The family business is dysfunctional, Siblings reconnect. Shades party.
|“How could you let me sleep so long?”
“It’s not a problem, I put your stuff in the master. If you can grab the groceries, I would appreciate it. I’m going to get things ready for tonight.”
Sheryl watched as her older brother opened the rear door of the converted Hearse. With the respect due to their customers, he shouldered the corpses. He had been working in the Family business since he was a kid; his body was now a testament to the toll paid when serving the dead. She knew, when he reached the assigned place, he would bury the corpses as required. He would then prepare the fire that would bring the contract to a close.
Brett, the spitting image of their father, was six-foot-tall with broad shoulders. His face, weathered with creases carved out by the sand, was somehow both strong and gentle. His once blond hair, now white as snow, was cut short where he had enough hair to cut. The customers were his companions and his burden. Brett walked into the desert and disappeared from sight.
Sheryl had not been to Camp in almost four years. Not since mom had passed away. Sheryl's dad had passed away earlier this year. That left Brett and Sheryl, they were a Family of two now. Her parents were buried in this place, in the way of her family.
She remembered her mother’s Light. It was so beautiful. You could see it anytime you looked at her. It seemed to illuminate her from the inside. Everyone was attracted to mom. When mom was at Camp, the Light was even more intense. The Family business was a partnership. It was now Sheryl's partnership with Brett. Sheryl wasn’t ready, she hadn’t been able to find her Light.
Brett had called her, called her out was more like it. He was right, Sheryl knew that the Light was her inheritance and her burden. She had to try; if only to honor her mother's memory. Sheryl had no idea what might happen. She had never been able to witness the Creation, just the result. She busied herself unloading and arranging the kitchen. As the day started to wane, Sheryl started a small cooking fire and prepared dinner.
Sheryl thought that Brett looked hesitant, almost awkward as he returned to camp. She called him to dinner, and they shared the stew she had prepared. While Brett offered to clean up, Sheryl insisted that she would help. She wanted to keep busy. Keep herself from thinking too much.
“You know, you don’t have to do this. You've done a lot this afternoon, all I did was set up the kitchen and cook.”
“I know but, I have a lot on my mind, and I need to talk to you about it. I just don’t know how.”
“That’s a pretty good start.”
“Let’s just get this cleaned up and then, we need to talk.”
The task was completed in silence.
Sheryl wandered outside to the Camp table. The stars were amazing tonight. They were amazing every night. When Brett joined her, he put down what appeared to be a book and lit the old naphtha lantern. He sat beside her and said nothing.
“This is getting awkward. If you have something to say, just say it.”
“It’s not easy for me. It’s the Light. It’s your Light.”
“I don’t have it. I haven’t been able to find it.”
“Take a look through that book.”
She opened the book and was surprised to find a drawing of her mother. It was beautiful. It was exactly how she remembered. Her mother was shining.
“Whoever drew this is amazing.”
“Keep looking. It fills almost the entire book.”
As she turned page after page; each drawing was better than the last. She stopped, she was stunned.
“That’s me as a little girl! Sitting with mom. I remember that day.”
All the drawings featured Sheryl, her mom, or Sheryl and her mom. They kept getting better and better.
“Are these yours?”
“Yes, it’s what I do, while I’m out here.”
“I don’t understand. Mom had the Light, and it shines through in every one of these drawings. Why did you draw me with the Light.”
“I draw what I see. Ever since you were a little girl, I could see your light. Turn to the last page.”
Sheryl saw a beautiful woman, radiating from deep inside, it was her. She saw mom standing behind, a hand on her shoulder and smiling.
“This is from today.”
“Why did you draw mom with me?”
“I told you, I draw what I see.”
Sheryl didn’t know what to say, didn’t know what to do.
“I think that I’m ready, can you take me to the fire?”
The siblings strolled out into the Desert. Brett knew every inch of this area. Sheryl trusted him to guide her safely. It wasn’t more than half an hour to reach their destination. A fire pit stood before them ready for a single spark to set it ablaze. Brett leaned over the pit, drew his flint and with a single practiced stroke started the evening’s fire.
The flame slowly ran along the raised ridges of the wood. Speeding up as they climbed higher and higher. Sheryl was staring at the final picture in the book. The picture of her and mom. Mom was smiling. It would be alright.
The flames continued to rise. Rise higher and higher. Just as it seemed the flames had reached the sky, they were joined by the pure white Light. The Light was emanating from the heart of the bearer, from Sheryl. While Sheryl had never seen the Creation, She now was the Creation. The flames and the Light danced together until they filled the horizon.
The Shades of the recently departed appeared first, followed by a countless number of the Family's past customer's from over the centuries. The departed Family members were last to emerge.
It was beautiful! They were having a party. There was dancing all across the sky. The violin player was odd. Sheryl had seen him a few times. He was very creepy, but sometime in history he had been a Family customer.
Sheryl saw her parents. They had always loved the waltz. They looked so happy. She turned and hugged her brother. She had found her Light.
As featured in "Short Stories Newsletter (June 29, 2016)"