Down and Dirty (Shameless Southern Nights)(2)

By: J.H. Croix & Ali Parker

I lifted my phone off its cradle and stuck the cold plastic against my ear in time to hear my dad’s greeting. “Jeremy, good to see you.”

“You too, dad.” And it really was, in a strange sort of way. I might have a mother lode of mixed feelings about my father, but I still cared about him. If there was one thing I’d learned in this mess, it was people could surprise you. Good people could do bad things, and bad people could do good things. Humans were the opposite of one-dimensional. As much as I hated what had happened to put him in here, he was still my father. There was a part of me that was always worried about what he’d look like the next time I’d see him, if there would even be a next time…

“Everything going okay in there?” I’d heard stories of what happened inside, just like everyone else, but my dad never said a word about whether those stories were true or not.

As expected, he waved a hand dismissively and sat back with the receiver cradled between his ear and his shoulders, his arms folded over his broad chest. “It’s fine. They’ve got me in isolation from the general population for now.”

“Isolation?” I sat forward. This was news to me. Propping my elbows on my knees, I met my dad’s light blue eyes and watched as a wall came down over them.

“It’s nothing. Standard procedure.” A muscle in his jaw ticked. It wasn’t standard procedure, not according to that twitch in his jaw. It was the only tell my dad had. And even then you’d only know it if you knew him really, really well.

But I wouldn’t meddle. Not because I didn’t care, but because Lovett men didn’t do things that way. We protected each other fiercely when we could, fought each other every step of the way if we disagreed on something, but we didn’t specialize in talking through shit. Though I chose not to ask, I’d worried his high profile would create problems for him behind bars and wondered if that was why he was in isolation.

“Okay,” I finally said. My father visibly relaxed when I didn’t push for more information. “Any other news I should know about?”

“You mean other than the trip they’re letting me take to Hawaii next month?” he joked, but his heart wasn’t in it. Something was bothering him, but he would tell me about when he was good and ready to do it. “Let’s not talk about what’s going on with me. There’s no news. How’re things out there?”

He gestured vaguely beyond the single grimy, barred window in the visitor’s room. “How’re my boys doing?”

There was no resentment in his tone when he asked about my brothers, nor would he ever beg me to speak to them on his behalf. He’d made his peace with my brothers’ lack of communication far as I could tell.

“We’re all good. There’s not much news out there either. I’m still working with Doc.” My father nodded. I’d been working residential construction for a local company since my football career went up in smoke going on ten years ago.

It was a solid, stable job. Not one that would ever see me leaving Cypress Creek, but like my father had made peace with my brothers not coming to see him, I’d made peace with staying in Cypress.

“Doc still talking about retirement?”

I nodded, thinking about my boss. A former military man who spoke about as little as I did, he’d been a good friend to me in recent times. “Yeah. Says he’s getting too old for this shit and he’s ready to start kicking back for once. Doubt he’ll ever do it.”

“He’d go crazy if he tried to sit still for too long,” my father agreed, nodding as a small smile played on his lips when he thought about Doc. They didn’t know each other well, but Roy respected Doc for giving me a job, and letting me keep it after everything that had happened. Some in town might not have done the same.

“As for the others,” I decided to start with my second oldest brother in the update line-up, purposefully avoiding the oldest. “Beau is, well, he’s Beau. He’s good. The firm just gave him another promotion. They worship the ground that man walks on.”

My father nodded, pride filling his eyes as I spoke about his thirty-two year-old son. Beau was an architect and a really successful one at that. He was well-liked and respected in the community despite who our father was. I doubted people even thought about Roy when Beau was in the room. He could play to any crowd as well as the best politicians could.

“Another promotion,” my father remarked. “That boy’s becoming a force to be reckoned with. Always said he would be.”

“Yeah, I guess he is.” Since I didn’t have any other news on Beau, I decided to move on to my middle brother. “Evan’s good too. He’s still working in the shop, nothing new to report there.”