Some Musings
                                            Garrett Fowler

Some Musings 
              Garrett Fowler 

Mobile Homes

1. Single Wide

We watched the trailer burn from across the street that night in Miss Ronda Calvert’s front yard. It was just after midnight in Meadow Green Mobile Home Park and I was twelve years old.

The sky was a tar-black smear emblazoned with stars that went from visible to obscured as the billowing smoke from the fire intensified. The dusty gray plume like a spirit rising upward into the night. From one direction, I heard the screeching guitar riffs from Paradise City emanating from a neighbor’s window. From another, I could hear the dissonant chorus of exotic birds in Ronnie Pruitt’s trailer squawking and singing in rising tones, as if they knew my home was smoldering to the ground. Sirens came later, accompanied by the bright red and blue lights of the deputies, the firetruck, and the ambulance. Our trailer, ablaze and consuming itself, was all the news that night in Wilmer County.

Miss Ronda Calvert had made hot chocolate for me and my little brother, Jon Jon, while Mama smoked a Virginia Slim and watched the firemen put out the flames. I remember the way she held my hand so tightly, tears and mascara trickling down the sides of her leathery cheeks. She looked so pretty with the lights from the patrol car and the firetruck dancing along her face, even though she was so sad. We all were, except for my Dad. He was already drunk — two sheets to the wind, as my Granny used to say — and getting taken down to the Wilmer County Sheriff’s Office for some questioning.

“Fuckin’ crackheads gonna ruin it for everybody,” Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend yelled at the deputy’s car that took my dad away. I didn’t know what a crackhead was back then, but I knew it had to be something bad. I had heard Mama use the word before to describe a group of guys who had been evicted from a trailer a few lots down from ours the year before.

Was my Dad like those guys?”, I wondered to myself that night.

As far as I knew, both of my parents were good people who worked hard and paid the bills on time. We always had enough food and groceries in the house, even though Mama made us keep track of how many Little Debbies and Walmart-brand sodas we drank. She made us adhere to the hand-drawn “sweet sheet” on the fridge, a straightforward system of check boxes to make sure we weren’t being too gluttonous. No more than two Little Debbies and two sodas a day was the rule. I didn’t see Mama get angry too often as a kid, but the quickest way to get her there would be to finish off a box of her favorite sodas, Diet Mountain Lightnings, without asking. The last Diet Mountain Lightning was always for Mama.

Mama worked on and off at the local diner in town, always quitting over some dumb spat with a customer, only to return a few days later. She sometimes picked up shifts at the Arby’s on the county line. The owner was an old high school crush who gave her the work when she really needed it.

Dad worked as a mechanic at the Jiffy Lube Express down by the Wilmer County Post Office. More often than not, when I think about Dad, I conjure up an image of him with tousled hair, covered in grease, and smelling like BO. I knew my Dad and Uncle Rob liked to play cards for money and they definitely drank a lot, but my Dad was the sweetest man I knew, regardless of his questionable habits and short temper.

By the time the Wilmer County officials and the firemen left the scene, my childhood home had been reduced to a pile of ash. When I close my eyes, I can still smell the stench of the trailer fire — a mix of chemicals and paint and burnt rubber and charcoal — as if I’m still barefoot in Miss Ronda Calvert’s yard, little wet blades of grass sticking up between my toes.

Weakening wisps of smoke made their way out of the rubble and into the air. Our trailer looked like the turkey from the Thanksgiving before that Mama had put into the oven and forgotten about because she didn’t set the timer. Dad got so angry that day and yelled at Mama for what seemed like forever while Uncle Rob laughed with a dizzy grin across the room. We ended up eating KFC with our dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie that year.

The days that followed were, surprisingly, some of the best of my childhood. We got to miss an entire week of school following the fire. Miss Ronda Calvert let the four of us stay in her extra bedroom and her pug, Cinnamon, would curl up to me and Jon Jon on our pallet of blankets on the floor at night.

All of our neighbors were so kind to us after the fire, something that my Dad thought was “fucked up” and “fake.” As kids, Jon Jon and I thought it was pretty great and it made us feel special. In those days, the trailer park was more like an amusement park than anything else, so naturally, getting to spend an entire week inside of Meadow Green instead of going to school felt like the best thing that could have happened to us.

During the days following the fire, Mama made phone calls to relatives and friends, while also waiting to hear back from the insurance company. She was so proud that she had opted for rental insurance, something that, as she would quickly let you know, wasn’t common for most folks living in a trailer park.

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance — the Six P’s”, she still preaches to this day.

