Your parents wanted me to say a few words at the ball field. Everybody went over there after the funeral. Can you believe that? They wanted to have another memorial.
You know what I told your mom and dad?
I told them that in 1990, at the Great American Bash, Sting beat Ric Flair for the NWA world championship. And when you got the video tape of it we watched it at least twenty Saturday mornings in a row but your parents’ television was so small. It was one of those TVs that came with the VCR underneath it and we had to sit like a foot away to see anything.
Man, the look on your mom’s face was priceless. She asked me if those were the words I was going to say at the ball field?
I said, if you liked them, I could say them but she just gave your dad a weird look.
Or, I told them, I could say that on the way back from senior week at Myrtle Beach I blew a hole in my transmission so large a man could have stuck his head up through it. Since you were riding with me you had to wait with me until my mom could pick us up. Three hours at a gas station on the side of Interstate 95, that was way more than we could handle. We smoked the last of your weed behind a dumpster that hadn’t been emptied in months. Then we ate about a dozen of those rubbery hot pink hot dogs but the hot dogs made me puke and gave you the shits and we took turns holding that bathroom key tied to a hubcap. God, were we high and sick when my mom got there.
But those aren’t the words I was thinking of, your mom said to me.
What are they then, I asked. What words are they?
Then I said, sorry. I told them, sorry. I didn’t have the right words.
Your mom hasn’t changed by the way. She still has those straight bangs and tells me I need to eat. And your dad, to be honest, looked shitty. His face was so red.
Anyway, what happened was, I drove back to Richmond after the funeral. I was done with memorials. I didn’t go to the field.
Why I’m back in town now is to see Mema and I figured I’d swing by here.
It’s um, it’s a nice day, though. Like one of those days when we’d drink forties and smoke Marlboro one hundreds down at the river.
But in all seriousness, what words was I supposed to say? That I wish I had answered your phone call that night? That no matter how broken somebody becomes, you have to tell them to keep, to keep – yeah, I know, it’s whatever.
But a goddamn shotgun? Huh.
They’re saying Mema could go any day but what’s funny is she still asked about you. I told her you were doing fine. I don’t know, I figured what good would it do. Older people hate hearing about young people dying. It makes them feel guilty or something.
I still can’t believe Mema used to pay us each twenty dollars to rake her leaves and it would only take us like fifteen minutes. I remember you asked me one time if it was alright to keep coming with me, that maybe Mema didn’t realize how much money she was paying us. I told you that she was so rich it didn’t matter. Then you looked down at the yellow leaves covering your feet and kicked them away. You said, just because she’s rich don’t make it right.
Ha – you always were a wannabe, a wannabe goodie boy.
So, you know, back at the funeral, when I told your mom and dad that I didn’t have the right words, they said they understood.
Then, your mom got close to me and said you and I were like brothers. She hugged me. She said you always loved me.
Man, I don’t know why but it made me laugh so hard when your mom said that part, that you loved me. Straight up, I thought I was going to puke.
What are you laughing at, your mom asked me. She got pretty mad, I think. She said it in that way she used to tell us to stop pretending your bed was the top ropes of a wrestling ring.
I told her, those words, Mrs. Terry. Those words.
Daniel W. Thompson’s work has appeared in publications like decomP, WhiskeyPaper, Wyvern Lit, Third Point Press and Cheap Pop. He works as a city planner and lives in downtown Richmond, VA, with his wife and children.
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