Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Projectionist: Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Porter stopped mid-stride and turned to face the woman. "Say again?"
"My name is Debra Pendergast."
He walked back toward her, eyes locked onto her face now, looking for some resemblance that he'd missed. He saw none. "Am I to assume it's coincidence that you have the same last name as my wife?"
She laughed. "Of course not, silly."
"So?" Porter held his hands out, palms up, waiting.
"Well, it's complicated," she said. "It might be better to talk about it tonight over dinner." That big smile was back.
"Damn it, woman! Who? Are? You?"
Her smile switched off like a light and she blew a long sigh. "Porter," she said, "I'm sorry. I know I'm acting strange but the fact is, this situation is strange. Quite."
"That much I've gathered. Now spit it out."
She scrunched her face up, pointed her eyes left and right a few times, and finally said, "I'm Alice's sister."
"She didn't have a sister."
"Well, obviously she does."
Porter was ready to let loose on the woman and call pure B.S., but he stopped. Not that long ago, he would've sworn on a three-foot stack of Gideon Bibles that Alice didn't have a lawyer, didn'ty have her own will. "If that's so, why didn't I ever hear of you in forty years?"
"Like I said, it's complicated."
"Complicated. Very."
"Then simplify for this dim old man, how about it?"
"Are you sure we can't do this over dinner? It's a long story."
"Give me the short version now, and I'll meet you tonight for the full tale. Otherwise, I'm done with this game."
She sighed again. "You never heard of me because I didn't exist when you knew Alice."
He stared at her for a good fifteen seconds, trying to process that. Processing failed. "I knew her for forty years. You're what, fifty-five or so?"
"Fifty-nine, but thank you." The smile.
"That would mean you were nineteen when I met Alice. She was sixteen. That makes you her older sister, so how in Hades is it that you didn't exist?"
"I told you it was complicated. And I gave you what you asked for."
"The short version, Porter. You now have the short version, and if you want the whole thing, meet me at the diner at seven." She gave a curt little nod that said the conversation was over whether he liked it or not, and crisply turned and walked away.
At seven that evening, Porter was nowhere near the Diebold Diner. He had meant to be. He wanted to hear the rest of the crazy woman's story for entertainment if nothing else. But, he thought, shit just happens, don't it? He motioned for Harold to pour him another.
"Geez, Porter. You sure?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, because I've known you for at least twenty years and ain't never seen you take a drink? And now you're wasted?"
"I didn't know you were my daddy," Porter said. Then he thought about Harold being his daddy and since Harold was younger than Porter, that would really take some doing, now wouldn't it? He burst out laughing, slapping the bar over and over. He saw the look on Harold's face. "Don't look at me like I'm crazy. I'm not. Believe me, you don't know crazy."
"You need me to give you a ride home, man? It won't hurt for me to lock up for five minutes."
"Home? Why hell no!"
"Sorry, Porter. I can't serve you any more drinks tonight."
Porter started to get angry, but he wasn't the angry-drunk type and started laughing again instead. After another round of yucking it up and slapping the bar, a brilliant idea occurred to him. "You know what, Harold?"
"You can give me a ride."
"Good," Harold said. "Let's get you home."
"Not home. I have a dinner date, by God."
Harold looked dubious. "Uh, who with?"
"Alice's sister."
"Alice had a sister?"
"Nope. Let's go."