We had Easter brunch at our house and the first thing my father said when he walked in was, “You got any beer?”
“No,” I said. “But we have vodka in the pantry.”
“You drinking again?” he asked hopefully.
“We had Reed and Liv over for dinner and Charlie picked it up for them.”
“You buy booze for other people but not for me?”
“We buy booze when we’re having people over for dinner. We had Liv and Reed over for watching Max. It didn’t occur to me to buy you beer for brunch.”
“What about having us for dinner? We watched Van when you were in Savannah.”
Apparently he didn’t remember the night Charlie and I got back. I’d invited my parents over for dinner after my dad stopped screaming at me. My father had said, “I’m not driving out here for dinner. You can cook for me at my house or take me out to eat.”
“You’re here for brunch,” I told him and took my blintz soufflé out of the oven.
My dad got a glass out of the cupboard, filled it with ice, and grabbed the half-empty liter of Absolute from the pantry. When he left, the bottle was empty.
I called my cousin Mike when the kids were in bed for the night and wished him a happy Easter. Mike moved to California right after I moved to Libertyville. His wife, Susan, had moved to Los Angeles a year before him intending to divorce him. She’d supported Mike in Chicago while he drank and blew off writing his dissertation. When he moved to California, they’d reconciled and Mike landed a good job as a financial analyst. But for some time, Mike’s been teetering near the deep end. He’s always settling a score with someone, and right now he’s out to destroy his next-door neighbors because he believes they catnapped his beloved Patches.
“Before Patches disappeared, my neighbor’s fiancé, Nancy, tells me I shouldn’t let my cat out because coyotes will get her,” Mike said. “So Susan lets Patches out one Saturday morning and Patches disappears. So I’m upset, very upset, and I’m asking all over the neighborhood if anyone’s seen Patches. I see Nancy and she tells me she’s sure coyotes didn’t get her. Later, at a party, my neighbor Henry pulls me aside and asks me, ‘If someone wanted to return your cat, how would they go about doing it?’”
“Weird,” I said.
“Yeah. So you know they took her. So I tell Henry, ‘They could just bring her to my door, no questions asked,’ but no one brings her home. So I confronted Henry. He denied it. Brenda, I know they took her. I even went to a pet psychic and the psychic substantiated my suspicions.”
“No way! Really?”
“She channeled for Patches. Patches told me she was catnapped by two guys whose descriptions fit Henry and his friend. Patches said she was taken somewhere in a car and let out and that she’d tried to get home but was run over by a car. Brenda, she’s dead.”
“Wow,” I said, feeling really bad for Mike on many levels.
“I called the cops and reported Patches’ catnapping,” Mike said. “I told the police Henry appeared to be involved in drug trafficking and offered them my house for stakeouts.”
“Do you really think they’re selling drugs?”
“No,” Mike laughed. “Henry and Nancy think they’re getting married on Valentines Day, but that wedding’s never going to happen. I know the church and I’m booby-trapping it with stink bombs.”
“I’m really glad I quit drinking,” I told Mike, changing the subject. “It’s great waking up without a hangover. Reality’s way more interesting than being comatose. You should try it sometime.”
“Well, good for you,” Mike said.
“You really need to let this thing with your neighbor go, for your sake, not his,” I said. “You’re allowing him to consume your thoughts, make you miserable, act crazy. Let it go. Move on.”
“That’s what my shrink says,” he said. “But I can’t. They have to pay.”