More of my writings. I really hope you read and enjoy … If you’re so inclined.

It’s very important to tie up loose ends.  Just ask Dallas.

Fiction:

Closure

By: S. Scott Bullock

“Nope.” Dallas said to his five-year old son. “I’ve never met her or even seen her.

“Are you sad for that, Daddy.” Michael said sitting on the floor in front of Dallas, building his Lego submarine.

“Sometimes.” Dallas said, looking over at his wife. She sat in the chair opposite him watching with that expression that says, ‘walk carefully here, Dal.’ “Most times I’m just real curious to find out what she looks like and what kind of lady she is. If she’s even still alive.”

With that last sentence, Carrie stood up and walked to their son.

“Enough for now, Mike-Man.” She said to him. “Let’s pick up those Legos and head to the bathtub. You smell like..” She started.

“A PLAYDOUGH POOP FACTORY!” Michael shouted, laughing and holding up his arms, field-goal fashion.

Dallas put his hand to his mouth to hide the grin and did his best not to bust out laughing.

“Nice language.” She said to her son while looking square at her husband. “I just can’t imagine where you learned it.”

Michael began gathering up his Legos and placing them in a big plastic bin.

“Hey, Daddy, do you have another daddy like you have another mommy?” Michael said reaching under the chair for a wayward Lego brick.

Carrie cautioned Dallas with another glance.

“I sure do.” Dallas said a little too happily. “But I’ve never met him either.”

“To the tub.” Carrie said picking up the plastic bin full of Legos.

An hour later Carrie walked back into the their small living room.

“Clean, fed and in bed.” She said and plopped down onto the couch next to Dallas. “I’m pooped.”

“Like a Play-dough Poop Factory?” He said to her grinning.

“Did you teach him that?” She said, sitting forward and turning to face him.

“I am NOT guilty of that one, Kerosene” He said through a chuckle. “I thought you had.”

“I doubt your dubious sincerity, Dalrumple.” She said and laid back against him. “It’s time for some ‘I Love Lucy’. The DVD is still in the player.

“I need closure.” Dallas tentatively began, anticipating the violent storm this next conversation was going to invoke.

“Oh. Shit.” Carrie said sitting up and away from him.

“I’ve got to find her and put this to bed in my head.”

“Dallas.” She began. “Every freakin’ year this comes up. And always the day after Michael’s birthday. Do you SEE the pattern, Dallas. Do you GET the psychology behind this overwhelming desire to find your BIRTH mother?”

“I just feel like I didn’t give it a good enough try before.” Dallas said, head down, looking at his hands.

“Two years, Dal? Two years wasn’t a good enough try?” Carrie put her hand under his chin and gently raised it so they were eye to eye.

“The first two years of our marriage took a backseat to your quest. Two years, Dal. I nearly left you toward the end of those two years. I never stopped loving you, but I nearly left you. And if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I may have.” She moved her hand from under his chin and put it on his knee. “I can’t live through that again, Dal. I can’t see you banging your head against that brick wall over and over and over again. It kills me inside to see you struggling and failing over and over. Every Goddamn clue another dead end and crushing disappointment. I can’t stand seeing you hurting so deeply. Especially when I can’t do anything to help you.”

“I’m hurting now.” He said softly. “I’m hurting now and you can help me now.”

Carrie inhaled for a count of five and exhaled to a count of ten.

“Low blow.” She said, and stood up.

“Don’t go.” He said grabbing her hand.

“I’m just going to get us some coffee.” She said turning away. “Then we can finish this.”

Ten minutes later she came back into the room carrying a half -full bottle of wine and two glasses. Soft rain from an early Fall storm had begun to fall and Dallas was staring out the window at the rivulets rolling down the glass panes.

“Screw coffee.” Carrie said. “This topic requires wine. Why don’t you light us a fire?”

“Huh?” Dallas said, lost in his reverie.

“Fire. Fireplace. Fire, good.” Carrie said ala The Frankenstein Monster. “We drink wine. Smoke cigar. Talk mama searching.” She set the glasses on the coffee table and filled them to the very top with the crimson-red Cabernet. She set the empty bottle on the table. “We need to buy some bigger glasses.” She said handing a glass to Dallas.

“Thank you.” He said taking the glass. “I’m sorry to be putting this on you again.”

