“You sure? He ain’t his old piss and vinegar self.”
“Like that’s a bad thing.” An emotion close to worry briefly appeared in Starla’s eyes. “How serious is this?”
“Serious enough for him to call you home.” She sniffed with disdain. “I’ll let you judge for yourself.” Cigarette in hand, she pushed open the door to the den without knocking. “Get up, you old bastard, Trevor is here.”
“Jesus, Ma.” Trevor brushed past her. The room was dark except for a lamp in the corner and the glow of the big screen TV mounted on the far wall.
Tater Glanzer was in bed. Trevor didn’t remember ever seeing his dad in bed past eight in the morning. Tater wore plaid pajamas, his face was pale and his yellowed hair stuck up like sections of straw.
At one time everyone commented on the resemblance between Trevor and Tater. As years passed and his father packed on weight, the likeness was less pronounced. But for Trevor, the only differences that mattered were those on the inside.
“Come in, boy. Starla, shut the goddamn door behind you.”
“If I leave I ain’t comin’ back in here to wait on you.”
“After thirty-six years you think that’s a big surprise to me? Send Lianna in here after a bit. Make sure she knocks first.”
The door shut hard enough to rattle the DVDs on the end table. His parents’ sniping and the door slamming barely registered. Trevor pulled up a folding chair, spun it around and straddled it, propping his arms across the back. “So I’m here. What do you want?
Now that I can plainly see you ain’t gonna die.”
“Ain’t got much sympathy for me, do ya?”
“Hell yes. I’m your father.”
“Yeah, well, that’s something you said embarrassed you on a daily basis, so try again.”
Tater looked away. “We’ve all said and done things we ain’t proud of, son.”
That admission was the closest he’d ever get to an apology, but it didn’t soften Trevor toward the ornery SOB one iota.
“Speaking of…why didn’t your wife come with you? Ain’t none of us met her yet.
Makes me wonder if you’re ashamed of her.”
Rage erupted inside him, precisely the reaction his father goaded him into, so Trevor refused to grant it to him. “Leave Chassie out of this. You spewed a buncha racist bullshit about her once and you ain’t ever doin’ it again. So if you can’t be civil when you speak of my wife, I’ll walk out the f**kin’ door right now, old man, understand?”
The outburst appeared to have pleased Tater. “See? That’s why you’n me didn’t get along. You don’t have no problem speakin’ your mind.”
Trevor laughed bitterly. “Don’t you mean I ain’t never had a problem talkin’ back to you? And if I recall, my face met the back of your hand every goddamn time I was stupid enough to speak my mind.”
“Didn’t do no good. You’ve still got that same smart mouth.”
“I piss you off, you piss me off, old news. If you called me here because you needed someone new to fight with, I’ll be hittin’ the road. I’ve got lots of stuff goin’ on at home that I’d rather be doin’.”
His father considered him in silence.
“Good luck.” Trevor stood.
“Sit your ass back down. Now.”
“Fine. You’re right. I ain’t ready to lay down and die. But this little spell has shown that I’ve been short-sighted in decidin’ the future for the Glanzer Ranch.”
“Again, I ain’t a lawyer. What does this have to do with me?”
“Simple. I’m askin’ you to move back here and take over. For real. No bullshit. No head games. I’d put you in charge one hundred percent.”
His dad squirmed, but he nodded. “In writing.”
“Because you’re the only one with guts. Brent has no initiative. He’s no better’n a trained monkey; he’ll do whatever your mother or I tell him to do. Same with Lianna, though she’d like to tell us off, she don’t have the balls. And Molly and her husband are both dumb as damn posts so they ain’t any help.”
“What about Tanner? I thought he raced back here to prove his loyalty, abidin’ love and concern for you.” Trevor couldn’t stop the sarcasm.
“That’s what he’d like everyone—includin’ me—to think. Truth is, he sucks in the arena, he’s pissed away any chance to compete in nationals yet again, and he thinks I’m so damn dumb I don’t know it.”
“Which tells me why you didn’t pick Tanner, but it don’t tell me why after I’ve been considered a f**k-up my whole life, that all of a sudden you’re offerin’ this to me.”
“Because you grew up, boy. No more whorin’, drinkin’, chasin’ the rodeo dream.
You’ve shown you can be responsible. By makin’ your own way you’ve shown I can trust you.”
“So by me leavin’ here…now you’re offerin’ me everything I ever wanted?” Why did that scenario seem familiar? Because his situation with Edgard had gone along those same lines?
“What’s the catch?”
“No catch. I’m serious. As a heart attack.”
Trevor didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He stood and paced. “Who else knows about your change of heart attack?”
His dad’s rusty chuckle pieced the air. “I ain’t told no one, not even your ma. But I’m sure Lianna and Brent suspect. Tanner thinks by suckin’ up, I’ll be swayed by his so-called charms.” Tater harrumphed. “Goddamn idiot. He knocked up another chick in Oklahoma right before Thanksgiving.”
“Another?” Trevor scowled. “How many is that now?”
“Four. Three bastard grandbabies spread from California to Florida. Tanner ain’t got a pot to piss in after he gets done payin’ child support every month. And he could give a shit about any of them kids. The mothers don’t want nothin’ to do with him so the closest me’n Starla come to seein’ them is in pictures.”
And yet Trevor didn’t feel sorry for Tater. He’d paid no attention to his own kids unless he was whipping them, so Trevor didn’t know how Tanner was supposed to have turned out any differently as a father with Tater as a role model.