Fathers and Sons|
Jones and Richard came by the house the night it happened, after I got home from the hospital. Before Lynn took the kids upstairs, she told Jones not to keep me up too late, and he said, “No, ma’am, I won’t.” She didn’t say anything to Richard.
Richard said, “I don’t know about you two, but I need a beer.” He had a six-pack under his arm, and he held an open bottle out to me…….and I lost it.
I didn’t actually hit him. It was more of a shove. OK, kind of a hard shove. “Don’t you ever think about anybody but yourself?” I said. I guess he can’t help being an asshole, but a man can only take just so much at one time.
Jones stuck his hands in his pockets and stood outta the way.
The beer Richard had in his hand spilled into the rug when he fell down. I think that bothered him more than anything. “What the hell’d you do that for?”
“If the Rev knew you were using this as an excuse to drink, it’d kill him. And he’s going fast enough as it is.” I didn’t say it that way on purpose, that’s just what came out. After I said it, I realized it was true.
Richard looked up me open-mouthed. “What are you talking about?” He set the beer he’d been cradling under his arm down on the floor. “The doctors didn’t say that. He’s not gonna die.” He looked up at me first, then Jones. “Is he?”
The Rev told me one time Richard was a kid in a man’s body, and I argued with him, but I could see now what he was talking about. Sitting on the floor, confused, and a little scared……..just like a kid. I couldn’t stay mad at him.
“Bud? Nobody said he was gonna die. Did they?”
Jones spoke up. “It’s pretty hard to get better after a stroke. And he’s old.”
“Yeah, but……he’s……..” He shut up and thought about it. He looked up at me and his eyes got red, and he wiped his nose on his shirt. I held out my hand and helped him up off the floor. “I thought he was gonna get better. Dammit.”
“I’m gonna get a cup a’ coffee,” I said. They followed me out to the kitchen and sat down. Richard had his bottle of beer in front of him. He didn’t drink out of it, though, and after a few minutes he stood up and said, “I’m going back to the hospital,” and he left it sitting there on the table when he walked out.
Jones sat with me a while longer. We didn’t talk about much. He said Dewey and Ben would be around to see the Rev tomorrow. “You gonna be at the hospital tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ll be there.”
Lynn and I had been talking about the money my aunt Mabel left under my name in the bank. It came in handy a coupla times, but it made me nervous. I didn’t know where it came from, and why she didn’t use it. Her house coulda used a couple coats of paint when I saw it last, and some repairs. But according to the bank book, she’d had this wad a’ money in that account for 3 years by the time I found out about it and she’d never taken a cent out.
It wasn’t like we needed it either. I was getting a pension from the city of LA for “services extended to the city”. Hush money, I figured, to make sure I never let the cat outta the bag about Dudley. And I was working steady. Lynn’s shop did alright, and Lynn still had some money in the bank from her “investments” before I met her. So we were OK that way.
Lynn’s smart about money. She’s the one who made the sure the money that got soaked in blood in Rhonda’s motel room was replaced and put back in the bank for us. I woulda left it there on the floor, and never thought about it again. And she’s the one who said if keeping it made me nervous, then we should spend it and be done with it.
We used some of it to pay Nimitz for helping us with Charles. Some of it went to pay for Rhonda’s funeral. But we had a lot left.
I suppose I wasn’t very surprised that Lynn had something in mind to use it for. She’d talked about buying the house before. We convinced the Stallings brothers to sell us the one we were renting, gave them half for a down payment. And Lynn wanted a patio in the back yard.
I thought a back porch and grass was good enough, but Lynn said we should have a place to put a grill and some a’ that kind a’ stuff. Lawn chairs and a table with an umbrella. And then she thought we could put in a little pool for the kids. Not a big one, just a little bitty one for them to splash in.
It was OK by me. I coulda lived without a patio, without a grill, but Lynn wanted those things, the kinda things other wives had, you know? And the kids’d like the pool.
The Rev suggested I hire Richard to do the work.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I think it would be good for him. He needs to work, needs to feel useful again. Don’t you think?”
“Probably he does, but—“
“And I know you believe in giving everybody a second chance.”
You know the Rev, he just went on and on and wouldn’t shut up until I said I’d talk to Lynn about it.
She wasn’t too thrilled about it either.
