Saturday, July 9, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
Zach dismounted and led the pair of horses into the dark shadows of the barn. Clicking the to his flashlight, he swung it from left to right, disturbing a pair of rats fighting over spilt oats. A small protest from them was the only sound besides the low moan of the chill winter wind. Hoping not to disturb his family and friends in the main barn, he led the beasts into their stalls and spent the next fifteen minutes mindlessly attending to them. He pulled a brush down from the wall and brushed both creatures, covering them with blankets and giving each a handful of oats, all the while thinking of how to break the news of Chris’ death to the rest of them, and trying to anticipate their reactions. Sarah would break down in tears, and so might Julie. Kyle would be sad, but probably would be just as sad that his mother was upset as at the death. Peter would remain stoic, keeping it bottled up inside. Amy would stand by him, afraid to show her emotions, the same solemn expression upon her face that she had worn since they had raided the hospital she had called a second home.
His parents would have mixed emotions. Chris’ death meant one less mouth to feed, which meant that there supplies would last longer. They would be sad alright, Zach though, but they were practical people. That left Brian.
Brian had become close to Chris in the months they had been together, drumming along with Chris’ guitar on whatever surface was available. He would be hit the hardest and retract further into his shell, clutching at his, now clean thanks to Aubrey, Pooh blanket.
“Hey,” a voice said from nearby and Zach spun, his light falling upon the still figure of Peter standing at the slightly ajar barn door.
“Jesus, don’t do that, be glad this is only a flashlight.” Zach growled past the fear that had gripped him momentarily.
“Sorry. I was sitting on the porch when you rode up. Just wanted to know if you needed any help with the horses.”
The unspoken words in the room were too much for Zach. “I tried, He was in the car before I could stop him. He wouldn’t listen. I mean I told him we could find a remote starter and try it when it was light out. He wouldn’t listen.” He blurted out.
“I know, I’m sure you did all you could.”
“No,” Zach sniffed, tears starting to well in the corners of his eyes, “I could have tried to grab him, pull him out of the car.”
“And then you’d both be dead.” Peter said in his low, flat tone.
“I know, but…”
“But nothing, you did all you could. I don’t want to hear anything else on it. Everyone’s awake now, so let’s go break the news to them.” Peter turned and took a step out into the yard, but Zach called him back.
“Peter, I’m sorry.” He said, and then sighed, wiping the tears from his face with his hands.
“I know, and they will too.”
When Peter and Zach walked into the house, each with their eyes cast downward, Sarah broke into tears before anything could be said.
“I’m sorry,” Zach stated sadly.
The reactions went as much he had pictured them, his father with his lips set in a firm line, not willing to show that he was sad at the passing of his step-sons friend. Sullenly Brian got up and left the room, heading to the corner of the house that him, Kyle, and Chris had been sharing. Julie joined in Sarah’s tears, and after seeing his mom break down, so did Kyle. Amy was the only one that surprised him.
“What happened?” She asked, her expression softening as she approached and led him to the couch where she sat down next to him.
The room fell silent as Zach began to recount the tale of how he had been unable to catch up with Chris on the road into town, and the firefight with the stranger in the showroom of the dealership. He told of how Chris had managed to shoot the man, but had run back out to the parking lot and found the car before Zach had managed to catch up to him. The entire story felt like a list of his failings, but Zach powered on, stopping right at where the engine had sputtered to life, everyone knew what had happened next.
“I’m sorry,” Amy said, taking his hand in her own. They sat there, his hand in hers, and he began to cry again, replaying the explosion in his head. She wiped the tears off his face with a stray piece of cloth that was nearby and once he had managed to stop crying, the sound of a guitar startled all of them.
While they had been listening to Zach tell his story, Brian had silently re-entered the room, Chris’ guitar in hand and sat down, waiting for the opportunity to present itself. Now that the telling was over it was his turn to draw all of the attention in the room.
“You will have to forgive me, I’m a little rusty,” he said as he strummed a couple of chords out on the instrument, his Winnie the Pooh blanket resting in between the guitar and his knee. After a false start, he began in earnest to play ‘End of the World as We Know it’ and after a few measures, Peter joined in, followed by Amy, and soon, everyone had leant their voices to the song.