"I'd hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask."
I flinch as a wrinkled stack of fingers lay lazily on my shoulder. Averting my eyes, I mumble, "I'm busy. I'm sorry." My hands numbly grab my purse and peel open the gate of my long-gone papa's favorite cafe, all while my head spins. I didn't have time for questions. There was enough pain eating from the same dishes that my papa's fork once scraped.
"I implore you, please."
I jerk my shoulder out from under their dead-flower fingers and fumble with my keys.
"Please?" The voice stayed level, and it faded away underneath the roar of the road.
After a few repeated no's under my breath, I manage to jam the keys into the ignition, and drown my ears out with the crackly radio.
My toes relish the carpeting when I am inside my house, but my mind continues to drift back to the old, mahogany voice. What question could have been so urgent?
Sinking underneath an old quilt, I try to let the mattress suffocate me as I fall asleep.
The next sunrise breakfast brought another round of soft rapping on my shoulder.
"This is important. Please."
I shy away from the ancient body, my hands creeping up into my long sleeves. My purse falls from my shoulder and several items tumble out, but I snatch it up, narrowly missing a pair of raisin-fingers. Stumbling in my heels, I run from the cafe garden enclosed by a picket fence.
I don't know who the ancient body is, but I know there is something off about them that makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the hands that appear more like an old leather couch than part of a human body.
My car whimpers as I turn the keys, but I press my foot against the gas, angry and confused and dazed all at the same time.
A knock sounds at my door, and my socked feet snake out of my comforter, my legs giving the anxious moonlight from the dirty window a place to rest. I swear silently to myself, imagining the worst circumstances rubbing its grubby feet on my crusty old doormat.
My hands work to slip my old papa's shotgun out of our brass umbrella stand, a prime place to hide a weapon, if I must be frank. The barrel clatters quietly against the hammered metal, much like my heart clatters within my chest. Through all the time I'd lived without my papa's supposed-to-be-there, guiding hand on my shoulder, I'd never fired his gun.
I suppose this is proof that things change.
With a finger resting on the trigger and a bullethole already in my own dignity, I unlock the door and aim at an ancient man's face.
"You weren't there," I cry, "And now you don't have to be."