Mama told her friends and our cousins that she was in between waitressing jobs even though the truth was that she could go back to the diner or pick up a few weeks at the Arby’s anytime she wanted. Instead, she had been taking cash from the savings account that held the money she got from Granny’s life insurance policy.

We would end up moving into a crimson red and off-white trailer, A-17, near the front of Meadow Green, but we had to wait five weeks for the insurance claim money to come through. Our little family hunkered down in the humble guest room at Miss Ronda Calvert’s place until move-in day.

I remember that Miss Ronda Calvert and Mama would watch their soaps — mostly Days of our Lives and General Hospital — while Jon Jon and I just roamed around, existing and yet not existing in Mama and Miss Ronda Calvert’s world. This whole fabric of life that usually played out while Jon Jon and I were in school was now something we were forcibly woven into — at least for a little while.

Half apathetically and partially because things were just different back then, Mama didn’t mind what we did during the day. We were free to roam the trailer park from sunup to sundown. As long as we didn’t walk out of the front gate of Meadow Green and onto County Road 145, we were good as gold.

All of our clothes and what few toys we had were all burned up the night of the fire, but we received so many bags of donated goods afterward that we ended up having to give some of them back to the Tri-County Goodwill. Some of the clothes didn’t fit Jon Jon and I very well and I remember one of the bags of clothes that were actually my size smelled like my Uncle Rob’s aftershave. So there we were, no home, no toys, and running around in somebody else’s clothes in Meadow Green, all while I smelled like my goofy Uncle Rob.

Cindy Miller lived in the first trailer right past the front gate of Meadow Green and was a boisterous redhead in her mid-fifties. She had lived there in her fading, baby blue single wide trailer for over a decade and also was a part-time property manager for the trailer park. I once saw her kick the front door down of a trailer across the way from Ronnie Pruitt’s. She got into a huge fight with the woman inside and pulled a lock of her hair out before the cops came. Apparently, the woman hadn’t paid rent in four months and was using the place for bad stuff.

“Cindy done beat the hell out of that hooker living in B-25,” my Dad told Uncle Rob after the altercation.

Mama used to tell us that even if there was no money left in the world that her and Dad would find a way to pay rent as to not have to get into a squabble with Cindy Miller. I suspected that Mama also needed to preserve the relationship for other reasons, namely because she used Cindy Miller’s tanning bed, which was tucked squarely into a back corner of her living room next to a small aquarium with a single beta fish inside.

For all of that meanness inside of her, I nonetheless always admired Cindy Miller because she stood up for what she thought was right and she didn’t take any BS from anyone. She let Jon Jon and I put together jigsaw puzzles on a foldout table in front of her trailer while she cross-stitched and crocheted. We put together the same thousand-piece puzzles what seemed like dozens and dozens of times.

One was a picture of a pair of killer whales jumping into the air at sundown and though it was missing several pieces, it was mine and Jon Jon’s favorite. It bothered me so much the first time we got to the very end of the puzzle, only for us to realize that we would never fully finish it. But, after a while, the missing pieces made me like the puzzle even more because I was able to imagine a million different ideas of what those pieces might have on them. Maybe they just completed the image or maybe they changed it somehow, revealing something that we didn’t notice before.

Those two beautiful creatures, highlighted by a molten sunset were wearing what looked like a smile. Most likely, because only they knew what we could not. In the cold, dark waters of whatever place far away from Meadow Green that they swam in, they knew what the other pieces of the puzzle looked like.

The Summer before the fire, Cindy Williams gave Mama a small, cream-colored circle of cloth that she had embroidered. It said “Too Blessed to be Stressed” on it in violet lettering, surrounded by a mix of red and yellow tulips stitched with near-perfect precision. One of many items from our past that would be incinerated in the fire, I remember that gift was one of Mama’s favorite possessions. She hung it directly over the entryway to the kitchen in our trailer and always told visitors that she knew the woman who made it.

And so we had Cindy Miller and her tanning bed. But we also had Ronnie Pruitt and Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend, some young blonde with braces and a belly button ring whose name I forgot long ago. We had my Uncle Rob and Miss Ronda Calvert. We had Miss Ronda Calvert’s son, Charlie, and his son, Clint. We had Nathan Cartwright, who had not one, but two trailers inside of Meadow Green.

While some people tend to think that everyone who lives in a trailer park are trailer trash who don’t come from nothin’ and will never have nothin’, my childhood memories disprove this in so many ways.


