I don't know what's gotten into Patty. All of a sudden she's asking all kindsa questions, real chatty, you know?
We're staying here another night, 'cause Lynn isn't feeling good. She didn't say a word about the house, or the chair, or the scissors. Or the woman. Can't tell what's going on in her head. She told me and Patty to go out and have supper, said she wanted to lay down.
So we went. Now Patty won't shut up and eat. And I don't wanna stop eating to answer all her fucking questions. She's starting to steam.
Push my plate away. The waitress comes by with the coffeepot and fills up my cup. "What's all this about?" The coffee's been in the pot a while. I put in some cream and stir it up. "What's the real reason you're asking me all these questions?"
"Why the hell won't you answer any of 'em?" She calls me something under her breath. Aha, there's the snarling and snapping I'm used to.
"Gimme a break. Maybe a good dinner's no big deal to you, but I've been living on canned peaches and corned beef for months."
"So are you going to tell me what's going on, now that your belly's full?"
I wanna say, "None a' your fucking business," but I don't. She's been trying to get along with me. In her own way. I have a hard time believing she's suddenly a member of my fan club, but I guess stranger things have happened. So I oughta make an effort.
"I haven't talked to Lynn about most of it yet. I think I oughta do that first."
"If I was Lynn, I would have wanted to know all about it, first thing."
"Yeah? That the first thing you'd wanna do? Talk?"
It takes her a second or two. I thought maybe she'd turn red like she did this morning, but she doesn't. She gets a red spot on each cheek, though, and looks at me a little different.
"Maybe not," she says. She looks down at her sandwich and picks at the bread. "Who was that woman in the drugstore?"
I guess she decides she's not gonna get any answers to any of those kinda questions.
"So," she says, "I took your advice and got rid of Lloyd."
"Yeah, that's what you said. Good decision."
"I was thinking about it, and I realized I always get involved with the same kind of guys. They're all just about like Lloyd. So I was thinking I should try to find somebody totally different. Maybe somebody more like you. And see how it goes."
"Don't get hooked up with somebody like me."
I push the coffee away. The waitress brings over the tab. I pick it up and get my wallet out so I can leave a tip.
"'Cause I'm a screw-up. If I wasn't so damn lucky, I'd be dead a bunch a' times by now. And you said it yourself. It's always just one thing after another with me. You might get tired of that."
I slide outta the booth and go up to the cash register to pay the bill. We don't talk much on the way back to the motel.
Sitting in the car after we get there, lights off, engine off. Neither one of us gets out.
"You and Lynn never tell me anything, do you? When you're gone somewhere, even after you get back, I don't know where you're been or what happened to you. It's always a big secret."
"Yeah, I guess we gotta lot of secrets. From everybody, not just you."
"Yeah, but I'm Lynn's sister. How come you can't tell me?"
"I got no reason to tell anything to somebody that hates me."
The light's on in our room. Hope Lynn got some rest.
"I'm sorry about that," Patty says.
This feels really weird. "How come all of a sudden you think I'm OK? You hated my guts before I left. Now you wanna marry somebody just like me. Doesn't add up."
"Lynn really loves you."
I wait. Nothing else. "That doesn't answer my question."
"It's not really sudden. I was glad you were gone at first. But then Lynn was so unhappy. She said if you could have come back to her, you would have, and so she decided you were dead. And I was afraid she might die too." She turns to me, and the fierce Patty I'm used to peeks out again. "You better not ever really die. You better not ever do that to Lynn again."
I'm tempted to say, "Or what?" but instead I say, "I'll do my best."
"Anyway, I guess after I told Lloyd to get lost, I started to think different about stuff."
"How come you dumped him? I thought you were in love."
She hesitates. "When you'd been missing quite a while, and we thought you might be dead…….he said, 'Good riddance.' No matter how much I didn't like you, I didn't wish you were dead. And he didn't even have a reason. You know? It wasn't just mean, it was……small. I hit him with his stupid briefcase. And when he called me and said he'd forgive me, I told him---" She stops and snickers. "I can't tell you what I told him."
"Good for you."
"I think part of the reason I hated you was because Lloyd hated you. And I wanted Lloyd to love me. So I hated you, too.
"Don't get me wrong. There's still some things you do that make me mad. When I said I wanted to find somebody more like you, I didn't mean exactly like you. But maybe you're not a complete asshole."
