Ides of March
I wake up knowing something is wrong.
The air feels funny as I push off the covers.
Even for this time of year.
I feel it ooze up out of the floor as my toes reach for my shoes.
Something urgent, something not at all in keeping with Sunday.
When I look out the window, everything looks normal – the typical hates and kerchiefs of church goers huddling outside the arched church doors across the street, waiting impatiently for one mass to end so they can go in.
I can almost smell the incense flowing out from under the door, a low fog thick with people’s prayers and hopes for eternal salvation.
Silence fills my house.
I can’t even hear the spitting and sputtering of bacon and pancakes, nor smell the acrid scent of fresh brewed coffee waiting for my father to come down from bed.
This late, my father should already be up, ranting over some bit of disturbing news he’s receive by way of the Sunday paper.
But there is sound, subtle, coughing and shuffling of strangers I knew too well have no business being here this early, members no doubt of my father’s brothers and sisters, who I can’t face even on more normal days, full of hot air and smug advice I can’t escape even sneaking out the back door.
Yet even they seem subdued, none of the usual clatter that accompanies their visits. I can’t even smell the perfume and cigars.
Normally, my father has to shout at one or another brother or sister, and they likewise feel the need to shout back.
My slippers whisper as I creep out into the hall, the hushed voices downstairs amplified as I descent, cigarette smoke hugging the bottom floor as I plunge through.
I hear words now, bits of speech, “I’m sorry,” or “You know how life is.”
I see their dark shapes, clustered around my mother in the parlor and wonder again why my father has not unleashed his wrath, insisting they come back and a more proper hour.
My mother only nods and looks exceedingly sad, a wilting flower crowded in by a pile of stones.
Some sound – perhaps the groan of my step on the stair – gives me away, and mother looks up.
“Is that you, Billy?” she calls.
I say yes and she comes towards me, others pleading with her to stay, each volunteering to tell me “the land” news as to why my father is not there.
Mother insist she should tell me, when – with a sudden bolt of pain – I know already.