Rain, but not really. I’ve been having trouble with screw-lids lately. There isn’t enough wine in Niagara County for your mother. The neighbour’s cat keeps shitting in your old sandbox, and there’s nothing to be done about any of it.
The first thing I wanted to say was how your mother and I smoked pot on Christmas Eve. I never told you that. It was what we did, our little tradition for a while. We kept it up for few years after you came along, up until you spoke your first word maybe. What we’d do is put you to bed, smoke a joint, and then lay your presents under the tree. I’d bring the gifts down from the attic while your mother rolled a J in the living room. She was better at rolling, and she liked to do it on the coffee table, the one that you broke your toe on when you were three.
We’d share the cookies and milk after. They were the cookies and milk you thought were for Santa. We made sure to leave a few crumbs, because that seemed like something Santa would do. We made love, usually. I’m not telling you that to be inappropriate or anything. You’re old enough to talk on the level now, and I’m just telling truths here.
It was usually your mother’s idea. She really wanted to give you a brother, you know. This was especially true around the holidays. That time of year always made her think of how you were growing up alone. A little brother is what she wanted for you. Sometimes I wish we gave you that. Sometimes I think maybe that would’ve altered the course. I think about that sometimes, but then I have to stop.
I keep thinking about Jupiter. It’s got me up nights. A lot of things keep me up, but lately it’s Jupiter. It drives a wedge between everyday conversations, ones where I’m supposed to be listening to what other people say. A lot of people have a lot to say this time of year. It’s difficult. People are talking to me like I’m some war vet, and I’m off thinking about Jupiter, the things you told me, how much you loved space.
You explained the origin of its red dot one night. I came into your room to tell you to shut off your light. You were standing on your bed in your pajamas, pointing to something on the space poster that your Aunt Vera gave you for your birthday. It was very detailed. I could tell you liked it more than the sweater your mother made.
You asked me what planet was my favourite other than Earth. It took me a while to answer. I looked at the planets on the poster, their size, their colour. I picked Jupiter because of the red spot.
Your eyes lit up. You told me how the spot was actually a storm, a gigantic hurricane. It was however many diameters across, however many times larger than an Earth hurricane. Its wind turned over six hundred fifty kilometers an hour. It rotated counter-clockwise. You drew a circle in the air with your finger. You said it had been alive for three hundred years. You were grinning, a loose tooth dangling from your top lip, barely clinging to the gum. That’s what I remember.
Your mother is moving to Sherbrook with her old roommate. She hasn’t had a lot to say lately other than that. There hasn’t been a lot to say between us for a while now. Mostly, it’s because of you. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Nothing is your fault, but I’d be lying if I said you weren’t at the core of why things don’t work anymore.
You were the only thing that ever defined us. We weren’t much without you, before or after. Your mother always said that you were an extension of the love we were working on, and without that extension, there’s not much to work with. She’s right. And so now we’ll sell the house and she’ll go to Quebec.
I’m letting her take whatever she wants, which won’t be much. She doesn’t care for possessions anymore, you know. She sold her Depression glassware. Remember what she used to keep locked up in the family room? All that glass behind glass. I wasn’t even allowed to touch it.
Two summers ago she sold it to an antique dealer. He paid much less than it was worth. He came to the house, loaded it into a Windstar and drove off. Your mother said she sold it because she was afraid of losing it. “I don’t wanna fret about it anymore,” is what she told me after it was hauled away. I didn’t question her. If she thought that was some kind of a solution, then that was that. She’ll use the money to help her get set up.
I’m leaving, too. That’s what I came to say. I want to say that this has all been a selfish act for me. I’ve been coming out here for longer than you were even alive, thinking I was accomplishing something, making good on the situation, forging a progression. In reality, I have been nothing more than curator of my own guilt.
Ten seasons I’ve knelt down here and traced your name with my fingertip, your name in stone. Each visit has been a vaccination, something to protect me from another frost, another invasion of phone calls, well wishes, annual condolences.
Ten seasons and it’s starting to wear off. It feels like it’s robbing me of something, the life that’s left. It’s a storm that’s been banging on for too long. I need to see the ocean, the desert, somewhere that isn’t here. You don’t mind because you can’t hear me. You’ve never been able to; no matter how hard I wanted it. I’ve accepted that now.
I heard a lyric somewhere. I don’t know who wrote it. She sang something about everybody being out on loan. And that’s just it, I think. Sooner or later the dirt’s going to want you back. It’s better to get things settled before that happens. I know it now. That’s where I’m at now, kid. That’s what’s left. That’s at least something.
Joel McCarthy has had stories published in The Feathertale Review, Macabre Cadaver Magazine, and PRISM International. He lives in Mississauga with his wife and two cats.
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