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Garage Sale 103 today Come h.e.l.l, high water, or tornadoes, garage sales go on as scheduled in Wisconsin. The split-level's garage door was rolled up and the sale merchandise spilled out onto the driveway. Toys, bikes, abandoned knitting projects, romance novels, popcorn poppers, salad shooters, tater twisters, home woodworking projects, and rack upon rack of clothes. Everything looked fabulous to my fashion-starved eyes, even the polyester pants and the gypsy skirts that were so hot for about a microsecond and now seemed as dated as disco suits.
It wasn't ten o'clock yet, but the buzzer-beaters were already scavenging for bargains. The women running the sale sat on lawn chairs behind a card table, drinking coffee and scarfing down blueberry m.u.f.fins, still steamy warm from the oven, slathered with b.u.t.ter.
My stomach was making little oinking noises. The m.u.f.fin fumes wrapped themselves around me, sucking me into their gravitational field. I wanted to rip the m.u.f.fins out of the women's b.u.t.ter-smeared hands and stuff them in my mouth, but I figured that might possibly attract attention. Slinking to the rear of the garage, I began pawing through the junk, hoping no one would notice my mosquito-bitten legs, bramble-scratched arms, and hair that looked as though it'd been styled with a wood chipper.
The garage sale women were watching a portable TV tuned to the local news. A female reporter wearing a fabulous low-cut top (I'd wear that) and too much makeup was doing a standup report with the walls of the prison as a backdrop.
". . . believed to have escaped during the tornado that touched down in the Taycheedah area last night," she gabbled. "A pa.s.sing motorist picked her up and dropped her off at Marian College, but a search of the college grounds revealed no trace of the fugitive. Maguire, who was convicted of murdering her husband, is believed to be unarmed, but should be approached with caution. A ma.s.sive manhunt is under way. Anyone sighting the fugitive is asked to contact law enforcement officials."
I kept my back turned to the customers as I rummaged through the clothing table.
a.s.signed to laundry detail at Taycheedah, I'd worked with Victoria Jean Otto-aka Vicki Jean the Boosting Queen. Vicki Jean had explained the trick to filching merchandise. "You got to dress up for the job. You don't look up to check if the spy cameras are watching you because that makes you look sneaky. You leave your regular clothes in the dressing room and walk out wearing the new stuff and a Miss f.u.c.kin' America expression on your face."
I'd have been a complete failure as a shoplifter. I'd never taken anything that didn't belong to me in my life. I was the type who went back to the grocery store and pointed out the error on a receipt if they'd undercharged me. Then I'd apologize and pay the difference.
You can see what an insufferable goody-goody I was. I deserved to be in prison for being so d.a.m.n stupid and trusting. I couldn't even lie-my ears would turn red and give me away, so I'd blundered through life telling the truth and getting myself in trouble.
Prison had straightened that out. In the Big House, it's lie or die.
I held a pair of black sweatpants against my waist and decided they might fit. I skulked behind a purple-flocked Christmas tree-a bargain at nineteen bucks-stripped off the hideous boxers, kicked them under a table, and pulled on the sweats. Too snug-I looked like I was smuggling ha.s.socks-but the meter was ticking away here. Someone might have recognized me on the street and already have phoned the police. No time to try for a better fit. Bypa.s.sing the fuschia silk Donna Karan blouse shrieking pick me, I chose a boring-as-rice-pudding white long-sleeved T-shirt, zipped out of the hoodie, and zapped on the T-shirt in twenty seconds flat. The other bargain hunters, arms loaded with Barbie dollhouses, board games, and the other kids' stuff that always gets scooped up right away, were too intent on their shopping to notice me. I s.n.a.t.c.hed up a pink baseball cap, pulled my twig-strewn hair into a ponytail, and yanked it out through the oval at the back. Rolling the hoodie into a lumpy tube, I tied it around my waist, figuring it might come in handy sooner or later. The days were still hot, but September nights could be cool, and I might wind up sleeping outside again. a.s.suming I lasted that long.
What else did I need? I found myself drawn to the appliance table, crammed with the kind of dreck kids give their mothers for Christmas, tossed in the junk drawer by New Year's Day. A plastic gadget caught my eye. It was called The Octo-dog, and it was shaped like an octopus, with bladed tentacles designed to slice a single wiener into eight skinny segments. Tempting, I had to admit. It was kind of cute. And if I had to take a hostage I could use it as a weapon. Throw down your guns or the kid's finger gets sliced into eight exactly equal pieces!
