By Renee Lishka
Offering Larry Scotch and Cigars was probably the most desperate thing I could think of in an attempt to lure him over here. The smell of whiskey pollutes my senses when I greet him at the door. I can tell he’s already had too much to drink. I water down the glass of scotch in as much ice and water as I can so he doesn’t realize the difference. He’s sitting on the couch, slouched, his face covered in stubs of hair from lack of shaving. His divorce has devastated him and has left him feeling so much grief that he can barely hold it together. I invited him over for dinner with my wife and I hoping that his favorite bottle of Scotch and fancy cigars would pull him out of his state, but he seems more on edge than ever.
I join him on the sofa, doing what I know best to comfort him. Larry’s my brother and we’ve always been close. We were born eighteen months apart from each other, so we were close. Even though he went off and joined the military and got himself hitched, while I went on to Architect School and became an architect, we still remained a tight-knit set of brothers.
“How do you do it?” He says to me. “How do you keep your marriage together? It’s like mine just slipped through my fingers and I can’t put the pieces back together.”
“Marriage is rough. It takes a lot of effort and commitment. It’s not easy for anyone no matter how much it looks like a fairy tale to everyone else.”
He takes a swig of his Scotch and puffs on his cigar, leaning back on the sofa, resting his head against the cushion as he transitions his stare from the floor to the ceiling. Larry looks as though he hasn’t seen a razor in weeks. His beard has overgrown his face, his hair looks like a cue-tip and his clothes? Let’s just say if it hadn’t been for his wife he never would have known how to dress properly. His shirt’s un-tucked and it looks as though he’s been wearing the same jeans for the past three days. He’s not well.
“She’s taking our son, did you know that?”
I shake my head, devastated about the news.
“Ah, shit, man I’m so sorry.”
“She didn’t even ask if I wanted him, she just assumed she had rights to them.”
Amy walks in with a tray of peanuts and chips and sets it down on the ottoman. Larry sits up at full attention; it’s the fastest I’ve seen him move since he got here.
“I thought you might like an appetizer before dinner,” my wife says.
“Thank you,” I say to her.
“You read my mind, Amy,” Larry declares.
Amy disappears out of the study and Larry slouches back on the couch, tossing some peanuts into his mouth. He sighs.
“I envy you, Denny,” he says. “You don’t have an ungrateful, nagging wife who threatens you every time you talk about going to Vegas every few months.”
A constant nagging in my head insists on arguing with Larry’s idea of my perfect life. I try to keep myself steady, solid, as I pour myself a drink.
“Don’t envy me,” I say.
“You have an amazing woman who loves you and would stick by you no matter what. You don’t have to worry about her taking your kids away if you got a divorce,” Larry’s words are plied by fatigue, scotch and cigars.
It’s a painful and unwelcome reminder of the trouble my wife and I have been going through in an effort to have children We have been married for almost ten years and have been trying to have children for five long, grueling and devastating years. Years that involved fertility drugs, and a miscarriage that has left us with a painful reality.
Amy has taken it pretty hard; She drowns her sorrows in a bottle of Jameson, and one time I caught her taking a valium with the whiskey. I snatch the bottle from her delicate hand. She screams at me.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I say. “Do you know a combination like that can fuck you up?”
“Leave me alone, Denny. This doesn’t concern you!”
“It does. You’re my wife! I have a right to know if you’re poisoning yourself!”
Amy starts blubbering, her hands shaky. She leans against the sink, shivering and sobbing; her mascara runs like paint down her cheeks. The one miscarriage left her feeling pretty devastated. She was six months pregnant when it happened. No one suspected that there was anything wrong; the pregnancy had been coming along so smoothly. The baby was at the right weight and size and it was kicking up a storm, so we had gotten its room ready. Then one night, Amy woke me up, screaming in fear. I spring up in my bed and I can see her in our bathroom, standing there with blood dripping down her legs. Lots of blood.
She’s crying and screaming in panic. We get to the hospital where she had to have an emergency c-section. I had to stand there and watch as they yanked my fragile son from my wife’s belly. He wasn’t breathing, he wasn’t crying, he wasn’t kicking. My son was dead. I stood there and I watched them wrap him up in a blanket and set him in the cradle.
