: Seated once more in the parlor of the Tupperman home, Bruce Halloran pours himself another glass of iced tea. Across from him Phil Tupperman sits quietly, looking up at Bruce with interest and distrust. Figuring that the specter of Sara Joy might still be an issue, Halloran starts off,
“Ahh, firstly I think you should know that Sar--er, Gary Pitts is dead..”
Phil’s face shifts unsurely, and he asks when.
“About four years ago. Found out he had cancer and decided to end it on his terms.”
“Everything was always on his terms,” Phil says, a tinge of bitterness in his voice. Bruce suppresses the urge to chuckle and say ‘you’re preachin’ to the choir, sister.’ He takes a long sip of tea and says,
“So, as we go forward here, know that he’s gone. For good. Won’t be comin’ back. Lotsa folks showed up at the visitation with hand mirrors just to make sure...soooo...yeah.”
Nothin’, thinks Halloran. I’m gettin’ bupkis from this guy. Turning to look around, he lands again on the matronly portrait hanging above the fireplace.
“Who’s the lady in the picture?”
Phil looks down at his untouched glass of tea and answers evenly,
“That was my mother. Edith Agnes Tupperman.”
No wonder she’s so jowly, Bruce snickers to himself. Her initials were E.A.T. He’ll have to remember that for later.
“Is she the one who checked you out of Charity in ‘92?”
A tiny gasp passes Phil’s graying auburn moustache. There’s silence for a moment before Phil can muster a timid “yes.”
Bruce begins to slowly pace, an intimidation tactic he learned at Cox to deal with employees. Keeps you above them, makes them vulnerable. It came to him naturally.
“Did she move here from Kansas City to take care of you?”
Phil continues to stare at the glass of tea, his hands knotted between his knees.
“Y-yes, in a way.”
“And Gary Pitts came between you and Jeremy, right?”
Phil’s face is crestfallen, full of old pains and dried tears.
“How do you know all this?”
Halloran stops walking, and looks for the words to measure his answer. He can’t reveal the legal papers, he can’t indicate any reason for his interest other than friendship and charity. Two things of which he has very limited experience.
“Look, Phil. Recently I came into some...papers. Records that Pitts left with hi--well, with some mutual acquaintances who turned them over to me. He kept a kind of journal, and he wrote some things about what happened and...well, and what he eventually realized he’d done. And I’ve been asked by...some--one people--person! I’ve...taken on the task of making things...right.”
Phil’s eyes slowly leave the glass of tea and look up towards Bruce Halloran with a new kind of disbelief. The kind you see when you’ve discredited somebody’s belief system. With perfect clarity he says incredulously,
Halloran is taken aback by the directness of the statement.
“And you’re...right. I can’t make things better if I don’t know the details of what happened. I know some of it. But I need to know everything before--”
“Even if you knew everything, it wouldn’t matter!” shouts Phil for the first time in years. The passion of the feeling is unfamiliar and frightening to him, causing him pain behind his eyes. He buries his head in his reedy hands, running his fingers through his thinning, graying auburn hair to comfort himself back to a functioning place. Bruce watches this and realizes he’s about to muck things up.
This guy’s a scrambled egg, thinks Bruce, watching Tupperman breathe himself back to reality. So besides other scrambled eggs, what do they like? Bacon? Lie there and flake off bits of tasty goodness? No. Sausa--nope, get that one out of your mind, not helpful at all. Toast. Warm. Buttery if asked. Crusty, but firm. Supports the eggs. Toast.
It was right then Halloran realized he hadn’t had breakfast.
“Now Phil,” Halloran oozes in a voice he hopes will approximate sincerity, “I know this is difficult to talk about. But I understand. I do, I truly do. I knew Gary Pitts personally. I know he was a drugged-up drunken pestilent man-whore who’d sell out his best friend for a handjob and a Schlitz. Regularly. But deep down beneath the layers of pills and liquor and lies and deceits...and then down deeper still, beneath the bile and the plastic surgery, there was a man who actually regretted what happened. He regretted it enough to have other people try to make things right for him when he couldn’t. And even if I can’t do anything at all, at least I can listen. I’m guessing you’ve had a very long time to think about it and no one to tell it all to. Am I right, Phil?”
Phil’s head slowly emerges from his hands, his breathing now normal. He looks up at Halloran’s face, seated once more across from him. For the first time, Phil sits all the way back in his chair and crosses his legs. Taking the same attitude in his chair, Bruce clicks on the recorder on his phone and quietly sips his tea...This Is My New Orleans.