Editor’s Note: The best “flash” or very short nonfiction connects with readers on several levels by compressing writing, inviting one’s imagination to expand meanings and feelings from the author’s evocative words. Billie Pritchett’s piece is a compelling example.
Author’s Note: In this story, I try to capture a little of what it was like when I was a boy growing up poor in western Kentucky. Material poverty created in me a poverty of psychology. Now I know the only way to combat the poverty mindset is whatever pride I can muster and proximity to good people. Father never discovered the second option for himself, unfortunately.
What Makes a Home a Trailer
A MOBILE HOME, FACTORY-MADE; a prefabricated home: that’s what a trailer is, that’s what it’s supposed to be, but tell that to the boys on the school bus.
“Billie lives in a trailer.”“No, I don’t.”
“Hah-hah. Your home’s a trailer.”
“Nuh-uh. My dad built it.”
“Why’s it look like a doublewide then?”
I couldn’t answer.
I told my father what they said.
“It is not a trailer.” It was obvious my father was upset. He looked off and gritted his teeth. He was sweating from beneath his Indiana Jones fedora. “Next time they say it’s a trailer, you tell them I built this place.”
“I already told them.”
What my father could never understand—what I couldn’t understand—was that it didn’t matter what the word trailer denoted in the red Merriam-Webster’s on our little living room bookshelf. It only mattered what people thought it meant. It meant carrot-colored bottles of pain pills in the kitchen cabinets, parents who didn’t work, Social Security checks in the mailbox, an overgrown front yard, a broken-down car in the gravel drive, all of which were fixtures and features of our lives, they were around us, you could point to them. My father had let the place go five years after building it, ten years after I was born.
When I came to him with my lament at age ten about the boys on the bus, he was lying on the living room couch, his head on the armrest, his fedora hat casting a shadow down to his lower, quivering lip. He said, “You tell them this: your father is a proud man.”
Billie Pritchett is assistant professor of English in the Department of Undeclared Majors at Kyungnam University in Masan, Korea. His hometown is Murray, Kentucky.
Delmarva Review publishes evocative original creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, selected from thousands of submissions annually. Designed to encourage outstanding new writing, the literary journal is nonprofit and independent. Support comes from tax-deductible contributions, sales, and a grant from Talbot Arts with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. Website: DelmarvaReview.org.