Wil A. Emerson WHo, Where, How, When

Wil A. Emerson: Who, Where, How, When

Excerpt from

Book 3 of the Rosie MacIntosh Series


The Rosie MacIntosh story continues: TWO LANE HIGHWAY

Follow, painted by Wil Emerson       After an accident that kills his parents, Allen Connelly’s transition isn’t smooth. A home with an insecure aunt and an uncle with Alzheimer’s isn’t a perfect fit for a boy on the cusp of teenage rebellion. Aunt Rose struggles with the edgy boy’s restlessness and her husband’s forgetfulness. Yet, it’s Allen who mends the seams when everything falls apart. Is it his need or theirs’ that keep this unlikely family together?

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Allen, Then

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” -- Lewis Carroll

       The shrill of the phone fractured the cool night air. A fire truck to the rescue at two a.m.? The uncommon noise bore into my senses. Not the usual clank and crash downstairs I’d learned to sleep through. A door closed with a thud, the hum of the refrigerator, their chatter that often escalated to angry shouts. With the sudden sharp tone, I woke in a state of confusion.

       The repetitive high-pitched ring made my eyes go owl wide. The phone seldom rang during the day. It surprised me to such a degree I fought the urge to get up and run. Regaining my senses, I turned over in bed, pulled at the cover to keep the chill off my shoulders and stuffed the pillow over my ear to avoid the next cruel sound.

       Three times, four. Strange that my grandmother didn’t respond. With no sign of relief, I sat up in the narrow bed and contemplated whether I should wonder down and tackle the problem. Something important? But my grandmother controlled the phone. She paid the bill. That message had been delivered so often my parents only used it when she wasn’t in the house.

       How could she sleep through the noise? Why would she ignore it?

       There were only two small bedrooms in my grandmother’s house and adults had priority, of course. Gramma had the first floor as her official domain and my parents laid claim to the upper bedroom and a small bathroom; steps from where I slept. My space was nothing more than the second story alcove, a sardine can. A twin bed and a three-drawer dresser. No barriers to ward off whatever drifted my way. Sounds and smells filtered only by likes and dislikes and a subconscious trigger that worked at its best when lights went out. Momentarily, I felt lost, out of place.

       I kicked back the thin blanket, scooted to the edge of the bed and let one leg dangle to the floor. Then I heard the shuffle of her feet and sank back down. Relax.

       Before I pulled up the cover, closed my eyes, though, her voice as cold as the black night, halted my action.

       Then the crack of the handset against the wall made me flinch.

       “What did he do now? Hell and damnation. And the middle of the night.”

       The call had to be about my father. Bar fights and my father were as common as fleas on the backyard dog. Kicked off the Buffalo police force, third offense. That’s why we’d moved to Allentown. Even though he’d been on good behavior for more than twelve months and had held on to the job with the Allentown Police Department for six of those months, I sensed this would be the end to a long period of calm. The return of his true nature.

       There had been an early warning. He’d left the house in a foul mood. The truth was the cramped quarters and his dislike for my grandmother’s rules worked against him.

       My mother, the eternal peacemaker, suggested they go out on the town for the evening. The change might temper his restlessness, she said.

       In the past, under even normal circumstances, his mood could turn on a dime. Edginess to fulminating rage. And he had a favorite target for venting his volcanic frustration.

       When forced out of the kitchen or living room because I’d voiced an opinion about his lack of control, when I talked back to him, I had only one place to retreat. My small bed in the alcove. No door to hide behind. Left alone, as a means of getting even, I doodled pictures of my father with pointed ears, smoke curling from within, coal black eyes with red dots. Skull bones on his forehead.

       My mother, in the middle of an altercation, would do her best to defuse the issue but sometimes it took more than a tease and a smile to get him out of the house for a dinner date. This night, she suggested they go to his favorite bar. She must have been more than afraid or she’d never suggest a night of drinking. Truth driven, she knew, I knew, if he didn’t retain dominance over his defiant son, she would be his next victim. Her diversions didn’t always work out the way she intended but away from home often became the best alternative.

       As usual, with the kitchen as a staging battle because of slurps, cold food, pointed forks thrust with warnings, I retreated up the stairs as fast as possible to avoid further contact with him. My grandmother and watchful mother remained stationed at the wooden scarred table in the kitchen near the stairs. A soft blockade. He wouldn’t advance in their sight. I took refuge in my bed and his stream of threats were contained for the time being. But I did hear him pace back and forth, hard shoes, click of his heels, until the bar invitation caught his attention. Michael Connelly, who thrived on trouble, father of one, tormentor of many, had a taste for Seagram’s or any lager or frothy ale. Either would sooth his tormented soul.

       My grandmother had issued her last warning that evening. She didn’t mince words. If he broke anything, destroyed her property, laid a hand on anyone in her sight, he’d be out on the street.

