The hard shadow of the brambly bush made a cool spot where I could secretly observe Beau Gantry talking with his lawyer, Timothy Bloodsoe, a gangly fellow with large plaintive eyes, worn hair, and age spots. Bloodsoe arrived in a yellow-crème colored Cadillac that had a vague rattle in it.

Beau studied Bloodsoe like a man losing his patience stares down an insubordinate underling. But I found little insubordinate about Bloodsoe, who had the look of a frail ugly lizard I’ve managed to catch from time to time. Bloodsoe thrust a newspaper at Beau. “Not what we need.”

“I’ve seen it,” Beau snapped, “that liberal cunt is about to get her ass handed to her.”

“Lucinda’s nothing if not determined.”

Beau hem and hawed.

“I told you, fucking her then bringing her into the deal would lead to trouble. If she tips Rudolph to how you oversold Poultry Southern they’ll sue you faster than lightning.” Bloodsoe waited until Beau seemed less likely to strike him in the face.

“Yeah, well, let’s see you say no to Lucinda Parker.”

“I can’t say I blame you, really. But if any more word gets out about this, if there’s any ripples in the water.” Bloodsoe shuffled his feet and hitched his thumb toward the apartment. “And what-the-fuck’s going on here? You’re dating a waitress for Crissakes.”

“Shhh… Keep your voice down.” Beau whispered. “Angie’s good. I’m doing the respectable thing here.”

“So, what… you’re going to marry her and take on a kid?”

“One thing at a time.” Beau chewed his lip and stared at the window screens. But Bloodsoe just shook his head. “This is a chance for me.”

Then Bloodsoe looked Beau squarely and said, “a chance for what?” He scoffed. “This ain’t you, and you and I both know it.”

Beau looked at his lawyer, and without saying a word admitted this was the truth.

Bloodsoe whispered, “There’s other ways to make yourself look respectable to the townies. Christ, give ’em a big donation for their church. They’ll line up to lick your balls.”

Beau laughed, then looked serious, again past Bloodsoe’s shoulder, toward the apartment. “It’s more than that.”

“What is it, then?” Bloodsoe demanded. “Listen, you’d better get it figured out, because an abandoned mother and kid is not gonna look good on your resume for mayor.” And when Beau didn’t seem to get it, Bloodsoe attempted to drive his point further. “Listen, trying to find redemption or peace, or whatever you wanna call it, is an honorable thing for a lesser man than you. Trying to make the family you never had growing up is a distraction you cannot afford at this time.”

Beau chewed his lip at Bloodsoe’s lizard face. “This has got nothing to do with anything. Ok. Lucinda’s lead’n the goddamn pussy opposition, so she can get her goddamn liberal housing project on my fifty acres. I need you to get her off my back. I don’t care what you have to do. Put rats in her fucking restaurant, OK? She pushes me I’ll tell the press how she lead the charge to sell my chicken plant, in a deal that put a hundred guys out of work, and she walked away with two-hundred-fifty-grand. OK? You tell her that. You tell her I said it.”

Bloodsoe was quick to respond, “Hey, you know this isn’t just about you and Lucinda. Rick, Terry… the other Chamber members are nervous.”

“Oh, jeez – they all just want to fuck Lucinda, alright? They’re just pissed I got to her first… Fuck’n guys.”

Bloodsoe shrugged. “OK. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”

“Look.” Beau said, grabbing Tim Bloodsoe’s arm before he could get back in his car, “You just tell Lucinda what I said.”

“I will.” Bloodsoe looked bitter as he sank into his posh yellow driver’s seat then drove off.

I waited as Gantry stomped his feet then climbed into his Bimmer, and screeched away. Then I went out across the parking lot and read the little headline in the middle of the newspaper’s front page, “Gantry Wins Injunction Against Housing Commission, Puts Affordable Housing Project in Doubt.” Of course, I had to drag this paper inside so I could show Ian. But that didn’t work out so well, as Ian was deep into a tuna sandwich and watching cartoons.

