I sat down at the kitchen table. Remo poured me some coffee and Ziggy poured in the cream and pushed the cup toward me. I wrapped my fingers around it.
“You look shell-shocked, kiddo,” Remo said.
“What the fuck was that all about?” I tried drinking the coffee to see if anything would start to make sense.
“The phone call or the rest?” Ziggy cupped one of his apple cheeks in his palm as he leaned his elbow on the table. By “the rest” I knew he meant my family.
“Both. Sarah’s mother is pushing a civil suit against Digger’s company. Guess who the other owner of DMA is?”
Remo knew exactly what I meant. Heck, he’d been there that time in San Francisco–not in the actual conversation when I made Digger give me a stake in his company, but he was at the hotel with us. “None of this would’ve happened if I’d helped you more.”
“Oh, stop it,” Ziggy said. “Digger being shit is not your fault, and quit making Daron feel bad for making his own decisions.”
That goosed Remo but good. “What? I’m just apologizing, not trying to double down on Daron blaming himself.”
Which goosed me a bit. “I’m not blaming my– Well, okay, maybe I am. I’m the one who made the decision to sign with Mills and to bring Digger in to deal with him. But seriously, Reem, you couldn’t make Artie sign Moondog Three, and you couldn’t be our manager as well as your own.”
He looked like he wanted to argue, except he knew I was right. “I’d say ‘I never should’ve trusted your dad,’ but the truth is I didn’t trust him–well, not since I was about twenty-two.”
“I didn’t trust him, either, but I forced myself and the band to work with him anyway.” I shook my head.
Claire made her entrance from the living room with her hands clasped. “You all doing all right in here?”
“Claire, honey,” Remo said, “why don’t I take everyone out for some lunch?”
“Oh, that would be lovely of you, dear.” She called behind her. “Jan? Do you want to come to lunch with us? Or would you rather stay here so you can better stick to your diet?”
Janine came in from the dining room doorway, looking murderous. Her reply almost made me snort coffee out my nose: “Fuck you, mother.”
I could see Ziggy trying to keep a straight face.
Claire was undeterred. “It’s just that you used to have such a lovely, willowy figure–”
“Because you turned me and Lili into bulimics with your constant harping on our looks,” she said with a sigh, like she’d had this argument many times before. I’m guessing she had. She looked at Remo. “Pizza Hut.”
Remo nodded. “Pizza Hut it is. We can fit five into my car…?”
“Then we can get one to go and drop it off on our way back,” Janine said. “Or you know Jake’ll feed my boy Count Chocula for dinner. Straight from the box.”
“Good plan,” Remo said, getting to his feet and starting to herd us toward the front door. Claire was there with his coat in a blink.
Pizza Hut. Dear god. You know how I feel about pizza. I’m almost religious about it. So I probably don’t have to go into detail about how the mere idea of Pizza Hut was killing my soul.
Or maybe that was everything else going on.
I admit, though, I wanted to smile every time I thought about Janine saying “Fuck you, mother.” Bad as my first impression of adult-Janine was, that gave her some points in my book. And it started to change my whole outlook on family dynamics. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had decided not to indulge my mom’s bullshit.
Me, Ziggy, and my mother sat in the back of the car. Ziggy took the middle seat, looking about as un-rock-star as I had ever seen him, buckling his seat belt and looking around like a curious tourist strapping himself onto an elephant.
Remo had the radio tuned to a classic rock station which seemed to cut down the need for conversation. He whistled through his teeth and drummed on the steering wheel as he drove the rental sedan out to a small highway with commercial strip malls.
Absolutely no one in Pizza Hut seemed to notice that three internationally known performers were sitting there eating breadsticks in their midst. Bad Muzak Christmas carols played and my mother kept up a steady stream of empty chatter throughout the meal. Then she got up and went to the ladies room.
Janine checked her watch. “I picked up the late shift at K-Mart tonight. I should get home and take a nap.”
“Landon’s going to be okay at his dad’s?” Remo asked.
“He’ll be fine. Really.” She sighed. “I’ll get him back at church tomorrow.”
“Church?” I blurted.
Janine just gave me a look.
Remo went on. “How long’s he been in school?”
“Just started in September. He’s still only going half day, so I can’t take a regular shift anywhere. With Jake working landscaping, sometimes he can pick him up, but not every day. He needs every hour he can log what with it being offseason for it. Thank goodness for seasonal retail.”
“Jake’s a good dad?”
“Pretty good.” She looked over her shoulder toward the restrooms. “He’s a much better dad than husband, anyway.”
“Oh, really,” Remo said, shifting uncomfortably. “Why’s that?”
“I don’t know, hormones, maybe?” She shrugged and I felt Ziggy next to me holding in a laugh.
“I mean, in what way?” Remo asked.
“You know, man wants to procreate or whatever so he’s intensely loyal to his kid. To the woman who carried it, though? Not so much.” She shrugged again. “It’s why I insisted on divorce. If he’s not going to be loyal, what’s the point? And at least now he’s not keeping me from meeting someone new.” Before anyone could reply to that she went on, in a canny imitation of my mother’s voice, “No, Jan, that’s you keeping yourself from meeting someone because you’re such a cow.” She picked up another piece of pizza and took an emphatic bite.
Another woman approached the table then, a thin woman wearing an equally thin gray cardigan sweater and her hair in a messy bun. “Oh, Jan, I thought that was you. Just wanted to say hi.”
“Oh hey, Dana. Um, this is my brother, Daron, and Remo, and Ziggy.” She didn’t specify what the relationship was to Remo and Ziggy. “Guys, Dana works with me at Kroger.”
Dana seemed uninterested in us. “Is your mom here, too?” she asked, looking back and forth.
“Yeah, in the ladies room.”
Dana leaned forward. “I heard about her cancer.” She whispered the word cancer. “I’m so sorry.”
“I know it must be so, so hard.” Dana touched my sister’s arm. “We’ll pray for you.”
“Thank–” My sister shook her head as the woman basically fled as if she feared the cancer might be contagious. “I’m getting a lot of that. I don’t even know how people started finding out. I didn’t tell anyone, but once the word gets out? There you go.” She looked behind her again. “Speaking of our cancer patient, she’s taking an awfully long time.”
“Maybe she’s just giving us a break,” I said.
“That would be a first,” Janine said, and we both snorted. “I’ll go check on her.”
She set down the half-eaten slice of pizza and went toward the back of the restaurant.
Remo leaned in. “In case it wasn’t obvious, your sister is refusing to accept quote-charity-unquote from me, except for the occasional pizza, despite being so strapped for cash she hasn’t even bought a Christmas tree.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Something about me being a sanctimonious prick with a savior complex.”
“Well, she’s right, there,” Ziggy said, then covered his mouth like he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. He turned to look in the direction of the restrooms, where a restaurant manager and a waitress were converging. “Hmmm.”
It turned out that Claire had fainted in ladies room. Janine had found her on the floor and although she was awake and alert by the time we got there, no one could be sure if she had hit her head or not. So our next stop was, once again, my least favorite place in the world: the hospital.
(Sorry for the delay on today’s post, folks, but I can’t seem to get the video to work today…? I’m posting the chapter for now and will try this again after I get some help to poke around at our internet setup. -ctan)
Link to the video: http://youtu.be/KSU73awbZUw
Trying again to embed it: