“Blindsided,” Chapter Two

I hang up on Dickhead without uttering another word. He’d have done the same to me, not that I give a shit. Besides, I have more pressing matters haunting my wary mind.

“Coach Smith must have really pissed someone off this time,” I babble to my uncaring, still-hungry cat. “I’d hate to cross that person.”

Perhaps developing thicker skin isn’t that hard.

“Sorry Stinky,” I say regretfully, hurrying into the kitchen, “it’s going to be dry food today because Mommy probably isn’t going to be home until late, if at all tonight.”

I grab a huge plastic container from one of the cabinets and heap dry cat food into it. Stinky drinks out of the toilet, so I never have to worry about water. I just leave the seat up.

“Mommy loves you,” I croon, giving her head one last scratch before grabbing my purse and keys from the dining room table and rushing out the door.

The humidity never ceases to amaze me. It’s like ramming a car full speed into a brick wall. Today is no different.

I half walk, half jump down the cobweb-blanketed stairs of the two-story building like the everyday obstacle course they are to me. I have an irrational fear of spiders, so I always zig-zag up and down the stairs to avoid walking into the webs or, worse, spiders. The mere thought makes me shudder despite the heat of the morning.

I open the door to my two-tone, piece-of-shit 1994 Ford Tempo, turn the key in the ignition, flip the air-conditioning on full blast and drive slowly out of the trailer park/apartment complex. If you can call only two buildings with two apartments on the second floor of each a complex. It’s like the apartments randomly were placed smack-dab in the middle of a trailer park.

The garbage dump for the entire place is right where my apartment is, and then there are train tracks just beyond the wrought-iron fence behind my building that allow me the pleasure of listening to trains blaring their horns all night.

Funny thing is, I’m starting to get used to the trains. They’re almost comforting in the quiet of a lonely night. Especially when you’re a big scaredy-cat like me. I must admit that I check my closet and under my bed every night because I’m afraid of the bogeyman. Or something along those lines. Not that I will publicly admit it to anyone, but there it is.

I know Dickhead wants me to hurry, but he’s never had to drive through this place. There is no such thing as driving fast through here because the seemingly endless speed bumps are mountainous and quite easily will destroy a car’s undercarriage. Plus, there are lots and lots and lots of kids. And then, of course, there also are all kinds of criminals running around here.

I have to laugh every time I read the paper’s daily police blotter or I’d go mad. The address to this trailer park shows up more than any other in the police news, which really is sad. In addition to all of the kids, it’s infested with drug addicts and small-time shoplifters, among all of the other various and sundry crooks. And don’t let me get started on all of the, shall we say, suspected meth labs.

“Probably why my rent is so damn cheap,” I mumble as I reach Lexington Road.

Luckily, no one ever bothers me. My car and apartment always are left alone. Who knows? Maybe they cased both and figured I have nothing worth stealing. The only possessions I have of value to me are my cat (she really owns me, not the other way around), my rather extensive book collection and my nutcrackers, which I keep in a small climate-controlled storage unit with the rest of my Christmas stuff since there’s just not enough room to fit it all in my apartment.

But I digress …

I turn left on Lexington like I’m heading to work, but a quarter-mile down, I jump onto Interstate-65 South. Bluegrass High is three miles away, literally just off the interstate.

A smoke sure would be nice right about now. But I quit when I first moved into my apartment, and I’m determined that it will be for keeps this time. I know I’ve said it all of the other times I tried quitting before that lasted for all of one day; however, I mean business this time. Seriously.

But damn, there still is nothing quite like having a nice smoke when you’re under a lot of stress. And this is one of those rare times since quitting a few weeks back that I find myself craving my beloved Doral Menthol Full Flavor 100s.

I happily smoked for nearly 10 years, but after turning 33 in May, I seriously began toying with the idea of quitting … for good. Especially when I found myself thinking that I’d maybe like to have children of my own someday. I’m not involved with anyone, not for a while now, but children definitely are a welcome possibility in the future.

Of course, there must be love and a significant other involved in the making of a baby, in my humble opinion. I refuse to do any of that artificial insemination crap. It’s just not for me. It’s too cold and impersonal. My best friend, Kayla Brand, did it, and her son is fine. But he doesn’t know his father, and never will. I don’t know how I’d feel about that, my child not knowing his or her father. And I’m sure Colt, Kayla’s son, is going to have lots of questions Kayla won’t be able to answer when he’s older. I just hope Kayla is honest and forthcoming with him when that time comes.

