Chapter Nineteen continued
Cindy was as polite to Laurie as possible, which is to say she made everybody in the room wince. When she thought she could stand no more, she ran off to the bathroom and searched for some fuck everybody pills, a parfait of amphetamines and sedatives that would make the screaming inside her head go away. Tone down some. Stop making her want to pull out her gun and shoot them all.
She’d noticed Bill’s reaction to Laurie, as well. He flushed and then got pale. This didn’t do anything for Cindy’s mood. Philandering fucking fuckface fuckwad. She’d stared at Laurie. That whore was where all of the money was going. And the expensive purchases.
Cindy darted out of the bathroom and down to the hall closet, looking for the fur coat he must have bought that trailer trash tart, and that Cunthead must have worn to impress fucking Mom. And there it was. She quickly ran it out to her car and threw it on the back seat. Then she swept around to the glove compartment and found her emergency stash of Valium. She popped three and felt better in advance. Swaggering past the guys in the car, she muttered, “Get a room,” and then decided to take the back way after all. She lost a shoe in the bushes behind Mom’s house, but didn’t think anyone would notice.
Cindy brought flowers back from the car. She’d swapped out the half decent vase from the florist’s with a cheap one from her kitchen, and added a few personal touches to show her feelings for her dear mother. She chose a nice modern display, with a few flowers and a whole mess of filling – ferns, lacy little sprays of dried flowers, twining twigs and sticks. The central bunch was yellow carnations and black roses, symbols of rejection and death, the twigs and sticks were poison ivy, the dried flowers were hemlock, and the ferns were sprayed white with pesticide.
Mom made a fuss, and stuck her head all in there to sniff at the roses. Cindy had a big smile on her face for Allen as he took them away, because the branches rubbed up against his arm and neck and one nearly poked him in the eye.
Bill went into a sulk and stayed that way most of the evening. Roxy wasn’t going to go away with him after all. She was going to marry his brother in law. His life was over. And so was hers. He knew she wouldn’t be happy with Gordon. Gordon didn’t understand her. And he couldn’t give her the security she needed or the things she loved, like Bill could. It was a no-brainer. Why couldn’t she see that?
Actually, it was Bill’s heart that thought all these pitiful things. His heart and his dick. His dick whined and moped all night, and this translated into his head as an irritating buzz, a pre-headache. He thought about going to his loving wife for sympathy, but she’d just tell him to put it back in his pants and go away – I’ll deal with you later – she liked saying that.
Cindy found herself next to her little brother. “Nice one, Gordon,” she said, moving her eyebrows in Laurie’s direction. “Something was bound to stick eventually.”
“Wish me happiness, Cindy,” he pleaded.
“I certainly wish you more happiness than I’ve had,” she said.
“I wish you could find happiness,” he said softly. She looked over at poor Alice and tears came to her eyes.
“I deserve it,” she agreed, sniffling.
Cindy noticed Rick trying to take over the room, posturing like a bull in a ring. She felt the challenge, and jumped up to copy his posture. They pawed and pranced in a circle.
They sidled up to each other. It was symbolic. Two heads of state meeting in the center of the room while the minions cowered at the edges. Two gladiators. Two rival claims to everything in the house. If either Rick or Cindy were told they had to share Mom’s stuff four ways, they’d have beaten the other three to death before giving an answer. Their stares and poses contained every beam and window in the house, every stick of furniture, every plate, every painting.
They took turns praising Mom’s taste and style. Like a silent auction, Rick would admire the expensive drapes, and Cindy would go on about the rug, and Rick would say how much he’d always liked the breakfront, and Cindy would mention the antique roll-top desk. Mom listened.
Judy imagined them comparing penises, and the thought of Cindy wagging hers at Rick gave her a fit of giggles. Rick and Cindy looked at her with disgust. Alcoholic. Sot.
