Editor's note: This is one of San Anselmo resident Susanna Solomon's many Marin Sheriff's log-inspired short stories. Solomon has had 13 stories printed in the Point Reyes Light Newspaper and Harper Davis Publishers will publish a collection of her short stories next year. including how she started writing the stories and that she studied engineering for seven years to earn a degree and job so she could leave her husband.
From the Point Reyes Light, June 21, 2012
STINSON BEACH: At 11:42 pm someone dialed 911 and was heard in the background saying, “He’s not your son.”
“Well, he’s not,” Arlene Berkowitz said, a frying pan in her hand. “You’ve known about this for a while, Calvin.”
Calvin, a man in his forties, deep in debt and out of a job, still felt it was important that he continue with his fatherly duties. Arlene’s words stung, but he knew that, still….He picked up a dropped pillow and set it on the couch, at an angle, just the way she liked it. “You don’t have to be so negative,” he said.
Nicky, a fifteen year old boy, changed the channel on the TV. Nothing was on – but he was too hyped up to go to bed, not yet, anyway. He hoped Penélope Cruz would come back on Jay Leno, she was one hot number and he’d never tire of looking at her. He looked at his mother, still doing dishes from dinner hours ago. It took her longer and longer to do them, but she still wouldn’t let him help her. “Not clean enough,” she’d say.
“Nicky?” Arlene asked, putting the last dish away. “Did you see my cell phone? Someone called 911. Did you sit on it?”
Calvin didn’t want to say, but it had been him. He felt if he called 911 maybe the cops would come and mediate their constant arguments. Now it seemed everything was messed up again. “Nicky, it’s late – it’s a school night – get up to bed.”
Nicky put up with Calvin, he was an okay guy but he wasn’t his dad. So he was used to the standard directions and ignored them as he had for years.
“Nicky!” Arlene’s voice rose. “Bedtime!” she trilled, and Nicky, hearing the real boss in the family, set down the remote and headed up. Maybe he would be lucky and he’d dream about Penélope Cruz again. He smiled and disappeared. Just as he reached the door to his bedroom, voices rose behind him.
“How’s that job search coming, Calvin?” his mother asked. Arlene, having inherited money, didn’t have to work, but she didn’t like slackers and Calvin was a slacker. They’d been together five years and five years was enough. She dried her hands on a dish towel and watched him watch TV.
“I love him, you know,” Calvin said, popping through the channels. “He does well with me – he’s a good kid.”
“That’s all well and good Calvin, but he’s got a dad.”
“In Boston – what good is a dad if he sees him once or twice a year?”
“They spend the summers together on the Cape,” Arlene snapped.
“Summers? Summers are nothing like day to day. Kids need their dads. It’s guy stuff. I didn’t have a dad around when I was a kid,” Calvin complained, looking up the stairs to Nicky’s bedroom. “Mine disappeared the day I was born.”
“Job, Calvin – you’ve got to get a job.”
“I do – I mean, I am trying,” Calvin stared into his beer. It was stale and lifeless like he felt. A general contractor, he was used to the feel of a job, the bustling guys, barking orders, the endless paperwork. Now, knee deep in the recession, no one was building anything. “I’ll make some more calls,” he said, feeling useless. All the guys he knew were out of work too.
“You’ve got a month, Calvin. I have to move on.”
“What do you care, Arlene? House is paid for, I do all the yard work, I’m here for Nicky when you go to your endless meetings about the Bolinas lagoon. Kind of taken a long time, don’t you think?”
“It’s not my goddamn fault!” Arlene cried, polishing the mahogany table.
“It’s not my fault there’s a recession either,” Calvin argued, slipping on his boots by the front door. “I’m leaving.”
“Calvin,” Arlene muttered, “don’t you think you’re being a little hasty?”
“I’m just going to the Sand Dollar for a pop.”
“That’s what you said the last time and you were gone until 2 am,” she said.
Calvin grunted. On this point, she was right. He’d met someone at the bar – and they’d connected – it was dreamlike, wonderful, she loved him, and everything he did. His skin tingled at the thought. “She moved to Hawaii.”
”And tonight, you going to Hawaii too?” Arlene accused.
“I’m not like that, I repented, and apologized. What else do you want me to do, Arlene? Come with me, then, if it’s so important to you.”
“But Nicky,” she asked, looking upstairs, “he’ll be alone.”
“He’s a big kid now – he can take care of himself,” Calvin said, holding open the door. “He won’t get into any trouble.”
“Sometimes you say just the right thing,” Arlene answered, flipping off the light, “even if he’s not your son.” They went out, clicking the door lock behind them.
Upstairs, Nicky watched them drive away. He picked up his iPhone. Celeste was home, she was available, and she did look a little like Penélope Cruz.