The next time I saw Mr. McBride, I didn't recognize him at first. The clean-cut fellow sitting across from me at Clancy's Bar might have been a salesman or a well-to-do retired gentlemen. Hair neatly trimmed and combed, a fresh yellow shirt smiled beneath a neat, brown sweater--it was only when he spoke I recognized his voice.
"More ginger-ale when you have a chance, Chuck." He slid an empty glass toward the barkeep.
"Here you go, Jack." The bartender slid a fresh supply his way.
Curiosity got the better of me and I moved over close. "Hi, Mr. McBride," I said. He glanced my way with a puzzled expression.
"We talked a few months ago here in the bar," I explained.
"Oh, no wonder I don't remember you. I was doing a bit of drinking back then."
"You were a little tipsy." I took a long sip of my beer. "Have you spoken to your daughter lately?"
His hand slipped on the glass. He shot me a glance. "You know my daughter?"
"I know her a little. You mentioned Kate before."
"Well, if I spoke about her before, then you probably already know she never speaks to me." He drained his glass and slammed it down, followed by a carbonated belch.
"Well, I was thinking maybe things had changed."
"Yeah, well, it hasn't. I sobered up, got cleaned up. I went to her place and knocked on the door, and she wouldn't open it. I felt like an asshole standing there in the hallway, She was yelling at me from behind the door. Her neighbors started poking their heads out, gawking at me. I had to get out of there. I don't know what she wants."
"I see." I wondered what Kate McBride wanted, too. I watched as Jack McBride ordered a double Irish whiskey.
Several months later, I read Jack McBride's obituary. Funny how you can feel pangs of sorrow for someone you barely knew. The man touched me. His loneliness, his disappointment--he wore it like a penitent's burlap sack. The daughter who wouldn't speak to him reduced the man to nothing.
Not long after, I ran into Kate at a party. Well, to be honest, I went looking for her. I knew she'd be there. I wanted to know what made that girl tick. Surrounded by admirers, I found her mesmerizing a crowd, discussing a fine point of law one minute and flirting with feckless first year law students the next. In the back of my mind a thought nagged that I was one of those feckless youths endeared by her charms once.
When the crowd thinned, I approached. Her glittering eyes blinded me, but I pressed on. I had questions.
"Jim! How are you?"
Her sultry smile ran circles around my heart. That's what I always loved about her. She was smart and damned sexy, too.
"Kate, you're looking fabulous."
"I thought you hated parties."
She had a good memory. It was a gripe of mine when we went out. I'm a stay at home kind of guy.
"Well, I made an exception tonight. Actually, I heard you might be here."
Her surprised expression threw me off balance. I'd made it look like I was stalking her. I hurried to explain myself.
"I wanted to talk to you about something...someone." Ever since I'd read the obituary, that man's haunted eyes kept coming into my head, the eyes that glared at me in the bar when he spoke of his daughter. She waited, expecting me to explain.
"I met your father."
Her eyes widened. Then she looked away. "That's impossible."
"I came to know him at Clancy's Bar. I know he died a couple months ago, He told me a lot about how proud he was of you."
Her face hardened. "That was bull. He wasn't proud of me; he couldn't even stand me." She blinked and wavered on her feet. I helped her to a chair.
"Are you all right?"
"It's just the heat in here. Could you get me some water?" She placed her wine glass on a table and leaned back. I dashed off and returned with water to find her resting comfortably.
"Here, darling," I said, offering the glass.
She smiled at my endearing phrase and accepted the drink. "You may as well have my wine. No more drinking for me tonight."
Gratefully, I washed it down as our eyes met. Hers reached at me in curiosity and mine glared her way, simply adoring her. The spell burst as I remembered the purpose of my visit, to find out why she hated her father so. She smiled at me knowingly.
"Jim, dear, my father didn't merely pass on. I was with him when he died... I poisoned his tea.
She watched as I fell backward in alarm.
"Oh, and Jim, dear, I also poisoned that wine you just drank."
I choked and fell to my knees. My last vision was Kate's disarming smile.
Copyright 2008 JO Janoski
Part One can be read here.