Footsteps

Author’s Note: Caution! Here be swear words!

“The funeral went well, I suppose. As well as any funeral might,” Maria brushed a stray piece of hair from her forehead. Doctor Kobb watched silently, clipboard resting on his lap.

The dew from the evening had settled in the apartment. The occasional wind rushed through the open window flickering the candles. Shadows came and went with the flames. Doctor Kobb sat near the overstuffed bookcase. More books were scattered precariously throughout the apartment. Maria sat opposite the bookcase with a view of her mother’s bedroom door along with Doctor Kobb.

Kobb began, “Ms. Marlone, I came here very purposefully – ”

“Yes. Yes, I know,” Maria said.

“Perhaps, then, we should get started,” Kobb gestured to the piece of paper in her hands.

Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the page. A picture of her father rested near her. She had turned it to face away.

“First of all, I didn’t have much time. What with my mother’s funeral and all,” she said. Leaning forward she had Kobb light the end of her cigarette.

“I know, Ms. Marlone. And having you write this story should have helped even with that. This is supposed to help you,” Kobb smiled. Even when he smiled Maria found her hands clinging to the ropes of distrust.

“I know my mother saw you before me,” she said.

“Yes. That’s true,” Kobb said.

She smirked, “Then you know all about families, I guess.”

“Again, Ms. Marlone, that is not my purpose.”

“I grew up in a middle class home, with a middle class family. My father was a middle writer, my brother older, my sister younger. I suppose I’m the offshoot of middle. Average. Or, I was,” She smiled, “until…”

Kobb waited. He tapped his pen against his clipboard five times before asking, “Until?”

“Until I started seeing you. Just like my mother before me.”

“Your mother was schizophrenic. She saw me for very different reasons than you,” Kobb explained.

Maria laughed brightly, “but she saw you. And now I get to see you too.”

Kobb pursed his lips, the gleam of light that had shown from his eyes before had set, “Give me what you wrote, Ms. Marlone. It will help you. I’m sure of it.”

Maria pursed her own lips, mirroring the doctor. “Very well,” she handed him the page.

Taking the page Kobb smiled before adjusting his glasses and beginning to read:

                                    ‘DNA’ by Maria Marlone

Jake lay on his couch in the middle of his mother’s basement. A bag of chips sat crumpled near his feet. The TV was on, showing reruns of I Love Lucy. But Jake was asleep.

With a light creak the basement door opened and two slippered feet walked noisily down the steps. Four paws hurried happily behind.

The light turned on and Jake sprung awake, “Huh?”

As his eyes refocused he saw the outline of his mother. His sad angry mother. His dog, Jake Junior, sat next to her wagging its tail.

“Up!” His mother said. Her hands, of course, rested on her hips.

Jake replied with a grunt and fell back into the dead couch.

Jake’s mother took a pillow from the floor and hit him. “Up! Up! Up!” She yelled.

When he sat up the beatings stop.

“Good. Take the dog for a walk for God’s sake,” and with a surprisingly quick turn she walked back up the stairs.

Jake Junior panted and wagged his tail harder as Jake got off the couch. Several pieces of Cheetos floated to the ground. Jake Junior jumped on them and ate them. Then he looked to Jake for more.

Grabbing the leash, Jake hooked up his dog and headed up the stairs. Over the din of General Hospital Jake’s mother shouted from the couch, “Pick up its shit!”

The door slammed shut.

Walking down his street Jake saw a few kids run around in front of the houses playing kickball. Several older folks sat on benches. The breeze was nice and light.

At the corner Jake found his usual route to the drug store. Jake Junior started pulling on the leash in the opposite direction.

“Come on,” Jake said. He yanked on the leash and the dog followed.

The drugstore was occupied solely by Jake’s friends. Michael’s dad owned the store and when he wasn’t around, which was often, they stole cigarettes and beer and drank in the back room.

“Hey, guess what I got?” Paul asked, sitting on a box of newspapers.

Michael and Jake took a swig of beer. Jake asked, “What?”

