Part II: Journeys (Chapter 20)


Sal and Phil arrive from the Happy Haven Nursing Home, where Nana now lives. We decide to go to North Sioux for a few beers, play a few slots.

“Think we should visit Nana first?” Shel asks.

“When I left, Ma wasn’t feeling too good. They gave her a sleeping pill. She’ll be out for the night.”

“So she won’t get bent out of shape if we don’t stop by tonight?”

“I doubt it. Though she was a little worried about you getting here in time.”

“Wouldn’t miss this event for all the world,” Shel says.

“I’ll call and leave a message at the desk,” Sal says, already dialing the number.

“Nan asked about Ruby,” Phil says, cracking open a PBR. “She’s a bit nervous about meeting her.”

“God knows I am,” Sal says, cupping her hand over the receiver.

“It’ll be okay,” I say.

Phil takes a swallow of beer. “Where’s that Nikki-girl, anyway?”

I knew that, sooner or later, this question was coming.

I’m just glad that Phil’s the one who asked it.

“Nikki wanted to come,” I say. “But she just couldn’t get time off from her job.”


The Mallorys have this knack for leaving behind important things.

I don’t understand why we have so much difficulty hanging onto our people.

I mean, it’s not like misplacing a notebook or something else as equally replaceable. We’re talking about our flesh and blood.

I’ve always wanted to ask Nana why we left Ruby behind, why we couldn’t have brought her back to Sioux City with us. God knows we had enough family around here to raise her.

Now it’s too late.

How can I ask a dying person such a question?

I need answers, lots of answers.

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