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.And the best part? At the end of this self-imposed torture, I could drive away.Chapter EighteenJonahHow do you tell someone you’ve been lying to him basically his entire life? Micah and I weren’t eager to start that conversation with J.D., so we spent some time sitting in my living room making small talk about sports and local people.I caught them up on what little gossip I’d bothered to learn about Sawville, then distracted my brothers by getting them talking about their girlfriends and the improvements to the bar.After that, it was easy to sit back and just listen.J.D.hadn’t sounded so happy since he was a kid, and maybe not even then.The few times I’d seen him after his tour, he’d been so tense and miserable, it oozed out of him.I didn’t know what to say to help him so—as usual—I hadn’t said much of anything.Now he relaxed in an easy chair, legs sprawled in front of him, smiling and energized, full of plans for the future.It was pretty obvious Leah had caused his change.She was the heart that pumped new blood through him.I understood that feeling now.It was the way Rianna affected me when we were together.Meanwhile, Micah was pretty much like normal, cracking jokes and trying to get a rise out of me while he poked at the fire in the hearth to make sparks.But underneath his teasing, he seemed calmer, more settled somehow, as if he’d finally let go of whatever made him so impatient and restless.He’d apparently found his anchor in Gina, the girl with the mouth and attitude to match his.Why not me? Couldn’t I have someone like that too? But I didn’t want to think about Rianna right then.There was too much on my plate to deal with.“What are we going to do about Dad?” I interrupted our discussion of the past baseball season.“He’ll be here soon, if he bothers to show.We need to decide where we stand.”“Can’t we play it by ear? See what he has to say first?” J.D.asked.“I know what he has to say.He needs help.Money,” I said bluntly.“If we give it to him, he’s just going to drink it away.”“How bad off is he? I suppose we can’t let the man die homeless in an alley, no matter what he’s done.” Micah gave the fire a vicious prod.J.D.sat straight and leaned forward, arms resting on his knees.“I know you guys hate him.But honestly, I barely remember Dad.I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that he may have changed.He’s older now and probably had plenty of time for regrets.”Micah snorted.“He had a lot to regret, all right.”“Was he really that terrible? I mean, other than ditching us, which sucked.” J.D.frowned.“You guys never talked much about him, not even when we were kids.Yeah, I remember he had a hard backhand now and then, but—”“It was more than just an occasional hit,” Micah said as he hung up the poker.“But he mostly took it out on Jonah, so it’s no surprise you don’t remember.We shielded you from a lot of things.”Micah shot me a look.This was our opening into finally telling our kid brother some harsh truths about our family.Which one of us was going to pull the pin and throw that grenade?J.D.studied me with eyes enough like mine he could’ve been my mirror image.“I thought you got into fights a lot, that you guys got into it with other kids at school or…”He trailed off, and his frown deepened as he looked back over the years, trying to piece together a story he’d only had fragments of.“So it was Dad gave you the black eye and busted your nose that one time.” He shot a look at Micah.“And I remember you hauling me outside, telling me we were going hiking even when I didn’t want to.”Micah poured himself a drink at the sideboard, then dropped onto the couch facing J.D.“There’s other stuff.Worse stuff we didn’t tell you about because…well, hell, you were so little, and what was the point?” The muscles in his throat worked as he swallowed.“Stuff about Mom and how she died.”J.D.’s eyes widened.“Jesus! You’re not saying Dad had something to do with that?”“No.Not that bad,” I finally chimed in.“Although I’m sure living with his drunkenness and his moods didn’t help her problems any.The thing is—”“She killed herself,” Micah blurted.“Overdosed, and not by accident.I walked in one day, and there she was, just lying there.”“She suffered from depression for years,” I added.“She had her good spells and her bad ones.I guess she just got so low she couldn’t take it anymore.”“You told me it was a heart attack.” J.D.sounded dazed.“I never even thought… How could I not have known that about my own mother?”“Because there wasn’t any need for you to know,” I said.“You were fucking seven years old and upset enough about losing her.Why tell you she chose to leave you?”Micah shot me a look.For a moment, I thought he might inject something about suicidal people being so wrapped up in their own pain they couldn’t spare a thought for the damage they left in their wake.But he only nodded and took a sip of his drink.“We should’ve told you when you were older,” Micah added.“But by then…well, hell, the three of us were fighting a lot.Then you joined the army and left, so it just never came out.”J.D.blinked and ran a hand over his forehead.He looked as shocked as I must have when Dad turned up alive on my doorstep.It was a helluva thing to learn.“You should’ve told me.Christ!” He leaned forward, arms on his knees, and stared at the carpet.Even Micah knew better than to talk for a change.We both sat quiet and waited for him to process.At last, J.D.looked up at Micah.“You’re the one who found her like that.” He sucked a breath through his teeth.“That must have been awful.”Micah stared at his own hands restlessly turning the glass round and round.“It wasn’t pretty.”“I’m sorry, Micah.” Words I’d repressed years too long tumbled out.“I just wanted to get things cleaned up before J.D.got home and, afterwards, never talk about it again.I didn’t really help you deal with it.”He shook his head.“Naw.I get it.We all dealt with the shock our own way, even Dad.Probably had a bit to do with his taking off, maybe more than hooking up with that woman.Which brings us back to the subject—what the hell are we going to do about the old man?”I wanted to say Let him rot, but I already knew—had known for days, really—I couldn’t do that.As a boy, I’d looked after my brothers.Now, I was going to have to tend to my dying father.Seemed to be my lot in life to be a caretaker.The three of us sat in silence for a few moments, the only sound the crackle and snap of the burning log in the fireplace, then J.D.said, “However bad the man is, he’s still our father.It’s our duty to look after him now that he’s old.”“He’s not that old,” Micah mumbled.“Not even sixty.”“But he’s sick.” J.D.looked at me.“Right?”I shrugged.“He looked like he was falling apart.Whether it’s from a disease or from living only on booze, I don’t know.”“Either way, we have to intervene.” J.D.bolted up as if ready to take action.But there was nothing to do, so he walked over to take his turn poking at the fire.“He may not have given us a good example to follow, but we know what’s right.You take care of family.”Micah raised his glass of whiskey and sneered.“Family.”I nodded and sighed.“Family.”*Nearly an hour later, just as we were getting ready to go and look for Dad at the bar or at Huckaby’s shack, a rusty old pickup clattered up my driveway and wheezed to a stop.Our father jumped out—no, climbed carefully out as if his bones were brittle—and headed toward the house, while his buddy Clyde drove away.“Jesus Christ,” Micah murmured as he came up behind me and stared out the door.The dead man walking looked about as sure-footed as a scarecrow [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]