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Freezer Burn
About the Author: April Kelly is a former TV comedy writer and producer of shows ranging from Mork & Mindy and Webster, to Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World. She now writes short fiction which has appeared in Tough Crime, Shotgun Honey, Mysterical-E, Down & Out Magazine, Floyd County Moonshine, Mystery Magazine, The Vanishing Point, Sci-Fi Lampoon, Punk Noir and numerous regional and university literary magazines.

Beer-drinking, tobacco-spitting good ol’ boys Lyle and Pooter Floyd were not the first guys you’d think of if you were profiling PBS’s audience, but there’s where you’d be wrong. Those unemployed hillbillies not only watched Antiques Roadshow, they took notes! Hand to God, Lyle (the one who could read) gripped a stubby Ticonderoga pencil in his meaty paw night after night, diligently copying the information from the screen onto a Dollar Store spiral notepad when Pooter froze the image on his command.

“Snap a pitcher, Poot,” he reminded his younger brother each time, wanting a visual reference for quick decisions.

Not that either of the Floyd boys gave a flying flip about Duncan Phyfe chairs, early Kandinskys or Victorian silver tea sets, but ever since Pee-paw Floyd shuffled off his mortal coil and the Social Security checks stopped rolling in, they were running low on Slim Jims, Funyuns and all the other food groups. They needed a source of income.

Because the cable was only pre-paid till the end of the month, they didn’t have time to waste, so they watched and catalogued five Roadshow episodes a day.

Now, you may be asking yourself why they didn’t just get jobs, but that would be a dead giveaway you aren’t from around here. Floyds didn’t get jobs; they got married. Once upon a time, their father snagged himself a homely teacher rapidly moving past her sell-by date, walked her down the aisle, and for the next twenty-five years really tested the “for poorer” part of her vows. Sally Ann gave birth to both her boys during summer vacation, so she never missed a paycheck till that awful afternoon when Lyle was sixteen and Pooter twelve. Lyle senior pulled onto the gravel driveway after a two-hour quality control check of Jim Beam, stomped the accelerator instead of the brake, and plowed into the clotheslines, mowing down his meal ticket while she slid wooden pegs onto the shoulders of a wet pair of long johns.

Sally Ann died instantly, and their pappy followed her ten months into an eighteen-year-stretch for vehicular homicide with special circumstances, namely blowing a point-one-five at the scene.

The two orphaned teens were taken in by Pee-paw Floyd and Granny Lydia, leaving that poor woman to support three shiftless men on her county tax assessor’s salary, rather than just the one she had been charmed into marrying long before. The extra work and stress shortened her life considerably, and, although Lydia’s death certificate claimed heart attack, members of the local ladies’ auxiliary all agreed it should have listed cause of death as “plumb wore out.”

With the loss of Granny L’s income, the Floyd boys and their Pee-paw scraped by on the Social Security benefits inherited by her husband. But after Pee-paw joined his indentured servant at the cemetery in a mahogany casket and plot she made payments on for twenty years, Lyle and Pooter went looking in the attic for something to sell. Pickings were slim among the cobwebs and old newspapers, but they managed to gather enough bric-a-brac and old lamps—two of them not even wired for electricity—to carry a heavy boxful to a pawnshop in the next town down the road. The boys watched anxiously as the owner picked through their offerings. He gave no indications of value, beyond a dismissive snort when he pulled out what appeared to be an old Barbie doll with an incandescent lightbulb screwed into the top of her head. The abundant, dusty, flounces on her hand-crocheted ball gown impressed him not at all.

The man rolled his eyes at the amateurishly taxidermied owl, and shook his head wearily while examining the two unwired lamps whose shades looked to have been assembled from broken beer bottle shards and colored glass found by the roadside.

“I’ll be honest with you, boys. Most of this stuff barely rises to the level of trash, but I know you’re grieving your Pee-paw, so I’ll give you forty bucks on a straight-up sale of the whole lot.”

He spread his hands wide in an apologetic gesture, and, rather than lug the heavy box home, Lyle and Pooter accepted his charity and walked out with a pair of twenty-dollar bills.

This was the type of low point at which previous Floyd men found reliably employed women and married them, but Lyle and Pooter had neither the dashing good looks of their daddy, nor the silver-tongued charm Pee-paw once used to reel in Granny Lydia.

This story appears in our JAN 2024 Issue
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