George sat in a cab in the circular drive of his parents’ house, wondering why he accepted their dinner invitation. This isn’t going to go well, he thought, it can’t. He didn’t want to get out of the cab. It was the nicest he’d ever been in, a sleek black sedan with tinted windows and neat white lettering on the side that read “Junior’s Rolling Oasis.” No phone number, no logo, no rates, no backlit roof lantern advertising pizza or a tax service or some new casino. Because it wasn’t a Bentley or a Rolls, it would probably embarrass his parents. What would the neighbors think, seeing a Ford in the drive?
Running his finger along the smooth leather, he told himself he didn’t need to justify his life to them. They wouldn’t listen anyway, much less understand. He had always done what they wanted: good grades, the right girlfriends, law school, corporate practice. He always played the obedient son, and had always been miserable. Until six months ago, his life had felt like a nasty infection. No, more like cancer, a bulbous, alien growth that made everything he did feel unhealthy and awkward. Nothing he did seemed to make them, or him, happy.
His mother’s voice on the phone surprised him. Uncle Pendergast, her younger brother, had died, and there was a will to be read. He’d seen it in the papers, of course, but hadn’t called or sent a card. He hadn’t spoken with his parents since he was fired from Freund Eggleston Amanu Rose. They never called to console him, which was telling. They probably heard the news shortly after security escorted him out of the building. Assuming they didn’t know before it happened. After all, his father had arranged the job during his weekly tee time with Eggleston himself. His father was fond of saying “business before pleasure” as his chauffeur loaded his clubs in the trunk. Really, Dad? Is that why grandpa died at his desk after amassing the fortune you’ve been spending ever since? George laughed, a short, dry sound like a cough. He glanced up at the rearview mirror, embarrassed.
He didn’t expect it to be painless, but he hoped it would at least be brief. Maybe they meant well. And, he admitted to himself, it was possible they were concerned, that they wanted to be sure he was okay. But he knew they hadn’t called in six months because he’d embarrassed them. Disappointed them, as they would put it. And would again, he was sure, within five minutes of his going inside. Uncle Pendergast’s will was just an excuse, they’d find something to criticize. If it wasn’t the lost job it would be his new job—he could only imagine how that would go over—or his lack of a wife, or some other social milestone he had failed to achieve.
Okay, he told himself, calm down. Maybe it would be different this time.
His fingertips lingered on the glowing black lacquer after he shut the door. The gloomy limestone façade reminded him why he didn’t want to see them. They didn’t understand him, or couldn’t, unable to focus on his needs through the clouded lens of luncheons at the club and ever-fresh cocktails. He wasn’t going to let them steamroll him this time, though. He would stand up to his father’s bombast and his mother’s gin-soaked trilling. His life was his now, he was doing something he enjoyed, and he didn’t care what they thought. So what if they didn’t approve?
George walked quickly across the drive and up the wide steps. Through the beveled glass of the front door, he saw two figures silhouetted by the hall lantern. As he raised his hand to knock, he heard his mother’s muffled voice:
“George, why is Junior driving a cab?”
Junior’s Rolling Oasis was first published Fall 2013 in
Kansas City Voices #11