On TV, Six-pack got a minute and the Neanderthal got two, because of the punditry afterward. There was no comment from Kathleen, but they did run a still from her campaign and say that she had lost the election by less than two hundred votes. Andrew typed notes on his laptop as he ate two cheese sandwiches with two glasses of water.
As soon as the news ended, his phone rang: the editor of the Post-Intelligencer. They went over the details of the arraignment, and then Andrew said, “You got anybody in Kinsella’s office?”
“His wife’s his law partner, and they’ve had the same secretary for seventeen years.”
“—Who’s friends with the secretary? From church, the library? Their mother, their sister? I want to know who’s paying Kinsella.”
“I’ll check my church directory.”
“You’ll find a whole new circle. If you don’t, I will.”
“Give me a couple of days.”
“And the Neanderthal. Who are the Republicans going to run?”
“We’re working on it.”
Kathleen’s number was busy; good. Andrew put his plate in the sink, then decided to wash it. People were talking to him; why let the house fall apart. As he dried his hands, the phone rang again; Theresa.
“Hey darlin,’” he said.
“Don’t darlin’ me, darlin,’” she said. “I talked to the real estate agent. They want seventy-five thousand dollars for that fallin’ down shed and two acres.”
“Offer sixty, cash.”
The line went silent.
“I’m here. Where you gonna get sixty thousand dollars cash.”
“From my bank account.”
More silence. Then, “You know, darlin,’ I meant to say, you do anything that puts my man back in jail . . . I’ll go in right after him, for what I do to you.”
"The money’s clean, Theresa. OK, I have to clear it with my lawyer. He’ll want to meet you and Glaron. I’ll get him to come up here. You’ll make him barbecue.”
“I’m off work tomorrow. I can start cookin’ tonight.”
“I can’t promise him tomorrow. Let’s meet with the real estate agent tomorrow, at the diner. Inside. Will you make the appointment? Don’t mention the offer. I’ll find somebody to come with us who knows about buildings.”
Now he had an excuse to call Annie. “How’s it going?”
“Tell you tonight. Did you watch the Neanderthal?”
“Weepin’ crocodile tears, both of us. Now that his wife’s left him, he wants to spend more time with his family.”
“She’s left him? You know that?”
“Not as a fact. I just know it. Do the witches know who the Republicans will run?”
“Catherine’s working on it.”
“Good. In the meantime, will you give me the number for the guy who helped you with the house last fall—John? I want him to meet us at the diner tomorrow, tell us what a piece of shit it is.”
“He’s your man.” Annie gave him the number.
Andrew left a message for John, then walked around the apartment, thinking about their little diner team. His fingers itched to call Stuart, his lawyer, but he’d do better to wait until after they saw the place.
Kathleen’s line was still busy, so he made himself sit quietly at the table for a few minutes, staring at the grain of the wood. He had closed his memory to courthouses, but now he let them slide in, and how similar they were, even when different, imbued in their very air with screw-ups and failures and even, sometimes, evil.
Why would Six-pack agree to do something that he would immediately be fingered for? In prison it was about money, except for the guys like himself, total fuck-ups. Maybe this was both.
And the fuck-ups didn’t carry their guilt around for decades, like a gossamer cape brushing their shoulders in the slightest breeze. For them, it was always something, or somebody, else, it was this, it was that, that caused them to fuck up.
He knew otherwise. He closed his eyes and thought, forgive me, to Polly, again, for the one-thousandth time. Some days he added on his parents, and her parents, but not today. They would never forgive him and Polly might; she had loved him once, even if she loved haunting him now.
You’re allowed to move forward was Warren’s mantra, and Annie’s priest would say that what remains for you is to forgive yourself. And he would sing “Guilty,” to them. No more whisky, no more cocaine, but I’ll be guilty for the rest of my life.
He found himself on his feet again, walking around the apartment, here now, Annie at work, and they had friends and he had things to do—
This time Kathleen answered.
“Still got those lawn signs in your garage?” he said.
“You’re the third reporter to ask me that in the last forty minutes.”
“—And you said, quote—"
“We’re having a family meeting tonight, and I’ll issue a statement tomorrow afternoon.”
“—That’s tight. You talk to your funder?”
“He called me, from Palm Springs, where he’s playing golf. He said to make up my mind and then call him tomorrow morning.”
That gave him the rest of the afternoon to buy a car.
Copyright © Debby Mayer