“Six fucking months,” he said, shaking his head. “The bastard didn’t even have the decency to offer her a goddamn tissue.”
“Pops, come on. You know Mom doesn’t like you talking like that.”
James sighed. “I know, Kiddo.”
As he continued speaking, Katherine thought about the past.
For as long as she’d known him, her father was crude; the profanity was nothing new. What was new was his concern for his wife’s welfare.
“Katherine, your father may be a little rough around the edges,” her mother used to say, “but deep down, he’s a good man. You just need to have a little faith and patience.”
A little rough around the edges? Katherine thought her mother had tolerated too much bullshit. And what had it gotten her? A six-month death sentence, while dear old Dad had a clean bill of health.
The irony was unbelievable.
Theresa Marie Allen never smoked a day in her life and only drank a sip of wine at Communion; she never willingly missed a weekend mass or holy day of obligation; she went to confession regularly, even when her only sin was coveting her neighbor’s ability to bake.
“Kids, thou shall not covet your neighbor’s things,” their mother had said, blinking back tears. “Baked goods fall under that Commandment.”
At the time, Katherine couldn’t understand why cookies were something to get so upset about.
James had no regard for God or his commandments, and if he felt so inclined—meaning he had surpassed his usual alcohol consumption—he’d look Theresa straight in the eye and spew obscenities laced with the Lord’s name just to make her cry.
And through it all, Theresa had faith and patience.
But it was James’ love affair with the neighbor’s cookies that hurt his wife the most.
James couldn’t get enough of those cookies. As soon as Theresa left for Saturday night mass, he’d have hat in hand and shout orders at his oldest child.
“Katherine, keep an eye on your brothers and sisters. I’ll be back in a few.”
And James Allen wasn’t kidding about being brief. He’d be back inside their home with a goofy grin in under fifteen minutes. Even as a teenager, Katherine knew none of it was worth bragging about.
“For Christ’s sake, would it have killed the bastard to wait until she stopped crying before he excused himself,” James said. “I mean, I know a bawling woman is a pain in the ass, but still. Where’s his fucking bedside manner? Hey, Kiddo. You listening?”
“Yeah, Pops. I heard it all. Every word.”
“So what do you think about how your mother was treated?”
Katherine paused. Her dad rarely asked anyone their opinion, so she was caught off guard. But she had waited a long time for this moment, and she wasn’t going to let it go.
“Well, Pops. Mom’s not one to complain or hold a grudge. But me, I never forget shit. I’m familiar with the bitter taste. And this all still tastes like bullshit.”
Katherine got up, rinsed her cup in the sink, and left.
James Allen wasn’t pleased. His daughter’s words struck something in him. Something he’d started feeling after his wife required weekly doctor visits.
He walked back the hallway and turned their bedroom doorknob slowly so he wouldn’t disturb his wife. He realized she needed rest and deserved peace.
He knelt beside the bed and for the first time since he was in grade school, James Allen recited the Lord’s Prayer. He ended with, “Forgive me for I have sinned.”
Theresa wasn’t sleeping.