The time had come when I had to recoup my mother's faults yet again. The poor man who had hit her—who, shortly after realizing that she was dead, promptly had tears well up in his soft, old eyes—would be charged for murder, although it certainly wasn't his fault. I knew neighbors would have heard some commotion, and soon another commuter was bound to happen by. The injustice of that outraged me; I could think of nothing but that poor old man being taken to court, put on trial, ruled guilty for manslaughter and sent to prison for the rest of his life. His potential bail would bankrupt him and his wife's hard earned retirement fund. His grandchildren, who once adored their war-hero grandpapa and all the stories he'd told, would look at him with disdain and call him not a hero but rather a bloodthirsty, villainous murderer. They wouldn't be able to look at him again, this kind, well-intentioned old man. It was awful enough that Sylvia had subjected him to a retirement filled with guilt.
"Go on, sir. She's fine. If you've any questions, please feel free to phone me. Malcolm Evans. We're in the telephone book under… Frederick. Frederick Evans. Please phone for an explanation later, but you must leave now."
The man looked confused, opened his mouth to say something. I shook my head. "Go!" I said, tears choking my voice and causing it to come off as painfully juvenile. He stalled, nodded, and got into the car, and drove away.
I didn't expect him to phone.
What Sylvia did had been selfish. Selfishness was her scarlet letter; she'd been as selfish on this day as she had been her entire life, living vainly as her own top priority. And now one more among many lives had been ruined by one woman; one banal, silly woman thinking of nothing but herself. Sylvia had always had a capacity for love. And she did love. She'd loved fiercely, and without restraint, many times. Loving someone is the most selfish act a person can commit. Love is nothing more than emotional masturbation. After all, no one loves for any reason other than to please themselves.
The first thing to do was to get Sylvia out of the road. As I had predicted, neighbors had begun to hover. Some women looked aghast, others smug. One man approached me, and I, with choked words, asked him to call the police. I had the murderous vehicle in mind, and the murderer also. The car had been red. It had been one of the new Corvette convertibles with great works—a V8 175 horsepower engine at my best guess. A young man in his thirties had been driving it. He'd been going quickly. The car had a vanity plate, and he looked as though he had been drunk, possibly from the night before. He was graying and looked underweight, with shabby clothing and stubble. He had no defining facial hair. He'd left the scene before I could stop him or get his plate number. The car had been from one of the "M" states.
Of course, this person was entirely fictitious. And so was the car. The real car was, naturally, gone by now. The fact that Sylvia was gone—really gone, not just to the "supermarket" or on a bus to deport herself away from her boring Midwestern life—was not entirely difficult to fathom, but the realization came upon me suddenly. I stumbled as I bent to try to pick her up and bring her to the sidewalk to clear the way for oncoming traffic. I fell ungracefully, muddying my nice trousers with the grime of our suburban intersection and the exact location of my mother's suicide. Looking up, I saw a very manic looking Gracie running at me, followed by a rather sluggish Maggie. Standing and using the sleeve of my shirt to dab at the threatening tears that had welled at the corners of my eyes I lifted Sylvia onto the sidewalk, then stepped carefully over Sylvia's body—still warm with the last echoes of life and circulation—and walked toward my oncoming sisters.
Gracie hit my chest with an impressive thud, causing me to stumble back a bit. She seemed intent on getting around me, but I didn't want her to at first. I wanted to shield her from having to see her mother, who still looked so alive, so real, until she grew up. She was only thirteen. Sylvia had been her confidant, if not her mother. There was a consistency to her inconsistency that Gracie seemed to thrive off of. She was crying already. I asked her what she'd heard. There had been an accident, she told me. Sylvia had been involved.
At that she ducked under my lanky arms and sat at Sylvia's side, as she had earlier that day. As she had the night before. As she had her entire life… as she had when she was a grubby little earthworm of a girl, before our troubles had really begun. As she had in the garden, playing make believe with mother the day before she'd broken our family and left us with only a note telling us where the cereal was. As she would at her funeral.
Maggie approached next, looking at Sylvia. I supposed that she had been expecting this. Sylvia had been dead to her for a long time—maybe forever. Maggie and Sylvia had never been particularly close, and to be honest I think she was glad that we couldn't be hurt by her any more.
The criminal proceedings were short. The police photographed Sylvia, after prying Gracie away, and questioned me, the only witness. I fed them the story about the red Corvette, and they believed it. It was a very convincing story, if I do say so myself.