother started cooking meth. With her gone he had to start over.
I can’t think right now Sarah. My brain needs to calm down so can you help a brother out?
Sarah sighed. She walked over to Abe, kneeling in front of him on the tattered, stained couch. At that time the heroin part of his speedball kicked in. He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them to find himself by a mountain stream. He recognized the landmarks from his youth before the coal company blasted life from the mountain top to extract exposed coal veins. He remembered playing on this mountain. Eating his fill of fruit from paw-paw trees and drinking cool water straight out of gushing springs. He shot squirrels for a campfire dinner under the stars. Scampering onto a boulder he looked down on Canaan. It was bustling and prosperous with restaurants and family-owned stores selling everything the community needed. The city park was filled with families watching an improvised baseball game. Five miles outside town he saw a steady procession of trucks laden with coal as they left the mining compound.
Heavenly. Isn’t it, my son?
Abe was startled by the appearance of a possum talking to him. Despite the oddity of this, he felt calmed by its presence.
Who are you? I mean, possums don’t talk.
Do not fret Abraham for I am here in the images of what you have loved most in life, the town and mountain of your youth and Goober, your pet possum.
Abe picked his pet up at arm’s length, holding it towards the sky.
Goober! Oh Goober, you’re alive!
Yes, Abraham. I am both Goober and your God and I have come to guide you to the path you seek.
Abe put Goober down then knelt before it.
Oh God, please forgive me for what I’ve done to my life and the people I’ve hurt. Show me the true path I must take.
Abraham, leave the house of your father with Sarah and four of your children. You will all prosper from the largess of the state and manna of meth, heroin and cocaine.
But God, I don’t have kids!
Follow the path my son…
The possum and surrounding landscape vaporized before Abe’s eyes. He looked down at Sarah.
I was in heaven!
Thanks for the compliment replied Sarah as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Did God give you any ideas to make money?
Oh yeah. I know exactly what we need to do but we’re gonna need help from Hagie.
Nothing pissed off Sarah more than needing her sister’s help. That bitch! We don’t need her! She didn’t care if Hagie heard her in the adjacent room.
Keep it down, Abe whispered back. And you better make up with Hagie because it’s God’s will. When I get four babies out of her you and me are moving out of this town. That’s all you need to know.
Bullshit, Abe. You already have kids from her. Are you so stupid you don't see the resemblance to Jereny, Jaxon, Brandi and Braden?
Abe thought for a moment. It’s a small town and everyone has their fucking nose in everyone’s business but no one told him he was one of the five fathers who knocked up Hagie.
You’re right, Sarah. Now how do we get my kids and get out of this town? I need another sign from God.
Abruptly, a box from the stack fell to the floor, spilling its contents of hundreds of small Ziploc bags containing a white powder. A tag on each bag said the word FENTANYL.
Well, Jack. By the looks of your scratching and my lip sores, Hagie left us both a going-away present.
Jack laughed. Yeah, but it’ll all clear up in a week or two. What about her kids?
I hear Abe and Sarah adopted four of them and moved out of the county. The rest are wards of the state. So sad but The Lord will provide.