On Cadillac Mountain, by Nathan Graziano

On the night Dar­la died, Wayne was sit­ting at the kitchen table, wash­ing down a cou­ple of her Per­co­cets with a cold Bud­weis­er, when it he slapped him like a strip of leather across his beard­ed cheek. He knew. That’s how he describes it to his son D.J., just out of Y.D.C., who is sit­ting across from him at the same table, one year lat­er. Of course, Dwayne points out, he didn’t know she would die ten min­utes from that moment—as it would happen—but he knew it would be soon, before the sun came up.

He tells D.J. how the hos­pice nurse, an old­er woman named Lin­da with hard­ened skin and lips as thin as paper cuts, appeared in the kitchen door­way, and Wayne points to the kitchen door­way. Oth­er than Dar­la and him­self, Lin­da was only oth­er per­son in the house that night and her voice seemed ampli­fied, like it was pass­ing through a loud speak­er, when, in fact, she whis­pered, “Mr. Brig­gs, I think it’s time.”

Wayne nod­ded, keep­ing his chin pressed to his chest, his thick gray­ing beard sprawled like a bib on his t‑shirt. He hoist­ed his near sev­en-feet of bulk from the chair and fol­lowed Lin­da out of the room.

Dar­la was reclined on the bed a hos­pi­tal had moved into the house, her eyes closed and bald head wrapped in a pink ban­dana. She lay in what was her daughter’s bed­room, before Jen­ny dis­ap­peared, before all of that non­sense that land­ed D.J. in the joint.

Wayne looked at Dar­la with a shock of famil­iar­i­ty. Despite hav­ing seen her like that every­day for the past six months— her cheek­bones jut­ting through stretched yel­low skin at sharp angles, her eye sock­ets like man­holes with dull blue stones at the bottom—he could nev­er get used to the idea that this bed of bones con­tained his sec­ond wife. He sat down on the edge of the mat­tress, plac­ing his large hand light­ly above her eyes.

Baby, it’s me,” he said.

Her eyes flick­ered. Her jaw opened and closed like a mouth mov­ing under­wa­ter.

My sweet girl.”

Where’s Jen­ny?” Her voice was bare­ly a breath, a wisp of air tan­gled in words.

Slow­ly, his hand fell from her fore­head to her sunken cheek, fram­ing her face. “She’s here, baby. The kids are in the liv­ing room. We’re all here.”

Jen­ny came back?”

Of course,” Dwayne said. He paused and kissed the pink banana. “Do you remem­ber the motel in Bar Har­bor, The Cadil­lac Inn? I was think­ing about that place the oth­er day, and think­ing about how we sat on that porch with a cool­er full of cold ones and I was play­ing my har­mon­i­ca. Then the next day we drove up Cadil­lac Moun­tain. You remem­ber that? See­ing the ocean from one direc­tion and Cana­da from the oth­er? When you feel bet­ter, I think we should go back there. Just you and me, baby. What do you say?”

Darla’s breath­ing became labored. Maybe it was a strug­gle, that last taste of life pass­ing through her lips, but a look came over her face and changed the shape of her mouth, twist­ing her col­or­less lips upward.

Dwayne tells his son that that look was a smile. The hos­pi­tal bed is now long gone, and Darla’s clothes have been fold­ed and placed in a hope chest in Jenny’s old clos­et, but he still remem­bers that look. That smile. And when D.J. asks his father—when Wayne is quite a few beers into the night—what I was like to watch Dar­la die, Wayne tells him, again, that she smiled. She opened her eyes and smiled. Easy. Just like that.

Nathan Graziano lives in Man­ches­ter, New Hamp­shire with his wife and two chil­dren. He is the author of Teach­ing Metaphors (sun­ny­out­side, 2007), Not So Pro­found (Green Bean Press, 2004), Frost­bite (GBP, 2002) and sev­en chap­books of poet­ry and fic­tion. His work has appeared in Rat­tle, Night Train, Freight Sto­ries, The Coe Review, The Owen Wis­ter Review, and oth­ers. His third book of poet­ry, After the Hon­ey­moon, will be pub­lished in Fall 2009 by sun­ny­out­side press. For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it his web­site: www​.nathangraziano​.com

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1 Response to On Cadillac Mountain, by Nathan Graziano

  1. rebecca.schumejda says:

    Excel­lent! B

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