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The Restaurant With A Boot On It

She told him. She had told him. She has repeatedly told him. It never worked. It will never work. She knows this, but it doesn’t stop her from trying. Every day, every momentary chance she gets. But he won’t listen. He is an idea. He is a devil. He hounds her mind. He runs behind, beside, sometimes in front of the train of her thoughts. He’s been there for close to 20 years, since the day her grandfather blasted those bullets into her father’s heart. He was there when she saw her daddy in the cold steel casket. He was there while she was being questioned about that day by men in suits and uniforms. He was there when her mother had knelt by her chair to tell her that her grandfather would never hurt them or anyone again. He was there when she had discovered her grandfathers fresh grave in the family graveyard. Now as she prepared herself for today, he incessantly stabs her with doubts and questions. She tries to distract herself, asking if everything is in place. “Yes, yes”, comes the quick answer. Her mother seems to be under a similar weight, but she knows it cannot be the same. The hours seem to both speed by and drag on. Everything is ready. It is time. There’s no going back, really. To go back would be to forever shame herself and her family. Photos are taken. Hugs are given. Deep, calming breaths are inhaled, only to be released again. Her uncle Joe takes her arm with a wink and a sideways grin. The double doors swing open. At the end of the old church aisle stands the man who she will marry. A man who is about to marry a murderer.

The day started like any other day for a 5 year old girl. A breakfast of sugary cereal at the scuffed kitchen table. Her father, already having been up for hours, sitting at the table looking through the classifieds for a job. It had been 2 weeks since his last place of employment had gone bankrupt and closed for good; not that she understood, she was simply happy to have her daddy around. Sometimes he’d come across something in the paper and ask her mother what she thought about it while she was doing whatever mothers do in the morning. Her mother always said replied with a, “Sure honey, but are you sure that’s what you want to do for the rest of your life?”
“No not really.” Was the constant reply, as her father turned another page. Seeing that she had finished her breakfast, her father gave her a smile.
“Hey girlie, would you like to take a trip with your old dad?”
“Sure! Where to?”
“Well, I think I found a lead, and I want to go look at it. It’s right by the Holt’s house, and I know you and Annie get along.”
“Daddy, we don’t get along.”
“You don’t?”
“No, we’re best friends!”
“Okay then! Sorry for saying ya’ll just get along.”
“It’s okay. When are we going?”
“What about now?”

They were in his sedan within minutes, headed toward town with his favorite classic rock station playing loud enough to let her know that conversation wasn’t going to be easy. They arrived at Annie’s modest ranch home in a neighborhood that saw the city encroaching on it almost ominously. When Annie’s mother opened the door, and the small talk was out of the way, her father knelt to hug his daughter. He told her that he’d be right behind the house at the restaurant with the big boot on it for a couple hours, and that if she behaved, maybe they could go by the store for some candy afterwards. Tousling her hair, he wished Mrs. Holt a good day, and was gone.

After about an hour, while she was in Annie’s room, playing with her mini-kitchen set, she heard some yelling outside. Annie said it happened all the time, and sometimes you could see the people get kicked out of the bar. She didn’t know what a bar was, so Annie pulled aside her blinds and pointed. The bar looked like a restaurant that someone had forgotten to clean, and then someone else put a giant boot on it to mark it as dirty. She supposed they couldn’t move buildings into piles to be cleaned like she did her clothes, so they mark them. Annie went back to preparing her cupcakes, but she stayed to watch in case she could see something. The door burst open in front of a group of men. Two of them were hollering and trying to hit one another, but the rest were keeping them apart. One of the men who was holding one of the men back was her daddy. She knew he was strong, so she wasn’t worried. She knew it would be okay. She turned back to her own cupcakes, they were almost ready and she was excited to give one to her daddy. The arguing outside grew louder, but suddenly there were several popping sounds, and all was silent. Annie shrugged and said they might have broken it up. Several minutes later, sirens were screaming outside. She got up to look, but she couldn’t see anything.  There were a lot of people now, and lots of police cars and ambulances. But no sight of her father. He was strong, he was okay. He would come for her. But he never did. Her mother did, but never her father. The next time she had seen him was the day he was put in the ground.

Later she came to understand that the man her father was holding back was his own father. He was trying to keep him from hurting another man, and being in the drunk state he always was, her grandfather had turned his wrath toward his son. His wrath on that day was in the form of a pistol and 3 bullets. After he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars, he wrapped a bed sheet around his neck and jumped off his bunk. Her family did not talk about either death very often, and if it was mentioned it was always with cryptic words and quietly. Her grandmother declared one holiday that if it wasn’t for her husband’s stupidity, the family would be living in mansions by then. The way it was, the family was mainly broke, their reputation tainted by the murder. Her mother had only finished high school, making finding jobs hard. Leaving no money for things like new shoes, candy, and counseling.

He had started by telling her that her father was dead, which was true, but he didn’t stop there. He told her that it was all her fault. If she would have said that she didn’t want to go, maybe he wouldn’t have either. If she could have gotten his attention through the window, he wold have left the group and not have been shot. If her grandfather hadn’t of shot him, maybe wouldn’t have shot anyone. If he wouldn’t have shot anyone, he wouldn’t have hung himself. It was all her fault. Everything that went wrong inevitably became her fault. Her mother couldn’t find a job because she had to care for her daughter. Her mother was tired all the time because she was woken up by her daughter having nightmares. Her mother tried dating other men, but none of them worked out because of her daughter. He told her so. He told her that no guy would want to marry someone like her. She didn’t know what to do when the boys at school started noticing her, so she buried herself in her school. There was one boy who got through to her, but she soon found that he only wanted her body. While she was in college, she met a man who was perfect. She didn’t want to marry him, because she didn’t want him to die. She told him that she didn’t want anything to happen to him, so she didn’t want anything to happen between them. He convinced her that they should give it a try. That was a year and a half ago.

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