Woman Into Wolf

Chapter Three – Pattern Injury

She dropped Digger off at the Pride ‘n’ Groom. It was still early afternoon, but as she pulled up to her house, she was presented with yet another hill to climb. Babe’s eggplant-colored Cadillac was parked (askew as always – she complained that the driveway was wrongly calibrated) right out front.
It wasn’t that Persey didn’t like Roy’s mother. It was just that Babe was so much work. Like a cranky old furnace, she burned up the available air. Conversations with her were like being caught in an undertow; it was always better to just stop struggling and marshal your strength. Babe delivered insulting admonitions and requested in return advice she wouldn’t follow. Most of the
advice she sought concerned her son, and how to get on his good side. But since she would never stop needling him, but it was like telling the wind not to blow.

When Babe and Roy complained about each other to Persey she felt like a human shuttlecock. It simply wasn’t possible to please them both. She feigned as much sympathy as she could summon to Babe’s dilemmas, but after all, she had vowed to God to put Roy first, and vows made on a beach were just as binding, even with leis and swimsuits subbing for the more traditional black and white.

Persey sighed as she slammed the car door. Well, this time Roy would not be the first subject of discussion. The fact that Persey looked like she’d been pulled through a hedge would not go unremarked.

She was grateful that she didn’t have to bring cops and bodies into it. What had she been thinking? Parties were mass hallucinations, everybody agreed; how had she managed to have her hallucination twelve hours later? She could no longer remember why digging up dead things had seemed like fun.

Her big problem was preventing Babe from reporting this to Roy. Babe loved the idea of having secrets with Persey, but in fact she was the biggest blabbermouth on God’s earth. Anything resembling a weapon had to be pressed into immediate service, so how could she resist telling Roy something about his wife he didn’t know? Trump cards appear when the stakes get high, and Roy finding out his wife came home from her “walk” looking like she’d been rolledby sailors was an invitation to the apocalypse. Safer to take advantage of her husband’s insistence that since his mother exaggerated everything, no story of hers could ever be believed. Exaggeration was definitely Babe’s style, thought Persey. It was like a heavy foreign accent; after awhile you figured it out. And didn’t allowances need to be made for everybody? One way or the other?

Babe had let herself in with her own key, disarmed the security system and was busy setting up a massively hideous silk floral display in a three-foot tall knockoff vase pretending to Famille Jaune. She looked magnificent as usual, sporting a nubby-weave amber-colored skirt that showed her legs and a high- collared silk blouse buttoned above her loosened throat. Faux pearl earrings the size of headlights glittered in her ears. With her high-teased dead-black hair and pansy stained dark eyes Persey thought she looked ready to sing Madame Butterfly.

Babe adored dispensing gifts; but her “gifts” felt like loans. Her things had to be displayed her way. She was forever attempting to clutter up the white spaces of Persey’s front hall. Persey treated these gestures politely since she couldn’t seem to get her mother-in-law to see that the interesting architectural details of a trapezoidal room required no embellishment. This vase was an obscene object; and the flowers were just unspeakable, but Babe would never get it. Imagine flowers that you had to dust! Wait till Roy saw it! The whole mess was fated for a serious “accident.”

It was easy to be polite because Persey pitied her mother-in-law from the bottom of her heart. To the unenlightened, rich and glamorous Babe might seem a fortunate being; but if unrequited love brings the most painful suffering in the universe, then hell was Babe’s permanent residence. First Bruce, the son she “won” in her divorce hanged himself at age seventeen, and nothing she could ever do or say would trigger love or even respect from her sole remaining child. Roy held her responsible for his father’s departure, for the divorce, for his twin’s death, his father’s death, everything. Babe was sentenced to seeing all her advances spurned and treated with contempt; usually as publicly as possible.

“Oh, hi, honey,” called Babe over her shoulder. “Look what I got for you when we closed the show house. Your front hall is just so bare. It’s unwelcoming. When you pull in the eye, you pull in the person.”

