Jimmy Said It Would
When he came over in the evenings, the weatherman would sit on the couch, out with the kids, which was weird. Usually, Tommy’s friends got nervous around the kids when they came to the house. They wouldn’t tell their names, and Tommy had instructed the kids never to ask. Some of them would avoid eye contact or even hide their faces. But the weatherman was different. At first, Tommy and KT would stay out with him, but they’d quickly get bored and leave him alone with the kids. He’d sit there with a beer or a joint in his hands or just twirling his handlebar mustache and tell stories or watch TV. And he answered all of Joey’s questions.
“How do you tell the weather?” was Joey’s first.
“I don’t, man,” the weatherman said. “The meteorologist does. He’s got all these fancy computers and shit. He says he consults with some assholes in Little Rock and Tulsa or whatever. But between you and me, I think he makes that shit up.”
His laugh was quick and jarring, like a hyena. It always caught Joey off guard and made him flinch.
“Are you nervous being on TV?” was Joey’s second question.
“Not when I’m high, man,” the weatherman said. He let out a stoner’s laugh, a slow, confused-sounding giggle. Chyna took her eyes from the TV long enough to nudge Joey.
“Close your mouth. You’ll catch flies,” she said, which set the weatherman giggling again.
In the afternoons, they’d watch him on the local station out of Jonesboro.
“There’s a 70% chance of rain tomorrow. So when it rains, just remember, Jimmy said it Would.”
“He’s funny,” Joey said. “I like his voice.”
Chyna considered trying to explain to Joey the way the weatherman looked at her – he’d hidden it a little at first, but it was obvious, now – but it was beyond her.
“I don’t like him,” Chyna said, instead. “He’s weird.” Joey didn’t answer. “Just be careful around him, just like any other of Tommy’s
“He’s different, though.” Joey struggled to explain why. “He’s famous.”
“He’s not famous.”
“He’s on TV.”
Jimmy Wood didn’t get to the house until nearly seven p.m., most nights, and he’d sit there until the kids went to bed, which was usually around midnight. When they got up to leave, the first couple times, he sat on the couch and kept watching TV, but then he started calling them back to talk. Joey would linger while Chyna stood at the top of the stairs, urging him to hurry up. Finally, after maybe a half hour, the weatherman would let Joey go, but each night, he’d keep Joey longer and longer, until he finally just asked them not to leave him alone.
“What do you want to go to bed for?” he asked.
“We have school tomorrow,” Chyna answered, tersely.
“Pretty girl like you doesn’t need to go to school,” he said.
“Well Joey does, Mr. Wood,” Chyna said. The weatherman was silent for a moment until Joey started up the stairs.
“Wait-wait-wait,” he said, shotgunning the words. “I can give you something to keep you awake during school, then you won’t need to sleep.”
Joey started back towards him, but Chyna snatched her brother’s arm and pulled him up the stairs. “Thank you, but no thank you,” she said without looking back.
Most mornings, the weatherman was downstairs, either passed out on the couch or still watching TV when the kids went down for
breakfast. Their parents wouldn’t be up for hours, usually, so they ate breakfast in silence. The weatherman wasn’t as chatty in the mornings; in fact, if one of them said anything to him, he was liable to spit out a cutting reply. He’d eat cereal with the kids and follow them out as they hiked to the bus station. They’d see him drive his cherry-red convertible up the gravel drive while they stood, waiting for the bus. He never waved.
One evening, he brought a girl, a youngish, skinny thing with acne and dirty blonde hair he introduced as an intern. The kids never learned her real name. They stayed in Tommy and KT’s room and didn’t venture out to the couch.
“Finally some peace and quiet,” Chyna said.
That night, after they went to bed, Joey woke as someone climbed into bed with him. The person kept mumbling, though Joey couldn’t tell what and he couldn’t tell who it was. He could tell it wasn’t Tommy or anyone in his family. The person snuggled up to Joey, and then he remembered the intern and realized it was her. A thrill rippled through him. She started snoring softly, and while Joey tried to decide what to do, he fell asleep again. When he woke up, she was still there. Her arms were around him. He could feel one of her small breasts pressed into his arm. He lay for a moment, trying to decide what to do, again. Finally, he sat up on one arm and looked at her. There was blood on her face and her hair was matted and greasy-looking. She looked young like she might be his age. Not really very pretty. There was something wrong with her teeth. They jutted out too far. She smelled like sweat and something metallic. He extricated himself from the bed without waking her and went and got ready. Before he went downstairs, he thought about waking her up, but just left her. He could see one of her legs sticking out from under the cover. It was skinny and pale and her knee was scabby. It was still the sexiest thing that had ever happened to him.