Ronnie Pruitt had an obsession with exotic birds and snakes. Over his few years living in Meadow Green, he had accumulated at least two dozen of them. Who needed the Zoo when you could just go visit Ronnie Pruitt and Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend? We used to talk for hours on end to an old, rather rough looking Blue-Gold Macaw named Sandy who would repeat anything you said to her.

There were cockatoos and parakeets and other birds, but Sandy was always my favorite. There were snakes too, like the reticulated python, Monty, that once escaped his enclosure only to be found in Ronnie Pruitt’s front yard, curled up beneath a lawn chair. Snakes always gave me the creeps though, so I would usually stick with Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend, Sandy the Macaw, and the birds while Ronnie Pruitt and Jon Jon hung out with Monty and his reptilian friends.

One time, Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend took one of the small cockatoos out of its cage and sat it on her lap. It started to nibble on her belly button ring, peaking out from under a tie-dye crop top she wore. I wonder what that bird thought of living in Ronnie Pruitt’s trailer, a million miles away from the jungle, looking at me side-eyed, Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend’s cubic zirconia body jewelry under its tongue.

Uncle Rob used to live with us when we first came to Meadow Green, but he ended up renting his own trailer, C-11, at the far back side of the trailer park soon after. Uncle Rob was covered in tattoos, including one of Snoopy smoking a joint, which Jon Jon would end up having replicated onto his own forearm years later. Uncle Rob was a ladies man and was known around town for his devilish good looks and for selling pot. We used to go to Uncle Rob’s and the one thing I remember more than anything was his huge TV.

“It’s a plasma. This is the future. It’s like multi-colored gel that oozes behind the screen to help make the picture high-definition and, like, it makes the colors really pop.”

I remember Uncle Rob trying to explain how the new TV worked and how great the NASCAR races and football games were going to be on it. All I could think about was the plasma. Was it like lava? Or Play-Dough? Or was it more like water?

My answer came to me a few months after Uncle Rob bought the TV when he cracked the screen by accident while moving a coffee table across the room. The picture was distorted in the exact spot where the screen was cracked but, to my surprise, nothing seeped out. I don’t know why this disappointed me, but somehow it did. That TV stayed cracked like that for years and I can no longer remember what it looked like in its unbroken, new form.

And well, Miss Ronda Calvert was like a second mother to me during my family’s time in Meadow Green. As Mama liked to say, she was a God-fearing woman and she would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She had a hot tub behind her house and had to forego having hot water in her half bathroom so that this bad boy could be heated. It felt like such a luxury, rain or shine, hot or cold, to hop into the jacuzzi and lean against the whirring jets. The smell of your skin after getting out of the hot tub was both a good smell and yet a foul one at the same time. As a kid, I never fully understood why Miss Ronda Calvert always told us we needed to shower after getting out of it.

“I just shocked the tub and that chlorine is strong as Hell. Go rinse it off, right now, y’all here?” I can still hear her voice every time I see a hot tub at a hotel or on TV to this day.

When Miss Ronda Calvert died my junior year of high school, her son, Charlie, sold the hot tub to a man in another trailer park on the other side of Wilmer County. I knew there were other places like Meadow Green, but I didn’t like the idea of another one having a hot tub like we did. At that point, we hadn’t used the thing in years ever since Miss Ronda Calvert was diagnosed with breast cancer, but it was the idea that mattered. I really loved Miss Ronda Calvert and she inspired me to want to be the kindest person I could be.

Mama has a polaroid of Jon Jon and I holding slices of watermelon and smiling while flanking Miss Ronda Calvert. She keeps it in her wallet. A snapshot of a forgotten, wet-hot day in Meadow Green that Mama found on Miss Ronda Calvert’s fridge after she passed.

Charlie Calvert and his son, Clint Calvert, lived right next door to Miss Ronda Calvert. Although Clint and I went to school together and were both the same age, we didn’t really get along or hang out in the same circles. He was always a bit of a bully and Jon Jon used to say that Clint Calvert had one freckle on his face for every kid he had beat up. Indeed, Clint Calvert had a small, squished face chock-full of freckles, a buzzed, sunburnt head, and an intimidating disposition. Before he was ever a teenager, he was already dipping tobacco and drinking beer in broad daylight, even when grownups were around. I know it hurt Miss Ronda Calvert so much when she saw how Clint behaved, but she always said she was praying for him and knew that it was in God’s hands.

Even though Clint Calvert was not to be messed with, when he visited his mom over in Lakeside, we would go and take over the trampoline he had behind his trailer. Charlie Calvert had bought it for him as a birthday present and we never once saw Clint Calvert jumping on it. It was such a shame and on more than one occasion Jon Jon and I thought about asking Charlie Calvert if we could have it. If we didn’t think Clint Calvert would have shredded us to pulp, we probably would have.

