They were on their way to buy wine and cheese and pick out a movie at the video store. It was his first time meeting her parents and he wanted to impress them even though she had said they were the cause of all her problems. He didn’t know what her problems were; she was tall, angular and adored. He had worked hard to gain her favor after they met on a whitewater rafting trip. He took her to arty movies that he thought were like the ones he had heard her talk about and cooked her the kind of dishes he saw in the magazines on her coffee table. She took him camping and skydiving and they made love in the woods on moss covered logs and rocky outcroppings overlooking the city.
“Alcoholics and liars,” is how she described her parents. He expected horrible people, but they were nice and welcoming during the brief five minutes they popped in to drop off their bags. “Maureen says you have great taste in movies,” her mother said giving his arm a gentle squeeze, “Why don’t you pick something out for us.”
They sailed down a country road past artfully masoned walls and immaculate lawns. There wasn’t a rogue leaf anywhere.
“Here! Here!” she said tapping on the dashboard frantically. “Turn here!”
He swerved hard right, the font wheel left a muddy rut across one of the manicured lawns. The Corolla skidded back onto the road and righted itself.
She tugged on his sleeve. “See that house up there?”
Up a long rolling lawn dotted with boulders sat a large stucco structure.
“A murder happened there, about three years ago. A doctor and his wife, who had just moved here from India, got hacked up by their own meat cleaver.”
“God that’s grim,” he said, “I hope they got the guy.”
“They did, but they shouldn’t have,” she said explaining that a boy she knew from school who grew up in the house and was abused by his alcoholic father, had gotten drunk and broke into the house. “They couldn’t figure it out for a long time,” she said, “but he was trying to get clean and said something at an AA meeting and somebody went to the police.”
“Sounds like they did the right thing.”
She slapped the dashboard. “That’s not the the point, godammit!”
“Okay, then what is?”
“AA’s all about recovery and having a system of trust. They violated that trust. It was wrong.”
“C’mon, Mo, it’s not like attorney-client or anything like that.”
“He was getting help, he was finally clean.”
“What are you saying? That his recovery is more important than their lives? That it justifies murder?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Well, then, what?”
She slumped hard against the passenger door. “You just don’t get it, do you?”
The Corolla crested another hill. Below he could see the neon blue from the video store. He wondered what he should pick. He knew he had to choose wisely.
Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, Cambridge Day, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.