She looks down at her purse in her lap, and then up through her lashes, and snickers again. "I slapped Uncle Fred last month. I wish you'd been there to see his face." The kiss on the cheek she gave me was a surprise. "See you in the morning." And then she was outta the car and running to the door of her room. I watch to make sure she gets inside OK before I get out and go to my own room..
Lynn's sitting on the edge of the bed when I unlock the door to our room and walk in. She shoves something inside her purse, and then her purse inside her suitcase, closes it and sets it down on the floor before she turns around.
She's been crying. It looks like she's been crying a lot. Her face is all blotchy and her eyes are red and swollen, and there's a little pile of tissues on the bed.
"Hey, baby, what's the matter? You OK? Something happen while we were eating?"
She shakes her head and holds out her arms. I'm not sure whether the head shake means no, she's not OK, or no, nothing happened, but when I sit down next to her, she hugs me so hard, I'm waiting for my ribs to crack.
After a few minutes, she sniffles, and says, "I'm never letting you out of my sight again. Ever. Don't even try it."
"It's gonna be pretty hard to go back to work if I can't-"
"Don't be a smartass. You know what I mean."
That's all she'll say about it. She's in her nightgown, and she pulls back the blankets on the bed, and tells me to hurry up and get in. I figure the mood she's in, I better not take time for a shower, although I'd really like one. After I get in, she wraps her arms around me and says, "Go to sleep."
I don't know. This whole night, her and Patty both, it beats the hell outta me..
A dream wakes me up again that night. Not the same kinda dream, not one that makes me yell, or sit up, or shake. Lynn doesn't wake up. I open my eyes, and the dream starts to disappear. And in a second or so, I can't remember much.
In the dream, Arliss is walking away from me. She turns around and blows me a kiss. It feels like there was a lot more, but that's all I can remember.
I lay awake and think about that a long time..
"They went to Montana."
We're having breakfast. Lynn looks a lot better this morning. Not so emotional.
Patty says, "Who?"
"The people in the house."Lynn stops eating, and lays her fork down on her plate. She doesn't say anything.
"I was thinking I should let you two take the car home, and I'll take the train. Or maybe a bus."
"I'm just gonna see if they're still there. Just scout it out."
"I told you last night I didn't intend to let you out of my sight again. And I meant it."
"I know you're not feeling too good. Probably you oughta go on home, and I'll be there in a coupla days. A week, at the most."
She stands up, reaches for her purse. "If you go to Montana instead of coming home with me…..then don't bother coming back. I mean it." And she walks out.
Patty eats what's left of her breakfast as fast as she can while I'm at the counter waiting for the waitress to figure up the check.
Lynn's leaning on the front fender of the car when I get outside. She's got that stubborn look in her eyes. She's pissed.
So am I. "So I'm supposed to go back to Bisbee and forget about this? That what you want me to do?"
"Do you have any idea what it's like for me to sit at home, not knowing where you are or what's happened to you? Everytime you go anywhere, I never know if you're going to come back or not. I hate for the phone to ring, because I'm afraid it'll be someone telling me you're dead. And if you don't die, I never know what kind of shape you'll be in. Maybe next time, you'll be blind. Or paralyzed. Or something worse."
"So they get away with it? They get to do this to me, and nothing happens to them?"
"Killing them isn't going to fix your leg. And if you kill them, you'll go to jail. And what if you don't kill them? They almost took care of you the first time. Maybe this time they'll get it done. Either way I lose you. If you go, don't come back. That way I won't have to wonder, I'll know for sure, and I can do my grieving right away." She turns away to get in the car.
I grab her arm. "Look at me---you're telling me what they did to me doesn't matter."
"I guess I want you to decide who's more important to you---me and the baby, or them. It's your decision."
"No decision to make. You come first. You already know that." I let her go and put my hands in my pockets. Watch the clouds moving in from the east, dark and wet-looking. Poor Patty's looking scared, standing back outta the way, always the bystander. "Maybe I can't expect you to understand what this means to me. And I know I've asked you to put up with a lot---"
"You don't know!! I sat with you for weeks in the hospital after you got shot, praying you wouldn't die. I took care of you afterwards. I followed you to LA when your father was there, and you weren't taking care of yourself. I got Ed to let you out of jail. When you went to LA after your aunt's funeral, if I hadn't gotten Ed to look for you, your cousin probably would have killed you. And what about that fight you got into with Donny? He could have killed you. Just because I wasn't there to keep you out of trouble. Don't you get it? I'm tired of all of this."
"OK. I get it."
