THE WAGER OF DEATH by Rodney M Norman The taxicab driver was ever so nice yet she wished he would

just shut up. He talked haughtily about his son playing football for Penn State. His lovely wife Denaca, had just sold her 5,000th bottle of „Wondering‟ perfume from Avon. Finally, his teen daughter was a ballet sensation on her way to the finals. Any doting grandmother would have been too flattered by this. However, Shearlene, a happy mother of 4 grown children and 8 grandkids, was in a state of total shock. The long taxi ride to her modest St. Louis suburban home seemed endless. She was returning home alone after her neighbor and good friend Clara left her at a downtown St. Louis casino. Clara had lost all of the eighty dollars she started with. Shearlene had offered to give her more, but Clara wanted to get home. She did not like driving in the dark and besides she could not see at night. Shearlene, who car was stolen months ago, was waiting on a check from her insurance company. However that didn‟t mean she was going to get a new car. They finally made it to her driveway in University City. Then the moment of truth: How was she going to pay for the taxicab, which totaled twenty three dollars? She did not want her family involved in her dirty little gambling habits and if they knew the truth they would be very angry at her. The taxicab driver, Josh was very sympathetic, because he heard it all before from past gamblers. He got excited when she took off the gold necklace. The necklace was her deceased husband 14kt. Herringbone gold chain that he left to her. Clara, who was up next door, peeped out her kitchen window to see her gracious 65-year-old friend walk up to her door. She wanted to call her, as the driver mischievously droved off wishing St. Louis had a late night fence. However he was sure to hit a pawnshop Monday morning because the necklace was worth way more than 23 bucks. Shearlene knew her son Steven was sleep in the basement. She also knew that his white wife Patty and their 5-month-old mulatto son were with him. She walked into her bedroom, locked the door and undressed into her nightgown. She took a pill that she missed at 8pm, and grabbed a .38 special out of her bedside table. She gripped the silver handgun that James had left for her 8 years ago. He had promised to protect her even after being diagnosed with stage 2 Lung cancer. He was a proud God fearing virile man who never smoked a day in his life. However the auto parts manufacturing plant was in an old St. Louis building surrounded by asbestos. After a diagnosis of mesothelioma, it was determined that the plant was liable, so after James died Shearlene and many others were awarded part of a million dollars-182,520 dollars to be exact. As she toyed with the gun she thought of her family. Her oldest son Wayne a powerful attorney for a Clayton law firm. Marie, her oldest daughter who was a lesbian and a very complicated woman after Shearlene denied her access to the lawsuit money. The mother-daughter relationship dissipated into the despair. Her youngest daughter Andrea was a loving wife, mother of 4 and working passionately as a school teacher. Nonetheless, Steven truly would be the only one who would lose out if Shearlene allowed the thoughts suicide to take her over. She was feeling so bad. The doctor scared her to death with his findings. “A large dark mass near your pancreas” was all he could help to say to his patient.

They had first told her she was type 2 diabetes and now a diagnosis of cancer. All of this

gambling all of her savings including the money that was awarded to her last year. She had no choice but to fold on life. The gun was becoming her best friend. She was hoping that the pain would go quickly as death took her home. The excitement of possibly seeing James again made her forget about her loving son Andre and his family in the basement.
coupled with her

She kissed her bible and placed the gun to her forehead and pulled the trigger. Andre rushed quickly upstairs after the gunfire got the baby screaming. Patty frightened rushed to the baby side while pistol toting Andre cased the house. He cried in anger and grief as he watched his mother take her last breath. Blood covered her silver hair and brown tone as he held her remains in his muscular arms. Patty screamed his name from the basement. However the only voice he wanted to hear was forever gone. Clara was walking the casino floors, she watched as her dear friend Shearlene blindly rushed back to the ATM for more cash. She had just returned weeks ago from Las Vegas and already lost 7

grand. Clara had picked her up from airport waiting to hear only great news. She couldn‟t understand why Shearlene was so addicted. She just knew that she would stop even after winning 10 grand last month and buying Steven a truck for his hauling business. Nevertheless, she still couldn‟t get enough of gambling. St. Louis has 7 great casinos in the market and Shearline has been to all of them. The gunshot woke Clara up from her day dreaming of prior events. She jumped from her sofa knocking over her pillbox and glass of warm milk. Walking to the front door, she could hear Andre screaming. She slipped into her shoes and ran to the house. Patty let her in as the police and ambulance took over the scene. The coroner office was not far away as the neighbors on Tulane Ave came out to get a peek at the drama. A scene you would only want to see on CBS' CSI or NBC's Law & Order. However as the St. Louis detective tried to calm a

grieving son, Patty and Clara tried to console one another. Wayne arrived with his son Lance, who was a 22 year old Burger
flipper at a late night Mc Donald‟s. He usually borrowed his granny car after he totaled his, but he wouldn‟t be taking anything else but grief tonight. Wayne was up late so he picked him up from work and that‟s when his younger brother texted him to get to the house 911. Wayne sadly watched as the coroner wheeled his mother out of the house. Detective David wanted a suspect and until gun residue test confirmed a suicide-everybody in the family were guilty. Clara told him about the taxi dropping her off. They had the driver at the scene within 20 minutes. He told them everything a 'canary' would. He even blurted out the necklace agreement. A anguish Wayne was not buying it. All Steven knew was that his mother was dead and that he could not phantom life without her. Clara gave her statement about their many trips to the casino. When Andrea arrived she wanted the old lady Clara head on a rusty platter. Why she didn‟t tell the family about Shearlene's deadly habits? Josh was cleared and he left the scene leaving Patty holding the last of Shearlene‟s memory the gold herringbone necklace that once belonged to her late father-in-law. Andre had to be sedated and sent to mental hospital for evaluation, while Andrea stood in her mother bedroom trying to find an excuse to scream. The nightmare was not over and the family had to come to grips that this was all too real. A beloved mother, grandmother and friend who was now dead by way of suicide and only God knows why she chose the „teen‟ way out. The detective roped off the scene and started going over Shearline‟s medical papers in her bedside tables, bank statements in her closets and anything that would seal the deal. Such a tragic end to such a wonderful family, so Wayne thought. The End!

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