“Is he sleeping?” My wife mutters from behind the sheet the doctors pinned up.
“No, sweetie,” I whimper. “He’s gone.”
I can see the pain in her eyes as she turns away from me, her eyes filled with tears. I reach out to comfort her, but she brushes me away. The horrible incident left her in a state of severe depression for months.
“I just want the pain to stop,” she sobs as she reaches for the pills from my hand.
“This isn’t going to help,” I say.
“What the fuck do you know about it?” She yells. “Do you know what it’s like to lose a baby that had been growing inside you?”
“No,” I say. “But I lost him too. You’re not the only one who lost him.”
Rage and fury build-up in her blood-shot red eyes.
“Get the fuck out of my sight!” She screams.
She shoves me out of the bathroom and slams the door. That began an endless streak of sleeping in the study on the fold out couch.
Larry notices the poignant disposition appearing across my face.
“Shit, man I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that.”
“It’s alright,” I say solemnly. “I suppose there is that blessing in disguise, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that my life is anything to be envious about.”
“You have it all together, man. You have a successful career, a nice home, a beautiful wife. I’m jealous.”
I kill off the last of my Scotch and set the glass on the bar.
“What the hell good is a home if it’s empty?” I say.
Larry sits there in a chilling silence. I can’t say anymore. I run my hand over my face to hide the tears that are starting to form and excuse myself from the study.
I go to the kitchen to check on my wife as she’s cooking dinner. She’s working on the salad, chopping tomatoes and celery. I offer to help, but she shoos me away.
“Don’t bother yourself with it,” she snaps.
“I want to be useful somehow,” I say.
“Keep Larry company,” she insists.
“I can’t,” I say. “I need a break.”
“You can’t even handle your own brother?” she smirks. “I thought you two were close.”
“We are,” I retort. “I just need a breather.”
“You need a breather,” she says unimpressed.
She stops her chopping and glares at me. You could cut the tension with a knife with that glare.
“Go then. We need coffee. I know you’re going to need it later if you want to get those designs done for that project in Kirkland. One of us still has to make a living.”
She returns to her chopping and I just stand there, the rage and frustration building up inside. I exit out the backdoor without notice.
I hitch up our yellow Lab and the two of us walk down to the store. As oppose to the tension that lingers in my house, there’s calm on the street. The street lamps are dimly lit as the warm, spring sun sets over the Olympic mountain range. A combination of yellow, pink and indigo paint the sky as the day becomes night and the fresh, cool breeze fills my lungs with an air so heavenly I almost felt I were the walking dead. It’s therapeutic. The spring air makes it easier to clear my head from the drama that surrounds the demise of my life, my brother’s life. I don’t know how much more of it I can take.
Moses and I arrive at Jake’s Grocery Mart. His son, Jeffrey is busy stocking the shelves with canned goods and greets me.
“How are you doing today, Mr. Morgan?” He says in his pubescent voice.
“Fine, Jeffrey, how are you?”
“I’ll be glad when school is finally over.”
“Yes, it’s that time of year isn’t it?”
“Denny!” Jake calls from behind the counter. “How the hell are you doing?”
Jake and I have known one another ever since my wife and I moved to this neighborhood a few years ago. We get together for poker games every once in a while, along with a few of my colleagues. His store is the best place to go when I need something and he always makes sure he has my favorite coffee in stock.
Jake is middle aged with balding, graying hair and smells of Camel’s cigarettes. The first few times I came in here we talked about nothing but fishing and that became our bonding point. Eventually he and his wife invited Amy and I up to Whidbey Island where he took me out on his boat and went fishing and crabbing. We are like family now.
“Okay I suppose,” I say.
“How’s that lovely wife of yours? Feeling any better?”
“It’s still pretty rough,” I sigh. “She’s on anti-depressants now, but I’m not sure if they’re helping. Work at least keeps her busy, but when she’s home with me it’s like everything is a constant reminder of our failed attempt to have children.”
He shakes his head, hands leaned on the counter.
“I’m truly sorry, Den. I sure wish I had words of wisdom to help you through this rough time. Perhaps you two need a vacation, get out of the city for a while. You can use our place up on the island if you want.”
“I might take you up on that offer,” I say.
“What can I do for you today, son?”
