Chapter Nineteen continued
Laurie went to the bathroom. This would be her third trip? Fourth? How many pills could she swallow, how much coke could she snort, how many pints could she guzzle? Laurie had an extra capacity self-indulgence gland, and worked daily to increase her tolerance. She could be a contestant in the celebrity death pools. Lovely Roxy, rah rah rah.
Laurie had indigestion. She was getting a little unsteady. She didn’t give a fuck what Mom thought of her, or fucking Cindy, or any of them. If they would all go away, tho, she might like to hang out in the house. If the rest of it was as cozy as the bathroom, she could stay awhile. But how to get rid of them all…
It was stifling in the living room while everyone else waited for Allen to finish putting the finishing touches on dinner. During a brief, boring round of make-nice family conversation, which Rick was winning, Allen caught Judy’s eye, winked at Bill, nudged Gordon, and walked into the hall. One by one they snuck downstairs, thru the playroom, and out the sliding glass doors Allen had left open.
Leaving Frank and Alice and Cindy with Mom and Rick.
The kids met at the corner of the house, behind the bushes at the head of the driveway. Bill and Judy whipped out bottles, Allen produced a fatty, Gordon passed around the coke. They relaxed for the first time that evening.
Judy had to ask. “So you’re living here?” Allen nodded. “You’re living with Mom?” She pawed at the ground, embarrassed. He nodded. “Are you sleeping with Mom?” Allen looked shocked. Judy plowed ahead. “What I mean is, are you having sex with Mom?” She stopped.
Allen looked like he was going to cry. “I never even thought about her naked.”
Judy got flustered. “I wanted to tell you…warn you.” She didn’t want to say too much. “Mom’s a strange old lady, don’t let her um…do anything.” She didn’t want to mention what happened to Frank. It was too horrible.
Bill nudged Allen. “Hey, I figured you were getting yours. What’s she like? I just can’t imagine.”
“No, man, she wouldn’t let me near her – Sex without marriage is a sin,” he said in falsetto.
“Yeah, but most of us make exceptions.”
“Not her. She’s real straight. She won’t let me cuss, or smoke indoors. I can’t even fart without asking forgiveness.”
“Welcome to the family,” Gordon said.
Cindy and Laurie joined them. They’d noticed the absence of life in the living room, and went on a hunt of the most likely places, leaving Frank and Alice at Rick’s mercy.
Allen saw Cindy limping thru the sliding door and figured she’d thrown a shoe running around the house.
Judy noticed Cindy’s one bare foot and approved. It was just the kind of statement she might have made as a kid, like when she appeared at breakfast, ready for school in just her underwear because she couldn’t see the point. She’d been grounded for a week and all the kids had teased her.
Laurie noticed the Cinderella reference immediately: Cindy’s subtle way of saying she knew damn well who Bill was spending all his money on.
Bill and Gordon never saw Cindy’s feet, shoes or no.
Cindy stood opposite Judy, who made her skin crawl. Husband fucker. Her eyes met Gordon’s and drifted away. Reprobate. She glanced at Allen to see if he was worth manipulating, and never looked at Bill.
Laurie checked to see that Bill’s heart was bleeding, wondered for the tenth time if Allen was gay, estimated how much more sex she got than Cindy, and stuck her little hand in Gordon’s. Everybody watched as he lifted it for a kiss.
Rick showed up in the side yard. Judy was just taking the joint from Allen. Gordon was passing the coke to Laurie. Cindy was shaking pills out of a bottle. Bill was taking a snort of his flask. They all looked incredibly guilty and put the drugs away. More evidence that he was the only fit candidate for guardian of the family’s fortunes.
Laurie went and squirmed between Bill and Rick. Bill melted. Rick puffed himself up. They were both still thinking nobody knew, still thinking that the vibes were private, special. Theirs alone, to treasure and jerk off to. Judy found the pheromone stink nauseating.
Back in the house, poor Alice and poor Frank were in the kitchen helping Mom. She’d left the living room wondering what was keeping dinner, and found a disorganized mess with nobody getting anything done. She wished she’d insisted on cooking the dinner herself. But no, that impetuous Allen just had to help.
Mom put her guests to work, Alice scrubbing pots and pans. Who knew Allen could go thru so many pots before serving a meal? She saved a special task for Frank. The walk-in pantry, where there was a light that needed changing. She brought the footstool and closed the door behind her. “Climb up here,” she ordered, her hand on his crotch. He tried to fend her off but she was too strong. She pushed him up the steps and handed him an electric cord. “Plug this into the socket up there,” she insisted. “Wrap it around your neck. Again. Give me the end.” She unzipped his pants and began to stimulate him, taking up the slack on the cord. She pulled tighter.
