The whispering began shortly after the Smith sisters entered the room. With a woman’s instinct born of too many nights doing what she should have been too young to do, Jessie the oldest, pushed through the crush of spectators hovering around their old man. This was standard procedure. Jessie knew her lines without a script. She would scald him with words meant to cleanse the befuddled thinking from his whiskey-soaked brain. He would first try to charm her, then he’d invent some story to make his behavior seem reasonable. But there was no reason at the bottom of a bottle. He knew better than to confront their mother in his condition.
She held back a moment, stalling when she saw her mother’s ashen face as she stood on the edge of the crowd. Her mother stumbled slightly as a man, a stranger, slid an arm around her waist to steady her. Her father’s blood decorated the man’s shirtfront in streaks and spatters of crimson. Disgusted by the latest installment of their family drama, Jessie started to turn, but her sister Jackie, always oblivious, pushed on through, causing the gawkers to scatter in her wake. Jackie had a knack for never knowing the right thing to do in any given circumstance. Her actions weren’t reactions, but mere acting as if on cue.
She saw what she didn’t want to see over her sister’s shoulder. Their father lay sprawled on the dirty bar floor, shards of broken glass circling his head like a broken halo. Jackie’s mouth flew open to question her mother, but it closed hard like a trap door. Her mother was too drunk to focus on the scene in front of her, the pattern of her insatiable urges written all over her haggard face. When she saw Jackie’s horrified face, a happy-go-lucky greeting formed on her tongue, but local law enforcement took control of the tragedy before the habitual confrontation ensued. Jackie looked at the cop and looked at her father, then decided the act wasn’t worth the effort. This time her mother had no defense. This time she’d gone too far.
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