…You’re a piece of shit! Was that what he said? No? The words were however, conveyed and crafted so meticulously that they could never fully be verified. He had a way of speaking without ever taking any accountability. My father was the same way. The words came over the phone from nowhere as a quiet evening slid through the west end of the mountain while I sat alone on my porch.
Outside it was cool. Nature’s night shift was beginning to hustle. He spoke for a long time over the sounds of the coming night. Over the sound of the wind blowing, the rushing water of the creek below and the ‘peck, peck, peck, peck, peck’ of a familiar silvered woodpecker, pounding away his days labor. The clouds started late but continued to come in thick from below the baseline and settled in between the creek where my cottage rests. Yet, all I heard was you’re a piece of shit, in cadence with the repetition of that damned bird. This went on for some time. The words repeating. The light fading. I sat on the porch with the phone to my ear and my drink in my hand.
His words continued. The breeze had now settled. The whistling of the wind and the shaking of the trees ceased as the sun fully set and the porch was now dark. The bottles had lined up along the railing quickly. I reached for another while dropping the one already in my hand. Then he stopped talking. The bird still hammering away in the background.
Putting myself back in the chair I told him, “You are right. You are absolutely right, I am a piece of shit.”
“I never used those words. You’re overreacting. This is why we don’t speak!” he contested.
“Well I haven’t heard from you in years. Since before she got sick. After he left. It was the last thing you said then. The last time we saw you. There’s been no word from you since.”
“Just listen. We need to discuss arrangements. What’s to be done with the–?”
“The remains? Boy! I don’t know! Didn’t come to my ministration that you would want to know. Even where to find you.”
“Why wouldn’t I want to know? She–”
“That is right. She was.” I cut him off abruptly, “No! You are right though. I was a piece of shit to say that then. A piece of shit. An opinion you aren’t alone in. Can you hold on for one second? I’ll be right back.”
“What? Why? No.”
“The timer on the oven is beeping. Just hold on.” This was true. Inside the stove had begun to smoke and I had burned my dinner. Scraping off the burnt pieces I fixed a plate and returned to the porch. My porch had a single soft watt bulb and against the fog it glowed nicely above my head. Everywhere else around me was total darkness. I could not see past my own property. I could not even see if my neighbors across the creek were home. The weather had since cooled off quite a bit. Only noticing this now because I was sitting naked except for my briefs. Looking about everything was damp.
“I burnt my dinner!” I told him. “But you are right! You aren’t alone in this opinion.” I was annoyed that dinner was ruined.
“No. That’s not what I am saying.” He rescinded. I had lost count of the empty bottles which had now become ashtrays. He continued, “No. No. You have lots of friends.”
“Well I suggest you reach out to them if you need to talk to someone. Right now my only love for you is out of circumstance.”
“You called me.”
“Yes. You don’t understand what it takes for me to say this. What I’ve been through.” Finally a long drawn confession of my failures done to him by me. Something about this and that a lifetime ago but that he blamed me for our losses.
“Circumstance! What circumstance? You’ve been well looked after over the years?” Yes?” He didn’t answer. “Well, I’m here now. I’ll drive there. To you I suppose. Right now.” Remembering the collection of bottles I prayed he didn’t expect me to actually come there at this hour?
“I don’t need you to come. I don’t need you now or ever again. I just need the details.” He stopped himself from saying anything further.
“I don’t know them yet. When I know I’ll let you know. Can you be reached at this number?”
“Yes. How much do you need to cover costs?” he asked finally.
I did not respond for a few minutes as I did not know what to say. I had made sure he’d never see the covenant and his exclusion. Across the creek the neighbor’s porch light had come on. They had guests with them and were all laughing and enjoying the evening. From the sounds of laughter across the creek they had probably been up the way at the pub. I shut my porch light off as not to disturb them.
“Are you there still?” He asked me.
“It’s already all been taken care of. All of it.”
He did not speak for several minutes. Across the creek a bottle shattered and set the bird off in a delirious rant. “Do you hear that? GRAYSON?” The bird still at the sound of my voice. I trailed off trying to picture if he was home, if he was alone, what his home looked like and why he chose today to call. I gave him the allowable seventy-two. Notifications were sent well over ten days. There was splintering on the deck of the porch. It would need to be repainted. I would go to the hardware store in the morning and see Louise. It was very late now. We had been on the phone a long time.
“Hear what?” He said at last. “Do you have guests?” It was very late. “I have been trying to tell you. You’ve never listened. You don’t listen. Are you drunk?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“Yes, but that’s not. That has nothing, that’s not why I called.”
“I miss her too. Call the lawyer. He will have details for the service. It will be very small.”
“Thank you. That is all I am asking. The lawyer said he could not give out information pertaining estate. That you would have that information. That was how it was set up. Can I see her?”
“I waited as long as I could. You could not be reached.” I took a long draw on my drink and finished it completely. “You couldn’t be reached.”
“I see.” His voice cracked.
I reached for another drink, “As for the lawyers it’s been a while since I’ve read any of that. Don’t know your current address. I’ll call him to let him know you’ll be calling. For now let’s just end this call. Nothing more will come of it tonight. You’re upset, you’re drunk.”
“I’m not upset and you’re drunk too.”
He hung up. The call ended pulling his voice back over the mountain to wherever it had come from. My dinner, burnt, was now cold and spoiled. This upset me a great deal and I tossed it and the rest of the meal over the balcony. On the table to my right were the empty ashtrays and a few fresh ones left. I picked up my headphones and resumed listening to the music. There was not enough songs to drown out the drum of that damn woodpecker still calling me a piece of shit. I sat in the cold, in my underwear wondering why that bird was still awake.
– Posthumous Ink
Posthumous Ink is a freelance writer and blogger. To find more of his work connect with him here.