Author’s Note: The first part of this story can be found HERE … and as is true in the original, the following story contains mature elements that may be offensive to some readers.
The day after New Year’s I stepped onto a smelly bus with the kid in a pillow case and slung over my shoulder like a hobo pack. I had carefully cut holes in the pillow case so that the baby could breathe when I walked around with him. I found a seat near the back and set Maine down on the cold vinyl beside me. He started to cry and some blue-haired, old salty sea hag across the aisle gave me a dirty look.
“That’s no way to carry around a baby,” she scowled with a hoarse voice, her cigarette wrinkles squishing together as her jaw moved. “You should be arrested for that. Hell, if I was a cop I’d smash you over the head with a club right now.”
I turned to look at her as I dug around in my backpack for a baby bottle full of root beer.
“If it’s all the same to you mam, I’d appreciate it if you would just mind your own damn business!” I snapped. “I’ve got enough problems dealing with this kid dumped on me by some orgy queen. I’m doing the best I can and plan to remedy the situation today. That’s for sure. So, if you don’t mind … he’s hungry now.”
I turned away and proceeded to stick the rubbery nipple of the baby bottle into Maine’s mouth. Even though it was bubbly root beer, he sucked at it eagerly like it was his own momma’s milky teat.
The old sea hag’s mouth dropped open and when I glanced back in her direction, I noticed she had dirty teeth and a cracked tongue the color of old, moldy bacon.
“What on earth are you feeding that poor child? Is that … it looks like soda pop!”
“Yes mam, It is soda pop. Elf brand root beer to be exact.”
“Are you stupid or something? Do you want his stomach to explode!?”
“Actually mam, I don’t think I’d mind too much if his stomach exploded right about now. I’m tired of this shit.”
The old sea hag leaned further across the aisle and her breath smelled like deli salami as she spoke in an aggravated tone.
“Young man,” she began. “I strongly suggest that once you get to wherever you’re going that you take this child to the nearest hospital before you end up killing him. You’re lucky I don’t go up there right now and have the driver kick you off.”
Too exhausted to fight, I pleaded with her.
“Please, mam, don’t do that. I’ve never spent much time around babies and I don’t always know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m heading to my mom’s and dad’s right now and they’ll know. They’ll know what to do.”
The old hag sighed heavily and her salami breath spewed out like dragon fire and it nearly made me puke. She looked at me with lost, ebony eyes – shaking a crinkly, yellowed finger.
“All right. But you give your word that you give this child over to someone who can handle him properly … and if I find out you ain’t did it, well, I’m a witness and I’ll tell the police all about it when they show your picture in the newspaper or on the television. I’ll come forward for sure. Don’t you think I won’t.”
Maine began to choke a bit and I pulled the bottle from his little mouth with a nearly inaudible pop. I set him up on my shoulder and gently patted his back. When the baby belched, the old sea hag rolled her eyes and returned to the proper bus-riding position in her own seat.
“Soda pop for a baby,” she mumbled under her breath as she snapped open a magazine. “Geez, now I’ve seen it all.”
I grew sleepy and my head bobbed as the bus rolled down some pastoral highway in the Upstate heading for a fancy little town called Burgundy Falls. I began to wonder what my old ma and pa would do when I showed up at the house carrying a bastard baby in a pillowcase. They would most likely have me committed. Why not? They had the money. Wouldn’t bother them a bit to lock me up and throw away the key. I figured that would be right satisfactory to them. They’d be happy if I rotted. The thought of it all ruined my appetite for sweet home cooking and made my stomach hurt. No, this burden in the bag had caused me nothing but trouble ever since ol’ slutty Helen Corvair had decided to run off for breakfast and not come back. My nervous and immune systems were shot. I had bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. I thought I might be coming down with a bad case of schizophrenia and a cold. I even had to quit my job as a toy clerk at the five-story department store because they wouldn’t let me bring the kid to work with me. They said my employee locker was no place to keep a baby while I performed my job duties. Pfffft to that. Damn you beautiful Helen Corvair. Damn you and all your luscious intoxication to hell.
The nerves really began to jingle like sleigh bells and it felt like reindeer were tugging on my balls when the bus pulled into the station at Burgundy Falls. I sat there for a long time watching the other passengers gather their things and get off. The old salty sea hag who bitched at me turned out to be quite stout and I watched as she struggled to get out of her seat. Once she was out and up she bumped her fat rear right into me as she gathered her things. It was obnoxious and horrible and I wanted to scream. She turned to me one last time and growled to me in a voice most likely being violently raped by throat cancer.
“Now don’t you forget what I said. You take care of that baby first thing or I’ll be sure they hang you by the nuts.”
“Thanks. Have a fine day,” I called after her as she waddled down the aisle bumping her big rump against all the seats.
When I was the last one left, I remained in my seat, frightened and unsure, until the driver finally came down the aisle and looked at me like I was stupid.
“This is Burgundy Falls,” he said. “Isn’t this your stop, sir?”
I looked up at him and wanted to suddenly cry from all the pain of life that seemed to be eating me alive at that moment.
“I guess it is. Sorry.”
I gathered up Maine and my things and got off the bus. I ordered up a cab to take me to the house. When we got there, I ordered him to park a ways down the street because I was scared. I looked at the old place from a distance as the grimy cabbie reminded me the meter was still running.
“I don’t care,” I said. “Just a few minutes.”
It was a fine old house. Probably the best fine old house in the best neighborhood of Burgundy Falls. It was painted a cool baby blue color and had sparkling white trim all around. There was a big, wooden-planked porch that jutted out from a wide, white door like a pier and it spread and wrapped around the whole of the front and side parts of the house. The long, wooden porch swing sat idle in the cold. My mother usually had hanging pots full of stinky red geraniums and multicolored marigolds all over the place but they were now put away for the winter. The upper part of the house was supported by slick wooden columns that looked like uncurled elephant tusks and there were a lot of shiny windows, each with curtains perfectly parted at equal distance. Finely-manicured shrubbery still strung with Christmas lights lined the front of the house, and there was a large yard all around dotted with beautiful tall trees and covered in a thin veil of undisturbed snow.
