Pat drank coffee. Sheetz, black and sugary. Squinted. Eyes burned. Little sleep. Too much night telly. Too much sunshine. Possibly vodka, too. And beer chasers. A Marlboro was lit, sucked, stared upon with distaste. Vile habit. Had him in his grip.
This little mélange of acknowledgements about his underlife stirred anger. Anger fed determination. Get ‘er done. He threw down the cigarette. Tramped it. Picked it up and carefully added it to the small baggy in his pocket. To be thrown away later. Litter was terrible. He wouldn’t be part. Smoking might be killing him but litter embarrassed him. ‘Specially butts on the ground. Fuckin’ appalling.
He stared up at the house, shifted himself, and moved. Now he was ready. Pumped himself up. Drank more coffee. Marched the walk. Pavement needed repaired. Up the steps. The rot on them caused a grimace. To the front door. It stuck. Required a shoulder and a grunt to push in.
Mom’s house, without Mom, waiting inside. He had, he was certain, never been to Mom’s house without Mom being there. No, wait. He nodded. Yes, there was the time when she was hospitalized. Yes.
Eyes went to the steps where she’d fallen, flipping over the side, where there was no rail, bouncing off furniture. He’d warned her. Damaged shoulder, black charcoal and gray clouds covering her fair, flabby skin. Pierced lung. Broken ribs. Could have been worse. Gone into Mercy for three days which became ten. Had to come back for items she needed. Dan lived with her then. Her fiancé. But Dan, Mom said, “Can’t do it. He doesn’t know where things are.” The man lived there with her for twelve years and didn’t know where things were? Come on. But Dan beat Mom out of the house, dying while driving, crashing his Prius into a tree on a snowy winter night while the icy road laughed. Fuckin’ roads.
Yeah, only he was left. Shit. To go through Mom’s stuff. Shit. He brushed away tears from his eyes’ corners before they could get a rolling start, finished the final coffee ounce, tossed that cup and looked. Shit. Where was he supposed to start? He was the last of the children. Mom outlived them. Well, till now. Him, the oldest. Cancer took two. Shit. Both non-smokers, just a year apart, pancreas. Just him and grandchildren now. Well, widows and widowers. But they…yeah, no.
He’d called his ex to help. She couldn’t. Sympathized but couldn’t. Busy with their kids, going to Disney. Second wife just laughed. “No. Not bailing you out this time.” Like, when had she bailed him out? Made it sound like he’d been in jail. He’d never been in jail. Third wife was in Vegas with her fourth. Cried a lot on the phone but made no commitment. So here was Pat. Alone. Cleaning out Mom’s life. Shit.
He’d walked, he’d sat, he was thinking. Didn’t know how to do this. Despite everything with Mom, he thought she’d keep on living. Always thought somehow, impossibly, she would outlive him.
He bent his head with a heavy sigh. Yeah, he was wrong. It would take more coffee, more cigarettes, more time.
He was not ready.