“I just came to get some coffee,” I say.
I spot my favorite brand on the shelf and grab it. Jake quickly rings it up, offering Moses a dog treat. I thank him and Moses and I head back towards the house. I’m suddenly dwelling and stewing in my own misery. I’m not ready to go back to the house. Not yet. I’m not sure how much more I can handle Larry the more he drinks and the way my wife looks at me with that pressing resentment in her eyes. I know she blames me for everything. Somehow it’s always my fault. I should’ve gotten her to the hospital sooner, or I should have stopped her from taking Yoga for pregnant women. There are different reasons why it’s been my fault.
I live in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and my house is conveniently located near the look-out point where a lot of people like to take their dogs and take in a great view of the city from afar. I lead Moses over to the bench to sit for a moment, staring out onto the city and the rushing traffic that speeds by. The lights of the sky scrapers are a glow throughout, as the fast lights of the rushing cars roar in and out of the city. Bright lights from Safeco are shimmering in the evening sky as the Mariners are probably on another losing streak. It’s a nice place I go to whenever I want to be alone. No guilt to bother me, no remorse for Larry, just Moses, me and the city before me. I think of my childhood and how I came here when I was a boy to watch them implode the old King Dome in order to build the Seahawk’s stadium. I remember my dad bringing my sister and I here on Sundays as we explored different parts of Seattle. Those were simpler times. Now I’m not sure if there is such a word. Between my Larry’s divorce and the miscarriage, the word is practically moot.
Moses starts whining and nudges my hand. That’s usually a sign to head back home so he can eat. So we do. I cut through the backyard to let Moses off his leash and into the dog run. When I turn to head into the house I notice through the kitchen window Larry and my wife, having some sort of conversation and laughing about it. I watch for a moment. I’ve never seen either of them so damn happy and engaged. I’m about to head inside when I notice they’ve suddenly stopped. They gaze at one another and I can see that spark that naturally settles between them. It’s the look of longing and desire and in that moment they lean into one another and exchange a long, passionate and deep kiss. Now I feel like the one who is drowning.
I don’t know what else to do at this point. I just stand there like an idiot, watching my brother make out with my wife. Had they planned this? Is this the first time? My hands start to tremble and I can feel the blood coursing through my veins in a violent rage, coming to a boil. I hold tight onto the coffee can.
Their lips part and I begin pacing around in the yard. Do they not even see me? Are they too caught up in the moment of the kiss to even realize they just kissed in front of me? They stand there, gazing into one another’s eyes, looking so blissfully fucking happy that I want to put a bullet through my own fucking head. I raise the canister of coffee to the level of my head and launch it at the kitchen window, causing a loud bang that startles the two of them out of their state of bliss. The dog is getting excited and barks. Amy peers out her window and spots me. I can see her lips moving, saying, “Oh my God” as she stares at me. Larry is at her side, mouthing the words, “holy shit” as he stares at me.
He comes out to the back yard. If he comes any closer I will kill him. I should kill him.
“I don’t know what you saw,” Larry says in a calm and thoughtful manner.
“Fuck you! You know exactly what I saw,” I say.
“It was just a kiss, she was upset.”
“Yeah,” I say unconvinced. “She sure looked upset.”
“Denny, please come in the house.”
My wife follows Larry out into the yard.
“What?” I snap. “What do you want me to do?”
“Come inside and let’s just have dinner.”
“I’m not having dinner with you guys,” I say.
“Denny, please,” she urges me to calm down.
“I’m not having dinner with him and I’m not taking any more shit from you about the fucking miscarriage. It wasn’t my god damn fault! Okay? I lost him too!”
I can feel the pain in my tears as I fight to hold them back. The pain infused with rage and hatred.
“Shit happens!” I say dismissively.
“How dare you,” she snarls.
“I hope you and Larry are happy together,” I finally say. “I really do.”
“Come on, man, don’t be like that.”
Larry reaches a hand out to me, but I back off and swing my fist at his jaw. I can feel it crack against my knuckles, pain shoots through my fist and I shake it out. Tears are streaming down my wife’s cheeks. I quickly grab the dog, get in my car and drive off and head towards Jake’s. A few days on Whidbey Island sounds like a great idea.