“You don’t really have the right….”
“It’s my house. This is my yard you’re standing on. My family is grieving. Take your shit and go.”
I addressed the other reporters, who had stopped talking so their cameras could focus on me.
“I don’t know why you’re here and I don’t care. Go. My sister’s dead. Her husband’s fighting for his life, and we don’t need a bunch of ghouls disturbing the neighborhood. Go exercise your First Amendment rights somewhere else, or I will enforce my rights as a home owner, and call the cops.” I held up my phone. “Now! And that doesn’t mean you can go into the street and tell me it’s city property. This is a privately owned community and you have no rights here.”
By this time, several of my neighbors had gathered. The men were dressed and on their porches. All of them are men in their thirties and forties, and none of them are small. I have a few former military men, a couple cops, a butcher and a Mixed Marshal Arts instructor down the block. The noise of the reporters, joined with my bellowing, had alerted them to trouble. One reason I like this neighborhood, we take care of one another. They headed off their porches, approaching at speed.
Bolton, the cop two houses down, came at them with his badge. “Move it along. Go. Get out of here, or I’ll slap you with trespassing charges.” He stood there, looking tough and official, as they packed up their gear. “And don’t even think about coming back.”
When they’d gone, the men focused on me. I couldn’t find my voice.
“His sister, Dionne was killed in an accident,” Rowena said quietly. “Steven is in the hospital.”
“The wreck at Fairway?” Bolton asked.
“Why were they here?” Cleotho, the MMA guy asked Rowena.
“We don’t know. Maybe because Keir is the guy who rescued the people at Starke and Howe. Maybe because they heard about the accident, and his sister is Chica Doyle and his brother-in-law is Steven Richards, the lawyer.”
“Jesus!” the men chorused.
“No kidding?” Bolton said. “I was on that detail at Starke and Howe. Why didn’t that go public?”
“I think Captain Monroe was a little embarrassed,” Rowena said with a sly wink.
“I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do….” they all said that, also, nearly in chorus.
Bolton, who is a particular friend, put his arm around my shoulders. “People always say that. We mean it. This neighborhood, we stick together. Anything that you, or your family need, you just ask. If you want help making decisions…. We’re here.”
“Thank you,” I mumbled. “Jesus, I can’t cry again.” Squeezing my eyes shut, I fought the surge of emotion.
Bolton pulled me into a hug. “Cry all you want. Not a man here wouldn’t fall apart under the same circumstances. Let it out, adjust the nuts and head up. You can face anything.”
Probably the best thing anyone could say under the circumstances. Each of them gave me and Rowena a hug, making sure she had all their numbers. Somewhere in the morass of grief, Rowena had introduced herself.
“You don’t worry about meals. Or the reception. You tell me what day and time, it’s covered.” Lou, across the street and down three, is a caterer. Very high end.
“I’ll call you,” Rowena said. “Thank you again.”
Taking my arm, she took me in the house. I heard doors close, up and down the street, as my friends went home. Numb, worn out, I trudged up the steps, finding my family in the living room. Randy was serving a pot of tea and he’d found cookies somewhere.
“Sit,” he commanded.
I dropped onto a chair. Randy and Rowena took over, making sure we were all served. They cleaned up afterward and put us all to bed. I couldn’t find words to thank them, but I hope they knew how grateful I was. How much we all were.
I lumbered down stairs about nine the next morning. Voices in the living room alerted me to the fact we had at least one guest—a man. His voice was deeper than Randy’s, his accent reflecting lifelong attachment to Minnesota. Before I even got to the room, I knew.
“Well,” I said when I got to the doorway.
I hadn’t seen him in twenty-seven years, but I’d recognize him anywhere. My father. Spooky as shit, it was like looking into a mirror that aged me forty years. Same black, curly hair, only with a touch of gray at the temples. Same vivid blue eyes, shrouded in sorrow. I was taller, but he was still a robust man in his late sixties. He came toward me, intent on hugging me. I took a step back, hands in pockets, effectively cutting him of. Hurt showed in his eyes, but he had to have known he deserved that.
“So, you called him?” I directed at my mother.
“He had a right….”
“So you said.” I went to the kitchen, ignoring my mother as she called after me.
“I’ve got this,” I heard my father rumble.
In the kitchen, I pointedly prepared my coffee and got a sweet roll from a platter on the counter. My father watched me, but I didn’t look directly at him. Rowena, Maria and Chica were at the table in the breakfast nook. I joined them, staring at my coffee. Rowena patted my hand. Maria tried to engage me in conversation, but Chica merely stared at our father. She’d been nine when he left—two days after her birthday.
©2021 Dellani Oakes