Thursday, August 5, 2010

Just Puddles

It's going to be a long weekend for me so this will be the last post.  I'll be back on Monday with a recap of Mad Men and then Tuesday will bring, what I believe will be, the first comprehensive review of the new Walkmen album Lisbon, which I have managed to get my hands on before its release.  And you all know how much I love the Walkmen, so you know that its going to be a fantastic post.  Just one more thing to look forward to next week so you don't drink to give up the ghost over the weekend.

But, to keep you occupied over the next few days, I post the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt.  We now begin Part III of the novel, which resumes the first person perspectives of the O'Donnell family as they come back to their home after Rose's funeral and have to address the individual issues between them and in their own lives that have been rising throughout the course of the book.  So here is the first section of Part III, which you can analyze and scrape for meaning in the heat.  Enjoy:


“I can’t believe you did all of this, Aunt Erin.  We could’ve handled some of it.”

    “Please, James,” Aunt Erin says to me.

    I want to say something about responsibility and about mom being my mother and that I should do better, but instead I don’t say anything.  I smile and I put my arm around her little body and pull her close.

    “I love you, Aunt Erin.”

    “Thank you, James.”

    I let her go and look around the kitchen.  There are about a half dozen aluminum catering trays filled with food.  There are plenty of plastic cups and plates and untensils all wrapped and stacked on the counters.  She has two liters of soda and also plenty of beer.

    “That was a nice service.  They have a good cemetary out there in Calverton.”  Uncle Connor is sitting at the kitchen table.  The fading grey light comes in from the skylight.  Behind him against the back windows there is a little red and purple from where the clouds are breaking and letting the sun through.  He drums his fingers on the kitchen table. “And Douglas and his family have always had a fine business at that home.”

    “I don’t know how with that crook of a father of his and the faulty hearses they used to send around.” Dad walks in with the bottle of Sark the girls found him with last night.

    “He wasn’t a crook, Ben.” Uncle Connor says.  I can see him want to smile.

    Dad grabs two tumbler glasses.  He turns to Uncle Connor and points a finger. “Revisionist.”  He puts the glasses down on the table and unscrews  the Sark cap. “Scotch?”

    Uncle Connor shakes his head and looks at Dad. “I don’t think so, Ben.”

    I watch Dad meet Uncle Connor’s gaze.  Dad turns away and pours himself a glass.

    “Well, I think so.” Dad says. “James?”

    I shake my head.  “I think I’ll just stick with beer.”

    Dad sits down at the table and pulls his glass in.  He takes a long drink off it and exhales.

    “James,” Aunt Erin says, grabbing a tray. “Why don’t you get Tom and help me carry this stuff into the dining room to set up.”

    “You got it.”

    I walk out of the kitchen, through the living room where Eve is sitting with Liza and looking over a book.  Eve looks at me and smiles.  I feel the hollow dread in the bottom of my stomach.

   “Why did you hide my grandson from me?”

    “I didn’t, mom.  I didn’t mean to.”

    She shuts the oven and my mouth tastes like an onion.

    I move through the main hallway and to the front door.  I look out and Maggie is sitting on the front step with Jake.  The sun is shining red.  He still looks good and it surprises me how happy I am to see him.  Surprise isn’t the word – I always admired him and thought that we saw eye to eye in some way.  Even though I always felt that Maggie would break his heart somehow.  But he’s back and it would be like him to show up to the funeral without telling anyone.


    I jog quickly up the stairs, my feet making that soft warm thudding sound on the carpet.

    “Tom?” I ask again.  I turn down the hallway and look into his room.  Tom is sitting on the ledge of his window, legs draped out the window. “What’s going on, Tom?”

    He turns around and smiles. “I’m not going to jump.”

    “I didn’t say that.” I cross my arms.

    “You looked that,” he laughs.

    I shake my head.

    “What’s up?”

    “Aunt Erin wants us to help set the food up for the guests.”

    Tom turns his feet back into the room.  Red light enters onto his tan carpet.  It reminds me of too many summer afternoons.

    “Who’s coming?”

    “I don’t really know. Friends?”

    He nods and steps into the room.  He slides the screen back over the window.  I suddenly feel hot around the collar of my shirt.  Tom stretches up.  He looks lean and sharp.  He looks healthy and slightly sad.

    “I’m sorry,” I say. “About the look.”

    He walks over and pats my shoulder.

    “Thanks for coming up to get me.”

    He passes me and walks out into the shadow of the hall.  I follow him.

    “Who was that girl from last night anyway.”

    Tom doesn’t answer and disappears down the stairs.  I begin to descend but I can feel mom behind me.  I turn.

    “Be patient with your brother.  He needs your help just like everyone else.”

    “I know, mom. I know.  I love him.”

    “Good,” she holds her arm against my cheek. “Now where is that grandson of mine?”

    Of course she’s not there.

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