Mob Rule: Part 21

A Special Appearance

Just when he’s trying to be icy, Jack returns to the Compound to find Ethel, Bobby and a familiar face that’s making him flush with warm feelings

By John Armstrong

It was near dark when I pulled into the big circular drive in Hyannis and the outside lights were already on, flying bugs and spring moths clustered around them, elbowing each other out of the way in their rush to be burned alive. I put the Buick back in the garage and hung the keys up. There were voices from the back patio and I walked back to say hello.

Vanessa was sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs with a tall glass in her hand, talking to Ethel in the chair beside her. Then she looked up and saw me. She ran to me and I just stood there, dumb. Over her shoulder I saw Bobby laughing.

“Close your mouth – you’ll swallow a fly.” I realized my mouth really was open. I’d been about to say something but nothing came out. I still couldn’t come up with anything better than, “Huh?”

She led me over to a chair and put me in it, then sat on the arm.

“How did you get here?” Bobby and Ethel were both shaking their heads at my reaction.

“I’d say, ‘Surprised?” but that would be redundant, I think”, Vanessa said laying an arm across my shoulders. “I knew who you were going to see, Jack, and if you go to Boston and ask where the Kennedys live, just about anyone can tell you how to get here. You’d think I tracked down Dr. Livingston in the jungles of Africa.”

“I thought you had school?”

“I’m being wicked,” she said, and tried to look wayward. I think that’s what she intended – it just made her look like she had stomach trouble. “I can afford to play truant a few days.”

Ethel said, “Jack, you’re going to make her feel like she’s unwelcome. A beautiful girl comes all the way down here to see you, you should be happy.”

“I am,” I said. “I’m just getting used to the idea. I still can’t believe you’re here.” I found I had a drink in my hand. I emptied it and Bobby took the glass away and refilled it.

It was getting chilly; when the sun goes down the wind comes in off the Atlantic like a knife. Bobby opened the mesh screen and threw more wood into the little firepit.

“How was Boston,” he asked.

“It’s still there. A different guy slinging pies at Fiorito’s but other than that, like I never left.” Bobby nodded.

Ethel said, “It’s still too cold to ski but we thought we’d take Vanessa out in the boat tomorrow, take her around the bay.”

“Oh, that would be lovely,” Vanessa said. I still felt like we were in a play and I’d been given a script written in Chinese.

“Yeah, maybe we’ll get fish and chips for lunch,” I said. “Show her how the colonies do it.” As repartee it wasn’t much but I impressed myself. It was a step up from ‘Huh?’”

I let them chitchat while we finished our drinks then Ethel said she was getting too cold and we all went inside. If Jesus and the Apostles had been playing cards at the kitchen table I wouldn’t have been surprised at this point.

I let them chitchat while we finished our drinks then Ethel said she was getting too cold and we all went inside. If Jesus and the Apostles had been playing cards at the kitchen table I wouldn’t have been surprised at this point.

As we stacked glasses in the dishwasher, Ethel nudged me. “We put her in the room next to yours, for the kid’s sake. We don’t care, but just don’t let them figure it out, okay?”

Behind us I heard Bobby say, “If you like it down here, it’s no problem to get you transferred into Harvard. They owe us a few favors.” Sure, why not? There were several other houses on the compound, too, meant for guests and relatives. We could set up house in one of them and Bobby could get the Archbishop to perform the wedding. Probably only take a couple of phone calls.

Now I knew how the men on an Olympic bobsled felt. All you could do was hold on and wait to see what happened.

My aunt and uncle remembered something they needed to do in another part of the house and left us there. Between the beers and the way I’d knocked back the highballs on the patio I was feeling a bit wobbly. Vanessa’s presence didn’t help, either.

“What happened to me keeping you out of this?” I said. “What are you doing here?”

Her face fell a bit. “I was worried about you. I thought about it and couldn’t see the harm of a girlfriend dropping by.

“I suppose, too, I thought if I was here they wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”

I tried not to laugh out loud and was about half-successful. “ I appreciate the thought, but two things you don’t understand. No one here is going to hurt me and if they were, you think having a civilian around would make any difference? The one hand you think we’re all gun-happy killers, the other you think we’re so concerned with etiquette we won’t do anything ugly if there’s a woman present. You’re wrong on both counts.”

“Well excuse me for caring what happens to you.” I’d never seen her angry before and I could see she had a talent for it. If anything, it made her even more beautiful. I wondered if she might have some Italian blood.

“Don’t get mad at me, it’s just now I‘m worried about you. I still don’t know what’s going on here and I’m nervous. With you here I’m twice as nervous, maybe more. Twenty times.”

“I thought you said no one here would hurt you?”

I hate arguing with women. They cheat.

“I don’t believe anyone here would, no. But I’ve believed plenty of things that turned out to be wrong.”

She looked at me for a second and said, “All right, I suppose it was a mistake. So do you want me to leave?” I think it was that funny way the English have when they ask a question, the way the pitch rises just before the end of the sentence and then comes right back down again on the last bit, like a little rollercoaster. Then again, it might have been more than just the accent. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair was kind of wild from being outside. Either way, I was sunk.

“No, I don’t. I don’t want you to ever leave.” That was maybe not quite what I’d intended to say but it was true, anyway. You win absolutely nothing if you can guess what happened next.



Mob Rule is a work of fiction, serialized regularly in The Ex-Press. To read past instalments, click here.

THE EX-PRESS, November 12, 2015


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