Hana was stunned. No one, especially her aunt, had ever yelled at her like that before. Biting her lip to stop the trembling, she sniffled, wiping her eyes on a tissue that Marnie handed her.
Enid could see she was calmer. “Now,” she said. “Give me details about what that horrible woman said.”
Dizzy and disoriented, Jasper found himself at the gym. Jimmy and Jeff were there. One of them handed him a pair of shorts. The other held a pair of gloves. He changed in a daze, getting dressed automatically. Jimmy put the gloves on his hands, fastening them firmly. This done, they led him to the heavy bag in the corner. Jeff held it as Jimmy hit it.
Getting the idea, Jasper nodded. Jimmy moved out of the way and the tall, muscular farrier attacked the bag like it had done him a disservice. He took out his fury on the leather bag, seeing Milly Finch’s face on it. Kicking and hitting it in a ferocious flurry of blows, he worked off some of his anger.
About halfway through the onslaught, the twins changed places. Jasper might not be hitting them, but holding the bag steady for a human tornado wasn’t easy. They had never seen Jasper move so fast or hit so incredibly hard.
“I’m glad we decided against sparring,” Jimmy whispered when Jasper stopped for a drink of water.
“I’ve never seen him like this,” Jeff replied.
“He never had this much to lose before.”
“I need a shower,” Jasper said from the bench about ten feet away. “You guys done talking about me yet?”
They looked sheepish, nodding.
“I want a hot shower. Then I want to get on a first name basis with a bottle of José Cuervo.”
“You don’t need to get drunk, Jasper.”
“I do, James. I need that more than just about anything in my entire life. In fact, I venture to say, I need a drink more than I need to get laid.” He sounded so matter of fact, his cousins exchanged a worried look.
“Not gonna happen, cuz.”
“Why not?” His dark eyes flashed.
“Cause you’re a mean as fuck drunk, and I’m not gonna get myself killed over this.”
The argument was about to escalate when Tyee walked in. He looked stern, but calm. “I’ll take over, boys. Thanks.”
Nodding to his nephews, he walked over, sitting next to his son. They scurried off to the showers.
“So, you want a drink, huh? Haven’t we talked about that before?”
“Should a son of mine become like his grandfather? Or his great-grandfather?”
“Or any of the many who were alcoholics? Look, Dad—”
“Son, you’re a grown man. I’ve never been one to tell you your business. But this time, I’m making an exception.”
Jasper tightened up, sitting up straight on the hard bench. He tried to appear casual, taking a sip of his water, but he was simply too tired and too emotionally drained to pull it off.
“My life is over and you’re gonna lecture me about drinking? Sweet. Go ahead. I’m listening.”
Instead of speaking, his father went to the corner and got a pair of workout gloves. He put them on, donning padded headgear. He tossed one to his son and got in the ring. Jasper looked at the object at his feet, putting it on slowly and deliberately. Moments later, he joined his father in the ring.
Jimmy and Jeff drifted back in, unsure how to handle the situation they saw building. Taking opposite corners, they decided the best thing they could do was watch, and break it up if it got out of hand. They made sure the gloves and headgear were on properly and took opposite corners to watch.
Tyee tapped his son on the face. Jasper jerked his head away, disliking the feel of leather on his cheek. Dark eyes blazing, he took his stance. Tyee walked backwards in a circle, leading him around. Once in a while he’d tap Jasper again and each time the younger man flinched away.
Fed up with his lack of response, Tyee punched Jasper in the chest, knocking him back a step. Sudden calm descended over the pair and they started sparring. The blows were light at first, but the fight grew more brutal as the two of them worked off Jasper’s disappointment and anger. Dull thudding and grunts punctuated the otherwise silent fight. This continued for about five minutes until Tyee landed a solid punch to Jasper’s gut, making him double over. Instead of following up on it, Tyee held him while he gagged.
“Ready to listen to me now?”
Jasper could only groan, the fight out of him. He flopped to the mat, clutching his stomach, trying not to vomit.
“Milly and her husband are gone. Jerry called in the sheriff and he came personally. Seems they have a history of this kind of thing, which Uncle Jay made very clear.”
“Hana?” Jasper gasped.
Tyee shrugged. “Marnie and Enid are still down there. Your mom went down, too. Got a whole flock of women around her. I guarantee they’ll talk sense into the girl. Meanwhile, you need to get cleaned up. You smell like sweaty balls.”
“Thanks,” Jasper laughed, taking his father’s outstretched hand.
©2022 Dellani Oakes