Months To Years Winter 2019 Months To Years Winter 2019 - Page 28

In the morning as I dress for work, Ed comes in. Half an hour later, the funeral-home director “The chip pile is smoking,” he says. We go outside arrives, spreads a heavy black neoprene bag on together. The wood chips are spontaneously com- a gurney next to Dad’s bed. As he opens its thick busting. We grab rakes, pull the pile apart, find zipper the whole room sounds torn in half. On the the hot spots. As soon as we begin to spray them count of three Belli and I help slide Dad’s body in. down, Belli calls – Dad just died. Ten days after The director zips the bag shut, zips my dad away his stroke. Ten days of long hours at his side and forever. he dies without any of us there. My father’s beautiful, terrible journey ends. Just “Goddamn it, Dad, that’s not funny,” I say. Ed like that, in a black neoprene bag. looks at me with that she’s-finally-gone-crazy look. “He did that,” I say, pointing at the smoke, “he set Under an open, empty sky scoured by yesterday’s it on fire.” storm I stand in the driveway and watch the un- marked van drive away. Leaves tumble along the I yell over my shoulder as I run to my car. “Set a sidewalk and come to rest in shiny puddles. sprinkler. Call work. Tell them I won’t be there.” Dad is waxy white all over, already smelling faint- The next morning, down at the beach, I sit on the ly sweet. log where Dad and I often sat and watch the sun rise. I hold my hand up to it and it fits into the “That wasn’t funny, Dad,” I say to him, holding his bowl of my palm. hand, rubbing his forearm, “That wasn’t funny.” I sit with him, rubbing, rubbing. Someone else died yesterday. Someone was born. Just a breath between the two: one in, one out His eyes are wide open, staring. Last look or first - the open-mouthed boundary between life and look? Belli reaches around me and closes them. death. “Can I be alone?” She nods, pats my arm, and And nothing makes any difference between the leaves. two. Not the bargaining, not the pleading, not My fingers move by themselves. I rub and rub our wishes, not our prayers. But I once read and rub. His hand is white and soft and his nails somewhere that the brain sedates the body as need cutting. I rub and rub and rub. the body shuts down. I hope it’s true. I hope Dad traveled down that last unlit road peacefully, By touch, be known. By the thin, waxy skin. By black trees sliding past, going home, wherever the coarse, red hairs on the back of the hand, still home might be. springing up as I rub and rub and rub. Cheryl Merrill is a retired surgical center manager. Her publications include poems in many literary magazines, several of which were anthologized in A Gift of Tongues: 25 Years of Poetry from Copper Canyon Press. Her photo-essays, also published in literary magazines, have been anthologized in Short Takes, Model Essays for Composition; Brief Encounters; and Compose, Design, Advocate, a Rhetoric for Multimodal Communication. Her nonfiction was selected for Special Mention in Pushcart, Best of the Small Presses 2008 as well as The Best of Brevity, and published in Creative Nonfiction #27. She is cur- rently working on a memoir about living within a small herd of elephants in Botswana. Her writings and photographs can also be found at www.cherylmerrill.com 28