On Friday nights, my mother was thirsty. She drank E. & J. Gallo rosé from a heavy gallon jug with an orange 7-Eleven price tag. Sometimes she fought with her boyfriend. Sometimes he fought with me.
Saturday mornings, my small fingers fit into the jug’s glass loop. I hefted it from the coffee table, cleared a space for cereal bowls and cartoons, bumped it on my knees into the kitchen. My sister carried the empty Bud cans to the trash. We ignored the ashtrays.
Saturdays for lunch, we went to the Taco Bell across from the drive-in movie theater. I’d order a Burrito Supreme. My mother was still thirsty. She’d order the largest Coke in the plastic collector’s cup. She did not collect plastic cups.
Sunday mornings after my first communion in fifth grade, we stopped going to church. Sunday mornings, I’d heft the empty jug into the trash. Nobody recycled back then.
I was stoned the summer after high school. We went to Taco Bell every day. I’d been in the system since junior high.
We ate bean burritos and drank Dr. Pepper in the Taco Bell parking lot. It was difficult to decide on the final thing to eat. Did we want to keep the taste of Dr. Pepper or bean burrito in our mouths?
I sat on the cracked concrete at the skate park and watched my boyfriend and his friends skate. He broke his leg when he insisted on a final run on the half-pipe. He broke up with me by asking another girl to sleep in his bed after a house party while his parents were out of town.
There was a rumor that if you went to KFC and told them you were a hungry traveler, they would give you free food. I was nineteen, aged out of foster care, traveling with kids my age whose parents had given up wondering where they were or never wondered in the first place.
We tried it in Arizona, summer of ‘94, leaving the Grateful Dead and heading to Flagstaff for a Rainbow Gathering. KFC did not give us free food. We went to the Taco Bell drive-through because it was across the street. I ordered a Burrito Supreme, reminiscent of childhood memories I pinned good times on. (I remembered the comfort of a weekly routine, but not of my mother’s thirst, or the jugs, or the yelling.)
I asked for it without meat. I asked them to put a “wild” sticker on my special order so I could identify it in the bag. My first bite was meatless and dripping with spicy wild sauce. I could not eat the rest.
We forgot to order drinks. I did not have a Dr. Pepper or a large Coke in a collector’s cup to put out the wildfire.
T.J. Butler lives on a sailboat with her husband and dog. She writes short fiction that is not all fun and games. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a contributor to Tiny House Magazine. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Tahoma Literary Review, New South, Ghost City Review, Barren, Riggwelter, and others.