“Go on now cabbie,” I said. “You can pull up.”
As he steered the car into the circular drive, I saw my mother busily cleaning the inside of the big parlor window right there at the front. She energetically wiped in wide circles making sure there wasn’t a single streak or smudge anywhere. Then I noticed her motions slowed and then stopped completely when she was aware of the taxi being there. I watched with bubbling fear as she rubbed her hands on the cleaning cloth and looked out the obnoxiously clean window with curiosity. She suddenly turned away and I knew she was moving rapidly toward the front door.
“Everett? Everett? What are you doing here?” my mother said in a frantic panic after yanking the door wide open. “Everett, are you all right? What is it you have moving around in that pillowcase?”
“It’s a baby, mom.”
“A baby!?” she wailed, and she nearly fainted.
I held the pillowcase open and she peered in. Her eyes grew wide and her painted mouth popped open. I backed away in case she slapped me.
“My God, Everett! What on Earth are you doing with a baby!? Edward! Edward get out here! Your crazy son has a baby in a pillowcase! Give me that poor thing.”
She reached in, pulled out Maine and looked him over.
“Everett, this baby doesn’t look well. Come inside right now and explain yourself.”
It was then my father appeared in the doorway grumbling and growling and scratching at his balls.
“What the hell is all this yelling about!? Oh, hello Everett.”
“Come on, inside, both of you. I don’t want the neighbors to hear all this fuss,” my mother ordered.
“Where the hell did that baby come from?” my dad asked as he closed the door. “Did you knock some poor girl up, huh Everett?” and then he slapped at my head as we walked through the house.
“Would you both just settle down and let me explain!?” I pleaded. “Jesus H. Christ!”
“Oh, you’ve got some explaining to do that’s for damn sure,” my father said. “Now just what the hell is this all about?”
We went into the parlor and sat down on fine furniture around a fine coffee table and I looked out a finely cleaned window wishing everything at that moment would just end up being a bad dream. But it wasn’t. It was real and it was horrible.
“Everett?” my mother asked with disturbed suspicion. “Did you kidnap this child?”
My dad snorted, “Well, that’s a fine thing to add to your already sparkling resume – kidnapper.”
Frustrated, I stood up and threw my hands in the air.
“I didn’t kidnap the kid! Some girl I met … she walked out and left him. She never came back.”
“I knew you were running with a bad crowd … I think you should move out of the city and come back home for a while so I can keep an eye on you.”
“No mom …”
My father interrupted, “Hell son, why didn’t you just call the police? Any normal idiot would have done that.”
“I thought she would come back … I didn’t want to get her in trouble.”
“Trouble?” my mother said, putting a hand to her face and shaking her head. “Everett, look at the trouble she’s caused you. Can’t you see how ridiculous all this is? You’re not fit to care for a child like this. Oh goodness.”
I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed.
“I didn’t know what else to do. That’s why I came here. I’m sorry. I was hoping you could help me.”
My ma and pa looked at each other with troubled faces and then glanced back at me. My father suddenly stood up and poured himself a Scotch. He looked inside the glass and swirled the liquid around slowly as he thought. He took a big gulp and smacked his mouth.
“Well, I’m going to call the sheriff’s office and see what they can do about this,” he said. “This is downright asinine, Everett. I just don’t understand what gets in your head sometimes. This no way to live your life. You’re reckless and ignorant and at times I’m downright embarrassed to have you as a son.”
“Edward, please. The boy has feelings you know,” my mother said in my defense.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass about his feelings. It’s time he grow up, wise up and make something of his life.”
He poured himself another drink and swallowed it hard. I noticed he was slightly shaking.
“Where did you meet this hussy anyways?” he asked me.
“Outside a coffee shop in the city. There was a fight on the sidewalk and we just got to talking. Her name is Helen and she looks like Simka Gravas.”
“Who?” my dad barked.
“Latka’s wife from that TV show TAXI.”
“Oh for crying out loud, Everett! When are you going to start living in the real world!?”
My father slammed another two fingers of Scotch and went for the phone.
My mother stopped him, “Wait. Maybe Everett can track her down. Find her. I can watch the baby until then.”
“Oh hell no!” my father bellowed as he turned. “I know what you’re up to lady. I know how you’re always nagging about having another baby, and then here comes Everett out of the clouds holding one and he plops it right into your lap. No mam, we’re not taking on someone else’s baby. No way. I won’t have it. Not in my house.”
“Edward, don’t you think we should at least try to help our son? This is too much for him to handle alone.”
My father looked at me like he wanted to drag me out back, kill me and leave me to rot in the woods.
“I already tried to find her,” I said. “She just vanished. She could be in California for all I know.”
“Well, what about the dad? Where the hell is he in all this mess?” my father asked.
“There is no dad,” I replied.
“There’s always a dad,” my mother pointed out as she held the baby up and smiled. “Does the baby have a name?”
“Like the state?”
“That’s nice,” my mother said.
“She probably screwed a sailor before he went off to England,” my father groaned.
The doorbell rang and I craned my neck to look out the window and I saw Frost’s BMW in the drive.
“Oh sugar!” my mother said, “I forgot all about Emily coming for a visit. I swear, Everett, you have the worst timing when it comes to your problems.”
She got up, cradling Maine, and touched at her hair with one hand to set it in proper place before going out of the room. My father set down his drinking glass and disappeared.
I stood back in the shadows biting my nails as my mother opened the door. Emily and Frost began to step in and then suddenly stopped when they saw her holding the baby.
“Mom?” Emily asked, her face scrunched in confusion. “Are you babysitting for someone? Who’s kid?”
“We’ll talk about it, dear. Please come in. Hello there Frost.”
Frost leaned in and gave her a fake kiss on the cheek.