When Charlie Calvert got back with his ex-wife, Clint Calvert’s Mom, they moved over to Lakeside and left the rusty, forgotten trampoline behind. By that time, it was all ours, but Jon Jon was always gone off with his girlfriend, Macy Burgess, and I was working my rear end off to have a shot at going to college. Instead of jumping on that trampoline in Meadow Green, I was on roller skates working double shifts at the Sonic Drive-In to save money for an SAT prep class that was held on Saturday mornings over in Green County. That SAT prep class would end up “getting me off the mountain”, which was my Granny’s old way of saying getting the fuck out of Wilmer County.

My senior year, my parents got divorced and my Dad moved all the way down to Wilkins County, a two hour, boring, straight-shot of a drive down Interstate 65. Nothing but truck stops and “Jesus Saves” signs and fast food outposts along the way. Jon Jon, a year younger than me, had failed 10th grade and decided not to go to Summer School that year. Him and Macy Burgess went to live with my Dad in Wilkins County and they both dropped out of high school. Jon Jon got his GED and started an apprenticeship working as a carpenter, while Macy Burgess worked at a nail salon next to a Mexican restaurant.

“High School and College are such a fucking scam, dude,” I remember Jon Jon saying to me when I went to visit him and Dad.

“It’s like all this bullshit that you’re never going to use again, meanwhile, did you know there is a major shortage of folks like me and Dad who actually fix people’s shit when it breaks? And people who make furniture and build houses and do plumbing and AC? And no fuckin’ lie, there are nowhere near enough electricians to go around these days. Holy Hell, it’s just all such a fuckin’ lie. All that shit they tell us growing up about good grades and gettin’ into college and shit like that.”

My final year at Wilmer County High School was also my last year at Meadow Green. I was seventeen and I passed a lot of the time working, studying, and also over at the spare trailer that was owned, not rented, by Nathan Cartwright.

Nathan Cartwright was a giant of a man, but of the most friendly varieties. He was six-foot-four and easily weighed over 400 pounds. He would often eat an entire box of Zebra Cakes in one sitting, seated in his electronic wheelchair alongside a three liter of soda and a tin of holiday popcorn mix. I’m not sure Nathan Cartwright would have lasted one day in our trailer with Mama and her sweet sheet on the fridge.

Nathan Cartwright was what Mama called a hoarder. He had stuff — trinkets, boxes, food, trash, clothes, stuffed animals — everywhere you looked. I could often hear the sounds of Gameshow Network reruns echoing from the windows of the trailer he lived in. Match Game 76’, The Price is Right and $25,000 Pyramid were a few of his favorites.

He had arranged a deal with the owners of Meadow Green a long time ago to rent-to-own his trailer. When Meadow Green changed ownership the Summer before my senior year, the new management company offered people deals to buy some of the older trailers in the park. One was just not enough for Nathan Cartwright.

“Nathan Cartwright gone on and bought that ole’ beat-to-shit brown trailer next to his, y’know that?,” the Son of the Woman with the Oxygen Tank who moved into Ronnie Pruitt’s old place said to me one morning as I was getting back home from my SAT Prep course.

When I ran into Nathan Cartwright at the community mailboxes the next week, I asked him why he needed to buy another trailer in Meadow Green.

“Runnin’ out of room, I reckon. I got a lot of stuff,” he said, beaming back to me with an innocent, but swollen face. His eyes with a tinge of yellow and a bead of sweat on his forehead. An orange stain on his chin and on the upper part of his white tee shirt.

“I ain’t living in it or using the kitchen or anything like that. Mostly just for storage and I might rent it out one day. No cable in it right now, but there’s power and hot water. If you ever need a space to go, consider it your own little hideout. I keep the key under the flower pot on the front steps.”

Apart from the occasional conversation at the mailboxes, I barely knew Nathan Cartwright. For some reason though, I trusted him and didn’t consider him a threat. After all, I had a feeling I could outrun him if he ever did end up being a crazy person. There was no way on God’s Green Earth that his wheelchair could go over five miles per hour.

I ended up taking a sleeping bag and a few SAT prep books over to his spare trailer the next evening. I would often use that space to decompress, study, sleep, and whatever else I wanted. I smoked weed for the first time on the back steps of that trailer. My friend Lacy Benton showed me how to make a pipe out of a Sprite can and that was the way it went down.

