[Follows " Microcosm", "Hebrews 13: 1-2 ", " The son never shines on closed doors" , "July 4th", "The Getaway", "Orpheus' path" and " Clowns"]
« What’s he doing here? »
This was when Aaron realised things were about to go south.
And yet, on that day, he was woken up by a pale ray of sun finding its way between the partly drawn curtains. The window was ajar and the cool air of the morning already prickled his skin in thousands of bumps. He liked, and still does, the feel of tangled sheets on his bare body, the way the fabric stroked ever so slightly, in tickles, hardening his nipples, hardening everything. He felt Jim at his side; or rather Jim’s ghost as he went down under the white sheets, his head bobbing up and down. The ethereal presence of his lover hung on the rafters, breathing shallowly, subduing grunts, loving silently. Then, the ultimate strain, their bodies contracting, the muffled climaxes, the sound of the belt buckle as it pinged on the buttons of his jeans, one last kiss and the creaking of the window concealed by the song of a nighthawk on the eaves. Aaron followed his lover down the backyard gutter breathlessly, listening for the thump of his fall in the haystack and the sound of his footsteps receding in the distance, crushing the desert dirt.
He loved going to breakfast matching the ticking of the old clock as he thumped downstairs one step at a time. Its deep sound coming from somewhere in its hollow body but still so pure, the sound of eternity echoing through the house, as if they marked the boundaries of a piece of time, a photograph taken between the gongs of an old long-case clock, elements from the past crafted into an implement that was to outlast him. The rhythm of this day would be ingrained in his memory by this metronome, resonate inside his mind, revive this buried memory.
His mother was engulfed by the smell of toasted bread and the aroma of the coffee maker. A spoon had been carelessly laid next to a lonely cup, staining the white-top table as it dried. She was swaddled into a plush purple bathrobe; she was always cold now. She was closing her eyes against the sun shining through the dust-spotted kitchen window. He thought she had not heard her.
“Morning, Ma”. He saw a smile flash through her face. She tried hard to sustain it, to make him believe that everything was all right. But the way she pursed her lips, the way her jawbones tightened under the frail skin of her face gave him to understand than she was dying, faster than yesterday.
“How d’ya feel, Ma?”
“’ m all right”. You grow up thinking that your parents can trace the faint inflections in your voice as you promise that you can’t possibly know who set the backyard shed on fire. You never think that these would echo back to you one day in the voice of your mother. But for Aaron, on that day, it did.
“Where’s Pa?” He knew the change of subject would be welcomed, he knew that talking about her husband would allow her to hide away the pain she felt pulsing and throbbing in her breasts.
“Out in the fields, looking for a lamb”.
He did not know if it was his mother saying it, but he could now smell firewood burning, making its way inside through the half-open backdoor.
“Jim’s already at it, why don’t you go and help him?” Hearing Jim’s name sent a shiver down his spine. He could feel sweat forming in beads on his forehead as his mother looked at him, reading him like a book, feeling the depth of his quandary.
“Here, take a piece of toast and why don’t you bring Jim one of these apples? You know he loves them.
Outside, bare-chested, hairless, suntanned Jim was stoking a great bonefire with large logs, the way his muscles flexed, well-delineated , the V plunging down into his blue jeans.Aaron was entranced holding the apple in one hand and the piece of toast in the other as if unsure if he should bite one or the other.The terrified bleating of a lamb startled him out of his reverie and the shadow of his father, with the trembling beast on his shoulders, fell right between Aaron's and Jim's.
« C'mon, Ronnie, hold it still"
He hated that, the way the blade seemed to slide innocuously along the throat of the pleading animal, staining its fleece red in a final bleat.The table was already laid outside under the sparsed shade of a surviving Mountain laurel in full purple blossoms. The sizzling of the gutted lamb’s skin over the crackling fire and the drops of fat exploding in sparkles signalled the beginning of the feast. Lou presided at the head of the table with his wife on the left and young Anita on the right. Aaron sat next to his mother while Jim faced him next to the shy, taciturn young woman. As soon as they were seated , Aaron felt Jim's unbooted foot crawling up and down his shin.
Ignorant Lou was preparing to say graces, one hand clasping the other while closing his eyes , tilting his head forward. « Dear Lord, we all grateful for that lamb, we all grateful for the grace you extend to us. Watch over Joan, keep her off that devil trying to lure her out. Protect our Aaron, do not send Satan in his way. Bless Resguardo and its citizens… »
And there was silence, as if Lou was trying to let his words fly up. Aaron opened one eye, he caught a glimpse of the livid face of his father , hatred sewn in every stitch of his wrinkled face, almost unable to breathe , mouthing words that could not be heard, grabbing the sides of the table as if ready to topple it.
« What's he doing here ? »
Staggering through the cotton bushes was drunken Ernie.
« Jim, get me the rope"
« Come on Lou, the boy's just…"
« Get me the fuckin rope ! »
And this was the start of Lou’s stringing Ernie up , on Easter day.