After my existential meltdown, things went back to

normal at Vanessa’s. The following morning a neighbor greeted me as I stepped outside to have a smoke. She just stepped out of her midnight blue crossover and swiped a loose strand of poker straight blonde hair from her face. “Is Alana around?” Before I could answer, Alana appeared at the door blinking away the sunlight. “Hi Cath. Your hub’s got the baby today?” She bent down and swooped up the LA Times from the corner of the lawn. She shook the dew from it. “200,000 JOBS ADDED” its headline blared. “I got a chance to shop unfettered at Costco for a change. Did you hear? Sherman’s family is putting him in a home?” “That sucks,” Alana said, biting her lower lip. “Such a sweet man. A Veteran. World War One.” “I don’t think there are any left,” Alana murmured, exploring the newspaper. The front door slammed just then, jarring us all. Vanessa stood in a satin gown with her eye mask pushed up to her forehead. “Sorry, were we too loud?”

“They can’t do that,” Vanessa implored. “They can’t do that to that sweet, sweet man. He’s a person. He deserves to be home.” She put her hands to her face and wept, dramatically but sincerely. I could tell she was shedding genuine tears. Vanessa approached Cath. Her expression was pained, as if Cath could help things simply by saying it wasn’t true. I stubbed out my cigarette and mentally recounted the day I met Sherman. Standing outside, bewildered, holding his empty coffee cup. “He deserves…to be able to…die – at home. No one I know can die in a ---a hospital. So cold, so septic. Even those hospice places. Not the same thing as home.” “Aunt Van, get a grip. He’s ninety seven.” “Ninety-something. He’s up there,” Cath chimed in. “He is such a sweet man, but I guess his family wants him looked after.” “I look after him. I care about people like Sherman…” Vanessa was falling apart. Alana reached over to lead her back into the house. “Sometimes it’s the way it goes,” Alana sounded impatient. “It’s not your job to take care of everyone.” “No one should die away from home.”

“No one should,” I heard myself blurt out, “But, they kinda do. Sometimes. Besides, we don’t know how things will turn out, right Alana?” “Exactly. Van, he could go just like that tonight.” She snapped her fingers. “And, he’d do it at home, right Cath?” “If I hear more, I’ll let you know. My slow cooker’s in need of my attention.” Cath skipped off across the street like the young, sprightly wife and mother she appeared to be. For some reason I noticed how close in age she was to Alana. I made a note of it in my head. Vanessa went inside, collapsed onto her bed in tears and made Alana close the door. No one was to go in and bother her for an entire day. Then the house phone rang. I found myself looking for a pencil to sharpen. One that didn’t need it but, I needed a distraction. Chasfiend was sitting on the sofa in the creepy room, ears all perked up over the drama that was unfolding. “I think I know what’s really going on here,” he said in a snide whisper.

I listened in to Alana on the phone. She uttered something about “biopsy” and followed it up with “Oh, no.” Then she hung up and knocked on Vanessa’s bedroom door. “It’s important.” Chasfiend and I stayed in the creepy room, uncomfortable, not knowing what to do. The room was quiet, no television on, no internet music playing, nothing. I emptied a sharpener and grabbed the first pencil I could off of the desk. I went about sharpening while Chasfiend let on more about his suspicions. “You know that Chas is still alive, don’t you?” “Oh, garden seed. There’s a death certificate. They showed in on the DVD of “Hot Rod Rage”. “I’ve spent my life researching all this and talking to people and meeting people like Vanessa who know the truth. I’m an expert.” “No one knows exactly how it happened. I’m with you there, Chasfiend. I mean, John.”

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