Damn woman is always moving his things. He can’t kick off his boots in the living room or set his sunglasses down on the coffee table without her relocating them to “where they belong.” Who made her God in this house? If he wants to leave a stinking pile of his own shit right in the middle of the kitchen table, then that’s where it should stay until he moves it.
Where the fuck is my gun?
“Rosie!” Joe hollers from the bedroom.
He looks at the time: 7:05 a.m. He’s going to be late for roll call if he doesn’t get the hell out of here pronto, but he can’t go anywhere without his gun.
Think. It’s so hard to think lately when he’s in a hurry. Plus it’s a thousand degrees hotter than hell in here. It’s been sweltering for June, in the high eighties all week, and barely cools down at night. Terrible sleeping weather. The air in the house is a thick swamp, today’s heat and humidity already elbowing in on what was trapped inside yesterday. The windows are open, but that doesn’t help a lick. His white Hanes T-shirt is sticking to his back beneath his vest, pissing him off. He just showered and could already use another.
Think. He took a shower and got dressed—pants, T-shirt, Kevlar vest, socks, boots, gun belt. Then he took his gun out of the safe, released the trigger lock, and then what? He looks down at his right hip. It’s not there. He can feel the missing weight of it without even looking. He’s got his magazine pouch, handcuffs, Mace, radio, and service baton, but no gun.
It’s not in the safe, not on his dresser, not in the top drawer of his dresser, not on the unmade bed. He looks over at Rosie’s bureau. Nothing but the Virgin Mary centered on an ivory doily. She sure ain’t going to help him.
St. Anthony, where the fuck is it?
He’s tired. He worked traffic detail last night over at the Garden. Friggin’ Justin Timberlake concert got out late. So he’s tired. So what? He’s been tired for years. He can’t imagine being so tired that he would be careless enough to misplace his loaded gun. A lot of guys with as many years on the force as Joe grow complacent about their service weapon, but he never has.
He stomps down the hall, passes the two other bedrooms, and pokes his head into their only bathroom. Nothing. He storms into the kitchen with his hands on his hips, the heel of his right hand searching for the top of his gun out of habit.
His four not-yet-showered, bed-headed, sleepy teenagers are up and seated around the tiny kitchen table for breakfast—plates of undercooked bacon, runny scrambled eggs, and burnt white toast. The usual. Joe scans the room and spots his gun, his loaded gun, on the mustard-yellow Formica counter next to the sink.
“Mornin’, Dad,” offers Katie, his youngest, smiling but shy about it, sensing that something is off.
He ignores Katie. He picks up his Glock, secures it in its holster, and then aims the crosshairs of his wrath at Rosie.
“Whaddaya doin’ with my gun there?”
“What are you talking about?” says Rosie, who is standing by the stove in a pink tank top and no bra, shorts, and bare feet.
“You’re always movin’ my shit around,” says Joe.
“I never touch your gun,” says Rosie, standing up to him.
Rosie is petite at five feet nothing and a hundred pounds soaking wet. Joe’s no giant either. He’s five feet nine with his patrol boots on, but everyone thinks of him as being taller than he is, probably because he’s barrel-chested and has muscular arms and a deep, husky voice. At thirty-six, he’s got a bit of a gut, but not bad for his age or considering how much of his life he spends sitting in a cruiser. He’s normally playful and easygoing, a pussycat really, but even when he’s smiling and there’s that twinkle in his blue eyes, everyone knows he’s old-school tough. No one messes with Joe. No one but Rosie.
She’s right. She never touches his gun. Even after all these years of his being on the force, she’s never grown comfortable with having a firearm in the house, even though it’s always in the safe or in his top dresser drawer, where it’s trigger-locked, or on his right hip. Until today.
“Then how the fuck did it get there?” he asks, pointing to the space next to the sink.
“Watch your mouth,” she says.
He looks over at his four kids, who have all stopped eating to witness the show. He narrows in on Patrick. God love him, but he’s sixteen going on stupid. This would be just the kind of knucklehead move he would pull, even after all the lectures these kids have endured about the gun.
“So which one of you did this?”
They all stare and say nothing. The Charlestown code of silence, eh?
“Who picked up my gun and left it by the sink?” he demands, his voice booming. Silence will not be an option.
“Wasn’t me, Dad,” says Meghan.
“Me either,” says Katie.
“Not me,” says JJ.
“I didn’t do it,” says Patrick.
What every criminal he’s ever arrested says. Everyone’s a fuckin’ saint. They all look up at him, blinking and waiting. Patrick shoves a rubbery slice of bacon into his mouth and chews.
“Have some breakfast before you go, Joe,” says Rosie.
He’s too late to have breakfast. He’s too late because he’s been looking for his goddamn gun that someone took and then left on the kitchen counter. He’s late and feeling out of control, and he’s hot, too hot. The air in this cramped room is too soupy to breathe, and it feels as if the heat from the stove and six bodies and the weather is stoking something already threatening to boil over inside him.
He’s going to be late for roll call, and Sergeant Rick McDonough, five years younger than Joe, is going to have a word with him again or maybe even write him up. He can’t stomach
the humiliating thought of it, and something inside him explodes.
He grabs the cast-iron skillet on the stove by the handle and sidearms it across the room. It smashes a sizable hole in the drywall not far from Katie’s head, then lands with a resounding BANG on the linoleum floor. Rusty brown bacon grease drips down the daisy-patterned wallpaper like blood oozing from a wound.
The kids are wide-eyed and silent. Rosie says nothing and doesn’t move. Joe storms out of the kitchen, down the narrow hallway, and steps into the bathroom. His heart is racing, and his head is hot, too hot. He splashes cold water over his hair and face and wipes himself dry with a hand towel.
He needs to leave now, right now, but something in his reflection snags him and won’t let go.
His pupils are dilated, black and wide with adrenaline, like shark eyes, but that’s not it. It’s the expression in his eyes that has him arrested. Wild, unfocused, full of rage. His mother.
It’s the same unbalanced gaze that used to terrify him as a young boy. He’s looking in the mirror, late for roll call, glued to the wretched eyes of his mother, who used to stare at him just like this when she could do nothing else but lie in her bed in the psych ward at the state hospital, mute, emaciated, and possessed, waiting to die.
The devil in his mother’s eyes, dead for twenty-five years, is now staring at him in the bathroom mirror.
Inside the O'Briens
From New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a “heartbreaking…very human novel” (Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves) that does for Huntington’s disease what her debut novel Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.
Joe O’Brien is a forty-three-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure, and each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.
Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.
Lisa Genova loves listening to audiobooks at night
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Reading Group Guide
As a police officer from an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Boston, Joe O’Brien has always prided himself on his self-control. And with four adult kids still living under his roof, he needs it. There’s JJ, the upstanding fireman hoping to start his own family; Patrick, the rowdy bartender; Meghan, the accomplished but uptight ballet dancer; and Katie, the restless yoga instructor just trying to get them all to take her seriously. Joe loves being their rock, but when he begins to experience bouts of disorganized thinking, temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements, his fiercely protective wife, Rosie, drags him to a neurologist. There, they are handed a diagnosis that will change their family forever: Huntington’s disease.
Each of the O’Brien children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting this lethal neurodegenerative disease. A simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. As Katie observes the devastating symptoms in her once invincible father escala see more