Post 66: Excerpt from The Rooming House Diaries

The second novel by Bill Mathis will be published in August 2019 by Rogue Phoenix Press. Available for preorder through Amazon as eBook or paperback around mid-July, 2019.

Diary 3

Hank Sawicki

Born September 10, 1895, Chicago

Died January 17, 1967, Chicago

Diary written in Ledger Three. The letters from Eugenia and Arnaud found in the dining room buffet and arranged in date order.

January 12, 1967

I’ve been meaning to write a few things down, kinda tell my side of a few things, explain stuff. I’m too damn tired. No way I can write a lot like Mae did, or the old man. The way my ticker feels, I’m not even sure how much longer I’ll be around. I don’t say that to Mae, she’d be busting my butt to go see the doctor more.

It seems since we buried Tommy, my energy has left me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back.

I can’t even think of anything to write about Tommy. I have regrets, but honestly don’t know what I could have done differently. They say it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks and that’s sure true for me. Nine years between kids. At fifty, I was too old to be a father again, too tired to at least meet the needs of Tommy.

What am I supposed to think about having two sons with purple hearts? One a saint.

And the other?

It’s hard to say one of your sons tried to rape your granddaughter, the same one he tried to molest when she was little. She wasn’t blood, but we still thought of her as ours. Shortly after that, he gets himself killed in Viet Nam, saving four other guys’ lives. It’s beyond what my mind can deal with, especially when you consider everything else that kid did.

I go out to the cemetery and park by John’s grave, think and lose a few tears. After that I go by Tommy’s grave and wonder what the hell I’m supposed to think or feel. I’m numb.

The other thing that still wears on me is Arnaud. I wanted to write about him, how I never got enough nerve to tell Mae about him, how he spent a night here when Nina was tiny and I never told Mae. How I snuck him off to Eugenia who adopted him and raised him like one of her own and he’s done well. I’ve just been stuffing that piece down deep.

Would Mae have cared? I sure couldn’t tell her when she hadn’t slept for three months, caring for a cranky, colicky baby and this fourteen-year old kid shows up on Valentine’s Day, saying, “Hello, you are my father. My mother is Simone. I am from France.”

One look at his close-set eyes told me he was mine and those fine features told me he was Simone’s. I’ve never forgotten our last night together when she and I knew we would never see each other again, yet somehow ended up in bed with no rubbers. The only time we made love without them. The math fit.

I panicked, not outwardly, just hustled him upstairs to a room, snuck food up to him, managed to spend some time talking. That’s another thing I never forgot. His words, “Mother told me before she died to find you. She said you were a good man who would make sure I was taken care of in the United States of America.”

I think she knew I may not be able to take him in myself, but would make sure he was looked after. I couldn’t believe how much she’d told him about me, all positive, or how mature for fourteen he was. It was amazing, but then, so was Simone.

I did make sure he was taken care of, entirely thanks to Eugenia. I never told anyone else about him. Somehow, the more I stuffed it down, the easier it became not to tell Mae. Would she care today? My guess is she’d want to jump in the Ford and go find him in Denver. She’s always said she wants to travel. I’m just too tired to even think of bringing it up now.

After I die, I figure she’ll find the tackle box with all the letters from Eugenia about Arnaud. One of these days, I might set it down on the tool bench. Hopefully, she forgives me.

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