Fiction by Marc Erdrich
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Soul Mates - page 4

SON: Yeah? MOTHER: I’ve got plenty to do. Don’t worry about me. Scene 2. The garage. The cinerary urn is on the roof of the car. The son is cleaning the windshield with a rag. The sound of a ball game can be heard coming from inside the car. SON: You know, Dad, if she finds out about this, we’re both dead. (Suddenly, there is a lot of excitement on the radio.) Wait a minute. Listen. All right. Kingman hit a homer! Go Mets! You know, Dad, you should have waited out the season. The Mets might just make it to the pennant. (He starts whistling “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.) How did you whistle the way you did, Dad? You couldn’t sing, you couldn’t play a musical instrument. How did you do it? (He whistles some more, then falls flat.) You know, Dad, I have to tell you this car is pretty ugly. I know, you don’t have to remind me, I picked it out. But that’s because it was the only one they had with a V-8 engine. I knew how you loved V-8s. Remember the Packard – the ‘53 Packard? That was a straight 8. Remember that? Those days are gone forever. You know Dad, I never did tell you this, but that time you and Mom went to California and left me home alone – the time I nearly burnt the house down cooking a TV dinner – I took the Packard out for a little spin. The car was so wide I smacked into the door frame trying to back out of the garage. You never noticed, though. God, was I scared. I was so scared I was shaking. The only other time I shook that bad was once when I slept with a blind woman. Can you believe that? I don’t know why I was so scared then, but I couldn’t stop shaking. She thought I was cold. I don’t know, it just didn’t seem right, sleeping with her. There was something so exciting about it though. (Continues cleaning, silently) I’m always judging myself. I always do that. I judge everything. I can’t let things be, on their own terms. You – you were never very judgmental. You just let things happen. You never really thought about anything, did you? I’ll bet you never even stopped to think why you lived with Mom for so many years. She never had a decent word to say to you. She cheated on you. I bet you didn’t know that. She did. I remember, I was nine years old and it was summer vacation; mom and I were staying at a bungalow in the country. You worked during the week and came up on weekends. Well, one weekday night I was in bed. I was supposed to be sleeping when Mom came home with a strange man. I could hear them kissing in the living room. I knew something wasn’t right, but I was too scared to get up. Can you believe it? Mom! Having an affair! Ha. What about you? Did you ever have an affair? I’ll bet you did. But then, I never really knew anything about you, did I? To me, you were always a grandpa – first sixty, then seventy, then eighty. God it was awful. Did you know that when I was little I always thought you were going to die because you were older than all the other kids’ dads? Remember when you had that heart condition? One night I was lying in bed with the light on and I started listening to the beating of my own heart. As I listened, the sound got louder and louder; pretty soon it sounded as if it was going to explode. I got so scared that I jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom and threw up.... So what do you think, Dad? What’s going to be with Mom? She just sits there in front of the TV all day. She doesn’t get dressed. She doesn’t do anything. Not that she did much before you died. At least then she had your meals to make, and she