Brad is clearing some stuff at his recently deceased father's house when he hears noises
| Glass rattled in the windows of my old bedroom while I dug through boxes sitting on the floor. It was just after three in the afternoon, the cold bite of winter sending piles of frozen water hurling against the side of the house. I kept my focus on removing old books, trinkets and items I could potentially sell at a flea market or garage sale. The wind began to pick up outside. Two porcelain plates surfaced in the mess of cardboard and paper.
I recognized them as pieces from our special set, confined to a cupboard in case extended family or even the Queen came to visit. Nevertheless, we used it probably twice since I moved out of my parents house.
My mother passed away four years ago, a violent death from lung cancer and heart problems. She was an angel, fifty-eight years and vibrant, a social woman. Despite the parties she never brought out the aforementioned set of porcelain and they now sat in a box in my room. My father outlived her and I assumed he began to horde items as a way of coping with her death. He had problems of his own.
Rebecca sent me a message on my phone. I was in Carlington, actually near it, on our thirty acre farm plot. Once I entered the premises it felt like I had walked into a past reality.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you and help? It’s no problem.” My beautiful wife smiled. We had dumped off our two boys with her mother while we drove the one hundred and fifty miles to the house.
“I think I’ll be fine. I have company.” I pulled out a small bottle of bourbon from the paper sack, already wrinkled from my hand.
She rolled her eyes and sped off, heading to town to check out the local scene.
I had polished off two or three glasses already of the stuff, not full glasses but the usual size. It felt strange being all alone in this enormous house in the freezing dead of winter but the furnace still worked and I lit a fire in the soot soaked fireplace in the main room. Pretty soon I would have to sell the place and give some of the profits to my two ungrateful brothers.
Bill and Nathan weren’t bad guys, although Nathan didn’t show up for both my parents funerals. He lived a busy life as a stockbroker with a partiality for the occasional hit of cocaine, and the touch of a young lady. I banned him from my house after he did a line off the top of my toilet.
I guess we all have our vices.
I sipped another bit of the bourbon, the sweet nectar warming my chest. Digging through the remaining section of the box like some dog I uncovered a baffling item.
I held in my hands a small cross with Jesus on the facade. He was hanging from nails in the usual fashion and looking rather displeased. Perhaps it was a relic from my grandparents, since my parents weren’t religious people. I turned it over and over in my hands, examining it for clues. Some of the surface had worn away over time revealing a base of iron.
I studied metals in school (we went to a private institution) and realized I could get at least fifteen dollars for this if I sold it online. Everyone was buying online these days.
“If you could see me now, Dad.” I remarked for no reason. Maybe I was losing my mind in this place. The alcohol wasn’t helping.
“You can.” The hair on my neck lifted to the sky. Was that…? It couldn’t be. It was impossible. My father died three months ago but I definitely heard his voice. I clutched the cross in my quaking hands, holding it up to face the intruder, whomever it might be.
“Dad, it that you?” My words struggled to maintain composure. I looked into the hallway but found nothing except the ratty old sideboard.
“”Yes it is.” His voice sounded artificial, like a robot. Was someone playing a trick on me?
I was the only one in the house and as I ventured to my parent’s room I caught a smell of my mother’s fragrance. That’s it, no more drinking for me. I spotted a figure sitting on the bed (I still hadn’t taken the furniture down yet) and realized it was the sleeve of my dad’s favorite western shirt. I didn’t want to enter the room but a force compelled me to cross the threshold.
My father sat on the bed, staring at me with ebony eyes. The sight of this spectre caused me to scream out and head for the door but as soon as I turned my back he appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Please let me go.” I trembled. “I swear I will never drink again.” My father (at least I thought he was) shook his head in the same disappointed way he tended to do while alive.
“Son, I’m not a hallucination. I want to talk with you. You see, I didn’t get to speak with you much in my last few years but I suppose this is a better time than any.” His voice morphed into the more notable tones of my father. He sounded much like that man who did diabetes commercials on TV.
“I can’t do this. Why are your eyes all black like that? Your eyes were brown, not black.” I turned to leave the room but the same force pushed me back. He teleported back to the bed, somehow sinking into the spongy mattress.
“I am not alive. I can feel this and I don’t really know why my eyes are black. That isn’t important. We never got to spend time together, you and I.” I finally gave up and sat down on the bed. I tried to place a hand on him but it went right through.
“You really are a ghost. I’m terrified.” Usually I would never admit my feelings to my dad, even though he was a good natured soul. His dark eyes still gave me the chills. They looked almost cunicular, empty and lifeless. I must not focus on them so much.
“I’m not here to hurt you. I couldn’t even if I wanted to because I’m dead. We have unfinished business. All I’m asking from you is a bit of your time. Nathan and Bill chose to distance themselves from me due to their lifestyles. You were a straight arrow. Your mother and I knew that he snorted cocaine, I mean you could see it plain as day when you looked at him.“ I wasn’t sure how to react to that statement.
“Okay. What do you want to talk about?” Honestly, I probably didn’t have a choice. Maybe Rebecca would come by soon and save me.
“Brad, you must have things you want to tell me. I don’t want to assign blame for how our relationship went because I don’t think that it was anyone’s fault. We just didn’t see eye to eye on certain things’ I guess.” I shrugged, my nerves returning to normal (sort of).
“Well, maybe I had issues but I worked them out. Rebecca has been patient with me, more than she should have. This is really bizarre.” He scrunched up his face, although his eyeballs couldn’t convey the same emotion.
