Make Room for Daddy

Meet Ellen Sloan, Darin Fowler's girlfriend and partner in crime. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Meet Ellen Sloan, Darin Fowler’s girlfriend and partner in crime. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Eventually, this short story is going to be known (I think) as “Getting to Know Darin.” The first part was called “Feeding the Line.”

Ellen Sloan was quiet. She was plain. She could have been beautiful if she cared about it. She preferred to be forever underestimated. She seemed too shy for larceny, but that was her secret. The best way to pull off a crime was to avoid it ever seeming a possibility. She was also smart, which was why she had miraculously become the lover and accomplice of Darin Fowler. They were a smooth combination. He had the audacity. She had the expertise. In the fall, Darin was enrolling at the University. Ellen was transferring. She couldn’t get the degree she wanted at Gaines-Larsen. She wanted to become a pharmacist.

Poor pooch. She had to have a little surgery, but when Doctor Dalrymple was ready to perform said surgery, the little cocker spaniel became alarmed.

“Did you give this little doggie a dose of Ketamine?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hmm. That’s odd.” He looked at little dog’s eyes. He listened to her heartbeat. “Get me another dose, Ellen. I’ll administer it this time.”

There hadn’t been a first dose. It was in her purse. Ellen was glad the little dog didn’t suffer. Doctor Dalrymple was a kind man. It was all a matter of paperwork. The paperwork was going to look fine.

When she got off work, Ellen went to her apartment, which was reliably vacant now that school was out and her roommates had left. She had her directions. She brought water to a slow boil. She placed a plate atop the steaming pot. She poured a layer of Ketamine across the plate, went back into the den, turned the TV on, and set an alarm for her iPhone to go off in fifteen minutes.

Darin could be a general. He was adroit at having separate events all come together at the right time. He had a knack for factoring in everything and allowing for complications while minimizing them. And he loved her, and they were going places together, and they were going to make more money in those places than anyone else.

The afternoon turned hot and the fishing cold. The beer was cold, too. Ben didn’t have anything else to do, so, hell, he’d drink with the boy. All they’d had to do was clean out the refrigerator. Ben had nearly a case of Bud Light. So convenient. From time to time, Ben would reach into the water and douse his face. Beer seemed refreshing. It was actually dehydrating, but the nap came in handy. They put their beer in koozies. Ben said they stopped people who were out skiing but didn’t worry much about fishermen having a few beers. Joyriding wasn’t likely.

“You just don’t want to flaunt it, if you know what I mean,” Ben said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Darin …”

“I know better than to preach to you, and I’m one to talk. Don’t grow up too soon, though, know what I mean?”

“No, sir. I mean, no, sir, I won’t grow up too soon, and, yes, I know what you mean.”

Darin just sipped and watched his father’s thirst grow stronger.

“So, you like Bud Light?” Ben asked.

“It’s fine. I’ve never been able to buy beer. Just had to take what I could get. I reckon I like it all.”

“When I was your age, I didn’t ever have no money. I developed a taste for whatever was on special. I drunk a heap of Old Milwaukee and Milwaukee’s Best back in them days. I’d probably spit that shit out now. Bud Light’s all right. Lotta folks like Coors Light. Tastes like water to me.”

“Yeah, Dad, I reckon when I learned to like beer was when I made the varsity in the tenth grade,” Darin said. “I got to play, right off, and it got to where I was hanging out with all the seniors, and I guess one thing led to another.

“I got a little out of hand, I guess. I’m not near as wild as I was back then. You know, I didn’t never let it affect my grades, though. I got my work done. I think I’ve grown up a little.”

“Just be careful, son. I love you too much to lose you. When I look back on when I was a chap, hell, I’m lucky I survived. You know what we used to do when I was in college?”

“What?”

“We used to light out in a carful, with a case of beer and a quarter.”

“A quarter?”

“Every time we’d come to a major intersection, we’d flip the quarter. Heads, we’d go left, tails, we’d go right. We called them ‘destiny road trips.’ One time we saw Springsteen in Charlotte. We didn’t get there by flipping coins, but once we got close, we just figured that was what was in the cards. That was the destiny.”

“Good?”

“Aw, he was great, what I remember … which ain’t much.”

“Want to do that today?”

“What?”

“I’m just kidding,” Darin said.

Ben watched him pull out his cell. Apparently he’d received a text message.

Got about 3X estimated dosage. Yellowish-white. It’s fluffy. Scraped into empty med bottle. I’m bout ready to head that way.

              Kewl.

“I’m getting kinda parched, Dad. Want to head back in and fix up some some fish and french fries?”

“Aw, it’s just getting pleasant. Let’s me and you drink one more beer apiece.”

“Ah’ight,” Darin said. “I’m game.”

Darin pulled out a beer, popped the top, and handed it to his dad. Then he got one more for himself.

