Duce shuffled back to the garage. Her perfume wafted through the hot air like a ghost. He glared so hard into that Honda engine, it could have melted. He felt stupid for letting her go with all that car advice and hated her for making him out to be some momma’s boy without a future. He slammed his fist onto the radiator hose, which split in two. Her perfume disappeared. He was alone with the Honda, still staring into it, trying to solve everything in the godforsaken heat.

After work he started home but turned onto Sherry’s road instead. He cruised past her driveway slowly, catching the edge of her porch in his rear view mirror. He ached to drive up the chunky gravel to her front porch. He wanted her to be home, waiting on the porch like a cooling pumpkin pie, but she was halfway to Louisville to see the man she chose. He turned around right there and went to his momma’s. She’d know what to tell him.

 

It was after sundown, and he could see the glint of the wheelchair in his headlights. Figuring she had fallen asleep, Duce tiptoed into her house like a nervous child. He stepped onto the sun porch and walked to her. Her shoulder didn’t move under his hand. Her chest did not rise and fall. He shook her gently, but her eyes did not flutter. He stumbled for the phone, the day’s sweat cooling in the breeze. He had no one to call, no brothers to console, no father to look after. His only tether to the world was gone. He sank to his knees, and stayed there until the ambulance arrived. A team of paramedics worked quietly, respectfully, and the last he saw of her was a silhouette under a sheet. He moved to the couch and dozed there all night, waiting for her Mercury to pull into the driveway. When morning came, he forgot where he was, and woke with a start. Her wheelchair stood empty on the sun porch.

For the first time in three years, he called in to work to ask for the day off. Randy started in on him, and he pictured him in the back office, bent over ledgers and sweating into his coffee.

“No, man, we have ten state inspections to run today, the Honda owner’s comin’ back at noon, and he’s pissin’ fire over the radiator hose which I found cracked, and we’ve got a Dodge in here that needs parts no one’s seen in ten years…you are comin’ in.”

“Mom died. I can’t. I just can’t.” He hung up, stunned by the words. “Dead,” he repeated, trying to suck the agony from it.

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Frances Badgett

Excerpt from “Wide Green Quarry”