“For better or worse.” She said lifting the glass toward him in a ‘cheers’ and then taking a long swallow of wine. “Ahhhh. Good month. August.”

“So, you’re okay with it?” He asked putting his glass down on the table.

“With the wine?” She asked, stone faced.

“You know what I mean. Are you okay with me searching again?”

“I love you.” She said before downing her huge glass of wine. “That is why I DON’T want you to do this, at the very same time I DO want you to do this. Are you gonna drink that?” She said pointing to his untouched wine.

“Don’t even think about bogarting my wine.” He said picking up the glass. “I was letting it breathe.”

“Five dollar wine doesn’t need to breathe.” She said. “It’s already oxygen deprived and brain dead. So. How will this version of ‘the grand search for mama’ begin?”

“Jane’s brother is a detective who specializes in impossible missing person cases. She said he can find anyone on the planet who is still alive.”

“Jane?” Carrie said, involuntarily raising an eyebrow.

“Mark’s cousin.” Dallas said.

“Mark?” She asked. “Mark Dennis?!”

“Yeah.” He said and looked away.

“Oh. So. Your barber’s cousin knows a man who knows a man?”

“Something like that.” He said looking down at his hands again.

“If you give me your wine, I’ll say ‘go for it’.” She said holding out her hand.

“Here.” He said smiling and handing her his glass. “Drink up. And I love you.”

The next year the leaves began to fall from Micheal’s ‘treehouse tree’ in the backyard, signaling the fall of another Fall. Dallas sat at his makeshift desk in the den of their cozy Craftsman style house writing a check. Carrie came into the room with wine and glasses.

“Who the hell writes checks anymore, Dalrumple?”

“It’s for Jake.” Dallas said tearing the perforated check from the book. “He’s old school. I’m thinking this may be the last one. I don’t know if I can deal with this anymore.”

Carrie poured a glass of wine and brought it to Dallas.

“Here.” She said, handing him the glass. “Listen to these words because I will only say them once. And quite frankly I can’t believe I am saying them at all. You WILL NOT quit again. You will continue this quest until you have a definitive answer. You will continue to pay this ‘finder-of-lost souls’ until our account is emptied. You will NOT quit again.”

“It’s been a year, Carrie.”

“Yeah? So?” She poured herself some wine and took a gulp.

“You drink too fast. And too much.” He said to her.

“A direct result of being married to you.”

“Where’s Michael?” Dallas said and sipped his wine.

“He’s in his tree-house with Kevin and don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not changing the…” He began and his cell phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and looked at the incoming number. “Speak of the devil.” He said to Carrie then pressed the ‘accept call’ button. “Hey Jake, what’s up…….. Yeah, I am……… You’re kidding?…… You kidding?…….. Where?…… All of them?….. Okay…… Yes…… Okay…….. I’m home…… Yes, I will…… No…… Oh, shit…..No…..Okay Jake…… yeah ….. Okay, bye Jake. And thank you.” He pressed the phone off and looked at Carrie with tears welling in his eyes.

“WHAT!?!?” She shouted at him.

“He found her.” Dallas said just above a whisper.

Carrie lept to her feet and ran to him. She dropped to her knees and pulled him into a bear hug.

“Oh my god!” She screamed. “Oh my god! I can’t believe it! Who is she?! What’s her name? Where does she live?! Does she want to meet you?!” She pulled back and looked at him. He was totally still and staring out the window. “Dal?”

“She’s dead. She died shortly after she had me.”

“Oh, shit.” Carrie sighed, taking his hand. “I’m so, so sorry, Dal.

“MOM!!!” Michael shouted opening the back door. “MOOOOOOOM!”

“Not now Michael!” Carrie shouted back.

“BUT MOM! CAN KEVIN SPEND THE NIGHT AND EAT DINNER WITH US TONIGHT?!”

“NOT NOW MICHAEL!” Carrie exploded back.

“Let him.” Dallas said picking up his wine glass and downing it all at once. “Let him.”

“But, Dal…”

“Let him.” He said quietly and then yelled “YES, MIKE-MAN. TELL KEVIN TO ASK HIS MOM AND THEN HE CAN STAY!”

“THANKS DAD! I LOVE YOU!” Michael shouted and slammed the back door shut.

