|My Father's Gasoline
Author: pressontoknow PM
My father lies in the ground of the north hill behind the house. I have buried him this morning.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Family - Words: 1,735 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 01-08-13 - id: 3090516
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My father lies in the ground of the north hill behind the house. I have buried him this morning.
I suppose I should have said some nice words, perhaps quoted a verse or said a prayer. All I could come up with was that ridiculous saying about ashes and dust. Such a comfort to a hurting loved one left behind on earth after someone has passed on. My father will soon be one with the ground.
I consider just leaving the shovel by the grave, knowing I won't be needing it any longer, but I decide it's best to just hang it back on its place in the garage. A shovel next to a grave is an invitation to any grave robber or impoverished soul seeking a spare cent or scrap.
I realize that a house can have feelings within itself as I cross back over the field. The structure sags as if in grief over the loss of its longtime inhabitant. This house, these fields, they were my father's dream, but in the end the dryness of this land, meant to finally bring healing to his lungs, brought him to ruin. The beams slump, the paint peels, and the windows glare as if to say, You are leaving now too. We are sorry you are gone. A dry wind blows across the grasses which in turn lift their voices in agreement. Nature's lament.
The garage door shrieks as I pull it open. Never let it be said that my father cared not for the upkeep of his house; he was diligent in its care until he became too ill. I had my hands full caring for him, much less worrying about squeaky hinges and dirty floors.
The shovel takes it rightful place on the wall where my father hung his tools. They are plentiful, more so than one would think when entering the home of a pastor. But a preacher's pay isn't much in good days, much less in a dying land. My father worked wood to put food on the table and clothes on our backs, while the church paid for the house.
The disrepair of the main floor of the house gives strong testament to the fact that only men have lived here for several months. Mama would be appalled to see the state of the place now. The floors are grimy, dishes piled sky high in the sink, all manner of possessions strewn about the tiles and sofas. My parents' wedding picture atop the hall shelf has been turned facedown long since, and it's been weeks since I took whitewash to their wedding verses stenciled carefully to the wall. I chose a very specific four-letter word to paint over top to voice exactly what I thought of my parents' marriage. My father was too ill to protest.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror as I pass by it, and stop for a moment. I can almost see the reek of my clothes wafting up about my reflection. I've not bathed in close to two weeks. The dirt was so caked about my face, my tears have made visible pathways, into my beard and down my neck. Little roadways through a forest of hair and flesh. There is a yet undiscovered land on my face.
The stairs screech in protest as I make my way to the second floor of the house. Once there were many photographs along the stair wall, but I packed most of them up a long time ago. The only photographs that remain upright and intact are those of Harold.
My brother was two years older than me. I idolized him growing up. Looking back, I'm not really sure why. He was a suck-up—the perfect pastor's son. Top of his class, best voice in the choir, first to pray at any meeting. No one expected him to flunk the entrance exam into college.
Or put a bullet through his skull two weeks later.
I pass his room slowly, the first on the right. I haven't entered the room since I got home. Mama closed the door four years ago, and it hasn't been opened since.
My room is next to Harold's, but I haven't lived there often since I came home. My childhood wallpaper is peeling from where Mama hung it so carefully, and my bookshelf is bare. Most of the books were sold two years ago after the first storm, and the rest lie in boxes in the basement. The drawers of my writing table contain trinkets and treasures alike—Indian arrowheads from the creek where Harold and I used to play at, bits of fools' gold from camping trips with my grandfather, and even an intricately woven turban from the Middle East, where my uncle Peter once visited. Harold and I had such fun with that bit of cloth: using it as a sling when I would shoot him in battle, a cape when the prince came to save the fair maiden from the evil lord, and even a flag of peace when our civil wars began to rage too hot and heavy around lunchtime. The quality of the weaving is shown in the fine condition of the piece even after such rough play and hard use over the years.
My bed lies parallel to a window looking out on the main road. I used to sit there for hours, watching the cars drive by and wondering where they were going. The fancy, polished sedan would surely be carrying beautiful women and rich men to meet mayors and governors and kings. The loud rumbling of the hardy work truck carried a laborer home to his family; to his wife and children in a fine little house full of laughter and love. The hearse was rare—it carried the body of an old man who had spent his life well, loving his wife, raising fine sons and daughters, loved and respected by all who knew him. The hearse was often followed by the fine sedan and the hardy truck, for in times such as those—times of grief and loss—people from all walks of life and manners of status and wealth were brought together to mourn and to remember.
Mama once told me that I should be a writer with the fine imagination I have.
My father's room is at the end of the hallway across from the spare room, or rather the dumping ground for all unwanted clutter. Soon after I came back home I transferred all that remained of Mama's things to the spare room. My father didn't argue.
The room reeks of sick and blood and stale air. I immediately open the window and gulp in the fresh spring breeze, swallowing hard to keep from vomiting down into Mama's flower pots on the back porch. After a moment I've composed myself enough to turn back to the room. The house is crying again. The window shutters clap against the wall in a steady beat. Wind chimes on the back porch sound like raindrops, or tears, and for a moment the wind screams and the house creaks. A home's symphony of grief.
The afternoon light reflects off the mirror of Mama's vanity table and casts a beam onto the unmade bed. The sun will set soon. Burying my father took longer than I anticipated. I stayed up all night with him, thinking he would die at any moment, but when he finally breathed his last it was already mid morning. I dug the grave first, in the hot noon sun that seemed to sap all remaining strength out of my bones. By the time I had carried his frail, thin body down the stairs and laid him to rest, I was too weary even to cry. But perhaps I am all out of tears. The pain and loss I have seen recently seems to have sucked all feeling and emotion right out of me. I'm just a corpse now.
I am exhausted, but I know I won't be able to sleep much tonight. The house should be clean when I leave it tomorrow for the last time, and I decide that my father's room will be the first in my sights. I gather all the dirty clothes and strip the bed. There's no water for doing laundry, so I just throw everything into the spare room. Out of sight, out of mind.
By the time I've washed the dishes, stuffed all the random junk into hidden corners, and done what I would call a thorough job of sweeping, I am exhausted. The sun has barely set, but the house is dark since the electricity was shut off, and I used up the last of the candles last night. My father sold the television months ago, and I'm exhausted besides. Surely I'll be able to fall asleep quickly after such a day.
I sit on the edge of the couch, too tired to move, too weary to sleep. The dirt from my father's grave has found its way under my nails, around my nails, in the creases of my hands. I pick at the dust absentmindedly.
Dirt permeates everywhere, with such ease. Blowing, flying, burying, creeping. Everywhere and all at once. This dirt on my hands will be my father's memory, his legacy to me. no matter how hard I scrub, bits and pieces will remain. In that way at least he will always be with me.
What could I have done differently as he came to his final hours? He spoke often, open and honest and, I think, delusional. Some of the things he confessed didn't really seem to have been possible in the life he lived. Rescuing orphans in the Sudan? Traveling from New York to England on a great ship? I don't think my father ever actually left the country, except to fight in the first world war, and then only briefly.
The house is so quiet. Even its weeping—those horrible creaks and moans of grief—has ceased. It is quiet now in sadness, as I am.
I am not one to normally feel lonely. I keep to myself—I always have. But now I am lonely. The quiet makes me ache to hear a human voice.
Just a whisper. That's all I want to hear.
The pages of my father's Bible, resting on the dining room table, rustle softly.
The house remains quiet.