But Richard was. The Rev mentioned it to him, and he came right over. He said he could start the next morning.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “You’re gonna have to do it nights and weekends. When I’m around.”
“It’d be better to do it in the daytime, Bud.”
“Not better for you. If I catch you around here when Lynn’s home by herself, I’m gonna beat the living shit outta ya.”
Richard looked confused. “Why? I thought we were friends again.”
“Uh-huh. Just don’t forget it.”
“You don’t have to worry about me. That’s all over and done with. All water under the bridge.” And he kinda grinned at me.
“You think I’m kidding?”
He stopped grinning. “No.”
And dammit, the very next day, I came home for lunch insteada sending out for a sandwich from the Dairy Dreme……and his truck was parked in my driveway.
I walked around to the back of the house, and there he was, coming down the steps from the porch. I surprised him. He got real pale and hoofed it back up on the porch.
And hid behind the Rev, who looked bewildered. I was so mad about Richard’s truck I didn’t even see the Rev’s old car.
“I have to confess, I don’t understand what the problem is between you two,” he said. “This extreme attitude of yours, Bud, is just beyond me.”
“Extreme? That what you call it? I think I’m just being careful. And it looks like I got good reason to be a little careful. I thought I told you to wait till I got off work.”
Richard didn’t say anything. The Rev looked back and forth between us. “But what difference does it make? What is it that you’re so worried about?”
Even the Rev wasn’t that naďve. Was he? Was it that hard to figure out?
I looked at Richard. He sorta half-smiled at me. Sorta funny.
OK, it takes me a minute sometimes, but I get it sooner or later.
“You didn’t tell him, did you?”
Richard looked like a rabbit backed into a corner. “Bud. Don’t.”
“I didn’t tell him, I figured he’d ask you…..but if he did, you lied to him.”
“I…..I…..couldn’t say it. How could I?”
“I think you’d better tell me now,” the Rev said. Richard shook his head.
“He made a play for Lynn,” I said. “When I was gone. Here in this house. My wife.” The Rev turned around to look at Richard. I didn’t have to see his face to know what it looked like. “You wanted me to give him another chance, and I did that, ‘cause you asked me to. But you can’t expect me to just forget about it.”
“I see.” He sounded like he did. For a change. “And that’s why Lynn called me. I thought it was strange.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe you’ve been so deceitful. It just seems…..so…….”
“You don’t know what it’s like!!” Richard was talking to me. All of a sudden he wasn’t the little boy in trouble anymore. He was mad. He stepped back on the porch away from us. “You’ve got a home to come to! You’ve got a wife! And what have I got?”
“You had those things,” I said. “And you pissed ‘em away.”
He sat down suddenly on the wood floor of the porch and put his head in his hands. “Yeah. Yeah.”
“Maybe if you can start working again, Nancy will think about taking you back,” the Rev said. “It’s possible. She still has feelings for you.”
Richard shook his head. “She’s moving to Toledo.” And he started to cry.
Dammit. I think we’d all been sorta counting on Nancy taking him back eventually; taking him off our hands.
The Reverend looked real tired. Real tired. He looked at me, and said, “I don’t know what else to do for the boy.” And then he kinda staggered a little bit.
Not a lot, just a step backward. I didn’t think too much about it. He’d been a little less sure on his feet ever since he was in the hospital with the bullet in him. He looked older all the time. I didn’t know how old he was. I guess I didn’t wanna think about it.
I shoulda worried more then. Maybe I shouldn’ta kept on treating him like I always did. I coulda been more careful of him……kept him outta my troubles. I don’t know. Maybe I shoulda said something to the Doc then.
All I did was put my hand on his arm to steady him, and I said, “He ain’t a boy. He’s a grown man, or he’s supposed to be. He oughta be able to take care of his own problems.”
He sighed and shook his head. He reached behind him for a chair that wasn’t there. I pulled one over quick before he landed on his butt on the porch; and he sat down hard.
“Where’s Lynn?” I asked.
“She left,” the Rev said. “Said hello when I got here, and then picked up little Rebecca and said they had to go. It seemed strange, since she called me and asked me to come.”
Richard was wiping his nose on his arm. Both arms. “I wasn’t gonna do anything. I just……I like Lynn, and I haven’t seen her since you got back, not to talk to…..I like Lynn, that’s all—“
“Yeah, I know how much you like Lynn. It might be a good idea to stop telling me that.”