Sociable herself, she took it utterly for granted in others. Persey calibrated the seconds until Babe was no longer touching the vase – the accident shouldn’t actually occur in her presence – before she spoke.

“Trick or Treat.”

Babe’s expression of anticipatory delight turned clownishly to horror. “Good
God! Honey, what happened to you?”

“I know I’m an idiot. Digger got stuck in a briar patch.”

Babe’s nostrils flared with anger – at Digger, Persey realized too late. Damn!
She should have blamed a passing stray. Before her eyes the carefully applied color of what her mother-in-law referred to as her maquillage leaked away. What if Roy and his mother bonded together against the “filthy animal” that absorbed so much of Persey’s time and care?

“Honey, that’s blood,” she said, touching Persey’s arm. “How can you ever take care of another human being if you can’t you learn to take care of yourself?”
Blood? Persey felt momentary faintness –- had she touched The Thing? But it was her own blood bubbling wetly out of one long scratch along her arm.

“Sweetheart, this needs stitches. I think we have to get you to a doctor.” Babe seemed touchingly upset.

It was something of a surprise. Babe feared the invasions of age, but she feared doctors even more. She kept rafts of shamen and herbalists on speed dial. Recently she had been forced into mainstream medicine for disc surgery and had been complaining about it ever since. Maybe she thought doctors were OK for other people. She had been the one insisting on a fertility clinic when time was passing and no infant appeared.

Persey, braced for interference and disapproval, was almost undone by sympathy. Knowing Babe considered hugging “messy” she gave her mother-in- law a reassuring pat.

“All I need is hot water and chlorine,” said Persey. “It looks worse than it is.” “What good is that damned dog, I’d like to know. He’s supposed to be protecting you. You got the wrong breed, I’m afraid. Airedales! It’s not too late to trade him for a Doberman.” Babe’s attitude towards pets – “filth-mongers” was even more disapproving than her attitude towards plants — “allergens”.

“Where is Digger?” She looked hopeful, as if perhaps he had been lost or even killed.
“He’s getting his grooming, and now I’m getting mine,” said Persey, making her way towards the sunroom and hot tub as tactfully as she could without seeming to abandon her unwanted guest. She had hoped to undress without being scanned for a “baby-bump” but no such luck. Babe pattered after her on the same stiletto heels that had triggered her back surgery.

“You know I hate to agree with Roy, honey, but maybe he’s right this time. Your walks are getting a little too far ranging. The world isn’t as safe as you apparently believe. A girl who’s trying to become a mother can’t live just for herself anymore. I’m behind you on the exercise – we all know that’s important – but why can’t you go to the gym?”

Because gyms were full of Stormees and Jarods. Competitive thighs, lifeless surfaces, angry eyes, frozen dreams, lustful sighs. She smiled, appreciating her insta-poem. Bish said everything could be poetry. He called Persey his Muse.

She pleaded, fully despising her beggy tone. “He’s learning voice command. We’re almost there.“
“Honey, there’s no controlling him. That dog weighs as much as you do. “

Naked people can’t argue effectively and Persey had already dropped her clothes. She sank gratefully into the boiling water, turned on the jets, closed her eyes and gave herself up to purification.

“I see more than one scratch,” Babe chastised, pulling up a chair as if Persey was the floorshow. “And I think you’re skinnier than ever, if that’s even possible.” She clucked her tongue disapprovingly but at least restrained herself from wondering aloud what man could possibly be attracted to a grown woman with the body of an eleven-year-old girl. Persey gave silent thanks for small favors, but apparently her mother-in-law had other things on her mind.
“Look at you! You could have picked up any one of those tick diseases. That’s a systemic illness, you know. It could affect your baby and his heirs for all eternity. I’ll get some nettle tea from Dr. Zu.”