Then I remembered Vicki Jean's warning: you take what you need, but you don't get greedy. You don't stop to grab the shoes on the way out of the store. In forty years of shoplifting, Vicki Jean had never been busted for boosting. What had landed her in prison was a.s.sault and battery on her cheating boyfriend. She'd tied him to his bed while he was drunk and super-glued his magic wand to his stomach. This had earned her a three-year prison term, but Vicki Jean said it was worth it. Sure, she was in the slammer, doing time with a bunch of criminals, but her ex-boyfriend had to pee toward his belly b.u.t.ton.
Now, how did I get out of the garage without paying for the goods? Time for another Academy Award performance. Heart slamming against my ribs, I casually sauntered toward the door. "Back in a sec," I chirped. "Left my purse in my car."
n.o.body stopped me. The garage sale women were d.i.c.kering with a customer over the price stickered on a Fry Daddy. As soon as I was out of sight of the garage I broke into a trot. Ms. Suburbia goes jogging. It was nine thirty on a Sat.u.r.day and people were out in their yards, mowing their lawns or cleaning up storm damage. A sweating, red-faced man was washing his car in his driveway, listening to the boom box he'd set out on his lawn. The radio was tuned to a news station.
" . . . believed to be in the Fond du Lac area," the radio announced. "Maguire, serving a life term at Taycheedah for the murder of her husband, is the object of a ma.s.sive manhunt. She is described as being five feet three inches tall, brown-haired and blue-eyed, with no known scars or tattoos . . ."
A whapping noise made me look up. A helicopter was approaching, flying low and lazy across the sky. Either the governor, taking a gander at the tornado damage, or a spy chopper, hunting the escaped felon. I voted for the spy chopper. I could feel someone up there, scanning the ground with binoculars powerful enough to pick out individual wads of chewing gum on the sidewalk. Were they looking for a woman in a skateboarder sweatshirt? Would the cap brim conceal my face?
Maybe jogging looked too much like running away. Slowing to a walk, I detoured onto the lawn of the nearest house, picked a downed tree branch off the gra.s.s, and hauled it to the curb. Just another homeowner, devastated at the loss of her prize gingko. The chopper made two more pa.s.ses, then whump-whump-whumped off south and began flying a grid pattern over another section of town. I ambled along for a few more blocks, stopping here and there to haul tree branches off the sidewalk. Little Miss Civic Pride.
Before long I could see the interstate just a few blocks away, the traffic already audible. On the other side of the highway, the city petered out into scruffy subdivisions and beyond that, into farm fields where I'd stick out like the prize in a box of Cracker Jack.
I spotted it then, just a block away: the enormous gray box, the acres of asphalt, the neon letters large as semi-trailers. The bag of marbles I'd been hunting for.
Angling between parked cars, I scuttled through the parking lot, heading for the store's entrance. A maroon van suddenly shot out of the traffic lane, zipped across my path and screeched to a halt, its frame rocking on its shocks. The driver's door flew open, nearly knocking me down, and a woman heaved herself out of the van.
Not even a muttered Sorry. No, that would have required her to take time away from her cellphone conversation. Without looking at me or ungluing her phone from her ear, she wrenched open the van's rear door. Three kids tumbled out-two little girls and a toddler boy. Still yapping on her cell, the woman yanked the little boy by his arm and swatted the girls ahead, interrupting her phone conversation only long enough to scream at them. "You don't behave this time, we ain't stopping at the freakin' snack bar."
I stuck close to them as they headed into the store, hoping that anyone watching would take me for the Dysfunctional Family's auntie. Inside, a white-haired woman in a vest spangled with medals shoved a shopping cart at me.
I began wheeling around in a shopaholic stupor, overwhelmed by the staggering overabundance of stuff. Eventually I broke out of my trance, recalling what Vicki Jean had told me about surveillance cameras: the big boxes had spy cams everywhere, watching their customers' every move. Some sharp-eyed security troll could be zeroing in on my face this very second. I tugged my cap brim farther down until I could barely see, reminding myself that I was supposed to be running for my life, not scoping out the toaster ovens.
Maybe I could hide inside the store when it closed, raid the snack bar for food, and stretch out on a sleeping bag in the sporting goods department. This idea had a certain appeal, but no doubt security guards were wise to it.
I meandered into the electronics section. Row upon row of plasma-screen TVs, all tuned to the same channel, were running the Dangerous Escaped Felon story. My photo flashed on thirty-two screens.