“Hello, Evelyn. Oh, hello Everett,” he said as he shed his coat and placed it over one arm. “It’s a surprise seeing you here. Are you planning to stay for the weekend as well?”
“I don’t know,” I said, and I moved forward to shake his hand. Then I looked over at my sister; she acted uncomfortable and brushed wispy hairs out of her face.
“Hello Emily,” I said, and I awkwardly hugged her and she quickly pulled away.
“Hello Everett. It is quite a surprise to see you here. If we knew you were coming … you could have ridden with us, but I guess neither of us knew.”
“So,” Frost broke in, “Where’s Edward? I brought him a bottle of some fine brandy.”
“I think he went off to his study,” my mother said. “Why don’t you go and say hello? I’d like to speak with Emily in private. Everett, go wash yourself up, you look like you could use a long, hot shower and … I think it would be best if you stayed the night. You can sleep in your old room. There’s some clean linens in the closet upstairs. Well, you know where it all is. Go on now.”
Evelyn led Emily to the parlor and closed the door behind them. Maine began to fuss a bit.
“Mother?” Emily said, “What’s going on? Who’s baby is this?”
“Oh, my dear daughter. I think your brother has gone totally mad. He just showed up at the house today with this baby in a pillowcase. He says it belongs to some tramp he met in the city and she up and left. Just took off is what he said. I just don’t know what to do about him anymore. I’m just sick about it. But just look at this child. This poor, innocent child stuck in the middle of all this. Isn’t he just beautiful?”
Emily placed her hands together as if to pray and put the tips of her fingers to her full lips and sighed before she spoke.
“Mother, I have great concern for Everett. I don’t think he’s well, I mean, mentally.”
The clock on the mantle above the unlit fireplace chimed 4 times before Evelyn spoke again.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Did something happen to him in the city?”
“Everett came to our place, it was back before Christmas. He said you had visited him that same day and he started talking very strangely to me about when we were young and living here in the house. He seemed very confused and troubled … and when we were alone … he kissed me.”
“What’s wrong with a brother kissing his own sister?” Evelyn asked, her eyes beginning to quake with nervous twitches behind her glasses.
“It wasn’t that kind of a kiss, mom,” Emily whispered. “He kissed me on the mouth. Like a lover. He forced it on me.”
Evelyn leaned back in her chair, coughed and adjusted her glasses.
“My God,” she moaned. “Why would he do that? What on earth would possess him to do that?”
“I think he needs a doctor. A good doctor. A psychiatrist. He may even need to go to a place that specializes in his odd behavior. I know some people who may be able to help.”
My mother bit at her finger and then held her forehead in her hand.
“This is all too much,” she moaned. “Are you all right? He didn’t hurt you did he?”
“No. He didn’t hurt me at all. I was just shocked … but what about this baby? This definitely proves there is something seriously wrong with him.”
“It’s very odd indeed. I think the child is sickly and I’m not surprised. That fool boy knows nothing about taking care of a baby. And that girl who dumped him, I can just imagine what a piece of work she is. I just don’t understand why Everett can’t find a nice girl. He’s not a bad looking young man, he’s just …”
Emily finished her mother’s sentence, “Awkward and socially inept.”
“Why don’t you help him out and introduce him to some of your friends? You know plenty of well-educated people. Good, decent people too. He needs to be kept away from common street trash – like this poor child’s mother.”
“I would, mother, but I don’t think Frost would have it. You know how particular he is about everything?”
“Yes, I suppose he is. But I do like him. He’s a fine young man, and your father is more than fond of him.”
“I find it strange that daddy takes him on like that and then treats Everett like he’s not even his son.”
“Well, your father has always been drawn to successful people. I’m afraid Everett has greatly disappointed him.”
“That’s sad,” Emily said. “It shouldn’t be like that. You should love and support your kids no matter who they are and what they do. That’s the way I want to be.”
“You’ll be a fine mother some day,” Evelyn assured her daughter, and she looked down at the baby as he slept and smiled.
“I’m going to convince your father to let me keep him here – just for a day or two until we can figure this all out,” she said. “In the meantime, I want us to have a nice family gathering this weekend. Cozy and warm and perfect. Will you help me with dinner?”
“Of course,” Emily said, and she stood up and went to look at the baby. “He is pretty adorable.”
There was a knock and Edward drunkenly grumbled through the door.
“So what’s the story Evelyn? Are we gonna get a move on this or not? And what about supper? Frost and I are getting hungry.”
“Oh just come in,” Evelyn snapped.
Edward and Frost entered the room and looked at the two women hovering over the baby.
“I told Frost here all about what’s going on and as usual he agreed to help in any way he can.”
Evelyn looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you, Frost.”
“Of course,” he said with snippish arrogance. “You’re all like family to me. I’ll do whatever’s necessary,” and he clapped his hand on top of Edward’s shoulder.
“Well, then would you mind much taking Everett into town for some baby supplies?” my mother asked. “I need diapers, formula and maybe a change of clothes. This poor child barely has anything.”
“Now hold on Evelyn,” Edward stepped in and said. “Just what are you planning? I told you I was going to phone the sheriff.”
“Please Edward, don’t do that. They’ll just take him away to some horrible place and … I just won’t stand for that,” she pleaded. “I want him to stay here, just for a night or two until we figure this out. It’s getting late, and look, it’s beginning to snow. I’ll do all the work and you won’t have to lift a finger. I promise.”
“But the child isn’t our responsibility. He doesn’t belong to us, Evelyn. Can’t you get that through your head?”
“It doesn’t matter that he’s not one of us. It’s the Christian thing to do, Edward. And it is our responsibility, now, at this moment, no matter where he came from or why, the fact of the matter is that he did and he is here now and I will care for him because no one else seems to want to.”
He looked at her and ran his large hand down his clean-shaven face and sighed a drunken sigh.
“All right,” he grudgingly agreed. “But just a night or two. If there’s no resolution to this problem after that, I’m calling the sheriff straight off. Is that understood?”