When the kids got home from school, the girl was still there. All the food in the house was gone, not that there was ever much there, and she was watching TV boredly. She’d left empty boxes of cereal and dirty dishes all over the place. When she saw the kids, she fixed them with baleful eyes.
“Don’t you have a remote for this thing?”
“No,” Joey said. “Sorry. It broke.”
The girl gave him a horrible look. “What are you, some kind of hicks?”
“Sorry,” Joey repeated.
“Well, will you change the channel for me? I’m tired.”
“No,” Chyna said. “We have to clean up the mess you made.”
“How about you do that, and he changes the channel for me?”
Chyna fixed her with a raised eyebrow.
“Not like it matters,” the girl added. “This place is a real dump.”
“Well then get the fuck out,” Chyna said.
The girl gasped. “You can’t talk to me—“ She started to say, but Chyna went over and snatched her up by the greasy hair and dragged her off the couch, banging the girl’s head against the wooden spool coffee table. The girl screamed, but Chyna kept dragging her through the living room to the door. Joey ran and opened the screen door for her, and Chyna dumped the girl down the steps.
The girl was crying, loud, pathetic sobs. Chyna stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips.
“I don’t have anywhere to go,” the girl said.
“I don’t care,” Chyna said.
The girl got to her knees and tried to get up but fell back on her butt. She sobbed again. Joey tried to go to help her, but Chyna pushed him back. The girl achieved her feet and wiped herself of. “What if I clean up?” she asked. “Will you forgive me?”
Chyna shook her head. “Whatever,” she said. “Do what you like.” She disappeared inside. Joey held the screen door until the girl came in and closed it quietly behind her.
Her name was Jenny, which she hated. She was in high school – the same grade as Chyna, actually. She worked at the station for college credit. That’s where she’d met the weatherman. She called him Jimmy.
When he came back that night, Jimmy’s smile dropped the moment he saw Jenny. She squealed like she was at a rock concert and jumped on him. He hugged her with one hand. He stayed in Tommy and KT’s bedroom all evening. She kept going back and knocking on the door, but they’d locked it and wouldn’t open it, so she ended up on the couch complaining about the poor reception on the TV.
When the kids went up to bed, Jenny tried to follow them.
“Where are you going?” Chyna asked. She put a hand on Jenny’s chest and pushed her back to the couch. She kept the hand there until Jenny sat down. Then Chyna went upstairs, followed by Joey who kept looking back at Jenny apologetically. He lay in bed, awake for much of the night, hoping she’d come up and get into bed with him again, but she didn’t.
The next morning, Jenny was sprawled on the couch. They ate as quietly as they could and snuck out without waking her. When they got home from school, she was there, wearing some of Chyna’s clothes.
“Mine were dirty,” was all she had to say. Chyna walked away, but Joey sat down beside her.
“Hi,” he said. She didn’t answer. A little while later, Chyna returned with a smile.
“So won’t your parents miss you?” she asked.
The girl shrugged. “They’re tools,” she said.
“Yeah?” Chyna asked.
Jenny launched into a tirade about her domineering parents who wouldn’t let her date a significantly older man, even though he was
famous. Chyna listened politely, which surprised Joey. After a while, Chyna got up and went into the kitchen, picked up the phone, and took it into the hall.
“So where do you go to school?” Joey asked. Jenny ignored him. “Do you go somewhere in Jonesboro?” She cleared her throat and didn’t answer. “What’s it like living in a big city?” Finally, Jenny laughed.
“Jonesboro ain’t a big city.” She didn’t even turn to look at him.
“Well no, I mean, not like Memphis. But it’s bigger than Crowley’s Ridge.”
She didn’t answer. They sat in silence until Chyna came back and joined them. She had a satisfied smile on her face. Joey wanted to ask her what it was for, but he knew better.
Jenny’s father came that evening and dragged Jenny out, screaming. The weatherman ran out after her and pushed her father a
couple steps. The man turned and advanced on the weatherman, who backed towards the house with his hands up and fell on his butt in the dirt.
“Ought to be ashamed, running with a little girl,” the man said.
The weatherman kept his hands up.
“I’m not a little girl,” Jenny said. “And Jimmy loves me, Daddy!”
The man looked at her and then at the weatherman, still on the ground. “Well do ya?” He asked. The weatherman put his hands down and looked from the man to Jenny and then back. Then he got up and went inside, dirt still clinging to his pants. Jenny started crying, and her father pulled her to the car.
