Not All News Is Good
Lonnie McSweeney had been at this for almost thirty years. He’d seen just about everything it was possible to see, from cheating spouses to murder for hire to abandoned babies to attacking helpless old people. He knew how depraved human beings could be. Yet in all his travels, after all the cases he’d handled, he still had difficulty providing the client with unhappy news. With Kitty it was harder than most. He thought she seemed like such a nice lady. And after what he’d been able to do for Alva, he thought this might be another one of those rare cases when he could give someone good news.
As he sat across from Kitty, he looked down at the envelope clutched in his hands and hesitated. How could he tell her?
“I gotta tell you it ain’t all good news,” he began.
Tears welled in Kitty’s eyes and she extended her free hand across to his and touched him with her index finger.
“Tell me,” she said softly. “I need to know.”
“Okay,” Lonnie said as he pulled the papers out of the battered envelope. “I got a report on four out of the five you give me the other day. The first, that’s your mother. Mrs. Theresa Wills, deceased, one year ago September the 26th. Buried at St. Cecilia’s in … ”
“I know where,” said Kitty, interrupting him. “That was our church. I know where that is.” She was surprised at how strong her voice was, at how she had recovered her composure. Somehow the finality of this had brought her back to the present. Her mother was no longer of this earth. And Kitty was.
Lonnie nodded and went to the next paper, laying the first one on the table.
“The oldest boy, Morgan … ” he began, but again Kitty interrupted him.
“Yes, Morgan,” she said loudly. “I remember Morgan. He was always throwing rocks and he tried to get my father to stop … ” she looked at Cal for a second then at Lonnie. “What happened to him?” she asked more quietly, for she was sure something had gone wrong in his life.
“Jail,” Lonnie said simply. “Armed robbery. Knocked over a liquor store and got caught with the gun. Got ten years. Done seven already. Due to be out in three.”
“Oh, no,” Kitty slouched back in her chair, pulling her hand from Cal’s.
“He did a ten-year stint in the Army, though,” said Lonnie, scanning the paper in his hands. “Got an honorable discharge. Rose to the rank of sergeant.” Lonnie was not given to shows of emotion but here he nodded as if he were in the position of an evaluator, thinking this boy could have done all right if he had just stayed put.
“Where is he?” Kitty asked. “I mean the jail, where is it?”
“Kentucky State Penitentiary. Looks like if he hadn’t used a gun he wouldn’t be there. It’s a max security joint.” Lonnie stopped and looked up at Kitty for the first time, feeling all of a sudden sheepish at his cavalier language. Their eyes met and Lonnie saw the pain and sadness and couldn’t take it. He shuffled through the papers and pulled out the next one.
“James,” he said. “Twenty-five now. Graduated high school. Took a job at the local coal mine.” Lonnie stopped.
“Where is James?” asked Kitty. She had such vague memories of James. A little boy hiding under furniture, tossing a battered old Frisbee, pretending to be a warrior, jumping off of tree stumps in the small yard that had no live trees left. She had a memory of James crying when their dog turned up dead. Kitty tried to remember what it had died from, but that detail was long forgotten.