“The Widow’s Son” | Novella | Written by Graves Asher - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“The Widow’s Son” | Novella | Written by Graves Asher

I.

Mom raged at the ceiling.

Wondered.

Why me?

She stood on a chair, bringing her that much closer to her God. She looked up at the ceiling and shook her tiny, miserable fist.

Why me?

Dead.

In the ground.

Her husband of several years.

Decades.

Why me?

She wanted those tough answers. Those hard answers to difficult questions. And she wanted them right then and there.

Immediately.

She shook her fist again.

Sixty-six years of life coursing through her veins.

Sixty-six years of living.

Eighty percent with the same man.

Companion.

Husband.

And now, like that, gone.

Vanished.

Dust.

Into the ground he went, tucked inside a wooden box crafted by his estranged brother. No more laughs. No more smiles.

Nothing.

Just dirt.

And memories.

She shook her fist.

God?

Why me?

A little girl’s voice.

Confused.

Hurt.

God didn’t have an answer.

God kept quiet.

As He tends to do.

So my mom stepped off the chair and returned it to the dining room table. She sat down and began to cry.

God didn’t listen to that, either.

II.

Wednesday morning.

One year later.

She got in the shower.

Turned on the water.

Washed.

Cried.

Turned off the water.

Got out.

Dried.

Cried.

And when she walked into the bedroom, she saw it: an open dresser drawer. The one that contained his things.

Socks.

Underwear.

She dropped the towel.

Naked, she stepped closer.

Peered in.

“Honey?” she asked.

No answer.

“Honey, is that you?” she inquired.

Nothing.

Silence.

Nothing.

She picked up the towel and covered herself. If her deceased husband was around, he’d want her to remain modest.

He was old-fashioned.

Traditional.

She had liked that.

Tradition.

Values.

Positive values.

Religious values.

All of them.

Any of them.

But what did that open drawer mean? What did it represent? Had her husband returned from beyond the veil?

Stepped down from Heaven?

To show his love?

One final time?

With a drawer.

Full of socks.

Underwear.

She fell to her knees, she told me. She fell to her knees and she wept. And she raised her hands in the air in praise.

And she thanked her quiet God.

III.

The next day, we had a telephone conversation.

About the drawer.

And my dead father.

His return.

His glorious return.

From beyond.

Praise Jesus.

As a ghost.

A ghost who loved dresser drawers.

Praise God.

“What do you think?” she asked me, excited and giddy, like a child on Christmas. “Do you think it’s him? Do you think this is a sign?”

“A sign of what?” I wanted to know.

“That he’s around.”

“Around the house?”

“Yes, around the house.”

“You think Dad opened the drawer?”

“Who else could have done it?”

“One of the cats?”

“No, it was the top drawer.”

“Did you sleepwalk?”

“Of course I didn’t sleepwalk!”

“But you used to. Remember when Dad found you digging around inside the fridge on my tenth birthday? That was kind of funny.”

“Oh, you’re being ridiculous.”

“I’m not being ridiculous.”

“Yes, you are.”

“You’re mistaken.”

“How are you not being ridiculous?”

“Because sleepwalking makes sense to me.”

“What are you implying?”

“What am I implying? I’m implying that Dad didn’t open that drawer. Either you left it open or you opened it in your sleep.”

“You never believe me.”

“That’s not true.”

“Remember when I said something was wrong?”

“What?”

“With your father.”

“What do you mean?”

“I told you he was lying on the floor and I couldn’t get him up. You said he was probably just dizzy from the dental procedure and not to worry about it.”

“You’re blaming me for that?”

“No.”

“Then what are you doing?”

“I’m saying you don’t believe me.”

“Alright, fine.”

“Fine? What?”

“Fine. Dad is a ghost. And he needs underwear.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“If you say so.”

With that, she hung up on me.

IV.

I have not been a good son.

I admit it.

This is a fact.

There is proof.

Evidence.

The decline of my appearance in family photographs. The fact that I didn’t speak to my parents for almost two years.

And other things.

Screaming.

Yelling.

Drug use.

Excessive drug use.

Proof.

It’s all there.

If you look closely.

I’m not proud.

Not happy about it.

Over the years, I tried my best to make amends. Before Dad died, we mended these broken bridges. We put things in order.

We hugged.

Hugged.

Us.

Hugging.

Imagine that.

Father.

Son.

Hugging.

One day, he had a stroke.

Out of the blue.

After a dentist’s appointment.

Side effect, they said.

Side effect.

Yeah, right.

Fate.

Birthright.

Men in my family tend to die like that. I will probably die like that. As much as I hate to admit it, I will die like my father.

And his brother.

And my grandfather.

Doomed.

I am doomed.

To die.

Like my father.

Who collapsed on the floor.

Of a small house.

In the suburbs.

Surrounded by incomplete projects.

Reminders of days past.

History.

And I will lie there and cry because I knew it would happen this way. And I will cry that I predicted the future so many years ago.

And I couldn’t change it.

I couldn’t.

Fate had my cards.

Played my hand for me.

I’ll die.

Dead.

The end.

And I won’t come back.

To open drawers.

V.

Dad continued to make visits.

To the bedroom.

To open that drawer.

He never disturbed anything else.

Never took underwear.

Socks.

Spare change.

Tiny flashlights.

Pocket knives.

He didn’t touch the little odds and ends he’d stuffed in that drawer. Instead, he opened it and went about his otherworldly business.

That’s all.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

And Mom loved it.

Adored it.

Waited every day.

Every.

Day.

But here’s the thing:

She never actually saw it happen.

Only the aftermath.

During the months that it occurred, she never once spied the drawer sliding open. She only saw the end result.

The final product.

I became suspicious.

Worried.

Concerned about her mental health.

Grief is awful.

Horrible.

Ugly.

Crushing.

It can and will destroy you.

Tear you down.

Mom thought she could deal with this detrimental loss like an adult. She prided herself on the things she accomplished.

Cleaning.

Improvements.

Decluttering.

More cleaning.

More improvements.

Stuff you read about in self-care manuals.

Wellness articles.

But it didn’t matter.

Below the surface, grief dwelled.

Festered.

It ate her soul.

From the inside out.

On some days, she could hide it.

Smiles.

Laughs.

Jokes.

All manufactured.

On others, the facade faltered.

Failed.

System malfunction.

Critical breakdown.

But when the dresser drawer started opening, she seemed so much happier. Her spirits lifted. She smiled more often.

Then it stopped.

All at once.

Finger snap.

Gone.

And her world came crashing down.

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