Nathan Cartwright’s spare trailer was like having my own world apart from the rest of Meadow Green. A world where I could be good or bad or loud or quiet, slowly marching toward adulthood to the backdrop of low ceilings, the smell of weed, and Fleetwood Mac on my Walkman.

A few years ago, Mama told me that Nathan Cartwright’s Sister found him dead in his trailer. The Wilmer County Coroner said he had been dead in there for at least a week, still seated in his wheelchair. All I could think about was what gameshow he was watching when his heart stopped. Did someone hit a perfect dollar on the spinning wheel in The Price is Right and it was just too much for his heart to handle? Or, perhaps, did Betty White say something hilarious in Match Game and it sent his pulse into a frenzy? I imagined a parade of plump little zebras galloping through his arteries until they reached his heart and gave him one collective kick.

Nathan Cartwright was such a generous and kind-spirited man, but beneath that kindness was an overwhelming loneliness that would be his undoing. He held on to everything, but he left this Earth with nothing.

The familiar faces of Meadow Green were the supporting cast members of my most fond memories as a young person. It was all I had ever known, from age nine when we moved in after Granny died, to the Summer of my eighteenth birthday when I left for college. Turns out, all that studying had paid off. I was headed all the way up to New York City where I would attend nursing school and start a new chapter in my life.

The bright lights and constant noise and omniscient smell of piss, pizza, and garbage would serve as a new world for me. I got as far away from Meadow Green as possible, but Meadow Green would always take up space within me.

Meadow Green taught me that most everything you need is all around you. Nobody felt better than anyone else there because once you entered into the trailer park, all people were equal. Everyone knew this to be true. It was as if time and status and ambition were all suspended on the inside and it didn’t all start moving again until you touched the pothole-littered asphalt of County Road 145.

You see, in that trailer park, we all knew who we were and who we weren’t. We didn’t live in normal homes, but rather, in mobile homes. The concept is that these houses, which sit atop a set of wheels, could be picked up and moved from one place to another with relative ease. I always liked to imagine all the places we could take our trailer when I was a kid. My Mom and Dad and Jon Jon and I could go to Las Vegas or Canada or New Orleans or Maine or anywhere in between because our house had wheels. I always thought this was the best kind of home someone could have because you didn’t have to pick just one place to be. You could be anywhere.

Even though I had never seen anyone take their trailer with them when they left Meadow Green, I just assumed it was because they had another trailer somewhere else. Or, perhaps, they were moving to a real house with two stories and everything like my friend KC Williams and his family lived in. They owned the local barbecue restaurant and five different Chevron gas stations in the Tri-County area.

The kinds of houses that KC Williams and his family had were stuck in one precise place forever. This never appealed to me, and so regardless of us not having the choice to own a house like that anyway, I always considered us the lucky ones. Mom, Dad, Jon Jon and I had Meadow Green and all of its curiosities and personalities. In those days, I didn’t think I needed anything else.

I was an adult, somewhere in my mid 20’s, when I realized that the reason mobile homes are so easy to move around isn’t for the people who inhabit them at all. It’s for real estate folks and property developers to be able to cheaply and conveniently move them from the plant in which they’re made to a place that will most likely be their final destination.

These so-called businessmen take advantage of the fact that to have a dream is but a privilege for the people they market to. They know their audience and, like predators, they have poor people build trailers in the night and then sell them for ten times more to their cousins, brothers, mothers, neighbors, and friends. They sell the idea of mobility to the immobile. The name mobile home just seems so wrong for something that will never move.

Upon realizing all of this, I felt a pang of shame in my chest for ever thinking it could have been any different. Our trailer on a hill somewhere in the Puget Sound. Jon Jon and I watching the Orcas from Cindy Miller’s puzzle jumping out of the water at sundown.

2. Double Wide

During my sophomore year of college, Dad called me twice — once in March and again in November. The November call would bring me back South.

It wasn’t uncommon for Dad and I to go long bouts of time without talking and it had nothing to do with how much we loved one another. This was just our cadence and it still is to this day. He sometimes pokes fun of me for being a complete Mama’s Boy, as I usually talk to Mama a few times a week.


In March, Dad’s voice was abnormally perky and full of joy. He was talking a mile a minute.

“Your old man’s gettin’ hitched to a pretty lady. You gotta come down for the weddin’. I just know you and Misty are gonna be thick as thieves. She’s really the best, I swear it.”

Misty Evans met my Dad when her silver Ford F-150 sputtered to a halt, as faith would have it, right in front of the Richard & Son’s Auto Garage where my Dad worked in Wilkins County. The rest is history, as they say. My Dad fixed up her car — it just needed a routine oil change that had been neglected for way too long — and worked up the nerve to ask her out on a date.