“He loves me.” Dallas said smiling up at Carrie.

“I do too.” She said and kissed his cheek.

The next morning there was a loud knock at the front door. Michael ran to it and pulled it open, just as Carrie came out of the kitchen.

“DAMMIT, Michael.” She said heading to the door. “I told you not to open the door unless you know who it ….” She stopped when she saw who was standing on their porch.

“Hi, Carrie.” Jake, ‘The Finder-Of-Lost-Souls’ said smiling his ‘never-to-be-trusted’ smile. “Dallas here?” He asked stepping into the house.

“Wait here.” She said a little too strongly. “I’ll get him.”

A moment later Dallas stepped into the entry hall.

“Hey, Jake.” He said puzzled. “What’s up?”

“Can I come in for a bit?” Jake said raising his hands palm up and shrugging.

“Oh, shit. Yeah. Sorry. Come on in.” Dallas motioned toward the living room. “You want some coffee or something?” He asked sitting down and pointing at the chair across from him. “Sit, please. You want anything?”

“You got any scotch?” Jake asked, sitting down. “Doesn’t have to be top shelf or anything.”

“Sure.” Dallas said. “Hey, Kerosene!” He shouted toward the kitchen. “Could you bring us the Scotch and a couple of glasses.”

“And ice.” Jake said.

“And ice!” Dallas called out. He looked over at Jake. “She’ll be here in a… why are you here Jake?”

“Well. I think I can help you a little more with this whole mother thing.” Jake said pulling out a cigarette. “S’ok if I smoke?”

“I’d prefer you didn’t. ” Dallas said.

“Oh.” Jake said putting the cigarette carefully back into the pack. “Excuuuuuuse me.”

“Jake, why are you here? I got your email with her information. Who she was and all the other stuff.” Dallas said.

“Here’s your booze boys.” Carrie said walking into the room with a bottle, two glasses and a small bag of ice. She put the bottle and glasses on the table and tossed the bag of ice onto Dallas’s lap. “And your ice.” She said curtsying “May I get you anything from the hot menu?”

“Thank you, toots.” Jake said grinning. “How about some buffalo wings.”

“Thanks, Carrie.” Dallas said

Jake picked up a glass and held it toward Dallas.

“Fill’er up, amigo.” Jake said grinning.

Dallas poured a generous glassful of scotch, took some ice from the bag in his lap and dropped it in.

“Thank ya sir.” Jake said taking a swig. “Oh. Cheap stuff.” He said through a laugh.

“Did you want your last payment, Jake? Because I mailed the check yesterday.”

“How’d ya like to meet your birth mom’s sister and mother?” Jake said before downing his scotch and holding his glass out for a refill.

“I’d like that very much, Jake.” Dallas poured more scotch into Jake’s glass.

“Here.” Jake said pulling a pocket sized spiral notebook from his pocket. He flipped open the notebook and leafed through the pages. “Here.” He said again and tore out a page. “This is the phone number and the address.

Dallas took the page.

“How’d you find this?” He asked staring at the names and numbers.

“We got lucky with those flooded out files from the hospital basement. Two boxes partially survived and one of them had your birth file in it. What was left of it anyway.” Jake downed his second glass.

“More?” Dallas asked holding up the bottle.

“Nope. Two’s the limit before five. But after five…. well…. just stand back.” He let out a huge laugh and then belched. “’Scuse me. Anyway, I wrote down all the stuff I could get from the file and this was in it. Look’s like your mama came from money. Maybe you could work something out with the family. If you know what I mean.” Jake winked at Dallas. “Oh, hell.” He said picking up his glass. “Fill’er up. This is a celebration after all.”

Carrie and Dallas sat in bed, propped up against the padded headboard. She held a glass of wine, he the note page Jake had given him.

“What can I gain?” Dallas said.

“What can you lose?” Carrie countered and finished the last of her wine. She put the glass on the night table and scooted down in bed. She moved closer to Dallas and snuggled against him. “That closure thing, remember?”

Dallas put the note page on his night table and picked up the remote control. Carrie put her hand on top of it.

“Really?” She said grinning. “TV? Now?”

Dallas put down the remote and rolled on top of her. Then, from Michael’s room.

“MOOOOOOM!” Michael yelled. “Kevin puked!”