". . . five-thousand-dollar reward now being offered for information leading to the apprehension of the fugitive Mazie Maguire," a voice squawked over a close-up of my face.
Five measly grand? Kip used to spend that much on a golf cart!
"And live from Florida right now," the television anchor chirped, "we have our very own Kim Peters live on the scene, reporting live from the residence of Maguire's parents."
They couldn't, the filthy vultures!
But they could and they did. There was my mother, Edith Maguire, looking confused and hara.s.sed as reporters swarmed around her, thrusting mics and cameras in her face while she walked to her garage. She looked tired and pale. Despite the fact that my parents live in Tampa, she hardly ever gets outside. My dad has panic attacks if she's gone for more than ten minutes.
My dad was injured in a farm accident ten years ago when the rear hatch of a hay wagon unexpectedly sprang loose, knocking him unconscious. He was in a coma for two months, and when he came out of it, he didn't recall the accident. He didn't recall much of anything. Dad's internal circuit breakers were scrambled. He had transient global amnesia, which meant he could recall the distant past with perfect clarity, but the part of his brain that told him he'd had breakfast or had already tied his shoes was damaged. He tried to return to farming, but he'd attempt to milk the cows five minutes after their last milking or start to gas up the tractor twenty times a day. It soon became obvious that he could no longer work the job he'd dedicated his life to. My brothers took over the family farm, while my parents moved to an a.s.sisted living facility in Florida.
Now I watched helplessly as reporters hounded my mother.
"Mrs. Maguire-have you heard from your daughter?" yelled a female reporter.
"No," my mother snapped.
Because Mama Maguire didn't raise no dummies. You think my girl doesn't know about tapped phones?
She didn't say that, of course, but I could feel her thinking it even over a distance of fifteen hundred miles. Edith Maguire is a thoughtful, sweet-tempered woman who compliments her hairdresser even when her perm comes out looking like burned Brillo pads, says excuse me when she b.u.mps into a department store mannequin, and never uses stronger language than darn, but now she s.n.a.t.c.hed a microphone away from a reporter and started yelling into the camera. "Margarita, if you hear this, I don't want you to give yourself up! Stay out there, stay free as long as you can! Your dad and I both know you're innocent! Love you, baby!"
Feeling a fierce swell of longing for my mom, I leaned forward and kissed the TV screen, tears blurring my mother's image.
That's when another face appeared on the screen. A face with a taut jaw, axe-edge cheekbones, sharp dark eyes, and a skimp of mustache. Expensive suit and tie, raincoat slung over arm. Lettering at the bottom of the screen identified him as U.S. Deputy Marshal Irving Katz.
Marshal? What was this, Dodge City? Where was the hat, the horse, the six-shooter? Last night a couple of county cops had been half-heartedly tracking me, now a federal marshal had been sicced on me? High-octane stuff for one measly convict. But then I remembered that the guy who'd been chasing Richard Kimble was a U.S. marshal, too. Apparently fugitive apprehension was what marshals did. I felt a tiny flicker of pride. I'd eluded the locals long enough to have the feds come after me!
My little flicker fizzled as the marshal spoke.
"The escaped convict, Mazie Maguire Vonnerjohn, is just a scared young woman," Irving Katz said. "She's unarmed. She's not going to break into your house and shoot your dog or steal your car."
He sounded east coast, maybe New York. I'd seen enough Law & Order reruns to pick up on the eclipsed r's; car came out cah.
"The fugitive is hungry, cold, tired, and without friends or family nearby to a.s.sist her. I'm confident that my team and I will have her in custody by the end of today."
Irving Katz did not look hungry, cold, or tired. He looked smart, alert, and extremely competent. He looked like a man who made good on his promises. When he said he expected to have the fugitive in custody by the end of today, I believed him. He scared the h.e.l.l out of me.
Suddenly I felt watched on all sides. This place wasn't safe. Fleeing to Walmart had been a dumb idea, a perfect example of why I was so lousy at chess: I never planned more than one move ahead. Wheeling my cart around, I trundled through the Back to School display, the Cheap Ugly Clothes aisle, and the towering stacks of toilet paper about to fall on your head area. I found myself drawn to the snack aisle, wishing I had the guts to shoplift.
