Peculiar Type #13 – Wake
On a silver afternoon, Peter watched his grandfather’s ashes whisk across the slate blue waters of Dunnaday Bay as a glimmering soul-cloud in the crisp air.
He stood for an hour on the water-worn dock listening to Reverend Matthews’ solemn words and Uncle Gordon’s elegy. He remembered when his grandfather first took him here and told him how he worked as a fisherman when he was younger, knotting rope, tending the boats, pulling in the catch. Seagulls had cried overhead and he could swear he could smell the fish and the brine and the sweat and could see his grandfather’s eyes, hard and bright.
Uncle Gordon said that Peter’s grandfather was a stubborn man who knew his mind. That line made Peter smile. His grandfather had always been proud to say that he smoked a cigar every week since he had been ten and a beer every day since that age as well. Aunt Rita, a retired surgeon, was always pestering the old man to give up his bad habits, but he had brushed her off saying that he was immune to such poisons.
Peter discretely sniffled as his family headed back toward solid land when the last of grandfather disappeared into the watery beyond. Grandfather would be pleased, he thought. After one last glance at the bay’s choppy waves, he turned and nearly bumped into a glassy-eyed woman trying to pull her collar up to protect her neck from the cold wind. Peter frowned. It was Josephine, his cousin.
“Cold day. Can’t wait to get inside,” she said.
“Yes.” He walked with her toward one of the large wood-planked sheds dotting the shore where a brief reception was to be held. He had intended to have a drink and linger for a while commiserating with his family, but with Josephine around, he wasn’t so sure. He hadn’t known that she would come to the funeral. Of course, his grandfather was hers too, but a week before, everyone knew she was immersed in something Big and Important. But only Peter knew she was seeing a psychiatrist and taking meds.
Once inside, Peter slipped away from his cousin and headed toward the refreshment table for a glass of merlot. He didn’t bother taking off his coat. He smiled again as he swirled the wine and took a sip. If his grandfather was there, he would be scowling. “Wine?” he’d roar. “Your friends have corrupted you, Peter.” And then the old man would forcibly take the glass out of his hand and replace it with a beer can. But it would have all been in good fun. His grandfather would drink the wine as he had developed a taste for it himself.
He spotted Uncle Gordon talking to the reverend at one corner and turned to walk toward the two men, but he froze as out of the corner of his eye, he saw Josephine talking to his younger brother Bobby, Bobby’s girlfriend Eliza, and one of his other cousins. “So,” Josephine said loudly to Eliza, “How many other guys have you dated before seeing Bobby?”
Bobby’s mouth dropped. Eliza blinked, shocked. Peter took a deep swallow. Please let that be an isolated incident. Even when they were little, Josephine always talked before thinking. And even after she talked, she never thought what she said was ever wrong. The woman never had any tact, no filter to screen out whatever was churning in that brain of hers. Peter had hoped the meds were doing something.
Peter made his way toward his uncle and the reverend. Greetings were exchanged and he chatted with the older men, feeling a little comforted. After a few moments, he was about to excuse himself to get some water when footsteps sounded behind him. It was Josephine.
“I must be leaving soon,” his cousin announced. “It’s getting so dark at this time of year.”
Reverend Matthews agreed as his uncle nodded. Peter said nothing.
“It was nice seeing you Reverend. Peter, don’t drink too much. And Uncle Gordon, you look absolutely terrible. Take care of yourself, now, you hear?”
Josephine emphasized the word terrible like an overblown stage actress and then patted Uncle Gordon’s coat lapel with a disapproving tsk. As his uncle’s body jerked at her words, startled, the reverend tried to cover-up a scandalized gasp with a hand. And as a headache brewed behind Peter’s temple, his cousin whisked herself off.
Those meds definitely aren’t working. “I am so sorry,” Peter found himself saying. “She’s just not herself with everything going on.” But that was all that he was going to say. He was the only one who knew about Josephine’s psychiatrist–she had entrusted that part of her to him. If it ever got out to the rest of the family, well, he knew for certain that Aunt Rita would be having a field day.
Uncle Gordon was silent for a second, gazing at the door that Josephine had breezed through. Something flickered briefly across his eyes before he glanced back at his nephew. “Don’t worry, Peter. I know she’s been like that for quite a while.”