“I’m not sure I understand yet,” the Rev said. I don’t know who he was talking to; maybe to himself. “She certainly couldn’t have been frightened. She’s a strong woman; I should think Richard would be easily rebuffed. Why call me?” He looked at me. “If he made advances another time, and she refused him, she certainly could do it again, couldn’t she?”
“You’re asking the wrong person about that, Rev. I wasn’t here. I was in the mountains, trying to stay alive. Richard was here. Ask him.”
The Rev was thinking, you could always see when he was thinking hard, trying to get something new worked out in his mind.
Richard said, “What are you talking about? Ask me what?”
I could see the Rev had had another new thought. “Bud……surely you don’t think…….” He stopped a moment. He looked thunderstruck. “What did Lynn tell you?”
“Nothing.” He’s a better man than me. He didn’t think of all the possibilities till right then. “I don’t wanna know.”
Richard scooted away from me when I approached him. I know he probably thought I was gonna hit him, but I grabbed his arm instead, and pulled him to his feet. “Take the Rev home, and make him some lunch.”
He helped the Rev down the steps, and when they got to the bottom, I said, “Don’t do this again, Richard. The Rev can’t be here everyday.”
“Bud,” the Rev said, “I did it again, didn’t I?”
I had to smile. “Don’t worry about it. I’m getting used to it. I’ll see you later in the week.”
“No, son, I need to—“
“I have to get back to work, Rev. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Do you still want me to work on your patio?” Fucking Richard.
I had to think about it a minute. The answer mighta been different if the Rev hadn’t been there waiting to hear what I said.
I stopped in Lynn’s dress shop; I thought maybe that’s where she woulda gone when she left the house, but she wasn’t there.
I stopped at Roberta’s and had her make me a roast beef sandwich with some potato salad on the side. Betty told me she saw Roberta making fresh potato salad on Tuesday, so I figured it’d be safe.
If I’d known Lynn was waiting for me, I woulda had Roberta put it in a sack to go.
She stood up when I came in the station. “I came to see if you wanted to eat lunch with me,” she said. “But I guess you’ve already eaten.”
“I went home for lunch.”
“Oh.” She looked in my face like she does when she wants to know what I’m thinking. I can’t ever see what she’s thinking by how she looks, but I knew just what she was wondering, anyway.
“Nothing to worry about,” I said. “All taken care of.” I kissed her on the cheek.
“Bud—“ she said. Then she didn’t seem to know what else she wanted to say.
So I said it again. “Nothing to worry about.”
Becky leaned way over and grabbed my tie, gave it a yank.
“Hi,” she said. “Dada. Hi. Hi. Hi.”
“Hi, baby doll. Did you come to see Daddy at work?” I took her out of Lynn’s arms.
Lynn just stood, like she didn’t know what to do. Becky blew bubbles and smacked me on the cheek a coupla times.
“You’ve been waiting here for me all this time?” I asked her.
She nodded. “I wanted to make sure you knew where I was and what I was doing.”
“You don’t have to do that. I’m not worried.” I leaned close and kissed her, so she’d know I wasn’t just saying that. “I figure if you were gonna cheat on me, you’d pick somebody better than Richard.”
I guess that wasn’t a very good joke. She didn’t even chuckle.
She took Becky out of my arms and put her down on the floor. Becky complained a little---just because it wasn’t her idea, probably---but then realized she was free. She stuck her ruffly little panties up in the air, got on her feet and headed for the door. In the doorway, she stopped and said, “Bye,” and flapped her hand up and down, before going on out into the other room.
“Hey,” I said. “Becky’s leaving.” And I made a move to go get her, but Lynn stopped me. She went to the door herself, poked her head out, and said, “Betty, would you mind watching Becky for a minute?”
“There.” She shut the door. “I need your undivided attention.”
“Right now.” She put her arms around my neck, and then she kissed me. Man, did she kiss me.
We did remember to lock the door first this time.
I knew what she was doing.
She didn’t have to; I meant it when I said I wasn’t worried about her wanting to hook up with Richard. But she had to make sure. And sometimes it seemed to me like Lynn thought sex was the answer to most everything.
Hey, I ain’t complaining.