Ashes

by Jennifer Marie Brissett
I heard his mother’s one way conversation on the phone. The package would be arriving this afternoon. She spoke to them matter-of-factly about the details of its delivery. Someone would be home to sign for it, she assured them. I listened while I pretended to read a book. Or rather, I was reading it, just the same paragraph over and over, the words on the page never penetrating.

It was time for lunch she said when my husband entered the room. What would you like? We can make sandwiches out of last night’s leftovers. Or maybe, scrambled eggs on toast? The sandwich idea sounded the best, we all agreed. So that was what we had.

She clattered in the kitchen making the lunch with an unhurried haste. She was a bundle of activity, moving slowly and deliberately preparing the light meal that we were to share. I know better than to try to help. A woman’s kitchen is her domain. Besides, everything should be as she pleased in her own home, especially on a day like today. We sat down and ate our sandwiches. They were warm and satisfying.

“By the way,” the mother said, “the package will be arriving in the afternoon. Would you be okay with being the one to take it in?”

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll do that.”

“Thank you,” she replied, “and please would you put it in the car. I made a place for it in the back with a blanket. That way it will be okay until tomorrow when we go out there.”

“Okay,” he said and pushed back his glasses.

I picked up my empty plate, then his, then hers. I did the dishes and let them be. They headed down to the basement to go through his brother’s things. There were so many boxes with CDs and albums and books and knick-knacks. They emerged with a single box full of watches. Many still ticked, keeping sync with a beating heart. They sorted through them one by one, deciding the fate of each: one will go to a cousin, one to a nephew, and another to an uncle. They placed them in plastic bags marked with their newly intended owners. Strange, he kept so many watches and had so little time.

I left to sit in the other room. I was close enough to hear everything they said, but far enough to not intrude. I didn’t know what else to do. There are no words to make this better. I hoped I helped by just being there.

Fog and drizzle stain the windows. The rain still threatened to come. The distilled lights of an approaching car grew brighter in the mist. It pulled up to the front. The package had arrived. The mother went to her room. My husband answered the bell. He had it brought out to the garage like she asked. He didn’t come back in for a while. When he did appear, he kissed me on the forehead and found a place on the couch opposite to my chair.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

He looked away and pushed back his glasses.

“I’m okay,” he said.

My husband is a quiet man on normal occasions. He had been all but silent since we arrived. He whispered to me as if to speak a confession. His words bundled up in his throat with a knot. “I didn’t expect it to be so heavy.”
Jennifer Marie Brissett is a graduate student in the Stonecoast MFA Program and her work can be found in Warrior Wisewoman 2, The Future Fire, Strange Horizons, and Thaumatrope. She is currently editing an anthology and working on a novel. She lives in Brooklyn with her life partner, Geoff, and their cat, Dudley. Her website can be found at www.jennbrissett.com.

© 2010, Jennifer Marie Brissett