“It was a bright summer day at his grandfather’s farm. She sat under the sprawling limbs of a live oak on a lounge someone had brought up from the city. The grass under the lounge was rich and green. He sat in a wicker chair, fingering a glass of iced tea his grandmother had carried out earlier on a painted wooden serving tray. The glass sweated on the little wicker table between them, and locus above in the oak made their inexhaustible racket.
She turned and looked at him, and he sat up quickly.
‘I love you,’ she said.
‘Do you need something?’
‘No, just to tell you I love you.’
‘I haven’t got long.’
He stopped smiling. ‘Don’t talk about it.’
‘We have to talk about it sometime.’
‘Not today. You need to rest.’
‘I’ll be at rest soon enough.’
‘I’m just worried. You’re not doing well.’
‘I’m fine. I’ll be fine.’
She turned to look out over the pasture. A pair of speckled white horses grazed in tall seeded grass out near the highway. Farther away, heavy dark birds circled in the lazy summer heat on steady dark wings. Beyond the birds a thunderstorm brewed at the horizon. The gleaming white cloud-top mushroomed far above the storm.
‘When I go, I don’t want you to be alone.’
‘Of course I’ll be alone. What else can I be?’
‘With someone you can love so you won’t be lonely.’
‘Sorry, I can’t help you.’
‘I’ve made my peace with it. I want you to find peace too.’
He lifted the tea and drank it half gone. The ice clinked, and he smoothed the cold glass across his forehead and then set it down on the little table and sighed. ‘I don’t think I’ll be at peace for some time,’ he said. ‘It’s not fair for you to ask.’
‘I know what’s unfair; I’m very aware of what’s unfair.’
He set his jaw.
‘I know you will grieve. I just don’t want you to grieve too long. Find someone to make you happy. Find the girls a good mother. I can’t be their good mother anymore.’
‘We came out here to rest. This conversation is far too morbid.’
‘I’m sorry. It’s all I think about lately, and I want you not to be lonely.’
‘It will be my loneliness—not yours.’”
He stopped writing. He recapped the pen and set it aside, and then he closed the notebook and pushed it over the edge of the desk. It fell onto the mounded pile of notebooks and then down onto the floor.
“You asked too much,” he said. “I just don’t have it to give.”
- end excerpt -