Prelude (and outline):
For those who do not know the ongoing story, or saga of Shannon O’Day, the first book “Cornfield Laughter,” shows Shannon O’Day as an old man, he dies in 1967, at the age of 67-years old; the book opens in the year 1966. His fourth wife is Gertrude (who he had his second daughter with, and who survives him), who leaves him stranded in the cornfields of Minnesota one morning, and is never seen of again; and his fifth and last wife is Maribel, who he marries, after meeting her at the diner in St. Paul, and they divorce after the winter of that year, and he goes onto dating Annabelle, who is less than half his age, but never marries her. His first wife is Sally-Ann Como, who he meets in the Gem Bar, in the second book called: “To Save a Lopsided Sparrow,” and whom she leaves because of his drinking. Also in the same book his second wife, Margaret-Rose, has a child with him, but dies after an accident, and she returns to live with her father in Chicago. And now here is his third wife, Sandra Rossellini, the one thus far unmentioned, and for a good reason…
When Shannon O’Day, saw her nearing the door to her apartment, her apartment being next to his-she had moved in a few weeks earlier-both noticing each other through their windows, both taking a liking for each other, this day, this Friday, they stopped and looked up at each other instead of looking down for her keys, and him digging in his pocket for his.
“Would you like to come in for a beer?” he asked her kindly. He pulled out his apartment door key from his pocket, put it into the door’s keyhole, and then held the door open for her, and she walked in.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Shannon O’Day,” he answered, “And yours is?” he remarked, “Sandra Rossellini,” she said in a soft spoken voice, and Shannon thought right then and there, what a pretty fresh looking face she has.
“Beer?” she said to Shannon, “don’t you have something stronger?”
“Whisky and rum, and vodka, and wine, take your pick.”
He drew a beer for himself, and took a second one out of the ice box and pushed it across his little bar counter to her, she sat on a stool, and he was standing upright, behind the counter.
“What’s the matter?” he asked her.
She didn’t answer him. She just looked over his head and at something behind him, and after a long moment of staring, said, “Who’s that?” it was a picture in a frame of a young woman.
“Gwyneth Davis, someone I’ve been dating,” he remarked.
“Rye whiskey,” the woman said, “I’ll take a glass of your rye whiskey and use the beer for a chaser, I suppose.” (She really didn’t care for beer she was being polite.)
Shannon put out a bottle of beer by her, and a glass and a bottle of rye whiskey by her, and a glass of water in case she wanted to mix the whiskey with water. Then he pulled out of the ice box, some pickled pig’s feet, put them on a dish between the two, put two forks alongside each other near the pig’s feet, so he or she could pick them up with ease.
“No,” she said, “I don’t care for pig’s feet, you can put one of them back, I’m not eating it,” and she poured water and whiskey into the glass.
“So you don’t like pig’s feet?” said Shannon.
“The damn thing stinks,” she remarked, and gagged at the sight of them. Shannon put one back into the ice box.
“Listen,” said Shannon, “if you want we can go for a walk after the drinks.”
“Who said I wanted to go out with you,” she said “it wasn’t’ my idea, all I wanted was to meet you, I saw you about, you have an interesting face.”
“We’ll just go for a short walk; we’ll be back in a hurry.” He told her.
“No you won’t,” she said, “You have other ideas.”
They both drank down their drinks, and Shannon said, “Come on! Do I need to tell you how wrong you are?”
Sandra turned to the window in back of her, it was getting dark. “I don’t know,” she said. “If I go with you tonight are you going to dump that little mistress of yours?” She asked Shannon, and Shannon shook his head yes. She was a very lovely woman, about thirty-two years old; she looked like Audrey Hepburn, he thought. Gwyneth Davis was young and plain looking but loved to drink in the cornfields with Shannon, and that mattered, but he was hoping Sandra would also.
“Who’s that man that brings you home now and then?” He asked her.
“Truman Weaver, you could say I guess, I’m his part time mistress-just like that one is for you (pointing back at the picture in its frame behind Shannon), he pays for everything, and I don’t love him, although he loves me. And I suppose we should get going its getting dark.”
Murder on the Highway
(Sunday Morning) Shannon O’Day was woken up and picked up by the St. Paul Police, while sleeping in his brother’s cornfields and brought down to the St. Paul Police Station for the murder of Gwyneth Davis, twenty-four years old. He looked about saw a half dozen whores waiting for their lawyers to get them out before they got put into a jail cell, they were about to be processed. There were a few blacks, Indians and Mexicans, talking to a few police men, taking down statements. Two white women complaining about their husbands battering. It was crowded and hot, and stale smoke circled the area, it was the main entrance room where everyone was waiting, processing and complaining. And he was brought through this crowd and put into a backroom, where Sergeant Toby Patron, was waiting for him, for questioning.
