Twenty minutes later, Quincy went back to check on Queen. He didn’t want to frighten her. When he entered the room, he saw Olivia asleep in the chair facing their mother’s bed. He smiled at his sister, knowing she’d crept back into their mother’s bedroom to stand guard, as if that would do any good. Seeing that both his loved ones were asleep, he turned to leave but bumped into the nightstand and knocked the clock off it. The noise startled Olivia.
“Quincy, boy, you scared me to death,” she said as she rose from the rocking chair. “We need to talk privately.”
Quincy led her out of the bedroom. They went to the kitchen.
Olivia said, “We need to get a day nurse to take care of Momma while we’re working.”
“I know,” Quincy said. He went to a cabinet over the toaster oven and took a bottle of Bacardi rum down from the shelf. He took two glasses out of an adjacent cabinet and poured the rum.
“I don’t need any of that,” Olivia said.
“I beg to disagree,” Quincy said, handing her a glass.
Olivia took a long pull. “Guess you’re right,” she said, taking another big swallow. “Sometimes, I think Daddy’s love of this hard stuff was right.”
“You hardly knew him, sis,” Quincy said.
“I can pretend, can’t I?”
“We both can.”
“Then shut up.”
They sipped their rum in silence. Finally, Olivia said, “In her present condition, we can’t leave her alone anymore.”
“I thought the same thing earlier. Do you know anyone who’d be willing to be a live-in nurse?”
“Not right offhand, but I’ll ask around the hospital tomorrow. The nurse must be trustworthy. We can’t be away from home and worry about someone robbing us blind.”
Five years earlier, Quincy had noticed that Queen was staying in her bed longer than usual. Up until then, she’d still been active in the church and community, and though that hadn’t changed completely, she’d progressively become detached. Her voice had gotten quieter. When she did speak, her conversations were repetitious. At first, he’d had no idea what was happening. From there, Queen’s grip on reality had steadily diminished.
Quincy took another sip of rum and said, “Momma swears she saw Walter Calhoun hiding out near the barn. I found her under the porch. It scared the hell out of me!”
“Are you serious?”
“This is bad.”
Quincy nodded. He got up from the kitchen table and poured another two fingers full of rum. He drained the glass. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do, sis.”
“Neither do I.”
“Well, we got to do something.”
“Like I said, I’ll try to find us a nurse—find her a nurse.”
“That’s the first step.”
“It’s the only step.” Olivia held out her glass. “Gimme some more of that.”
Quincy obliged. He sat down, putting the bottle on the table between them. “You heard Momma talk about the oil, right?” he asked.
“A thousand times. Oil in the pond. Oil under the barn. Oil! Oil! Oil! For God’s sake, I don’t know what got that notion in her head, Quincy. I just don’t.”
“Well, I’ve seen signs of oil myself.”
“Everybody knows there’s a seep around here,” Olivia said. “It’s not secret.”
“Momma thinks Calhoun wants our land. She thinks he wants the oil.”
Olivia slammed her glass down on the table. She got up, walked to the sink, and stared out the window. “That’s just crazy. She’s crazy. You can’t believe a word she says.”
“Now, don’t you talk that way.”
“I’ll talk any way I damn well please.”
“Sit back down.”
Olivia complied. But she gave Quincy a look he knew well. It was a look that said not to mess around—a look that said she was serious. She poured another drink.
“You should lay off that,” Quincy said.
“So should you, smart-ass!”
Quincy smiled and shook his head. “Guess we’re gonna get a little drunk then.”
They both lifted their glasses, clinked them, and emptied them.
“Ah,” Quincy said. “That hit the spot.”
“You think all that trouble Daddy had back in the day was Calhoun’s doing?” Olivia asked.
“Wouldn’t surprise me.”
“But we haven’t heard hide nor hare from him in years.”
“I know. That’s what I can’t figure out.”
Olivia drummed the fingers of her right hand on the table. “I got a bad feeling about this somehow.”
“So do I.”
Quincy nodded. He got up from the kitchen table and poured another two fingers of rum. He drained the glass and told her how he’d found their mother earlier. “I don’t know what we’re going to do, sis.”
“She really crawl under the porch, Quincy?” Olivia’s work schedule had prevented her from seeing her mother in the crawl space firsthand.
Quincy frowned. “Saw her myself. Just her legs were sticking out. God knows how she got so far in. If it weren’t so sad, it’d be funny.”
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