Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for X marks the spot

(Excerpt from The Lemonade Year, a finished novel seeking representation. A scene in which the protagonist, Nina, has lost her mind.)

Suddenly, everything around me is beautiful. I see what we’ll look like, years and years from now, living in an old house, pictures of our grandkids covering the walls and Oliver’s piano, older than ever, but played none the less, us hosting Thanksgiving for our family and talking about the way it all began. 

 “Because what the hell difference does the rest of it make,” he’s still talking, thinking there is something to talk me into. “You think when you’re 90 and I’m 80 that anyone will give a damn. Women live longer than men anyway,” he’s rambling and making me want to cry and kiss him and tell him to shut up already. “I want you to be older than me. I want us to go out at the same time. I’ve seen what the end can look like, so, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to make the journey the ride of a lifetime.”

That’s exactly what Cricket would say. Then something occurs to me.

“You need to come with me,” I say, finally able to speak.

There’s one injustice that still needs to be undone. I take Oliver by the arm, pulling him toward the door, out it and to my car. I slide in and start the engine. Oliver opens the passenger door and gets inside even as I’m pulling the car away from the curb.  He doesn’t ask where we’re going. He doesn’t say anything at all. Out of the corner of my eye I can see him looking at me. We drive in silence. Finally we pull off the road and pass through the predictable iron gates of the cemetery.

“What are we doing here?” Oliver finally speaks.

I kill the engine and get out. I open the trunk like we’re in some bad movie and pull out a shovel. I’m manic with the idea of this shovel, stuck there last winter, before Dad passed, after spending the day planting bulbs in mom’s yard—those pink and white tulips that seemed so out of place in front of the house the day of the funeral. You don’t even need a shovel this big to plant bulbs.

I walk into the graveyard like a woman possessed, unnecessary shovel in hand and mind determined to undo what never should have been done. Oliver catches up to me and comes around in front. He takes the shovel and spades the edge into the ground.

“What are we doing here?” He asks again, more firmly this time.

I’ve finally figured out what has been pecking at my ribs all this time. I know now what will begin to make this better.

“We’re digging up my father’s ashes,” I say.

“Oh dear god,” Oliver says.

“It’s cathartic,” I say, and grab the spade from the earth. “Besides, isn’t this the sort of wild and crazy thing that kids do?”

“No, this isn’t the sort of wild and crazy thing that kids do,” he says. “This is what lunatics do. This is what psychos in the movies do.” He grabs the shovel away from me.

“Just start digging.” I say and point to the gray stone marker that bears my father’s name.

“Look, Nina, if you’re trying to take my mind off Cricket,” Oliver says, looking from me to the headstone, “I appreciate the thought.”

“Oliver,” I shout and grab the shovel back from him. “Give me some credit, please.”

“That’s really hard to do, Nina,” he says, talking to me like I’m four years old. “When you drag me out to a cemetery on Thanksgiving Day, and ask me to help you dig up your father’s ashes.”

We both just stand there looking at each other, at the shovel, at the name—Nathaniel Griffin. Beloved Father. Cherished Husband. I take out my phone and flip to the picture of the grave. I hold it out to the real thing and compare footage. I point to the spot where the urn is buried.

“Why did you bury the ashes?” Oliver speaks softly, breaking the still around us. “Aren’t you supposed to put them somewhere important?”

I look at him and burst into tears.

“Oh” he says.
He takes the shovel from me and starts digging

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That was clever *had me going for awhile there* Love the way that ended!