The Wake

November 26, 2009

“I can’t believe she did this to me.”

I tried to take my father’s hand, but he jerked away and looked angrily off in the distance.

My sister walked up and glanced at me over our father’s head.  “She didn’t die on purpose, Dad.”   She sounded irritated and I could tell there was so much more she wanted to say.  Thankfully, she washed it back for the time being with a long sip from her wine glass.  It was her favorite, the only survivor of a set of four wine glasses someone had given her as a present years ago.  It was a stemmed fish bowl.  Her kids called it the Chalice o’ Malice.

Justin climbed the wooden steps and leaned over to hug my dad, being careful not to tip his beer onto the old man.  “Hey, Grandpa.”  One of the family’s gleaming-white-patent-pending smiles was plastered on his face.  “You doing okay?”

Dad shook his head and turned away.  “I can’t believe she did this to me.”

“Where’s your brother?” my sister asked.  “You’d better not be letting him drink.”

“He’s on the back porch,” Justin answered.  He looked at me, winked, and held up his hands in pantomime of lighting a pipe.  He mouthed the word “stoned”, then winked at me again.

“We’re just waiting on the cheesy potatoes.  The ham is done.”  My sister sighed impatiently.  “Not that Alyssa will eat it.”  She took her daughter’s eating disorder personally.

Justin gave her a one-armed hugged.  “I love your cheesy potatoes, Mom.”

She snorted, but was mollified enough to refill the Chalice o’ Malice.  “At least there aren’t any flies today.”  Immediately forgetting that her glass was full, she gestured out at the yard, sloshing wine over her hand and onto the deck.  “Hey, get those kids off your uncle’s car!”  She looked down at her wet hand.  “Shit.”

I got up and walked the length of the porch to the side stairs where I found my youngest niece.  She sniffed and wiped at her wet face with the sleeve of her Hello Kitty tee shirt when I stopped to stroke her hair.  “I’m gonna miss Grandma,” she quavered.

My BMW was parked in the driveway.  It looked like a toy beside my sister’s Escalade.  The interior of the car was Southern California summer hot, but I climbed in anyway.  I unlocked the glovebox and took out a small bag.  Using the end of a key, I scooped some of the white powder and held it to my nose.

We all handle our grief differently in this family.

5 Responses to “The Wake”

  1. janet Says:

    we have the same family, debi, I swear —

    ok, I know this is filed under short fiction ~ so I’ll say ‘you know my family so well!’

    your writing is so vivid!

  2. I promise, this is totally fictional! I have a wonderful family, and I don’t drive a BMW or put anything up my nose except the occasional finger, hahahahaha!

  3. janet Says:

    Oh, I know all that – but you know my family so well! 🙂

  4. Well, as long as we’re talking about your family, okay then – hahahahaha! My family would hold me down and stomp me. But the Chalice o’Malice is taken from a real life wine glass one of my siblings owns. It’s freakin’ huge, lol.

  5. avlgal Says:

    Great story, Debi! I was going to say, “You drive a BMW?!” (snort, snort)

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