I don’t know what came over me. Something crawled in the dirt and made me feel unsettled. I tried to nap in Ian’s bedroom behind the moving boxes, waiting in a line against the wall. A sleeping bag covered Ian’s bed, so I curled up in it.

But my sense of dread followed us all into the evening.

“Goddamn cat!” Beau Gantry shouted. He woke me. I thought the house was coming down. Next I knew, the man was arching over me with a look of cat-murder, and he threw the newspaper – the one I had dragged from the parking lot – at me. I bolted.

Angie shouted, “What’s wrong?”

“See this?” Beau demanded, pointing at his dry cleaning on Angie’s bed.

“Ok, what?” Angie shrugged.

“Smell it! Goddamn cat peed on it.”

“Oh no!”

Beau threw back the closet door, but Ian lunged between him and me.

“Hey!” Ian shouted. And this caught Beau off-guard. His faced contorted. He almost struck the boy, as fire rose up around him and his eyes burned red. Immediately his shape was replaced by the form of a rat, wearing Nazi garb and razor teeth.

“All sensitive souls must bow or be burned!” The crazed rat shouted, clenching sharpened claws. “Nothing will stop the rot from within, pusillanimous masturbating scum!”

This vision burned through both of us. It passed so quickly and shockingly it might have gone unnoticed, just a fleeting thought. But the shock burned brighter, and set us both alight with determination.

Beau must have sensed it, because something inside stopped him from striking Ian. Angie gaped. Clearly this was not a side of Beau she had seen yet.

Ian scooped me close, and we stared into Beau Gantry’s heart of hearts, where we nestled for our conversation.

“He owned the chicken plant where your father worked.” I told him. “He sold it to someone called Rudolph.”

“And then my dad left us…”

“Yes! He said a hundred men lost their jobs. I’m telling you, Ian, I have a very uncomfortable feeling about this Beau Gantry.”

“Shhh! He’s mom’s boyfriend. She’s so happy… I…”

“I don’t like this.”

Ian and Beau locked eyes, and I felt a cold fire burn between them, until Beau Gantry acquiesced. Ian and I moved as one into the safety of mother’s arms.

“Ian, you’ve got to keep Simon out of my room. Alright?”

“But mom, he didn’t mean anything by it.”

“I know, son.” Angie said. “But Beau’s a very busy and important man. And he can’t…” She stammered. “We can’t let Simon do that again. Do you understand? Now apologize.”

We looked at Beau, and he looked back at us rather quizzically, as if sensing we were somehow one in the same – which in fact, we were – at least at that moment.

“I’m sorry.” Ian said with a voice sounding light and fragile.

“We can’t tell her,” Ian thought.

“What do you mean?” I retorted. “She has to know. Ian, she has to know!”

Ian could see his mother’s hope displayed in a vast dream that went beyond anything Ian could comprehend, to a time before Ian. To me, it appeared this hope radiated on a thin line dancing out the top of Angie’s head from a time before she was born.

“I can’t. She’ll get upset. Who knows what will happen!”

“He’s still upset about that businesses in the parking lot with his attorney. You should have heard them!” I thought out, but it bounced back, pulsing with static.

Ian looked in his mother’s eyes for signs of trouble. But for a small quiver in her left eye she appeared calm, and this assured Ian that as long as he went along with the new order, peace and tranquility would be maintained. So, without a word, Angie forced Ian to choose between himself and his mother’s peace of mind. In that game Ian would always stay silent to protect the peace.

“Why don’t you take Simon into your room and try to get some rest? We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”

Ian shut the door and sat with me on the carpet in his room. A quiet feeling blanketed us as Ian stroked my belly, and our hearts began to glow.

These were the last few moments we shared together in our apartment sanctum. The chalky cream-colored walls, berber carpet, formica counter tops, and cheap light fixtures, formed a cocoon that sustained and amplified our fuzzy connection to the outside world that seemed not altogether real.

As you’ve no-doubt already surmised, there are a number of odd things about my young companion. He has a mind that opens on numerous worlds. This world with Beau and his mother seems to be just one of many strange objects rambling around Ian’s head.

In subsequent times, those worlds got crossed and tangled, and I needed Ian more than ever to help me understand.

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