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| There are things that
can be changed and things that cannot. He who made the lamb, also
made the tiger.
Dear Mum and Pops,
That Satan gang's after me all the time to join them, but now
that I'm straight, I tell them to get off the crack shit. Say,
can you give me an advance on my allowance? I'm going up to South
Mountain for a few days with some of my friends. Thanks for the
skates. I'm going to win the National Skateboard contest someday.
Your loving son, Jason
Dear Mum and Pops,
The reason I got this two year sentence, was so funny I crack
up every time I think of it. I needed money. You two kicked me
out, so I hung around bars and drank all the time. This one night
everyone leaves the bar, the lights go dim and there's just me.
I need one more drink, Jesus, just one more. If I don't, I won't
I fumble in my pockets and pull out an old lottery ticket, and
a Kleenex. I know Harry wont put any more on my tab. He likes
me, and he knows I never deal there, too risky, but, hell if he
trusted every one, he'd be out of business, wouldn't he? Nobody's
around, so I go to the cash drawer, pull it open and there's the
whole damned cash from the night laying right there. I stuff it
in my pocket and ease out the door.
That's when the shit hits the fan. The lights go on, a noise
starts that they'd hear all the way to Ross Park and I know I'm
in deep shit. Woooooeeeeeee. My God, I never heard anything like
it. Well I know that bar district pretty well, so I climb up the
back steps of the first building I see. I can hear them pounding
after me, so I run around the back, up the stairs and shimmy up
to the roof.
Its a good flat roof so I run, and I'm getting pretty sober
by now. I can hear them coming, and they've got the god damned
dogs with them yipping and yapping and sniffing all over the place.
So I jump from that roof to the next roof. I'm panting by now,
because I'm way out of shape from booze and no exercise and too
many pizzas, but I hit the next roof, and the next.
They wouldn't have me yet, except, after a while, I hear them
closing in, coming at me from both ways, the dogs panting and
yipping their heads off, the pissers. Eight cops got me up there
on that roof and sat on me and pulled out their clubs and beat
the shit out of me. I struggled and pushed at them and hollered
I wanted my lawyer. But every time I got up they pushed me down
and beat at me with those clubs 'til I finally fell back and couldn't
move. But I gave them a good chase.
Your loving son, Jason
Dear Mum and Pops,
If you let me work for you, there's a program called Work Release
where I can stay with you for five days and just go back to THAT
place for week ends. Let me know.
Your loving son, Jason.
"Hi, Pops, Hi, Mum, Jason, here. I'm at the bus station. Don't
bother picking me up. You'll see me soon enough."
It was morning....the morning. It was garbage day and the men
threw the cans and bags, and laughed and told jokes, and made
a clatter. Henry Davis shut off the answering machine, and Jason's
voice. For his part, he could close the book of Jason, never open
it again, and find peace. But he worried about his wife, Rita.
There was a bond she had with Jason she would not or could not
"Who was it, hon?" Rita said. They were in their office to plan
and organize the day before it rolled over them. Her hairdresser
had styled her hair a new way, shorter, with streaks through the
blond. Her navy suit was short. She had good legs, slim hips,
high heels that clicked across the floor when she walked. So far
the diabetes hadn't affected her eyes. They were sharp blue, direct,
and usually smiling, except at times like this.
He stood at the window. Court street glistened in the morning
haze, wet from an early rain. He put his hands together, made
his fingers touch, then he squeezed them into fists. It was the
loyalty thing that got in the way. But he knew where he stood
with it. No matter what, he thought, I've cut the cord.
She came straight over and put her arms around him. "Jason?"
He nodded, his shoulders' usual military-straight bearing, hunched
over now, his forehead wrinkled, his fifty odd years sat on him
heavy and unyielding. He hadn't slept much last night. Even the
new vitamins hadn't helped.
"You think we re doing the right thing, Rita?"
"No...yes, I don't know. I miss him, his laugh."
"Remember he woudn't work, even at Mac Donald's. The police, the
times we called 911, the schools couldn't handle him, the notes
he left? In one he swore he'd kill us, remember that? Every time
he got busted, it was our fault."
"Henry, you've been kind. He can stand a good fight better than
kindness. That's the problem."
It felt like yesterday when Henry and Rita Davis started looking to
adopt, but actually it was just ten years.
"What do you do for a living?" the doctor asked?
"We both were Philosophy professors in the University, but now we sell
"Excuse me... vitamins?"
