Mr. Stone put his drink down. Someone had knocked on the door.
“Yes?” It was a girl, about nine years old.
“I like your house,” she said. “May I come in?”
Mr. Stone nodded. She came in. He closed the door, went back to his study. The girl followed.
“Would you like a drink?” asked Mr. Stone. He pointed to the whiskey bottle on the table next to his chair.
“Sorry, I didn't mean…I thought for a moment you were…”
Mr. Stone sat, picked up his glass, drank it, refilled. “What is…”
“Yes. What is your name?” asked Mr. Stone.
“And do you want to know…”
“Yes. My name,” said Mr. Stone. He took another gulp.
“Not right now.”
Mr. Stone waved his hand at the shelves in his study. “Do you like books?” he asked.
“Some of them.”
“Would you like to hear a story?”
“Yes. A story. Would you like to hear a story?”
Susana sat on the ottoman and nodded. “Go ahead,” she said.
“Once upon a time there was a man with a wife and a lovely daughter, about nine years old. They all liked to go shopping. The wife bought dresses. For the girl, they bought books. She had so many books that her father had to build shelves in her room.
“One day, when they were shopping, a man came into the mall with a gun. He shot the wife and the little girl. They died right away, but the father got away.”
“How did he get away?” asked Susana.
“He hid in the dressing room with a new pair of boots.”
“And the bad man?”
“The police came and killed him, I guess.”
Mr. Stone finished his whiskey, set it down. A few houses over, a dog barked, then fell silent.
“I had a father,” said Susana. “And he didn't come home.”
“Where did he go?”
“He went to a gas station. A woman came in and wanted money. She didn't have any. The woman didn't know how to use the gun very well. She killed the clerk and my father. He was wearing new boots.”
“a sad story.”
Mr. Stone poured another drink, gulped it. “And the woman?” he asked. “What happened to her?”
“They said she was a little girl once, about nine years old. She liked flowers. Her older brother was in a war and he didn't come back. It took a long time, but she turned herself crazy. They put her in a home.”
Mr. Stone reached for the whiskey, withdrew his hand. “I had a brother once,” he said. “He went to a war.”
“There's too many of them,” said Susana. “Wars, I mean. Not brothers.”
“My brother came back,” said Mr. Stone. “He opened a landscaping business. He went all over, digging gardens, and planting flowers.
“But one day, he said he couldn't do it any more. Too much happiness made him sad. He sold the business and got a job at a gas station. One day a woman came in. She wanted money.”
“Can I sleep here?” asked Susana.
“Yes. I still have her room.”
A moon entered the study window. Shadows from the trees in the yard touched the glass. A slight breeze made them dance.