As Shannon entered the room the Sergeant didn’t say a word, he shut the door behind him, and noticed the window was up to let in the fresh air. Shannon had spread out trousers and high boots on, a plaid shirt, no cap, and his face pale, eyes bloodshot red, he had been on a drinking binge.
“Thank you for coming down with the officers peacefully,” said the Sergeant.
“I’m an old soldier, I never interfere with the law,” he said, Shannon was fifty-one years old.
“No,” the sergeant said, “I hope not.”
Shannon noticed the Sergeant held his lips tight together, and then another officer came in through the door, stood by it like a guard, as if he might try to escape.
“You like sugar in your coffee,” asked the Sergeant, “I can have Officer Jones, go get you some?”
“No,” said Shannon O’Day, “no coffee for me.”
The sergeant leaned over the wooden table that was between him and O’Day, “Look,” he said-near side by side, “you are a piece of disgusting flesh, why did you murder her?”
Shannon O’Day started laughing, “Murder who?” and he just kept laughing and shaking.
“Oh my god,” said the Sergeant, “he’s pretending he doesn’t know!” (Looking at Officer Jones.)
Officer Jones stood by the door like a dignified pillar.
Shannon was getting ready to say something, and the Sergeant stood up, pounded on the table, “Well!” he said.
“I swear I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Here look at these two pictures,” said the sergeant, they were of Gwyneth Davis, her face beaten and her throat cut and thrown to the side of the road by a café not far from the cornfields Shannon was found sleeping in by the police.
“How old was she?” the sergeant asked.
“Twenty-four; I had just broken up with her, told her I was dating this Sandra Rossellini girl I met, and she was upset and took off and started walking home,” said Shannon.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” said the sergeant, “and you let her walk home in the dark alone?”
“Is that a crime?”
“No, but it isn’t very decent,” said the Sergeant.
“So I’m not decent, is that a crime?” he asked in a sarcastic but friendly manner.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked the Sergeant, and Jones came over to the side of Shannon as if to hit him, and Shannon stood up, then the sergeant said, “That’s all right.” And Jones went back to the door.
Mr. Dudley Arrives
“I would prefer us all here to be friends, Mr. O’Day?” said the Sergeant.
“No,” said O’Day, “not with you.”
“Don’t want to be friends?” said the Sergeant.
“She was just a spitfire, she up and left after I told her about Sandra, not a thing I could do about it.” Shannon told the Sergeant.
The one officer by the door looked at the other and shook his head.
“Damn liars, I hate them,” he said.
Shannon commenced to laugh again and to shake allover, it was kind of an automatic impulse, even the laughing, a form of dealing with unwanted, confrontational stress.
“There’s nothing funny here Mr. O’Day,” the Sergeant said. “Your laugh gives you away. Can’t you stop laughing, and you and I speak decently? If not I’m going to have to jail you.”
“For what?” asked Shannon, “laughing?”
A third officer came through the door with a Mr. Dudley, from the Law Firm, ‘Dudley and Smith’ along with Gus O’Day, Shannon’s brother.
“Oh, shut up,” said Gus to Shannon, Mr. Dudley is here to over see this interview, or interrogation.
“We were just finishing up, Mr. Dudley, matter-of-fact, make sure your client doesn’t leave the state, he’s under suspicion.”
Everyone was very respectful to the attorney, he said, “Mr. Shannon O’Day, this is of course, as you should know, just a high stagy way of trying to get you to say something you’ll regret later,” but Shannon was starting to shake, hands, shoulders, legs from the stress, strain and booze.
“I wouldn’t have hurt him,” councilman, said the Sergeant.
“That’s a fine way to look at it,” said Dudley, “it is all a trick once you are brought into this room Shannon, get up and let’s go unless the good sergeant here, has some more relevant questions to ask, or if he is officially charging you.”
The Sergeant turned and smiled at Dudley, he had been looking out the window somewhat at the little school across the street, at the little French School next to the church called, St. Louis, “My boys go to that school, got to take them for lunch today, go on with Mr. Dudley, Shannon O’Day, we’ll see you later I’m sure.”
The sergeant was a huge figure of a man, broad shoulders, robust built, in his late forties, lumberjack type.
“I hope to god you’re telling the truth. So white and clean and beautiful and smooth skin was that girl, she could have been my daughter.” The sergeant said. And Dudley, Gus and Shannon all walked out of the room as if he was talking to himself, and as they went outside onto the platform, by the doors of the police station, the Indians that were arguing inside the station, when Shannon had first come, were now arguing outside, a little cockeyed.
