The day seemed like a curse; unfortunately, it was not over with yet.
Back at the Cemetery there was only one car left in the Funeral Parking lot. It belonged to the parents of the dead little boy. The father and mother were still rigid beside the grave inside the cemetery. Even the Funeral Director awkwardly excused himself to abandon the unfinished burial ceremony to escape the unendurable iciness.
The father and mother were in an out-and-out state of helplessness and hostility.
The exodus was a big reason for why the father and mother remained there at the grave, standing silent and motionless.
The other reason is that they did not want to go home and be alone with one another. They might have given the impression of emotional numbness to the casual eye. However, beneath their stolid outer surfaces, emotional discord plagued the two spouses. And there had been a noticeable rift between the husband and wife ever since the death.
Be it the loss of the boy, the abandonment of the burial by others, or the ill feelings between them, they refused to face the problem, which they easily accomplished by not talking about it. And this is how they each dealt with their contaminated emotions in their marriage—disconnected and uncommunicative. And this almost seemed normal to them by now.
But all the horrible feelings that they had been pushing down and avoiding the whole time began to revolt. And repressed festering emotions and unsaid thoughts began to climb themselves out of each person’s throat unassisted, and they wanted to scream of their existence.
“Let’s just go, Joan!” the father barked without looking at her. He left her there, and took off toward the car.
The mother looked up, hopeless and crushed; she scurried after her husband trying to catch up. She ran behind him imploring, “Tom, Tom!” Her husband increased his gate but she still chased after him.
“Tom! We have to talk about this; we have not said two words between each other since the accident.”
The father did not respond, he just pressed on ahead of her, his face was red, his temple veins were visible, and his facial muscles were rigid..
“Tom!” she grabbed his arm, “It was an accident!”
“Is that what you are calling it now, Joan, a mere mishap?” The father jerked his arm away aggressively and her fingernails accidentally scratched at his suit cuff, fraying fibers, as her arm snapped back. The father swung his arms as he hastened his stride to the car.
“Tom, why not just say what you have been thinking all along? It is all over your face.” She started sobbing, “Just go ahead, and say it; say it, and get it over with!”
The father stopped, turned towards his wife, and glowered at her with sharp eyes and narrowed eyebrows, “What do you want me to say! Our only child is dead Joan” He talked with his hands in the air, gesticulating vehemently, “Caleb was 8 years old—8 years old!” he barked. “And he died with such a horrible death; his body bore a permanent frown that the mortician could not even straighten!”
He grimaced looking down at the ground in devastation, “For God’s sake, Joan, they had to drag his body out of the ice with a grappling hook.”
The father’s mood sank into a lull of despair. Then his anger surged back again. “And now I have to live with that image in my head! I have to see it every day, for the rest of my life.”
“And I don’t Tom?” she said angry and hurt, “Don’t you think I would give my life in a second to bring Caleb back for 5 minutes?”
The father shook his head in anger. “It’s a little too late for that Joan. He is dead.”
“You are not being fair Tom; I have to live with this just as much as you, and even more,” She said in cold, cutting tone, “Yes, much more Tom. I have to bear the burden of your silent eyes’ accusations.” I see what you think in your eyes; it is always there, every time you look at me.”
The husband said nothing; he just snorted air from his nostrils while shaking his head forcefully, and it was body language invalidating her entire statement.
As if trying to convince her she pleaded her point, “Tom, it was nobody’s fault. All of those children were skating on the lake. They all always have skated on that lake. Even in late August.
And there has never been any danger. The ice has never once broken, ever, even in September.” She begged, “Tom this was November. It was just a horrible accident. No one could have known this would happen, especially not in November.”
Both parents got to the car; each opened their own door and they got in the car. The father sat in the driver’s seat, blood boiling; he heard the pressure of blood coursing through the veins of his temples with a whoosh.
The mother sat in silent anger towards her husband, and also self-loathing, as she snapped her seatbelt on in the passenger seat. She had been so upset she forgot to shut her door. In fact, both doors were hanging wide open.
The husband’s key was not even in the ignition, his keys clenched in his left hand squeezing his fist around them like a nutcracker. Bob looked into his wife’s face with fiery eyes. He started fiercely pointing an accusing right finger in her face.
“Damn it Joan! This is not just another November! There has never been a November this warm in 25 years! You know that Joan, it was on the news every day for a week and you even commented on it!
The father shouted in her face, “Caleb never should have been allowed to skate on that goddamned lake this November!” He turned away and slapped his right palm on the steering wheel forcefully, slapping at it two times, and looked out the left open door, he bit his lower, he said nothing, he breathed, he thought, he shook his head. And finally, he shook his head. He turned his back towards the passenger seat, snapping his head to stare her directly in the eyes. “But he did go skating on that lake this warm November Joan, did he not? I am pretty sure that Caleb did not ask for my permission. In fact he never could have asked me that day because I was at the office at the time.”
