Parade Drain Paranoia

Samuel Cole

 “Hello Mister King. I’m detective Marianne Halvero. May I sit with you?”

 “It’s your room.”

 “Would you like some water?”

 “They gave me a sandwich and an apple earlier. Call me Barney.”

 “Who’s they?”

 “Where are you all coming in from anyway?”

 “All who?”

 “Forget it. Ask me whatever. I have nothing to hide.”

 “Just a few questions. In and out, I promise.”

 “Have they found Abby yet?”

 “We have many skilled people looking.”

 “I offered to help look for her, but they told me I couldn’t leave this room. If she’s still able to hear voices, I know she’d respond to mine the fastest.”

 “Tell me about this morning, Mister King, before the parade.”

 “Why can’t I see my other girls, Carlie and Kaitlyn? Who are they with?”

 “They’re with Marianne Pribanue, a social worker. Very professional. Very caring.”

 “I don’t want them going to my mother or my mother-in-law. They’re both crazy. They’ll say things about me that aren’t true. Have you gotten in touch with my sister?”

 “So far she’s been unreachable by phone.”

 “Did you try her cell phone? I think she got a new cell phone.”

 “We’ve been trying for hours but still nothing.”

 “She and my wife used to call each other kindred spirits.”

 “Did you notice the sewer drain when you sat down?”

 “I know that the second button on my shirt popped off. Doctor Vindigo says I’m using food to stuff my emotions, but in all honesty I’m just stuffing my face. I really don’t care how I look anymore.”

 “So you planned to attend the parade beforehand.”

 “I thought we could all use some time out of the house. I even pre-packed the diaper bag and sun block. The forecaster on TV said there was a chance of thunderstorms but I was so glad when I woke up and knew he was gonna be wrong. Fucking experts think they know everything. But they don’t.”

 “I hear your wife recently passed away. I’m sorry for your loss.”

 “Yeah, me too.”

 “You must have a lot on your mind?”

 “Well, I know the name Susan G. Komen if that means anything and I know that a casket costs as much as a grave stone and I know I’m supposed to smile real big for the girls and just go on living life even though I wish it would stop and rewind.”

 “Sounds frustrating and confusing.”

 “You think?”

 “Did the girls seem excited about the parade?”

 “Abby kept sticking out her tongue going, Pllllllllllllllllll, which made all of us all smile and that’s when we saw the tall, blonde woman walked by and Abby said, Mama, and I saw the same pain in Carlie and Kaitlyn’s faces like the day of their mother’s funeral and I thought they were gonna cry but they didn’t and I knew right then that life really does move on.”

 “Did you walk or drive?”

 “We live right off Radcliff. It’s like six blocks away. I wanted to make sure the girls didn’t have to sit behind anyone this year.”

 “Do you remember what the girls were wearing?”

 “I sure do. We wore the same red, white, and blue outfits my wife picked out last year. They’re a little matchy-matchy but I figured that was the point and besides I didn’t have time to go out and buy anything new. Carlie hardly fit into her shirt, she’s growing so fast, and I distinctly remember bending down to kiss Kaitlyn’s sparkly pink headband because she really likes my kisses even though I don’t wear chap-stick which she thinks I should because boys need soft lips, too. She’s very thoughtful like that. And I remember sitting up real straight and thinking if my wife were alive how proud she’d be of the example I’m setting for our girls. She was very proper, my wife. All her ducks were in her row. Every T was crossed and every I was dotted. She was very orderly, and very fashionable, too.”

 “The older girls said Abby was only wearing a diaper. They said you refused to put clothes on her.”

 “That’s not true. I remember putting her arms through the shirt holes. Why on earth would they say that?”

 “They did. Two different times.”

 “My wife wouldn’t want me to take her outside in just a diaper.”

 “The Superintendent at your school said you’ve taken a leave of absence.”

 “What? Oh, yeah. They’ve been very understanding.”

 “How long have you been off work?”

 “I don’t know. Three, maybe four months.”

 “An officer reported finding eighteen prescription bottles in your nightstand.”

 “So what? They’re all prescribed by a doctor.”

 “Almost every bottle had a different doctor’s name on it.”

 “That’s not a crime.”

 “It’s called doctor-for-pill-shopping and it doesn’t paint a very good portrait of you being a dutiful father in total control of your surroundings.”

 “Fine, I went to see a few doctors. My regular doc wouldn’t give me anymore pills and then after a while he refused to see me at all. I mean, I lost my wife. I needed some assistance. I was in pain. Call him. Ask him. Ask any of them. They all know what happened.”

 “So much pain that you might have forgotten to put clothes on Abby?”

 “I told you, I put her arms through the shirt holes.”

 “Fifteen of the seventeen prescription bottles were empty, Mister King.”

 “I’m not talking to you anymore. You’re accusing me of doing drugs and being a bad father. I held Carlie and Kaitlyn in my arms the first three nights they came home from the hospital. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I was a wonderful father and devoted husband whose girls wear shirts all the time.”

 “I’m simply trying to map out a timeline.”

 “Ask Carlie and Kaitlyn who I am. They’ll tell you.”

 “They said you sleep a lot during the day.”

