by Bob Bekins
When we met, I couldn’t take my eyes off of hers. They were a very light brown and should have reflected an extraordinary amount of light, and of beauty. They did not. There was a coldness and, now late in life, a certainty that brought with it a hint of wisdom. Susan was able to tell me about that.
“I didn’t even know Roddie. His real name was Roderick, but no one called him that apparently,” she said as she pursed her dry, unadorned lips around the cigarette. The smoke wafted slowly out between the gaps in her teeth as she smiled.
“You see, I wanted to kill my ex-husband, Shawn. How was I to know that he would give the Jack bottle to Roddie? I couldn’t have known. I just put the bottle in his liquor cabinet and waited. It really was Jessica’s fault. She’s my daughter, you know. I didn’t even ask her. She just went looking through some of Shawn’s papers and found the life insurance policy statement. I guess she was surprised when she saw that I, her mother, was still the beneficiary. She came to me to complain. Now, don’t get me wrong, she was not asking what to do. She was just upset. I guess she figured I didn’t have any rights after the divorce. Jessica wanted to be the beneficiary. I knew I had to move quickly, or she would tell Shawn.”
I asked, “How long were you in prison?”
“Thirty one years. I’m 81 now. They gave me five years off for good behavior and the college courses I took. I could care less about the education, but it was something to do and gave me back five years of my life. For what, I don’t know. Useless! I worked two jobs to put Shawn through college and dental school. That should have been enough for him, but he wanted more; more money, more women, more thrills. I couldn’t stand it and we divorced. He joined the Army medical corps, and I had Jessica two months after the divorce was final. Shawn died the twenty-second year I was locked up. You want to hear something funny? Because he never changed the life insurance, when I got out, I had half a million dollars with interest sitting in the bank just waiting for me to spend it.
“The reason I called you is that I want to let everyone know something. No matter what you do. Let me say that again. NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, it is going to impact people and events that you don’t know about and never will. In prison your every breath is watched. You snore and your bunky wakes up; you move to the left or the right and you take up space that someone else wants to be in. All of life is like that. I didn’t mean to kill Roddie. It was an accident. They called it manslaughter. Thirty one years. What a waste. I am a lot more careful now. What I do matters, and I know that it matters to others as it ripples through their lives. Tell your readers that. What they do matters in ways they will never know to people they will never meet.”