When Vicki Jean the Boosting Queen was short of money, she fed herself and her four kids in the aisles of supermarkets without spending a cent. Cherries, apples, and pears from the produce area, pizza slices and sausages on a pretzel stick from the sample lady, doughnuts from the gla.s.s cases in front of the bakery. Supermarkets were do-it-yourself smorgasbords as far as Vicki Jean was concerned. If they didn't want you to help yourself, she argued, they wouldn't make everything so inviting.
My stomach was doing a pole dance against my backbone. I gazed longingly at a package of corn chips, suppressing the urge to bite into it wrapper and all. But I lacked Vicki's blithe self-confidence; my guilt rays would draw store security like a magnet attracting steel filings.
Mrs. Cellphone and her tribe barged around a corner. Still gabbling away on her phone, the woman began scooping enormous bags of Doritos and Tost.i.tos and other snacks from the ito food group into her cart, which already contained a dozen packages of marshmallow Peeps in jack-o-lantern shapes. When I'd gone to prison, Peeps only came out at Easter, in the shape of yellow chickies. Now, apparently, they were a sweet for all seasons. The girls had already been into the Peeps-their mouths and hands were smeared with marshmallow goo. The toddler, propped up in the cart, was s...o...b..ring over a Peep and waving his stubby legs through the cart slots. Crammed in next to his aromatic rear was Mrs. Cellphone's handbag, her key ring jutting from its outside pocket.
The woman ended her call, angrily jabbed in new numbers, then began another conversation. Cellphones seemed to have multiplied a hundredfold while I'd been in the can. Every shopper in the store seemed to be on her cell. It was alarming to hear someone say h.e.l.lo, whirl around, and discover that the person was babbling into her phone. It wouldn't have surprised me to see the toddler whip a phone out of his diaper to set up a play date. Didn't anyone ever talk face-to-face anymore?
The girls were wrestling on the floor, fighting over a package of Bratz accessories, the woman was arguing with whoever was on the other end of her phone, and the toddler was smushing marshmallow goo onto the handles of the shopping cart.
Maneuvering my shopping cart next to their cart, I casually reached out and closed my fingers around the Peeps-smeared car keys.
Vicki Jean would have been proud of me.
Escape tip #5:.
So it's stale and lint-covered-.
it's still food.
Wanda Kronenwetter's van smelled like French fries and jelly beans.
I'd discovered my victim's real ident.i.ty while rummaging through the registration papers in her glove compartment, hoping to find money or food. Not a red cent, but I found half a soggy waffle stuck to a state map, a sucker glued to the upholstery, a handful of honey-roasted peanuts beneath the seat cushions, and a rainbow of jelly beans melted to the dashboard. I pried off the jelly beans one by one and gobbled them as I drove.
I intended to drive north, figuring that my pursuers would expect me to head west, toward my family's home. But my driving skills were rusty. I got fl.u.s.tered in the fast-moving traffic and ended up driving east instead. I tried again, but kept getting shunted onto eastbound streets. After my third attempt I gave in. Fate or karma or G.o.d obviously intended that I go east.
I've always pictured G.o.d as Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. The ship's-prow jaw, the thick black eyebrows, the deep voice-if Man is not made in Atticus Finch's image, then G.o.d needs an image makeover. When I was eleven years old, I foolishly expressed this belief to my Sunday school teacher, who sentenced me to the Satan chair for the rest of the morning. G.o.d was not to be mocked; G.o.d had a long white beard and a see-through body and lived up in the clouds. Everyone but me knew that.
But it was the Atticus Finch G.o.d I prayed to as I cautiously motored east, crunching stale jelly beans, eyeing the police car creeping up my b.u.mper, and hoping that Wanda Kronenwetter's brood had settled down to lunch in the snack bar instead of returning to the parking lot.
The police car pa.s.sed, its driver not even glancing at me. I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked the Atticus-G.o.d, and fiddled with Wanda's radio dial until I found a news program. ". . . still at large," the announcer was saying. "U.S. Marshal Irving Katz, head of the federal fugitive apprehension team, said in a news conference that he is following up several leads and is confident that Maguire, who escaped during last night's storm, will be apprehended today."
What leads? Did they have a clue or were they just woofin'-prison parlance for putting up a big front when you got nuttin'?
The car behind me honked and I realized with a jolt that I was lollygagging along in the fast lane. For four years I hadn't moved faster than a slow jog. Now, going forty miles an hour felt like racing across the Bonneville Salt Flats. Eventually I managed to pick up the pace to highway speed and unclench my death grip on the steering wheel.