“Why is this bizarre? It’s just a father and son having a discussion. Every father and son should do that, you know. Clear the air. What sort of issues did you have?” I remembered I still had the glass of alcohol in my hand.
“This, for one. I also got the impression that you preferred Bill and Nathan over me, since they went to school and made something of themselves. I thought that maybe they ‘passed the test’ or something.” I introduced finger quotes into the mix.
“Your mother and I never played favorites with you guys. We came to the conclusion that you were different men, and special in your own ways. I know it sounds like fatherly bullshit but it’s the honest to god truth. When did you develop an alcohol problem?” He stood up and floated around (this gave me the creeps), turning every so often to glance in my direction.
“I don’t have a problem. Sometimes I just want to have a drink to calm my nerves. Raising kids and running your own business is stressful.” My dad didn’t know about my transportation company.
“Your mother wanted to buy a business before she passed away. I convinced her not to due to her health. What kind of business do you have?” I suddenly felt warm and fuzzy inside, and it wasn’t from the liquor.
“I own three trailers and I rent them out for contract work, like hauling stuff to Wembley and other cities. A driver picks up the rig and fills it with pallets of merchandise and I get a percentage. Its a decent business. I also own a block of four apartments I rent out. Rebecca and I put up the money for that. Well, mostly her.” I laughed. My dad chuckled his trademark way. I kinda wished he was still alive.
“Nice. Working my entire life as a welder was good for the family but I really didn’t want to do it as my career.” He never mentioned this to me. Dad always just did his job and shut up.
“What did you want to do?” I sipped some of the cruel beverage in my hand. This drink caused so many problems, broke up families and such. Hard to believe it had that power.
“I wanted to be a musician. Before I met your mother I played bass in a jazz band. We almost got a recording contract about three years before Bill was born but I got my welder’s certification instead, thought a nine to five career would benefit my family in the long run rather than struggling through jobs.” He shrugged.
“Did you want kids?” I figured this could be related to the whole putting aside your dream thing. We sat in silence, listening to the howling wind batter the flimsy window outside. More snow began to pick up steam, assaulting the glass.
“I was undecided but the moment I saw Bill and then each of you in my arms I knew I made the right choice. Perhaps it was the hormones or some shit.” He laughed. I smiled ear to ear.
“Rebecca and I wanted kids from the beginning. Life just isn’t the same without them. Maybe when they are older I can teach them that way of thinking but ultimately I want them to follow their own path. You must have thought that way about us.” I took another swig of the bourbon. I pondered offering some to my father but obviously he couldn’t drink.
“That sounds about right. There are other things I wished I could do when I was alive but I didn’t have the time. After your dear mother passed away I had to do what I loved. You guys had all moved out and I had little in the way of a social life so I joined a jazz band again. I bought a bass guitar and it took me a couple hours to get back into it but those guys they encouraged me to stick with it. It was one of the greatest feelings I ever experienced.” He grinned.
“Dad, I’m glad we had this talk. What’s it like being dead? I probably shouldn’t ask that question.” I stood up and walked to the window. Nothing but farmland as far as my eyes could see. The dilapidated mailbox creaked and groaned in the wind. Our path out had been filled in with snow.
“It is like the movies. I hang around with other dead people like Elvis and Lincoln. In fact I share a place with your mother. There’s no money or problems after death so it’s great. All you do is talk and socialize with others. I ran into your pet squirrel you had when you were six, at least I think it’s the same one.” I laughed.
“Why didn’t mom come and say hello?” I really missed that woman. He shrugged his transparent shoulders again.
“Not sure. I saw her a little while ago. There’s no eating or concept of time or sleep so it’s all one big blur when you’re dead. I kinda prefer life since you have challenges and goals but hey this is a decent alternative.” I breathed a sigh when hearing this. Part of me was afraid of death but now it wasn’t so bad.
My phone beeped from the other room.
“One second.” He nodded. Rebecca sent me a message, saying she would be there in five minutes. Just enough time to relax for a bit after talking and sorting. I admired my progress in the room. One last thing.
“Hey dad, where did you get this?” I showed him the cross of iron, still chipped from the years.
“Hmm. I forgot I even owned that. Your great aunt June sent that to me just after we got married, saying we should turn to the Lord for advice when the time comes. I actually bumped into her a few days ago up there.” He pointed to the sky. “It doesn’t really have any significance. Well, this has been a great chat but I have to go. It’s not easy connecting with the living but it was worth the trouble.” He continued to smile.
“It was great as well.” I added.
“I love you son. We never told each other that much in life but i love you very much.” I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye.
“I love you too. Will I ever see you again?” My dad said nothing.
“Well, not anytime soon. Like I said you really get one chance to communicate with the living. You will see me more when you enter the afterlife.” He began to dissipate.
I stood there in the cramped bedroom, serene. Now I can focus on my life and not waste time doing stupid things.
Rebecca entered the house, more white powder following behind her.
“Hey honey. How was the sorting and cleaning?” I adored her. She had tied her long beautiful hair up into a braid style, the bits of snow trapped in the folds.
“It was decent. Had a drink or two and found some nice stuff. I’m ready to go home though. How was your day?” It was her turn to shrug.
“Went window shopping and had some soup and sandwiches at Paco’s. You know that little cafe in town? They make a killer turkey club.” I got up and kissed her.
“Maybe we’ll go there someday. I’ll talk to you about something in the car. It was a great experience.” Becky looked at me, nonplussed.
“Okay. The roads aren’t good so I have to drive carefully.”
I wasn’t afraid of dying anymore.
We grabbed a couple items and locked the door, preserving the memory of this moment forever.