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Michael Wayne Hampton is the author of three books: Bad Kids from Good Schools (Winged City Chapbook Press), Romance for Delinquents (Foxhead Books, Jan 14), and Roller Girls Love Bobby Knight (Artistically Declined, May 14, pre-order here). His work has appeared in numerous publications such as decomP, McSweeney's, and Atticus Review. He can be reached via his website michaelwaynehampton.com.
Following is an excerpt from is forthcoming novella, Roller Girls Love Bobby Knight:
Wave to the fellas and make the girls jealous
Molly put the needle to the record, and waited for Roy Orbison to calm her nerves. There was nothing that soothed her like the sound of a man who has on the verge of tears and sorry for it. While Roy sang soft as bunny fur, she lit a candle on the sink, peed, and turned the bathtub faucet to full hot. The day had taken a toll on her. It was near impossible to make much headway with four kids under foot, but there was nothing for it if she wanted to keep her team together. The girls needed to work days since derby practice took up most of the night. The arrangement had worked out so far and only their men, deprived of hot dinners and butts to pat after a long day of work, had raised any complaints. Some of the church ladies made it plain that they objected to such unwomanly and unholy activity as this, but Molly was sure after the show nobody would listen to them. By that time there be so much burning love in the town for them that it would take a year of sermons to change one mind.
When the water stopped Molly held her breath and inched down into the suds until only her knees and head broke the surface. She watched wisps of steam snake up from the waterline, and blew bubbles to chase them. The clock on the wall said it was five in the afternoon, and if she knew her mother she’d hit the driveway at six on the dot. For a woman so incapable of mastering the basics of living, cooking a meal and working steady, she had never been late in her life. She might have forgotten Molly’s birthday, not thought to fill her in when she left Ray then married him again, but she never missed a curtain call or a date with the next new hopeful. Molly closed her eyes, dunked her head down beneath the water, and tried to remember if she ever showed Jenny how to roller skate.
Molly took a razor to her legs while Roy Orbison begged for the woman he loved to realize what she’d done to him. Ray could sound like that anytime he wanted to, make it seem like he was the most heartbroken man in the room, and that reason alone made him impossible to shake. No matter how many times her mother caught him in a lie, how much he stole and pawned, those eyes of his watered like he’d never been given a Valentine, and caused her mother to start up again. It convinced her that he needed a woman worse than any other man on Earth, and she was the one for him. But it just made Molly want to punch her mother until she wouldn’t need eye shadow for a month.
The needle moved on to “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and Molly rose up out of the tub to dry off and dance. She had found no simpler pleasure in life than dancing by herself. She shook her curves naked and free in front of the mirror. Even at thirty years old she looked the same as she did when she left home for the first time when Jenny was four. If it weren’t for the kind of men in those dank clubs she could have gotten by as a dancer the way Alice did when she was just a girl sitting backstage playing with pasties, glitter, and boas. They shared the same blessings, and no matter what came at them they held up. Alice used to joke that this was because they were “classics,” and say there wasn’t a person in the world who could fail to recognize one on sight. If she had only stayed that child sitting on a guitar case where grown up women worked their boobs into snap-off bras and smoked cigarettes, if she had stayed small and in wonder of all the colors and theater, it would have been much easier to believe that her mother was on her way to a better tomorrow.
The record came to an end, and so did her dance. Molly pinned her hair back with bobby pins, and broke out her good make-up. She had thought about throwing on sweatpants and a t-shirt to make her mother worry that time away had dulled her to average, but she didn’t want Alice driving another seven hours concerned that her daughter had lost her touch. Instead she would be pin-up perfect when that old car rolled up. “Wave to the fellas and make the girls jealous,” Alice always said.
Molly finished her face and made her way to the bedroom to get dressed. Scraps of Bobby littered the room, and it smelled more like his sweat and cologne from last night’s romance session than her own perfume. He’d promised to keep away while Jenny was staying over, but it concerned her that Jenny might not feel welcomed in a one bedroom rental filled with cowboy shirts and throwing knives so she got to work cleaning away the traces of her beau.
Once she’d pulled on a tank top and rolled the legs up on her jeans, Molly walked to the corner of her bedroom and emptied out two milk crates filled with old 45s, placing them in neat piles on the pink shag carpet. She pulled back the covers of her bed, opened every dresser drawer, and searched through the closet. It amazed her how much of himself a man leaves behind when a woman lets him stay on for more than a night or two. In ten minutes she’d filled both crates with socks, brass knuckles, condoms, guitar picks, two combs, and a buck knife. She put the crates in the corner of the closet and stared down at them, scared of how much more room he might take up if she kept on with him.
In the front room she pushed the couch over to one side of the room, and made a pallet out of blankets for Jenny. She hoped that her sister would sleep in the bed with her the way she had when she was just a toddler sucking her fingers in the dark, but doubted that she’d take the invitation given that they’d been away from each other for so long. It was her fault, and now was the time to make it right. If she didn’t want to sleep in her bedroom where the scent of hard love hung in the walls, she could have her own space right there until Alice came back for her. Birthday cards and telephone calls were for prisoners, not sister, and Molly swore to herself right then and there that if Jenny would let her she’d love her the best she could, and make her a woman. She’d dye her hair, show her how to walk in heels, and throw a punch with her hip so it would break any man down, all the things a sister should know.
Teneice says: Mike Hampton's excerpt from Roller Girls Love Bobby Knight is intimate, yet unapologetic. We meet Molly as she's preparing both for the arrival of her mother and sister, and a roller derby show. This brief passage reveals pivotal and intriguing details about Molly and the complex relationship she has with the women in her life. I'm left deeply concerned for this character and intrigued as to how she will navigate between her mother and sister, roller derby, and the looming presence of their men.
Stay tuned for Teneice's interview with Mike, coming next week! In the meantime, what do you think of this piece?