Continued from the previous chapter, here.
Asa Pemewan walked into his parents’ home, his home for the time being, calling out “Mom, I’m back. And I have some good news. And I need to apologize for being an asshole this morning, because I was, and you didn’t deserve to have me be one.”
Underneath the murmur of the air conditioner working against the Hill Country warmth, there was only silence in the house. But Mom’s car’s here, Asa thought, and I didn’t think she’d be hiking out anywhere today. Maybe she’s just in the bathroom. But when he went to it, he found the door open and the room empty.
“Mom?” Asa called out again. Maybe she’s taking a nap? He began to move through the house, walking quickly, calling out for her again and again. But she was not in her bedroom, nor was she on the living room couch, and not many other places in the house admitted of good napping.
The flesh on the back of his neck tightened, as did that just below the hollow of his throat. What if she’s hurt? Or worse? She doesn’t talk about it much, but know she’s got some health problems; did one of them rise up at her? He began to grow frantic as he went from room to room, his calls for her growing louder and more strident as he went. If something’s happened, I don’t, I don’t know what I’d, I’d–
He noticed that the back door was standing slightly ajar. He went to it, opened it, and saw that his mother was kneeling near the fence at the back of the backyard. “Mom?”
She did not turn, but waved him away brusquely. Asa relaxed. At least she’s okay. He stood just outside the back door, watching her as well as he could. No garden tools and no wagon, so she’s not planting. But she was wearing a glove, so what the hell is she doing?
As he watched, Asa saw that his mother was wrestling with something–and, with the way the fence moved, it was something in or with the pipe-supported chain-link that separated the Pemewans’ lot from its neighbors. And the sound that reached him, a yowling and hissing, told him that it was probably a cat that had trapped itself in the fence that occupied his mother’s attention. And so I don’t want to bother her. But I think I can be helpful.
Asa ducked back inside and went to the medicine cabinet, grabbing an antibiotic ointment and bandages of several varieties. The cat’ll do what it’ll do; the only question’ll be how much of it it does to Mom. And he waited at the kitchen table with the supplies for a few more minutes, until his mother came back in, sweating. And, as he expected, there were several thin red lines on her hands and arms. “I’ve got the bandages, Mom.”
She went to the sink to wash her hands. “I’ll skip ’em, thanks. But if you’ve got the ointment, I’ll take it.”
“I do. It’s on the table. I’ll put the bandages away.” She nodded as he did so, washing her hands while he returned to the medicine cabinet. When Asa got back to the table, his mother was applying the ointment to herself. She looked up at him. “Well, how’d it go?”
Asa took a seat. “First, Mom, I’ve got to apologize. I was an asshole this morning, and you didn’t deserve it from me.”
“You’re right. You were, and I didn’t. But I forgive you.” She resumed the application. “Now answer my question, Asa. How’d it go?”
“I suppose it went alright” he replied flatly, meeting her gaze levelly. She stopped and cocked an eyebrow at him; he smiled broadly after a moment and added “if getting hired counts as alright.”
“That’s great, Asa! I’m glad for you!”
“Thanks, Mom. I start Monday afternoon–or I do if we don’t have another storm blow through, or the manager doesn’t die, or something like that.”
“You know, you don’t have to be so morbid all the time, Asa.”
“What? It’s a concern, especially since it happened to the last one.”
“But you can’t expect that it’s going to happen again.”
“Just the same, I can’t expect it won’t, either, since it has.”
Asa’s mother sighed heavily and shrugged. “I get so tired of you doing this, Asa.”
“Finding the cloud in every silver lining. I swear, sometimes you go out of your way to have it bad, even when you’re doing well. I mean, you just got a job off of walking in off of the street. You’ve going to have money coming in. And you’re talking about the job getting pulled because a storm blows down the building and kills the manager.”
“You’re kind of stretching a point, Mom. I didn’t exactly say that.”
“Close enough! And the idea’s the same, anyway. Every time you have something good come up, you look for how it’ll go wrong.”
“Well, Mom, it’s gone wrong often enough I have to look for how I’ll get screwed over.”
“That’s just it. You don’t. You really could just let things be good every now and again. You could let yourself be happy with how things are. But you don’t. And when your dad and I are happy for you, and you do that, you make us feel like damned fools for doing what parents are supposed to do. We’re supposed to be happy for you when you do well and when you get good things, and when you pull your ‘look on the bright side of death’ thing–”
“I didn’t know you knew that movie.”
“Asa, everybody knows that movie. And don’t distract me. When you pull the crap you pull, you undercut us, take away one of the things we need. And it hurts us, Asa. Your dad’ll never admit it, of course, but it hurts the both of us.”
Asa lapsed into silence.
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