       I’d settled back on my pillow with the thought that if my mother succeeded in changing his mood and played the date game well, he’d be tanked by ten. If not, he’d return to his favorite punching bag and settle a score with me. That’s what kept me in my corner, didn’t pop out of the bed at the first sound, tried to sleep to avoid a storm. So far, he’d never struck me when I was already down.

       Often, I hid under the bed, away from the spittle, the foul breath of beer and whiskey. The rise of his fist only landed on the pillow and a pile of blankets. Yes, I tried as hard as I could to keep my mouth shut. Not add to his rant. Sometimes I failed but if I remained quiet, he’d waddle away and fall on his bed, flat faced for at least eight hours.

       I turned my head to the faint light downstairs and listened. I had to decipher the substance of the tense conversation. Had my mother called for help? When Gramma repeated the words County Hospital, I knew the night would not end well. The greater concern was my mother’s safety.

       Embodied with a gentile heart, she couldn’t be anything but kind to me, devoted, attentive. Her love filled the voids in our lives. Was he jealous?

       The irony was she walked on hot fires to protect her angry husband, too.

       As darkness hovered and Gramma’s crackling voice shattered the chill air, I sensed there’d be little sleep for either one of us. I crept down the hall and craned around the archway to learn what had ignited her outburst. The light grew dimmer when she stood up. She turned, still clutching the phone in her hand and saw me pressed against the wall.

       “Well, can’t ya send one of his friends over,” she said into the mouthpiece. Her steely gaze fixed on me. “I can’t do nothing with the boy here.” A long pause. Her eyes rolling. “Why now? The middle of the night.” Another pause. ”Oh, damn it, guess I can call my sister.” The phone fell back into its cradle.

       I sat down on the landing, in my undershorts. My knees knocked together. My hands failed to hold my legs steady so I leaned back on the wooden stairs and stared at the ceiling. Wait it out or succumb to that urge to run for cover?

       “Boy, I see you there. Why in the hell did you come down with no clothes on? Get dressed or stay in your bed. There’s been an accident. That father of yours. Damn him all to hell.”

       The cupboard door opened. A thud when it closed. The sound of a steady stream from bottle to glass. A swish, a slurp. I knew the routine. She’d sit for a while, an elbow on the table, the glass and its brown liquid in the other hand. Tip it to her lips, slow, methodical. Half empty, then she’d swig the last half in one long swallow.

       Five minutes passed. Bottle to glass like a metronome. The phone broke her pace and this time she answered on the first ring.

       “Yeah, I hear you. I can’t come to no trauma center. I got a kid here and I don’t drive in the dark. It’s an emergency you say but what can I do?” A long pause. “Okay, okay…I hear ya. It’ll take a while. Okay, I’ll ask for the charge nurse in the trauma ward.” A rapid hang up. “Oh hell.”

       Another lapse. Long enough for me to shake off the weariness and go upstairs for my jeans and a tee shirt. Then I heard the clack, clack rounding of the dial. Short, long, short, short…more numbers than a local call.

       I had a vague memory of the Philadelphia relative. My mother mentioned her aunt on occasion. I’d met her when I was about four. Seven years had passed. A foggy recollection, nothing remarkable. An aunt they said, Gramma’s younger sister. Gramma called her the black sheep. I surmised it meant something was wrong with her attitude, not her skin.

       When they talked on the phone, my grandmother ended the conversation in the same way. Bitterness softened by a trip to the cupboard. A kid couldn’t be anything but frightened by an aunt who had such an effect on her older sister.

       What words did this relative use to trigger my grandmother’s revulsion? If she came to the rescue tonight, I’d better brace for another round of familial verbal abuse.

       The doorbell rang. Gramma’s shuffle, the routine grunts, her harsh damn it, and the door opened. The news could not have been worse than what two of my father’s co-workers reported.

       The voice of a man, “Sorry, Ma’am, ain’t no easy way to say this. Michael’s gone. Your daughter hanging on. We come to take you over to the hospital.”

       The announcement of my father’s death caused a wave of heat to run down my cold back and I unwrapped my arms from across my chest and breathed in a strange, new sensation.

       Relief ran like a river.

       Not because I’d escape his rage tonight but something deeper, more satisfying. I embraced the thought my mother would be forever safe.

       “I ain’t going nowhere with you two thugs,” gramma spit out.

       Two hours later, the strange aunt, Rose Marie MacIntosh, arrived and launched a major alteration in my life. Not by unkind words, not with condemning pity. She looked in my eyes and expressed sorrow for my loss. The unnerving fact was my grandmother had not been unable to convey any manner of sympathy toward me.

       Aunt Rose looked in my eyes and said in a true, mournful tone, “I’m so sorry.”


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The Rosie MacIntosh Series

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WIl Emerson and Taking Rosie's Arm


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Author photo courtesy of the Pioneer Group .
Excerpts © Copyright 2018, Wil A. Emerson. All Rights Reserved.
New covers, © Copyright 2011, 2017, 2018, Wil A. Emerson. All Rights Reserved.

Website design © Copyright 2011, Michelle Crean, Hook & Web Designs. All Rights Reserved.