"Dr. Wentz' program. Have you heard of it? It saves lives. Rita's diabetes
made us look into it."
Yes, this one part of the interview kept them on some kind of a list
of questionable employment problems on the adoption list, Henry thought,
and no matter how many times they explained Rita was a severe diabetic,
the university life was stressful, they wanted more time for their music,
for books, for living, the doctors all took on the look.
The gynecologist, a large man in a gray suit and a red bow-tie, peered
over his half glasses, his words came out little silver bullets, "Mrs.
Davis, you have severe diabetes. You could die, leave a helpless child
without a mother. We always think of the baby first."
Rita kept her secrets to herself. If she told anyone, even her vegetarian
crowd about her baby, the baby she carried a picture of in her mind,
the innocence would all be spoiled. The purity of the vision would disappear,
though Henry didn't care, and added a few of his own ideas. Let everyone
think they had a screw lose. They wanted a baby, a little late maybe,
but any more people did things later.
She began buying tiny baby bibs, and dresses with pink streamers,
a rattle, a tiny wicker carriage she found at an antique show. She pictured
a girl she could talk to, dress up in little girl ruffles, and jeans,
cuddle and help.
Henry bought a child's baseball suit, some hedge clippers, a new electric
lawn mower. He wanted a boy to help keep the lawns up, play ball, talk
The adoption agencies could find a baby, they said, but Henry and
Rita had to be patient. "But don't give up. The main thing is to be
"I think we may have a baby for you soon," Mr. Ingraham said. "But
we have to wait and see."
He gave the little laugh they were getting wary of. Mr. Ingraham knew
all about their desire for a baby, a tiny baby they could snuggle and
He sat in front of a mahogany desk with sun falling across his face.
He leaned closer as he talked to them. Of course, he understood. But
now the agency had run through every country's supply of babies. Even
the Chinese had rules.
"And they do check the family for any serious problems... your diabetes,
your ages, your insecure jobs could leave the baby, your own little
baby without a mother..."
It s sort of hush, hush, Henry's friend told him. Oh, nothing really
under the table, just an agency nobody's discovered yet, so there are
babies still available. Rita and Henry looked at each other.
"Can you tell us more about the baby," Rita said to the man at the
new agency, a Mr. Duncan.
"Well, he's not exactly a baby. He's six to be exact."
"You see what we wanted was a tiny baby to cuddle," Henry said.
"This little boy is only six, and small for his age, " Mr. Ingraham
said, "and extremely bright. Yes, a fine child who had a bad, rotten
life to begin with," he shook his head, and wiped his glasses. "What
some of these kids go through," he said.
"I suppose we could look at him maybe," Rita said.
They didn't actually care what he was so far as color, they explained
carefully to Mr. Ingraham, they weren't prejudiced. Mr. Ingraham produced
a picture of a small Caucasian boy smiling into the camera, in a baseball
hat and sitting straight; the kind of a kid they'd be happy to show
off to their friends.
They met Jason on the playground after watching him first from a distance.
With black, curly hair, round, sparkling, blue eyes, and white, even
teeth, he was a robust child, but with a smile to make the angels sing.
He smiled now, and shook hands with Henry and called Rita, Mrs. Davis.
Rita, smiled back and hugged him to her. That night Henry and Rita snuggled
together and thought of dozens of names for their boy child.
They called him Jason. Of course, Jason was his given name anyway,
but it suited him, they thought. Besides, he was six years old already,
and used to the name. Except, when they got home, he seemed bigger,
broader shouldered, older than six, and it turned out he was at least
nine years old. At least.
But he was already their little boy and nobody could help the things
going on today, could they? What can you expect, Henry told Rita going
over Jason's records, vague because he'd been left at a party one night
when everybody got drunk. The records left gaps of age, and biological
parents, but that didn't really matter, because Jason had a flair, an
answer for everything, an eagerness that more than made up for any old
statistics. It's the child himself that counts, isn't it?
At first he obeyed the tiny rules they set up for him, just barely
rules, not strict do-this-or-do-that-or-else kind of rules to bother,
because they didn't want to disturb him any more than they had to, or
inflict any more pain on this poor kid whose original home life had
been so rotten all the folks at the placement agency could do was shake
He got up willingly, made his bed, kept the noise level down on his
boom box, and helped Henry with the lawn work. He had a smile for Henry,
a hug for Rita, and made his bed for six months. They signed the papers
and now they had a son.
