American Gothic Redux is an ongoing series of vignettes giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of the people in a small New Jersey town. Don't miss the earlier entries, as they all tie together. Links to all chapters at the bottom of this page.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
Chuck Crawford stopped dead in his tracks in the waiting room of Taft General Hospital where his sister Chrissy greeted him. “Nice to see you too, Sis.”
“I asked you a question,” Chrissy Woodward snapped, boring her eyes through him.
“Scott called me.”
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Chrissy hissed.
“Try ‘she’s his mother as well as ours’,” Jo Crawford said, as she linked her arm through Chuck’s and hugged him.
“I don’t want him here,” Chrissy pouted. “He couldn’t be bothered with his family for years, didn’t even try to raise his son, and he’s gay.”
“Enough,” Floyd snapped. “He has a right to be here. Your mother gave birth to each of you, and you each have a right to be here for her.”
“Daddy, I’m sorry.” Chrissy said, taking a seat next to her elderly father. She glared over her shoulder at her brother.
Chuck stuck his tongue out at his sister before greeting his father. “Thanks dad.”
“Don’t let it go to your head. At least you had the respect not to bring that—that partner of yours.”
“Dad!” Jo cautioned. “This isn’t a time to be sniping at each other. Mom’s sick. We need to be together as a family now.”
“Aunt Jo’s right,” Scott said, returning from the cafeteria with his cousins Tiffany and Heather.
“Hi Uncle Chuck,” Heather said. “Did Lola come with you?”
“No Heather. He’s out on the town with Esme Standish, taking her shopping or something like that. I couldn’t get hold of him.”
“Oh, too bad. I wanted his opinion on what I should do with my hair. I want to dye it blue for the summer, but mom says I can’t.” Heather glanced up at her mom.
“We’ll talk about it later,” Jo said. She leaned into her brother. “I want to talk with Lola before any advice is given.”
Chuck smiled. “Don’t worry. He’ll convince her wigs are the way to go.”
“I’m glad you all can act as if everything is all right, and Chuck and his blasphemous life partner are normal, but my mother is laying in that hospital emergency room clinging to life.” Chrissy huffed and took a dramatic breath.
“Chrissy, I’m just as concerned about mother as you are,” Chuck said. “I’m just being polite to my niece by answering her question.”
“Sure, convert the children to your way of thinking. That’s just what Reverend Smithwold said your kind will do.”
“Chrissy.” Jo leaned forward. “Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean I won’t punch your lights out if you don’t shut the hell up and be civil toward Chuck.”
Floyd growled. “For Christ’s sake. You three kids haven’t been together in almost twenty years and when you do come together it’s because your mother is ill, and all you can do is fight. What the hell kind of kids did I raise?”
“Wolves,” Jo snapped back. “We’re sorry, dad.”
Scott stood up as the doctor walked in. All eyes turned to the man all knew for years as the family doctor, a trusted friend and confidant. “Well Chuck, I heard you were back in town.”
Chuck smiled and nodded. “Good news travels fast.”
Floyd stepped forward. “Doctor Gladstone, how’s Jean?”
“Well Floyd, we’re running tests, but we haven’t found anything in the preliminary check up.”
“Did she have a stroke?” Jo asked, adding, “She was slurring words when I first saw her.”
The doctor shrugged. “I don’t know, Jo. Like I said, we can’t seem to find anything physically wrong at the moment. She might’ve had a stroke, but there are no signs of one at the moment. We’re going to run more tests. Why don’t you folks relax and I’ll be back to tell you more when I know more.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Said Floyd, as the man left and went back to the emergency room. “Doofus, doesn’t know a damn thing. No doctor does. Can’t trust ‘em as far as you can throw ‘em.”
“Glad to see you haven’t changed,” Chuck said.
“What’s that mean?” Floyd asked.
“You never trusted anyone when I was growing up. You still don’t.”
The door opened and Lola rushed in. “Chuck, I came as soon as I got the news. Esme dropped me off. She sends her best wishes.”
Chuck stood and hugged Lola. “I’m glad you did.”
“Me too,” Jo said.
“Is there any news?” Lola asked.
“The doctors are running tests,” Chuck said.
Chrissy circled around the waiting room looking Lola up and down like a slab of beef. Chuck noticed first. “Honey, I want to introduce you to my other sister, Chrissy. Chrissy, this is Lola.”
Lola turned to greet her. “How do you do?”
“Damn, you do make a pretty woman.”
“Um, yes.” Lola replied. “Thank you.”
“You know you’re going to Hell, don’t you?”
Floyd stood up. “Chrissy, not now. Lola, thank you for coming and standing by my son.”
“Daddy?!” Chrissy whined.
“It can’t have been an easy thing for him to come here, knowing I don’t approve of their relationship, yet he came of his own free will without Chuck dragging him here to rub in my face. That means something. He’s got guts. And if he can get Esme Standish’s approval in this town, well, he’s definitely got courage.” Floyd said, adding, “Don’t think this means I approve of what you and my son do or are to each other, but you’re obviously not turning tail and running from Chuck’s family. I may never get used to you, but I appreciate your concern for Jean and my son.”
He finished speaking and walked to the door. “I’m going to the cafeteria. Scott, why don’t you and Tiffany and Heather come with me? I need help with those vending machines.”
“Thank you, Mr. Crawford,” Lola said.
Floyd glanced over his glasses at Lola, nodded, and left with his grandchildren.
“Well wasn’t that just heartwarming?” Chrissy sniped. “Your kind takes advantage of the young, the weak and the feeble minded.”
“Chrissy!” Jo snapped. “Dad’s not feeble minded. He’s pretty sharp for a man his age.”
“Not if he accepts this abomination. A few minutes ago he was glad she, he, whatever, wasn’t here, but when it showed up he forgot his disgust and was polite. Well I haven’t forgotten my disgust.” Chrissy turned and stormed out of the waiting room.
Jo turned to Lola. “I’m sorry. My sister’s a bitch. Always has been. I can’t explain it any other way. I’m glad you came.”
Lola held Chuck’s hand and look over at him. “Where else would I be?”
Below are the links to the previous chapters in order.
American Gothic Redux
Stairway to Heaven
Out of Sorrow Comes Joy
Chuck and Lola
Met a Pieman
Dead of Night
The Lady and the Transvestite
Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.
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