The Order of the Good Death
My father slides his head under the tic-tac-toe of splintered boards, careful of the bent tendons of nails that snag sleeves and hold. Steel-toed boots, bought specially, tread light, careful of the bits of bone blending with the floor. The calluses of his fingers register the path he knows by heart, careful of the gossamer hatches of veins hanging, blood popping and pulsing under the surface.
He’s careful, so careful, of all the pieces that make up the body of my aunt, fusing together in the battered suitcase of her mind, in the very center of it all.
My father kneels, carefully, carefully, hands on knees, tracing the invisible latch with his eyes, a torn cover of skin, revealing the softness underneath.
“Hello,” he says, lifting the lid and hearing a silence like listening. “Hello.”
A threadbare voice answers, “Yes? Hello?” Uncertain, a little scared.
“It’s me,” he says. “It’s only me.”
“It’s your brother.”
“Oh. Of course, of course,” but the uncertainty is covered by dust light enough to see through.
“Your older brother, the one with the dimple in his chin.”
It’s very quiet for a long time.
“Yes, of course,” the threadbare voice whispers. “Of course.”
“Do you remember?” My father asks his little sister.
“I do, I do. I’d forgotten, but only a little while.” And she says, after a pause, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” my father answers. “It’s okay.”
Another pause. “Is it?”
“Because I love you, so. It’s no trouble. No trouble at all.”
“You love me?”
My father touches the pulse of her wrist. “You and I were friends.”
“That’s right,” my aunt says, a smile weaving into her voice. “That’s right.”
My father smiles too and sets the lid back down, soft, like a baby, before the moment breaks, so he can remember the dip of my aunt’s chin as she remembered him.
Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Arts. Kate resides in Graham, North Carolina with her cats Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.
A Song for Kate