The Big Surprise chapter six

As Charles, Connie and I entered my mother’s place, mother stood up for a second, as her way of greeting us, then sat down again. She said, “Thank you for bringing him, Charles… I think.” He sai, “You’re still top on my list of people who waste their lives.” 

She frowned. “I want to at least say thank you! Can I do that, you wise ass?” 

“Yes.”

Mother said, “Connie, thank you.” 

Connie said, “No need to thank me. I need to thank you for understanding.” 

I felt like I was told something I should have known previously but it was held back from me. “What are you all talking about?”

Connie pointed to the sofa in the living room. We sat down. She said, “Your mother, Gertrude, is smart.”

I said, “We don’t refer to her by name.” 

Charles said, “To us, she is known as dumb clod.”

Mother said, “Stop that!” 

Connie asked, “Why don’t you tell them what you know?”

Mother said, “I know that Peter, my late husband, was ill and I would have to take care of Philip. I needed him to get my cigarettes but I felt betrayed by his loyalty to Charles. We gave Charles to another family. You know the story. When he came back, Philip wanted to be like him. We could not raise Philip even closely like how Charles was raised. We were jealous. I needed my younger son to stay loyal. When Peter died, I knew I still had Philip. Charles moved out. That was fine. When money came after Peter’s death, I needed Philip even more as an assistant but the government… it’s a long story. I could control the money as Phillip’s payee. He needed a sense of independence but I knew it could not last. I looked you up, Connie. You had talked to me back in the fourth grade. You mentioned how you wanted to be around Philip all minutes of the day. I thought it was sweet.”

I asked, “Did Connie tell you she wanted to shake my hand forever?” 

“It could have been that she wanted to hold your hand. She might not have said she wanted to shake it. But it was beautiful.”

Connie said, “This is my gift to you. The big surprise.” 

I was nervous. “What exactly is happening? The reason I came here was to have you think of a way to free me from Connie.”

“My darling son, there is no real way one can be totally free. You owe me. I’m getting paid through Connie’s actions.” 

Connie said, “I’m not doing it for you. This is for me.”

“I know but I’m grateful, anyway.” 

Charles said, “You should have listened to me, Philip. I hinted that mother would not make you feel better. I’m not taking sides, by the way.” 

Mother got up at went to the refrigerator. She poured some soda in a glass, came back in the living room and handed it to me. You must be thirsty.” 

I took it and drink some. “Thanks. it tastes a little odd.” 

“It’s been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. That’s why.” 

I finished the whole glass full because I wanted to figure out why the soda tasted unusual. Mother smiled.

Charles walked outside, saying, “You’re on your own. I did my part.”

Connie said, “We’re going to have our hands sewn together.”  

Mother said, “Take good care of him. Bring him over for Thanksgiving. 

I understood the strangeness of what they said but I became suddenly sleepy. The words just flowed above me like subtitles for a movie. I did not care what was happening. I was too tired to listen.

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