Persey smiled at the thought that it was OK to drink nettles but never to play in them. She had serious doubts Zu was even a “doctor”. “Doctor” of fleecing rich old ladies, she thought.
“I just need some antiseptic,” she said out loud, “And a bandaid. There’s a First Aid kit in the downstairs bathroom.”

But it wasn’t going to be possible to get rid of Babe that easily. Babe was going over her daughter-in-law’s clothes with a ragpicker’s care.

“Why does such a pretty girl allow herself to be seen this way?” she asked aloud. “You should realize, Persey, you haven’t the luxury of being “off-stage.” Someone is always watching.”
Not true, thought Persey. That’s why I go on those walks: no cameras, no mirrors – no memory even. There I can be utterly, entirely alone. Now an unpleasant thought struck her. Ned had seen her both at her best – in full make up as a mermaid at Jarod’s party – and at her absolute worst, as a thrill-seeking grub-hunter. She’d proven something to herself, all right, but what had she proven to him?

“I’ll just throw these in the kitchen trash,” said Babe, “They’re too far gone even to donate. There’s no point in washing them.”

Throwing perfectly good clothes away was something Roy had inherited from his mother, much as he wanted to pretend he was a changeling. Both of them think there’s no such thing as clean, only new. They see stains invisible to others. Roy couldn’t even bear distressed jeans.
Persey sank beneath the water wondering if she could feign sleep. She tried pulling the roaring water into the acoustic foreground of her brain. Delicious white noise.

This octagonal glass gazebo was her favorite room in the house. Containing only plants – real ones — candles and a hot tub sunk into the tiled floor, it was impervious to Babe’s meddling. Persey lifted her arm to study it. Already the scratch looked better. As long as her face was unmarked, a scratch or two was nothing. She could handle Roy. She always had.

Babe appeared trailing a trash bag from each hand.

“I’m double-bagging them,” said Babe, who probably talked to herself when no one else was around. “That way if there’s anything on them it won’t transfer to the house.”
She knotted the bag securely, brushed off her skirt, and then settled back down in her chair as if she had all the time in the world.

“Untreated allergies lead to autoimmune disorders, you know. Cancer. Imagine me, mother of two little boys and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. And all the time I was allergic to Roy Senior’s sperm!” she shook her head sadly. “He was slowly killing me. Divorce is unthinkable but sometimes you just have to protect yourself.”

Persey could not bear going over this again. According to Roy his father was the one to leave, “Couldn’t stand her shit for one more second” but Babe told quite a different tale. The only way to derail this train was to throw her naked body across the tracks and brave the skewering glance. Forget towels. She stepped out of the comforting hot water and walked to the door for a terrycloth robe.

“And you’re looking so well now,” she said brightly. Manifestly false but Babe would probably buy it. Anything to change the subject.

“Well, it’s been a rough menopause,” commented her mother-in-law, blinking. “It seems my body can’t let go of youth.”

Or her memory of every slight. Persey said heartily, “I need a drink!” It had never been truer. “How about you?”

These were magic words. Babe snapped out of her loop and gladly followed her daughter-in law into what she called “the living room” and Persey thought of as “the drinking room”, since that’s all that goes on here. But hell, Babe bought this house, so she can call the rooms anything she wants. Here the afternoon sun checked by skylights was more flattering to her mother-in-law’s carefully constructed looks. Babe checked a pocket mirror and patted her face to reassure herself that the emotional moment had dissipated with maquillage intact. This was her favorite room in her son’s house, dominated as it was by her own massive portrait.

“Double old-fashioned, please,” she said comfortably, just as if her daughter- in-law didn’t know. “Not too much ice.”

