Dwayne catches a cab from the bus station to his parent’s home on Salazar Street. Late afternoon sunlight diffuse and mute like underwater light under a gray Kansas sky flickers through a line of darkening catalpa trees. The cab pulls into his parents driveway. He notices his Dad’s silver Cadillac parked in the garage.
He’s ambivalent about seeing his parents but they were getting old and he felt it his duty to visit them more often. For two years he made excuses on the telephone about why he couldn’t come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. He feels guilty.
Dwayne pays the cabby and tips him five dollars. “Thanks, Dwayne,” the cabby says. “Good to see you again.”
“Yeh, Bobby Joe, good to see you too.”
Bobby Joe would go home that night and tell his wife Brenda, “Dwayne Evans is back in town. I picked him up at the bus station today.”
“Really, I wonder what he’s doing back in town. Last I heard he was living in L.A.”
“That boy never gives up. He’s 44 years old and he’s still trying to become an actor.”
Dwayne pulls his orange sport’s bag from the cab’s back seat, walks down the driveway past the red bricked chimney where his brother Gary hid his candy in the ash box. He walks in the back door without knocking as was his custom when he came home in the past. When his mother sees him she stops talking on the telephone and her face flushes because he caught her off guard. Betsy, her toy poodle, barks at him and nips at his ankles. He gives the dog a playful kick.
“Betsy, you stop it now. Don’t you remember Dwayne? Doris, I’ll call you back. Dwayne’s home.”
Dwayne puts his bag down, glares at the neurotic ankle biting dog and walks towards his mother to give her a kiss. She doesn’t let him kiss her, rather she turns her head and they give each other a brief hug.
“How are you doing, Mom?”
“Pretty good. I’m a little tired. How are you?”
“A little tired,” he says
“How long did it take you to get here?”
“About 18 hours.”
“Are you hungry?” she asks, opening the refrigerator.
Before he can answer his dad walks into the kitchen dressed in his pajamas.
“Dad,” his dad says, “I didn’t know you were here. I thought you were working today.”
“This isn’t your dad, Goddamn it,” Maxine says. “This is your son, Dwayne.”
“Always bullshitting me, aren’t you, Maxine. Do you think I’m nuts, or what? I know who this is.”
Dwayne grabs his dad and gives him a big hug.
“Dad,” Dwayne says, “it’s me Dwayne. I’ve come home to visit for a few days.”
“Maxine, is my mother coming over to put up the Christmas tree?”
“Your mother’s been dead for two years, Paul.”
“Now I know that’s not true.”
His dad turns away and limps back into his bedroom to watch a football game on TV. “Mom,” Dwayne says, “why didn’t you tell me dad is in such bad condition?”
“How in the hell could I tell you? I haven’t heard from you for four years.”
He stares pure hate into the little rat dog that bites everyone that enters the house. “If I ever spend time with this dog, I’m going to kill it,” he almost murmurs out loud.
“I had no idea his Alzheimer’s was this bad,” he says.
“Well, I can’t take care of the poor bastard anymore,” Maxine says. She takes a long drag on her cigarette, blows a smoke ring. “I’m putting him in a rest home.”
Dwayne stands up, rage makes him tremble. He walks to the Mr. Coffee, pulls a red mug from the cabinet and pours a cup of two hour old coffee.
“Would you like some cobbler,” she says.
“What? You have cobbler? No, I don’t want any.”
Maxine’s jaw drops. “What, you love blackberry cobbler.”
“I used to. Look, Mom, I’m going to move back and take care of dad. I…”
Maxine slams the hot cobbler in the kitchen counter top, says, “Don’t make me laugh. You can’t even take care of yourself and you’re almost 50 years old.”
“I don’t want dad in a rest home. I’m–”
“You’re not going to do shit, Dwayne Evans. I love the old bastard and I’m doing what’s best for everybody. It’s my only choice.”
“It’s not your only choice. Just listen to me for once in your life.” He feels himself losing self-control. Regains a temporary balance by focusing on his breath, a disciple he developed in war, two failed marriages and three years in Leavenworth.
“I’m moving back,” he says. “I’ll take care of Dad.”
“Dwayne Evans you’re pitiful. You know that. You’re goddamn pathetic. Why don’t you go and take care of yourself? And if you’re going to come around here causing trouble like you always do you might as well leave right now. You’ve lost your soul ever since you started dating whores. Your first wife, Valarie, was making love to half the people in town. What a slut. And your second wife, that insane Mary Ellen, what a piece of work she was. You’re a loser and you fall in love with losers.”
Mother dear, you’re an Ice Queen. A narcissistic bitch, he thought. His legs felt numb. His mouth dry. He walks to the back door, picks up his duffle bag and turns towards his mother.
Maxine turns her back on him. She wipes the stove top with a dishrag. He looks around the room one last time, sees his high school graduation picture, a crucifix on the knotty pine wall and a framed picture of Jesus, the one where his eyes follow you wherever you go.
He wants to ask, “Mom, can we talk?” as he leaves the house, but he knows they can’t.