Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beneath the Diamond Sky

"You know he's not going to get better."
"I know, Momma."
"He's getting down.  And hateful, I wish he wasn't getting so hateful."
"He's mad."
"You don't have to tell me that.  He jumps on me for every little thing.  Sometimes he does it and I swear I don't know what I've done.  Like this morning-"
"You didn't do anything."
"I didn't think I did.  I started through the kitchen while he was cooking.  That's it.  Can't walk around him.  He goes off for no reason.  I don't know if it's the drugs or what."
"It's spread.  It's in his bones, now.  He knows what that means."
"I know.  He never said one word.  From the doctor's in Tupelo and an hour down the Trace, not one word, you know how quiet a drive that was?"
"I can imagine."
"And the damned radio singing.  There isn't any kind of music for a drive like that."
"He knows.  He didn't have to ask."
The frogs were a chorus, steady and drowning out everything but the growl of the lonely cars down the roadway.  The yard dog walked over and sat between the two chairs.
"The stars don't seem to be that bright.  I thought you said there was a meteor shower."
"Not yet, Momma.  It'll be a couple of weeks."
"How are we suppose to see anything through the clouds?"
"They'll clear up as it cools.  Don't worry.  It won't be long."
Crossing his legs, he lit a cigarette.
"You're not smoking in the house, are you?"
"No, Momma."
"You better not."
The dog pushed its nose up and into his hand.  He rubbed its muzzle and ears.  Ice in her drink shifted as she lifted it to her mouth.
"Sixty-five years ago, can you believe it?"
"Sixty-five years.  Anyway, my Momma and Daddy were out with your uncle watching the stars right before I was born.  You believe that?"
"The shower comes about this time in August every year.  We're a little early, but there'll be some to shoot.  Some before and some after."
"It's still a little hazy."
"Yeah, might be a little too hazy to see them.  We'll see.  There's more clouds over there.  They're moving south."
She turned the glass in her hand up to her face.  The clouds to the south burst to light.
"Well, I'm out of tea."
The shades of the yard were sharpened with another strike of lightning.
"He's mad.  I can't say that I blame him."
She spun the ice in her glass.
"He's mad."
"Oh, mad ain't the word.  He's had a hard life.  It's getting harder and he can't get it out any other way."
"I'm not sure he means it."
"Not to us, no.  He means it.  He just can't figure who to mean it to."
"It gets worse every week.  You can see his bones through his shirt."
"Lord, don't I know.  He'll be lucky to last til Christmas.  If he lives to Christmas, we'll have the best one ever.  I'm telling you-"
"I'd settle for his birthday.  If I could ask for that, I think that'd be alright.  I worry that the boys haven't had enough time with him."
"He loves those boys, but he just can't handle them when he gets to hurting.  The noise on top of everything else, it's too much for him."
"I'd still like him to have one more birthday."
"That'd be good enough.  You're right.  When he had surgery last summer, I thought that if I only had him for another year that it would be easier.  Now that the time has come and gone, I still want another year."
"I just worry that it's going to get ugly.  I don't know how we're going to deal with it."
"The only way we can, by just doing it."
"I don't know how we can, Momma."
"Just be there.  Don't complain.  If he doesn't complain, then we don't get to.  It's going to get ugly before it's over. "
The frog's congress continued.  Above, the stars circled in their sphere.  The plastic lawn chairs creaked beneath the shuffling of the two.  The yard dog sighed and stretched out before their feet.
"You know, Momma, last night I was out here and something came up behind me.  Snuck right up the drive without me even knowing it was there.  The dog chased it off.  All I saw was a shadow over the gravel running down the drive.  It didn't come back.  I kept waiting for it to, but it didn't."
     Overhead in the black velvet sky, a flash burst and trailed through the heavens until it winked out of sight.
"You see that one?"
"I saw it, Momma."
"Did you make a wish?"
"I don't make wishes."
"We should make a wish."
"It's only a shooting star."
"No, we need to make a wish."
"I don't know.  I don't see-"
"Oh, come on-"
Her breath drew faster as they stared into the sky.  Lightning flashed to the south.
"Do what you want, Momma."
There was silence.  She shook her head, breathing in deeply. Thunder spoke and all was shade and deeper bits of night.
"Our Father, who art in heaven..."

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