Persey rarely drank before – or even with lunch, but it was funny how you needed a drink when Babe was around. She splashed white wine into a Tom Collins glass, added water and ice. As she crossed the room to give her mother- in-law the glass, Persey gazed around dissatisfied. This decorating was botched by too many cooks. Babe took an interest in the colors since she was donating her portrait whose colors must be showcased, not competed with. She fought against
Persey’s favorite pastels as potentially “unmanning” of her only son. The sole color agreed on was white; but the effect was chilly. White sofas, white pillows, white flokati rugs. Only alcohol could warm them as they gazed upward at the massive portrait whose subject, a romantically beautiful dark haired woman, once wore twin boys on either side, as matched accessories.

Now she embraced a single lopsided boy, while her other arm encircled a muddy paint-pool. Bruce being painted out was the condition Roy made on accepting this gift, and to Persey’s considerable surprise, Babe went along with it. But just because a thing was hidden didn’t mean it wasn’t there. Persey often thought she could detect the lost boy’s eyes peering out at the assembled company – Pleadingly? Threateningly? — behind his new disguise.

The effect was heightened if you’d had a few. According to her watch it was way past lunchtime. She really should serve something to mop up all this alcohol. There was leftover Chinese in the refrigerator. She was wondering if she could dress it up enough to make it presentable when her mother-in-law spoke.

“I thought we could go shopping and out to dinner,” she suggested. “A day without shopping is like a day without sunshine.”

“I’ll call Roy,” said Persey guardedly. “But I think he’s got plans.”
“Such as what?” demanded his mother.

“Oh, you know.” Persey was vague. “Something with Jarod. Last night was
Jarod’s birthday party.”

“Jarod again?” sniffed Roy’s mother. “You know I love Jarod – he’s certainly been good for Roy — but haven’t they been spending too much time together? Don’t you feel neglected?”
“Not at all,” said Persey. “I have a lot to do around here. The house. The bookkeeping.” She didn’t dare admit how much she relished her alone time.

Babe chose a different subtext. “Beauty rituals are so time-consuming, men just don’t understand. The more beautiful one is, the more time it takes.” she sniffed. “And then they want you ready for anything. Well, if Bryan wants to be a party pooper it’s a good thing we don’t need him in order to have fun.”

Must be the liquor that made her slip up and refer to Roy by his baby name. If he was present, he would set her straight. Babe had named her sons after dead twin uncles, but when Roy Senior had his heart attack and Bruce was already dead, Roy took his father’s name. Not as just a fresh start, Persey thought, but a way to capture closeness with a dead and distant father, and also spite a mother who’d tried so hard to enlist him in her campaign against her husband.
Babe could reliably spark Roy’s worst behavior – “accidentally” of course — just by using his old name. Even Persey would have corrected her but Babe was in spate.

“You and Bryan are too alike. He was always such a daredevil. He egged Bruce on. All my pleading and begging never made the slightest difference. I didn’t realize until it was too late that it Bruce who was the fragile one, even though he was firstborn. They had one of those relationships where everyone else is shut out; no one else knew what was going on. Poor Bruce was only trying to match Bryan’s physical courage. Trying and failing. And now you’re doing it, Persey. I can’t lose you too.”

Persey felt no longer clean as hopelessness washed over her. Easy to understand Roy’s rage against his mother when Babe carried on like this. What was she implying now, that Bruce’s death was not a suicide? She was an expert at rewriting history. Persey, had met Roy’s father but never Bruce, who died too young, so circumstances of his death were still foggy. Heavens knows Roy didn’t want to talk about it. In Roy’s rare tales about his brother it was Bruce the Evil who raged through his timid brother’s inhibitions like a tornado. Roy said Bruce was on meds to tame violent, possibly psychotic behavior. He broke things, smashed things, threatened people; even killed the family dog. He cut scars into Roy you could see to this day. Why did Bruce’s death have to be Roy’s fault? Couldn’t Babe see how proportioning blame fatally separated survivors?

By the time Persey arrived on the scene Roy was already living with his father. He’d switched high schools, that’s what caused him to fall across Persey’s path.

