“Hey, dude, this flies against most of what I heard at the meetings.”
He’s looking at me and somewhat nods. “So you did listen? I thought
you slept through most of the meetings.”
“Asshole,” I say. “Even asleep, all that damn droning on and on does
penetrate the eardrums. All the business about how each person has to
decide for themselves, find their own strength to quit and stay sober?
That stuff about how you can lead the horse to water but you can’t make
it drink? I haven’t read the Big Book that much, but I’d say we’re not sup-
posed to go chasing after Jesse, even if did he fall off the wagon.”
Andy looks bemused. “Absolutely right, Dee; we can’t tie him up and
drag him back up on the wagon. We just gotta show him that we care,
that we’re sitting in the wagon waiting for him.”
I look at him. “And that works?”
He doesn’t answer.
We head out to a roadhouse that I don’t know. It’s a nice ride in the
Cadillac convertible, going out of town along the river, the evening sun
going down, the air fine. Because I demand it, Andy reluctantly tells me
the story of Kayla. “She didn’t go back to school after Christmas break.
Was generally a poor student anyway. Jesse and Marlena couldn’t make
her go back; it turns out she’s pregnant, almost six months, been hiding
it under baggy clothes. The father’s a twenty-year-old thug. Jesse wanted
him charged with statutory rape—she wasn’t yet sixteen—but that’s all
for naught now. Thug is already in jail, up on murder charges. Strangled
an old granny to death to get drug money. Actually, he got the money, no
problem; he just decided to strangle her for the hell of it.”
“Jesus,” I say. I consider that Jesse is pissed and disappointed in his
golden Kayla. A pregnant sixteen-year-old dropout with shit taste in
men, an unexpected grandchild. But still. I look over at Andy Sloth.
“Yeah, it gets worse. Jesse suspected that Kayla was with him when he
robbed and strangled the old lady. He was right. And now—”
He shook his head. I waited.
“Kayla filmed the whole thing on her cell phone. Went viral on social
media a couple of days ago. She’s been arrested.”
Somehow, I’ve missed this news story. But now it makes sense. I look
out at the river, the slices of blue-gray water rolling by. His little angel
turned into a demon. Someone he took care of when she was little, but
there’s no caretaking to be done now. No wonder Jesse fell off the wagon.
“How’s he supposed to deal with that?” I ask Andy Sloth.
“The burdens we bear,” he says finally but without conviction.