Cindy sat down next to Alice, who had never moved from her corner. Rick was guarding her, standing right in front of her talking to Gordon. He was moving back and forth in front of Alice like a snake, showing his ass, preventing her from establishing eye contact with anyone. So Cindy sat there and jumped into the boys’ conversation with zingers, stretching out her bare foot and gently rubbing the back of Alice’s ankle.
Bill and Allen sat at the other end of the room. “Say,” Bill muttered, trying not to move his lips. “What’s going on at the club?”
“Huh?” Allen didn’t have to do anything to cover his mouth. His big walrus mustache gave him all the room he needed to hide in.
“I mean, Gordon says he’s into some shit that’s going on I don’t even know anything about.”
“Yeah, well, the owner, and these Russian mob guys.”
“Oh. Those guys.”
“Yeah, you know them. I seen you talking to them.”
Bill shook his head sadly. “I thought I could trust them to do a little job for me, and all I’ve gotten so far is a handful of excuses and no action.”
“Man, I wouldn’t trust those fuckers as far as I could throw them.”
“You’re right. I guess they wouldn’t want to give me my money back.”
“Ah, a non-refundable deposit. Maybe not.”
As Allen got up to go on another errand, Bill asked him to put in a good word with Mom. “She hates me,” he said.
Gordon sat down next to Bill. The seat was warm.
“Hey, I didn’t know you went to the club,” Bill whispered.
“Yeah, I hang around to make sure my girl’s doing alright. It can be a rough place, you know.”
“I guess. Listen, I spend a fair amount of time there, and I never see you.”
“Oh, I’m around the back, usually. You know. Behind the scenes.” Gordon the mysterious.
“I guess I don’t know much about what goes on there.” I guess I only have eyes for Roxy.
“There’s plenty going on, trust me. Why I could tell you stories that would grow hair on your head. Sorry.”
Laurie sat down next to Cindy. She smelled of cheap perfume and liquor. It was very expensive perfume, but when you drink that much you shouldn’t wear it. It competes with eau de lush. Like when Cindy was little and stole Mom’s Joy, and stuck mint leaves from the plant on back porch into the bottle. Mom had cried. Cindy had thought it smelled great and didn’t know why everybody had to pay attention to crybaby Mom and make her go to bed without dinner. It had been a nice night. The other kids had played out until after dark, and caught lightning bugs. And she cried herself asleep, vowing revenge like repeating a mantra.
Cindy brought her thoughts back to the moment and reflected on the skunky smell. “So where do you work?” she stammered at Laurie, who was startled out of her own thoughts.
“Oh, a bar.”
“How interesting,” Cindy said without conviction. “A waitress. I’ve never done that.”
“I’ve done a lot more than just waitress.”
“I got married right out of college, and never worked a day in my life. For pay, I mean. I volunteer.”
“Yeah, I did community service once.”
“It’s not the same.”
“You have it easy. No obligations, no burdens.” Cindy sighed.
Laurie sighed. “I work very hard for my money.”
“So do I, running my house and controlling my husband is a full time job.”
“Yes. I’ll bet it is.”
Cindy and Laurie lapsed into a companionable silence, even tho they detested each other, and in different circumstances would have joyfully fought like cats. They sat there like old friends because they were both drugged right the fuck out. Laurie was mixing alcohol with whatever other substances she could find; Cindy was mixing pharmaceuticals with whatever other substances she could find, and they were zoning out at odd moments. Both of them were consuming more at the moment because of the family stress they were under. If someone sat Judy down among them, you could photograph them as the three catatonics.
After awhile they both roused themselves and went off to powder their noses. Separately.
Bill and Rick avoided each other for a long time, but finally crossed paths out of Mom’s hearing. Rick had always held Bill’s blue-collarness against him, siding with Mom against Cindy (in the larger scheme of things, the constantly shifting cold-war battle lines). But Bill had heard for years how shady Rick’s business really was, from pirated software to broken contracts and unpaid bills.
Rick would go far to spite Bill. He’d sleep with Bill’s wife it she wasn’t his sister.