Whether Roy chose his father or his father chose him she could never get clear, but the boy left with Mom killed himself. So it was certainly forgivable if Babe chose to go a little nuts. But why Babe felt the need to endlessly rehash all this misery was beyond Persey. Why complain about Roy’s rejection and yet stubbornly bring up all the subjects that made him the angriest?

Yet in Roy’s absence this might be a primo opportunity to find out what really happened. Or possibly, by getting another story, triangulate between the tales to real events.
“Were you the one who found him?” Persey asked abruptly.

Babe’s lips froze; she seemed almost as if surprised she had a listener. Usually one drink did not take hold to this extent. Her mouth worked under the pressure of self-censorship.
“Oh, no,” she gasped. “I was at least spared that. Bryan found him.”

This just had to be an outright lie. Roy had always claimed to be with his father during the time of his brother’s death. Would Babe lie about a fact so central? Persey had to admit that she probably would, just to distance herself. Facts to Babe were only raw material, and Babe enjoyed the challenge of twisting them into fresh, exciting new designs. Hard to blame her, really, when what some people called “lying”, was just “information management” to Babe; another business tool. Even Roy was guilty of this to some extent. It was a way of controlling your self-presentation. One thing they agreed on was that it was stupid to let others see your cards.

Babe was after all a successful businesswoman with a finely tuned instinct for what people needed to hear. People needed careful leading to pre-chosen conclusions. With her own ears Persey had heard statements like, “Everyone’s after this property,” “Madonna’s trying to buy into the neighborhood”, “He is our most trusted developer”, “There have never been any complaints about this well water”, things Persey knew quite definitely weren’t true. But not only was Babe capable of saying it, she was capable of acting like she believed it. Maybe she did believe it.

However, Roy might walk in at any moment, so she shouldn’t be encouraged in her fantasies or he could blow up at the pair of them. Roy held himself eternally ready for “pissing matches,” but Persey did not.

Instead she made her mother-in-law another drink. She changed the subject. Forget the past. There was always the future.

“So where are we going tonight?” she inquired.

Babe rattled her ice appreciatively. “That new French place. They must know how to make a decent Béarnaise. You know, Persey, I can count your ribs. Any word on Roy’s test?”
Jeez, conversation with this woman was loaded with minefields. The pleasurable effects of the hot tub had completely worn off. That damned fertility problem again. Roy was some how able to flee his mother but here was Persey, perennially stuck to soldier on alone. The irony of wailing about previous children’s shortcomings while yearning for a birth was totally lost on Babe.

Persey abandoned her own drink. Too easy just to drink the afternoon away. Certainly it was easiest to drink Babe’s visits away. Hot tea – or strong coffee – was what was needed here.
“Not yet,” she admitted.

When first Babe started nagging for a grandchild Persey assumed Roy, who resented the attention Persey paid a dog – would set his mother straight, but Babe knew her son’s weaknesses too well. Any implication that he might be “shooting blanks” would galvanize him. Persey didn’t want to know, so no news was good news but she’d not yet checked today’s mail, email or answering machine. Sensitive information required privacy. With Babe around, Persey played defense, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep it up.

“We’ll be sure to let you know,” she promised.

Babe tapped her foot in annoyance. The grip of the past was powerful. She always had to say that one last thing.

“I’m glad it was Bryan who found him,” she stuttered, spit gathering at the cracked edges of her purple lipstick. “He needed to see the results of his cruelty. He cut his brother off, like that!’ she snapped her fingers. “After they’d been so close. But you know, once he appreciated the consequences of his actions, he did change. Not with me, Persey, but with you. It balms my heart to see his gentleness with you. Roy wouldn’t be such a good husband if Bruce were still alive.”

Another of Babe’s mantras — every good thing about Roy came, ultimately, from her.
This is all my fault for feeding her alcohol, thought Persey.

