Archive for the ‘Post 7.8’ Category

Friday, March 30, 1:01 p.m.

Jack’s mother is a vegetable. A very Catholic vegetable. The walls of her nursing home room are paneled with framed photos of Pope Benedict,

pope benedict

Pope John Paul II,

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul I,

Pope John Paul I

and Pope Paul.

Pope Paul

There’s the classic long-haired Jesus

Jesus

and a nice shot of Mother Teresa with some cute Indian kids reminiscent of late night appeals to sponsor a child for pennies a day: less than the cost of your weekly caffeine infusion from Starbucks.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was originally named Agnes. She ought to be Mother Agnes. Or maybe Saint Agnes. Is that why Lucy was drawn to the image of the ancient Saint Agnes in her copy of Lives of the Saints and pasted her murdered mother’s face on her body?

Lucy is jabbering at her unresponsive grandmother, her hands clasping the limp, arthritic paw she plucked from the bedcover. A catheter bag hangs from the side of the hospital bed. The room smells of urine and bleach. Monitors beat rhythmically. I glance uneasily at the five crucifixes on the wall, ranging from genuine Jesus mounted models to clumsily painted, glitter-ridden Popsicle stick creations clearly made by Lucy in her younger years.

“This is Katherine, she’s Dad’s friend. I think they really like each other and you’ll like her, too, Grandma,” Lucy is saying. “Can I show her your rosaries?”

She jumps up abruptly.

“Look, wanna see?” she says to me. “They’re amazing. Some of them are over fifty years old.”

I glance at comatose Mrs. O’Lies, then gingerly approach her jewelry box, which Lucy is digging through. She holds up three rosaries, her eyes alight with religious fire and something more. Love? Yes, familial love. I’ve seen pale sparks directed at her dad, as well as a few incongruous embers shot at me. But here, with her empty sock puppet of a grandmother, she’s aflame with the radiance of being at home and accepted and cared for.

Poor Lucy. Poor Jack. If the murder hadn’t ruined their family, would they be gloriously average and happy, like the households on the 1980s TV sitcoms I was weaned on? Or would Jack be divorced, his daughter just as screwed up, and his mother still a Do Not Resuscitate Alzheimer’s case?

And most important of all, to me at least: would I be exactly where I am now, reaching out to take a particularly attractive onyx rosary of luxurious luster?

“That was Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy’s,” Lucy says reverently. “Presented to her by the Pope in 1963 when she and the president went to the Vatican.”

JFK with Pope

“Seriously?” I say.

Lucy nods.

“Grandma’s friend gave it to her,” she says.

I run the rosary skeptically between my fingers. On second inspection, there’s a plastic sheen to the onyx. The weight seems to come solely from the cross, which looks more like chrome than silver. I think Grandma O’Lies’ friend included a toaster oven if she was one of the first hundred callers.

“It’s very nice,” I say, as I hand it back to Lucy.

I glance at my watch. It’s nearly 1:30. If I don’t get the press car back to work by two, the PR firm that loans the cars out will probably report me to the cops for stealing it. I enjoy my zero arrest criminal record. I’d rather not join Jack among the ranks of those who have been booked for a vehicular offense.

Lucy barely acknowledges me as I wave myself out of her grandmother’s room. She is reading aloud from a Bible with a cracked white cover, her face as lively and animated as a preschool teacher reading Dr. Seuss.

The nurse at the duty station confirms that the facility does indeed have guest rooms for family members to stay in. Lucy is more than welcome. The bill will be sent to her father. I silently question the wisdom of allowing an unaccompanied minor to stay overnight in a nursing home filled with Alzheimer’s patients, then I leave my cell phone number as well as Jack’s with the nurse.

As I walk myself out of the nursing home, breathing shallowly to keep the urine smell out of my nostrils, I pull my cell phone from the depths of my trench coat pocket. No calls. No texts. I call Jack. It goes straight to voicemail.

“Jack? It’s Katherine. I got Lucy from school. She’s staying at your mom’s place. They said it’s okay. Where are you? Call me. Please call me. I’m getting scared.”

 

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