They spend most of the day talking about anything other than the present situation, and life seems almost normal until it’s time for supper. Peggy has prepared an extravagant meal—she cooks when she worries—and although both Jackson and Sam try to steer the conversation to more pleasant topics, Peggy is intent to dwell on the trouble.
“If they can’t find the real murderer, we’ll have to get a lawyer—how are we going to afford a lawyer? Do they know what this does to people, these false…what are they called, allegations? Do they know?”
She gets worked up, and no amount of assurance calms her down. Eventually, they resort to prescription drugs. Her worrisome ramblings taper off in both rapidity and volume as she sits on the couch, doomsaying. Her eyelids droop. He head wobbles.
She dozes while sitting.
“Bedtime,” Jackson says. “I’ll carry her, but you have to dress her.”
“I c’n durs m’slf,” Peggy mutters. Jackson scoops her off the couch and carries her to the bedroom.
“I feel kind of bad about drugging my mom,” Sammy says after tucking her mother in for the night.
“Don’t feel bad—she took the pill herself.” Jackson finishes up drying the dishes and leads the way to the front porch.
“Yeah, but we told her it was a mild sedative.”
“It is a mild sedative…unless you’re like five feet tall and weighing in at a buck even, like your mom is. I’m no doctor, Sammy—I can’t be expected to know how to down-dose just because your mom’s small.”
“It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you wanted to knock her ass out?”
“Eh, she was being a downer. I worked all day to cheer you up, and then here comes Ms. Doom And Gloom. Supper was a nightmare—thank goodness my mom couldn’t come or she would have been fretting right along with yours. And I doubt we could have pulled off drugging both of them.” He lights a cigarette, hands it to her, then lights one of his own.
“Oh, could you imagine?” She takes the cigarette absently. “The two of them together?”
“We’d all be sitting around crying right now.” He takes a deep drag of his cigarette. “Man, I love to smoke.”
“Remember, you said you were giving it up for good at the end of the day.”
“I’m counting the day being a twenty-four hour period, by the way—not by actual clock rules.”
“What does that mean?”
“I woke up at something like seven this morning. Which means that I get to smoke until seven tomorrow.”
“What kind of logic is that?”
“The kind that comes from a guy who isn’t going to get any more cigarettes at the end of the day. I don’t see you talking about quitting.”
“Hell no—I love to smoke. I think you’re an idiot.”
“I am,” he says, and sighs contently as he expels a breath of smoke. “I really am.”
“You did a great job of cheering me up, by the way. Sorry it’s all ruined.”
“Ah, it’s only ruined for a little while.”
“Yeah, until I get out on good behavior in thirty years.”
Jackson stands up and walks down the sidewalk to his car. He reaches in through the open window and pulls out a jacket and a bottle.
“Here,” he says, tossing her the jacket. The night air is getting chilly, and Sam’s threshold for the cold has always been lower than Jackson’s. He dumps some of the tequila into her cup of Mountain Dew. “And here.”
“I have to work tomorrow, you know.”
“No you don’t. If there was ever a reason to take a sick day, I would say being accused of murder counts.”
She stares at the end of her cigarette, and then looks at her plastic cup. “All right.”
“Here’s to innocence.” Jackson bumps the bottle against her cup and takes a swig. “Innocence lost, and innocence found,” he says, and takes another drink.