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           “Look what the cat dragged in,” Corazon said. She held the door open for him.

           “Hi,” Kerry said. He could barely bring himself to look at her.

           There was a cat sitting in the window, a straggly animal that arched its back at him and then fled. Kerry, not knowing what to do with himself, walked over to the window. The sill was cold to the touch.

           “Corazon,” he said. He had planned to come and tell her something—some story about hearing that Victor was dead. She deserved that. But now he couldn’t. The words like bullets, jammed and misfiring.

           She was wearing some sort of perfume. He had been thinking about the photographs of her, wishing he had one.

           Brief vivid flashback: putting the hat over Victor’s face. Back then he hadn’t given a damn about the guy, but a human death: some instinct says you have to treat that with respect.

           “My mom married this guy,” Kerry found himself saying. “We called him the Schoolteacher. He k-killed my sister.” Mis-fire. This wasn’t what he meant to talk about at all. “He had this thing about towels on the bathroom floor.  Or leaving the cap off the toothpaste.  Or not folding your t-shirts right.” Words sticking, then coming in a rush, then jamming again. Not working right.

           The cat jumped back up on the windowsill and sat at the edge, watching him. Not asking to be petted.

           “My mom had a couple of kids when I was in Kuwait. Not by him. Other guys. First Bernadette, then a couple of years later, Julia.  A couple of years ago, Julia disappeared.  She was six.  Bernadette called me Kiwi because Julia can’t say ‘r’s.  Kiwi.” He licked his lips, suddenly dry. But afraid to stop talking. “Julia was a majorette, you know, with the batons and the little leotard and the boots?”

           The cat regarded him steadily. Corazon was silent behind him.

           “The Schoolteacher is smart, Corazon.  We all knew he did it.  Cops knew he did it.   But there was no body and finally the cops disappeared and mom started sleeping all day. I was living up in Bakersfield. I came down to visit and Bernadette’s school had a Halloween thing and she was dressed like Catwoman and I went with her and him to the school thing.  He had his eye on her.  He watched her like a hawk.  She won some stupid prize and came running up to me all smiles and threw her arms around my neck and whispered, ‘Kiwi, he’s gonna kill me cause I know where Julia is.’ 

           “I looked up and he was watching us.  So I laughed and said, “You bet, Bernadette!” 

           Kerry couldn’t remember when he had ever talked so much in his life. “After I shot him, Bernadette took me out to where he’d buried Julia.  He took her out there, see, and showed her.  It was a lesson.  He was big into lessons.”

           He wanted a drink of water so bad. “He liked it when people were scared.”

           Unable to stand it anymore, he looked back at Corazon. She had a gun in her hands and it was pointed at his heart.


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