This is a scene between Becca & Jake as they wait for word on Jake’s aunt/Becca’s friend, Lucy, at the hospital. Jake is one of Becca’s suspects in the murder of her brother, but it was she who brought Lucy to the hospital. Jake has started talking about his early life in Vicksburg & can’t seem to stop.
“I was twelve when my daddy was killed,” Jake said, as if reciting facts about someone he barely knew. “The old man was what I’d call a ‘functioning alcoholic’ if there is such a thing. Thing is, he had a job in a body shop in downtown Vicksburg, kept the same job for years, and I don’t really know how. Come Friday afternoon, he headed straight to the liquor store or beer joint to stock up for the weekend. He’d be half gone by the time he showed up at the house, and we knew he’d had to drive right by to get to his booze, but it never failed. He was always more anxious to get to the liquor than to get home to us. Weekends weren’t much fun around our house. Or I should say our apartment. We lived in a rundown apartment house just about three blocks from the Mississippi, and I spent a lot of time hanging out on the bluffs overlooking the river, just wishing I were on one of the barges going past every day – I didn’t care which direction, just anywhere would have done.
“But I couldn’t leave my mama. She was a good woman. How she ended up with a louse like my old man I’ll never know. I never talked to her about that – don’t think I wanted to hear the ugly details.”
I shifted a bit in my seat, trying to keep my bottom from going to sleep, but Jake didn’t seem to notice. He kept right on talking. Absently I watched the comings and goings of the ER: nurses and doctors always in a rush, would-be patients waiting “patiently” or demanding help in agitated shouts, police officers filling out reports. Police officers…Richie…murders…
I jerked back to awareness as Jake was saying, “But it was the gambling that got Daddy in the end. After he’d been kicked out of every casino in town, he started looking for other places to gamble, and that put him out on the highway going from one truck stop casino to another. I guess then it was just a matter of time before the gambling and the drinking led to a bad car wreck.”
“One night just before I turned thirteen, the cops came knocking on the door and told Mama he wouldn’t be coming home again. She went off the deep end after that. First she stopped eating, or sleeping. Then one day I got home from school a few minutes before Hal, which was usually the case, thank goodness. Anyway, the house was real quiet. I knew before I went in something bad was inside. But I had to check it out before Hal got there.”
Jake’s eyes held a faraway look of pain and anguish, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for what his childhood must have been like. I, who had never experienced any of those things, wondered how Richie and I would have turned out if our situations had been reversed.
“She wasn’t in the living room or kitchen,” Jake continued, “and the bathroom door was open but the room was empty. So I knocked on her bedroom door and got no answer. I went in. She was looking more comfortable than she had in years. I saw the pile of empty bottles on the table beside her. I checked her for a pulse, but she was already cold. She must have taken them all right after we left for school.” He was speaking in a monotone, as if telling someone else’s story.
He went on as if he hadn’t heard me. “So I went outside and waited for Hal, took him down the hall to Mrs. Mason. She was always good to us. Hal had just turned nine. I knew we were in trouble when the woman in the black suit arrived. They packed us off to CPS while they started looking for any relatives we might have. While we waited, they put us in separate foster homes. I could see Hal was scared – I was too – but I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.
How do you feel about the character of Jake? Leave me a comment here & I’ll sign you up for my monthly newsletter.