I’m thankful for my parents. They never lie to me, nor I to them. I just can’t fathom the not knowing. I don’t fault Kayla for her decisions. She’s a fantastic mother to her 3-year-old son. I guess I really just don’t understand. But that’s me. And who, indeed, am I to judge her or anyone else?

Yeah, my mind tends to wander. A lot. It’s almost like I’m mindlessly babbling inside my own head -– oh, the irony –- just so I won’t have to think about Coach Smith. As intense as my dislike for him while he was alive, I could never wish this on him. My heart aches for his family. I can’t begin to imagine their pain. I hope I never do, selfish though that may seem.

As I near the exit for Bluegrass High, I turn on my blinker. The high school is the first right off the exit ramp.

There’s an endless array of flashing lights from every imaginable emergency vehicle and law enforcement agency. It’s surreal, like something out of a Mary Higgins Clark mystery novel. She’s by no means graphic to the point of disturbing or disgusting in her writing style, because I just can’t handle every single little gory detail, but I love the strong female protagonists featured in the majority of her books. I identify with them, with their strengths, even their weaknesses.

Perhaps I should start reading books by the likes of Edna Buchanan and Patricia Cornwell. My friends from my book club keep telling me I should, but other than Clark, I tend to gravitate toward sports and romance novels. I like biographies and autobiographies, too. But Buchanan and Cornwell sure would come in handy right now. Their strong female characters in their respective book series –- a crime reporter and a medical examiner, from what my friends keep telling me –- already would have assessed the situation and been asking questions while I continue to act like a greenhorn who’s never interviewed anyone or written a story.

But I just don’t do real-life whodunits, murder, crime, whatever. Reading is one thing. Living it is another.

I’m at a loss. I feel lost. I don’t even know where to begin.

What’s the protocol? Who should I talk to first? Who do I NOT talk to? How do you even talk to a person in mourning?

Reading Clark did me absolutely no good, at least as far as how to prepare myself for this very sobering situation. My usually sharp, quick mind is drawing a blank from all of those books I stayed up so late night after night reading from start to finish. I apparently learned fuck all. Either that, or my mind is so scrambled that I just can’t grasp anything. That has to be it.

I know how to deal with tearful coaches, athletes, family members and fans, but only after losing or winning a big game. Not death, and certainly not murder.

This doesn’t even come close to comparing to my everyday job. This is real, and I’m about to get a crash course in how to become a cops and courts reporter.

I’m not looking forward to this at all. I just want to crawl back into bed and go back in time, but I know I cannot. Like it or not, for better or worse, I have a job to do.

I turn into the school’s driveway and park to the side of it because the entire lot is cordoned off with unmistakable yellow police tape that clearly states, “Police line. Do not cross.”

This is Arabian country. The Arabians. That’s the nickname of Bluegrass High School’s sports teams.

“The rubberneckers sure are out early,” I note to myself in amazement, estimating about 100 or so onlookers already milling about on my side of the police tape, gossiping and craning their necks trying to see what no one ever should have to see, “and so, un-damn-fortunately, are the vultures.”

I always refer to TV and radio personalities as “vultures,” especially the ones here in Bluegrass. Many of them seem to have a “whose-life-can-I-ruin-today” mentality, and they all revel in it. I never can understand why those people relish another person’s misery. I can’t stand them. Now you can understand why I hate Dickhead so much. He’s just like them, except he treats the people who work for him like shit and probably gets off on it, too.

But more about that later.

I have bigger bass to hook on my fishing line than to stand here and think about TV and radio assholes. And Dickhead, of course. Can’t forget his sorry ass. No siree.

I grab a small handheld reporter’s notebook and a couple of pens out of the glove compartment before exiting the car. I keep a shitload of them in my Tempo because, well, you just never know when you’re going to need them. They sure are handy to have around when you’re in a hurry.

Like today.

“Deep breaths,” I remind myself. “Deep breaths. You’ll get through this. You’re a reporter. Just be confident, and if you don’t know something, hunt down someone who CAN give you the answer. You’re great at being relentless. You’re a bulldog. Treat it like a game. You’ll be fine. Just treat it like a game and don’t make it personal. You can do this. You’re strong.”

And perhaps I’ve listened in on way too many coaches’ pregame speeches designed to motivate their teams. Why, now, do they seem paltry in comparison as I prepare to face what will be the biggest event in my life to date?

I’m anything BUT pumped up for this.

Here goes nothing.


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