“Yes,” my mother sheepishly replied.
“Good. And I don’t want that kid making a lot of racket. You know I like my peace and quiet.”
“Yes dear. He’ll be no bother to you. Thank you.”
Frost’s silver-blue BMW was warm, polished and plush. I watched with interest as his hand, clad in a fine leather glove, effortlessly shifted the gears as he drove.
“This is a nice car,” I said to him.
“Of course it is,” he snobbishly replied.
“Do you think you could let me drive it?”
I reached for the stereo controls on the dash.
“Don’t touch that!” he snapped. “Just sit still.”
I quickly pulled my hand away and looked out the window.
“The snow is really starting to spit,” I said.
“Yes. I just hope some country idiot doesn’t slide into me. This car was expensive. You know how much I paid for this car?”
“Sixty-nine thousand. Cash.”
“Wow. That’s a lot of money.”
“Well, Everett, that’s because I have a lot of money and in turn I only go for the finer things in this life. Take your sister for example … a real, real fine girl for sure. Comes from a real fine family, well, you being the exception of course.”
“Why do you always have to make me out to be some lesser of a person? … I don’t like how you always put me down.”
“Because I don’t take too kindly to your poor influence on my girlfriend … and I especially don’t take too kindly to you kissing her the way you did!”
“What’s wrong with me kissing my own sister?”
“Jesus Everett, you stuck your tongue in her mouth! That’s not how you kiss your sister. What the hell is wrong with you!?”
“So, she told you all about it then, huh?”
“Yes. All the disgusting details included.”
I grinned about that and looked out the windshield.
“Did she happen to tell you all about how she used to try to make it with me when we were younger?” I asked nasty Frost. “How she was a dirty little molester. Did she?”
“What the hell are you talking about, Everett? I don’t think you should say things like that.”
“Oh, so I guess your sweet lover forgot to tell you all about her little kissy sex games and the bathtub rub and tugs, huh?”
“You’re sick. Don’t ever talk about her that way again or I swear to God I’ll hurt you. I’ll hurt you bad.”
“Did she leave out the parts about how she used to sneak into my room at night and crawl into my bed and put her hand down my pajamas? I suppose she also failed to mention how she used to show me her bare ass and ask me to spank it.”
“Don’t test me or you’ll regret it.”
“Did she really fail to divulge all her dirty little girl secrets to you, Frost? I thought you two were really close. I thought you were planning on getting married and spending the rest of your perfect lives together. And as far as that kiss goes, did she tell you how badly she wanted it?”
“Shut up, Everett, or I swear to God I’ll stop this car and knock your teeth down your damn throat!”
“Then why don’t you ask her about it then? See what she has to say about it all. If she’s the sweet sweetie you really believe her to be, then she’ll tell the truth.”
“Maybe I will … but I know you’re just full of shit and you’ll always be full of shit. It’s no secret that I don’t like you, Everett, and no matter how hard I try, I know I’ll never like you. I just pretend for the sake of your family because you’re so pathetic.”
“Thanks. And while you’re at it, Frost, you may want to think about how faithful your sweet, sweet Emily really is.”
“She’s never cheated on me. She never would. She loves me. Who wouldn’t? I’m nearly perfect and I have a lot of money.”
“Nobody’s that perfect and money is shit … But, Emily is a very lovely and outgoing girl. She’s very sexy and somewhat promiscuous. Tell me, does she have a lot of guy friends?”
“She has a lot of friends. Guys and girls. So what? So do I.”
“I’m just saying. She may not completely be the person she seems to be. None of us are. If I were you, I’d maybe just watch her a little closer.”
“I can’t believe you’re talking about your own sister this way. You’re crazy.”
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not.”
“I’m tired of your head games, Everett, and I’m not going to listen to any of this anymore,” Frost said, and he reached for the stereo and turned up the noise just as he steered the car into the entrance of the local shopping center and slammed on the brakes.
“Here,” he said, and he thrust some cash in my direction. “Take this money and get what your mom needs for that dirty baby you brought home. Geez, in a pillowcase no less. What a fuck up you are. Do you understand what to get?”
I took the money and said, “Yes.”
“Get me some cigarettes too, two packs. Kent Kings, got it? Kent Kings.”
“And don’t take all day. This snow is really beginning to pick up.”
My mother and Emily prepared luscious steaming Swedish meatballs, buttery noodles, cauliflower, fruity gelatin, rolls and green bean casserole for dinner. We all sat around the big table slurping and munching away and not really saying much at all to each other. My mother sat at one end, eating with one hand while holding Maine; my father sat at the opposite end, filling his face with food and washing it down with a bottled beer of some foreign origin as his eyes rolled around all over us. I sat on one side, all alone – with fancy plate and tall glass of milk – while Emily and Frost sat directly across from me – grossly playing footsies under the table and giggling quietly to each other while filling each other’s mouths with meatballs using shiny, pointy forks. I attentively watched, grossly stared I guess, as my beautiful sister playfully ran her tongue all over one of the meatballs as Frost held it in front of her face.
“Do you two have to do that at the dinner table?” I said.
Frost turned to look at me.
“What did you say?”
“I asked why you two have to do that at the dinner table. It’s revolting. Can’t you save your animalistic lust for the bedroom tonight?”
Frost grinned and shook his head. He then pierced a drippy Swedish meatball with his fork and flung it across the table at me. The meatball hit me square between the eyes with a mushy “thwup,” rolled perfectly down my nose, dropped off the tip and plopped right into my plate.
“Ugh,” I went.
Frost burst out laughing.
“That’ll teach you to talk at the table, Everett! Oh, by the way, you got a little something there on your face.”
I brought my cloth napkin to my face and wiped away the meatball residue. I looked over at my sister and she was trying not to laugh but I knew she wanted to. I knew she wanted to just let it roll like a maniac – just like she did when she was a kid. Then I looked over at my father and he was chuckling away while he looked at me, shaking his head in pure disgust and enjoyment at the same time.
