Yoharie: Inside (part five)
Hibbler said, struggling to it, the only thing that could be. “I have to get that.”
He put the gun in its holster.
He told her where he was.
A kicking-in of the garage door motor made him start, Yoharie sigh. The wheelchair buzzed off, and Hibbler found himself in a basement, with a furnace, a washer and dryer, shelves loaded with pantry stock, furniture belonging to Yoharie’s adult kids.
His wife was speaking. Semiconscious of it, Hibbler bent to the cat house and tried to make his brain remember how he needed to restore this. A horn honked, blat blat.
“So I’m here.”
This was Kate…here with him, on the phone, and above him, on the street.
They were driving to his mother’s house. Kate had left Rae at the airport. Grandma would pick up Savannah and Rae both, Savannah was flying from LAX to Port Columbus, the girls would stay at the house for a few weeks, Savannah might stay longer. There was another sound, the bloop of a siren shutting off.
Beatty’s nose materialized in the cup of Hibbler’s hand, as he walked, diminishing…he had a sense of it…from the shelter of the arborvitae.
“Oh, God,” Kate said. “Cathlyn is looking after Beatty. I can’t deal with it.”
She pivoted, her back to him. “Cath? Jer has him, so it’s okay. We’ll run by before we go…”
“No, no.” Dawn.
Hibbler had heard Dawn talking to someone, felt now as though an aural fog were shredding off, revealing bits of the scene. An ambulance was in the drive. Who was hurt? Yoharie was there, come out the front and down the ramp. Hibbler saw Dawn wave Kate’s phone to herself, and heard her tell Cathlyn: “No hurry. Get here when you can.”
Kate said, “I’m so sorry.”
Then: “I wish you would send me the bill.”
“Nah,” Yoharie said. “You folks take care of what you need to. My mistake, hitting that button.”
The ambulance driver was sorry too. He did not make the rules. The vehicle was on the GPS, so you couldn’t say you weren’t someplace, if you were. They got these kinds of mistakes pretty often. You couldn’t do anything.
“Thanks so much! Thanks so much!” Hibbler’s wife, a hard grip on his elbow, voice bright. She hated owing people.
Dawn and Yoharie called it, while Kate backed the car out. They reached the end of the street, and she geared into park.
“We need to trade, and you drive. I have all this stuff…”
She had her phone, a notepad, another phone. She put these, and her wristlet purse, on the seat as soon as Hibbler was out of it. A cup of Starbucks steamed in the holder.
Hibbler took the wheel. “Where again?”
“Well, Columbus. Just get on the highway.”
“Um, Savannah is in Los Angeles?”
“What time is it? Probably not now.”
“You knew she was?”
Kate picked up the coffee, drank some, and said: “Just get the car on the highway.”
When they were cruising, she said, “Why were you bothering poor Mr. Yoharie?”
He couldn’t answer, because she said, “They’re keeping Beatty, for Cathlyn to come get.”
“I heard.” He especially did not want to start anything, so he softened this. “I think I heard Dawn say that.”
“They’re nice people. I’m sorry I haven’t been nicer to them. So why?”
Hibbler saw this someone—who had bothered their neighbor—small, a TV screen version, a thinner man…
His mind’s eye had no image to load, of himself, seen from the rear.
But he saw Yoharie’s astonishment clearly.
He fell on the excuse he’d used. “Mrs. Kennedy had some kids…”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Let me think about driving for a sec.”
Kate picked up her phone. Bothering her, he’d been going to say.
“Taking stuff out of her yard.”
He was not asked what they’d taken, and would have lied…a lawnmower, a bicycle…
“Jer. We need to live apart for a while.”
Before this detonation, a lecturing scrap of conscience had been telling him: Here’s what happened. Yoharie hit some emergency button, some setup for a handicapped guy that goes to the EMS. He feels sorry for you. He’s not going to call the cops on you, not even take you to small claims court…
Even this, all this, some wise guy implanted in his frontal lobe, said, could be part of the plot. You don’t really know where she’s making you go.
But he rose to the voice at hand, the one saying he had broken the contract.
“I don’t trust you. You make it impossible. No, you’re right…”
Had he spoken?
“I didn’t tell you where she was, and I would have. I didn’t want you helping. I was afraid for Savannah. Why do I have to worry her own father would send some creepo from the internet looking her up?”
“She’s okay. She’s been okay. It was a choice I made, and I would have made it with you. If I could. They grow up. They can go off and be stupid adults and we can’t stop them. But when she fucks up, I want her to be our kid and come home. I was terrified for her every minute, but I let her learn. You get it, Jer. Todwillow… I mean, nothing to do with Todwillow, nobody Todwillow knows…”
She dragged a breath through her teeth. “Gets to touch our daughter.”
(2022, Stephanie Foster)