Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Day 3, Part 1

A few others spoke, men and women Rafael didn't know or vaguely recognized. He heard nothing, just stared down at the odd collection of keepsakes arrayed across the top of the coffin. His eyes kept coming back to the hat; he remembered as clearly as a photograph Louis' laughing face beneath the bent brim, discolored with age. His face had been so like his brothers', and yet in many ways so different; perpetually amused where Damien looked somber and James angry. Laughing, but with some dark sadness in his eyes. That face appeared more clearly before him than the scene he stood in; smiling, sighing, and silent, in the stillness of death. All three, but the last most clearly.

The last people spoke the last words; and slowly, they began to drift away. Gina was the first to go, flanked by Louis' brothers. Others wandered away in twos and threes; the priest, the mestre, Ourinho and his girl. Jason stood for a long time, and finally wandered over, laid his heavy hand on Rafael's shoulder. He jerked instinctively in surprise, but said nothing. For a moment they stood, gazes locked. Then Jason turned away without speaking and padded into the rain, so that only Rafael was left, staring into the gaping wound in the earth. He was soaked, now, but hardly noticed; his hair dangled before his eyes, dripping down his face.

He wasn't sure how much later it was that he noticed the gravediggers standing ill-at-ease beneath the willow, smoke curling from their cigarettes, waiting for him to go. Perhaps he'd only been there for a few moments, perhaps for half an hour. The empty bottle of whisky hung awkwardly in his pocket, and on an impulse, he pulled it and tossed it away, turning as he did so that he did not see it fall, only heard the light shattering of glass as he returned to his car, closed his eyes and started the engine.

The radio turned on when he did and strains of Irish pipes floated from the car's speakers. He stabbed a finger at he power switch and shoved the car into gear. The gravediggers tossed spades full of earth through the air as he drove away, rolling through the winding paths in low gear. Once again he heard bagpipes, and looked in confusion at his stereo. But no; a crowd huddled by another grave, a piper sending the plaintive drone into the atmosphere. Rafael slowed but then thought better of it, feeling ghoulish in his fascination.

The gates now stood open as he left the cemetery and headed for home. The cafe would keep for now, on a rainy evening like this. He drove too fast down the empty roads, hugging the curves and feeling the tires strain under the load. On at least one turn he felt them lift and had to modulate the clutch to keep the car under control, wheels spinning out silver tails of water. Down the straightaway, around the rotary, clipping the grass and fishtailing slightly on the downhill curve, he roared homewards.

Before long he was in the driveway, panting slightly, foot aching as it held down the clutch, engine purring. Adrenaline lifted his heart into his throat, pulsed his veins against the skin. He turned the car off and limped hurriedly inside to the medicine cabinet, where he grabbed the first orange canister and dumped a pair of pills into his palm. In the mirror, he caught a glimpse of himself; hair chaotic and damp, eyes bloodshot and sunken, collar twisted. He turned away in disgust as he swallowed the pills dry. A pile of unfolded clothes lay on top of his tangled sheets, and he had to shove them half-heartedly aside before slipping into an aching and troubled sleep.

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