Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: Eulogies in Gray
If there was such a thing as a perfect day for a funeral, today would be it. Gabriel—‘Gabe’—Montgomery shrugs his shoulders under his thin coat trying to push the collar up to garner some protection against a witch of a wind trying to scrap her icy fingers down the back of his neck. He tightens the muscles in his core to suppress an urge to shiver. He believes in maintaining complete control over his mind and body. The cold will not dictate how he acts.
Everything is shades of November gray. Slate-gray sky, coal-gray dirt piled by the grave site, naked trees with skeletal talons for limbs turned the dreary colour of ash. He supposes it all fits his gray mood.
Mouth dry and back aching from the frozen ground he’s been standing on for the last half hour, Gabe half-heartedly listens to Father Donahue pepper an impersonal eulogy with bible verses meant to comfort grieving friends and family. It’s all bullshit. The man being buried didn’t engender grief in those he left behind.
Wondering again why he’s here, Gabe comes up void of an answer same as he has every other time he’s asked.
Guilt? Obligation? The search for closure? He fights the urge to laugh out loud at that last one. Closure? Not fucking likely.
He stares at the dark rectangular hole in the ground then glances at the coffin to its side. Like everything else the final resting place for his father’s body is a fitting shade of steel gray—gray like the soul of the man lying inside.
Father Donahue rambles off a line about forgiveness, and Gabe resists the urge to look up and see if the Priest’s eyes are directed at him. He wouldn’t put it past the old codger. Twenty-six years have passed since the last time Gabe felt his ass go numb sitting on a wooden pew in the Saint Michael’s Church. He still, however, remembers the glare Father Donahue would direct his way whenever he had a bit of wisdom he wanted to impart to a headstrong kid with a temper and a penchant for trouble.
Too bad the man never thought to direct some of that advice to Gabe’s father. Guess that would’ve been hard to do though, given Neil Montgomery never stepped a foot into a church his entire life.
Gabe battles back a relentless slew of memories swimming to the surface of his mind. They come anyway, mashing together in a chaotic, toxic swill of images and words. His teeth clench hard enough the joints of his jaw protest with a burst of pain reminiscent of a meaty fist hitting the side of his face.
Useless, stupid, good-for-nothing, idiot, bastard...
The words bounce around inside Gabe’s head, barbed and painful. The old man sure knew how to deliver an insult with his punches. The words, reeking of cheap whiskey and wet with specks of frothy spit, never failed to take their toll. To this day, Gabe struggles against the roots they dug into his psyche. At thirty-six he’s built a veritable business empire. He’s well known and well respected, probably even a little feared, and he has more money than he could ever spend. Despite it all a part of him has never stopped longing for the approval and love he never received as a child. He’s such a fucking cliché.
Up until the day the lawyer called to tell him the old man had passed, Gabe thought he at least had a handle on all his emotional baggage. Guess not. Now he’s here, back in this crummy town, wading through a wealth of unresolved crap and trying to settle the old man’s estate.
‘Estate.’ What a laughable damn word. Neil Montgomery’s ‘estate’ was a shitty little house with a sagging front porch. Tiny rooms with weathered furniture boasted walls stained yellow from cigarette smoke, dingy carpets reeking of nicotine and spilled booze. The entire place needed to be bulldozed. A battered, rusted out truck and a bank account with seven hundred and thirty-six dollars rounds off the entire life achievement of his old man.
Jamming his cold hands into his pockets, Gabe waits out the final minutes of the eulogy then watches the casket lower into the ground. The few mourners—a motley collection of distant cousins and the local bar crowd—scurry away, eager to get out of the cold and away from the reminder their lives have an expiry date.
Gabe stays longer than he should, afternoon darkening into evening, before he finally makes his way to side of his father’s grave where he crouches down, staring at the scraped-smooth dirt walls. From his pocket he removes a tarnished silver flask that he found in a desk drawer in the old man’s bedroom. He drops it down beside the casket, lid off, the glug of draining liquid reaching his ears seconds before his sight registers the darkening soil created by the expensive single-malt Gabe filled it with.
Standing, Gabe impulsively grabs a handful of dirt from the pile and lets it rain down from his hand to the casket.
When he speaks his voice is steady and strong, and the knot in his gut eases just a little. “You used to call me a bastard, dad, but the truth is no one was more of a bastard than you.” Gabe sighs. There are a thousand hurts and accusations he could voice, but the cold wind sucks away the heat of any lingering anger and all he feels is...lost.
“Rest in peace, old man.”
Gabe dusts the grave dirt from his palm and turns, leaving behind the shell of the man who never loved him.
He is not his father’s son.
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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)