An Old, Old, Short Story Retitled.
A hazy mist covered the ground in the cemetery. Green saplings bent to the ground. I walked solemnly, looking behind me every couple of minutes. My chest beat and my legs felt tense. I had been meeting my brother in Shadows Grove Cemetery for several years. Well, I guess I couldn’t really call it meeting him. He’s dead. I just walked to the cemetery to talk to him. He was the only person whom I could really trust when he was alive. You see, my dad died before I was born and my mom -- well, she’s crazy. She tells me that I’m crazy for talking to Randall. She says, “He’s dead. When are you gonna realize that? I raised a dip shit kid who talks to fucking angels.” She isn’t all that bad, though. At least, she doesn’t hit me anymore.
As I approached his plot, I saw a big and nasty crow. It cawed at me and flew into the grey sky, then alighted near Randall’s gravestone and dashed back into the sky. The sun was beginning to make me tired. I felt it on my skin and scratched carelessly at my face. A zit, in all its glory, burst, and I scraped my nails past my hairline. My hair felt heavy and smelled of Pert Shampoo. The air near the grave was heavier. The smell of dying leaves mingled with the mossy air. I knelt down by my brother’s grave. The soft mossy grass scratched my knees, and I began my typical eulogy.
“Jesus, Randall. Why did you have to die? Why couldn’t it have been me? I was in the goddamn car too. You were driving. But I was the little snot-nosed kid who always followed you around. I remember that day. We got in your Pontiac Grand Am and sped down Parkway Drive.”
How could I forget that day? Randall stopped off at Jimmy’s house to grab a bag of weed. Then, we headed for Lorelei’s house. Some frickin’ red Ford F-150 truck ran a stop sign, t-boned us, and when I came to I was on the way to the hospital. Some acne-faced orderly stopped in the waiting room to tell me that Randall had died. I never even got a chance to say goodbye. Thinking about sitting in that yellow wasteland of a waiting room while Jay Leno told some dopey jokes on T.V. always made me want to cry. People were staring at me and I hid behind a potted plant wishing that Randall was there.
While I talked to Randall, I was usually started sobbing. Today, I lay in the grass. I rolled over and stared at a large, shapeless elm tree. Its leaves were dark brown and beginning to turn. I thought of Randall, and how it would have been worse if the cops had found the bag of weed, our mother and her comments, any number of things.
I remembered the funeral on a dark, shapeless day. Assorted relatives and well-wishers paying their last respects stood next to the small, green coffin and fumbled their words. Our cousin, Joe, was too scared to look at Randall laid out in his Sunday best. Aunt Betty and Uncle Charlie were too preoccupied, so I grabbed the kid’s hand and took him up there. The church was large, white, and really cold. We walked up the aisle and I remember feeling his slimy hand. Cold, clammy, and white, it sorta matched the walls of the place. Some god awful incense smell filled the air and I tried not to cry. Joe took one look at Randall and wailed. It kind of pissed me off. He barely knew him, but the kid needed to see Randall like that. He would never forget it, if he hadn’t. I don’t remember much else about that day, but I do remember crying in the car on the way home and for several days after.
Mom shut down. She barely acknowledged that he was gone, sweeping up his room and leaving it under the rug like all her other problems. She became mean and bitter. “Grant,” she said, “Randall had it coming. I always knew he would die young. He was like your Uncle Walt. You never knew the man, but he was a bastard. That was where Randall was headed. He would have been a self-loathing alcoholic. Alone and empty. But, he wouldn’t find solace in the bottle; Randall would just light another joint.”
I nodded and concealed my smile. She was talking about herself alone and empty, and well on her way to complete alcoholism. Her thin hands wrapped around a cigarette and she deftly lit it. I guess that she had years and years of practice. Her fine hair thinly shielded her face and she sucked the smoke in. She reached into the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of Miller Lite and deftly shucked the cap in the garbage can. She smiled slyly with her green eyes and I couldn’t help but feel like crying.
But, I wouldn’t cry today. I dried my eyes and crossed my legs. I had been here a long time. Dark shadows framed the trees and the sun climbed higher in the sky. I felt the soft breeze blow leaves past my feet. I sat and thought for a long time.
Randall’s grave was my favorite place. I had justified it for so long, because it was a cemetery. I told myself, “You would hang out here anyway.” Yet, I wasn’t one of the cemetery gang. I wasn’t one of those poor Goth kids who hangs out in the cemetery and hopes to see vampires or ghosts. I saw ghosts, but these were harsh and real and only I wanted to see them. Lately, I had doubts. One of these days I would stop coming to see Randall and that scared me, too. Randall never talked back. His stone was cold and gray. Moss had grown on the top and the faded picture of him that my mom had tacked on looked cheesy. It was faded and forgotten. He was faded and forgotten and looked lonely. I sighed and lay back against the stone.
I felt someone kick me. I jumped to my feet in my best wrestling pose. “What?” I shouted.
“It’s just me.” It was my mom looking haggard and sad.
“What are you doing here?” I stuttered.
“I figured it was about time,” she mumbled. She was wearing a thin baseball jacket. It was far too thin and the wind was picking up. She looked so tiny. Her fine brown hair was blowing in her face. Tiny worry lines surrounded the freckles by her eyes.
“Isn’t it a little late? It’s been two years. You’ve been such a bitch and you haven’t acted like you even cared.”
“I know.” That was all she said. Her eyes were welling up with tears. “I never say goodbye to anyone. Your father, your uncle, Randy. I can’t live like this. I feel like I’m losing you, too.”
I wanted to shout at her. I wanted to beat my fists in her face, throw her on the ground and slap her. I couldn’t. I started to hate her right after Randall had died, when she started throwing coffee cups at me. I ducked to miss as one hit the mirror on the wall by my head. I ran up the worn wooden stairs and hid in my room. After that, I always visited Randall.
“I knew that you came here. I followed you one day, but I couldn’t come near.” She was fighting back the tears.
“You could have asked to come with me. You could ask anything. I miss you, mom.” I was struggling, too.
I looked into her hazy, green eyes. The shallow wind separated us.