First published in The Shine Journal (2008)
Sheriff Jessep climbed out of his cruiser and shuffled toward the woman he knew to be in her sixties. She sat in a white, plastic chair in front of a silver and blue mobile home that protected her from the sun. She wore fatigues and a sun bonnet. A shotgun rested in her lap.
“Howdy, Dorothy.” He stopped a few feet away.
“Hey, Walter,” she said without taking her eyes off the entrance to the trailer park.
“How’re you doin?” He knew the answer, but asked out of politeness.
“Fine,” she replied. “Just waitin for my boy to come home.” She turned to face him. “You remember Jeffrey, don’t you. He’s such a good boy.” She returned her concentration to the dirt road leading out of the park.
The sheriff edged toward her, his eyes on the hand that held the gun in place. He noticed the finger hooked into the trigger guard and hoped the weapon wasn’t loaded.
He sat in the matching chair to her right and placed a hand on her arm. “Jeffrey’s not coming home, Dorothy. He died in Viet Nam.”
Dorothy flinched. The gun slipped off one knee. Without taking her eyes off the road, she moved it back in place. “Nonsense,” she said. “He promised me he’d come back.”
“He’s been MIA for thirty years.” He turned in his chair and put a hand on hers. Bing Crosby crooned from one side of the park, while some female whose name Walter couldn’t remember belted out *Don’t Wanna Lose You* from the opposite direction. “Give me the shotgun, Dorothy. You don’t need it.”
“It’s Jeffrey’s,” she said, pushing the sheriff’s hand away. “I promised to keep it for him. He’ll want it back when he gets here. You remember Jeffrey, don’t you.” She swiveled her head like an owl looking for its prey and faced the sheriff. “He’s such a good boy.”
Walter attempted to ease the weapon from her lap. When she tightened her grip, he lifted his hand off hers.
“Your neighbors are worried about you, Dorothy. They don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
He looked down the empty road for a few minutes and then back at Dorothy. He reached for the shotgun once more.
“It’s okay, Dorothy. He’ll be back.” He saw her shoulders relax, slid the weapon from her lap, laid it on the ground and took her hand in his. They watched robins peck at the lawn across the street. An air conditioner hummed in the distance. Bing’s voice no longer caressed the humid air, and the unknown female was replaced by Ray Charles singing *I Can’t Stop Loving You*.
They sat without speaking until Dorothy said, “You remember Jeffrey, don’t you. He’s such a good boy.”
“Yes, Dorothy,” Walter said. “I remember Jeffrey, and you’re right. He was a good boy.”