Monday, January 21, 2008

Chapter 8: Lights, Part V

"Figures," he muttered and went into the kitchen, where he snatched a knife from a block on the counter and carried it back into the living room. He had nearly finished cutting the window free when Travis Ware tromped up the steps. The noise startled him and made him drop the knife. Doesn't that man drive anywhere? The mayor held Raymond's carrier and diaper bag. Why can't he keep his nose out of other people's business? He twisted around to make sure the curtain obscured the kitchen doorway. No point in letting the man see too much. Vernon retrieved the knife and placed it on the window sill, then walked to the door and leaned against the frame.

"Yes?" He sniffled and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.

"Save it, Mr. Hamilton." Brow furrowed, Travis frowned at him a moment, then bobbed his head left and right, trying to peer past him into the house. "You'll not snow me like you did the Williams." The carrier swayed as he thrust it toward Vernon. Raymond giggled and waved his arms.

Straightening, Vernon sighed and took the baby, letting the carrier swing at his side as he grumbled, "Thanks a lot."

"You are quite welcome." He set the diaper bag on the porch between them. "You're a part of Jennings Grove now, Vernon. We look after our own here. That includes letting you know when you're making a mistake."

"You think I'm making a mistake?"

"You don't?"

"No, I don't." Vernon set the carrier down and folded his arms. "If anything, I was being more responsible than you. I'm not ready to take care of a baby and deal with this place. I decided to leave him with someone who was. I don't see how that's a mistake."

"Then let me shed a little light on the subject for you." Travis crossed his arms and offered a frown that more than matched Vernon's.

"Ask most people in Lamar County about Jennings Grove, and they'll tell you this is a tightly knit community. That's all about anyone knows about us here. But this is a tight community for a reason. To put it in terms you might understand, it's a precision machine. Every part has a function in the machine; if one part doesn’t work for some reason, that puts a strain on the other pieces. Enough stress, and the whole machine breaks down." He leaned over and jabbed a finger in Vernon's chest with every word. "Out here, that's usually fatal. I will not let you endanger the lives of these people just because you think you deserve special treatment."

"I don't want special..."

"Yes, you do. Either that or you're planning something you don't want anyone to know about." Vernon tried to still a flinch, but Travis must have seen something because he suddenly nodded and sighed. "I was afraid of this. You can't go to your wife and daughter. I am sorry for your loss, Vernon, but they are gone. Any attempt to reach out to them will leave your son an orphan. You think you're the first to want to go out into the night for just one more moment with a child or spouse?"

Vernon opened his mouth to protest, then shut it. Let him think what he wants. If he's off target, maybe I can keep him that way until I get them back. "Fine. Then what do you suggest?"

"Take care of your family, Mr. Hamilton. Be a man and stop shirking your duty. You can't do anything about the ones you've lost. You might as well get that through your skull now. Accept it and move on. You have a son who needs you. Foisting him off on other people isn't going to help you adjust; it's only going to make it harder."

"So your solution is to just throw me under the bus?"

"I am sorry if you see it that way, but if you recall, we've offered you a great deal of support – someone to watch your son while you're at work, money to help you get on your feet. We aren't leaving you to sink or swim, Vernon, but we do expect you to at least try to swim. So far, all you've done is splash around in the kiddy pool and complain that we've given you too much water."


Part VI coming Friday!

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