“The Kingdom of Amateur Gods” by Brad Eddy explores coming of age through the observations of life in a trailer court, where two boys grapple with their understanding of adulthood. Enjoy our most recent installment of New Voices with this beautiful story.
“I couldn’t imagine anything worse than the truth, the way it slowly ate at everything. It was the worst punishment God had ever given us.”
Jimmy and I climbed the rusted ladder and perched ourselves on the roof of the trailer. Our kingdom lay before us, mobile homes and overgrown yards, our subjects adrift, wandering for meaning. Fat Judy, still in her robe at 3:00 p.m., ate a frozen burrito on her porch. Donnie Hayes opened the hood of his Camaro and blinked like a cat at the dead engine. I wished him light and reformation. Jimmy shook his fist and threatened comets, lightning bolts, and personal blights.
We’d pegged Donnie as the center of adversity, the root of all problems in the trailer court. We’d seen him steal from sheds and scream curses at the top of his lungs as his prized Camaro refused to turn over. That Wednesday, when teenagers came to mow the lawns for ten bucks apiece, he’d shaken the boys down, flipping a switchblade open and closed until they handed over their earnings. He was the closest we had to a villain, a Pharaoh, a man whose strings Satan had a firm grasp.
A screen door slammed and a freckled woman—maybe twenty—someone we’d never seen before, stepped out of one of the trailers. She held a bottle of Coke in one hand, a magazine in the other.
I closed my eyes, listening to far off barking and waiting for inspiration. “Her name is Heather,” I said. “She loves puppies.”
Jimmy rapped me on the head, said he knew better. Jimmy always knew better.
“She’s Brittany,” he said. “A journalist.”
“I’ve heard her mother call her Heather,” I said.
“You’re lying again, Max,” Jimmy said. “I can tell from your voice.”
Like always, he was right.
We watched her move toward Donnie. Jimmy pointed at her, tried to change her course. I imagined bees swarming, the earth quaking. But Donnie and his Camaro—working or not—had their own gravity. She leaned against the car while Donnie ran a hand through his thinning hair. We had no idea what he was saying so we imagined that too.
“I’m a lot of trouble,” I said, taking over for Donnie.
“I deserve better, but don’t love myself,” Jimmy said.
Both of them laughed. Brittany finished her Coke, and unlike the other hooligans in the trailer court, didn’t toss it to the ground. That little effort, her refusal to do the easy thing, was when I started to fall in love with her. It was why I thought I’d make a better God than Jimmy. I saw what people did right and loved them for it.
Donnie watched as she walked off, twirling the bottle like a lost ballerina. I blew gently, hoping to create a great wind, to carry her away from Donnie, back to the safety of her own place.