(Here’s an excerpt from an upcoming Tales From a Roundabout)

Joe Melvin revved the engine of his Ford pickup truck with the transmission in neutral. Tears streamed down his cheeks. It was past 11:00pm on a Wednesday and the only lights around were from his headlights and the dashboard. With his left hand he tapped out of time on the steering wheel while his right hand turned up the stereo. Dolly Parton was singing about losing her man on the country oldies station.

Between his legs was a bottle of Jack Daniels. He took a swig, and nothing came out. He looked inside and cursed, “Not you too, Jack.” He threw the bottle to his right, intending to send it out the window. But it wasn’t rolled down, so bottle and window shattered all over the passenger seat.

Joe Melvin turned Dolly up even louder. As he did, the DJ cut off the end of the song to tell listeners that if they tuned in tomorrow morning, they could win tickets to see Keith Urban. Joe answered the DJ, “There ain’t gonna a be a tomorrow, damnit! Why’d you cut off Dolly?” He paused, then shouted, “Cain’t anything go right today? Huh, universe? What do you got to say for yourself?”

The radio went quiet, and Joe thought maybe the universe was going to answer him. But it was only a few seconds of dead air the producer forgot to cut from the forthcoming commercial. When the pause ended, the universe—or the voiceover said, “Do you suffer from ED?”

Melvin turned the radio off and said, “The hell with it. Let’s get this over with.”

He revved the engine again and watched a car go by in his rearview mirror. He had pulled off of 106th street onto a small gravel road that led into a quarry. Normally, the quarry had a single chain across the access to the gravel road to keep people out after hours. But Joe had cut that a few minutes before.

When he couldn’t hear any other cars on the road behind him, he dropped his transmission into drive, pressed the gas pedal to the floor, and drove his truck off the road and into the quarry.


Officer Lupinsky stood with several of his Carmel, Indiana police colleagues, a couple of curious guys from the fire department, and the office manager of the quarry. A crane was slowly lifting what used to be a Ford truck to the top of the giant pit. A fire had erupted when it pancaked at the bottom, but the license plate was still discernible as well as a bumper sticker that said, “Majestic as Fu,” the last two letters having been destroyed by the fire.

A quick check of the plate returned the name Joe Melvin of Sheridan, Indiana and Lupisnky drew the short straw for notifying the family.

When he arrived, he discovered a manufactured home that wasn’t in much better shape than the truck that had been brought out of the quarry. The front door was open, while a screen door rested against the house a few feet away. Some of the windows were boarded up while others were open with no blinds. As Lupinsky walked up the driveway, a raccoon walked out of an overturned trash can. It looked at Joe briefly then continued on its way.

Lupinsky reached the front door and looked in. On a dingy couch with cigarette burns, a basset hound was watching TV. It looked at the officer, gave a perfunctory bark, then went back to Jersey Shore. He called out, “Hello. Anybody home?”

Geraldine Melvin appeared from the kitchen. She wore a tight tank top with no bra, and cut-off denim shorts. On one foot was an ankle boot, the kind people with injuries wear. On the other was a cowboy boot. “What the hell do you want?”

“Are you Geraldine Melvin?”

“Who wants to know?”

“I’m officer Lupinsky of the Carmel police department.”

“Carmel? What’s the Carmel police want with me?”

“Maybe you should sit down.” He nodded towards the couch.

“Can’t. Dog’s watching Jersey Shore.”

Lupinsky looked at the dog and back at her. “How about the kitchen?”

“I’m not talking to the Carmel cops.” She turned towards the kitchen behind her and shouted, “Mama, I aint gotta talk to the Carmel cops, do I?”

Mama shouted back from the kitchen, “Hell no. You tell him we got any business with the police it’s gonna be local boys. Not some uppity Carmel cop.”

Lupinsky shook his head. “Ma’am, this is about your husband.”

“He only deals with Sheridan police too,” she paused. “Not that he’s a snitch or nothin’ cause he ain’t.”

“Mrs. Melvin, your husband is dead.”

“You mean dead, dead? Or as in ‘he’s dead if he don’t cooperate with the Carmel police’?”

“Dead, dead.”

“Since when?”

At this point two boys aged 11 and 9 entered the room. Both were carrying baked sweet potatoes in each hand. Lupinsky was still on the porch.

“Since last night. Are you sure you don’t want to talk somewhere?” He looked at the boys and back at her. “Maybe spare them the details.”

Geraldine answered, speaking to the boys but looking Officer Lupinky in the eyes. “Boys, this is the Carmel police. He’s come to tell us that daddy’s dead.”

Neither boy cried or hugged their mom or said a word. They just threw their sweet potatoes at Officer Lupinsky and returned to the kitchen. Two sailed past him, one hit him in the chest and the other hit the front door. Lupinsky stepped back into the grass in case they were going to reload.

Geraldine stepped closer to the doorway. Lupinsky continued, “It appears he may have committed suicide. Was he depressed about anything?”

“Can’t say that I know. He was a private man. But he did leave a letter in his office.”

“His office?”

“Yeah, come in I’ll show you.”

Lupinsky looked over her shoulder for any sign of the boys. “Is it safe?”

“Oh, sure. I’m guessing she’s feeding them pie now. They’ll be occupied for a bit.”

“I just don’t want to get hit again.”

“Well, you do, you take it up with their grandma. I warned mama they don’t like sweet potatoes.”

Lupinsky followed her to a bedroom with a couch, a small desk and a computer. An envelope and a letter lay on the keyboard. On the front of the envelope, “Geraldine” was written on the front. The letter read,

Dear Geraldine,

I no longer want to live. I’ve always suspected the boys aren’t mine. And I don’t love you anymore. So, this is goodbye.

PS: You mom is an evil witch, and I would say it to her face if I wasn’t leaving this world for good. And you can tell her that. I don’t care.

“When did you discover this?”

“Four days ago.”

“And you didn’t think to call anybody or go looking for him?”


“I take it you weren’t close?”

“Not so much lately.”

“You think that’s why he might have been depressed?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“And that part about the boys not being his?”

“He’s right. I sleep around.”

Lupinsky couldn’t believe the level of indifference coming from Geraldine Melvin. “Alright, well I’ve done my duty here. I’m going to leave you some paperwork, explaining how things work from here. There is also a number for our department.” A sweet potato exploded on the wall next to him. He instinctively drew his gun. The boys ran back to the kitchen. Geraldine got turned on. “Say you’re pretty handy with that gun,” she said as she pawed at his shoulder.

The officer holstered his weapon and stepped out of reach of Geraldine. “I’ve got to go. Call if you have any questions.”

“Oh, I’ll call alright.”

Lupinsky made it out without being molested by Geraldine or pummeled by the boys. The widow entertained a daydream while looking at the officer’s card and started to sit on the couch. The dog growled and she let him finish Jersey Shore without further distractions.

Carry on, Citizens!