“What the Hell does that supposed to mean!” screamed the mother defensively, “Well! What are you wanting to say?” she demanded, “You think I killed Caleb? Is that what you are you saying, Tom?” The mother’s eyes were horrified. “Oh my God, that is it Bob isn’t it, you think…do really blame me for this horrible tragedy?”
“All I am saying Joan…” He paused to think, “…All I am saying Joan, is that if I had been the only adult at home; Caleb never would have been allowed to go near that lake; and he would not have been out there skating, not even in November, not in this warm spell.”
“So that’s it after all isn’t it Tom? The mother’s voice became frantic; I let him go skate with all the other kids so I am some sort of a murderer?” She broke down sobbing. “How can you imply I did this knowing what would happen! How could you even say such a think?”
“I did not say that Joan, you said it!” barked the father. “Ok, you really want to know what I think.”
The mother cried, “Yes! Yes! Put me on trial Bob, no jury, and no appeal, just pass your sentence upon me, and send me to the executioner.”
“All right Dear, it’s simple, if I had been the one at home, I never would have let Caleb go skating on that unstable lake. You were at home though and you let Caleb go despite the weather reports. You knew better Joan! But you sent our boy out onto that deadly ice anyway!” He screamed, “If it had not been for you, Caleb would be alive right now! Yes, god damnit you killed our son when you sent him out on that dangerous ice! That was your child that you gave birth to, and he will never come back because of you!”
The mother’s eyes stared a thousand yards away, she focused on nothing, and she was in the hell of her own mind. Joan tried to speak but let out only a silent word; it failed to come from her terrorized face, which cried a torrent of tears in two briny streams. She could only writhe in a grimace of horror, and merely mouthed out mysterious words from a crooked mouth, mute and crooked from agony. She censured herself now.
And now that she agreed with what her husband had said to her so abusively, she now said those words, those accusations, to herself. Moreover her own accusations against herself, would forever speak at her, over and over, like a tape recorder playing inside of her mind, and the voice that Joan heard on that tape would be her own.
Thus, it did not matter what the truth was any longer. It would not change her mind. She believed what she told herself. She had tried, judged, and convicted herself of being guilty of all of it. And there would be no appeal or expiation for such a crime.
Similarly, her husband’s job was finished; he need not bother to exert the effort to accuse his wife any more. Bob did not need to blame his wife ever again, for the simple reason that she would endlessly do a much better job of torturing herself with pain and guilt and blame than he could ever possibly do.
And now she would never give herself no pardon from the felony, for the atrocity, for here sin of sins that she committed against her own flesh and blood. Emotionally beyond salvage, she would go to her grave with this.
Bitter shame soon overcame the father with regret for what he said. But the mother said nothing at all, completely defeated, she sat silently in the car, still staring at nothing with dead eyes.
She lost something inside of her that she needed desperately and now and it was gone. She did not know how to get it back. She did not even know what to look for.
She became limp and slowly slumped over upon herself, her face fallen between her knees. Her arms wrapped around her knees and she rocked silently.
Then at first the faint sound, a unsettling noise. And soon the sound grew louder and brasher as she rocked. Joan was forever marked from that fight, for she was not crying she was wailing, grieving in a helpless child-like manner.
Then in a primal, visceral fashion, she began to howl in a ghastly disconcerting manner. The distressed emission was not like a human. It was an eerie howling sounded much more like that of a wounded animal, than a cry like that of a person.
The father jumped out of his seat and stood up. He stood motionless for a few seconds, and then overcome with tortuous emotions; he began to take his fist and pound the roof of the sedan over and over, as hard as he could. The metal slightly dented under each blow. He was so worked up he could not feel his hands. Then he realized that they were bleeding badly and he gave it up and stopped.
He lay the side of his face on the bloody roof and burst out in bitter weeping and sorrow. His son was gone. He had hurt his wife. Yet he did not feel he was wrong. And he still blamed her and had not intentions to forgive her for the death of his son.
A surge of hate soon poisoned his natural weeping. It was hate for himself, hate for his wife, hate for the loss of his son, and hate for the ruinous curse of the funeral.
He wiped his tears on his sleeve, walked around the car and shut his wife’s door, he shut it so hard and quick that they glass almost broke, but his howling wife did not even flinch in her grief.
Bob walked back around the car and climbed in his side; he shut his door, and put the key in the ignition.
He reached for a cigarette, but then threw it away. He started the cold car and began slowly pulling out of the parking lot. He did not say a single word to his wife driving home. And all that while, his wife had never stopped howling, she could not control it, and as the car drove out that wounded animal-like howling was the only sound heard until the car was a good distance away.