Page 60 - WTP Vol. XI #3
P. 60

Ages of Juliette (continued from preceding page)
 not Hayes. Not any of them, not those aunts, uncles, parents who formed a generational buffer against her own mortality.
The next morning, on train from Boston, the death of her good-hearted uncle still doesn’t seem real. And, oddly she feels betrayed. He’d been such a fixture— every birthday, every Christmas, and graduation, Hayes was always there, always smiling, always filling someone’s glass, making sure they were comfort- able... just always there. She goes to the club car and has three beers.
By the time her train gets to Baltimore, it’s dark. Her brother is waiting on the platform, looking like a penitent, his sport coat and tie the sack-cloth rem- nants of his failures—a two-time college dropout with a part-time job in a nursery.
He takes her bulging backpack. “Christ, Jules, whad- dahya got in here? Granite?”
“Books. You know how it goes... grind... grind... grind.”
“Right... grind... grind... grind. You can say that again.”
She grins and repeats. “Grind... grind... grind.”
He manages to grin back. “So that’s what they’re teaching you in law school? How to be a smart-ass?”
“Smart-ass was two semesters ago. I aced it.”
His grin fades. “Of course you did. When have you ever not aced anything, Jules?”
At the funeral home, she signs the book, then plays a role she’s only seen in movies, taking Eugenia’s hands in both of hers—“I’m so sorry, Eugenia, so sorry”—
a quick hug, then onto her cousin Melany—“I’m so sorry... so sorry.” She wraps her arms around her sis- ter Amy, and rocks from side to side, “Oh, Amy... Amy, so good to be home, but so sad... so sad.”
And then to her mother who smiles, “Juliette, you made it... you made it. You must be tired.”
“Not very... I’m fine, Mom... I’m fine.” She goes to the casket and looks down on the stranger there. Hayes had always been doing something, carving the tur- key, handing out drinks, helping someone with their coat, getting down on his knees to play with Melany’s twins—good-hearted Hayes. She hates the silent stranger stretched out before her. And she wants a drink. In her pocket, her left hand opens and closes.
She sits beside Lukas and calculates how long they 53
should stay. Then their father walks into the room and Lukas mutters “Christ.”
“Shhhhh.” She watches their father go to Eugenia, then Melany, then Amy who beams “Daddy!” Then Juliette watches him trade a commiserative look with her mother. Whatever recrimination either of them holds toward the other, they’ve agreed to put aside for Hayes’s sake.
“What’s he doing here?” Lukas asks.
“Who knows?” But then she watches her father look down on his dead brother-in-law and thinks that he may have come to honor her uncle’s kindness. The night of Melany’s engagement party, she remem- bered how he’d been so drunk he fell into Eugenia’s precious birdbath, and knocked it over. And how everyone just stared as he struggled to get up until Hayes crossed the lawn and took his elbow—“Here, Teddy, let me give you a hand.” And how Hayes even brushed the dirt from her father’s knees. Maybe that’s why he’s come.
He leaves the coffin and walks over to her and her brother. “Hey, you two.”
Lukas doesn’t even bother to stand. “Hey, Dad,” is all he can muster.
In her pocket, Juliette reaches for Portia, but she stands. “Hi, Dad.”
He hugs her and she sniffs... no scent of booze, only his familiar Dunhill cologne... the scent of an occa- sional bedtime story, and belly tickles, and spontane- ous bursts of poetry.
“So, you made it down from Boston... good for you.” She’s heard from Amy that he’s dating someone and

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