Ain’t Maryanne stood just inside the yard. Gasping for breath, scarf gone, hair disheveled. She bent over, putting both hands on her knees and gulped in draught after draught of cold, dry air demanding, “Is that my cigarettes you assholes are smoking?”
“No, they’s Ed’s.” I told her.
“Goddammit! Deborah, I told you to bring me my cigarettes and call my sponsor. Did you call my god damn sponsor?”
“No Nanaw. I forgot.”
“Forgot my ass. Now get in there and get on the phone and call Harry! You want me to start drinking again?”
“Bring me my Marlboros first! And you, you little son of a bitch.”
“Don’t start with me Ain’t Maryanne. You think this has been a good day for me? Huh?" I wouldn’t look at her. Couldn’t look at her. “You think I enjoyed sitting out there in the cold knowing he could go any minute? Drinking beer and thinking, ‘Oh shit, what if he has a fit or something’, you think I was having fun drinking to that?” I could feel her staring at me but I wouldn’t look. I just kept staring toward the river.
Deborah came out with Maryanne’s cigarettes and I shut up for a minute.
“Deborah, sweetie, why don’t you go in and pick out some records to play.” She said it in that high sing song voice a lot of people use when speaking to a retarded adult; a praxis which usually leaves all parties slightly embarrassed.
Deborah knew something was up. Offers like this didn’t come around often. She was to be allowed into the living room, amidst all the records with absolutely no adult supervision. This was big stuff man. On the other hand, Nanaw and Walter were definitely going to have at it and that would be fun to see. Ultimately, the realization that she would be able to take out the records and feel the grooves, all of them, unmolested and uninterrupted, won over the decision. She turned on her heel and was gone. You saw a flannel plaid shirttail flutter through the door and the same door slam and she was gone and we were completely out of her mind for as long as we chose to be.
“What are we gonna do now?”
“You’re gonna tell me what the hell you were doing taking that sick old man out in this cold weather. And getting him drunk! Jesus Christ you dumb ass. What in the hell were you thinking? I’ll tell you what you were thinking! You weren’t thinking at all! That’s what you were thinking. You goddam dumb ass. Do you know how much trouble you might be in? Huh? Do you? Jesus Christ!”
“I was thinking he was going to die any way so I thought I might as well do what ever he wanted. I was thinking that that’s what you’re supposed to do when people are dying. We’ve all known for months that this was going to happen. That he was going to die. Why are you getting pissed off at me because I went to the river with him and had a couple of beers? Huh? What if he’d died alone in that goddam stinking miserable trailer? Would that have been better? Huh? Jesus Christ!” I still couldn’t look at her. I knew I’d lose it if I did. “All we did was go two blocks away. All we did was sit there. That’s all we did. Just sat there. And he just died. He just lied down and died. I couldn’t stop it. I wouldn’t have if I could’ve either.”
“That’s hate full.”
“Is not. He was tired of being sick. He was ready to go. He talked about dying all the damn time. He was more than ready and he went. Poof! Gone! Can we please call somebody and get him picked up. We can’t leave him lay there.”
“I can’t figure you out boy.” She lit a cigarette.
“I’m thinking that’s a good thing.”
“Did he suffer?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t seem to.”
“What’d he do?”
“Like, did he have a fit or something?”
“No. I was afraid he might, but he just grabbed his chest and said something or other. And died. Would you please call somebody and get him picked up!” I got up and walked around to the back porch, still never looking at her, shouting, “Get him picked up goddammit! Get him picked up!”
“You don’t even remember his last words? ‘He said something or other’? You are a dumbass! Jesus Christ”
Then she finished her cigarette. Acknowledged the cold to herself and went in to call whomever one calls to pick up a corpse.