The Bog: part seven (short story)
“It’s not up to me, anyhow.”
To this, she could have answered, “It’s up to the courts,” or anything to similar effect. Laurel’s wish was not to convert Dana, but to move him along. She prompted, instead: “It’s family property, in a sort of trust, but your brother doesn’t live here now.”
Those were some facts from Duffet.
“Wouldn’t make any difference to Rocky.”
“Laurel,” Rachel said, her voice with a calling-to-account edge, “I’m going to bed.” A pointed exit with dignity was not an easy thing to make, when this meant hunkering down and climbing through a tent flap. Nor did Rachel’s point budge Dana.
It was in her sister to be inspired by books and TV shows that coached: take risks, challenge yourself, and Laurel was proud of Rachel for that…for being not too much in thrall to Jeff’s worldview, for keeping calm.
Then there was Dana, the two of them alone now, two statements of his hanging in the air, begging. What’s not up to you, Dana; what makes no difference? She asked him the second.
“Money. More than that…the idea of some kind of Jenkins…um…”
“Not legacy. I wanna say getting what’s coming to us, but not like that. Rocky’s got a security business in Denver. But I mean, clear across the country. From college, from high school, he wanted to get out there.”
“He doesn’t care if you sell the business, if the land gets logged. But he’d care if you cut him out.”
“Yeah, just like that.”
“But you don’t care. Anymore.”
He made a noise. A high-in-the-nostril snort. “I worked the cash register…up front, not the pharmacy, summers. We used to put price stickers on everything. Ka-zing. Ka-zing. That was another job I did. Pull stuff off the shelves when it expired…my dad was a son of a bitch for that. People were always messing up the shelves. So my mom was working the back counter and I brought her six bottles of Excedrin. I said what else does Dad want me to do? She was on the phone, she put up her hand with the pencil in her fingers, and I stood waiting. She had her bag sitting open on the floor, under the counter. She was moving, pacing, writing something down. I saw her bump one of the bottles…it fell off into her bag. I didn’t say anything because I knew it was on purpose. She knocked another one in.”
My mother, Laurel thought, got in trouble with the neighbors for not making me go to school. I went to live with my dad, and I never caught up. People put the taint on you, decide you’re a loser and it would be embarrassing to talk to you. You remember me, Dana.
She didn’t say it.
The thought had just come idly, in the way she’d pictured, at the beginning of Dana’s story, Harry Penfold’s paneled office, the glass ashtray with the chipped corner, on the counter above her head, Harry leaving his cigarette perched in a dimple to wisp smoke in her face, while he paced on the phone, the cord stretching and compressing. She’d run into Harry, at the start of all this, thinking herself well placed to speak to him about the bog…and dismaying him with her age. Harry, she supposed, couldn’t think of himself as seventy-eight, so it amazed him the twenty-year-old he’d hired in 1976, was now sixty-one.
But Dana was telling her this, leading up to some other confidence.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)