The countryside was green and gorgeous, the sky was filled with wispy white clouds, and the sun was hot and bright. The van's air conditioner was cranky, so I opened the windows and let the breeze whuff through, cooling my sweaty face and whirling around the fast-food wrappers in the backseat. The van was big and clunky, but still responsive enough to be a fun drive.
I had a thing for vans, nostalgia arising from my days as a poverty-stricken single girl. I'd bought a secondhand Ford Econoline my first year out of college. I needed a roomy vehicle for my curbside scavenging. People were constantly throwing out perfectly decent tables and chairs that needed only a fresh coat of paint or a couple of nails to restore them to good health. I was able to furnish my entire apartment with castoffs, since I couldn't afford new furniture on a teacher's salary.
Against the advice of well-meaning family members who'd urged me to go into accounting because people always needed their taxes done, I'd majored in music education. This gave me an employability quotient of virtually zero and I accepted the only job offered: teaching music at a Milwaukee public high school. Long hours, low salary, unmotivated kids: what wasn't to like about teaching?
I paid off the van by the end of my second year of teaching, the summer my best friend, Gloria, got married. I was Gloria's maid of honor. I wore a frothy pink gown that made me look like cotton candy at the county fair, drank too much at the reception, and in a moment of champagne-induced insanity, agreed to babysit Gloria's dog, Gigi, while the newlyweds flew off to Jamaica.
There are moments that are turning points in your life, although you don't realize it at the time. How would my life have turned out if Gigi had been a cat instead of a dog, a fat, lazy tabby who demanded nothing more than being worshipped? Unfortunately, Gigi was all dog, a sleek, slinky Afghan with attention deficit disorder and a shoe fetish. After she'd chewed up my bedroom slippers and two pairs of sneakers, I decided to take Gigi out for some fresh air and exercise. I manhandled her out to my van and we drove to one of the north sh.o.r.e beaches, where Gigi could work off her pent-up energy and get in some p.o.o.ping at the same time.
It was a warm, sunny June day and I was happy to have an excuse to be on the beach. Steep wooded bluffs rose above, Lake Michigan shimmered below, and sandwiched between were miles of sand, spoiled only by the occasional washed-up alewife.
I looked Gigi sternly in the eye. "Heel," I said.
Gigi looked steadily back at me. Then she corkscrewed her skinny head out of the leash and galloped joyfully on ahead, stopping occasionally to wee-wee or snuffle a stinking dead fish, always slyly keeping a length or two ahead of me. We carried on with this wonderful game for a while, Gigi lolloping along the beach and me chasing her, yelling at her to get back here, dammit! Gigi demolished a sand castle, s.n.a.t.c.hed an ice-cream cone from a toddler, and ran up to a jogger for a friendly sniff. She stuck her long, narrow nose in the man's crotch.
The jogger turned out to be Kip Vonnerjohn, and if I'd known at the time how much he enjoyed having strange females poke their snouts in his crotch, I would probably have run away to join a convent and left Gigi to fend for herself. But, since I lacked a crystal ball, I staggered up to the happy twosome, slipped the leash back onto Gigi's elegant but empty head, and gasped, "Sorry. She has the manners of a pig."
"No problem." He laughed, revealing a dazzling array of white teeth.
My heart did a little rumba. I kept sneaking sideways peeks at the guy. Gorgeous! Wavy hair flopping around in the breeze, wide shoulders, square jaw, clear hazel eyes. A tan he hadn't gotten in Milwaukee's sub-Arctic climate.
"She's a beauty," he said, and for one egocentric instant I thought he meant me. Then I noticed him ruffling Gigi's long silky ears. He read her dog tag. "Gigi?"
"She's not mine, thank G.o.d. I'm just dog-sitting."
"Looked more like dog-running, but what do I know?"
Looks and charm, too. I wished I wasn't wearing clothes that looked pulled out of the St. Vinny's donations bin. I wished I'd remembered to put on deodorant that morning. I wished I wasn't holding a p.o.o.per-scooper and a Piggly-Wiggly bag. In fact, I knew I looked so awful that no male with twenty-twenty eyesight would be interested in me anyway, so it didn't matter what I said or did and I could just relax.
"I had a golden retriever the same color as Gigi when I was a kid," the guy said, reversing direction so he could stroll along with me and the now perfectly behaved Gigi, the hypocritical little b.i.t.c.h.
"Oh. Do you have a dog now?"
He shook his head. "I got turned off dogs when my mom bought the shih tzu-bichon frises."
