Around 2006, I was going through some weird stuff. Depression, rage, drinking, you know the coping American style stuff. I was slowly sliding into the realization that I've become a bigger asshole than everyone else I despised. That sucked. To work through it I wrote a short piece trying to explain the behavior of my father while at the same time making myself the villain. I don't know if it worked as a short piece but I like it, except for the funeral part everything is pretty much true.
I reread this recently and think it deserves a better rewrite. So here is the first draft. Also posted for critiquing at Critique Circle.
Going Through the Motions by BA Boucher
The SUV had finally stopped its forward motion. The apex had been met and now it rocked back on its fulcrum, namely the passenger side of the frame. The driver’s body had come to rest seconds ago twenty feet away from the SUV and a hundred feet from the Volkswagen that had sent her Sunday afternoon to what most would consider a damnable affair. As for the VW Rabbit, it was a great deal smaller than it once was. The SUV and gone up and over the hood to points known but improbable twenty seconds ago. The young woman driving the people’s wagon head had broken through the windshield on impact but as the car rebounded from the crash, her body had intentions of traveling backward to her original seating; however the jagged windshield kept most of her face as a souvenir. The lady, a designation made from simple politeness not any personal knowledge, is most probably dead. They have surgeries to transplant faces now, but who wants to live inside another’s face, sounds rather like something from a bad Roger Corman movie or maybe with the second face she could run for political office. For the briefest instant a child’s arm could be seen flopping around the rear window of the SUV as it passed by, out of sight now but a definite consideration for ultimate telling of the tragedy on the evening news. Nothing sells better than mangled kids. The driver of the SUV ran a red light and sent her car airborne so she deserved what she got; the kid though makes the story depressing and the mother more saintly. Guess you can say that children are the ultimate redeemers. All evil in life is reduced by the acknowledgement of your progeny. At least on the 5.00 o’clock news desk.
I saw all of this in front of me. I’m riding shotgun in The Brother’s Danes mortuary vehicle. The left door is open and the bong bong of the “hey dumbass you left your key” chime has been slowly entering my conscious and causing dismay at the least. I missed the initial contact from the vehicles as I was fiddling around with the radio. Ten blocks of Tony Bennett’s crooning about leaving something in
So now I’m sitting alone as my driver goes to play hero. Something about the American conscious demands distrust and hatred for police but due civic heroics when you happen to bumble into a crime or wreck, just so you have something to talk about to the bitch you’ve been living with ten years too long at the dinner table. Civil karmic pandering bullshit is what I call it but again here I sit baking in 1972 Chrysler bored out of my mind while something interesting seems to be happening to other people. I wonder if that lady who got thrown out of the car is bored. I’m sure she’s having a fun time as her bones and skin are incessantly telling her brain that things are not all right. I’m tempted to walk over there and tell her that was pretty extraordinary the way she was flying, graceful even, but that she seems to be distracted right now.
“Slow Ride” changes into some nameless but recognizable Journey song. The fact that the only other station coming in is Robert Tilden gives me the courage to swallow my loathing of Steve Perry. I wonder how the rest of the funeral procession is doing. The service was fast and uneventful as the guest of honor was pretty much persona non grata during his life. When the minister or pastor or father, whatever he was, I get the gentiles mixed up all the time, anyway when That Guy asked for people to walk forward to say nice things about Ol’ Johnny Stiff down there in the box there was a bit of uncomfortable coughs and a long drawn out process of everybody avoiding eye contact. Amazingly, my brother finally ascended to the podium. I couldn’t believe he’d actually shown up let alone lead us in a eulogy. He was wearing a suit and tie, black suit obviously; the tie however was the perfect match to the corpse. Odd.
The corpse, yep just him and me until the firefighters and cops and civic minded Samaritans get the fuck out of the way so I can get some dirt on this worm food and go home. From the amount I was drinking at the service I have all the signs of a rather epic shit coming on. I look back at the box through the gaudy Victorian curtains that were designed to give elegance to design of a car that hauled dead meat around. Be it sinner or saint we all seem to get some class on our last trip to the narrow house. It’s a serviceable coffin, I guess. Gold foil where needed and brass where it wasn’t. I almost laugh out loud when I remember the occupant was a devout Buddhist, even to the point of living in a monastery for the last decade or so. Did Buddha get a Catholic burial?
A crowd is gathering outside. Men and women with their young children in tow. If that kid played a video game with car wrecks and mangled bodies it is thrown out of the house but if its on the evening news or better yet in front of them where they can actually see the skin that was flayed off the bodies and smell what I assume to be the last shit that lady has ever taken, it’s character building. I’m glad this wagon has an air freshener because that lady landed close to this car and the air conditioning intake is going to start sucking that air in before too long.
Even though it’s hot day I’m starting to fill a chill. I turn the air off but it’s still there. It’s a chill that seeps into your bones and makes you feel guilty about things. Suddenly the driver’s door snaps shut. I look over and see nothing. Must be the wind from those helicopters that just showed up. Modern Day vultures that pick over carrion with their bulging lenses and market share demographics.
The radio is losing its feed as the final strains of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” fades out. The fucking radio starts picking up Tony Bennett again. I reach for the dial muttering, “Fucking shit, only aging hipster dig this crooner cunt.”
“Hey, leave this on it’s one of my favorites.”
You ever get the feeling that you’re not alone.
“Come on you used to like this when you were a kid.”
