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Danine, Part 15 (finale)
by joseph   January 3, 2006

stripper When Jack comes out, the three of us are all smoking cigarettes and watching the sun come up to the east; none of us are saying anything. Jack is carrying Big Hat's ten-gallon job in his hands, turning it over. There's blood on the brim. He throws it to one side and looks up at me, then over my shoulder at the lawn of dead grass behind me. "Guess I cut it too short, you think?"

I nod. "Looks that way."

"That's too bad," he says. He pulls out a cigarette, lights it, takes a deep, long drag, then flicks it into the grass. We watch the tendril of smoke crawl out between the blades, then there's a small lick of flame, orange at the tip but mostly clear. A black spot starts to spread over the grass.

"There's stuff in there, you know, stuff we could sell," Danine says. "I don't mean the drugs, I mean, he's got jewelry, I know there's a safe in there."

"I don't want it," Jack says, and no one says anything for a bit. We watch the fire. Jack reaches over and puts his arm around Rebecca; she sinks against his chest, then turns her face into his shirt and starts to cry. I feel like doing the same. Jack holds her a while. Danine stares out at the fire. I reach out and put my hand on her back; she leans back into it a bit but doesn't turn around.

After a bit, Rebecca sniffs and leans back. "Sorry. We got to get out of here. I want to get home."

"Me, too," Danine says, and at that we don't say anything, but we all turn around and head back toward the truck. All four of us crowd in the front. Danine sits halfway on my lap and leans against me the whole way to Jack's. I get out my vodka and we pass it around and drink it until it's gone, then when we get to Jack's we drink a bottle there.

I lie down on the couch about ten in the morning. I know I should be planning, getting the next step, figuring out what to do. But I'm on the couch and suddenly that couch is the most damn comfortable place I've ever been. My eyes are closed, and I can hear the radio. Jack's asleep in the chair next to me, I can hear him, watching "The Price Is Right." I want to turn it off but I don't have the energy. I feel someone lie down on top of me, and I feel Danine's hair in my face, and I feel her breath on my neck.

"How ya doing?" I ask.

"What are we gonna do now?" she asks.

I feel like I know, but I can't find the strength to speak. I say something that I want to be "I love you" but I'm not sure if it comes out.

She buries her face in my neck. "I love you, too," she says, but maybe that's just a dream.

When I wake up the room is empty. The sun is going down. The TV's off. My eyes have a film over them. I lean over on the couch. I see a wad of hundred-dollar bills lying on the ground. I reach down and spread them out with my fingers, wipe my eyes and count. Fifteen hundred dollars. I take a deep breath. I don't mind, really. I would've given it to her anyway.

I hear footsteps, look up and see Jack coming down the hall toward the bathroom. He looks into the living room and sees me lying there, walks out.

"Does it make you feel good?" I say.

"What's that?"

"Knowing you were right about her?"

He looks out the window, down at the wad of bills that I'm picking up and stuffing my pocket. "Was I?" I get up and pull out my keys. "We should make something to eat," he says.

"No, thanks. Rebecca asleep?"

"Yeah, still."

I look around the room. I look at Jack and know that I'm going to miss him. "Tell her goodbye for me, would you? I've gotta take off."

"What for?"

"Got a long drive in front of me."

He squints at me. "After her?"

I reach for the vodka bottle. There's a swig in it, and I unscrew the top and tip it up. It burns, but it feels good. "I don't know where she went."

"Stay here. It'll all clear. You'll be all right."

I shake my head. "There's work in canola this time of year. You come visit me, huh?" I say.

"Next time I get a paid vacation down at the office."

"Deal," I say, and we laugh.

I don't have anything to bring, so I don't take anything. But that makes things easier, really. There won't be much to declare.

***

I get postcards from Jack, every now and again. Rebecca's in college now; he's staying busy, he says. Even got a letter from Jenna, and I sent one. She says she's happy. Happier. Her mother's still hanging in there. I don't sleep much, but enough. I've got one of those little Airstream trailers, can hitch it to the back of the truck and go anywhere I need to, follow the work down to British Columbia in the fall or up into the Yukon in the summer. It's beautiful up here. In late summer, the canola fields bloom a brilliant yellow, like the sun had fallen to earth. I think of her. I still have two marks on my right index finger, two tiny red scars, a half-inch apart, and some nights, when the winter wind is howling outside the trailer and there's enough vodka in my stomach, I can feel the venom coursing through my veins.

~ END ~


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