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Kansas Mourning

page four
by John Edward Gill


"You can't," she told him.

He looked at pink ribbons in her hair that matched her fingernails.

"This is a dry state," she said. "You don't know that?" She leaned on the counter and put her hand on his.

"Too busy figuring who to shoot next."

"You're funny," she said, smiling.

"My wife didn't think so."

"That why she left?"

"Anthropologists travel a lot. Historians don't."

"Fathers who stay with their children don't shoot people. Or do they?" She didn't take away her hand.

"You could have left with that Sheriff."

"It's the way you talk," she said.

"How do I talk?"

"You scare people."

"Which people?"

"Me people. And the Sheriff. He drinks, but not that much."

Morris wanted to keep her talking. Maybe she'd tell about Rebecca Parker. "Is everyone like him?"

"No. We had tornadoes two years ago. Barns blew down," she said. "Men came from the next county. Women baked food."

"What did Rebecca Parker do?"

"Took care of kids for a week. She loves to watch children."

His hands stiffened; pulse beat hard in his neck; he took deep breaths. "Does she do that often?"

"Whenever she can." She smiled and wiped her counter. "Can I ask a personal question?"

"Seems to be today's topic."

"How old are you?"

"Forty-seven."

"You don't look it."

"I work out." He tried to smile. "And you're not a day over eighteen."

"Flattery, and from a stranger."

"Must be the make-up. No wrinkles around your eyes. Crow's feet. Young, smooth hands. And still in Upton?"

"Bethany College, social science major." She paused." I grew up here. Married out of high school. It lasted ten years."

"I forgot your name," Morris said, smiling.

"Didn't ask my phone number, either."

"That would be rude."

"Susan Iris." She made herself a strawberry ice cream cone. "Sheriff said you were lookin' for your wife."

"I said ex-wife."

"Man like you, Mister. Good-lookin'," she said. "Do girls think you're Robert Redford?"

"Sometimes."

"They way you spoke to those men. Thought you were an actor."

"It's something I've learned to do."

"Your daughter's not here."

"I have to know for myself."

"That band on your arm...."

"It reminds me not to give up."

"You can't call Rebecca Parker."

Morris put two quarters on the counter. "I know. But will you call her for me? Tell her to take her dog inside tonight. The State Police have bloodhounds and they might fight."

"She's family to your ex-wife." She looked at him. "Then you'll leave?"

"For Hollywood, yes. Redford needs a stunt double."

"Now you're funny again." She picked up his money.

"Maybe she'll say where my daughter is."

"That's personal."

"Just about that dog, then."

"All right." She paused, laughing. "Take me with you?"

"Maybe. Look, when do they pick up trash in Upton?" he asked.

"Tomorrow."

"And how often?"

"Just once a week."

"See? You've brought me luck already."



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Copyright © 2003 John Gill. All rights reserved.



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