I imagined Misty Evans listening to my Dad’s awful jokes while they drank coffee and ate late night breakfast at the Waffle House. He could be quite the charmer, and after five years of being sober as a judge, he had found a penchant for going to the gym again. He proposed to Misty Evans after less than six months of dating and while I would not end up being able to make the wedding due to end-of-semester finals, I had the local florist deliver three dozen white roses to a woman I had never met. As for my Dad, I ordered him an orange necktie, his favorite color, and cufflinks from an online store and had them sent to Wilkins County. My Uncle Rob told me that Dad shed a tear when the gifts came in the mail.

I was happy for my Dad, even though I knew Jon Jon was causing him grief. Jon Jon had inherited every ounce of love for the trouble and the bottle that my Dad had given up. I heard things — from Mama and my cousins and old friends — but I could never imagine Jon Jon doing anyone any harm. For me, that was that and I kept in close contact with Jon Jon.

The year before, Macy Burgess gave birth to twin boys, Cody and Randall. The spitting image of Jon Jon with their blue eyes, cocoa brown hair, and fair white skin, Cody and Randall brought me into Uncledom and I was the happiest man alive. I made the trip down to Wilkins County the day after they were born. In tow, I brought with me a copy of my favorite childhood book, Goodnight Moon, some booties, and a pair of fuzzy blankets. I spent over a week helping out around the house and spending time with Cody, Randall, Jon Jon, and Macy Burgess.

Jon Jon would often fall asleep with both boys on his chest, laid up in the Lazy Boy recliner in the living room of his and Macy Burgess’s double wide trailer. Dad and Jon Jon split the cost of a brand new double wide the year before the boys were born and it sat on the back half of Dad’s property, a modest 10 acres in Wilkins County. Staying at Jon Jon’s practically meant staying with Dad.

“These trailers don’t even look like trailers no more. I mean, shit, we got a front porch, a side porch, a brand new carport, and a pool out back over at my place,” Dad told me one night over a dinner Macy Burgess whipped up for us. Stroganoff Hamburger Helper — my favorite dinner as a child. I wondered if someone told her this or if, perhaps, it was just meant to be.

They even started making damn triple wide trailers at the plant over in Jenkins last year. Them fuckers look like a ranch home or something from the 50’s. Real nice, I’m tellin’ ya.”

The irony of Dad trying his hardest to make a trailer seem like anything but a trailer evoked a strange duality within me.

On one hand, I felt a sense of pity for Dad because I knew that he wanted to prove to the world, but mostly Jon Jon and I, that he was a good man. Just like our old trailer back in Meadow Green, Dad had burnt himself down to the ground and started over. He was right with God and off the booze and in the gym and working as hard as he could to make things right.

On the other hand, it was hard not to admire how hard Dad worked to make a mobile home a real, permanent one. And he had accomplished just that. Dad still manages to tend to the garden out back, clean leaves out of the above-ground pool, mow the lawn, and touch up any chipped paint on the vinyl siding of the double wide, all before most people even get out of bed.

I have fond memories of those few days spent with my darling little nephews, Jon Jon, Macy Burgess, and Dad. Inevitably, I told myself I would be back very soon to see Cody and Randall. They grow up way too fast at that age to let too much time pass between visits. And so, we ended my stay down in Wilkins County with an early dinner at the Cracker Barrel. Afterward, I made my way back north toward Wilmer County to spend the night with Mama before headed back to the big city.

Mama had moved to a small two bedroom apartment in Lakeside the year I went to college. She was cleaning houses now full time and hadn’t stepped foot in the diner in a really long time. Admittedly, she still goes through the drive-through at the county line Arby’s from time to time to catch a peak at her high school crush.

On my way to Lakeside, it hit me that I would have to pass by Meadow Green along the way. When I saw the old, dilapidating sign with its mint green letters (Welcome to Meadow Green Mobile Home Park) and long-ago-blown-out bulbs from a distance, my stomach lurched. It could have been the Cracker Barrel but I knew it was something else.

As I pulled my rental car into the entryway of Meadow Green, I promptly made my way back to A-17, the last trailer I had ever lived in. To my surprise, a woman was outside smoking a cigarette while walking two small dogs in what you could call the front yard of my old trailer. We briefly made eye contact and, though I tried to immediately look away, it was too late. She motioned at me with a little half-wave and then signaled for me to roll down the window, cranking her hand in midair while she held the lit cigarette in between her lips.

