The Good Life _     _    _    _    _    _    _    _    _    _    _    _    _  Mark and Rebecca Spencer

 

 

TWENTY TWO

   

     The storm has knocked out the electricity, and I have two candles on the table next to the narrow bed here in what serves as a spare bedroom and Chachi's workroom.

     I hear Lon and Chachi whispering about me in the hall.  "I think Fowood's sick," Lon says.

     "Sick how?"

     "I don't know.  He's just been acting funny."

     "Maybe he's just tired.  We'll just have to check on him from time to time."

     There's a pause.  Then in a normal voice--maybe a little louder than normal as though he thinks I might be losing my hearing--Lon says through the door, "Fo, how you doin' in there?"

     "I'm fine, Lon.  I'm okay."

     "You need anything?"

     "No."

     "You holler if you do."

     "Sure."

     I shiver in this narrow bed.  The shadows created by the candles hover on the ceiling, sway against the walls.  All around me on shelves and Chachi's work tables are bones--steer skulls, miscellaneous femurs, complete skeletons of cats and squirrels and rabbits.  They haven't been painted, prettied up yet.  They look exactly like what they are.  Dead things.  Bits of flesh still cling to the bones.

     Well, I've taken a look at that road map.  There was a lot I'd forgotten or chose to ignore.  Oh, facts, I have always remembered, but remembering facts is different from remembering emotions and remembering what things meant--and mean.

     I stare at a squirrel skeleton and think of Nick.  God, will I ever decide what to do about Nick?  Will I ever know--really know--that I've done the right thing for him?  Should I drive over to that state home as soon as the roads are cleared of snow and take Nick home, where I can cater to him every minute for the rest of my life?  Watch him drool and draw charcoal pictures of me as an old bull dog, as an elderly rooster, as a bat with a little shriveled-up face?

     I'm not even sure I did the right thing forty years ago.  If I had left Meg, she would have gone on with her life.  As it was, she always felt I'd been unfaithful anyway--if not technically, at least emotionally.  I sure as hell didn't make Rose happy.  Rodney wasn't happy. 

     Was I? 

     Maybe everybody would have been happier--at least in the long run--if Rose and I had gone off together, disappeared, like all those people in the river, except we would have been alive--alive in a way that we never got to be alive.  Then again, who's to say Rose and I would have been happy together.  How quickly might the passion have spent itself?

     If my life is a road map, I fail to figure out how to read it.

     I hear Chachi giggling.  Lon laughs.  She half whispers-half shouts, "Give me that candle!"  Then everything is quiet for a minute until I hear Chachi murmur, "Love you."

     The ghosts dance on the walls and ceiling.  I close my eyes.

     Lover.  Not a word I . . . .

     When Meg was dying, she lay still as a statue for days, then would suddenly start making noises, her head rolling on the pillow.  Once, when I bent down, my ear turned to hear what she was trying to say, she moaned the word lover.

     "What?" I said.

     "Lover!"

     "Yeah, Meg."  Tears came to my eyes.  "Yeah.  I'm you're lover."

     "No," she said out of the side of her mouth.  "No." 

     I stepped back from her bed and looked at her, shaking my head, not understanding.

     Then in a long exhalation of breath, drawing the word out as long as the final note of a song and allowing the sibilance of it to fade slowly, she said, "Rose."

  

<<<                                  THE END