During the following fifteen-months, of marriage between Sandra Rossellini, and Shannon O’Day, everyone felt terrible. It was sad, the police hounded Shannon O’Day, questioned his wife, and it became embarrassing. Sandra started speaking in a low voice, thinking after talking to the police sergeant several times, maybe her husband did kill young Gwyneth Davis, if not, who did? And she spoke to Gus and Mabel O’Day about it, the fear of it, and Shannon being in war knew how to kill with a knife, and the Sergeant telling her, “Your husband’s a dirty liar,” and Sandra not saying a word back to Shannon. She had never met Gwyneth in her life, but she was feeling sorry for her, felt she knew her. And so she was being flooded with all these emotions, suspicions, doubts, and fears-fears that if he did kill her, there was a possibility she could be next. I mean, if he got away with it once, why not twice.
“How can you say that about your husband?” asked Mabel.
“I say it because it can be true,” said Sandra.
“I know Shannon, and it is not true, and God can strike me dead if it isn’t true,” said Mabel.
“He can strike me too,” said Gus.
And then Shannon, who had been working at a foundry came in during this visit and discussion overhearing parts of it, one Friday afternoon, that lead into late afternoon, “What did she say?” he asked Gus (and he knew somewhat of what she did say, but it was indistinct).
Sandra was crying, so she could hardly speak to express herself any longer.
“You’re a lovely wife,” said Shannon, “you got me to want to work and make something of myself, and now this!” He knew she had been under stress, but not that she might think he killed Gwyneth, then Mabel, said, “She’s been talking to that Sergeant, he’s been feeding her all this rot…I guess I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s all a lie.”
“It’s true,” Gus said. “That’s truly what has been going on.”
“Is that so?” Shannon said proudly to his wife.
“Yes, it’s true, true, true, and true, to Almighty God true.”
“I don’t think Sandra my wife could have said that by herself, it wasn’t the girl I got married to, it wasn’t the way you talked when we first met.”
“It’s true, I fear you might have killed her, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” said Sandra in her soft low voice, “and I guess it doesn’t matter one way or the other, what is, or what isn’t because it is how I feel-especially if your heart and mind believe it, and there is no other proof to the contrary, then it is reality.”
She wasn’t crying anymore, and she was calm. And now Shannon knew it was impossible for them to put the marriage back to how it was, how it was meant to be, should have been; that faith, the belief the trust it was all gone, if indeed, it was ever there in the first place, the reliance was gone, that was suppose to have been there like stone, to march through storms and years of whatever God or the Devil put in front of you.
He said, happily, “I stopped at the police station today to talk to Sergeant Toby Patron, he called me at my work and he said, to come down to the police station, he had something to tell me, and show me, and when I got there, he told me face to face, shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, ‘Mr. Shannon O’Day,’ he said to me, ‘you’re a better man than I,’ that is what he said and meant, and I said to him: Did you call me down here to insult me? I asked, ‘No,’ he said, then pointed to a man across the hall, I could see him through the little window of the door, ‘He’s got some bad memories,’ the sergeant said, ‘he just signed a statement he killed Gwyneth’ guess who it was Sandra?”‘
She looked at Shannon, “Who?” she asked.
“Truman Weaver, he was jealous over you and me, and thought he’d kill her and pin it on me, and you’d leave me for him. I guess half of that’s true anyhow. Go ahead and call the sergeant up, I never lie, and Gus and Mabel know it.”
It seemed as if she didn’t want to call the sergeant up, but just had to. And had she not, perhaps what took place next, might not have.
And she did call the good Sergeant up, and he did say, whatever he said, and Shannon grabbed a bottle of whiskey out of Gus’ hiding place, behind a cabinet, and said “Good-bye,” to Sandra. And as he walked out, he thought: she certainly had a nice voice, and a few other things nice, but nice is not trusting, and that was what was needed, especially when there was no reason not to trust. That is to say, Shannon O’Day was many things to many folks, but he was not untrustworthy.
Gus and Mabel were getting ready to go shopping, and Sandra asked, “Can you bring me back to my apartment; I need to pack some things?”
Mabel looked at Sandra, and then at Gus, and at Shannon walking into the cornfields with his bottle of whiskey uncorked, in his right hand, then back at Sandra, her face put on a hurt look, and she lost that everlasting smile of hers, she once had, and she lost that look, the prettiest face Mabel had ever saw on a woman, but not today, and her voice was lovely, but not today, and she was always so friendly, but not today, then she said, “We’re going the other way from you.”
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write by Eira