“That was, uh, my girlfriend texting me a minute ago.”

“What’s her name?”

“Ellen. Ellen Sloan.”

“Any kin to Jerry.”

“Uh, uncle, I think.”

“Jerry Sloan’s a basketball coach,” Ben said. “I’s just kiddin.’”

“No, she’s got an Uncle Jerry, I’m pretty sure. … Not … the basketball coach, though, but, anyway, is it all right if she comes over for supper.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s great. I’d like to meet her. It’s not gonna cause a problem if I’m a mite buzzed?”

Darin laughed. “Nah,” he said. “I think it might be better. She’ll think you’re cool.”

“Well, I am, then, I reckon,” Ben said. “I’m not drunk by no means.”

Nah. Course not.

              Darin put the cooler next to his daddy’s chair, went inside, and commenced to frying fish.

Though older than Darin, Ellen looked younger. She came in the side door and found him frying crappie. “I picked up some cole slaw at the Bi-Lo,” she said.

“That was sweet.”

“It was an impulse buy. I just thought of it when I was driving by.”

“What else you bring?”

She smiled, reached in her purse, and handed Darin the container. He looked on the label.

“Hmm. Meloxicam. Didn’t know it came in a powdered form.”

“It’s for pain and inflammation,” she said. “I took it one time when I strained my back playing volleyball.”

Darin touched his finger to his tongue and dipped it ever so slightly in the powdered Ketamine. He then dabbed a little on his tongue.

“No taste. Good.”

“I looked it up,” she said. “Chasing alcohol with Ket is a little dangerous. It’s not likely to cause a death, but he might get a little sick. Most of the deaths associated with Ket are from people who drowned in a tub or, you know, wandered out in the woods or something.”

“Go out there and introduce yourself to him. I can’t leave these fish right now. Dad knows you’re coming. Just sit with him a while, and make sure, you know, he’s not, like, seriously drunk. Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible for my dad to get drunk on beer.”

She walked out on the patio.

“Mister Fowler,” she said. “I’m Ellen.”

Ben had turned his chair to the side, toward the water. He was staring at the last glowing pastel of the sunset, just visible over the edge of the trees across the way. He didn’t have a beer. Several empties sat crumpled on the table.

He turned around, hopped his way with the chair, and said, “Well, ain’t you a sight for sore eyes. Call me Ben.”

“Nice to meet you.” She sat down.

“Ah, you’ll have to forgive me for my condition. I let my son convince me he’s grown up and old enough to be drinking with his old man. I tried to tell him he could do better, but ever since he broke the news that you were coming over, I tried to straighten up and be presentable.”

Beth wouldn’t have known he’d been drinking at all, which was good, she thought. They chatted. She told him she was interested in being a pharmacist, too, and she and Darin would be going to the University together come fall. She didn’t burden him with the news that she’d already had two years of college and was two years older. It was cordial. He was charming. He said he’d been remiss in spending time with his son since the divorce, and that he was trying to make up for it, now that Darin was out from under his mama.

“Well,” she said. “Dinner is just about ready, Mister, uh, Ben, and I’m going to go back inside and help out in the kitchen. Give me and Darin about ten minutes, and mosey right back on in.”

“Will do,” he said.

“I think he’s fine,” Ellen said to Darin once she got back inside. “He said he was trying to straighten up for me.”

“We’ll fix that.”

“He strikes me as a pretty nice dude.”

“He is. How much Ket you think it’s safe to give him? We don’t want to kill the old bastard.”

“I’d say anywhere between forty and eighty milligrams. Forty, probably, that would do it. I’ll stir it into his beer. We’ll have beer in glasses for dinner.”

“This is fun, isn’t it?”

“Kinda,” she said.

Ben made his way through the sliding door. “Y’all ready?”

“Have a seat, Dad. We’ll be right in with the food.” Darin lowered his voice. “Here. Use this platter and pour beers for each of us. For God’s sake, don’t mix them up. I’ll take the fish and fries. Table’s already set.”

He opened the refrigerator. “We’re getting a little low on beer. First, you go out on the patio and get the ice chest. There ought to be four or five left in there, at least. Then I’ll take the food in, and you get the beers ready.”

“You got the Ket, Darin.”

“Oh, yeah.” He reached in his pocket and handed her the container. “I might be just the least bit jangled from daubing a little bit of it on my tongue.”

She went to get the cooler. He caught her eye. “Feels good,” he said. “Relax. Everything’s cool.”

              Fiction is here, and I write the occasional essay about writing. Non-fiction is at http://www.montedutton.com. My goal for both blogs, sites, whatever, is to, (1.) entertain you with my writing, whether it’s about a sneaky, manipulative son or a stock car race, (2.) hope you enjoy it enough to purchase, whether by covers and pages, or ebooks, my work, which is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

              I appreciate your attention either way.

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