“That was a good one, Frost. Nearly a hole in one!” my dad blurted out. “Careful though, little Everett here might start to cry.”
“Oh Edward,” my mother broke in. “Don’t make fun of your own son.”
“Why? That was funny as hell!” and he tapped his beer bottle to Frost’s with a clink and they both laughed some more.
“And really Frost, I thought you were a bit more civilized than that. We don’t throw food at the table. Not in this house,” my mother scolded.
“Sorry about that Evelyn, just a momentary lapse of reason. It won’t happen again,” Frost said, and then he looked at Emily and they laughed at me together and then kissed.
I stood up fast and my chair fell back onto the floor. I picked up the entire bowl of steamy Swedish meatballs and threw it against the wall right behind Frost’s and Emily’s heads. It smashed and the meatballs and juicy sauce went everywhere, even in Frost’s perfect hair and all over his clothes.
“You son of a bitch!” Frost screamed. “You got it all over my hair!”
“Everett!” my mother screamed. “Look what you’ve done. Oh no! My wall! My carpet! My bowl!”
The baby started wailing from all the fuss and my father got up and slammed his napkin on the table.
“I told you to keep that kid quiet!” he yelled at my mother. “Shut that baby up or I’ll set him out on the curb, I swear!”
My mother began to cry and she got up and dashed away, clutching the baby in her arms.
“Why do you have to be such a beast!?” she yelled at him on the way out.
“Now look what you’ve done, Everett!” my father yelled. “You got your mom all upset. Clean up this mess before I knock your lights out. Come on Frost, let’s go upstairs and see if we can find you a clean shirt to wear.”
“You better hope this washes out,” Frost snapped at me as he followed my father out of the dining room. “This is a very expensive sweater, and one of my favorites too, you twit.”
I stood there and Emily looked at me with sympathy in her burning eyes, but a lighthearted smile on her face.
“I’ll help you clean it up,” she muttered.
Frost followed Edward upstairs and into the master bedroom. The door quietly closed behind them.
“Go ahead and take that off,” Edward ordered Frost. “I’ll have Evelyn take a look at it. I’m sure she can clean it up. She’s good at things like that, like a woman should be.”
Frost pulled the sweater off and dropped it on the floor. He was wearing a white tee underneath and Edward suddenly admired how the shirt stuck snugly to his muscular frame as he stood there next to the bed.
“I never realized how muscular you were,” Edward said. “That’s impressive.”
Without really thinking, Edward reached out, grasped a bicep and squeezed with his fingers.
“Do you like muscles, Mr. Law?”
Edward looked Frost up and down slowly, examining every inch of him.
“Yes,” he answered, his voice soft and stammering.
“I like to work out,” Frost boasted, and he began to pose, flexing more of his muscles. “You know, keep my body in shape. It’s important to me.”
“I suppose Emily appreciates that,” Edward replied with a nervous laugh.
“I like to think so,” Frost said. “But some times I wish she was a little more … affectionate, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, I suppose we all wish our women were a bit more affectionate, as you put it … now, let me see if I can find something that will fit that body of yours.”
Frost followed Edward into the large walk-in closet and watched him intently as he browsed through his large collection of heavy shirts.
“You have an amazing closet, Edward. There’s so much storage capacity. I love the wood accents, too. And it smells nice in here.”
“Yes, Evelyn puts these scented pieces of wood in all the drawers – makes everything smell clean, sanitized almost.”
Frost sniffed the air close to Edward.
“You smell nice too, Mr. Law. What kind of aftershave is that?”
“Oh hell, I don’t know. It’s some blue stuff, comes in a bottle. Evelyn buys it for me.”
Frost suddenly reached out and touched the back of his hand against Edward’s face.
“You always manage to get such a close shave,” Frost said as he continued to feel the older man’s skin. “How do you do that?”
Edward backed off and Frost’s hand slipped away and dangled in the air.
“A good razor,” Edward pointed out with another nervous laugh. “A man’s got to have a good razor.”
Frost felt his own face and pondered.
“Hmm, I’ll have to look into getting a better razor I suppose. Perhaps my personal life stylist can suggest something.”
“I’m sure she can,” Edward replied.
“She’s a he,” Frost said.
“Well … here, try this one,” Edward said, and he handed Frost a Navy blue, long-sleeved V-neck shirt.
“Great! But do you suppose I could take a shower first? That little shit got food all in my hair.”
“Ah, yes, of course. You can use ours. It’s the best in the house. It has a really powerful spray and there’s plenty of room to move around. Hell, two people can fit in that shower at the same time.”
Frost swallowed and then hesitated to say something.
“All right then, thank you,” Frost said, and he smiled at Edward and walked toward the bathroom, first making sure his hand accidentally grazed against Edward’s stomach, just above the waistline, as he turned away.
Edward began to pant as he stood near the master bath and listened intently as the water came on. He pressed his sweaty head against the door and clawed at it a little bit with his fingers as he heard the mighty flow cascade all over and down Frost’s nude body. He inhaled deeply, trying to snuff in the scent of soap on skin mixed with hot steam. He clamped his eyes shut and bit at his mouth as he fathomed the idea of going in. He tried to push down on the door handle but it wouldn’t move. It was locked. Edward moaned inside at his bad luck and walked over to the edge of the bed and sat down. He wiped the sweat from his brow and adjusted himself through his pants with a shudder. He glanced over at the nightstand and saw the framed portrait photograph he and his wife had taken on their 30th wedding anniversary. He picked it up and looked it over. It all seemed so fake to him as he studied the pressured smiles. She looked gross to him with her uptight hairdo and overdone face – she wore too much lipstick and there were traces of it on her teeth that missed the touch up stage and that made him gag – and her eyes, her eyes looked like cheating eyes and they were magnified by her thick glasses and that just made her look even more crazy and unloveable. He set the picture back down and glanced back at the bathroom door. The water was still running and Edward could only imagine … He turned away, held his face in his hands and began to softly cry.
