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I snap out of my daydream with my mom staring at me. “Go see him,” she says.

“I know. I need to. I will, I just...”

She interrupts, looking at me with way more understanding than anything. “I know. It’s hard to see him like that. But I’m glad he’s in there. The drugs were going to kill him, Ozzie. Right now, it’s the best place for him.”

“I know, Mom. I just feel like I’ve let him down some way, that’s all.”

She’s nodding her head, not even going to waste her time arguing with me. “He doesn’t think that. And you shouldn’t either. Your brother is his own man. I hate to say it, but he did this to himself.”

I grab the broom and start sweeping behind the counter. I’ve helped out here for years, and it’s second nature to just pitch in when it’s needed. But today, it’s more to change the subject. I hate thinking about my little brother in jail. And yeah, he deserved it, and he may be better off there, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow.

Mom must know I’m done talking about it because she changes the subject. “So what do you have going on tonight? You have a date?”

I shake my head and laugh. She may have changed the subject, but she’s just jumping to the other topic that I don’t like to think about. I haven’t dated since I got out of prison. It’s a tough thing to deal with, knowing that you’re a convicted felon. How do you even bring that up in conversation when you meet someone? “No, Mom. I have to work tonight.”

She throws her hands up. “Work? That’s all you do is work. You need some free time. You need to find a good girl and give me grandbabies.”

“You’re too young to be a grandma,” I tease her.

She puts her hand on her hip. “Too young! I’m fifty years old. I need them now when I can still keep up with them.”

I finish sweeping the floor and walk back to her with broom and dustpan in hand. “I’ll work on it, okay? I’ll keep my eyes open for a good woman.” I tell her what she wants to hear, but even I can hear the lie in my voice. Since I got out of prison, I’ve been on the straight and narrow. I work, pay my bills, and save money. I just want a house and somewhere I can call home. A place that isn’t over top of the Cherry Bomb Tattoo Parlor. And yeah, there’s nights I want to have a woman by my side, but just the thought of having to explain that I’m a convicted felon... well, it’s just not going to happen.

Mom walks toward me to hug me bye. My mom is quite frankly a bit of a badass. She has to be to own a liquor store and a pawn shop, but with me and my brother, she’s always been as sweet as pie. “You’re just saying that. I’m not stupid. You’re so stuck in your ways.” She starts to ramble, stops, and takes a deep breath. “I just want you happy. That’s all.”

I give her my biggest smile and wrap an arm around her. “I am happy, Mom.”

She nods and gets up on her tiptoes. “Fine. Have a good night at work.”

I give her a tight squeeze, let her go, and give her one last wave as I get to the door. “I love you!” I holler to her.

“Love you too.”

I walk out whistling. Even with everything else going on, it feels good to be on track and have one last bill to pay off. I’m now free and clear with paying Mom back for the down payment of the shop. Next step, a place to live.

I go and get into my car and rush back to the shop. I have a few appointments lined up tonight, and I like to have everything cleaned and ready to go before my first appointment gets there. The Cherry Bomb Tattoo Parlor has been a dream come true for me, and I’m determined to put my all into making and keeping it a success.



“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” my sister, Honey, says for the tenth time. I’ve talked her into coming out with me tonight. I was so upset she got a tattoo without me and so I guilted her into coming into town with me. Plus the fact that I haven’t seen much of her lately. I see her at the farmstand that we own together, but we’re usually busy. And now instead of hanging out together in the evenings and the weekends, she’s usually with her boyfriend, David.

“You owe me,” I tell her. “Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve hung out?”