Now I’ve seen damage before, the wreck in front of me had enough carnage to last a lifetime. Yet someone or something was sitting next to me and I did all I could not to look over but the compulsion was too strong.
“He just has the saddest voice. I love it.”
“Uh...how did you get…”
“Here? The door was open.”
“No, I mean aren’t you dead?”
“Well I’ve had better days if that’s what you are asking.”
“Well really my question is, are you really here or have I finally gone as batshit crazy as the rest of my family.”
“Probably a little of both. sport. Some scene out there, huh? What do you think was the last thing going through that ladies mind when she flew out of the car?”
“The windshield. Don’t change the subject, what are you doing here, if you are really here?”
“I’d thought we’d talk a bit, I happen to have a lot of time on my hands lately and you aren’t going anywhere for awhile.”
“What the fuck would you and I have to talk about, other than the fact that you are the biggest prick I’ve ever known and I apparently am talking to myself in the first obvious sign that I drink too much.”
“Yeah we could talk about that. I was also thinking we could talk about why you came to the funeral if I’m such a big prick. Also why are you in the Hearse? And I’d like to know if it was your mother’s raising that prompted you to wear a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops to a funeral.”
“Fuck you, the shirt’s black. I dressed appropriately for the amount of respect I have for you. Shit, I almost brought a keg and twenty friends to have one hell of a party.”
The Corpse snorts and looks away. He looks real enough; it’s not like the movies where they are sort of transparent. Now that I get a good look at him, he looks more like the last time I saw him at my college graduation twelve years ago. Before the bone cancer had eaten away most of his body. He wasn’t invited to that graduation, he just showed up. What a colossal ass, he didn’t even understand that he was unwanted. I did invite him to the titty bar that night with all my uncles, but he declined, stating some need to speak to Buddha or Allah or whatever the fuck he does.
I hate uncomfortable silences. It’s like the panic that sets in when the cable goes out and you face the prospect of having to speak to your significant other. Your mouth goes dry and your asshole starts to itch. Silently you scream in your head for anything to come back on just so you can avoid the trappings of conversation with someone you share your live with but you don’t really like.
“Uh…so, not that I give a shit or anything, but did you like the service?”
“Well, it was nice I suppose. I discovered real soon after I left that I didn’t really care how I was put in the ground.”
“So what do you care about now?”
“I suppose my only real concerns in life and death were my children.”
“You have a real funny fucking way of showing that.”
“Listen son, I tried to make contact with you for decades and you were the asshole that ignored me.”
“Fuck you old man, I told you it wasn’t me you had to apologize to. Do I actually have to remind you that you have another son? One that has grown into a better man than you have ever even known. That kid is a saint merely to spite you, you fucking bastard.”
“I never knew him; you can’t imagine the wall of shame I would have had to overcome to be able to even call…” He breaks off as the tears stream down his face. “At first it was easy, I had custody of you and the child I never knew lived with that bitch mother of his. Not calling was my petty way of sticking the knife in your mother. But when you left me to live with her….I needed you in my life son, it was so empty with you gone.”
“You caused this not me.”
“I know. Can I ask you a question?”
“Shoot, although since I’m imaging all this I assume this is a rhetorical question.”
“Why do you assume this isn’t real?”
“You’ve never felt guilty about anything in your life, why the crocodile tears now?”
“That hurt. Why do you think your brother gave a eulogy?”
“I don’t know. You know this little theatrics with the ghost thing could’ve been done to him. Why don’t you go spook him for awhile and apologize to his face?
“He can’t see me.”
“Because we can only appear those that love us. Apparently, your foul mouth belies your heart. Again why are you here in the hearse?”
“I wanted to make sure the mortuary put the right stiff in the ground. I need to make sure you truly are asshole deep in the earth.”
“Is that why your brother…”
“My brother is his own fucking man, he’s allowed to chart his own life. If he came it was probably to see you one last time and knowing that pussy, to forgive you.”
“Why would he forgive me and not you?”
“Because you still feel guilty about what you did to your grandparents.”
“Shut…the…fuck…up…you…fucking…ghost.” The rage builds in me and is finally released. I swing at the bearded jaw line of my father but it goes right through him and my knuckles bash against driver side window.
“Feel better now? You know for all your anger against my freezing your brother out of my life you did a pretty good job of doing that to your grandparents. It must have hurt deeply to one day finally work up the will to apologize to them and find out they had been dead for over two years. It was shame that kept you away wasn’t it? Maybe you can understand a little of what I did now. Of course I was lucky enough not to outlive you or your brother.”
During the conversation the EMT’s and Firemen had shown up. They had already finished up picking up the bodies and removed the scrap iron that used to
My father’s last statement was met with silence. That cagey old bastard had gotten to me. He always had that knack. There is a firefighter in front of me with a shovel attempting to remove the Flying Lady’s skin graft from the asphalt. The sound was the gravelly raking of steel over rock ending in a wet thud as the flesh was peeled away, halfway cooked from the hot day.
“Well, champ looks like our time is up. I got to get back in that overpriced box before the driver comes back. You know I’m not looking for an apology, just a new perspective. That’s what all this is really, a certain perspective. Take care son.”
Suddenly I feel alone. More alone than I’ve ever felt in my life.
“Fuck you old man. Rot in hell.”
Tony Bennett swells, his voice rising for the climax.
I begin to cry.