Bill had always desired Alice, thought she deserved better, and would almost be willing to marry her himself. But Rick wouldn’t let him near her.
They were used to not liking each other, and neither saw any real reason to change. They stood together in the corner, sniffing each other’s butts and licking each other’s noses. While they’d never seen each other at the club, they were each aware that the other was involved with Laurie, and that Gordon held the cards.
“Listen,” Bill started.
Rick glared. “I don’t have anything to say to you.”
Bill smiled, “I think we need to talk. We’re more like brothers now than ever.”
Rick gave a you’re beneath me sniff.
Bill tried again. “Now that we’re both, um, exposed,” he said, his eyes shifting around the room. “We’re both, ah, vulnerable.”
Rick was impatient. “Yeah, yeah, she’s bleeding me dry. I get you.”
He didn’t get it. “We should watch out for further attempts, is all. I guess we should work together is what I’m saying. If you get leaned on, you come to me, and vice versa.”
Rick acted haughty to cover his sudden worry. “Leaned on, by this you mean?”
“Hmmm. She hasn’t.” Yet.
“But he might.”
“I get what you mean. Give me your phone number.”
Cindy caught Allen coming in from the kitchen. “I gave you money to kill that bitch,” she hissed.
Allen tried to escape her grasp. “You only put down a deposit.”
“Well, where is it? You fucked up killing her.”
“I didn’t know it was supposed to be her. Anyway, it was non-refundable.”
Cindy turned white and her nails left marks in his wrist. “I want my money back now or I’ll go to the police.”
“Right.” Allen gently removed her hand. “Well, there were expenses. There was severe damage to my truck.”
“You never even sat in wait for her.”
“I sat there for fucking hours, I followed her like a dog, I put my life at risk.”
“And accomplished nothing.”
“Go look at the side of her car if you don’t believe me. Look at the side of my truck.” He tore himself away and went to Mom’s side.
Cindy boiled. “I will, and you’d better be right.”
At some point, Judy walked thru the hall and went upstairs. She stopped to smell Cindy’s flowers and look at Rick’s picture. Wasn’t that nice of Rick and Cindy? She opened the little hatch in the front bedroom and crawled into the attic, flicking on the light and leaving the door open. She was looking for family photos. She had a banishing spell in mind, and needed good images.
A few minutes later, Alice walked thru the hall to go to the bathroom. She stopped to adjust Cindy’s flowers and look at Rick’s picture. She remembered sitting for that photo. He’d had the kids in tears the whole time.
Rick walked thru the hall holding the photograph’s gaze, and went into the dining room. There he silently turned the locks on all the chests and cabinets, and put the keys in his pocket.
After Alice returned to the living room, Laurie walked thru the hall to find somewhere to smoke. She stopped to spit on Cindy’s flowers and sneer at Rick’s picture. What a sorry looking family. She wandered thru Mom’s kitchen, looking at the nicknacks for something to steal.
Gordon walked thru the hall to have a look inside the coat closet. He stopped at Cindy’s flowers and picked one for Laurie. He looked at Rick’s proud, unhappy face and smiled. Then he went thru everyone’s coats and purses and got a nice fistful of cash.
Cindy went thru the hall, ignoring the gifts, and went up to Mom’s bathroom to raid the medicine cabinet. Then she went into the kitchen and looked thru it for Mom’s medicine tacklebox. Old fashioned drugs. Years out of date but so what? Morphine is morphine. Phenobarbitol, peragoric, good, solid drugs. Not like these designer drugs that only worked a few times. She set the locked box on the back porch.
Allen made the rounds while they were bickering in the living room. He lifted a ziplock full of ziplocks of coke from Gordon’s car, a thousand dollars from Rick’s jacket, a prescription bottle of Halcion from Cindy’s purse, rolled a joint from Judy’s stash and had a few mouthfuls of whisky. He gave a cut to Sam and Dave, and brought them two plates of food from the kitchen, and a double helping of dessert.
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