Frank looked down at Mom rubbing his penis with her enormous breasts. It was hard to breathe, and he had to hold himself up on the door lintel. Mom was having her evil way with him and he was always horrified when his penis began to respond. Despite himself he felt his scrotum shrivel and his balls ascend. His feet began to tingle and the skin on his belly rippled. He began to strangle. He made strange faces; his color became darker. More blood filled. Tumescent.
Back outside in the cold night air, Laurie stood between Bill and Rick until they were all toasty and turned on to her energy, and then said something quiet and insulting to both of them and moved around to talk to Judy. Gordon came up and filled the gap, all smug because Laurie was his girl. He enjoyed seeing their faces. Defeat. Jealousy. Self-loathing. Chalk one up for Gordon. He swaggered a little more.
“Listen, fellas, no hard feelings, okay?” he said, putting his arms around their shoulders. “Laurie’s a very special girl, and it’s okay if she’s special to more than one guy.”
“That’s real big of you,” Bill said.
“You don’ t know how special,” Rick jeered.
“You’d be surprised,” Gordon retorted.
Gordon didn’t want them at odds. It was too easy for them to snipe at each other. He’d been thinking, and had a new plan. Why recruit the Russian mafia to rob the club, and somehow magically make it his? Why not use family? If you can’t trust them any better, at least you know them. All you have to do is ask yourself, what would I do, and you have their gameplan.
With their expertise, the three of them – and Frank – could make a great team. Rick on finance, Bill on logistics, Frank for the touch of genius, Gordon to make it all come together. They could rob the club and find a way to go on robbing it. But there was the personality thing they’d always struggled with. Gordon’s plan had Gordon on top. Rick’s version was totally incompatible, like his software.
He was looking for a way to tell them of his vision, and introduce his foolproof plan for getting them all rich tomorrow. What he said was, “I know all about your, let’s say, investment in my Roxy.” Thousands of dollars that the wives would surely miss if they knew about it. “But I won’t tell anyone, because that’s the kind of brother I am.”
“In exchange for what?” Bill was suspicious.
“Nothing. I want to be friends. I can see a wider future, with a strong dynasty lead by us: the boys of the family. Nobody the absolute ruler, nobody telling the others what to do.”
“But what if they’re right?” Rick asked nastily. I’m right, for example.
“All we have to do is work together, and our problems are solved. So there’s no catch. In the interest of the family, I am willing to let byegones be mananas.”
“Tomorrows?” Bill asked, puzzled. “You mean pasado?”
“Whatever,” Gordon said, and walked away.
Rick and Bill started whispering. Rick was sure it was a trick. “He’s going to blackmail us, he’s just trying to lull us.”
“I can’t afford any more payments to anybody,” Bill whined. “You know, I have a driver who specializes in hit and runs. Well, had a driver.”
Rick winked at Bill. “He might be right about that synergy thing, you know. Brain needs brawn.” He moved away. Bill shoved his middle finger at Rick’s back.
Rick moved next to Judy and looked down on her. “You smell,” he said.
Judy backed off a step. She lifted her collar and smelled down her front. She wiggled in her pants and sniffed deeper. Nothing. “I do not,” she stated, moving back to where she was.
“You reek. Cigarettes, pot.” He wrinkled up his nose and sniffed again. “Your hair smells. You have body odor.”
She grunted, offended. “I’ve never smoked cigarettes,” she said. Cigarettes were a waste of money.
“You’ve always smoked pot.” Like that settled it.
Always. She counted back. Junior year of high school. Rick was a freshman and embarrassed her by being so clueless. “Thirty-five years,” she said, with wonder in her voice.
“And you’ve always smelled.”
Allen left to go check on dinner.
Rick gathered them all in. “We can’t let this go on,” he said. “Allen is a dangerous criminal.”
“Oh, come on, Rick,” Gordon and Judy chorused.
“He’s harmless,” Gordon protested. “He wouldn’t pull the wings off a fly.”
“Can’t you see,” Rick insisted. “Mom is lost to reality. Harboring criminals is just one thing. Did you see the side of her car?” he pointed into the driveway’s shadows. “She can’t be allowed out without supervision anymore.” He lowered his voice. “I think it’s Alzheimer’s.”
“Right. But only around us, bet you anything. You know what she’s like,” Cindy said. “Mom would charm the judge, and suddenly we’d all be locked up for conspiracy against her.” They all practiced looking innocent.
“What if Allen conned her into signing something and took it all?” The others looked at Rick like he’d been giving some thought to this. “She’s just not competent to manage her own affairs, and Allen is just one of the symptoms. Like, she keeps losing important things.” Not just her keys but all sorts of things that shouldn’t be walking – jewelry, stamps, old coins, first editions. “There are all those accidents she’s been having lately.” The drapes went on fire. The gas was left on. “She’s a danger to herself.” Rick looked them in the eye challengingly. “Allen is a known drug pusher. What if he’s got Mom addicted to cocaine or pills?” Gordon and Cindy scoffed.
