Judy noticed a bump on Frank’s head during breakfast. He looked a little sheepish answering. “Oh, I ran my head into one of your mother’s cabinets.”
She fussed at him. “You shouldn’t be over there fixing everything.” She poked it and watched it change color from angry red to dead white. “You should let one of the other boys take care of it” She stroked his bald head affectionately, running her hand right over the bump. “Gordon, for example. He never does anything. It’s his turn.” She felt warm inside and thought about her first drink. “It’s Rick’s turn. You’ve done enough. Let them take the burden for a change.”
She sat back down and they finished their oatmeal. He was quiet. She had the feeling he wasn’t telling her everything, and she was right. The bump wasn’t from his clumsiness in Mom’s kitchen, but because he got dizzy in the bedroom and had to sit down kind of fast. Head first into the doorjamb. Mom made sure he didn’t have a concussion, patched it up, and let him go home. It was nothing; he was fine. He just didn’t want Judy to worry about him. She would insist on making a fuss, and he hated fusses.
“You need to stop going over there,” Judy decided. “Damn her, always getting other people to do things for her.”
“She’s too old to fix things. Come on.”
Judy looked ugly the way she frowned when she talked about her mother. “She never says thanks, she’s never happy with the work, she never offers to pay for anything.” She poked at a blueberry and slowly mashed it against the bowl. “Like we owe her.”
“Some cultures are honored to take care of their parents,” observed Frank.
“I’m not buying that. God, if she moved in here?” She wrung her hands. “We’d go bankrupt supporting her. All the things she’d want us to run down to the store and pick up for her. All the damn time. And she’s not too old – she eats like a teenager. And she’d drink up all my wine and bitch about the quality. I’d kill myself before I’d let my mother live in my house.”
“Well, she’s not going to move in with you, so stop worrying. You can drink up all your wine yourself.” Frank got up to start the dishes.
“The next time you go over there,” Judy suddenly said, thinking of something, “See if you can’t look thru her photograph drawer, you know, in the front room. I want you to bring me some old pictures from when we were kids.” Frank muttered yes dear, briefly wondering why, then forgot her request as he went down the stairs into the basement.
* * *
Allen pulled up in front of Mom’s house ready for mayhem. But he lost heart as soon as she opened the door.
His cover was that he was there to check the sewage connection – there’d been a bunch of pipes going bad lately and this address was on the list for preventative maintenance.
So Mom brought him in and followed him around, asking could he make the toilet stop running, and could he fix the drip in the kitchen faucet. She was pitiful. Allen didn’t see an old fart anywhere, and soon found out that Mom was a widow. For years and years, poor woman. The house was a wreck and she was all alone, and none of her ungrateful kids ever helped repair the damage they’d so gleefully wrought when they were teenagers. Allen felt sorry for the old lady. That insane landlord of his must have gave him the wrong address.
Mom fed him well. He’d gone around the house with his tools rehanging this and reinforcing that and noticing lots of things that could use a man’s touch. And they talked. He told her his sorry tale and she shared her pain. They were both of them pretty religious, and sat together on the couch and prayed with Creflo Dollar for all the poor sinners in the world.
Allen left Mom’s house feeling like a different man. He ran a few errands (dropped off ounces of pot to regular buyers), and headed to the club for a few laughs.
He’d done some real favors for the old lady. She was such a nice person. He felt really good about being able to help her even a little. Maybe he might stop in again real soon and spend some time doing things around the house. Maybe she’d feed him again. He liked her. She made him feel grownup. She was so helpless, like a little kitten.
* * *
Gordon watched Allen duck as he came thru the door, squinting to see into the room. Allen was a changed man. Bought his own damn beer and even paid for Gordon’s drink. He sat taller and had more confidence. “Hey is this what killing a dude does for you? I like it,” Gordon winked.
“Nah, man, it wasn’t no dude. It was a lady.”
“Yeah.” Allen looked serious. “An old lady. A nice old bird. Fed me dinner. Good dinner.”
Gordon said, “I’m astounded. I didn’t know you were going to knock off an old lady.”
“Oh I would never do that. I figure the guy just got his address messed up, is all.” Allen tugged at his beer and half of it went down his throat. He wiped his mustache. “I didn’t kill nobody today.” He looked Gordon in the eye over his bottle. “Just so you know.”
Gordon nodded. “It’s good to be cautious.”
“Yeah. I figure I’ll catch up with the asshole that hired me and tell him he set up the wrong house. But later,” he decided, drinking the rest and looking around for the waitress. “Let him sweat for awhile wondering if his terrorist is dead yet.”
“You know, I never thought of you as a killer.” Gordon took a drink. A loser, maybe.
“Well,” Allen grew philosophical. “I guess you just never seen me mad enough. There was this one guy when I was inside last time, they had to pull me off him a bunch of times, just for looking at me cross-eyed. He had his own bed in the infirmary ‘cause of me.”
Gordon gave him a thumbs up and lit another cigarette. It looked like he was going to have to drag Allen back to the bathroom just to be sociable. It wasn’t likely Allen’s new generous streak went as far as footing the fairy dust.
An hour later Allen was back at Gordon’s table. He was animated. “You’ll never guess what happened to me just now. This dude in the parking lot…”
Gordon covered his eyes. “Oh, man, don’t tell me you were out there trying to get your thing wet again.” He nodded over at Jake and Ron the doorman, standing at the entrance. “The boys here won’t stand for it. You want to get laid, you go off with the dude in his car, or you come in here and give the girls your money back in the VIP room. You don’t just go behind the dumpster.”
Allen scowled. “No, man, that’s not what I’m talking about.” He put his hand on his heart like a boyscout. “I give you my solemn word as a White, God fearing Christian full blooded American male.”
“No. Listen. I was walking out to the truck to get a pack of smokes I had in the glove compartment, and this dude comes up to me with a proposition.”
Gordon sat back. “Okay, I’m not going to fall for this. Go on.”
“He said he heard I was the guy to go to if a guy wanted certain people taken care of. And I said yeah, what do you want.”
“Yeah. And he said he was representing this person who wanted this other person run off the road and made to look like an accident, and could I do it with my truck.”
Gordon considered it. “You could do that. Especially after a couple of six packs.”
“Yeah. I figure it’s a no brainer. So here’s the gig: I get $25 big ones for it. And all I got to do is make them crash their car. Easy.”
“When’s the job? When do you get paid?”
“When I do the job. It’ll take a few days to iron out the details. Like where they’re going so I can ambush them, like.”
“Wait a minute.” Gordon thought. “No, man, this is really important. You got to get a deposit. What if they back out? What if it’s a trick?”
“Well, I’m supposed to meet the dude tomorrow night to find out the details.”
“You demand half. Tell him you can’t do it without them showing they’re serious.”
“Yeah. You’re right. I’ll do that.”
“This is a lot of money. And a big risk you’re taking. I mean, what if you lose control of the truck on a curve and wreck right up the road from them?”
“I’m not going to wreck. I know these roads better – drunk – than anybody.”
* * *