by James Mulhern
He woke to the dog whimpering and scratching his arm. The phone rang. His wife answered. “It’s for you.” She gave him the handset. “Okay,” he said to the caller. She wrapped a pillowcase around his bloody arm. “My father’s dead. Can you shine my shoes?”
On the floor below, something crashed. They walked down the stairs in silence because that’s what he wanted. In the living room, the cheap print of Davinci’s Last Supper lay on the floor, the frame splintered.
At the wake, he kneeled before his father’s coffin, said an Our Father, and kissed his forehead.
When they left, he asked his wife when they’d last seen him. “Just before Easter, when we took him out to dinner.” “He was mostly good, but he did some bad things,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.” She touched his shoulder.
At home, he knelt by the shattered print. His shoulders curled inward and his back shook.
She knew he was thinking of that last supper. Maybe he wished he he’d said more. Maybe he had regrets.
She wanted to tell him he’d been a good son, that his father had loved him deeply. But words, she knew, could not relieve his pain. Instead, she watched, giving him silence and time, because that’s what he needed.
In a while, she would hug him, but she wouldn’t say a thing.