She put a lot of effort into keeping me around, huh? Now she's telling me not to come back. Waits until after she gets me to say I'll stay with her no matter what, and then hits me with conditions. So now I only get to stay as long as I'm flying straight, behaving myself. Maybe I don't have to worry too much about what'll happen when I tell her what I did. Maybe she'll throw my sorry butt out on the street.
I throw the car keys to Patty. "You wanna drive?" She nods. "You might wanna do some more thinking about what kinda guy you're looking for," I say as I climb into the back seat. "Guys like me are a pain in the ass."
Patty gets in the driver's seat. Lynn stands outside for a minute. We just wait for her. Nobody says anything much on the way back to the motel..
Most of our stuff is already packed. We just have to get the last few things in the suitcases again, make sure we didn't forget anything. Lynn puts her hand on my arm as I go past, and says, "Bud…..I probably shouldn't have said it quite that way……I didn't mean to make it sound like----"
"It sounded like what it was. Telling me what you want and what you don't want. If I go to Montana, you don't want me anymore. I understand." From where I'm standing, I can see my reflection in the mirror above the dresser. I look pretty much the way I used to. A little thinner. I feel like I oughta look more different. I feel more different. Maybe I shoulda kept the beard. Maybe that's what it was for.
I pick up one of the suitcases. I can't carry more than one at a time. "I never thought you'd want me to stop being a man."
She follows me outside with the other one. "Bud…….you're still a man." I set the suitcase down and open the trunk. Patty's bringing her suitcase from her room.
"You think you know what happened to me. But you don't."
"So tell me. I'll listen."
"A man defends himself. A man fights back. If they get to do this to me, and I don't do anything, I just take it, then what does that make me?"
Patty, wide-eyed, says, "I think you're a man."
"I got a dick anyway, don't I, Patty?" She turns red again. "Still good for something, then, huh? We got all the suitcases?" I close the trunk. "Who wants to drive first?"
"Bud……it's just that it kills me to worry about you when you're gone."
"I got it. I'm doing what you want. Get in the fucking car.".
I thought the three days waiting in the jail for Lynn to come for me went by slow. Christ. I don't think we're ever gonna get to Bisbee. It's taking forever.
We drove through the first night taking turns. The rain followed us and we got wet just after dark. Drove out of it a couple hours later. Patty just missed hitting a deer. The sun's up again and I haven't slept at all. Lynn's trying to make conversation.
"Reverend Skinner wants us to call as soon as we get back. And Richard. They want to see you right away."
Yeah, I'll bet they do. Wonder what Lynn told them. I think she called Nancy once from Arrowhead.
"And Ed's going to try to come down this next week."
Great. Let's let everybody get a good look right away.
We stop in a little town for dinner. I'm so stiff, I can hardly get out of the car. "Dammit, did we remember to bring my stick?"
The women look uneasy. "No, I thought if you needed something, we'd get you a cane, " Lynn said.
"A cane." Great, a fucking cane. "OK." I guess she wants a cripple, too. "Did you get one?"
"Great. Be sure to stay outta the way, so I don't take you with me when I fall down."
Patty grabs the keys, and runs around to the back of the car. "I stuck it in the trunk." She looks a little shame-faced at Lynn. "I know you said to leave it, but I thought he might need it……."
I drive after dinner, before my leg stiffens up again. Lynn's given up on conversation. Patty's snoring in the back seat.
"So, did you have a funeral?"
"For me. Did you have a funeral for me? Patty said you decided I was dead."
Lynn's looking straight ahead. "No," she says. I can hardly hear her. "You weren't gone long enough for that. And there was no body. You were still a missing person."
"It seems like I was gone longer." I think about it for a while. "I guess I can kinda imagine what it was like. I'm sorry. I woulda called you to let you know I was OK if I coulda."
"I know you would have." She's holding onto her purse in her lap like she's got gold in it. Like she's afraid somebody's gonna steal it. She takes a deep breath. "I didn't mean to make you feel like…….." She doesn't finish the sentence, but I know what she means.
"It hurts me to think about it, about having to go through that again."
"Yeah. It's OK."
"Are you sure? I don't blame you for being upset with me, I could have asked you instead of telling you like that, but you scared me."
"Sure. It's OK."
"Bud? Would you pull over?"
I let off the gas and look for a good spot. "You feeling sick?"
She waits until we're stopped, then she turns my face toward her. "Now, tell me it's OK."
No point. After a minute, I put the car back in gear, and pull out onto the road again. "Look, I'm trying."
She leans her head back against the seat and closes her eyes. "I know."
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