ã€€ã€€* * *Dad was still looking for a car to replace the Oldsæ¢ ur budget was in the high two figuresæ¢¥o that weekend we all hiked over for our first look at the new place. We walked down the valley through the center of town and around a mountainside, past the small, tidy brick houses put up after the mines were unionized. We crossed a creek that fed into the Tug River and started up a barely paved one-lane road called Little Hobart Street. It climbed through several switchbacks and, for a stretch, rose at an angle so steep you had to walk on your toes; if you tried walking flatfooted, you stretched your calves till they hurt.
ã€€ã€€"He groped me! And he's wanking off!"Mom cocked her head and looked concerned. "Poor Stanley," she said. "He's so lonely.""But it was gross!"Mom asked me if I was okay. I shrugged and nodded. "Well, there you go," she said. She said that sexual assault was a crime of perception. "If you don't think you're hurt, then you aren't," she said. "So many women make such a big deal out of these things. But you're stronger than that." She went back to her crossword puzzle.
ã€€ã€€I told Mom that if she left Dad, she'd be eligible for government aid, which she couldn't get now because she had an able-bodied husband. Some people at schoolæ¢Ÿot to mention half the people on Little Hobart Streetæ¢¬ere on welfare, and it wasn't so bad. I knew Mom was opposed to welfare, but those kids got food stamps and clothing allowances. The state bought them coal and paid for their school lunches.
ã€€ã€€* * *When I was a junior, Miss Bivens made me the editor in chief, though the job was supposed to go to a senior. Only a handful of students wanted to work for the Wave, and I ended up writing so many of the articles that I abolished bylines; it looked a little ridiculous having my name appear four times on the front page.
ã€€ã€€"How'd you get it?" I asked Dad.
ã€€ã€€"This house doesn't have a lick of insulation," Brian told Mom when we got back inside. "All the heat's going right through the roof.""We may not have insulation," Mom said as we all gathered around the stove. "but we have each other."It got so cold in the house that icicles hung from the kitchen ceiling, the water in the sink turned into a solid block of ice, and the dirty dishes were stuck there as if they'd been cemented in place. Even the pan of water that we kept in the living room to wash up in usually had a layer of ice on it. We walked around the house wearing our coats and wrapped in blankets. We wore our coats to bed, too. There was no stove in the bedroom, and no matter how many blankets I piled on top of myself, I still felt cold. I lay awake at night, rubbing my feet with my hands, trying to warm them.
ã€€ã€€"How old are you?" he asked.