Lesli’s ordering-in suggestion sounded good. Keith didn’t feel like cooking, and there should be a law against letting Lesli anywhere near pots or pans around a working stove.
He grabbed a menu and picked up the phone. Her usual was French toast and sausage. His was grits and eggs. They both were going to have more strong coffee and plenty of it.
Soon as he hung up from ordering, he got busy refilling the coffeemaker. That done, he called, “I’ll be in.” And sat, Butch immediately running up his leg, landing on his shoulder, nestling his muzzle into Keith’s neck and purring like a little motorboat. Sundance was taking a break, curled up in a corner fast asleep.
He opened the envelope he’d received from his cousin Linda several days before. She wanted money. It was a short, desperate note: “I love you. It’s awful here. Can you send me some funds for my commissary PLS? Love, Lindy.”
With a tiny valentine. This annoyed him. No “Hi, how’ve you been? What’s new in your life?” Nothing except showing how shallow and self-centered she could be. She also was wasting her breath. He wasn’t clueless enough to think if he sent her bread there wasn’t a way, even behind bars, she could turn it into crack.
He was going to have to write back and answer Linda. First had to figure out what to say, and it was best not to do something like that while you’re upset. He sighed, tearing up the note paper and envelope before sprinkling it into Bruno’s litter box. He then went in to Lesli. They didn’t get around to the coffee for a while.
Lesli had put the breakfast dishes in the washer. She turned it on, then got on the phone. “Janice, hi.” That was her assistant, a chunky little piece of work with massive thighs, wide hips, a slim waist and pretty as hell. He’d only seen her once or twice, since he seldom went to Lesli’s office.
Times he picked her up at the Museum of Natural History library, she usually had to go roaming around all three levels of the building to find which exhibit he was at. She didn’t mind, since that was better than letting him wait around in the lobby. Mainly because she knew as soon as Keith got bored and restless he was going to strike up a conversation with the receptionist, a likeable fellow who liked to talk. Lesli preferred he do his job.
The few times Keith had dropped in, usually to collect Lesli for lunch, he’d been struck by Janice like someone hit him between the eyes with a two by four. She was somewhere in her mid-20s, he guessed, and bound to break a whole lot of hearts.
“I’ll be in around noon,” Lesli said. “Unless I decide to take the whole day off. Hell, girl, you try getting out of a bed with this man. It’s a wonder I ever walk in there on time at all.”
Keith chuckled and got into some jeans, a Fender t-shirt and his slippers. She rang off and poured herself another cup of coffee. “You want some?”
He shook his head, opened the fridge and got a beer.
“I see you finally read that letter. What’s the news with Linda?”
“She lucky she in prison. So I can’t beat her behind. Trust me, though — when she get out, that brain-dead little gal gon’ get one helluva welcome home. And that’s after her daddy finish tellin’ her about herself.”
“Keith! That’s your cousin.”
“I know who the hell she is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m crazy about the kid. But she dumb as a sack of hammers. Everybody told her, ’You ain’t never gonna be able to quit ho’ing long as you sucking that pipe. You have to quit.’ She nod her head and say, ’Yeah, you right.’ Then go straight and do it anyway.”
“Can’t she get help?”
“You kidding? Between Alma and Eddie — that’s her parents — either of their jobs’ insurance would pay for treatment. Her mother begged Linda to go to Smithers. Know what the kid say? ‘Yeah, you right, I should go to treatment.’ Then, go right ahead and smoke like a broke stove. Linda need to do a serious reality check. You heard the sayin’ ’Check yourself before you wreck yourself?’ It should be her middle name. I’m not sendin’ her a damned dime.”
“You going to visit her?”
He nodded. “I s’pose. Hell, you can’t pick your family.”
Next week: Keith settles on a strategy of patient reassurance.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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