The kids watched the weatherman on the news the next day, and he looked fine, at first. He got through the local forecast, but when he got to the weekend weather, he lost it. He started coughing and couldn’t stop. When they switched back to the news casters, he was sobbing noticeably until they cut off his mic. That night, he showed up, already drunk. Tommy and KT wouldn’t even let him in their bedroom. He sat on the couch and sniffled about how much he’d loved Jenny.
“So why didn’t you fight for her?” Chyna asked.
He shook his head. “I’m a coward. I’m shit.”
He looked terrible; his eyes were even more bloodshot than usual. He chain-smoked cigarettes, hunched down into himself.
“Easy to say that,” Chyna said.
He nodded and shook his head.
“I fuck everything up. Everything I do turns to shit. That should be my motto: ‘Jimmy said it would turn to shit.’”
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Joey said. The weatherman sniffled. Chyna laughed a little.
“Someday,” the weatherman said, poking Joey. “Someday you’ll be old and you’ll understand.”
Joey nodded, which made the weatherman look gloomier.
“I’m just an old man,” he said, digging for something.
“You sure are,” Chyna said.
He scowled and went quiet.
The next day, Jimmy was there early. He stayed in the back, partying with Tommy and KT. When the news came on, there was a
“Huh,” Chyna said.
They introduced the new one – a perky little blonde thing named Darla – and that was that. There was no more mention of Jimmy Woode, the former weatherman.
His car was still outside the next morning. They spent the weekend working at their grandmother’s, and the car was still there –
possibly in the same place – when they returned late Sunday. It went like that for the next few days until the kids saw Tommy and Jimmy looking under the hood. Jimmy told stories about the car, his arms animated. Tommy nodded, his arms crossed. He looked sideways at the car and shrugged. The kids went inside, and later, heard the car start. Tommy and Jimmy left, and didn’t return for a long time. When they came in, Jimmy looked haggard. He avoided the kids eyes and wore a glazed grin. “What’s going on?” Joey asked. He got up and looked at the car.
“What’s going on?” Joey asked. He got up and looked at the car. “His car’s over by the shed.”
“Tommy’s car, now,” Chyna said.
That night, the kids were woken by the sounds of shouting downstairs. Joey went to the top of the stairs to find Chyna already sitting there. Jimmy was downstairs, his voice a high-pitched squeal. He kept trying to go deeper into the house, but Tommy – who the kids couldn’t see, but they knew it was him – would push him back. The noise was mostly coming from Jimmy’s arguing.
“Come on, you know I’m good for it,” was the gist of what he was saying. “Come on, we’re pals, right?”
“You got something to put on the table?” Tommy said.
“Yeah, man, sure, sure. You got my car, right?”
“The car’s gone,” Tommy said. “That was yesterday. The car squared us.”
“Yeah, sure. So you know I’m good for it. So maybe you could give me a little credit.”
Joey shifted his weight, which made the stairs squeak. Jimmy looked at the kids, sitting, watching. His face was bloody, just like Jenny’s had been. His eyes were wild; his hair was ragged.
“Hey,” he said. He took a step towards them. Chyna put a hand in front of Joey.
At that moment, Tommy exploded. “Get the fuck out of my house!” He shoved Jimmy – picked him up and pushed him back to the
door, really. The kids couldn’t see what Tommy did to him outside, but he was only gone for a little bit. He stalked back in and slammed the door closed. He took a step and glared at the kids.
“The fuck are you doing out of bed?”
Before the kids could respond, there was a thud on the door. Tommy turned and marched back out. They heard Jimmy yelling and then begging, his voice getting higher and higher. When Tommy came back inside, the kids were back in their rooms.
The next morning, Joey was quiet at breakfast. As they packed up to walk to school, it started to rain. They pulled on tattered coats, and, before they stepped out into the downpour, Chyna nudged joey.
“Jimmy said it would,” she said. Joey laughed a little, but it was a start.
CL Bledsoe is the author of five novels including the young adult novel Sunlight, the novels Last Stand in Zombietown and $7.50/hr + Curses; four poetry collections: Riceland, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at Right Hand Pointing. Another, Te Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom, is available at Ten Pages Press. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 8 times, had 2 stories selected as Notable Stories by Story South’s Million Writers Award and 2 others nominated, and has been nominated for Best of the Net twice. He’s also had a flash story selected for the long list of Wigleaf’s 50 Best Flash Stories award. Bledsoe reviews regularly for Rain Taxi, Coal Hill Review, Prick of the Spindle, Monkey Bicycle, Book Slut, The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.