#xd30 – six – abrupt 

first chapter

When I answer Josephine’s phone calls, which are usually quests for money, I can tell what she wants and how much of it. 
If it’s a small amount, she is cheerful and kind. Josephine even inquires tidbits about my life.
“How’s Manny doing?” My son.

“Still keep up with the jackass?” My son’s father.
The conversation is always quick but not before she has a PayPal confirmation email. 
When my big sister needs a lump sum, however, she makes sure I feel her stress across the cell tower. 
Josephine doesn’t think I know her game, but I’ve been playing it since birth.
What throws me off today is the lack of emotion she has when I pick up the phone. I don’t have time to figure out what she’s calling for–she lays it out for me.
“Charlie, it’s Dad.”
So that’s how I end up on Route 11 back home to Virginia. I’d merged over onto 3 interstates before getting slammed by 81 traffic.
“Mom, this is boring, ” my son sighs outside the passenger side window. 
My 9 year old Manny usually has the ability to sit still for a few hours whilst reading a book or definitely playing video games, but hour 6 of this road trip has him on edge.
I can tell he doesn’t want to bother me with his frustration, but sometimes I wish he’d act a little bratty. Only sometimes.
To speed this trip along, I take the next possible exit to get away from slow moving cars and exchange it for country stores and long winding roads.
In about 2 more hours, I’d be back home for the first time in 5 years. The funeral of my mother kept me away for as long as I could. But I couldn’t avoid “home” any longer.
“What’s going on with Dad?” 
I sit up in my bed a little breathless. It’s been 5 years since I’ve buried a parent but every day it’s a fresh reminder. And my Dad, who I was always closer with, has not been the same since she’s passed. I call him as often as possible, and he does the favor of pretending Josephine isn’t calling me every other week for this or that. 
He makes sure I have everything I need, despite me being on my own now for almost 15 years. 
I am not fully registering my sister’s words but she says “stroke” and “intensive care” and for the first time in a while, I do not have to hesitate when she asks for something. 

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