Emily and I were kneeling on the floor together scrubbing at the stain I had created with my outburst. She suddenly stopped and looked right at me, her face but a few inches from my own.
“Why did you have to do that?” she asked. “You could have really hurt him with that bowl of Swedish meatballs.”
“I don’t like him. He’s always after me like that and it’s not fair. He’s no good and I think it’s time you realize that.”
“Everett, regardless if you like him or not, he’s going to be my husband some day. You just need to accept that.”
“I can’t and I won’t. Marry him if you like, but I’m against it. I don’t think it will work out and I think in the end you’ll realize what a phony he is.”
“Everett, you just don’t understand relationships. How could you? You’ve never been in one.”
“Yes I have.”
“That was just puppy love, Everett. That doesn’t count. I’m talking about a real adult relationship.”
“Well, it should count. It counts to me.”
She sighed and went back to scrubbing. As she worked, I realized I could see down the front of her shirt. I watched as her breasts swayed with her movements. She suddenly realized what I was doing and stopped scrubbing. Emily looked right into my eyes.
“Stop that, Everett. That isn’t nice.”
I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.”
“Why don’t you work on the wall and let me do this?”
I didn’t move.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked.
I reached out to touch her hair and she swatted my hand away.
“Everett!” she huffed.
I reached out to her again and placed my hand on her cheek and this time she did not rebuff me. I held it there for a moment so that I could feel her soft heat radiate through my own skin. I slowly brought my hand down and ran my thumb slowly across her bottom lip. It gently bounced back into place at the end of my swipe. I could sense she was trembling and unsure. Her bright eyes were locked on me, forcing my heart to beat out of control.
“You want to kiss me again, don’t you?” she asked in a breathy whisper.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Then kiss me,” she said, and she closed her eyes and parted her mouth as she moved toward me.
And then, just as our lips were about to meet, our mother suddenly appeared in the room.
“Well, I finally got little Maine to settle down and go to sleep,” she said. “I hope this mess is getting cleaned up. Let me have a look. Oh no, that will never work! You’re just grinding the stain deeper into the carpet. Stop now. Stop now. Oh my, I’m going to have to call a professional cleaner first thing in the morning. Everett dear, why does madness have to follow you wherever you go?”
I got up off the floor and hung my head.
“I’m sorry, mother. I don’t know what got into me. I’ll pay for the cleaning.”
“Oh, never mind about the money. It’s your behavior I’m concerned about. Very concerned. Your sister and I have been discussing it and we think you need to see a doctor. A psychiatrist. Right away.”
“I don’t need a psychiatrist. I just need some love.”
My mother squirmed at that remark and made a noise of discount.
“We all love you Everett, we do. But sometimes it takes more than love to get by in this world. Yes. I’m talking about a good head on your shoulder and some cash in your pocket. And I’m afraid you are devoid of both of those qualities, Everett.”
“I want you to seriously think about moving back home and getting on with your studies. There’s a fine state school not far, it’s no university, but I think you could get on there.”
“I don’t want to come back home and I don’t want to go back to school.”
My mother glared at me.
“Everett, I don’t think you are in decent frame of mind to make those decisions for yourself. I won’t have it. I’m afraid if you don’t do it … well, you’ll leave us no choice but to cut you off from the money.”
“I don’t care about your damn money!” I snapped.
“Well, you’ll care when it comes time to pay the rent and buy yourself food and pay for all the things you want … oh, and of course, to pay for your dope.”
I looked at her uncomfortably.
“Oh, don’t take me for a fool, Everett. I may be an old hag to you but I know what grass smells like. And you must have been smoking a whole barrel of grass that day I came to visit you in the city.”
“That’s my own personal business and if I want to do it, I’ll do it!” I yelled.
“Go ahead,” my mother snapped. “Be a doped up bum your whole life. But I refuse to support your awful lifestyle one more minute. As far as I’m concerned, you’re on your own. I think it would be best if you left first thing in the morning … and the baby is staying here until we make suitable arrangements. Is that understood?”
I looked at my sour mother without saying another word and went straight up to my room. I slammed the door and flopped onto the bed and then I began to cry in the darkness.
“Oh Jenny. Why did you have to die, Jenny? We’d be together right now at this very minute if you hadn’t of died and I’d be away from these fools and all their bullshit.”
I wiped at my eyes with my arm and hauled myself up. I went to the window and looked out. I saw the old familiar street lamp and the falling snow was illuminated in its glow. Everything was white and still and I thought back to that summer right after Jenny was killed in that car wreck and how I spent countless hours looking out that very same window, but everything was green and lush then and the window was open and flies buzzed against the screen and the air smelled heavy and sweet and all the neighborhood kids were out running around, making noise and drinking frosty lemonade with circus clown straws. And there I was again, on the inside looking out and all the people around me stomping on me like a piece of trash. I just decided I wasn’t going to have it anymore and that I’d gladly head out at the first sign of daylight and even if I had to walk the whole way back to the city I’d do it. The hell with them, I thought. I knew I was no longer cared for and wanted … and so be it then. I wasn’t going to take it anymore and that sudden sense of freedom mixed with anger made my guts tingle and for the first time in a long time I actually looked forward to my future and going about things in my very own way without any interference from so-called family. I was going to make my own way now and I knew it would be good.
I turned my head and wondered when someone came knocking on my door.
Edward and Frost sat across from each other in two fine chairs set at angles to the fireplace. They sipped at their snifters of brandy and watched the fire hustle and glow.
“This is a fine concoction,” Edward finally said. “You’ve chosen well,” and he raised his glass in Frost’s direction.
“Thank you. I was hoping you’d like it.”
“What’s not to like,” Edward boasted, and he took another big gulp. “So, how was your shower?”
“It was excellent. A fine, powerful spray just like you said.”
“Good. Was the water hot enough?”
