"Did you ask me who I am?" He laughed at this dumb question. "Johnny. C'mon, let me in. It's cold out here. I'm frozen stiff."
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"You're going nowhere, young man. I'm demanding to know: Johnny who?"
As he said his full name, he looked up smiling as the woman gasped. He noticed for the first time that the woman standing there inquiring about his identity was not Mrs. Gilliland.
"This is a sick, perverted joke, whoever the hell you are," and she began to close the door.
"WAIT! I'm Johnny Palomino and I'm here to take Dottie Gilliland to Durow's for dinner tonight. Sorry I'm so late, but my car got -"
"Late? If you're truly who you say you are - and I strongly doubt that - then you're over forty years late! And for your information, Durow's went out of business exactly five years ago this month!"
His head began to spin and a gnawing feeling began deep in his gut.
"Forty...years? Durow's - closed? Please, tell me where Missus G and Dottie are." His voice now quivered. "You resemble her a little, but where is -?"
"She's passed on. Last month. I'm her daughter, but I haven't used my maiden name for many years. And this joke of yours has gotten old real fast. Goodnight, kid - before I call the cops!"
"Dorothy? Dottie? Please do not close that door. I really am John Palomino! From Cyress Hills. We attended the same university. Dottie - you and I are...were... about to become..."
He realized his words must be sounding like babble uttered by an insane person. Hollow, borne of confusion. Changing focus, he said instead, "We're supposed to become engaged. In Vermont. This coming weekend. And if you'll permit me, I...Ican prove it..."
"How?" she asked with a delivery most harsh and cynical. "What can you possibly say or do to prove that, huh? And bear in mind I'm a real hard sell, mister."
He hastily dug beneath his overcoat for his wallet. Retrieving his driver's license from the plastic sleeve, he gave it to her with shaking hands.
She squinted as she inspected the paper document. "How can this be? Was John your father? Your grandfather? Did either of them put you up to this gag? This old-style license is like new!"
"Sure it's new. My first one. I was eighteen when I got it. Two years ago. What's the big deal? We started dating about then. Don't you remember?" His frustration continued to mount.
She studied him, her eyes narrowed behind glasses, her face deeply lined.
"I will admit that you do appear to be his spittin' image under this dim porch light, but the real John Palomino disappeared in a blizzard like this one back in 1969. Disappeared without a trace! And you show up here and now, all of twenty, claiming to be him? Go away with you!"
John lowered his head. "I mean you no harm whatsoever, and my being here is no gag, but I've got several other items on me that can prove beyond any doubt that what I've just told you is true." He paused, extending his hands. "May I come in, Dottie? Please?"
She noticed the bloodied T-shirt around one hand. The compassionate concern of a career kindergarten teacher kicked in and caused her to lower her guard.
"Good Lord, you've been injured. Yes, yes, of course. I suppose it will be all right. Please do come in to clean up that hand, but excuse the mess. My brother and I, we're in the process of selling this house, mom's house, and it's rather slow going. Neither of us is a youngster anymore -"
"Casey, Jr.? The second toughest kid to ever walk down God's pike?"
Her eyes widened as she pointed him toward the bathroom.
"Yes!" She laughed, although uneasily, because her late father was the one who always claimed to be the toughest. "But how did -?"
"I know Casey, Dottie. And your dad, too. Like it was yesterday." Which it most definitely was in his mind and memory. "And I've used this toilet on many previous occasions, especially after one two many beers with those two."
But this new experience remained highly unsettling for him, to be speaking with this larger, older woman who admitted moments before to being Mrs. Gilliland's daughter, his beloved girlfriend and almost-fiancee from earlier today, but she'd said from years before. His comprehension was failing by the minute. he thought he might awake any minute now...with a scream.
Gad, he thought, she must be in her sixties! What the hell drug did they put in that brisket hero?
[To be con't]
Copyright © 2010 James D. Young