"Nobody likes being alone. I just hate the disappointment"

Haruki Murakami


LAST CHANCE

Driving his "new" second-hand car (the one he bought after Scalnon blew up his old station wagon), Enos looked carefully at the street trying to avoid any pesky thought. He and his mother in the car, and he had to stay with her, in that car, for two hours, 'till they reached Ridge Institute. The day before he had to beg Boss Hogg to give him a day off, and he knew perfectly well that, from then, he'd have to work nearly 18 hours per day in order to have only one day off per week to go to visit his mother at Ridge Institute: the same way as he did 5 years ago, working hard during all the week to have only one day off to spend at the Institute with his mother, and with Miss Kate (was she still there?).

Fortunately his mother was in one of her good days, so she sat silently by his side, looking outside the car's window and sometimes talking 'bout innocuous things, and he hoped she was goin' to keep that mood until they arrived at the Institute.

"Hey, darling, stop, please"

Enos stopped the car, confused, and he had a chill when he realized they were in front of Dukes' farm and his mother was coming out the car walking to uncle Jesse.

"Hi, Jesse. It's a been a long time since I last seen you. How are you?".

Uncle Jesse looked at her in surprise, and then he looked at Enos coming out the car behind her. He was in his civilian clothes and he was driving his personal car, and, since Enos was usually always at work, it meant only one thing: he was taking his mother to Ridge Institute, the same way as 5 years ago.

"Hi, Rose. Please, come in and have a good coffee. You need it before to go… before your trip"

Enos felt uncle Jesse's embarrassment and he was goin' to politely refuse his invitation, but his mother was already happily pattering behind uncle Jesse, thanking him for his kindness. At that point, Enos couldn't do anything else but follow his mother inside Dukes farm, praying it was really one of her best days.

Sitting at the kitchen table, Enos centered on the cup of steaming coffee in front of him while uncle Jesse and his mother chatted as good old friends, remembering the time Thomas Strate ran moonshine with Jesse Duke, a time lost in a deep fog for Enos, a fog alike the smoke in his parents room that night, the night he saw his mother and that man. His hands' palm started to become sweaty, and it wasn't good; he grabbed the cup in front of him, pressing his palms against it and nearly shouting when he felt it burned, but fortunately he managed to hide his pain with a soft whisper, moving slowly away his hands from the steaming cup.

Uncle Jesse's eyes moved from Rose to Enos, lingering more on Enos than on Rose, but Enos never raised his eyes from the cup of coffee in front of him, and it wasn't good.

"Good morning…. Mrs Strate"

On the kitchen's threshold Luke looked at Rose Strate in surprise, but not too surprised not to greet, whereas Bo and Daisy stood behind him like waxworks.

"Hey Enos", uncle Jesse talked to Enos, "our sow had her piglets last night", then he looked at Luke, a meaningful look, "Luke, what do you think of checking how's the sow and her piglets?", then he turned again to Enos, "if you want to go with Luke…"

A pitiful attempt, but Enos thanked from the bottom of his heart uncle Jesse for that idea; he didn't want to have his friends, especially Daisy, in the same room with his mother, he didn't want his mother to remind them what they had to see at the Boar's Nest some days before. He stood up, smiling and walking to Bo, Luke and Daisy, "Piglets?! I want to see the piglets".

While Bo, Luke and Enos headed to the door, Daisy was doubtful if she had to follow them or to stay there, her arms folded as she looked alternatively at her cousins goin' away with Enos and at Rose Strate sitting at the table with uncle Jesse, but a clear look of her uncle pushed her out the door: uncle Jesse wanted to talk with Rose Strate, face to face, and Daisy hoped he was goin' to read her the riot act.

And Daisy was right.

After a brief silence, in the kitchen only he and Rose Strate, uncle Jesse looked into Rose Strate's eyes, "Rose, what are you planning to do, this time? Are you goin' to stay at the Institute for the necessary time, or are you goin' to run away, again, hurting Enos? You know perfectly well how badly that boy wants to see you finally …", he had a pause, "… getting well and coming back to Hazzard finally… bein' yourself"

Rose Strate slowly sipped her coffee, her empty eyes looking somewhere behind uncle Jesse, then uncle Jesse saw a spark in the deep of her pupils and she stared at him, "Bein'… myself? Who's myself, Jesse? I'm already myself. Getting well from… what, exactly? Getting well from… myself? Enos knows exactly who I am, even if he wants to keep on hoping I'm someone else, but I know myself enough to understand I can't take care of him, and it's why I left when he was five years old. A lot better for him… and for me… and for Thomas too"

"Better for him? Rose, do you know anything 'bout Enos' childhood? Better for him to stay with Opie and Minnie Strate?", uncle Jesse tried to smooth out his rage, "Why did you give up bein' his mother?".

"I gave up 'cause I was NOT able to be his mother, and I'm not able even now. I'd like to be… something different, but I'm totally… darkness, even if I try and I try to be something else, and Enos doesn't want to understand I can't be anything else".

Uncle Jesse had a deep sigh; how many times had he that conversation with that woman?

"If you're so sure you can't be anything else, so, WHY, for God's sake, do you keep on descending on his life like that, hurting him every time you come here? If you know you're only able to hurt him, stay away from him, let him live his own life without forcing him to… take care of you"

Rose Strate stood up, looking down at uncle Jesse, "'cause… if I hurt him, and I hurt him again and again, he's finally goin' to hate me, living without waiting for me and worrying for me. I prefer breaking things with my own hands than to see things crumbling anyway even if I try to save something, vainly. Compared to the loneliness of losing everything, I prefer the pain of cracking up", then she headed out the kitchen, sniggering, "And now, I want to see the piglets, I want to see how a sow can be a better mother than me"

Frustrated by that vain talk, uncle Jesse followed Rose Strate outside the house; Enos, Daisy, Bo and Luke were talking in a relaxed way near the fence, their talk centered on piglets they just saw in the pigsty (but, obviously, they preferred to keep on talking 'bout it outside the pigsty), but they stopped as they saw Rose Strate's approaching.

