The bodies of Winifred and Murphy strewn across the couch, stuffed – particularly Murphy, who flopped a leg over the side of the couch, then burped.
Abby gazed with blissful contentment over her empty plate. Jerry refilled her glass with some Trader Joe’s table red. Jerry didn’t need anything. Except answers. If ever he was going to do it, now seemed like a good time.
“You did some homework, didn’t you?”
The way Abby was looking at him, Jerry needed to clarify.
“Oh… Winnie gave me some clues. So, I checked it out. Everything I read said it was an accident.”
Jerry’s look said otherwise.
“Apparently, you don’t feel that way. At least not what you told Winnie.”
Jerry made no attempt to hide his disbelief.
“It’s not that complicated, Jerry. Murphy and I have been together a while, so we communicate fairly easily. Harder with Winnie. But we’re getting better. The more time you spend with an animal, the easier it gets… No different than people.”
Jerry and Abby studied each other. Abby played with her wine glass. Jerry stared at his. Maybe he did need a sip.
“Then again…” Abby said, “You think you can read someone, then be surprised how wrong you were.”
Abby turned to watch Winifred and Murphy in heavenly slumber. “Wish I could sleep like that.”
“Don’t think they hang onto baggage quite like we do,” Jerry said.
“You’ll have to ask Winnie about that.”
“I will. What about you?”
“What about me, what?”
“Hanging onto baggage?”
“Oh, I’m way beyond baggage. More like trunks. Big old fashioned steamer trunks.”
“The remains… of lovers, husbands and other strangers. No one to blame but myself. All they wanted was someone to witness their wonderfulness – to applaud their heroics in the board room, the operating room… the bedroom.”
“No. You’re my first. And you were amazing!” Abby laughed with more abandon than she expected.
“It was good for me, too,” Jerry said.
The laughter felt good for both of them.
“I suspect there’s probably just as many men like that as women who want it,” Jerry said.
“My mother. God bless her. And me too. For a while. Tried to make it work.”
“Children?” Jerry pushed.
“I had a new baby brother when I was nine. Practically raised him while Mom tended to Dad.”
“Who needed a lot of tending…?”
“Who needed a lot of everything. Had an affair with one of my college girlfriends. Yeah… He was a real heartbreaker. So… When it was my turn, didn’t want to make babies. Didn’t want to make nice with all the ladies at the club. No interest in making Pasta Puttanesca…”
“What did you want?”
“I grew up East Texas. Out in the boonies. My best friends were dogs, ducks, an old donkey and a turtle.”
“Still are?” Jerry said, more a statement of fact than a question.
The memory was too sweet given the events of the day. Abby covered her face with her hands, began to unravel.
“It’s going to be okay.”
Under her hands, Abby nodded.
“Look at me.”
Abby dropped her hands, picked up a napkin and wiped her cheeks.
Jerry offered a grave look. “So, there’s this head-on collision between two turtles.”
Abby didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“A Highway Patrolman comes by and asks if anyone saw the accident. There’s a snail parked by the side of the road. He says ‘I did.’ The Officer says, ‘Well, what happened?’ The snail says, ‘I don’t remember. It all happened so fast!’”
Abby almost laughed.
Jerry glanced at Winifred and Murphy. “Did you see that? Murphy smiled! I swear that was a smile.”
“I’m sure it was.”
“Everything is going to be okay. I promise… Have I ever lied to you?”
The absurdity of the question made Abby laugh.
“You need to get some sleep,” Jerry said. “We’ll figure it out in the morning.”
Abby got up from the dinette, picked up dishes…
“I am the chief cook and bottle washer in this establishment. Get some sleep.” Jerry pointed to the bed in back. “I’ll bunk out here.”
Abby nodded and started towards the back.
Jerry had one last question. “Abby… Why’d you come here?”
“I didn’t know where else to go.”
“I felt safer here.” Surprised herself that she said it. Still, it was true. “Do you have a gun?”
“Don’t worry. I’m well-armed.”
Abby was even more surprised. And relieved.
Jerry was curled up on the couch wrapped in a blanket, deep asleep when a THUMP under the trailer floor jarred him to life. Not sure if it was in a dream or real, Jerry laid still waiting…
All quiet and Jerry closed his eyes which lasted all of five seconds when he heard gravel shuffling under him. Rolling off the couch, Jerry put his ear to the floor and heard the moving gravel making its way towards the front of the trailer. Someone was moving towards the propane tanks.
Jerry tiptoed to his golf bag in a corner, pulled his Sam Snead 9-iron, took a couple of practice waggles and headed for the door.
Ever so gently Jerry opened the door, laid flat on the floor, dropped his head over the side and looked under the trailer.
Four masked eyes peered back at him from the dark.
“Sorry guys,” Jerry said, as two raccoons scampered out from under and disappeared into the night.
Locking the door behind him, Jerry crept to the hall where he gazed upon Abby, Murphy and Winifred snuggled on his bed deep in sleep. Happy to be their protector, Jerry shuffled back to the front room, rolled up in his blanket on the couch, and put Sam Snead on the floor close beside. Just in case.
~ ~ ~