51. I Made Decisions

“Gotta go,” I told Brimsnod and Duke after Doris’s call.

“Don’t give away the farm,” Duke said. “She’s got her money. You’re entitled to your own.”

“All due respect? Let me handle this.” I pushed back from the table.

“You intend to lock the portal behind us? Or you want us to leave it open?”

“Right. Sorry.”

“This is what I mean. Keep your head on your shoulders. Set up a meeting with Jen.”

Once I got the door barred behind them I hurried up the steps.

Sensible advice — keep my head on my shoulders. Except that it felt like it could float away.

Each day Doris had been gone landed like another boulder on my chest. Five days. I didn’t remember eating. A peanut butter sandwich here and there. Ice cream left over in the freezer. A T-bone at the Best Steak House three days in, when I was so weakened that I could barely walk a straight line. Basically a starvation diet.

I couldn’t find energy to change my clothes. What was the point? Without Doris what was the point of anything? Bathing. Brushing my teeth. My heart wasn’t in it. Flossing? Forget it.

I threw open the door to the kitchen.

She wasn’t there.

I called out. “Doris. Baby! Where are you?”

Nothing. And then, “In here, Charles.”

I followed her voice to the parlor.

She sat like a queen in one of Duke’s leather club chairs. She wore black tights, cossack boots that came to her knees, a wispy blouse. I was a stinking, underfed mess. Doris looked like she was back from the day spa. Composed. Appraising. How was it she looked so unaffected?

“You look great, baby, I can’t tell you…”

She held up a hand to stop me.

My thoughts were like one of those freeway wrecks in the fog, a lot of things running into each other from a lot of different directions. I dropped to my knees in front of her and set my hands of hers.

“You’ve been gone so long and I…”

Doris stopped me again, wrinkled her nose. “Charles,” she said. “Have you showered? Changed your clothes?”

“Since you left? I don’t think so. I don’t know.”

She patted my hand. I leaned in to kiss her. She put a hand on my shoulder to keep me at arm’s length.

“Have a seat, Charles. We need to talk.”

It’s not so simple, getting from my knees to my feet. There’s heavy lifting, creaking of joints, huffing, puffing. Eventually I dropped into the other chair.

“You want something?” I asked. “Cup of coffee? Pancakes? Maybe a waffle?”

No, no and no, she said. I braced for the worst. The path to Doris’s heart usually ran through her stomach.

“I had time to make some decisions, Charles.”

“Decisions, baby?”

“Here’s what’s going to happen.”

Monday: You gave it all away?!

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