The Sober Truth about Tyler & Zachary on Bickerstaff Street
by James R. Tomlinson
Management switched my route. No overtime. No allowances for strange dogs sniffing at my heels, slowing me down. I’m on Bickerstaff, a cul-de-sac, last street before lunch. It’s hotter than the Devil’s breath out here.
“Mister, you look thirsty.”
“Well I’m not.” This kid’s sitting with a younger boy at a card table. Crystal stemware flicker like diamonds above a handwritten sign: Drinks, $5. A cooler sits in the uncut grass.
He introduces himself as Tyler, says, “It’s for a good cause.” He tells me a sob story how his baby-brother Zachary broke Mom’s vase, how they’re raising money to replace it.
Mom obviously doesn’t know, or they’d be using Styrofoam or plastic. I cram letters in their mailbox and smile at Zachary.
“Daddy said Mommy’s a whore.”
“Pardon me?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly.
“Zachary’s disturbed,” Tyler says.
“What,” I ask, “could you possibly be selling at that price?”
Tyler opens the cooler, pulls out a bottle of Merlot, starts pouring.
“You can’t serve alcohol. You’re minors. Where are your parents?”
“Dad’s gone,” Tyler says.
“And your mother?”
“She’s gone too!” Zachary shouts.
There’s definitely anger in his voice. I wave my cell phone, indicate “police.” Tyler pleads with me, gives me their aunt’s number. I call her instead.
“I’m their legal guardian,” she says.
I explain my predicament, the alcohol, my social obligation.
“Their father’s in prison,” she says, “for murder.”
“And the mother?”
“Are you kidding? She’s on the fireplace mantel.”
[James R. Tomlinson has spent 18 years in prison at 8 hour increments. In order to keep his sanity, he volunteers his time at Motor City Burning Press.]