“Let me fix lunch. Don’t move if your back is bothering you. I was going to make a Chinese salad.”
Babe visibly blanched at this unattractive offering. She was very fussy about her food.
“No, thanks. We had brunch at the show house. I’d really like to do some shopping. Panique is closing over at the Outlet and there ought to be some good deals. Then later I thought I might visit Bruce’s grave. I’d love it if you could join me.”

Very sneaky to suggest visiting Bruce’s grave. Babe was always trying to get everybody to visit Bruce’s grave. Even though he had been cremated, Babe had insisted on a full size casket, loaded, according to Roy, with Bruce memorabilia. In her usual spirit of overkill, she had purchased not just one plot, but four. The second was called into surprise service with Roy’s father’s sudden heart attack; conveniently before the divorce became final, allowing Babe to sweep the pot. Yet Babe never mentioned visiting Roy Senior’s grave, a trip that might have interested her son. Those visits made Persey feel distinctly odd. She knew she was expected to bunk in here somewhere, maybe with Roy Jr. She was such a small person; why should Babe buy her a plot of her own?

“Sorry,” she said. “I played all morning so I should really work all afternoon.”
Babe waved her hand dismissively. “I don’t think your boss will mind if you play hooky. I’d say you pretty much have him wrapped around your finger.” She sighed. “I wish I’d ever been loved by anyone the way Roy loves you.”

Persey knew she should argue with this. Babe’s current squeeze Mickey – usually referred to as Mickey-the-Mayor even though he’d only been president of a condo association – was amazingly loyal and attentive. But Persey just didn’t have the energy.

“You trained him right,” she toasted her mother in law. Babe was happy now, swinging her foot, gazing around a room she felt reflected her best achievements. She was good for five more minutes. “If you don’t mind I think I’ll just go change,” Persey transitioned smoothly.
She donned a pink fleece tracksuit to emphasize the fact that she wasn’t planning to go out. While she dressed she considered joining Babe for the promised dinner.

If Roy was hanging out at Jarod’s it was possible, and if Mickey was there it might even be enjoyable. Babe was easier to handle with Mickey around. He put his shoulder to the heavy lifting. His equable temperament poured soothing oil over even the most troubled social interactions. He knew, for example, that the thought of his mother marrying again put Roy in a rage and worked hard to reassure him this would never happen. Persey suspected Babe only kept Mickey around because she was thrilled by what she chose to see as Roy’s “jealousy”. Even Persey could tell that it was his dead father Roy was protecting and not Babe at all, but Babe exulted in any vestige of power over her son and sometimes oozed over Mickey just to needle him.

Mickey himself was never possessive; he seemed happy to be picked up and put down whenever it suited Babe’s fancy. In fact he registered such a low libidinal wattage that Persey had been unwise enough once to wonder aloud to her husband about whether the two ever had sex.
“Babe hates sex,” Roy told her. “I can’t believe you don’t know that about her. She’s always hated it.”

True that at Babe’s house Mickey was relegated to a sort of closet off Babe’s room, not that he seemed to mind, but Persey thought Roy was probably kidding himself. He wouldn’t be the first son to prefer immaculate conception where his mother was concerned. Another subject better left alone.

In the kitchen she threw together a platter of cheese and crackers, apples and grapes. Somebody should eat something.

Babe hadn’t moved from her spot. Her drink was empty and there was a sad expression on her face.

“Cheese?” Persey offered hopefully. From where she was standing the slant of afternoon light picked up a dimpled repair on Babe’s portrait at the exact spot where Bruce had once thrown a chair through the painting, instead of at his mother. Persey often wondered what it would have been like to meet Bruce. They were identical twins. It would be freaky to stand between two Roys.

“Call Roy,” wheedled Babe, pushing the cordless into Persey’s hand. “If you invite him he might come,” she flattered. “You know you can get him to do anything.”

Clever Babe. Smart enough to know that if caller ID registered her cell number, Roy might not even pick up.