 “I make them breakfast every morning.”

 “They said they’re afraid of you a lot of the time.”

 “Afraid of me. Yeah right.”

 “Kaitlin said sometimes when you’re lying on the couch she thinks you’re dead.”

 “You talked to her? Did she ask about me? How did she look? Is her knee still bleeding?”

 “She’s safe, Mister King. I promise.”

 “They’re not telling you the whole story. I mean, they’re little girls. They don’t see things the way you and I do. They’re not with my mother or mother-in-law, are they?”

 “No. They’re with Marianne Pribanue, a social worker.”

 “Oh yeah, you told me that. I forgot for a second, but now I remember.”

 “It’s okay.”

 “My wife’s name was Marianne. Did you know that?”

 “Tell me what happened when you arrived at the parade.”

 “A few people were sitting in plastic chairs and there were lots of people speaking Spanish which didn’t surprise me as much as it angered me because it’s like America’s birthday and shouldn’t we all be speaking English on that day, and then some African American family plopped down beside us but they didn’t stay very long, because the mother said something about being smelly or stinky or something strange like that.”

 “You thought she said smelly or stinky?”

 “We were sitting there awaiting the first float and the older girls were knocking their knees together and Abby was fussing between my legs. Then Carlie mentioned wanting a lollipop and Kaitlyn said she loved marching bands which made me happy since that’s what I do for a living and I knew she really meant it.”

 “Did she say stinky or smelly?”

 “I don’t know. Floats and streamers started passing by and all the kids were screaming and grabbing candy from the ground. Usual parade stuff. I was just thrilled to see the older girls doing something besides sitting in their rooms or asking me questions about cancer that I don’t know any of the answers. I’m no doctor. I teach spoiled rich kids without rhythm to play the drums.”

 “Then what happened?”

 “The girls said they were hungry so I went for food.”

 “Did you leave the girls by themselves?”

 “They weren’t alone. Those Spanish speaking people were still there and I distinctly remember asking the lady in a blue bonnet to keep an eye on them.”

 “So you do remember leaving?”

 “Kaitlin said she was sick of candy and Carlie kept begging for a corn dog with lots of ketchup. She loves ketchup. Kaitlyn prefers mustard like her mother and I’m not sure what Abby likes yet, but yeah, they said they were hungry and a good father doesn’t let his girls go hungry.”

 “Do you remember how long you were gone?”

 “I told you, a couple of minutes, maybe two. Five minutes tops. No more than a blink. And the whole time the tall vendor guy was breading the corn dogs I was looking at them over my shoulder.”

 “The girls said you were gone for more than an hour.”

 “They’re mistaken.”

 “Tons of eyewitnesses said the same thing.”

 “They’re lying. I distinctly remember the short vendor lady in the red hat was deep frying cheese curds which is why I blew on them so hard when I walked back and that’s when I heard everyone screaming that a little girl had fallen into the drain.”

 “So which is it? Vendor guy or vendor lady?”

 “What?”

 “You first said it was a tall vendor guy and then you changed it to short vendor lady.”

 “Vendor person. I don’t know. They all look the same.”

 “Eyewitnesses said you weren’t holding any food in your hands when you returned.”

 “I knew they couldn’t be screaming about Abby. I knew it had to be somebody else’s baby. I knew my wife was watching down on us from heaven and that she wouldn’t let anything else bad happen to us.”

 “Eyewitnesses said you were shirtless when you did return.”

 “We all wear shirts all the goddamn time. Why does no one believe me?”

 “They said you were panting really hard and super sweaty, Mister King. Mister King. Mister King!”

 “What?”

 “You were snoring.”

 “Marianne said I didn’t snore.”

 “Are you okay to continue?”

 “Like you care.”

 “We’re almost finished. Stay with me, okay.”

 “I wish you’d stop accusing me of doing something wrong. You know what? I’m done with you. I mean, you won’t even let see my other girls so why in the hell should I help you, when you won’t help me.”

 “I can leave if that’s what you want.”

 “Where are you going? Come back. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you more. Just please don’t leave me alone.”

 “Hello Mister King, I’m detective Marianne West. May I sit with you?”

 “It’s your room.”

 “Would you like some water?”

 “They gave me a sandwich and an apple earlier. Call me Barney.”

 “They who?”

 “Where are you all coming in from anyway?”

 “All who?”

 “You didn’t see the lady who just left?”

 “I’m the first person to come in here.”

 “She was just here. Blonde hair, green eyes, fashionable and orderly, just like my wife, Marianne.”

 “Excuse me, Mister King.”

 “Where are you going? Come back. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you more. Just please don’t leave me alone.”

 “Hello Mister King. I’m detective Marianne Atridge. May I sit with you?”

 “Stop tormenting me. All of you. I know who you are and I know what you’re doing.”

 “Hello Mister King. I’m detective Marianne Whitmore. May I sit with you?”

 “What do you want? You want me to admit that I pushed her in the drain and ran away. You want me to say I’m sorry, well I’m not sorry. You want me to say I failed them, fine, I failed them, but I don’t see it that way. I see it like I saved them, like I saved all of us from living life without you, which I can’t do, if you really want to know the truth. Well, do you? Do you?”