Herman watched the caramel colored whiskey flow down the neck of the bottle to Janet’s pressed lips. Her brown eyes filled and she set the Jim Beam down on the cigarette ash spotted TV tray. “I’m going to kill myself today,” she told him.
Herman had just put on his windbreaker to leave and had one arm stuck into a sleeve at a bad angle. “You’ve said that before,” he replied.
Janet’s eyes seemed near to shutting; it was difficult now to discern their normal weight from the burden of drink. They’d sagged that way for almost a year now, that slight thinning of the vision, like someone sleepwalking or struggling to read an eye chart. She placed a hand back on the whiskey but thought better of taking another tug.
“Don’t drink any more today, okay?”
It took him a moment to remember what he’d been doing before he gently wiggled his arm inside the sleeve. He was getting so damned fat. Soon double extra large would be worn not for comfort but necessity. Going back to the weight room might have been good for him, but he’d just not found the time between jobs.
“Where are you going?”
“To the foothills. Lester’s out there somewhere.”
“Sure he is,” Janet answered with a sick twist of her mouth.
“Are you taking your pills?”
“All of them.”
He waited for her to give herself away. Janet did not elaborate, however, and instead tapped listlessly on her yellow teeth. He remembered her bright white smile once upon a time and wasn’t sure when it had changed. She used to brush after every meal and floss twice a day. The teeth-tapping was something she’d started to do recently and it could last sometimes for several hours. She wouldn’t say anything during these events. Just tap, tap, tap, tapping; eyes wide and overflowing with emptiness, scarce moments taken for blinking; knees locked to her chest. A flashback normally triggered this fugue state.
Just last month, Herman had gotten her to finally tell him which haunted moment was paralyzing her. It wasn’t at all what he guessed. It wasn’t that awful first day, nor was it the day following the hit and run, when the doctor let them into the operating room to be with her.
The moment their Melody was gone forever.
No, the recollection was when they spread some of her ashes at Greenhill Pond, a benign event for Herman, but obviously one capable of serious damage to Janet.
He did have his memories of that day, though.
That duck stuck its head through the ashes.
It didn’t. I can’t take this. Just stop talking.
You didn’t see? It has her ashes on its feathers now. Why did it do that?
Herman shook away that thought. His daughter had been too much in his mind this morning. It wasn’t healthy. People still had to live, didn’t they? People had to carry on after a tragedy, not make it grow into some gigantic life-ending monster. There was work to do. Bills to pay. Air to breathe. And runaway Border Collies to find.
“When was the last time you saw Lester?” he asked………………….