June’s dragon breath lay like a comforting quilt on Ella’s back as she stretched over the Wildcat’s metal haunch. Inside the house of her childhood, her father was dying.
Seeping, seeping, seeping life away, Ella’s mind chanted hypnotically. It was a five-year-old moment in a fifty-five-year-old mind, tired from months of caring for one swiftly disintegrating parent and another, harried and grief-stricken.
This is the last time, last time, I’ll be like this. Ella felt the sun-warmed car beneath her. A jellyfish on a beach rock, she absorbed the Sweetpeas along the driveway, the smell of summer dirt, and the peace of being a child of two living parents, outside the house where she had been raised.
With one last embrace to the Wildcat – car of the father who loved her, still cluttered with his odd assortment of tools and toys – Ella returned to the house, where the imminent passing whistled and roared down the hallways.
In twenty more days, Ella’s father split his skin and splashed against the wall, a sunburst of light, headed for the window and the relief of the July day. It was the first day in two months Ella had not been with her parents.
Her sister, who hadn’t been able to help, had said she couldn’t help, even wouldn’t help, was there. It was an interesting coincidence, Ella thought. But the next day when her mother refused Ella’s help with the last arrangements, clung to the reluctant Sophie, it was a shock – a second orphaning in so many days.
Perhaps, I’m wrong, Ella thought to herself and waited to be summoned. Waited through days of sudden chilly breezes in closed rooms, slamming doors, smiling Casper the ghost bedside emanations. She waited while Sophie sorted through their father’s possessions, taking tools and three cars, including the Wildcat, Ella’s one request.
When Sophie was done, Ella was called and brought to deal with the rest: old clothes, boxes of worn books, leaking faucets and plugged drains, a bereft widow. Bereft but no longer restrained.
“I’ve always had a special feeling about Sophie, like we were married in a previous life or something.”
Ella could almost see the cloud of her illusions moving from between them. She bent to fill a box with the remainders of her father’s medicines. She had known his love like a many-colored coat; she hadn’t recognized it as a safe shelter within her own home.
My Short Stories Workshop is July 18th 10am-2pm through Everett CC. Call 425-267-0150 to register.
|Father and daughter|