Dallas stood at the bottom of the long driveway. He had parked his rental on the street. He felt that driving up to the door might be perceived as pushy. He didn’t want to appear pushy. Or over-eager or rude or uncouth or….

“Jesus.” He said aloud and began the long walk to the front door.

The house was at the top of a hill, in an old San Francisco neighborhood. All the houses were Victorian style and this one, the one he was headed toward, was the biggest on the block. It could easily be qualified as a mansion. As he got closer he saw that it wasn’t aging well. The elaborate, multicolored, paint job was chipped and faded and many of the shutters hung at odd angles. The yard and gardens were neglected and overgrown. Dallas heard a line from an old movie echo in his head. ‘Ruined finery’ it said. He reached the carved front double door and grasped the lion’s head knocker. He suddenly felt like he was stepping into some kind of black and white horror movie. The thought made a little chill run up his spine and made the hairs on his neck stand up and tingle. He slammed the knocker three times and stood back from the door.

“Coming!” A very delicate and sweet voice came seconds later. “Hold on please. Coming.”

The door swung open and a beautiful, elegant woman in her fifties stood in front of Dallas. She wore a lavender sweater on top of a deep purple blouse, her skirt was diaphanous in tones of blues and purples. Dallas could smell her light orchid perfume and noted immediately that her eyes were as lavender as her sweater. She held a photo album in her hand. She looked into Dallas’s eyes and dropped the album to the ground.

“Oh my god.” She said quietly. “Oh my dear, loving god. You look EXACTLY like him. Exactly like him!” She said and moved toward Dallas.

Dallas moved in to pick up the photo album but she stopped him with her forward movement.

“I’m Dallas Alexander.” He said lifting his hand to shake hers. She moved in and embraced him in a bear hug of warmth and affection.

“I know who you are!” She said laughing and holding him tighter. “You’re my nephew. That’s who you are. You’re my precious late sister’s baby boy. I’m your Aunty Margaret and you’re my nephew and I am so happy to meet you and hug you!” She held on so long that Dallas began to feel a little uncomfortable. He had already released his half of the hug, then re-hugged because she hadn’t let go yet, then released again and she was still holding tight. He was about to re-hug again when she let him go.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” She said laughing and releasing him from her embrace. “I’ve been accused several times of being overly emotional. But I can’t help myself, here. I’m just so darned happy to meet you. Now come inside. You’ve got to meet Mama! Your Grandmama!”

Dallas bent down and picked up the photo album. He held it out to his new found Aunty but she was already leading the way into the house.

“Close the door, sweetie and follow me.” She said over her shoulder.

He obliged.

It was difficult to keep up with her as she flew through the house heading who-knows-where. She was a purple blur with silver hair. She disappeared into a doorway and Dallas followed. He entered a cozy room with walls covered in hung tapestries. The furniture and furnishings all looked antique and expensive. The room had a large bay window and the light filtering in bathed everything in the warm glow of an aging dusk.

“Come in!” Margaret said standing next to a huge wing-backed chair in the middle of the room. Seated in the chair was a movie version of the typical patrician lady. She looked to be in her seventies but was in fact well into her eighties. She wore an elegant burgundy and gold caftan with a high collar and tapered cuffs. Her feet were barely visible but Dallas could see that they were covered in golden house slippers. Her demurely coiffed, snow-white hair, and her perfect, seated posture added to the effect that one was being presented to aristocratic royalty. Dallas felt an almost irresistible urge to bow.

“Come meet your Grandmama, Dallas!” Margaret said. “Come over here so she can see you!”

Dallas stepped into the room and handed the photo album to Margaret. He stepped closer to the seated woman. He held out his hand and she recoiled.

“Bradley Tranger!” She shouted at him. “How dare you show your…”

“No Mama!” Margaret said taking her mother’s clinched fist into her hands. “This is Dallas. This is Marie’s boy. Remember. We’ve talked about Marie’s boy.”

The old woman sat statue still, her arm raised in a fisted salute. Margaret released her hand and it fell to her lap and relaxed.

“Marie’s boy.” The old woman said with a deep, age old sorrow in her voice.

“Yes, Mama. You remember. We talked about Marie’s boy finding us and coming to visit.

“Dallas.” Margaret began. “This is your Grandmama. Her name is Amanda. Mama, this is your Grandson, Dallas.”