“A very good steam.”
“And the soap? It’s imported from England.”
“It had a good lather. Smells nice, too. Like flowers in the countryside.”
“Excellent. I see the shirt fits you just fine.”
“It does. Very comfortable.”
“I must say, it does accentuate your muscles nicely.”
Frost looked down at his arms and flexed his biceps.
“I suppose it does.”
“You know, I’d really like to see what you’re packing underneath there.”
“Excuse me? Sir?”
“Under the shirt,” Edward clarified. “I’d like to check out your abs. I mean, I could stand to get in shape myself … maybe you could give me some pointers.”
Frost got up and without hesitation peeled the shirt from his body and then the tee beneath it until he was standing bare skinned before Edward.
Edward studied Frost’s youthful, taut upper body with interest as he slowly sipped on the brandy.
“Just as I expected,” Edward finally said as he set down his snifter on a nearby table and got up. “Your abs are fabulous.”
“You really think so?” Frost asked, digging for more compliments.
“You should be a model,” Edward said as he walked in circles around Frost.
“I thought about it. A lot of other people have told me the same thing. I could probably pull it off quite easily and be very successful.”
“You know,” Edward began, putting a finger to his lips. “I’m curious. If this part of your body is that magnificent. I wonder about the rest of you?”
“Why don’t you take off your pants.”
“My pants? I don’t know. That seems kind of weird.”
“It’s not weird at all, Frost. Purely for educational purposes. We’re both grown men. It’s perfectly normal.”
Frost undid his pants and let them drop to the floor before stepping out of them. Edward immediately noticed an undeniable swelling in the front of Frost’s underwear.
“Amazing,” Edward noted as he returned to his chair. “I envy your youthful perfection … and, I must admit, I envy my daughter.”
“Now what?” Frost asked.
“Go ahead, sit back down,” Edward instructed. “Enjoy the brandy. Enjoy the fire. Enjoy the night.”
Frost reached down to pick up his clothes.
“No,” Edward sternly said. “Leave the clothes there. Just sit.”
“But I’m cold,” Frost whined.
“Sit by the fire like I said and you’ll warm up.”
“Wait a minute. This doesn’t seem very fair. Why do you get to keep your clothes on?”
“Would you rather I take mine off?”
“It only seems right.”
“All right then,” Edward said, and he stood up and began to undress with little hesitation.
At 53 years of age, Edward Law’s body had seen better days. He was not fat, but his belly lacked the firm smoothness that young Frost was blessed with and jutted out a bit over his waist. His entire upper body was covered with curling grayish white hairs and that made him look apish. His chest did not stand out over his stomach, but instead was caved in and his pecs were like two big bowls of chilled pudding that slightly jiggled as he moved. Frost watched with dismal wonder as Edward shed his pants to reveal a pair of bony, pale legs leading up to a pair of white boxer shorts and a little pointy stick pushing out the fabric at the front.
“There,” Edward exclaimed. “Now we’re even.”
They both sat down in their respective chairs and stared at the fire.
“I feel strange about this,” Frost said. “It seems creepy.”
“What’s creepy about it?”
“I mean, don’t you feel kind of weird sitting here in your underwear with another guy?”
“It’s not like we’re completely naked … unless you’d be more comfortable that way?”
“Jesus, no! That would be worse.”
“If you want to put your clothes back on, go ahead. It makes no difference to me.”
“I think I would.”
“I’m disappointed nonetheless,” Edward sighed. “But if it’s what you want.”
“It’s just … what if someone comes in?”
“The door is locked. I always lock it when I come in here. No one will disturb us.”
Frost killed the brandy in his glass and looked around the room.
“What’s the matter? You seem so tense,” Edward said.
“Maybe I should go see what Emily’s doing.”
“Don’t worry about her. She’s fine. But I want to talk to you about something.”
“When we were upstairs and you touched me on the face. It just made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, you were interested in me … I mean, sexually.”
“I just wanted to touch your whiskers … No sir, I’m not interested in you … sexually. I’m afraid you’re mistaken.”
“But I have no whiskers as you clearly pointed out … And I don’t believe I’m mistaken about your intentions. Am I? Because I noticed just a while ago you seemed to have a very intense erection.”
“Did I sir?”
“From where I could tell, yes. A quite powerful and big erection I must say.”
“My apologies sir. I didn’t realize it.”
“No apologies necessary. I took it as a compliment.”
Edward laughed out loud at his own remark.
“If it’s all the same to you sir, I’d really like to go check on Emily. I’m a bit tired. I think we may want to go to bed soon.”
“That’s fine, fine, fine. But just do me one little favor before you turn in.”
“I want to see it.”
“Your John Thomas … show it to me.”
“My genitals, sir?”
“Yes. Your damn genitals. I want to see what kind of brutal bedroom thrashing my daughter is in store for.”
Frost pulled down his underwear and stood stone still. Edward stared at the thing dangling between his legs for a long time as the fire crackled and the booze began to wear on him.
“You seem to have lost your vigor,” Edward pointed out.
Frost looked down at himself.
“It’s revolting. It looks like something hanging in a butcher’s shop window. Please put it away,” Edward ordered. “Get dressed and don’t tell anyone about anything that happened tonight. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir. I do. All in the name of science and innocent curiosity, right?”
“Yes, that’s right, Frost. Now, please leave me in peace.”
I opened my bedroom door slowly and peered out. It was Emily in her nightgown.
“What do you want?” I whispered to her. “Have you come to laugh at me some more? Because if you have, I won’t stand for it.”
She pushed her way in through the door and closed it behind her.
“No, nothing like that,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure I was able to say goodbye before you left. I have this strange feeling that I’ll never see you again.”
“Would it really matter that much? To you or to anybody?”
“Of course it would. Don’t be like that.”
“I don’t believe it. It seems to me you get a fine kick out of it when Frost and the others put me down. Well, you won’t be able to do much of that anymore so you might as well get your licks in now.”