“Are you lost, young man?,” she said to me, as I let the window roll all the way down. The warm air of the South was already stifling in early Spring, mixing with the cool AC of the rental car.

I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t lost at all. I wanted to tell her that I used to live in this very trailer that now she called hers. I wanted to tell her about learning to ride my first bike and jumping a makeshift ramp behind B-5. I wanted to tell her about Miss Ronda Calvert. About how I masturbated for the first time in my life in her hot tub one night and then felt guilty about it for weeks. About how the spot where a dumpster now sat was once a pile of ashes that was once my old home. I wanted to tell her about how I took six practice SAT exams in a trailer that belonged to a dead man. I wanted to tell her how to smoke pot out of a Sprite can.

I really wanted to tell her to put out that cigarette. To run as fast as she could until she got off the mountain and could see the world outside of Wilmer County.

Instead, I feigned ignorance, pretended to be lost, and let her give me directions to Lakeside. She incorrectly told me to turn left at the Wilmer County Post Office even though I well knew it was a right turn. She watched me slowly put the car in reverse and head back toward County Road 145. In the rearview mirror, I saw she maintained a fixed stare on the rental, still puffing on her cigarette, taking a slow draw and exhaling straight up into the air like the smoke I once saw rising from a single wide on fire in the dark.

That night, Mama told me a disturbing truth. She told me Dad was cooking meth amphetamines in the bathtub for Uncle Rob to sell the night the trailer set fire. I cried so hard that I thought my eyeballs were going to burst out of their sockets. All of Dad’s hard work and his reformation now made sense to me.

I thought about Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend calling my Dad a crackhead. How did she know and I didn’t? Did the birds and snakes whisper secrets to her that only she could understand? Or were there yet more pieces to an altogether different puzzle that were missing for me?

To this day, I’ve never uttered a word about my hidden knowledge to Dad or to anyone else for that matter. It’s now just another strand of Meadow Green that lives like a vapor forever in my head, able to be summoned, like the others, when the moment is ripe for it.


In November, Dad’s voice was bone dry and slow.

“Our Jon Jon’s dead,” he said, crying through the static of the land line.

Macy Burgess told my Dad that she found Jon Jon foaming at the mouth on the living room floor of their double wide. She tried calling for help, but it was too late, as Jon Jon breathed his last strangled breath a few minutes later.

I was at a complete loss for words and began to sob. Confusion came first, then anger, and weeks later, guilt, as my younger brother was dead and I never saw it coming. I couldn’t help but think about Macy Burgess and what she was going to do. About Cody and Randall and how I hoped they didn’t see Jon Jon like that, shaking and foaming on the floor like some kind of dying monster.

Opioids. Meth. Drinking. Plenty of visits to jail. It all finally caught up to Jon Jon. While Macy Burgess was out grocery shopping with the kids, Jon Jon emptied a bottle of Jack Daniels and a handful of oxycontin.

I pretended not to know all the things I heard and had chose instead to focus on what felt good when we talked on the phone. Ignoring the ugly, like I had been conditioned to do my entire life.

The last time we spoke, he was talking about a man who was buying up all the land in town and was going to put up an apartment complex and a laundromat. He was excited that there was a Chick-fil-a in town now, because that was his favorite. I told him about a container home I stayed at in Upstate New York and he thought it was the stupidest thing he had ever heard.

“Haven’t you done got enough of your trailer livin’ out of you, bro?”, he joked, giggling through the phone.

He wanted to have another kid and Macy Burgess hoped it was a girl this time because the twin boys were driving her halfway up a wall. A day doesn’t pass that I don’t wish I could have asked him about what was really going on. About how I could have helped.

I wonder if Jon Jon would have known what the missing pieces from Cindy Miller’s puzzle looked like if he would still be here with us. He never got to see the Orcas, even though last Summer my boyfriend and I went whale watching. I finally got to put together the missing pieces and, as it turned out, they just completed the picture. No surprises. This consoled me. Even though he didn’t get to see the whales, Jon Jon got the gist of it.

When I went back down to Wilkins County where Jon Jon’s funeral was held, everything felt unreal. Black and white. Without sound. A hazy, speckled filter applied to every condolence. Every fast food meal that we ate as sustenance. Every box of Kleenex discarded into the trash can. November in the South is just as cold as other parts of the country sometimes, but most people who aren’t from those parts don’t know that.

I could barely stand to look at Jon Jon in the casket. He was all dolled up and in a suit — not fitting for him and I couldn’t help but think he was grimacing from above. When I closed my eyes to just cry and not have to look anymore, I saw Jon Jon, foaming at the mouth like the forgotten corner of a tide pool at the beach. It was all too much to have to open my eyes. To close them, was just as painful.

