"Oi," he said. "This heat! I can't breathe. Somebody should do something." I assumed he was talking about God.
"That weatherman on the morning news. He should be shot. How can I go out in weather like this? And then when it gets so hot they keep the supermarkets too cold. Hot, cold. Hot, cold. It gives me the runs."
I was glad I owned a gun because when I got as old as Mr. Landowsky I was going to eat a bullet. The first time I got the runs in the supermarket, that was it. BANG! It would all be over.
I took the elevator to the second floor and let myself into my apartment. One bedroom, one bath, living room-dining room, uninspired but adequate kitchen, small foyer with a strip of pegs for hanging coats and hats and gun belts.
My hamster, Rex, was running on his wheel when I came in. I told him about my day and apologized for not saving him some doughnut. He looked disappointed at the doughnut part, so I rooted around in my refrigerator and came up with a few grapes. Rex took the grapes and disappeared into his soup can. Life is pretty simple when you're a hamster.
I moseyed back into the kitchen and checked my phone messages.
"Stephanie, this is your mother. Don't forget about dinner. I have a nice roast chicken."
Saturday night and I was having chicken dinner with my parents. And it wasn't the first time. It was a weekly occurrence. I had no life.
I dragged myself into the bedroom, flopped onto the bed and watched the minute hand creep around the dial on my wrist watch until it was time to go to my parents. My parents eat dinner at 6:00. Not a minute sooner or later. That's the way it is. Dinner at 6:00 or your life is ruined.
My parents live in a narrow duplex on a narrow lot on a narrow street in a residential part of Trenton called the burg. When I arrived my mother was waiting at the door.
"What is this outfit you're wearing?" she asked. "You have no clothes on. How is this to dress?"
"This is a Thunder's baseball jersey," I told her. "I'm supporting local sports."
My Grandma Mazur peeked from behind my mother. Grandma Mazur moved in with my parents shortly after my Grandfather went heavenward to dine with Elvis. Grandma figures she's of an age to be beyond convention. My father thinks she's of an age to be beyond life.
"I need one of those jersey's," Grandma said. "Bet I'd have men following me down the block if I was dressed up like that."
"Stiva the undertaker," my father murmured from the living room, head buried in the paper. " ...with his tape measure."
Grandma linked her arm in mine. "I've got a treat for you today. Just wait 'til you see what I've cooked up."
In the living room the paper was lowered, and my father's eyebrows raised. My mother made the sign of the cross.
"Maybe you should tell me," I said to Grandma.
"I was gonna keep it as a surprise, but I suppose I could let you in on it. Being that he'll be here any minute now."
There was dead silence in the house.
"I invited your boyfriend over for dinner," Grandma said.
"I don't have a boyfriend!"
"Well you do now. I arranged everything."
I spun on my heel and headed for the door. "I'm leaving."
"You can't do that!" Grandma yelled. "He'll be real disappointed. We had a nice long talk. And he said he didn't mind that you shoot people for a living." "I don't shoot people for a living. I almost never shoot people." I thunked my head against the wall. "I hate fix-ups. Fix-ups are always awful."
Copyright © 1998 by Evanovich, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of St. Martin's Press, Inc.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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