The Gathering Brood by Carol Hoenig

Chapter One: Meet Lottie, Allen, Emily, Denise and Natalie

The Volkswagen was a rental, since living in Greenwich Village didn’t accommodate owning a vehicle.

Heading Out

The corn, still wrapped in its husk, smelled both sweet and fresh, reminding Lottie of the farm stands she used to stop at on her summer jaunts to the East End of Long Island with her mother. This corn though was purchased from a mini-mart in the Village. She placed it and a container of tossed salad on the passenger seat of the Volkswagen and then looked up at the third-floor window to see if Sandy was standing there. She was not.

            Lottie jingled her keys, debating running back up the three flights of stairs in an attempt to appease Sandy, but then she was certain the outcome would end up frustrating her more than anything else, so she walked around to the driver’s side of the car and got in. The Volkswagen was a rental, since living in Greenwich Village didn’t accommodate owning a vehicle. She tugged the sleeves of her shirt down to cover the scars on her wrists, something she’d been doing automatically for the last few years, before placing a hand on the steering wheel. With one eye on the third-floor window, Lottie turned the bug of a car on and revved the engine before pulling onto the street. Her foot went from the gas pedal to the brake, then back to the gas as she pressed down with decided abandonment. She turned the radio on and pushed buttons, going from static to prattle until she came upon Springsteen’s Born in the USA; perfect for the Fourth of July. 

            The freedom song serenaded her as she drove out of the Village toward Connecticut, toward her sister Denise’s grand old colonial in the ‘burbs. The clear blue sky with no hint of cloud should be a good sign the day would be nothing but placid. But Lottie didn’t believe in signs. She couldn’t recall if she ever had. However, it had been matriarch Margaret Lamb who insisted on the family reunion in celebration more from getting a clean bill of health from her oncologist than the actual holiday. Lottie figured her siblings also found it impossible to turn down the invitation, even though they’d all managed to avoid each other over the years with one excuse or another. Allen, who was the oldest and lived in Chicago, was little more than a stranger to her, even though her mother always found a reason to talk about her only son. “You know, he was quite famous in the 60’s” she’d tell anyone who’d asked about her family. “Are you familiar with the show Benny and Crow?” she’d say with a forced air of ennui, even though Lottie heard the hint of pride. Then, without listening for a reply, her mother would say, “Well, my son played Benny.

            The thing is, most people were familiar with the show and said how cute it was and how charming little Benny had been on it. Margaret would beam until they’d ask, “Did he do anything else?” That’s when Lottie discerned her mother’s expression changing, her hand waving them off. “Oh, he worked so hard during his young life that he took a break from all that. But now he has his own morning talk show.” What her mother failed to say was that it was a local talk show, as opposed to national, even though Allen’s notorious sexual escapades did manage to create embarrassing gossip, thanks to the internet.

            “Yes,” Lottie said aloud as she approached the toll booth, “this is going to be a very interesting day.” What she didn’t say, but thought, was how much she was dreading it, and yearned for Sandy to be at her side.

            Unbeknownst to her, while she was riffling through her purse to find change for the toll, her brother, Allen, was enjoying the company of a female at that very moment.

To be continued….