A week after they signed the papers, Rita knocked at his bedroom door.
"Jason, honey." she said. She tried the door, and it wouldn't open,
which was unusual. They told him the room was his, gave him a key. Still,
what if he died in the night. She used her own key.
The bed was covered with an assortment of cobalt blue vases, Waterford
crystal glassware, dolls, clocks, rings, a glass filled with pennies,
and a Joe Camel ashtray filled with quarters.
She stood there, and tried to think. Yes, her Waterford crystal vase
had been missing from the coffee table, but she was sure that was before
Jason came. The morning paper had a little notice of theft in their
neighborhood that morning, odd because they were not in a crime area.
| "Henry," she called, and then again,
Henry faced Jason. "Why?" he said, "why."
"Christ, we did it all the time when I was a kid, fer Chris' sake.
Anyway, half this stuff I picked up off the street, but I know
you don't believe me. Your kind never do."
Henry shook his head. Rita wrung her hands.
"And every night those graham crackers and milk."
"Jason, son," she said.
"And that business of hugging me all the time, tickling me. Jesus
Rita put her head in her hands.
"And another thing, Henry, long as its true confession time, why
do you call me Scooter? Scooter, fer Chris sake. Scooter!"
"I had a scooter when I was about your age."
'Spare me." He crawled off the bed and went right up to their
"You know what I cant stand the most? You go out in your fuckin'
front yard and do weird Yoga stuff and reach your arms up and
down and close your eyes and think for half an hour... meditate.
As far as I can see you just groan and make funny noises. Christ,
man, you make me do all that shit too. What do the neighbors think?"
Maybe it was the age thing they thought. Maybe we should get involved.
He's crying out and we don't hear. We need to take Jason out of
public schools. The kids were mean and picked on him, Jason told
them. At the private school he made friends, but now he said the
kids made fun of him because his father sold vitamins to make
a living. Also, their house wasn't as big as his new friends houses,
where he hung out now.
The police began to knock at the door at odd hours looking for
this one and that one, all Jason's new friends, and Jason. Jason
hid, and made Henry and Rita promise not to tell the police anything.
One day they found the diary shoved back in the closet behind
some of his new clothes, when they started counting how many designer
sneakers, and designer label sport shirts Jason owned.
"Henry and Rita? Well, I say yes sir and no sir to them. That's
what they want to hear, so that s what I say. But they haven't
changed me one bit. I screw everyone before they screw me. I'll
screw them too. I know how to play the game."
When the police came looking for him, they told them they didn't
see much of Jason any more. He cursed, threatened, cried, demanded,
saw them less and less and finally disappeared. He might sleep
on the streets, Henry said, look for him there.
So now it was time and when the taxi stopped, and let him out
with a backpack and dark glasses, he was the same old Jason, the
swagger, the smirk, the don't-mess-with-me attitude. He strode
in, a hulking six foot four now. Inside the door he stood and
It came over Henry like a black cloud, that familiar gnawing
in his stomach, burning its way up to his head. He would do it,
he knew it, he would kill Jason.
"Lost seventy five pounds in jail." Jason said, turning around
for their approval.
Rita hesitated, then she went over and hugged him.
"What are you guys up to," Jason said, pulling away. He took
out a package of Camels, shook one out and threw the package on
a workbench. "Christ, it was hot on the bus, and this girl sat
next to me that wanted to tell me her life story...yak... yak...Yak.
I went to the John to get rid of her."
"I hate him, I'll kill him." Henry spat.
"Poor Jason. He can't help it." She remembered the bad start,
all those homes he lived in, the drunks, the sweet little boy
in the baseball cap, the real father and mother who never wanted
Jason had a dimple and it came out now. He put his hand out
for them to shake. "What say, Mum, Pops, we ready to be friends?"
To Henry the gun was a reality check. It felt hard and cold
in his pocket, not grim or threatening. It was a friend he could
depend on to take care of them, to protect them from evil. He
smiled when he aimed at Jason and pulled the trigger. Jason's
smile changed to surprise, his hand still out before he slumped
to the floor.
Mimi Carmen lives
in Binghamton (NY) in the USA. One of her short stories is featured
in Seeker's On-Line magazine. another has been broadcast on CVS radio.
Another short story of Mimi Carmen at this
You now can visit her at her own website: http://mimicarmen.home.att.net/
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