Dust hangs heavy in the dull catalpas;
the cicadas are scraping interminably
at the heat-thickened air—
no rain in three weeks, no real breeze all day,
In the dim room,
the blinds grimly endure the deadly light,
protecting the machined air,
as the watchers watch the old lady die.
—Howard Starks, “August: Osage County”
Jared Bethany was trying to talk to his mother about his father, who had died that morning. She did not answer him. Instead she worried at a white cloth napkin embroidered with lillies.
Dominic Bethany’s death had struck his wife Martha dumb. Her last words had been “Your father, he—” on a phone call with Jared and his older sister Jane. The youngest, David, had not answered. Jared had raced to the apartment, where he had found his father and his mute mother. Her face glowed red, the aftermath of tears.
At the sight of his father sprawling in a thick crimson lagoon, Jared’s face, so often compared to his daddy’s, flushed the shade of the discolored carpet. He fell to his knees, wailing and sending waves through the blood. He wept and slammed his fists into the star-shaped pool. The darkness of the gunshot wound in his father’s chest engulfed him.
At a loss and soaked, he dithered about his parents’ Nashville apartment for an hour before deciding to lock his mother in her room. He did not know what that would accomplish, only knew she could not hurt herself there, knew he needed to assert control over the newly dire situation of her speechlessness.
Resentment supplanted his sadness with haste. Dominic was dead, and that demanded dealing with. An obligation. He put his mother away and his jacket back on and drove to the funeral home. The body followed behind.
“Would you like to reanimate him?” the undertaker asked.
“Yes, please” Jared said.