“I don’t know, Stanton, what the hell are you lookin’ at?”
“Well it looks like a fuckin’ wedding invitation!”
She sucks in a mouthful of shocked air. “Oh my lord.” Then in a growl not directed at me, “Momma!” An inaudible argument ensues with sharp tones and angry pitches. Then she comes back to me. “Stanton?”
My grip on the phone tightens. “I’m here.”
Jenny swallows with a gulp. “That news I was gonna tell you about this weekend? I’m gettin’ married, Stanton.”
It’s like she’s speaking another language—I hear the words but they make no sense.
“I was gonna tell you . . .” she rushes out.
“When? When the golden anniversary rolled around?”
She tries to soothe me. “I know you’re angry . . .”
But I’m gone. “I passed angry so far fuckin’ back it’s scary!” I look over the card again. “Who in the holy hell is James Dean? And what kinda name is James Dean anyway?”
Brent chooses this moment to comment softly. “The same as one of our finest American actors. Rebel Without a Cause, Giant with Elizabeth Taylor . . .”
“Elizabeth Taylor,” Jake pipes up. “She was hot when she was young.”
I ignore the idiot ramblings and focus on what Jenny is saying.
“We’ve been seein’ each other for a few months now. He asked me three weeks ago.”
An unsettling thought occurs to me and goes straight out my mouth.
“Are you pregnant?”
Offense rings clear in Jenny’s tone. “Why would you ask that? You think bein’ pregnant is the only way I could get a man to marry me?”
“No, but between you and your sister—”
“Don’t you talk about my sister!” Now she’s yelling too. “Not when you got a brother livin’ in a trailer sellin’ marijuana to high school kids!”
I kick my desk. “I don’t want to talk about fuckin’ Carter or Ruby! I want to talk about this ridiculous notion that’s runnin’ in your head.” Then another, worse thought flashes through my brain. “Has he . . . been around Presley?”
She breathes slowly, whispers guiltily, “She’s met him, yes. He comes to the park with us sometimes.”
“He’s a dead man!”
Dead. Gone. Done. I think of every perfect murder scenario that’s ever been suggested simultaneously, and plan to inflict each one on James fucking Dean.
“Stop yellin’ at me!” she screeches.
“Then stop bein’ stupid!” I rail.
I pull the phone away from my ear, as Jenny’s volume threatens to rupture my eardrum.
“Fine! You wanna yell? Let’s both yell real loud, Stanton, ’cause that’ll solve everything!”
Sofia rushes to the desk and furiously scribbles on a legal pad.
Stop! Take a breath. You’re badgering—that will get you nowhere.
My nostrils flare and my face feels like stone. But I close my eyes and do as directed—swallowing down the arsenal of insults that were locked and loaded on my tongue.
“I’m sorry for yellin’. I’m just . . . this is a shitload to try and take in.” But I get a little louder with each word. “And the idea that some fucker, that I don’t know, has been around my daughter . . .”
“You do know him!” Jenn replies quickly, as if that makes it better. “He went to high school with us, a year younger. But back then he went by the name Jimmy. Jimmy Dean—he was the manager for the football team.”
Her words sink in, conjuring the image of a skinny, dark-haired little shit with Coke-bottle glasses.
And we’re back to the yelling.
“The water boy? You think you’re marryin’ the fuckin’ water boy?”
On the periphery of my rage, I hear Brent say, “He’s losing it.”
Jake watches me, fascinated. “Total meltdown.”
“Shh!” Sofia scolds.
But I’m on a roll.
“We used to call him Sausage Link cause his pecker was so small! He used to pick up the jock straps from the locker room floor! You were the homecomin’ queen, for Chrissakes! Homecomin’ queens do not grow up to marry the fuckin’ water boy!”
“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this! You’ve lost your mind!” Jenny fires back.
“You’ve made me like this! Packed up my balls in your purse and driven my mind right over the edge into Bat-Shit-Crazy Town!”