“It’s my real pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” Dallas said and held out his hand.

“Call her Grandmama, Dallas!” Margaret said.

“Grandmama.” Dallas said feeling a bit uncomfortable. But with another feeling also. A feeling of belonging. A very unfamiliar feeling of belonging.

“You look just like him.” Amanda said staring deeply into Dallas’s eyes. “So much like him.” She raised her age spotted hand and gently touched his face. “So much.”

“Who do I look like?” Dallas asked looking back and forth between his brand new relatives.

“Let me show you.” Margaret said opening the photo album. “Sit over here on the window seat. The light is still good. Sit down over here and take a looky-look at this!”

Dallas sat on the window seat and Margaret laid the book on his lap. It was open to a page of Polaroid color pictures of teenagers. Most were group pictures but three of them were close-ups of a teenage boy. Dallas stared at the face in the pictures and felt the world waver and slip away from him for a moment.

“It’s me.” He said, feeling as if he had moved up and away from the room.

“It’s your daddy.” Margaret said and touched Dallas’s shoulder.

“You look just like him.” Amanda said looking out the window. A hard rain began then. The kind of rain that can happen in San Francisco in an instant. “Rain’s started.” She said from a far away place in her mind.

Dallas turned the page of the album.

“Are there more pictures of him?” He asked. “And what about my mom? Are there pictures of my mom?”

“Lots.” Margaret said. “But let’s have some coffee and talk first, okay? Then I’ll get out all the other pictures and memorabilia and stuff.”

“Oh. Yeah. Sure. Sorry. I’m just really excited about all this.” Dallas closed the album and set it beside him on the window seat.

“Mama?” Margaret said, moving to her mother and taking her hand. “You want some coffee? You want to have coffee with Dallas and me?”

“Just like him.” Amanda said, still far away.

“Coffee, Mama?” Margaret repeated, touching Amanda’s shoulder.

“Coffee? Oh, yes. I’d love some coffee. And don’t you dare short me on the cream and sugar. Don’t you dare do that, Maggie.” Amanda said and smiled one of the most dazzling smiles that Dallas had ever seen. “I’m old.” She said to Dallas. “Cream and sugar won’t hurt me.” She kept a frozen gaze at Dallas and her eyes lit with a starlight sparkle. They were the same astounding shade of lavender as her daughter’s and Dallas wondered if his own mother had had eyes that color. “I’m sorry, young man.” She said to him. “I get confused sometimes. It doesn’t last. But it is one of the many crosses I bear. You are my Marie’s child, and as such, you are my grandchild, and as more such, I love you and will care for you always. Would you come over and give your ancient Grandmama a hug and kiss?”

Dallas rose and walked to Amanda. He knelt by her chair and she embraced him with the same warmth and affection that Margaret had done at the door. He felt that odd feeling rise up in him again. Belonging. Home. Comfort. No more longing.

“Coffee and cake in the kitchen!” Margaret shouted from down the hall.

Amanda released Dallas from her hug and rose from the chair.

“If I may take your arm,” She said putting her arm through his. “I’ll show you to the kitchen.”

“Are you okay if I call you Amanda?” He said putting his hand on hers. “Grandmama is a little tough on the tongue right now.”

Amanda let out a guffaw.

“Thank Christ!” She said still laughing. “You’re normal! That made me a little uncomfortable too. Margaret tends toward the over emotional. Yes, please call me Amanda. Or even ‘Hey, Old Lady’. The kitchen is through here.”

Amanda led Dallas into the huge kitchen. It looked more like a restaurant kitchen than a residential one. Industrial stainless steel appliances dominated the room and an enormous stainless steel counter with four, deep sinks dominated one entire wall. Off to the corner was what best would be called a breakfast nook. A banquette upholstered in red leather surrounded a teak-wood table. A banquette and table that could easily accommodate fifteen people.

“Sit, sit, sit!” Margaret called out from the table. “Looky-look at what we’ve got for you, Dallas.”

“Calm down, Maggie.” Amanda said sitting down and sliding into the banquette. “You’ll bust a corset stay. Slide in Dallas. There’s enough room for all of us. And thirty or forty more of our nearest and dearest friends.”