Eavesdropping on this call to Roy was another of Babe’s terrible ideas. Why set herself up for anguish? But when Babe saw Persey’s hesitation she oiled up her weaponry. When angling for a favor, she laid praise on thick — with guilt- edged corners.
“You can sell it, honey. It was the luckiest day of Roy’s life when he met you. I hate to say this – knock on wood – but sometimes I worried he would go the same way as Brucie. I don’t know how he ever managed to graduate high school. He was so far behind. Well, I do know. You made the difference. And then when you split up he was devastated. Just devastated. I’m not saying you did anything wrong – I told him of course a girl that young doesn’t want to be tied down. She needs to see something of the world; naturally she is going to choose college over you. It’s no personal insult that the college she chose is all the way in California; everyone wants to go to California.”

Persey dialed as hastily as she could but that didn’t shut Babe off.
“Make something of yourself, I told him. Women like to be won. Show her a man she can respect. That’s why he went into the Army – just to impress you – and it worked out better than any of us could have hoped. Of course he had Jarod to help him there. When he came out he was so discouraged to find out you were married, he almost gave up. I thought I was going to lose him to the drugs. I said, “Having a husband doesn’t mean she’s happy. Find out for sure. Declare yourself. What the hell are you waiting for? You’ve already lost her once. And thank God Jarod backed me up. “

Utter, utter bullshit, thought Persey. There wasn’t enough alcohol in the universe to make any of this sound true. She held her fingers to her lips to stem the flow, hoping Babe knew better than to let Roy know she listened in.

Roy’s voice in her ear, at last, tender and lazy as if he’d wakened from a nap. ”Lo, doll.”
Babe watched Persey so closely it was as if she pushed her own lips toward
the receiver. Sometimes she acted as if her son was an animal and Persey was his trainer. Better warn Roy this wasn’t an intimate conversation.

“Your mom is here –“she began. Roy’s disgusted snort could be heard across the room. She tried talking over it in a loud, upbeat way.

“–asking if we can go to dinner tonight with her and Mickey. That new French place in Brandywine.”

“Tell her to screw herself,” said Roy, “We just saw her last weekend. Give her an inch and she takes the whole backyard. I’d rather go to the dump than hang out with her. And don’t you go either. I need you. ”

Persey was still trying to smile for Babe’s benefit.

“OK, honey. Whatever you want.” She covered the mouthpiece and cobbled together a face-saving story. “Roy’s exhausted. He wants to stay in. Just us.”

“Make sure she doesn’t leave without giving you a check,” Roy said in Persey’s ear. Persey kissed him through the phone before hastily hanging up, and Babe pursed her own lips disbelievingly.
“You two have nothing but time together. Come out to the lagoon this weekend. Mickey bought a new boat.”

Throw her a bone.

“Sounds like fun,” Persey agreed apologetically.

“Really, Persey,” Babe pouted, “You should yank the leash on that man. You never know where he is or what he’s up to.”

Roy was certainly right when he called his mother Snoopy. Who could blame him for piling up the barricades against her?

“Jarod’s party was such a big deal,” said Persey. “It was a lot of work. Big deal turning forty.”
“Well I suppose I can’t invite Jarod, then, if they’re still busy. But I really should get him something for his birthday,” said Babe. “He’s been such a. sweetie. Be a dear for me and find out what he wants.” With a put-upon sigh, she opened her purse and pulled out her checkbook. “So long as you both promise to come for the weekend.”

Only a born sucker could call Jarod a sweetie. Persey already knew what he wanted; that man wanted everything. He cast his envious eyes over Roy’s toys, Roy’s life, even Roy’s wife but Roy, desperate for male closeness, was just too blind to see it. Persey was so grateful not to have to solicit the check more directly she was willing to keep nodding as if she agreed with everything.
Asking Roy’s mother for money was more embarrassing than telling Roy later what she had committed him to. Four days before she had to spring it on him. Sometimes the very best you could accomplish was to simply postpone the evil day.

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