Janet and Mommagirl drove past the steaming chemical plants, careening down the wet highway at breakneck speed. The plants always blew out extra steam during the rains. People always wondered why that seemed to be.
They careened, veered, swerved, lurched and reeled in the ancient Galaxy 500 over puddles and past ditches and down roads on which the paving was more hoped for than found.
Janet bracing herself on the dashboard at all times. Mommagirl holding the steering wheel at ten and two, elbows high.
They pulled into the Woolworths parking lot at five 'till nine. "They have to let us in because it ain't closin' time yet." Mommagirl insisted.
Janet just glared at her as she heaved herself out the passenger door. Janet did not usually speak. Janet looked at her feet mostly, and smoked Newports. And glared at Mommagirl and Tina Louise.
But now she spoke. "Why we gotta go to the Woolsworth in the middle of the goddammed night in the goddam rain, Mommagirl?"
Mommagirl walked around the front of the car and back handed Janet across the mouth just as she stood up from the seat balancing her heft on the door frame, making the car tilt a bit starboard. "Don't you ever take the name of the lord in vain in my goddammed Ford little missy!"
"I could call child protective services on you!" Janet shrieked.
"You're thirty-two years old Janet. Child protective services don't give a shit about you."
"Well, there's some protective agency that helps people who have to live with their parents and then their parents slap them around."
"Yeah Janet it's called the poh-leece. You gonna call the poh-leece on your momma and say she assaulted you? You gonna have me arrested Janet?"
"I jus' might, you keep on slappin' me around like that. I just might."
"Shut the hell up Janet. We gonna miss the Woolsworth. Now move your ass in the store before they lock the doors."
Janet shut up and glared at the back of Mommagirls head. She lit a cigarette and followed the old fat woman inside.
"I want to get Tina Louie something nice. She's getting her 90 day chip tonight at the alcoholics meeting and I want to get her something nice. Oh, Janet, look at that sweatshirt! You think she'd like it?"
"I thought you said something nice."
"Well, it is nice. It's got all them flowers and beads on it. I think it's pretty."
"I don't know why we got to get her something nice just for being a drunk."
"It's not for being a drunk, goddammit, Janet. It's for getting sober."
"She had to be a drunk before she had to get sober. That's all I'm saying. Now she's sober and working like millions of people do everyday all their lives, but since she's been doing it for three months, we gotta go down to the Woolsworth in the middle of the night in the rain to get her a goddam present."
"What I tell you about taking the lords name in vain missy?"
"You told me not to do it in your goddam Ford."
"You sure you hate the sweatshirt?"
"I don't give a shit about the sweatshirt"
"Well, maybe you should start giving a shit, Janet."
"Maybe I should Mommagirl. But I don't."
Mommagirl bought the sweatshirt. They drove home in silence. Going home much more slowly on the slick roads. Janet staring at her feet and chain smoking in the passenger seat and Mommagirl holding the wheel at ten and two, elbows high.
Over the half paved roads and onto the highway, past the steaming chemical plants. "You think that's really just steam?" Janet asked.
"What else could it be?"
"Chemicals. Poison. God."
"Shut the hell up Janet."
Janet lit another cigarette.
They pulled up into the driveway. They ran across the rain spattered front yard into the front door. Mommagirl put the sweatshirt into a nice box for Tina Louise and started dinner.
Janet rummaged around some drawers in the den and found some old construction paper and colored pencils and sat with them at the kitchen table.
"What are you doing Janet?"
"I'm making a card for Tina Louise."
"Well that's real sweet of you, Janet. I'm gonna go pick her up from her meeting in a few minutes. You want to go with me?"
"No." She began drawing flowers on the paper.
Dinner prepared, Mommagirl kissed Janet on the head, "I think it's sweet, you making your sister a card. She's trying real hard."
"I know Mommagirl."
Mommagirl went back out into the rain, out to the Galaxy 500 to drive across Clute to get her youngest daughter, the one they always thought was the smart one, and haul her back from her court-appointed alcoholics anonymous meeting.
After the car was out of the driveway and safely down the road, Janet finished her card. The inside was all flowers and bees and birds. She folded it and on the front she wrote, "Little sister, I do give a shit. Love Janet."
She went and found the box Mommagirl had put the sweatshirt in. She taped the card to the top of the box. Then she took off the top of the box and set the box on the floor. She took off all her clothes and shit into the box. She put the top back on the box, put the box back where Mommagirl had left it, picked up her clothes, and went to bed.