Are You Loveable (part four)
“That right front tire’s a little ragged,” George said.
“George, you and me are gonna go walk on that path up by the dam.”
“Ha. I don’t think so.”
“George, what’s Oland got to do with us getting divorced? Why you wanna talk in front of him?”
Lured thus, eyes alight, George jumped to his feet.
Daisy, as they strolled, looked over her shoulder. She motioned to Oland. His mouth fell open. She shot him a glare and snapped her fingers. Like she expected him to follow…
After she’d said the one thing. Now it was something else.
Listening to George and Daisy bicker, Oland felt sunk, in that way all the teachers, army officers, and bosses of his past had made familiar to him. He heard George say, “…can’t go out in the sun without getting sick…looks like a goddamn hamster…” The hill grew steeper. Oland kept his eyes on the ground, feet shuffling at a near standstill. He came up against a chain-link fence. Raising his head, he found he’d walked into an enclosure. He looked to the left, to the right, and could extricate himself only by going back the way he’d come in.
Afraid George didn’t want him there, he’d lingered, panting, below the summit. That was when, as Oland recalled, he had heard a whump, and George emit a startled, “Gah!”
He saw George, about twenty feet down, lying in blood like a dead man, on the rip-rap along the spillway. Daisy stood, not a hair turned, smoking. She said to Oland, “He fell.”
But her story had changed. She wouldn’t explain. Sometimes, Oland thought, things got away from you. He had been blamed before. Threatened once, for not putting his head down fast enough, with a charge of insubordination. The word meant nothing to Oland. No, he couldn’t make it out, how getting himself killed—if that was the trouble—was an offense to others. But it was the trouble, the sergeant had said.
Maybe you could be guilty of something you didn’t think you’d done, if the smart people knew more about it than you did.
On Monday, one week and one day after the ambulance had delivered George Bradshaw to the hospital, Police Chief Joseph Grinker sat in his office with Ahern, shooting the breeze.
“…one of those funny definitions for words,” Ahern was saying. He quoted, reading from his newspaper. “A lie. A poor substitute for the truth, but so far no one has thought of anything better.”
Grinker had been studying an ad on the back of the paper: “Low Fares to California.” How low could they be? He was uncertain, therefore, whether he’d really seen a head pop round the doorframe. Allowing Ahern a flat chuckle, he got up to check. He jumped. A different head had popped round the doorframe.
Are You Loveable
(2015, 2018, Stephanie Foster)