I wasn't familiar with the breed; it sounded to me like he said s.h.i.t-b.i.t.c.hes. Which, as it turned out, was remarkably apt. He told me how they never stopped barking, how they attacked clothes flapping on the clothesline, tried to bite the TV when a cat commercial came on, rolled in their food, terrorized repairmen, and had once, attacking as a pack, ripped apart a vacuum cleaner.
I told him about Sam, our farm dog, who was bullied by our rooster, peed on car tires, and was so h.o.r.n.y he attempted to hump our lawn tractor. We walked on the beach and told bad-dog stories and flirted. He walked me to the parking lot and we exchanged names and phone numbers. I wasn't very hopeful. I was certain he'd toss away my number as soon as I was out of sight. Guys always said they'd call and then they never did.
As it turned out, Kip didn't call me. Instead, he showed up on my doorstep. He was waiting at the curb in front of my building when Gigi and I pulled up half an hour later.
"I got your address off my BlackBerry," he said sheepishly. "I didn't want our date to end."
"That was a date?"
He smiled. "Technically, I guess not. So let's have our first one. One of my friends is throwing a volleyball party and you're coming with me. I bet you're terrific at volleyball."
He had a lot of nerve, I thought, a.s.suming I would simply drop everything and waltz off with him. Maybe I had a dozen other guys waiting to go out with me.
Sure, in an alternate universe. "I'm lousy at volleyball. Everyone's elbows are always exactly at my nose level. Besides-" I gestured at Gigi. "I can't leave Miss Piggy alone or she'll eat all my shoes."
Kip Vonnerjohn had the remarkable ability to combine puppy eyes with wolfish grin. It was devastating. Women should be inoculated against guys who can pull off that look. "Bring her along," he said.
Of course in the end I said yes, which was pretty much what I said to Kip Vonnerjohn for the next two months. The party was being held at the lakeside pad of one of Kip's buddies, and it was my first taste of the lifestyles of the rich and fatuous. The guys were good-looking and athletic, the women were skinny as paper dolls and wore skimpy designer bikinis, and everyone had perfect teeth. I was used to parties where you grabbed a fistful of chips and a can of beer out of a plastic cooler, but in Kip's circle you quenched your thirst with chilled champagne and munched on smoked salmon and lobster salad. Gigi turned out to be Miss Party Dog, winkling canapes from guests and then horking them up on their shoes. I finally got her to sit down and we watched Kip play volleyball. He was amazing, practically professional level. He looked even better with his shirt off than on. Daily workouts, skiing, horseback riding, and crewing had given him thighs of steel and abs of iron.
If only he'd spent as much time developing his brain.
At the time, I didn't care because Kip was so much fun to be around. After the volleyball game, we danced on a deck lit by j.a.panese lanterns. The moon rose over the lake, magnified by the water, the stars poked out one by one, and the DJ cranked out hits from the '80s and '90s. Kip was a terrific dancer: s.e.xy, inventive, limber as a gymnast. We were doing the dirty jerk when a woman cut in on me, a stunning redhead with a silk scarf wrapped sarong-style around her hips and a bottle of wine clutched in one hand. She twined herself pythonlike around Kip and began gyrating. She was looped; her bottle slipped out of her hand, fell on Kip's instep and broke, slicing open a major vein as cleanly as a surgeon's knife.
We all stared at the spurting wound. Who would have thought a foot contained that much blood? The redhead threw up, Kip collapsed into a deck chair, looking stunned, and everyone else just stood there, goggling at Kip's gushing foot as though they'd never seen blood before. I was the only one who seemed capable of action. s.n.a.t.c.hing a beach towel, I wrapped it around Kip's foot. Then, when no one else volunteered, I drove him to the emergency room.
After Kip was st.i.tched up, he was ordered to rest in a cubicle. I sat with him while we waited for his doctor to okay his release. "Do you want me to call someone?" I asked, handing Kip a gla.s.s of water, recalling that he'd told me his mother lived in a Milwaukee suburb. "Your mom, maybe?"
"G.o.d, no. My rule is never tell my mother anything." He sipped the water. "You'll understand when you meet her." He squeezed my hand. "Sorry I spoiled your evening."
"You didn't." Truth: at the moment I would rather have been sitting in a disinfectant-smelling emergency room with Kip Vonnerjohn than anywhere else in the world. He was pale beneath his beach tan, his hair was plastered sweatily against his forehead, and his hands shook slightly as the local anaesthetic began to wear off. He rubbed his eye sockets with his fists like a young kid.
That was the moment I fell in love.