This story is by Amber Adams and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
“Hospitals ask too many questions,” Ma said, dragging on her cigarette in the dingy hallway.
I didn’t know how she found this place. Judging by the muffled screams and shady people peering out from the corners, I knew it had to be Pop’s last chance.
“Ma, where’d you get the money?”
“They shot him. Left him for dead,” Ma said as she paced the hallway. “I told him not to take that money. I told him not to get involved.”
“The money, Ma! Whose perfume is that? Where-“
“Greenwood Heights, what was he doing there anyway?”
“Why the money smell like perfume? Ma! You listening to me?”
“Christ, Jeanette!” She shook her head and stabbed out her cigarette on the railing. “Your dad is in there dying, full of bullets, and all you can ask me is where I got the money. Who cares!”
“I care, Ma! What, you went back to the club? Is that why your skirt is so short? You been laying down for those lawyers and stock brokers, huh?”
“Shut your filthy mouth.” She shoulder checked me and I staggered into a doorway. “Come get me when he’s out.”
The door flew open. Pop staggered into the hallway, pale and blood-spattered with a red ring around his mouth like lipstick.
“Jeez, Pop, what the hell?” I grunted under his weight. Blood smeared on my clothes. I turned to the man standing behind him, offering no assistance. “Well, is he gonna be alright or what?”
He handed me a small black plastic bag. “He will need much nutrients, preferably cow or sheep for a few weeks. Then you can transition him.”
Ma clattered upstairs. “Clancy, get off Jeanette! You’re getting her all bloody.” She grabbed his arm and dragged him outside, despite his moans.
I stuck my foot in the door as he tried to close it. I shook the bag at him.
“Is this a joke? He needs medicine, not …”
The door swung wide revealing the bloody operating table, a bowl of bullet slugs, and a goat with its throat ripped out. The blood ran down the grooves in the wood floor. He grinned and I gasped at his piercing pointed teeth.
“Ettie, be a smart girl and visit Myra over off 43rd, above the Indian deli, got it?” Pop handed me a handful of bills.
“Yeah Pop, I guess so. What’s in it for me?”
He snatched up his utility belt, gun, and police badge from the counter. “You can keep the change.”
“I’m not going to school,” I said, tugging on my shoes. “You need a smaller uniform, Pop.”
He gave me a hard look. “Can’t. People running their mouths.” He cinched his belt tighter. “Don’t get into trouble.”
“Never.” I grabbed my wallet and my keys. “Anyways, I’ll just tell them who my pop is and then you’ll come get me.”
“I’m with Jones today and that fool is one nosy prick, always looking in my lunch bag and asking why I don’t want a hot dog, why I don’t want coffee.” He combed his hair with his fingers and slapped his cheeks, trying to draw some color. “We’re investigating some idiots who got killed in the park. I aint got time to come get you, got it?”
“Yeah, yeah. Bye.”
“Don’t slam the damn-“
I slammed the door as hard as I could. I took the stairs in twos, rushing in case he was mad and wanted to smack me upside the head.
“Myra, any specials today?” I called out above the roar of her ancient air condition. The thick manure smell gagged me. I hovered near the door while scanning the different cuts of meat and sausage on display.
Myra came out from the back wiping her hands on her apron. She hugged me and I squirmed for a moment before patting her on the back.
“Geez, enough already.” I liked Myra fussing over me.
“Your hair is getting so long!” Myra held me at arm’s length. “Why haven’t you been to see me lately?”
“You know Pop. He likes Herman’s exotic flavors these days.” I wandered through the shop toward the back counter. “He says he can taste the spanakopita.”
Myra huffed. “He’s paying a pretty penny for those flavors. Nothing wrong with good old fashioned born and bred American.” She opened the refrigerator door so hard it hit the wall and bits of plaster flew into the air.
I held out the handful of bills. Myra stepped into the light from the window. She was pale and thin. She slammed the till shut and pushed a lumpy paper bag into my arms.
“You alright? You look terrible,” I said, edging toward the door. My stomach clenched.
She grabbed me and grimaced, showing her sharp teeth. “Is he seeing someone?”
Her fingers dug into my arm. I shrugged. “Nah. Not since Ma left.”
Myra nodded. “Hurry home and don’t let that get too warm.”
“My dad came back to life. I don’t mean in a born again Christian way, or as a donkey in an enlightened Buddhist way. I mean, literally, as in we paid a guy a duffle bag full of money,” I said to the lady sitting next to me on the subway.
She cocked her head and frowned. “Sorry?”
“He came back mostly normal. Ma was relieved at first, but she couldn’t handle his diet, and then she left us. No note, her shit still in the closet. She even left Princess behind, that yappy little shit dog.”
“I no speak English good.”
I leaned closer and lowered my voice. She leaned in, eyes wide. “I think Myra’s in love with my Pop.”
“Ah.” She nodded as if she understood my pain.
The train slowed and we stood in unison.
“When Princess disappeared, all I could find was her bloody collar. You think Pop ate her?”
The train doors opened. She pushed slightly ahead of me, turned and said “Yes.”
I thought so too.