“What if he’s moving drugs thru the house?” Gordon shrugged. “What if the cops seize all her assets?” Cindy arched an eyebrow. “What if there’s a gun battle and she gets killed? Or gets hit by a random bullet from a rival dealer?” They all muttered and shook their heads. It could happen.
“And the thing is, she’s completely innocent. We can’t let this go on, she’s in the mouth of danger and it’s our responsibility as her children to keep her from making a fool of herself.” They shrugged, well. “Or getting killed.” They nodded.
Rick had them ready to sign. He knew where all their buttons were from years of besting them at every contest. He could still beat them now. He was the rightful leader of the family, after all. Dad would be proud of him.
“I know a judge and a doctor,” he hurried on. “We can get the papers signed and then break the news to her on the way to her new home. It’s a super luxurious place, I’ve got it all picked out. Beautiful views, golf, a fitness center.”
Nobody could see Mom on an exercise machine.
“That sounds expensive,” Judy said.
Like you know. “Of course it is,” he said patiently. “But we’ll buy an annuity to cover it, and hide her assets so that the state picks up most of the tab. It’ll cost us nothing. Almost nothing.”
Hide her assets? “She won’t agree,” Cindy said.
Rick smiled. “She won’t have to. It’ll be court ordered.”
“She’ll never give us permission to do anything,” Gordon reminded him. “She’ll fight.”
Rick’s smile blossomed. “Here’s the beauty of it. We’ll be appointed guardian, and then we can do what’s best for the family. And Mom, that goes without saying.” He paused, and nobody said anything. Good.
Cindy tilted her head. “Who’s we?”
“All of us.”
Judy wondered. “The court is going to appoint all of us?”
“If we want it to.”
“What if we can’t agree?” Gordon wanted to know.
“It would be best if we chose a lead guardian.” They looked at each other. “A tie breaker.” Rick was getting mad. They were waffling, just like they would do if the guardianship was split. If none of you have the guts to do something about this, I do. And the sooner the better.
Rick went back inside feeling like they didn’t understand the urgency. Everyone immediately relit or uncapped their favorite substance.
“Wonder who he’s thinking of,” Gordon mused. “A lead guardian. Does he think this is a game?”
“We can’t commit Mom,” Judy said. “She’s not crazy.” There was silence. “Okay. She’s not that crazy.”
Cindy said, “And even if she is crazy, Rick would never get it all.”
“You got that, did you? That Rick wants it all?” Bill asked.
“At least it’s out in the open,” Gordon observed.
Judy said, “Mom doesn’t know.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Laurie replied. “She’s not stupid.”
Gordon shrugged, “Yeah, but she’s fallen for Rick’s schemes before.”
Judy nodded at Gordon. “And yours.”
Cindy nodded at Judy. “And yours.”
Laurie nodded at Cindy. “And yours.”
“It’s just that we’ve got to do something to protect her,” Gordon insisted. “Rick’s right, she shouldn’t be driving, she shouldn’t be left alone.”
“Well,” Judy pointed out, there’s Allen.”
They all fell silent, and shuffled back inside. Bill walked off to pee in the bushes.
Right on top of Sam and Dave, who were pretending to be azaleas. They came up, sputtering, and Bill nearly had a heart attack.
“Hey, you’ve been avoiding me,” he accused them, his heart pounding, breaking into a cold sweat.
“Damn right, if it meant not getting peed on.” Dave said, brushing himself off. Dry cleaning these cheap suits would cost money they could use in better ways.
Bill was pissed. “I paid you good money to do a little job for me, and nothing ever happened to it, and I never saw a dime back, or had an explanation from you boys. I don’t know how they do it where you come from, but we’re into teamwork here.”
Sam and Dave were looking guiltily at each other. They’d forgotten all about the money Bill had paid them to knock off somebody. It went up their noses, and the details were lost. Oh yeah. Money back. “Those funds were non-refundable,” Dave started, and Bill got in his face and snarled like a pit bull.
Sam played good cop. “Hey, that’s why we come, comrade.” He laid the accent on.
Bill was suspicious. “What?”
“Yeah, um, we were just lining up the head shot,” Dave added.
“You were going to do it here?” Bill was shocked. “At dinner? That’s insane.”
“Means more that way,” Sam said in broken English. “We do it in old country. Boom. Nobody celebrates holiday again.”
Bill blanched. “Can you come back tomorrow?”
They laughed at him. “Take it like a man,” Sam spat. “Want to cancel, girlie? Anyway, no cancel.”
Dave shook his head to confirm. “Booked solid.”
Bill fished out his wallet. “How about if you do it another time?” He thrust money at them.
Sam looked happy. “I don’t know, busy schedule. Maybe.”
Bill couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. Thank God they hadn’t completed the hit. He gave them everything he had and promised them more tomorrow.
* * *