I walk home happy to be alive, my callused hands hurt, but what was this pain compared to the time before. The house is lit from window to window as I approached two hours late. I walk inside and like a TV sitcom I announce to Cynthia that I was home, but do not receive an answer. So I check the kitchen and on the table sits a roast cold, but waiting on a plate. Famished, I eat it regardless. After I finish I begin to questions Cynthia’s whereabouts, I call out the back door and wait for an answer, but again do not receive one. Still barely able to open the door I call for her in Noah’s room, but I am greeted with silence. I walk to our room removing my shirt as by the process of elimination she had to be in there. I pull the shirt over my eyes as I walk in, like curtains they revile the scene in front of me.
With a bottle of vodka on the nightstand and a bottle of pills spilled onto the floor I find Cynthia in bed. I slide to her side. “Hey, hey, how many did you take?” I lightly tap her sleeping face, her eyes slowly open and look at me. “How many?” I ask again. She tiredly lifts her hand up to touch my face but it falls to the bed. “It’s ok, I’m going to go see Noah, I, I just need to sleep, you know how I like to sleep.” She says then closes her eyes. I am standing and yelling “No, no, no, no..” and on and on they go as I try to shake her back to the waking, but she just continues to sleep.
I lie drunk on the floor staring at the magnets on the fridge. Another funeral, another time for me to wear my suit. I take another drink and the world twists a little faster and I forget a little more, that is until there’s a knock from somewhere. I roll around the kitchen trying to hide when the knock happens again. “Noah?” I whisper sheltering myself with a chair, but nothing answers. I put my face on the floor when the knock is louder. I try to stand up quickly, but the chair above me catches me. I fight with it as there’re footsteps in my house. I stop and the kitchen light turns on. Looking up from my tangled mess I find Olive and Jasper looking down at me with eyes filled with pity. “Come on Karl, it’s time to get dressed.” Olive says moving bottles aside to put her purse down. They help me to my feet, which is the easy part. My knees shake as I ascend the steps to the vacant part of the house. Once at the top, I run into the room grab my suit and hurry back down. I can’t say I was afraid I was going to see their ghosts, I just wasn’t ready to. I change in the downstairs bathroom and come out to Jasper sitting on the couch. Olive emerges from the kitchen with a glass of something. “Here, this will help you sober up.” She says handing the foreign liquid to me. I drink it and it taste like garbage, but leaves a hint of mint in my mouth, which I am sure is the reason I vomited. Olive helps me clean the mess I made as Jasper walks around the house. We pile into his pick-up truck. I doze off with a jar between my legs as we drive our way into town.
I wake-up in front of the funeral home, as they wouldn’t allow it in the church. I clean myself up some more in the dinky bathroom. Only Jasper and Olive sit in the front. The few others that came seemed to want to keep their distance. I couldn’t bear to attempt another eulogy, and no one seemed to blame me. Though I was certain that they whispered about it. The prayers are said as everyone looks down, I watch all their heads count until they could look back up again. German, John, and Jasper help me carry the casket to the waiting hearse. German gives me a ride in his tiny car as we follow the black car.
They blessed the ground, and they bless the dirt. More flowers more tears. I have the shakes as they say one final prayer. I say the last goodbye I never got and sprinkle the jar of sea shells on top of her casket. They lower her body next to Noah’s and at that moment I knew my life was over.
German drives me to the Weatherby’s for the wake then says goodbye as there was still work he needed to catch up on. Elizabeth sits at the top of the steps with two cigarettes in her hand. I try to walk past her but she grabs my wrist and makes me sit down. “Here.” She says handing me one of the smokes she just lit. “What are you going to do now?” I look down at my mismatched shoes trying to think of an answer, I look up and she’s fiddling with the band on her finger. “You know my number, I know what it’s like to lose someone, call me for anything, okay?” She quickly changes her tone from friend to doctor. “And try not to drink too much tonight.” She throws her half-smoked cigarette into the driveway and walks inside. I smoke the rest of the cigarette then join the masses.
How many times can a person say that things will get better before their words are so hollow they’re no longer words. I want to say twice, but the mourners seemed to want to push those odds. I have one, then six more scotches. A drunk sweat comes over me and I need to step outside. I walk along the drive kicking rocks as I went, until one fateful or faithful rock bounces and hits a backhoe. It sparks along with my plan. I walk into the barn and grab the key. Its engine roars and the smoke stack bellows as I drive it away from the wake.
With the rumbling at my feet and the shadowed outline of my house, I sit waiting for a miracle to happen, but it never does. I put the backhoe in gear and lift the front end loader a few feet off the ground. The house disappears in front of me, but I can hear the crunch and the breaking of wood. Again and again, I rush the house and smash another piece of this home. More wood snaps, more breaks. I gnaw at the second story with the backhoe. The transfiguration of a house to a pile of rubble. Drunk with liquor and sorrow I push the remains off the cliff, to be swallowed, I hoped, in high tide.
I drive back and Jasper sits out by the shed waiting for my return. I shut the engine off and hop down. Jaspers yells to me. “Doing some- some work to keep-p your mind off?” I sort of wave my hand and nod my head. I walk down the dirt path, then down the road. I get into the Plymouth and drive north.