"Come on, Enos, it's late, and nuts have to be brought to the Institute", Rose Strate walked past Enos, heading to the car; uncle Jesse couldn't help but gritting his teeth as he saw Enos turning pale and Bo, Luke and Daisy looking down.

"I'm sorry. I gotta go, now", his look down, Enos whispered these few words before to reach his mother and driving away.

Looking at Enos' car, Daisy felt a ravaging rage overwhelming her, and she stormed inside the house, the door slamming behind her. "If that woman hurts Enos, again, I… I…", she sank into her bed, her face buried in her pillow, 'till uncle Jesse entered her room after a gentle knocking.

"Daisy"

Her face still buried in her pillow, Daisy felt her uncle sitting near her, "How can I not to hate her, uncle Jesse? She's so… unpleasant. I hope you read her the riot act, telling her she better not try to hurt Enos, 'cause if she hurts him, I…"

"Daisy", uncle Jesse's hand touched Daisy's shoulder, "You can't prevent her from hurting him, even if I hope this time it'll be different and she won't hurt him. Give her another chance", what a pitiful lie, and uncle Jesse knew it, "Anyway, you can be by his side in case he ends up bein' hurt".

Daisy sat up and she looked at her uncle, "You remember last time she came here, don't you? Enos' appendix burst, oh, yeah, I know it wasn't her fault", Daisy blushed a bit realizing her words were pretty weird, and, in effect, uncle Jesse raised his eyebrows in surprise, "I remember how many times he went to the Institute to visit her, working hard during the week only to have one day off, and I remember how much pain he … suffered … when she left the Institute, without telling him goodbye. He tried to act as normal, but… Ever since he started talking 'bout bein' a cop in a big city and applied for LAPD I've honestly thought it was his way to look for his mother".

Uncle Jesse had a deep sigh, "Daisy, it's 5 years ago, maybe this time it'll be different"

Daisy buried again her face in her pillow.

What a pitiful lie, both Daisy and uncle Jesse knew it was a lie.


Finally Enos saw Ridge Institute, he was finally there, after driving for two hours, his palms covered in cold sweat, waiting for his mother to snap at him, but fortunately Rose Strate remained quiet during their trip.

He came out the car, looking, five years after the last time, at the small green building surrounded by mountain's pines and oaks; it was the central building of the Institute and behind it, he knew, sparse in the nearby wood, there were several little cabins used by patients who were able to take care of themselves, a way to occupy them with a sort of "real" life with kind of a "home" and kind of a "work" (cooking, sewing, taking care of chickens, goats, pigs and various animals, working in small kitchen gardens).

He walked on the pebbly lane from the parking to the building door, in his hand his mother bag as she walked by his side, still silent. Inside the building, he found the same hall he knew so well, a wide wooden hall with scattered small tables and gray and comfortable couches around the tables; nothing had changed since the last time he was there, even the smell (a mix of smoke, coffee, food and disinfectant) was the same. He walked to the reception desk where two nurses were looking at him and at his mother, and a nurse smiled at them, knowing the "new" patient even before Enos talked.

"Welcome back, Rose. Doc Martin is waiting for you"

As Enos looked at his mother walking away down the long corridor and entering Doc Martin's office (he knew pretty well it was Doc Martin's office) with the nurse, the second nurse took the bag from his hand and she smiled at him.

"Wait here, Enos"

They knew him as they knew his mother.

Alone in that hall, Enos walked to a couch and he sank into it, looking at everything around him, and finding everything at the same place. It wasn't time for visiting, and patients, at that hour, were occupied in their "activities", so he felt totally lost.

"Hey, Enos. Your mother is back, isn't she?"

Her voice behind him made him start; he stood up and he turned to her, "Hi Miss Kate".

Standing in front of him there was Miss Kate, a forty-year-old woman he knew since the first time he visited her mother there (at that time, obviously, she wasn't forty-year-old, but since she was 7 years older than him, she had to be forty-year-old at the present time whereas the first time he saw her she was 22 years old), a smiling little woman with straight and long brown hair and green eyes, a woman who entered Ridge Institute when she was 20 years old and never went away, turning from patient into a sort of employed there, healthy enough to help other patients but not enough to leave that safe (for her) place for the dangerous world outside, a woman who usually shared her little cabin with his mother (in every cabin there were two patients, the older one, older not for age but for time spent at the Institute, helping the younger one), a woman Enos remembered singing and playing the guitar pretty well (he remembered every time spent in the little cabin with his mother and that woman, singing as the snow fell outside the window), a woman who knew everything 'bout Enos' pain and darkness, maybe the only woman who had seen him crying and shouting out his pain, a woman Enos loved as SHE was his mother, even if, when his mother was away from the Institute, he avoided meeting or calling her, trying to keep a distance between his world and the Institute's (and Miss Kate's) world, a sad, dark and dangerous world for him.

"Yeah, she's back", he smiled blushing, "and I hope this time she's goin' to stay… and to get well. Her new chance", he looked down at the tidy floor; a pitiful lie, but he couldn't help but keeping on hoping it.

Miss Kate came closer him and she hugged him, "Welcome back, Enos".