LETTERS LYING ON CHAIRS
GREGORY C GIORDANO
Robert Milton was sorting what seemed to be an endless quantity of papers left behind by his father. The study, old and worn- Victorian in style, smelled of years of bourbon, pipe tobacco and bay rum. It was late afternoon in October - the study was soaked with amber fire of dusk; walnut and cherry paneling reflecting the last of the daylight. Robert remembered the light and smells. They were the same as it was the last time he was there- 10 years ago.
10 years of exile; “Prodigal son”, Robert thought. 10 years anger, fear and ultimately, regret. The outcome of it being a room with what seemed like 10 times 10 years of personal effects- piled and sorted in the antiquated study of his father- a sort of time capsule. A king's chamber in a pyramid. Archeology Digging up the evidence of Theodore Anders Milton.
Robert was already exhausted. In the two days since coming home he took on the task given to him by his mother, Rene- the organizing and disposal of his fathers papers. Every surface was piled with the remains of his father's life. Photos on the couch. Years of insurance receipts on the humidor. “...letters lying on chairs...”
“What did you say Bobby?” A voice called out from the doorway. It was sarcastic and at the same time concerned. Either way, the voice was older and mellowed since 10 years ago. It was his brother Phillip.
“Oh. Um Just...talking to myself while I suffer through making this half-assed inventory.” Robert waved a pen over the legal pad. “Letters on Chairs...” Then pointed at the piles in front of him.
“Heh, yeah- well Bobby, talking to yerself never solved anything, my boy. Wouldn't want people to talk.”
“THEY have been anyway, I'm sure. But it's not that bad, Phil. The maddening crowd of naysayers have been civil enough not to stab their knives in any thing but right...here.” Robert pointed the gold pen at his back as he got up and slowly walked the convoluted path through the piles to the liquor cabinet.
“Oh definitely, Bobby-boy.”
The two men in their forties served themselves from a crystal decanter. Phil took great pride in serving himself twice as much as his weary brother
“Ah. Mm. That's good stuff. We haven't raided the old man's liquor since the night you left. Still has a perverse satisfaction doing it. Maybe more now the bastard's dead.”
Harsh words, thought Robert. In the old days, they wouldn't have dared said such a blatantly vulgar thing, opting for a more subtle and venomous sarcasm to describe their father. Now the old man is dead, he realized. There's no reason to hold back.
“You said something like that ten years ago Philly. But then I think you said how satisfying it would be IF the old man were dead. Cheers.”
Bobby then became aware of the bitterness between the two of them. Palpable- but also along with it- camaraderie That was the nature of their brotherhood. Unresolved conflict mixed with an unavoidable protective bond. It was confusing for both of themselves. They always had, no matter what they felt about each other, a common enemy.
Phillip picked up a stack of letters from a chair.
“You know, Bobby-Boy, when he was still alive- we meant less to that sonuvabitch than this. Now I feel just as left behind, too. Funny, huh?” Phillip dropped the letters back onto their chair- neatening them with a minimum of effort. Then after patting Robert on the shoulder- Phillip walked out of the study.
Robert looked at Phillip walk out with cold amazement. He was also immediately resentful of Phillip. Resentful of being forced for the first time in their lives to feel compassion towards him. It felt awkward and uncomfortable, like being forced to play shirts and skins when they were 8 the first time and being ashamed of his scrawny body. “Motherfucker”, he thought. “I can't just freeze out the prick.”
Phil leaned back into the room.
“Hey! Y'know Linda's here too. Mom knew she was back in town. For the funeral, too, a'course. She invited her to dinner tonight.” Phil was back in his usual civil, baiting mode; expecting to get a rise out of his younger brother.
Robert turned to face Phil- who quickly glided back through the doorway. He gulped the half glass of bourbon and followed to the dining room.