I Had a Bone ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
August had to look away as his father and Mrs. Bone moved around the dance floor, weaving in and out among the other fools. It was too ridiculous. His father, looking like an undertaker in his conservative blue suit, clutched her to him as if he thought she might get away if he loosened his grip. Something about them as a pair was all out of proportion. He was six inches taller than she was, but her hips were wider and she had enormous arms as if she wrestled alligators in her spare time. She wore spike heels in which she had trouble walking and a red dress with an inch or so of cleavage. She wasn’t a young woman. August felt embarrassed for her.
When they returned from their dance, father held her chair out for her and then sat down himself. Quite the dashing fellow.
“Oh, my!” Mrs. Bone said. “That was fun, wasn’t it? We need to do that more often!” She picked up her martini and gulped it down.
“Not as young as I once was,” father said, breathing heavily and straightening his tie.
Mrs. Bone took a cigarette out of her bag; father lit it for her dutifully. “Would you like to dance with me, August?” she asked.
“I don’t know how,” he said.
“I can show you. It’s easy.”
“No, thank you.”
“You need to learn sometime.”
“I wouldn’t push that if I were you,” father said.
“While you were dancing I was wondering,” August said, looking at Mrs. Bone’s lipsticked mouth.
“Where is your husband? Where is Mr. Bone?”
“August!” father said
“No, it’s all right,” Mrs. Bone said. “It’s natural for him to be curious. Mr. Bone and I divorced about five years ago.”
“Do you have children?”
“Yes, I have three daughters.”
August could hardly keep from groaning. She was running true to form. He expected nothing less.
“Midgie is about your age. Deidre is younger and Thelma is older. Thelma will be going away to college next year.”
August could tell she was starting to get drunk. She was on her fourth martini and was having a little trouble forming her words.
“That Deidre is the cutest little thing you ever saw!” father gushed.
“I can’t wait for you to meet them,” Mrs. Bone said. “Midgie is a very accomplished piano player.”
August was going to ask why it was necessary for him to ever meet them when the waiter arrived with the food.
While he tore apart his chicken, he couldn’t keep from stealing little glances at Mrs. Bone. She focused all her attention on her food as if it might disappear if she looked away. She took enormous bites, seemingly as much as her mouth would hold. Butter dribbled down her chin.
“You know,” father said, wanting to be agreeable, “it does feel good to eat a meal out occasionally.”
“Yes, does,” Mrs. Bone said.
“The food here is excellent. I’m so glad you recommended this place.”
“Um-umm,” Mrs. Bone said.
When they finished eating, father and Mrs. Bone danced again. Upon returning to the table, father looked unwell. He was pale and sweating heavily. He wasn’t used to whirling a bottle blonde around a dance floor and drinking hard liquor.
“I’m going to get some air,” he said to Mrs. Bone.
“Do you want me to go with you?” she asked.
“No, you stay here and keep August company.”
With father gone, Mrs. Bone turned to August and smiled. Her lipstick was smeared from the lobster. “So, August,” she said, “tell me about yourself. What do you like to do when you’re not in school?”
“I like deep-sea diving and knife throwing.”
“Oh, August,” she said, “you’re making that up, aren’t you? Your father has told me all about your over-active imagination.”
“I think he’s a homosexual,” August said.
She looked at him and closed her eyes, exposing eyelids the color of mold. “Why would you think that?” she asked.
“He gets these mysterious phone calls at night. He goes on overnight trips and when he comes back he won’t say where he’s been.”
“That’s business. He’s told me all about it.”
“Sometimes when he thinks no one’s looking at him, he has a secret smile on his face.”
“Maybe he’s just feeling happy.”
“Are you going to marry him?”
“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t known him long enough to be thinking about that.”
“I don’t believe you. I think women size up men as husband material the first time they ever lay eyes on them.”
She smiled indulgently, like a fond governess with a naughty child. “You’re awfully worldly wise for one so young.”
“Did he tell you my mother committed suicide?”
“Didn’t it make you wonder? I mean, what reasons she might have had?”
“He said she had a chemical imbalance of the brain.”
“That kind of lets him off the hook, don’t you think?”
“What do you mean?”
“She hanged herself from a rafter in the attic. I found her when I came home from school that day.” (August was making this up. She died in bed after washing down a half-bottle of pain pills with a fifth of whiskey. There was even some doubt if she meant to do it or if it was somehow an “accident.”)
“Your father didn’t tell me that.”
“That’s when I was eight. I’ve been under the care of a psychiatrist ever since.”
“I’m sure it was terrible and I’m sorry for you and your mother.”
“You see, insanity ran in her family. Not everybody in her family had it, but she had it and she passed it along to me. I have the feeling that some day I’m going to do something a lot worse than commit suicide. I feel it inside me waiting to come out.”
“You probably don’t want to be around when it happens.”
When father came back to the table, he looked disheveled. He had loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. His hair, about which he was so particular, was sticking up in points.
“I’m sorry to have to break up this little party,” he said, “but I’m not feeling well and I need to go home.”
“Oh, dear!” Mrs. Bone said. “And it’s been such a pleasant evening!”
At home, August could hear his father vomiting in the bathroom. When he came out, he looked as ill as August had ever seen him look.
“Are you all right?” August asked.
“I will be as soon as I get the lobster out of my system.”
Later, after August had changed into his pajamas and was lying on the couch in front of the TV, his father came into the room wearing his bathrobe with nothing underneath.
“I’m going away tomorrow and will be back the next day in the evening,” father said. “Will you be all right here by yourself?”
“Of course,” August said.
“You won’t get into any mischief?”
“What did you think of Ida?”
“What did I think of who?”
“Mrs. Bone. What did you think of her?”
Ida Bone, August thought. I had a bone.
“I don’t want to speak ill of her,” August said, “but I didn’t like her.”
“Haven’t you ever disliked anyone instinctively on sight?”
“What did you say to her when I was in the men’s room being sick?’
“I didn’t say anything.”
“When I took her home, she was very reserved. That’s not like her at all. She didn’t ask me to call her as she always does and she didn’t say anything about my seeing her again.”
“Well, you know. Women.”
“She didn’t want me to kiss her goodnight.”
“Ugh! Why would you want to do that?”
“I felt a definite cooling from her this evening.”
“It’s probably for the best,” August said. “I don’t think she’s your type anyway.”
Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp