kendall was a man who did not know his worth. when he died no one was surprised. his wife hardly cried and his children flew back from the countries that they lived in. his few friends shook their heads and the landlord of the dragon put a round in for all of the early doors drinkers, all six of them, in fact all of his friends.
is this what getting old means? asked his son. the selfish dread of mortality sharp in his throat like a sliver of glass pricking him, every time he swallowed. and he closed his eyes and secretly willed his father alive again. he tried to grasp the hours and haul them back like a slippery rope, pulling hand over hand. he imagined yanking at that single strand, pulling it back until the threadof his childhood stood large and bright before him. His boyhood: an imaginary summer day with grass so green it was ferociously bright.
the day’s corners smudged with his finger prints where he had tugged it back marred the scene. he knew it was pretend anyway. the low drone of insects, the faraway clack of a bat against cricket ball, the tart taste of seasalt. no, that day hadn’t existed. he panicked: he could not remember his father at all. they had been two strangers all this time. and now it was too late. is this what grief feels like? he thought. this vast selfishness that blankets everything, this sudden greed for life? the quick knife cut of shame as his kother squeezes his hand and he cries. but only for himself.
Kendall’s wife sold the house that kendall had owned when he was alive and moved in with her son. At first the country where her son lived did not want her to stay. It did not want the responsibility of burying her. Although she did not want to make a fuss, she also did not want to be alone. But her son made sure it was fine for her to live there and she felt proud that she had raised a man like him.
Although she was loved, she was not needed. So she would sometimes stand in the kitchen with a bowl or spoon and not know in which draw it should be put away. Sometimes she would clasp her son’s hand, suddenly and firmly, and say “oh george” in such a sad voice that her son woule hug her tightly. Then at night he would lie in bed unable to sleep and try and pick apart all the mysterious intent in those two words. He woukd feel that small, hot pressure in his heart and try again to gather the endlessly spooling days back into his arms, as some one would gather a fleece. In the dark he felt his wife, his mother, his children receding quicker and quicker. No matter how much of anarmful he gathered, still they tumbled away from him.
Kendall’s wife lay awake, thousands of miles from the world that she and kendall had lived in. Under stars that had arranged themselves into unfamilar constellations, she thought of Kendall, of the nights they had bearly looked at one another. She closes her eyes and sees kendall asleep, his cup of tea getting cold at his elbow, and suddenly she has never felt so close to him.