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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
After one death, fate goes on a roll.

Submitted: February 05, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 05, 2016




A Short Story in Three Chapters

 Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Three

In addition to the aid and comfort provided to the Ramirez family by Dr. Worthington, Penny Truax, a local MSW with years of grief counseling experience, took on the family as a personal project. They adored her, and every one of them began to make significant progress toward their own exit from each of their respective tunnels of depression.

In less than a year, the family moved from the Grandparents’ home into their own spacious bungalow on a river with a view of the mountains.
From there, another year later, they had moved to their present location next to the local airport.
A swimming pool provided R& R for everyone. 
A large patio and grill allowed for outdoor eating and made for an excellent party setting for their newfound school chums—of the girls.
The boys continued to be a problem for arrogant punks, but stayed together and avoided the rest of the student body. The School Board had viewed them as a constant time bomb.
It never went off.

Tony was now very interested in a famous and nationally ranked cooking school only a couple of miles from his Grandparents’ house. His cakes and pies were already legendary.

Junior had lost thirty pounds, muscled up and was taking quickness training to help further his football career.
He was already asking Matt’s advice about the academic reputations of the Universities that were attempting to recruit him. He also stood first in his class—an achievement that everyone in the family found difficult to believe, including Juan Jr. himself.

Once again, Matt let his right hand fall to the blue blotter, his phone grasped tightly with shaking fingers.
His frozen gaze locked on the two dead, gray buttons.
He swallowed hard and reviewed his last two calls while pondering the gloomy prospect of his waiting call with Rebecca.

His first intention was to skip directly to line four and just tell Rebecca straight away; but something suddenly made him reconsider. Maybe his subconscious was trying to tell him to take more time to digest these first two calls.

His inner voice counseled that he invest in some genuine thought and rumination before hitting that button. 

His inner voice also demanded that he make a herculean effort to construct the perfect possible sequence of words, with which to transmit this nauseating news to Rebecca’s battered psyche.
He had to be meticulous in his choice of the words themselves, as well, or risk unraveling all Dr. Worthington’s fine work by employing ill-conceived and poorly constructed paragraphs of ghastly tidings.

Twinkle. Twinkle. Twinkle. 

 “Hey, Jack!”

John Bannion was one of those very smooth Southern California Defense Attorneys who gave all Plaintiffs’ counsel fits.

Not because he was obnoxious; or rude; or abrupt; or condescending; or arrogant; or stupid—all those things that Northern California lawyers ascribed to their SoCal brethren in law; no: John Bannion was none of those things—and he looked and talked like a movie star.

He was one of those lawyers who Matt Brand just hated—not personally—quite the opposite; but because John was the type of attorney that juries loved.
He was the type of guy who would impel jurors to come over the rail to kill you, if you so much as raised your voice in any exchange with him.
Although Matt could be congenial and collegial (and all that ‘stuff’), right along with John, he was smart enough to never raise his voice—or to cast a barb—or to even hint at an aspersion of John’s character, or his veracity—or even the veracity of his client

“Hi Matt” his voice was extremely cheerful, packed with bonhomie and glad tidings, “how the hell are you?”
Now, this was way beyond Jack Bannion’s ‘happy-emotions’ quotient. This was some guy who just realized he didn’t have to clean out the horse stalls; or that his stock pick had just been bought by Warren Buffett.

“Jesus, Jack . . . not as well as you—obviously.” laughed Matt.

“Well my friend”, (he had never called Matt his friend) “I have your ten million for you. How about that?"
Matt expected a drum roll; trumpets; celestial choirs; but there were none of those.
Nevertheless, he had heard right.
“Really?” Matt was beyond joy, “Really Jack?”

“Really, my friend; damn right,” this was more like Bannion,“insurance company’s thrown in the towel; you beat us Matt. Congratulations.”

His tone was pure sincerity.

But Matt, being Matt,“ oh c’mon Jack, I didn’t get you—we didn’t get you—thefacts got you; the witnesses got you . . . and fate got you,” pause, “and your guydied.

 “What?” Jack gasped.

 “Dead. Last night; his wife just called me—you didn’t know?”

 “No Matt, no . . . that’s terrible. Jeez . . . he was so young too . . . what did he die of?”

“Heart attack . . . thirty-five; wife thinks he died of a broken heart,” and Matt repeated most of 
Mrs.Mason’s call.



