TRY HARD • by Mickey J. Corrigan

Baby due in seven weeks when Jocko come home with all that money. He brung it in a garbage bag, one of them big black trash sacks. Sweet Jeezus, I never seen so much money before. He call me in from the bedroom where I were kicking more’n sleeping, rolling around in the late night heat and my own sour sweat. I got up and waddle on into the kitchen and there he were, dumping all them wrinkled bills on the table, knocking over my red rooster salt and pepper shakers I got me at the dollar store.

“Jeezus, baby, what you gone and done now,” I said real quiet, not challenging him or nothin’. I scratched at my swole belly, all oniony white and grumbly from hungry.

Jocko, he try to catch me in the eyes, the way he always done, but I kept on staring downward, trance-gazing at all them damp bills, tens and twenties mostly. I took me a fast look at Jocko and, soon’s I did, he just laughed and laughed, shakin’ his long yeller-bleach hair, his gold teeth shining in the flood of light that come in from the anti-crime streetlamp out front.

“What you laughin’ at, baby,” I said.

We lost our Big Mart jobs months back. Now he out all day looking, and all his trying go on and on, but we just getting more and more nothin’. Obama say there will be recovery, he say he trying too, and I want to believe them, but nothin’ happening back last spring in ol’ New Siesta Beach. Just me getting bigger and us getting more and more desperate.

Until that night Jocko brought home the cash bag.

He stop that laugh and say in his down deep boomy voice, “Babe, this here’s our future. In fact, this is what’s gonna save our asses.”

He say let’s go, so we stack up the bills and tuck ’em in the freezer, put bags of ice in front. We pile up all them bills, my hands getting froze pretty good. Only it felt nice cuz the night so hot and all. Florida, it’s just hot all the time, even in the darkest dark night.

My man, he reek of sweat and something else, a nasty smell. I pretty sure he dippin’. But I don’t ask. We got don’t ask, don’t tell rule in that house. Jocko, he make all the rules. I follow them, that’s all I do.

Until the night he brung home the money bag.

He take a shower and I lie on my back in my old tee-shirt and panties. Jocko lie down next to me, still wet and smelling like aluminum cans. Course he roll on top of me and we start to do it slow, but he can’t so good. Then I know he dippin’. Maybe ice again, maybe not. He pant and pant. I moan like he likes but ain’t no use.

He roll away with a big sigh, say, “You’re too fat, Annie Lee. Like a big fat white horse. Palomino.”

I say nothing and he sigh again, start telling the story now, talking and talking the way he does. He such a try-hard. Whole year we together, he try so hard to act like he be something else.

“I just bided my time until Dean, that self-satisfied prick, left the office with Lisha, and I knew where they were going, course, so I knew I had twenty minutes of dick-around. I had the safe code, stole that way back when dick-around Jerdell was manager, so I go right in like it’s my business to be there…”

Blah blah blah, he don’t let up.

“They owe us that money, Annie Lee. Underpaying us all that time, no overtime. No health insurance, now we got to have a baby like poor folks do.”

Jocko, I woulda said. You only work there six month, I’m the one work there from when I’m fifteen. Money’s mine, by all rights. I don’t say it, though. I’m thinking it, angry inside.

Blah blah blah, he so clever, he gonna start up his own business, ice biz, he gonna deal a little, he know who’s who uptown, who likes it every weekend. Then, soon as he can, he take all our earnings and make investments. Stocks and real estate. He know the score there too.

Yeah, right. That why our New Siesta Beach Section Eight apartment got roaches and geckos both. Up and down the walls and all over the sink in my kitchen, them creatures got more to eat than I do. I almost kick his ass out of bed, I’m so hot inside my head. Bullshit, I can’t take no more of his bullshit. I keep my eyes closed and finally, finally, he stop talking, start snoring.

That money was ice cold. I pack it with my stretch clothes, take his keys to the Escort. I drive all the way to Key West without once falling asleep. Pretty town, I like it there. Cool breezes. People real nice if you cash rich and seven months showing.

Well and you know the rest. Still not sure how Jocko found me. He yells, course, hits me. Cops come next, then I got charges too. Helping him, accessorizing. B&E, first offense. I got no record to start, now I do. Mine forever.

So me and my girl, in together for eighteen months. She be walkin’ by the time we get out. But she a good baby, she love it here. With me and the other baby moms. Stacy Lynn, she don’t know no better.

I’m the one know better. Now I know this: don’t mess around with no try-hard. They fuck you up, you end up hungry, fat, in the mother-baby wing at your local redneck correctional facility.

Next time, I fall in love with a man who don’t need to try, he already hard. Know what I mean?

Originally from Boston, Mickey J. Corrigan lives and writes and gets into trouble in South Florida, where the men run guns and the women run after them. Mickey is the author of a number of e-book novellas. The cyber sci-fi novella Dream Job (Breathless Press, 2012) has been compared to The Matrix and the Twilight Zone. In 2013, Professional Grievers, a weird romantic comedy about people who go to funerals for a living, was published by Breathless; BabyShares, a sexy financial crime story, was released by Secret Cravings Press; Me Go Mango, a delicious romance with spice, was published by Champagne Books; and Noble Romance released Geekus Interruptus, a hot farce for adults. Sugar Babies, a steamy crime novel, is in press.

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