A note about my father:
He was a large, robust man, about twice my size. Growing up, I didn’t see him a whole lot. He worked in a factory that made hot air balloon baskets. Mostly, while growing up, he worked second shift, from about five in the evening until about five in the morning, and my sister and I always held the assumption these hours were kept to minimize his contact with us. Not that we minded. Mom was a very sweet lady. A little headstrong. A little sterile. A little crazy and a lot depressed, but my father seemed to actively hate life and was not greedy with his worldview. He hated life and he wanted you to know how bad life really was. Life was going to work for twelve hours a day in some factory you didn’t want to be in so you could put a roof over your unappreciative kids’ heads. His father, my grandfather, the one who had disappeared in a storm of elephants, had been an anthropologist. Much like my father, he was away from his family most of the time. My father probably felt like a disappointment. He did not go to college. He had no interest in going to college. He had no interest in making the world a better place. His world was his family and when it came to keeping families happy, to my father, it came down to money. He didn’t need to go to school to make money. He only had to work long, grueling hours creating hot air balloon baskets for rich hobbyists who made more in a year than he probably would in his lifetime. Sometimes, I felt like he and my mother had separated a long time ago and participated in something like shared custody of us kids. Except we were usually out of the house when he had his visitation.
When I arose from my stupor and dazedly trudged into the living room it was to find my father standing in the middle of the room, holding a mug of coffee in his right hand and looking down at my mother sprawled on the floor.
“I thought you said she was dead,” I said.
“I’m pretty sure she is.” He didn’t cry. He didn’t really seem shaken up or sad. He just stood there, took a sip of his coffee (always black) and stared down at the unmoving corpse.
“Did you call the ambulance?”
“I called somebody.”
“They said they were.” He took a deep, shaky breath. “But that was hours ago.”
“And you’ve just been standing here since then?”
I sat down in a chair and stared at my father staring at my mother. “Did you call Cassie yet?” I asked.
“Couldn’t get a hold of her.”
“She said, ‘I think I’m dying,’ and then she fell there on the floor.” He pointed. “Right there where she is now.”
“This is horrible.” I ran my hands through my greasy hair.
“She’d been ill for quite some time.”
“I didn’t know that. What was it? Cancer?” Most people in my family died of cancer. We were lucky if we saw seventy.
“No. I’d rather not go into it.”
“Was she like a closet alcoholic or something?”
My father turned slowly. He took a sip from his cup, staring over the rim at me with his icy blue eyes. “I said I’d rather not go into it just yet.”
“Fine,” I threw up my hands. “When did this family get so fucked up anyway?”
“Excuse me?” he asked, still staring at me.
“You heard me.”
“I think you need to go to your room.”
“Yeah, well, I like it better there anyway. Call me out for the funeral.”
“Don’t you have to make arrangements or anything?” I asked.
“So you’ve managed to make arrangements while standing here for the past three hours.”
“Made them before.”
“You made arrangements before she died? Don’t you have to put things in the paper and reserve a time for the funeral and all that?”
“Yeah. I did that. I told you, she had suffered for quite a while. In fact, we both knew the exact minute she was going to die.”
“And you didn’t think to tell anyone?”
“I think I told you to go to your room.”
“I’m not a child anymore.”
“Then get out of my house.”
“Maybe I will.” My father was acting like a ghoul.
I left through the front door, slamming it loudly behind me. I stood out there on the porch, barefooted and robed. It was a clear day. The sun was bright. Too bright. It gave me a headache. People should die on overcast, gray days, when the beginnings of depression are already beginning to sink their little black hooks into your soul. I turned and went back in, crossing the living room, exactly as it was a moment ago, entering my room and slamming the door.
I went to my stereo to play the saddest music I could find as loud as I possibly could and then remembered I had smashed the stereo to bits only moments before. I lay back down on the bed, listening for sirens, listening for anything resembling something close to normalcy. Hearing nothing, I drifted off into yet another nap.