The woman on the television was grotesquely overweight, her hair a thatch of gray and what looked on the screen to be some flat amber-like coloring. A huge T-shirt printed with a bundle of multi-colored balloons lay like a tent over her chest. Her face was mess--she was crying, had been for some time. That was clear.
"You can get help here, Rory," she told the camera, sobbing. "Please come home. We love you. You don't have your insulin. You don't have none of your medicine." She poked at her eyes with a big red handkerchief. "Please," she said again, shaking her head, "we want to help you, and we're the only ones who can."
Rory had shot his girlfriend five times, but she was still alive. The news report said she was 19. He was 26. It was horrifying.
A preacher in his clerical collar, the girl's neighbor, said no one in town would ever have thought that something like this could happen there. "In a city, sure--but things like this are not supposed to happen here."
But they do, Carol thought. The six o'clock news verified that the unthinkable had occurred last night about two in the morning in a small town just thirty minutes down the river from where she and Lloyd were watching the news while finishing their vegetable soup. The search for Rory Melius had already begun, the reporter said. That morning, his Dodge Ram had been found on a gravel road that dead-ended on a bluff overlooking the Big Sioux River.
"Poor guy'll be dead," Lloyd told her. "You watch. He used that gun on himself, I’m sure." He raised a finger and pulled the trigger.
Carol looked at him angrily, but he wasn’t looking at her.
The reporter spoke to the anchor. "The police aren't saying much about Rory Melius. From all reports here, few people would have guessed he could do what police are saying it appears he did. They’ve issued no warnings, really. They're not saying that he's armed and dangerous."
"That's because he's already gone," Lloyd said to the TV. "He's not dangerous. His gun is empty. He put five into her and had one left."
"How can you say that?" Carol said.
"Well, count 'em yourself," he said, not looking up.
"That's not what I mean," she told him. "This isn't a movie, Lloyd--these are real people--good night, they're our neighbors almost."
He turned towards her. "It's domestic, honey. It doesn't matter that they weren't married. It's passion gone, shot to heck--love to hate to despair." He shook his head. "He's gone, Carol--you know that. Why do you think they're not putting out an APB?"
"I just wish you weren't so damned sure," she said. "Do you get some comfort out of that?--is that it?"
"Comfort?" he said.
"Yes, comfort," she told him, picking up his dish, the milk, their silverware, then getting up to bring it to the kitchen. "Does it build you up or something to think you know exactly how all of this is going to turn out?"
She could feel his eyes on her. "How come you're so angry?" he said.
"I'm not angry," she told him, her back to him. "I'm just not as sure as you are that you're clairvoyant, and I wish you wouldn't do that--tell me what the outcome of this horrible, sinful mess is, as if you knew--as if there were no hope."
"It's a plain old lovers' triangle," he said.
"It isn't a 'lover's triangle,' Lloyd--my goodness." She opened the dishwasher. It was still full from last night. "That's a real woman on the screen--somebody's aching. There's a young girl shot. Can't you see that?"
"Is what I said wrong?" he asked her, picking up the crackers and jelly. "To me, it just looked open and shut, honey. There's too many things here--"
"I don't want to hear any more, okay?" she said. "Let's just drop the whole thing."When he brought his dishes to the sink, she was still turned away from him.
Tomorrow: Troubled deeply, Carol visits the river herself.