“This,” Paul held out a bag with weed.

“Oh man!” Michael jumped up to examine it, “Where’d you get that?”

Jake took the bag from Michael, “Nice stuff.”

Paul grabbed a beer, “Pretty sweet, eh?”

“You got a pipe too?” Michael asked

“No,” Paul laughed, “but I know your mom does.”

Jake laughed with Paul.

“How many times do I gotta tell you guys not to talk about my mom like that?” Micheal threw the bag back at Paul, who caught it.

“Dude,” Jake said, “it’s true. She reeks of pot. Go upstairs and get a pipe.”

Michael mumbled under his breath but still went upstairs to his family’s apartment.

Jake found a stack of Ramen Noodle boxes and sat down. Jake Junior looked up at him, panting impatiently.

“I heard your mom got outta prison,” he said to Paul.

“Yeah,” Paul nodded, his eyes scanned to the top shelf for some hard liquor.

“Sucks.”

“Yeah.”

The two boys sat silently in the back room. They could hear cars driving past. The clock on the wall grew louder. When the stillness grew too still, Paul jumped up.

“Man, what the hell is taking so long?” Paul asked. He walked across to the door. Jake watched him, then turned his attention to his own thoughts. He didn’t want to go home.

“I’m gonna drink some whiskey. You want some?” Paul took down a bottle of Maker’s Mark and ripped open the seal.

“Sure, man, pass it,” Jake reached his hand out. Jake Junior growled at the door.

“Shut up!” Jake said.

Two shadows passed underneath the door frame. Jake and Paul moved back. Jake Junior started barking.

“Who’s there?” Paul shouted, the whiskey sloshing back and forth in the bottle.

The door burst open. Jake Junior yelped as the door slammed into his snout. The boys jumped back against the cabinets.

“Hands up!” The police officer said.

Michael’s dad stood between the two officers. When Jake saw him his instinct was to roll his eyes, but he kept his cool, staring down the officers.

“Yup. Here it is,” the first police officer picked up the bag of weed which sat on top of Paul’s backpack and threw it to the other officer.

“Damn it,” Paul swore to himself. He’d set the Maker’s Mark down behind him.

Jake’s eyes followed back and forth between the two officers. His eyes then widened as Michael joined his dad’s side.

“You little shit,” Jake said. His hands held high above his head turned into fists.

“Come on, son, no need for that. This wasn’t found on your backpack,” the first officer said. The second officer took to looking at Paul.

Paul went white. Jake swallowed, but kept his mouth shut. Michael looked to his dad.

“Get outta here,” the second police officer said to Jake. He then turned to Michael and patted him on the shoulder, “Thanks for the tip, son.”

Jake and Jake Junior walked out of the store. Paul moaned, “Oh, come on man, you can’t just leave me!”

Michael tried to catch up with Jake, “Hey!”

Jake turned around on him, “Shut up, you fuck. God damn! You’re worse than your father with his shit neighborhood watch bull. Fuck you.”

Michael balked, sputtering out nothing. Jake walked away.

When Jake walked through the door of his parents house night had already fallen. Jake’s father stood in the bedroom doorway. His mother still sat watching TV.

“Your father lost his job today,” she said.

Jake walked past them both without a word.

His father shouted to his back, “Do your homework!”

Fin.

“Is there anything else?” Kobb asked. He took off his glasses and set them on his clipboard.

Maria shook her head. Her cigarette had gone out. She stared at it broodingly.

“I understand the boys following their parents footsteps.,” Kobb said. He tsked, “And your distrust of the police is evident. But this isn’t real.” His disappointment pierced Maria, revealing memories of her father.

Maria laughed in spite of it, “It was a short story. Of course it’s not real.”

Kobb wrote a note on his clipboard before responding, “I asked for something real. Something personal. You’re not going to get better if you don’t help yourself.”

Maria shrugged. Kobb got up from his chair. He opened the apartment door and sharply shut it behind him. A few books fell from the overstuffed bookcase. Frank Marlone’s short story collection dropped into the wastebasket.

THE END

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