“Oh, you’re all right.” She pulled a
cigarette box from her apron pocket and
tapped it against her wrist. “Got a light,
“Callahan. Callin Callahan.” He pulled a
Bic from his pocket and passed it to her.
“Rae Grant. Thanks. Left mine in the
kitchen.” He watched her skinny fingers,
trembling slightly as she flicked on a
flame. She stuck the cigarette deep into
her mouth, puffed, and then blew out a
thick cloud of smoke, swirling in a hazy
sun-tinted orange as the breeze quickly
blew it away. “Callin...” She rolled the
name around on her tongue and pinched her
eyebrows together. “You know, I think
that’s what Michael, my brother you look
like, that’s what he wanted to name his
first son--Callin. Cute name...”
He swallowed hard and downed the rest of
his drink in two long gulps. Michael
“You sure you’ve never been to Chicago?”
“Nope, never have,” he said. “Never been
north of Tennessee, actually. My mother
used to live there, though... But that was
a long time ago.” He finished quickly.
“Ah, well, I’m sure it’s just a
coincidence.” She patted his hand again
and smiled, pushing herself up off her
chair. “Lemme see if your flapjacks are
He watched her again, unable to pull his
eyes away as she retreated to the kitchen.
It couldn’t be. No. Get it out of your
mind, Callahan, get it out and you know
your mother better than that.
He sighed again. Did he really? Did he
really know her at all? She always cried,
big red tears, whenever he asked about his
father. And the pictures... There’s no
pictures in the photo albums of when she
lived in Chicago. But... But... But, it’s
just a coincidence, that’s all.
He stood from the table and tucked the
newspaper under his arm. Fishing the
wallet from his back pocket, he laid a
twenty on the table, sticking it under his
glass so it wouldn’t blow away. He took
one glance, one swift glance back at the
kitchen, and strolled quickly away, his
shoes pounding hollow on the wooden
boardwalk as he left the café behind him.
The name bounced through his head with each
heavy step. Grant. Grant. Michael Grant.
The name on the birth certificate Mama
never meant for him to see. The only clue
he had to his father’s identity, a shameful
moniker scrawled on a piece of paper and
stuffed in a shoebox deep in the closet
where he was never supposed to be looking.
It was long after he had learned to stop
asking about his father when he found it,
and he never said anything, never let
himself think about it again. Until now.
The breeze did not reach far inland and the
sidestreets were already growing muggy.
Humidity, even in February, was the price
of living in southern Florida, and he was
used to it, but today it made him feel
nauseated. He was sick to his stomach and
wanted cool, clean air to breathe. But
there was none.
He absently fingered the badge on his
chest, running his fingertips over the gold
lettering. He would be promoted to
Detective by summer, they said. He was a
good cop, always did the right thing and it
was refreshing to see such young enthusiasm
in the force.
He thought about the father that he never
knew. About all the family stories the
other cops had and shared, the boyhood
memories that were simply an empty hole in
his head. He thought about Rae and her
sweet smile and how she would be bringing
out his pancakes and eggs just about now
and she’d wonder where he went.
And he thought about his mother, sitting in
her little shop, arranging carnations and
baby’s breath, spending all day there
because she says that’s what makes her
happy. He thought about her frail pink
skin and her sunken eyes and her nimble
fingers that could still make a champion
pecan pie on his birthday. He tried not to
think about her as the woman Rae had so
coolly described, but as the mother he knew
and the mother he loved and the mother who
deep down was still the same as she always
He paused for a moment, looking up at the
edifice that rose before him. It was one
of the oldest buildings downtown, dark red
brick and mildewed mortar. The steps were
cracked and crumbled a little, but still
jutted proudly from the pavement and cast
short shadows down the sidewalk. He sighed
and stepped inside, willing himself to do
it before he changed his mind.
“May I help you, sir?”
The air in the building was cool and the
lights were low and it would have been
almost comfortable in any other situation.
He scratched his short blond hair and
blinked at the receptionist. “Yes, I need
your cheapest pair of one-way tickets to
Canada.” Mama always wanted to visit
Canada. Surely they could use florists up
there just as well.
As the receptionist turned to face the
computer he sighed, reached up slowly, and
with thick fingers unpinned the badge from
his shirt and stuck it in his pocket.
Oh, Bravo! I loved it Kermie. I wonder if she really did kill him, lol.