“Looky-look, Dallas and Mama!” Margaret stood up and waved her arm above the table like Vanna White displaying the grand prize. “Three kinds of cake! Pastries! Two pies and cupcakes!”

“Wow!” Dallas said sliding in.

“Mother of God, Maggie!” Amanda said. “Are you feeding all of San Francisco?”

“It’s a VERY special occasion, Mother!” Margaret said and picked up a platter of cupcakes. “Take one, Dallas. Take some of everything and I’ll get the coffee.” She put the platter down in front of Dallas and moved to the over-sized stove top where an old style coffee percolator bubbled away.

“As you may have gathered.” Amanda began. “Margaret is excitable but decidedly sane. I, on the other hand, have a sandy grip on sanity but am not excitable in the least. I am also blessed with a keen ability to read people and what I read from you, dear grandson, is a need for information. A need that exceeds your need for lemon-meringue spice cake. Am I near to being correct?”

Dallas smiled. He felt so close to this amazing woman at that moment. Alien feelings. So many alien feelings in so short a time.

“Very close to being correct.” He said smiling at her.

“Maggie.” Amanda ordered. “Pour the coffee. Set it in front of us. Speak not, unless I ask you for assistance. Don’t serve cakes or pies or pastries yet. Please just sit and be quiet while I fill our dear relative here, in on the sordid and sad goings on that led him to us so late in life.”

“Fine, Mama.” Margaret pouted. “You don’t have to be so mean.”

“Life is mean, dear daughter. Life is meaner than I could ever be.” Amanda turned to Dallas. “This isn’t pretty, dear one. But it is the truth, and as the old saying goes, ‘the truth shall set you free’.”

Dallas took the coffee mug from Margaret who stood behind him.

“Cream or sugar?” She asked quietly.

“Maaaaaaaggie.” Amanda drew out her name in a warning.

“Well! Maybe he wants cream or sugar?” Margaret whined.

“I’m fine.” Dallas said. “Black. I take it black.”

“Put our coffees down and sit, Maggie.”

Margaret did as she was instructed with the coffees then slid into the banquette next to her mother.

“Your mama’s name was Marie Helena Sinclair. She was the oldest of my three children. Margaret here is my youngest.”
Margaret raised her hand and did a little wave toward Dallas. Amanda shot her a glance and she put her hand in her lap.

“My middle child, Alan, died in Vietnam.”

“Oh wow.” Dallas said. “I’m sorry. That’s awful. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s one of the many crosses I bear, dear one. One of the many. Your mother was an angel on this earth and made it her short life’s work to help anyone and everyone who crossed her sainted path. And I say ‘sainted’ without any exaggeration or ignorance. I am an angry, lapsed Catholic and I came to understand the bullshit concept the church has of what makes a saint. Christoper and Paul have nothing on Marie.”

“Mama!” Margaret yelped. “Language!”

“He’s a big boy, Maggie. Now be still.” She shifted in her seat and turned more toward Dallas. “When Marie was sixteen she met a boy from….. a boy from….” Amanda stopped and looked toward the kitchen door. “Did you call Alan?” She said. “Maggie, did you call Alan?”

“Mama.” Margaret said and turned her mother’s face to her. “Mama, it’s a wrong thought. You’re having a wrong thought.

Amanda looked deeply into her daughter’s face. Dallas saw the strong, sassy, confident woman melt away. Her face looked like a terrified child, lost in a forest filled with unspeakable demons at that moment. Dallas’s heart sank and the sense of belonging that he felt so strongly before transformed into one of fear and concern. He wanted to leave just then. Something inside of him was screaming for him to run. Leave this craziness and go home to Carrie and Michael. How much more did he need to know? How much more?

“Oh.” Amanda said after what seemed an eternity. She sipped her coffee. “You’ve cheated me on the cream and sugar again, Maggie.”

“I’ll get you some more, Mama.” Margaret said and slid out of the banquette.

“I do that sometimes, Dallas.” She said to him, looking like her old sassy self again. “I get confused sometimes. It doesn’t last. But it is one of the many crosses I bear.”

Dallas felt the new concerns float away and warmth return to his heart.

“We all have our crosses.” He said and put his hand on top of hers. She took her other hand and placed it on his.

“You are very dear. I can tell that already.” She smiled at him. “Like your mama, I’d say. Just like your mama, so very dear. But sadly you look just like him.”

