Everyone’s idea of the perfect house guest

When Peter Bingham’s truck was out of sight I was left with the arrival I’d been delaying for days. I lit a joint, holding it to my lips between a trembling thumb and finger as I stood in the middle of the driveway.  What was I supposed to tell these Calverts when they asked why I’d come?  Looking to dig up some old family secrets.  That wouldn’t fly.

I paced about the entry to the driveway, smoking quickly, ashing more than I needed to. I finished the joint and cast it down on the gravel and started down the drive.  The gravel crunched and the air was hot and my head began to turn. 

The simple but large house was one story with a low-pitched roof and modest brown siding.  Jefferson Calvert had built this house with his own hands, and there he had raised his two children, Faye and Johnson.  His wife—my Grandma Sue—died before I was born.  After his death my aunt, a widow, had made a home there her three children. And—if Peter Bingham was to be believed—become addicted to pain killers.

I raised my hand to the knocker and dropped three strong knocks.  I was in no shape for introductions: transient baggage over one shoulder, sweating through my t-shirt, reeking of marijuana.  The door slung open.  A girl—no, a girl on the brink of becoming a woman—beamed at me with a welcoming smile.  I took her for a cousin.  She was blond with short-cropped hair and nice curves, and straight out of Ozzie and Harriet.  I could feel the cloud-cover around my brain, the chronic alive in my skull. 

‘Jackson?’ she said, a slight drawl but you wouldn’t have noticed unless you went looking for it.  ‘You must be!  I’m Cathy.’  She put her hand to her heart.  ‘Cathy Calvert!’ 

‘Nice to meet you.’  The words hung in the thick air. 

‘And you.’  We shook hands.  Her hand was cool—the only thing cool.  I didn’t want to let go.  She was short and luscious.  She seemed so agreeable and nonconfrontational—the complete opposite of what I’d expected.  Maybe all Calverts were this way.  Maybe I’d given them a bad rap. 

‘You must be exhausted,’ she said, still holding my hand.  ‘Here, let me take care of you.’ 

At that moment she was the most beautiful creature on earth.  I leaned toward her, our hands still joined, and embraced her in an urgent hug.  All the buildup from my time in Biloxi went into that embrace.  My hands began to roam.  The Calvert’s were before me, in all their mystery and lost hope, and I was feeling up the gatekeeper.  I expected her to push me away but she squeezed me back and didn’t seem to mind my hands all over her. 

‘We heard you were coming,’ she said as I peeled myself off of her.  ‘We thought you’d be here a few days ago.’ 

‘Heard?  How!’ 

I hadn’t told them. 

‘Your lady friend.  She called worried about you.  Called every night since.  We all get on good with Helen.’   

Ah yes.  I’d been a fool to think I could leave my former life on indefinite hiatus, especially Helen.


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