Website exclusive scene from the night Mavis and Maureen found Joyce
They stood at the doorway, dripping wet from the nighttime rain, each holding a soaked backpack. Joyce’s two younger sisters, twins Mavis and Maureen St. James. Both with hair so spiky and purple they looked like dyed porcupines had perched atop of their heads. Maureen wore earplugs the size of quarters and a necklace of plastic skulls and real teeth. They sported an assortment of colorful tattoos over their necks and arms, although Maureen’s tattoos were notably more gruesome than Mavis’s.
“He’s doing it again,” Mavis said.
“Who?” Kingsley asked.
Joyce’s face was a mix of horror and disdain. “Never you mind,” she said.
Maureen sneered. “Your grandfather, stupid.”
“He don’t remember Daddy,” Joyce said.
“Lucky little bastard,” Maureen said, which Kingsley didn’t like at all.
“The police came around,” Mavis said. “Asking about Darryl.”
“Shit,” Joyce said.
“The police asked about Dad?” Kingsley asked. “Is he in the hospital? Did they find the movie star that shot him?”
“Movie star?” Maureen laughed. “Is that what you think? What a moron!” Kingsley blushed bright red. He was beginning to hate his Aunt Maureen.
“Maureen almost showed them the e-mail you sent us,” Mavis said. “The one with your new address.”
“I did not!” Maureen snapped.
“The police asked loads of questions, Joyce,” Mavis continued. “Wanted to know if you and Darryl had marriage problems. Did he drink or hit you or anything like that.”
Joyce quickly turned to Kingsley. “Go get some towels, hon.” Kingsley didn’t move. He wanted to hear more about his father. Joyce gently pushed Kingsley toward the bathroom. “Go on.”
Kingsley went for the towels. He thought about all his aunts had said. He barely remembered his grandfather. The last time he saw his grandfather was the day after his grandmother’s funeral. The Coast Guard was burning another oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico and the cemetery stunk worse than a refinery. Joyce had stood stoically facing the casket and grave, beside her sobbing sisters. Kingsley was with his father behind his mother and aunts. Kingsley’s grandfather didn’t even make an appearance. Kingsley held his father’s hand and fidgeted. He didn’t like graves or imagining dead bodies rotting inside them.
The minister wore a dull white shirt that clung limply to his concave chest. He recited Grandmother St. James’ favorite verse:
“He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36.”
The preacher told the few in attendance that deeds didn’t matter. Only believing in Jesus mattered. Good people who didn’t believe in Jesus wouldn’t get into heaven. Kingsley’s father nudged Kingsley and whispered, “It’s a lot easier believin’ in Jesus than it was bein’ good.” Kingsley reckoned that was true. Even Kingsley’s grandfather believed in Jesus so that meant he’d end up in heaven, too, although Kingsley’s grandmother would be none too happy to see him.
Another funeral was going on at the same time, a Catholic service. Kingsley father smirked like a schoolgirl with a secret every time the priest crossed himself. “Know why Catholics cross themselves?”
Kingsley knew he was in for another one of his father’s corny jokes. “Why?” he whispered.
“Fleas,” Darryl said. “St. Peter was full of fleas, you see, and when he went to Rome, he brought the fleas with him. A flea’d bite him on his forehead and he’d scratch it. Then another flea’d bite him on his chest and he scratched that one. Another bit him on his shoulder, and then another on his other shoulder. Pretty soon he’s scratching all over the place. His head, his chest, his shoulder, his other shoulder, over and over. Since St. Peter was the main man, everybody started scratching, too. After a while, people forgot about the fleas but kept scratching. Head, chest, shoulder, shoulder. That’s why the Catholics cross themselves.”
Kingsley giggled. “That’s a good one, Dad.”
After the funeral, Joyce took Kingsley with her to his grandfather’s double wide trailer. Trash littered the yard. His grandfather was sitting in a plush recliner, watching TV, an open sack of pistachios on the table beside him. Empty shells littered the floor. An oxygen tank stood next to him, the mask hung loosely around his neck. A pistol was on the table next to the sack of pistachios, Llama, pearl handled, 32 calibers.
Joyce didn’t speak. She marched into the back of the house with empty black plastic bags. Kingsley eyed the pistol as his grandfather pried the hard pistachio shells with his thumbnails. His hands were rough and dingy and he smelled of diesel and beer. He popped the little green nuggets in his mouth and flicked the shells with his middle finger, not caring where’d they land. He motioned to the pistachios. “Have some, if you want.” Kingsley yearned to touch the pistol but took a handful of pistachios instead, just as Joyce returned carrying a full bag. She jerked Kingsley’s hand out of the sack, spilling pistachios all over the floor. She grabbed the gun with the pearl handles and pointed it at her father.
“Don’t talk to him. Don’t even look at him. If I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.”
Kingsley didn’t see that gun again until the day his father was shot.