“Sadly?” Dallas asked.

“Bradley Tranger was your daddy. And Bradley Tranger was a son-of-a-bitch.” She pulled her hands away from Dallas and placed them palms down on the table.

“MAMA!” Margaret chided, bringing over the cream pitcher and sugar bowl. “Language!”

“Margaret.” She chided back. “You know full well that the only way to describe Bradley Tranger is that he was a well and true, died-in-the-wool, son-of-a-bitch!” She took up the cream pitcher and poured in half a cup full of cream then spooned four spoons full of sugar in the nearly over-flowing cup. “Son of a BITCH.” She said slamming the spoon down on the silver tray.

“What’d he do?” Dallas asked, looking back and forth between the two women.

“He..” Margaret began.

“Shush!” Amanda hissed. “I’ll tell it. I’ll tell it all.” She shifted her position again and was once more facing Dallas. “When your mama was sixteen, she met Bradley Tranger. He was a transfer from another school and we didn’t find out until much later that he had been expelled from that noteworthy establishment and sent here to Andrew O’Brien High School as a last resort. He was seventeen and a senior. Well, in what would be the first of three horribly bad decisions in your mama’s young life, she allowed Mr. Tranger to take her to a movie one fateful Saturday evening and then promptly fell head-over-heels in love with him.”

“He was so handsome.” Margaret said, peeling the paper cup from a cupcake. “Like you, Dallas. So handsome.”

“Maggie.” Amanda turned and stared daggers at her daughter.

“Sorry.” Margaret said.

“Your mama allowed him to take her innocence. Horrible decision number two. And you were conceived. Which, I suppose, shows that good can come from bad. You are very dear.” She patted his hand and lifted a finger to his cheek. “So very dear. Being good Catholics, abortion was not to be considered and so we sent Marie to a Catholic shelter for unwed mother’s. You were born and whisked away. When Marie came home, the only thing she wanted was to see Bradley Tranger. But the son-of-a-bitch had moved on. He moved away after being expelled yet again. She wrote him and called his family home for days and days with no answer. Several weeks later she got a letter from him. It was mailed from San Diego. That’s way down south, San Diego. It was as beautiful, embossed envelope with a card on the inside that had a picture of the ocean and seagulls soaring above it at sunset. He had written only three words on the inside of the beautiful card. He had written, ‘fuck-off bitch’. And ‘bitch’ was misspelled. My beautiful daughter, my Marie, took one of her Daddy’s many pistols from the display case on the wall in her Daddy’s den and blew a hole into her head.” Amanda paused and looked at her hands resting in front of her on the lacquered wooden table. “Bad decision number three.” She said.

“I don’t even know….” Dallas began. “I can’t say what…”

“It’s alright, dear one. Words fail at times. Life fails at times too.” She looked to her daughter. “Margaret, will you please help me to the bathroom and while I’m gone pour me some more coffee and get Dallas whatever he may want or need?”

Dallas slid out of the banquette and helped Amanda stand up.

“Thank you, dear one.” She said and took Margaret’s arm.

“Where’s your cane, Mama?” Margaret asked as the headed to the doorway.

“In the bedroom. I’ll get after I tee-tee.” Amanda said in loud whisper.

Dallas’s cellphone began to ring as Margaret came back into the kitchen. She was precariously balancing six or seven over-sized photo albums. Dallas rushed over to help her.

“No, no, no.” She said. “I’ve got these. You answer your mobile.” She said plopping the books down on the over-sized counter. “Looky-look at all these memories we get to share.”

Dallas pressed ‘Accept’ on his phone.

“Hi Kerosene” He said with a new found, genuine happiness in his voice.

The first bullet caught him in the right rotator cuff. It blew his arm backward and his phone went flying. The phone struck Margaret in the head with so much force that she fell to her knees stunned and bleeding. The second and third bullets pierced Dallas’s throat and chest, just to the left of his heart. He fell backwards into the banquette. Amanda walked into the room from her position in the doorway and moved to the banquette. She had her wolf’s head cane in one hand and one her late husband’s pistols in the other.

“Bradley Tranger, you filthy son-of-a-bitch.” She hissed. “You killed my Marie and now I’m gonna kill you.” She pointed the gun directly at his forehead and pulled the trigger.