“Yeah Matt, . . . I’m still here,” vanishing exuberance, “man, that is terrible.
"You know, I met him at his house . . . I was in his study; with all those safety awards,” sighing, “he was so proud; but . . . man, was he depressed," changing tone, “you know, Matt, he really doesn’t know what happened; swears he didn’tfall asleep,” inhaling, “well; whatever it was, it doesn’t matter now, eh?” sucking in a larger measure of air, “anyway, got to go Matt; I’ll send you all the closing papers. 
Good job, man—I mean it. Later.” He hung up.

 Another dead gray button.

Twinkle. Twinkle.

This time Matt just laid the phone on the blue blotter while he used both hands to rub his eyes, and then the back of his neck.
After a few moments he stood up and alternately tensed and relaxed his shoulder muscles; he shook his head from side to side, and moved his lips in a ‘horse lips’ flapping motion, while at the same time umming and ahhhing and clearing his throat.

Relax, relax.

It seemed to him that the framework that formed the mental image of his thoughts on the Ramirez case, was collapsing; and this unnerved him.
He arched his back and flung out his arms . . . lifted his knees quickly, in a piston-like motion, and then let out a huge breath while rapidly shaking his arms and hands.

Relax, relax.

Twinkle. Twinkle.

In one smooth movement, he sat, picked up the phone, and pressed Line 4.

“ Rebecca; we got it.  Ten million,” pleasant, upbeat.

 “Juan’s dead.” A sob.

 Mathew’s cheer evaporated.

 A moment passed.

 “I know Rebecca, I know . . . . I know it’s only been, what . . . two

 years . . . .almost to the day”

 “ No Matt—Juan’s dead.”

 “ Yes, but—“

“Junior”, and her wail rolled through the line into Matthew’s disbelieving ear.

 “What?” His cry was primal. “What?!”

“Hit a tree . . . he was a passenger . . . the driver was speeding . . . getting away from the cops . . . oh, Matt”
Her immense burdens of sorrow from the last two years seemed to be expressed in the immense depth of her despair, “ he just went out to get gas . . . met this guy—an older guy—went for a ride; the cops started chasing them because the driver was doing doughnuts.
Juan was a passenger; they hit a tree—just the passenger side ; the driver’sfine.”

Her sobs were fading now, replaced, little by little, with tones of resentment and anger, “yeah Matt, the driver’s just fine now.”
“Oh, God Rebecca . . . you poor darling . . . you poor, poor darling,” close to tears, “what can I do; how can I help you?”

Gasping, “ah . . . ohhh . . . it’s ok Matt; my mom’s here . . . and some friends of Juan’s—Senior—they’re helping me out; we’re all going to the funeral home.”

Anxiously, “where is it; can I come?” 

“Well, it’s just family now Matt; but the funeral is Wednesday; come to that;please come to that Matthew. I’d like that; the kids would too.”

“God; how are they doing Becky? . . . those poor kids—how’s Anna?”

“Oh . . . they’re ok . . . I guess; you know . . . I don’t think they know what to do; or what to think,” sighing, “they’re just on automatic pilot; like me. But my mom’s really helping out; and my dad’s here too . . . we’re all doing the best we can.” She sniffled.

Rebecca—Rebecca—I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am . . 

 He realized that he had completely lost it.
“We’re going to the funeral home now . . . I’ll see you at the funeral; and we’ll talk sometime soon about the other . . . so . . . bye,” and she hung up.

 Matt did not move. 
His right hand remained holding the receiver. His jaw worked its way to a set position, and, with a sigh, he slumped onto his elbows. 
He blinked, and stared at the four dead gray buttons.

Whatever is behind that flashing white light could not possibly shock me; not possibly.
It had seemed to him as though he had been wading through a grasping gooey bog for hours, but when he looked at his watch as his left hand approached the final button, he saw that only ten minutes had passed.

His left hand continued toward the blinking light and his index finger deployed for pushing.

“ Hi, I’m Matthew Brand. How can I help you?”

 A woman’s voice; smooth; like melting brown sugar over honey.

“Thank you for taking my call Mr. Brand; you were very highly recommended to me.”

“Not at all; and thank you; and thank you for waiting.

“Surely . . . my little daughter—a twin—was in a car wreck.
A company truck hit her from behind and she’s now in the ICU at Children’s Hospital with brain damage,” pause, “would you take her case?”

Matt was certain that the sugary-voiced woman must have thought he was dumb—or dumber—for not saying absolutely! right away. 
However, she didn’t; and he said, “I would be honored to help your little girl in any way I can. So tell me, what can I do for you; how can I help you?”
The last twinkle was gone.






© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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