I turned and went to the bed and sat on the edge of it.
“I don’t know what to say, Everett. You’re right. It was wrong to treat you that way.”
“It was, and I’m afraid no apology will make it any better. I’m going to have to make my own way now without any family to be a part of. If that’s the way you all want it, so be it. I’m done with this. And as far as me going to see some psychiatrist, forget it. If anything, you all need to go to group therapy and figure yourselves out.”
“But how will you get along. I mean, without their money to help you.”
“I’ve had a job before and I can get another one. I’d still be a damn fine toy clerk if it weren’t for that awful tramp and her bastard kid. See, I’m not falling for this anymore. Every time I start to depend on or believe in someone, they end up fucking me over. No more. From now on I’m going lone wolf. To hell with people.”
“You can’t completely isolate yourself from the world, Everett. It’s not healthy.”
“And this is!? Being around others has caused me nothing but grief. If I could live on an island all by myself, you bet I would.”
“I fear you’d die of loneliness,” Emily said, and she moved toward the bed and sat down right beside me.
“Better to die of loneliness than have the world pummel me with Swedish meatballs,” I replied.
She lightly laughed and held one of my hands between hers.
“I think I’ll miss you, as strange as that sounds.”
“Maybe I’ll miss you too.”
Emily reached up and played with my hair before she took my face in both of her hands and kissed me. She moaned in my mouth as she pressed her lips into me long and hard; when she finally came up for air she wiped at her wet mouth with her arm and looked at me seriously.
“Just imagine, Everett. You could have tasted that every day of your life when you were growing up. You really missed out. I hope you don’t ever make that mistake again.”
She abruptly stood up and walked toward the door.
The next morning I gathered my things and rushed downstairs to the sunny kitchen. I poured myself a glass of milk and ate a piece of stale cake. As I rinsed my dishes in the sink, I looked out the window and saw that my father was in the back yard chopping wood. I watched as he raised the ax high above his head and brought it down with tremendous force, splitting the logs. I hoisted my pack and went out the back door and walked through the fresh snow toward him. He stopped his work and turned to look at me.
“What are you doing out here this early?” he asked, propping an arm up on the handle of the ax and glaring at me.
“I’ve come to say goodbye. I’m going away now and I won’t be back.”
“I don’t believe that for a minute, Everett. You’ll be back soon enough when you need something … or have another baby to dump off.”
“I won’t. I swear it. I’m going to make my own way now and you won’t have me to knock around anymore.”
“Well, if that’s what you think, go ahead and do it. I really don’t care. You’ve never been much of a son to me and I for one will be happy to be rid of you. So, there you have it. Go on now, make your own way like you want to. Go on.”
I turned and walked away so he couldn’t see me start to cry. I went back into the house, locked the back door and went out the front where I waited at the end of the drive for my taxi to take me back to the bus station. I stood there near the hedge and looked up and down the street at the rows of perfect houses and wondered what the lives were like on the insides. Imperfect toil and agony, I imagined. I saw some kids outside a house across the street and they were putting the finishing touches on a grand snowman. I walked over and looked at it.
“Hey mister, how do you like our snowman?” one of the stupid kids asked me.
“It’s a fine snowman,” I said, looking down at him. “What’s his name?”
“Frosty!” the kids yelled in unison.
“That’s a terrible name,” I said, and then I placed my hand on the big, round head with the charcoal eyes and pushed it off the body. It fell apart when it hit the ground.
“Hey!” the kids screamed, and I lit up a cigarette, turned and walked back across the street just as my cab pulled up. The snowballs started flying as I positioned myself in the back seat and closed the door. The cabbie looked back at me with a sense of fear on his face.
“What is going on?” he asked in an odd accent.
“I just killed a snowman. Go ahead and drive before they take us both down.”
I eventually ended up working at a convenience store in sexy Tucson, Arizona selling cigarettes and watery beer to Mexicans. It wasn’t a great gig, but it paid the bills I had and afforded me some of the best dope I ever experienced. I got myself a small, studio apartment that was more like an old motel out on the dusty edge of town. It had a swimming pool and most of the neighbors were decent enough drifters who shared their mad tales of life with me while we sat around the community patio and grill getting drunk and stoned under the big, bright stars.
I wrote Emily one letter the whole time I had been gone and one day, near Christmas, I found a card from her in my mailbox. I went inside, sat down in my lone living room chair and opened it. An outdated wedding invitation slipped out and I just threw that on the floor and went over her words. She started off talking about hoping that I was doing well and that she missed me and that maybe someday her and her new husband, Frost, could pay a visit. I didn’t care for that part too much. She went on to say that mother had decided to keep baby Maine in secret and how that had been the last straw for my father and they split up. She said my dad moved way up north in Canada to work as a big shot for some international logging company. The business and the big old house were quickly sold and my mother moved to Schenectady to be near her sister, our Auntie Fern. She finished off with some crap about how my mother missed me and wished I would contact her along with a bunch of junk about how I should take care of myself and be good. She signed it, Love Emily, and below that were lip prints where she kissed the card.
I closed it up and carefully placed it back in the envelope and set it down on the table next to my chair. I got up, went into the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of whiskey off the counter and a cold beer out of the fridge. I went back into the living room, set down my booze and peered out the window as the sun began to drop from the desert sky and the roar of traffic stirred up the dust and tumbleweeds. I wished the hot hot city a fine goodnight and closed the curtains. I went back to my chair, got comfortable and opened the beer and drank some. I uncapped the whiskey bottle and drank some of that too. I lit up a cigarette and clicked on the TV. I really didn’t watch it, I just liked to hear the noise and the voices as I began to fade away. The room grew darker as time swirled and I suddenly felt very alone in the whole entire world and that sorta scared me and I was worried I was going to have some sort of a panic attack. I drank some more and looked around at my sparse life and wondered what it all meant … and even though the answer pained me deeply, knowing that all this too would someday end, I was finally content to be free.