3. A Different Mountain

My favorite place to eat breakfast in New York City is a southern restaurant that reminds me of home — biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, grits, and sweet tea. I traded in Meadow Green for a dorm room and a dorm room for a series of shitty apartments before landing a job as a nurse, now an RN, for one of the cities top public hospitals. I live with my boyfriend, Keith, in a luxury condominium in Tribeca, the complete antithesis to Meadow Green.

I’ve told Keith about my days in Wilmer County and he looks at me, wide-eyed in disbelief when I tell him stories about my time in Meadow Green. For a lifelong New Yorker raised within the city’s confines, it all must sound like complete make believe. But alas, I had the trailer park and Keith had Central Park.

“You don’t even have a southern accent when we talk, but when you talk to your Mama, it really does come out. It’s like a different person,” Keith said to me. He was referring to those moments where cement becomes see-mint and pecan becomes pee-can.

It is a different person. From a different life. One that I can never forget about, because it made me who I am today. Forged by the fire of a single wide trailer that my Dad accidentally burned to the ground. My rough, country edges smoothed out thanks to the kindness of an overweight hoarder who secretly had a crush on Richard Dawson from the $25,000 Pyramid. Thanks to people like Miss Ronda Calvert and Nathan Cartwright and Cindy Williams, I truly am today Too Blessed to be Stressed.

I often think what it would be like to host Miss Ronda Calvert or Nathan Cartwright or Cindy Williams or Jon Jon and Macy Burgess or Ronnie Pruitt and Ronnie Pruitt’s Girlfriend for dinner and wine here at my condo. We would overlook the skyscrapers and the Hudson River and the new condos popping up like bamboo shoots in Jersey City. Maybe they would want to move their trailers smack dab in the middle of Union Square Park or Broadway or the Brooklyn Bridge or Fifth Avenue. Or, maybe they wouldn’t understand why I chose to pay the absurd cost of living somewhere half the size of a single wide trailer in a building with hundreds of other people.

The other night, I had a dream that awoke me in a cold sweat. I was transported to a day when the humidity surrounded Jon Jon and I like a fog made of maple syrup. The sun a descending, peach-colored circle in the early evening sky. We jumped and jumped on the trampoline behind Charlie Calvert’s trailer and the cicadas sang their song. Clint Calvert couldn’t hurt us and school was out for Spring Break and that was back before the trailer burned. Out of nowhere, the wind began to violently pick up and a tornado appeared on the horizon the way things in dreams can appear so senselessly out of the blue.

I told Jon Jon we had to leave right away and I folded him up and shoved him into my suitcase, his body bending and melting like the plasma in Uncle Rob’s TV, a spittle of yellow foam bubbling in the corner of his mouth as he looked at me. My thirteen year old self sped a car I didn’t recognize toward the entryway of Meadow Green.

As I was pulling out onto County Road 145, I had to swerve and just barely missed Miss Ronda Calvert, who was waving goodbye to Jon Jon and I. As I sped further and further away, I realized we were no longer in a car, but that the car had turned into a killer whale and we were in the Hudson River, making our way to my condo where I would introduce Jon Jon to Keith and everything would be okay.


Unlike Dad, I never internalized a single ounce of shame in my being for having been raised in a trailer park. Growing up, it was just our reality and I lacked a certain self-awareness that our situation in Meadow Green was indicative of what some might call being white trash. Well into my early 30’s now, I still proudly tell folks that I grew up roaming the dirt paths of Meadow Green.

My mind wanders to KC Williams back in Wilmer County. I wonder to myself if he still lives in his two story house and wakes up before the roosters crow to start smoking brisket.

Long ago, I learned that when you forget where you come from, you forget who you are and where you want to go. We often need to forget more in life than we need to learn, but forgetting where you come from is never a good thing. As much as my Granny would be proud of me today to know that I got off that mountain, she would be just as proud that I still tell people about my where it all began. In Meadow Green. Watching my trailer burn like the tip of Snoopy’s joint on Uncle Rob and Jon Jons’ arms.

Reading 1 ︎︎︎Mobile Homes

Reading 2 ︎︎︎TBD

Reading 3 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 4 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 5 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 6 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 1 ︎︎︎ Mobile Homes

Reading 2 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 3 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 4 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 5 ︎︎︎ TBD

Reading 6 ︎︎︎ TBD

Some Musings by Garrett Fowler