Bill Parker

In another part of the country, another man was sitting forward in his armchair, staring hard at his TV screen, his mouth in a hard line, his eyes narrowed to tiny slits.

''You sleazeball, Springer'' he hissed, before pushing the ''off'' switch on the set so hard that the 14 inch set moved two inches back on the cupboard where it sat. 

He paced up and down the floor of the trailer, his bulk making the whole structure shudder with each step.  On his last pass he punched the wall, leaving a dent in the metal.  Abruptly, he sat, snatching up Deedee's photograph, and bringing it up close to his still narrowed eyes.  He studied her cheerful face, her laughing eyes, as if he was cramming for an examination on her features, and saw the warm kindness of this woman who had been his wife.    The photograph had been taken very soon after they married, and he had hardly looked at it in the last twenty years.  He hadn't needed to, because she was always there, always ready to listen, to laugh with him, and to cry with him.  She had never complained about anything - well, he had done enough of that for both of them.  And he could count the times he had shown any appreciation for her on the fingers of... well, one finger.  In the words of Joni Mitchell,  you don't know what you got till it's gone.

He stood, loosening the black tie and undoing the collar of the too-small shirt cutting into the flesh of his thick, bullish neck.  He went into the kitchenette area, trying not to see the shiny new urn, containing Deedee's ashes.  He opened the fridge door and grabbed a six-pack of Bud.  Pulling a can from the plastic holder, he stalked back to the couch and sat heavily.  He looked over to the TV again.  The order of service from the funeral home was lying in front of it, and he swiped it up and looked at the front cover.  ''Deanne Rose Parker - a Celebration of her Life''  it proclaimed, the words surrounded by curlicues and pink roses.  He laughed silently.  Deedee had hated roses.  She wasn't even keen on the one that was part of her name.  She had preferred less ostentatious blooms, like peonies and violets.

He popped the tab on the beer can and took a long swallow, then pulled out a squashed pack of Marlboro cigarettes.  Only two left - he'd need to walk to the store later for more.  He could not get through this long night with only two butts for company, that was for sure.  He eyed the can and thought maybe he'd need to get another six-pack...or two...or maybe a fifth of bourbon.  Trouble was, there was precious little money left.  What little they had was in the pockets of that...slimeball, Jack Springer.  There was no more to come, either.  Deedee had even traded in her life insurance to pay the four-time payment which was actually a one-time rip-off, and several payments for extra ''Super-Miracles''.

She had not told Bill for four months that she was dying.  Of course, by then she had put all her hope - and their money - into this greasy, grinning, Miracle Man, so she had just told him that she was ''a little sick'' but that everything was going to be just fine because Reverend Jack would save her.  That was just two weeks ago, and the Reverend had not come through for her.  She had spent her last few days here in the trailer, because they had no health insurance, and, thanks to Reverend Jack, he could not afford a comfortable private, or even semi-private room for Deedee's final days, not that she had accepted that her end was inevitable, right up until the morning she died.  Her faith in that faker was strong to the last.

When she had told him about Springer, and the money, he did not, unusually for him, rant about it at all.  For one thing he had been too stunned.  This was the first time since he had met her that she had ever done anything without asking his permission first.  The other reason was her answer.  ''I did it because I didn't want you have to cope without me, Bill.''

He stood and began pacing again, his whole body tensing.  He wanted to punch the wall again, but his fist was still throbbing from the last time.  No, he would save his energy for dealing with that evil, phoney minister who had taken his money and his Deedee.

The End

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